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“Gotta be a dream, gotta be a dream…”
She was sitting in an uncomfortable chair when she woke, arms limp at her sides, head lolling against her shoulder, but she had no idea where this chair might be. She was vaguely aware of two other people somewhere in the area, but she had no way of knowing if they were friends or enemies.
Basically, it was already a pretty nasty situation.
She hurt. Every muscle, tendon, and bone in her body was on fire, and her head felt like a bowling ball set in a block of concrete. Her mouth was dry and tasted like something toxic, as if she’d swallowed a mouthful of chalk.
Her whole world was hazy. When she finally managed to crack open one eye, she found herself wondering if she had. The colors all blended together to make a shade even darker than black, a muted, faded slate of nothing.
But the worst part, the ultimate nail in the coffin, was that she had no idea where he was or how she’d gotten there… or anything before that.
Her memory was completely blank.
“I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming… someone tell me I’m dreaming…” The boy’s voice came floating back, a bottle message in a sea of nothingness.
“Fine, then, retard, you’re dreaming…” came another voice, this one irritated, frustrated, from a girl. “You’re dreaming, and I bet if I slapped you you’d wake up… want me to try?”
Sarah moaned, tried and failed to sit up. What was going on… was she dead?
No, because if she was dead…
Why did it hurt so much?
The girl was speaking again. “Hey, Mister D. Nile. Your girl’s awake.”
No I’m not…
Feet scuffed across cement, someone shook her shoulder. “Hey. You’re awake? You’re awake?”
Sarah squeaked open one eye, then the other, then both together. A boy’s pale, bony, freckled face hovered above hers, long blond hair falling in front of blue eyes.
“Yeah. She’s awake. So now what do we do about it?”
Sarah slowly turned her head to see another girl, tall, pretty, and dark-haired standing in front of a rust-colored door, hands balled into fists and resting against the scratched metal.
“I guess we wait,” said the boy, offering a hand to Sarah to help her up. “My name’s John, by the way. What’s yours?”
“Sarah,” said Sarah, taking it, surprised she could talk at all. “It’s Sarah.”
“Cool cool cool cool cool,” said John. As he spoke, Sarah could see an unsettling look in his eye, like the mad, terrified look in the eye of a trapped animal.
“What about you?” said John to the girl at the door.
“Carly,” answered the girl tersely. “That’s what they call me. At least, that’s what I think they call me. I can’t remember anything at all.”
“Me neither,” said John. “This is weird.”
“This isn’t helping,” said Sarah. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get out of – “
All of a sudden, a girl started screaming in the distance. Terrible, anguished screams, horror movie-quality screams, tortured, heartbreaking screams.
She was either really scared, about to die, or both.
“What the hell was that?” said John.
“Obviously someone’s in a bit of a pickle, aren’t they?” said Carly. “Doesn’t matter. We’re not getting out of here any time soo – “
As if to prove her wrong, two doors, both the one she was leaning on and the one on the other side of the room, swung wide open, causing Carly to topple forward into a pitch-black hallway.
“You okay?” asked Sarah, moving forward to help her stand up.
“Yeah,” said Carly, ignoring Sarah’s outstretched hands and getting to her feet on her own. “Well, looks like we have a choice, don’t we? We can either go in there and rescue our banshee friend,” she said, pointing to the door through which she’d fallen, “or we can go back out into the streets and probably live longer.”
Sarah frowned, confused. “Back?”
“Yeah, we were all out there to begin with, in some freaky alley, but then our gallant knight here woke me up and we decided that we should all get inside where it was safer, so we dragged your heavy carcass in here. Fat lot of good that did us.”
John scowled at her. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he challenged. Focusing his attention back on the other door, he said, “Well, if it means we might live longer, I think I’ll go with Door Number Two. Anyone care to join me?”
Carly nodded and crossed her arms. “Lead on, then.”
“You want me to go out there?”
“It was your idea,” Sarah pointed out.
“And you’re our gallant knight in shining armor,” said Carly sardonically. “So, you know, knight.”
John stared daggers at her. “There’s nothing to worry about,” he grumbled, but he started towards the door anyway.
Then something happened that Sarah had to see to believe.
And she really wished she hadn’t seen it.
Right as John was about to take his first step outside, the door slammed shut, and he walked face-first into a sheet of solid metal.
Of course, that wasn’t what really stuck with her.
What really stuck with her was what happened next.
A thick slab of concrete on the left side of the door, disguised by nearly undetectable cracks, swung from the wall, pivoted on the door’s own hinges, and, as Sarah and Carly watched in mounting horror, slammed into the metal door with a sickening crunch, crushing John between two hundred pounds of concrete and steel.
It was over in less than three seconds.
For what felt like hours to Sarah, she and Carly stood in silence and stared blankly at the wall that had just murdered a human being in cold blood, ignoring the girl screaming in the background, ignoring everything but the gloppy lake of gross that was slowly spreading across the floor.
It was Carly who finally puked, dropping to her hands and knees on the ground and depositing a generous spray of reddish-brown stomach smoothie into the pool of human puree in the dirty concrete mixing pot.
Sarah was completely paralyzed, capable only of staring in disgust and terror. This wasn’t right. This was a nightmare. All she had to do was wake up. Just wake up. Just wake…
“Hey. Zombie. You in there, or what?”
Sarah looked down. It was Carly, pushing herself to her feet and wiping her face with the back of her hand. She’d recovered faster than Sarah would have expected… or maybe Sarah had been zonked out for longer than she’d thought.
“I’m sorry, what?” Just trying not to lose it here…
“I said, let’s get going.”
“I mean, it’s not like we can get out that way anymore,” said Carly, jabbing her thumb at John’s tomb, thirty sizes too small. “And I really don’t want to stick around here. So? You want to lead the way?”
Sarah hesitated only seconds before she heard the words, “Yeah. Yeah, no problem,” escape her mouth.
What? What are you thinking? No no no we don’t want to go first! Make her go first! Last time, John went first, and look what happened –
“Good deal,” said Carly, giving her a hefty shove towards the door. “Go on, I’ll be there in a second or two.”
“Yeah, yeah, just got to, you know, catch my breath,” she said, pointing at the sick mixture of her own vomit and liquid John coagulating on the floor. “That really takes a lot out of you, ya know.”
“I hear that,” said Sarah, taking another step towards the door. She took a deep breath. “Well… here goes nothing…”
Steeling her confidence, she hopped over the threshold, into the darkness, bracing herself for a giant hammer to smash her skull in –
But nothing happened.
Relieved, she called, “Carly, it’s fine! I’m okay!”
“Great!” Carly called back sunnily. And then, in a much darker tone – “Good luck.”
Sarah suddenly felt all the blood rush out of her head at the same time the relief flooded out of her heart. She couldn’t be serious. “Wait, what?”
She could just catch a glimpse of Carly’s pretty, freckled face, grinning maliciously at her, in the last of the light as the heavy metal door began to swing shut.
“See you never, sucker,” Sarah heard Carly say as the door slammed shut with an impossibly loud BANG.
“Carly!” she shrieked at the door, banging it with both fists, but there was no reply.
Sarah was on her own.
The idiots had had it coming. They was just deadweight. After all, Carly had never needed anyone before. Why should it be any different now?
Of course, she had no idea whether or not she’d needed anyone before. It just sounded really cool in her head when she said it like that.
It was getting kind of warm, and she starting to get a little sleepy. Carly sat down in the chair they’d put Sarah in earlier, crossed her legs, and closed her eyes. Now all she had to do was wait for someone to come in and get her, and she’d be set. Someone would come and get her, wouldn’t they? They had to. They couldn’t just leave her there to starve.
Then again, they’d let John get crushed by a slab of concrete…
And there was still some other desperate girl screaming in pain somewhere in the background…
And there had been a dead kid in the alley…
And Sarah was probably dead by now…
But no. That all had to be some kind of special effects. In reality, they were just playing a horror movie scream tape on some loudspeaker, and they’d left a stage dummy with bloody makeup and wax gore in the alley, and John had slipped through the door when the concrete had swung forward. And Sarah was probably watching her through a hidden camera, chowing down on a big bowl of ramen and chilling out.
But… that puddle of mashed flesh didn’t look fake. Or smell fake. Seriously, that crap was ranker than used gym socks soaked in skunk stink.
Carly just shook her head. It was nothing. Someone was coming for her. She had nothing to worry about.
The heat was getting worse. It had gone from pleasantly warm to seriously warm in a matter of seconds. Carly could feel drops of sweat starting to run from her armpits down her sides.
The stupid heater’s broken, too…
Except there is no heater.
What the hell…
Maybe it was just her guilty conscience kicking in. Sure, maybe she felt a little bad about screwing over Sarah and John like that. They were probably both dead by now. Or not. All she knew was that she wasn’t dead. That was all that mattered, right? That she was okay?
Yeah. They'd stop messing with her, come get her out, and they'd all have a good laugh about it. Then they'd all go out for ice cream, and all would be forgiven.
The smell was unbearable. A lot worse. It smelled like rotting flesh being tossed with onions and garlic on a frying pan…
Wait a second…
Carly stood up, crossed the room to the door, and tugged on the handle –
– and recoiled her hand quickly, hissing in agony. The stupid thing had burned her. The metal was blazing hot, like a rack left in an oven.
And there it was again. An oven.
Oh no. Oh, no no no no.
“Sarah,” she shouted at the door. “Hey, Sarah!”
“Look, I’m sorry for what I did to you! Really!”
“You know, you’re not gonna get me to say that again! Never again!”
“We’re not in third grade anymore, in case you haven’t noticed! We can be adults about this!”
Carly ran a hand through her hair nervously. This was not happening. Not to her. No way.
And then her eyes widened in horror.
Because an entire lock of her beautiful dark hair had just come loose and fluttered down to the floor, where it began to sizzle and smolder, burning down till it was nothing more than a sprinkling of ashes.
A drop of sweat fell from Carly’s forehead and vaporized the instant it touched the floor.
“SARAAAH!” she screamed desperately at the door, but there was nobody there to hear her cries, nobody left to cheat.
She was cooked.
She had just enough energy left to laugh at her own awesome joke before she passed out.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
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