I’m no hero – that much will become obvious as you read my account. In fact, I’m a coward…the type who always takes the easiest path. Left to my own devices, I would never reach my full potential. In all honesty I’m an average guy with a dull life, but the story I’m going to tell you almost defies belief.
I don’t know why this happened to me…Was I chosen, or is it all random? My enigmatic guide and benefactor offered me few answers. I often wonder why I walked out the other side when so many others remain trapped in that hellscape for all eternity.
Its safe to say I suffer from survivor’s guilt. Perhaps a medical professional could help me work through these negative thoughts, but how would I explain my horrific experiences within the supernatural realm? So, in desperation I will share my story here, in the hope of finding some empathy or understanding from those with an open mind.
My story begins like so many others you’ve heard. I was down on my luck, unemployed and behind on my rent. In my desperation, I trawled through the ‘help wanted’ pages, finding little which didn’t require experience or qualifications that I do not possess.
My attention was drawn to an obscure ad in our local paper. You know the type – no details or company name, only a postal address and the offer of a suspiciously large renumeration for completing an unspecified job. I know what you’re thinking, and you’d be right. I should’ve known it was too good to be true…the red flags were so fucking obvious, and deep down I did realise it was a risk, but I was in a bad place and at my wit’s end.
The address in the advert was located in a rundown part of town, and my internet searches brought up no results. I figured I’d go down there and, if it seemed fishy, I’d get the hell out, no harm done…How fucking dumb was I?
My bus journey was non-eventful, as was the half-hour walk I made across the dilapidated business park full of derelict office blocks and empty cul-de-sacs. I’ll confess that my anxiety levels rose as I approached my apparent location, double checking the address to make sure I had the right place.
The building looked closer to an abandoned fortress than an office block, built from grey concrete in the brutalist style. I glanced upwards in awe to discover that the building didn’t have a single visible window. I’d never seen anything like it – a structure so bleak and unimaginative but at the same time oddly foreboding.
There was no company signage or any indication of what was located there, other than a small entrance with darkened windows and a faded street number hanging above it. This was it – the address from the ad.
I felt a cold chill run through me as I gazed upon that darkened doorway. Looking back, I know I should’ve turned around and walked away, but I’ll admit to being intrigued. More than that, I was drawn in…perhaps by a power beyond my comprehension – a black magic capable of overcoming my primal fears.
I walked forward slowly, pushing through the tinted swing doors and entering. What I discovered inside was an unremarkable reception area, poorly lit with chipped tiled floors, worn-out furniture and an appointments desk hidden behind frosted glass. After all the anticipation, this underwhelming little room was something of a disappointment. Still, I was here now and so thought I might as well see it through.
The reception area was abandoned and so I approached the desk, gently tapping on the frosted glass in the hope of gaining somebody’s attention. A tense pause followed and for a moment I thought the desk was unattended, but then I heard a low sigh emanating from the other side of the glass, and a moment later the shutter opened to reveal the person inside.
The woman who glared out at me looked like a parody from a 50s sitcom. She was an elderly woman with blue rinse hair, big-framed glasses and a scowl on her face that could turn milk. To say she wasn’t happy to see me would be a gross understatement.
“Yes?” she spat at me, without even a trace of politeness.
I was slightly taken aback by the frosty reception, and so it took me a moment to formulate a reply.
“Ehhh…I’m here about the ad in the paper…It said there’s a position available?”
The receptionist sighed loudly and rolled her eyes before turning back to her computer terminal and aggressively typing into her keyboard.
“Name?” she demanded, without looking up from the screen.
“John Smith.” I replied nervously.
Now, just for clarity’s sake, my name isn’t really ‘John Smith’, but I don’t wish to reveal my true identity on this forum, and so this rather unimaginative alias will have to do.
Her demeanor seemed to change somewhat after hearing my name. I wouldn’t say she brightened to me, but she did at least look up from her monitor and meet my eye.
“Ah yes, Mr Smith. My manager is expecting you…”
Now I was really confused and more than slightly concerned. Who was her boss? And how the hell could he or she be expecting me? I hadn’t phoned ahead or emailed for an appointment because neither was an option. I’d simply turned up at the location unsolicited, so there’s no way they could have known I was coming.
I said as much to the receptionist, and she reacted with annoyance.
“Are you saying I don’t know my job? I’m telling you there’s an appointment on the books! Now, if you don’t mind, my manager is waiting for you…And it would not be wise to keep him waiting.”
She pointed to the red door at the back of the reception area, a door which somehow I’d completely missed on my way in. I stared in disbelief at the doorway, feeling very uneasy, before I turned back to the aged receptionist, only to be met by a stone-cold glare as she continued to point.
“Well…” she exclaimed impatiently.
I didn’t realise at the time, but this was probably my last opportunity to walk away. I suppose I rationalised it in my head in that moment. Sure, this was a weird and unsettling situation, but perhaps it was all just a misunderstanding. The receptionist was old and cranky. Probably she’d just made a mistake, thinking there was an appointment when there wasn’t one. And I must have missed the red door on the way in because I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings.
Sure, I’d come this far, so why not pass through this mysterious red door and discover the truth? What harm could it do? As it turned out, I was entering a world of pain.
The handle was ice cold when I reached out to turn it, slowly opening the heavy door. But, when I walked inside, I was hit by a wave of intense heat. Still, the temperature was the least of my concerns as I surveyed the room, discovering a space very different to the run-down and sterile reception area. Instead of worn-out armchairs and scratched coffee tables I found an extravagant study which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 19th century country manor.
A soft red carpet lay beneath my feet, while before me sat a huge solid oak desk, covered with bizarre ornaments and oddities. Furthermore, the walls were adorned with shelves of leather-bound books, classical-style artwork and what appeared to be hunting trophies, with the severed heads of various wild beasts mounted in a rather macabre display.
I continued to explore the ample room, soon discovering the roaring open fire in the far corner, from which the intense heat was emanating. As spectacular and awe-inspiring as the room appeared, there was also something oddly unsettling about it. Within a few seconds I began to feel paranoid, like I was being watched. And when I looked to the portraits and trophies on the walls, I could almost sense their dark eyes upon me, as if they were somehow alive and filled with a malicious intent.
I realised then that this may not be a safe place, and so reckoned I should probably leave. Slowly, I started to back out of the room, but then suddenly the door slammed shut behind me, making me jump.
“Jesus!” I swore as I turned my head.
“I’m sorry Mr Smith, but you will not find your saviour here.”
I jumped once again, higher this time, whilst I simultaneously yelped aloud in shock, turning back towards the desk in time to see an enigmatic figure appear from the shadows. This turned out to be the man (if indeed he is a man) who would shape and control my terrifying experiences over the coming hours and days, changing my life forever.
The boss, whose name I would never find out, is an unremarkable man to see at first glance. He appeared as a slight, elderly man in his 70s or 80s, with thinning hair, wrinkled skin and a striking but comical white goatee beard. He was well-dressed in a finely tailored dress suit, complete with waistcoat and bowtie. When he spoke, his voice was soft but his words carried a sinister undertone, especially given the bizarre circumstances.
There was nothing overtly threatening about his appearance, but nevertheless I felt uneasy in his presence, as the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
“Mr Smith, I assume?” he asked.
“Eh…yeah, that’s right.” I replied nervously, still wondering how he knew my name.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please, take a seat.”
I glanced back at the shut door before reluctantly walking forward and taking a seat facing the solid oak desk. My mysterious host removed a crystal decanter and two glasses from a cupboard, pouring brown liquor before offering me a glass.
“I probably shouldn’t” I replied.
“Please, I insist. You may find that you require some liquid courage for the challenges to come.”
I didn’t like the sound of this, although suddenly I did want that drink, and so I reached out for the glass and raised it to my lips, pouring the strong alcohol down my throat.
“Now then Mr Smith, you’ve come in response to our advertisement of course.”
“Yes,” I confirmed cautiously, “I understand there’s a job going?”
The man shook his head in the negative. “A job? No sir. I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding. I have a dedicated team in place and regrettably there are no permanent positions available…What I do have however is an exciting opportunity for a motivated young man such as yourself. A unique challenge which will yield a substantial cash prize upon its completion.”
By this point I was annoyed but also intrigued. I’d come all this way for what seemed like a load of bullshit, but if there was even a chance of getting paid, I needed to hear him out.
“Mmm…What do you mean by challenge?”
He paused for a moment, looking thoughtful before he gave his answer. “Well sir, we have a facility here on site…an interesting little space that we call the Labyrinth. The game is simple. You go in, and if you successfully negotiate the maze, you receive your prize…”
“Oh, you mean like an escape room?” I interjected.
The man looked puzzled, frowning before he replied. “Yes, it’s something like an escape room.”
His explanation was far from convincing, and I was now sure this was total BS. I didn’t know whether this cash prize was genuine or not, but I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle.
“Thanks for the offer sir, but I think I’m going to pass.”
He was clearly not happy at my refusal. Although his smile didn’t falter, I could see the simmering anger behind his eyes.
“I’m afraid it’s already too late to turn back, Mr Smith.” he snorted.
Now it was my turn to get angry. Who the hell did this guy think he was? I felt like giving him both barrels but instead I simply stood up and raised my hands defensively.
“Look man, I don’t know what this is, but I’m leaving. Thanks for the drink.”
I stood up and started walking away, still feeling his hard stare on the back of my head as I marched towards the door. But when I reached the exit, I found the door was still shut and there was no handle on the inside. I pushed against it with my shoulder but had no luck. It was at this point that I began to panic.
When I turned around, I was shocked to discover the old man standing directly behind me, his eyes upon me and his expression cold and emotionless.
“You need to let me out of here!” I exclaimed.
He didn’t answer. Then I placed my shaking hand into my pocket to withdraw my cell phone.
“Do you want me to call the cops?” I cried.
“Those things won’t work in here.” he answered coolly.
I looked at the screen and saw he was right – I had no signal.
“Shit!” I swore.
Suddenly I saw red, as I reached out and roughly grabbed the man by his jacket.
“Listen old timer! I don’t know what game you’re playing, but you need to let me out right now or I’ll kick your ass!”
What happened next is still something of a blur in my memory. In an instant, the man before me was no longer frail and elderly. Instead, he transformed into something monstrous – a towering figure who stood over me, his eyes intense and filled with a murderous rage. With impossible strength, he tossed me across the room like I was nothing but a ragdoll.
My body crashed down on the hard floor, the pain shooting through me. I tried to stand, but my attacker was on me in an instant, pinning me down like a predator would do to its prey, his eyes red with hatred and his teeth exposed, as he spat out words of pure malice.
“Listen to me you little shit!” he screamed, his face only inches from my own. “This is my fucking house, and you’ll follow my fucking rules! You made a choice in coming here today and now you want to back out? Not a fucking chance! You’ve run away from every challenge in your life…But, no longer! You’ll enter the Labyrinth and face your demons, otherwise I’ll rip you to shreds with my fucking bare hands! Do you understand me, Mr Smith?”
I gulped, looking into his predatory eyes and knowing he was serious. My whole body shook, and I struggled to speak through my quaking lips.
“Okay.” I spluttered.
My attacker smiled as he climbed off me, instantly releasing me from his icy grip and returning to his harmless old man persona, even offering his hand to help me back to my feet.
“Well Mr Smith, I’m glad all that unpleasantness is behind us. Now, shall we proceed?”
He pointed towards a jet-black door at the back of the room, a door I was certain hadn’t been there a moment before. I dreaded to think what horrors lay behind it, but I knew I had no choice but to go forwards. I just hoped there would be a chance for escape or to seek help.
My legs were still shaking as I followed my captor towards the ominous doorway, watching carefully as he opened it and motioned for me to enter. I didn’t know what to expect once I passed through that black door but knew it wouldn’t be good. I was however confused to find myself led through a mundane office space, with rows of workers sitting in cubicles and diligently typing away at computers.
“My dedicated administrative team,” the boss explained, “We had some issues with discipline in the past, but thankfully we’ve all moved on.”
It was only then that I looked upon the workers, as they collectively raised their heads to greet me. To my horror I saw the pain and fear in their eyes and realised that their mouths were sewn shut, preventing them from crying out. Instead, they silently pleaded with me for help, but I was in such a state of shock that I could do nothing except swear, lower my head and walk on.
I couldn’t imagine the horrors these poor people must have suffered and feared that the same fate awaited me. But soon we left that hellish room and the tortured souls trapped inside it, as my captor led me to yet another doorway; this one engraved with bizarre runic symbols and constructed from an ivory-like material that I feared could be human bone.
My captor placed his hand upon the door handle, pausing as he turned to face me and offer some last words of advice.
“This is it Mr Smith. You’re on your own from this point onwards. You’ll find that the Labyrinth is an unusual and dangerous place, unlike anywhere you’ve visited before. Time passes differently on the other side, and many of the physical rules of our world do not apply. You’ll have no need for your normal bodily functions – to eat and to sleep, for example. The whole experience will seem like a particularly vivid dream… But do not fall into complacency, Mr Smith. The dangers you face on the other side are very real, as are any injuries or pain you may suffer. My final advice to you is this – do NOT trust what you see, and remember that you’re on your own. Good luck, Mr Smith. I hope to see you again.”
His words were more sympathetic than I’d expected, although I certainly didn’t like what I was hearing. I decided to make one last plea for my life.
“Please, don’t make me do this.”
The man’s smile faltered ever so slightly, and he lowered his head, as if in shame. “I’m sorry Mr Smith, but there is no other way. Remember what I told you and you might have a sporting chance.”
I thought about running, but it all happened so quickly. In an instant the door was open, and my captor shoved me through, shutting it firmly behind me. In a panic I turned back to the door, only to find it was no longer there. Instead, I was faced by a solid concrete wall. I slammed my fists against it, screaming until my knuckles were bloody and my lungs hurt.
Defeated and exhausted, I fell to the floor and accepted my fate. I’d entered the Labyrinth, and there was only one way out.
Before I continue my tale of woe, it’s worth trying to explain what exactly the Labyrinth is, or at least to describe its characteristics. The Labyrinth is not a maze of hedgerows or a medieval-style dungeon. Instead, it takes the form of a modern hellscape – an endless maze of empty office rooms, ugly yellow walls, damp carpets and buzzing fluorescent lights, all connected by dimly lit corridors and annexes of impossible length.
I have no idea how big the Labyrinth is, although it’s clearly far larger than should be physically possible. And the boss was right, the rules of physics do not apply inside, and its impossible to measure time, not least because watches and electronic devices do not work there.
The tedious and soulless design of the maze is at first unsettling, but in time the surroundings will drive you insane. But that’s nothing compared to the hideous creatures and terrifying beings that occupy the backrooms; the horrors which stalk the corridors and will use all methods at their disposal to draw you in or hunt you down. And that’s what the Labyrinth is – an endless tedium broken up by periods of intense terror, all leading to a gradual loss of hope.
My first steps through the Labyrinth were daunting and depressing. I tried hard not to succumb to panic and despair after I’d recovered from my initial shock and the tantrum I threw when I tried to break through the wall. I also tried to think logically, imagining that there must be an end to the hellish network of identical offices and corridors.
And so, I walked for hours, perhaps even days, until I was physically and emotionally exhausted; my feet ached, and my retinas burned due to the constant glare of the lighting. There was literally no end to it, nor was there any discernible pattern or logical layout. Every room, every annex and corridor were identical to the last. And I had no means of marking my path, with no breadcrumbs to drop.
The Labyrinth has a way of disorienting you and so it’s nearly impossible to tell whether you’ve been in a room before or not. For all I knew, I could have been walking in circles all that time, only to arrive back in that first room. And the boss was right – normal rules don’t apply inside the Labyrinth. There’s no way to keep track of time, and my normal physical needs did not apply. I didn’t eat, drink, shit, piss or sleep the whole time I was in there.
Not sleeping was the worst part. I got so tired but had no respite. I could still feel pain however; sores on my feet from the walking, bruises on my fists from banging on walls, and an endless throbbing migraine caused by the glaring lights and constant electric buzzing.
Those first hours and days were hellish and draining, but this was nothing compared to what came next. At first, I assumed I was on my own inside of the Labyrinth, and that was a hell in itself – the isolation and the loneliness. But that was before I encountered the monsters who call the Labyrinth home.
It would be some time before I saw anything or had any definitive proof of their existence. What I heard were disembodied voices from far distant rooms and unexplained scratching noises from behind the walls. These sounds were unsettling and often frightening, but I could never tell whether they were genuine or not. I began to think I was going insane, and these bizarre sounds were the product of my demented mind. But unfortunately, that turned out to be wishful thinking.
I remember the incident where I first met her. I’d been walking aimlessly for what seemed like hours until I finally collapsed against a wall in exhaustion. I can’t say whether it was morning or night and frankly I didn’t care. In that bleak moment I seriously considered ending my life, but I couldn’t think of any practical method of committing suicide and doubted whether it would stick in this twisted realm.
Even so, I’d reached rock bottom and didn’t think I could go on. But the thing about the Labyrinth is this – it will always find a new way of fucking with you, and right then something happened which was completely unprecedented. I recall hearing a cracking sound from the ceiling above me, and so I looked up in time to see the fluorescent strip lights flicker, and then go out completely, plunging the corridor into total darkness.
“What the fuck?” I swore in frustration, as the fear pulsated through me.
Now, this was darkness unlike anything I’d ever experienced before, so dark that I couldn’t see my own hand when I waved it in front of my face. There was no light anywhere and, as far as I knew, the power was down throughout the entire labyrinth. I hoped the outage would only be temporary but, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I realised the lights weren’t coming back on.
I was wondering what the hell I would do next when the situation escalated. Suddenly the banging started – a constant drumming on the walls, louder than any of the phantom noises I’d previously heard. I jumped up, now in a state of complete panic. Without the benefit of sight, I tried to focus on the awful din to determine where the noise was coming from, but the banging was all around, drowning me in a terrifying symphony of chaos.
And then I heard the screaming – a banshee’s wail that echoed through the corridors, soon filling the small, darkened room where I cowered. I felt a cold chill and struggled to breathe, desperately feeling the wall as I tried to escape in the pitch black. But suddenly it wasn’t dark anymore, not entirely at least.
I looked ahead and was horrified to see a pair of blood red orbs emerging from the darkness, demonic eyes staring right at me…and then another pair appeared, and another…until I found myself the target of two dozen crimson eyes, all filled with malice and a murderous intent. I could not see the creatures behind those eyes but felt sure they were pure evil and meant to do me harm.
The screaming started over again, so loud and piercing that I needed to cover my ears in a vain attempt to drown it out. Those hellish eyes were focussed upon me and coming closer. Realising I was in mortal danger, I panicked and started to run, sprinting in the dark even though I had nowhere to go.
The beast or beasts pursuing me cried in unison, tearing down the corridor. I could smell its foul stench and feel its breath on the back of my neck. And then, I hit a brick wall…literally. The pain shot through my body as I fell heavily to the floor, losing consciousness as the screaming continued to ring in my ears.
By all rights I shouldn’t have woken up, but I did do so some indeterminable time later, and once again the Labyrinth had a surprise in store for me. When I came too, my head was still throbbing, but I soon realised the screaming had stopped and the lights were back on. The unidentified monster was nowhere to be seen, but I wasn’t alone.
The girl looking down upon me had soft, compassionate eyes and a kind smile. Her hair was long and dark, her skin the colour of milk, and she wore tight blue jeans and a stylish leather jacket. I think I was attracted to her immediately, although perhaps my feelings were due to the tense situation. It had been sometime since I last saw another human being, and after all I’d been through this young lady seemed like my guardian angel.
“Hey there, how are you feeling?” she asked softly.
“Umm…okay, I think.” I replied groggily. “My head still hurts. How long was I out?”
“Not long.” she replied, “The Labyrinth doesn’t let you rest for any length of time. My name’s Mary by the way.”
“Hi Mary, I’m John.” I responded, still not really understanding what was going on. “How did you get here?” I inquired.
Mary shrugged her shoulders. “The same way you did, I guess. The vague job advert, the creepy guy in the suit offering a ‘big cash prize’ if you find your way out…Sound familiar?”
“Yeah…” I confirmed, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise there was anyone else in here.”
“There are a few of us about, although this place is so big you could wander around forever without seeing another living soul. It was pure chance I found you when I did.”
I nodded my head, suddenly remembering the terror I’d experienced only moments before.
“There was something chasing me in the dark, a creature with so many eyes…”
Mary’s mood darkened. I saw the fear in her eyes as she muttered her reply. “It’s gone for now, but the beast will be back. Once it gets your scent it won’t stop hunting you.”
My heart sank as a new fear overtook me, and a sense of hopelessness hit me hard. My lips trembled as I asked my next question.
“So, what the fuck do we do?”
She scoffed before replying. “We keep on moving, that’s what. Keep on running the maze and never lose hope that we can escape.”
Her bravery was impressive, but I remained sceptical.
“Do you really think there’s a way out?” I asked meekly.
I saw the spark of defiance in Mary’s eyes as she spoke. “I know there is, and I’ll do whatever it takes.”
I couldn’t argue with this, and so I went with her. I don’t know how long we walked together through those seemingly endless corridors and carpeted rooms, but it seemed like an eternity. We grew close during that time, or so I thought. I did feel a connection to Mary and I trusted her, thinking of the young woman as my saviour.
There was nothing romantic about our brief relationship, and I don’t think anything physical is even possible inside the Labyrinth, but her companionship gave me strength at a point when I was ready to give up. She didn’t speak much during our time together. I pressed her, asking questions in the hope of finding out more about her background, but Mary would always evade and deflect.
In the end though, the advice Mary gave me about the Labyrinth would save my life.
“Never trust anything you see or hear.” she’d explained, “In here, nothing is as it seems. A wall isn’t a wall, and a door isn’t a door. The Labyrinth knows how to fuck with your head. It will give you hope, only to take it away again, keeping you in an endless cycle of suffering and despair.
If you want to survive, you’ll need to betray your most firmly held beliefs. You’ll do things you never thought yourself capable of, and – even if you do make it out – you’ll likely carry the guilt with you for the rest of your life.”
I didn’t get it at the time, but she was totally correct.
I don’t remember much about the moments before the attack. Perhaps I should have realised Mary was acting strangely, but I couldn’t have predicted what she would do. We were walking down yet another endless corridor of strip lights and damp carpets when suddenly all hell broke loose.
I froze to the spot when I heard the banging, soft and distant at first but soon growing louder and closer. And then came the flickering of the lights, followed by the hellish banshee wail.
“Jesus!” I swore.
I turned back to Mary who now stood some distance behind me.
“It’s coming! What the fuck should we do?”
Mary didn’t meet my gaze as she continued to back away, retreating from the coming threat.
“The lights won’t go out this time.” she whispered carefully, “It likes to show its true form before consuming its prey.”
“What?” I exclaimed in a panic, “What the fuck do you mean? We need to get the hell out of here!”
Mary shook her head and I saw tears forming in her eyes. “I’m sorry John, I really am. But there’s no other way. I told you, I’ll do whatever it takes to survive…”
And with that, she turned and ran.
I stood there gobsmacked. It took my panicked brain a moment to comprehend what had just happened. She’d led me into a trap, sacrificing me to the beast so she could survive. Horrified, I turned back towards the corridor and saw the monster for the first time.
How can I describe the horror of what I witnessed? The beast’s form seemed impossible. It was not one creature but instead a mind-boggling and hideous combination of human limbs, bodies and faces – at least a dozen faces and two dozen eyes, all filled with pain and anger, while their mouths worked in unison to produce the terrible high-pitched scream which drowned out every other sound.
Somehow this monster had absorbed its victims, combining their worst features and impulses to create an abomination I could never have imagined. I remained frozen to the spot as I watched the monstrosity advance clumsily but surely down the narrow corridor, its many hungry eyes focussed upon me.
I turned and ran, exerting every ounce of strength in my body while the beast chased after me. Mary was quick, but not fast enough as it turned out, because I soon caught up with her. What happened next will haunt me for the rest of my days. Acting on a primal instinct, I grabbed her roughly by the shoulders, ignoring her screams, and I used all my strength to physical throw her backwards, straight into the path of the charging monster.
I glanced back only momentarily, long enough to see Mary on the floor, reaching out and pleading for help before the beast devoured her. And, like a coward, I ran and kept running until the screams faded, and I considered myself safe.
It took some time for me to recover from the attack and come to terms with what I’d done, but of course I was still trapped inside the Labyrinth and still in mortal danger. I remembered what Mary had told me – ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to survive.’ Boy, was she telling the truth! But that wasn’t the only thing she’d said to me. ‘Remember, nothing is as it seems in the Labyrinth – a door isn’t a door, a wall isn’t a wall.’
I considered this cryptic advice. It made no sense in the real world, but real-world rules did not apply here. What the hell, I thought. So, I walked into the next identical office room, put my face against the wall, closed my eyes, and let my body fall. By rights I should have banged my head against the bricks, but instead I kept falling until my face hit soft carpet.
Astonished, I lifted my head and found myself back where it had all started, the comfortable study adorned with oak furniture and heated by a blazing open fire. And above me stood the enigmatic boss in his tailored suit, his thin smile now transformed into a wide grin.
He genuinely looked very happy to see me, as he held out his hand to help me to my feet.
“Well done Mr Smith, you made it. I never doubted you!”
I accepted his hand with suspicion, wondering if this wasn’t just another mind fuck.
“I don’t know what you did, but somehow, you’ve beaten the Labyrinth. An impressive feat indeed.”
I experienced a wave of immense relief as I dared to believe this might actually be real.
“You mean, I can go?” I asked meekly.
Of course you can.” he answered amicably, “I am a man of my word after all…Oh, I almost forgot…”
With that, he walked back to his desk and pulled out a briefcase.
“There’s still the matter of your compensation.” He popped open the case to reveal stacks of crisp green bills. “I trust one hundred thousand US dollars will suffice?”
I looked at the money in astonishment, not knowing what to say. I didn’t feel like I deserved this reward, and a part of me wanted to tell this twisted old bastard to go fuck himself. But I was weak.
“Okay, thanks.” I mumbled, taking the briefcase while avoiding eye contact.
The old man insisted on shaking my hand nevertheless, continuing to smile as he led me to the door.
“Congratulations again Mr Smith, and good luck.”
And so that’s it, my story…for what it’s worth. The money allowed me to pay off my debts and achieve some degree of financial security, but the horrors I experienced in the Labyrinth continue to haunt my nightmares, and I don’t think I’ll ever recover from what I suffered inside that hellish maze.
I still carry the guilt with me, knowing that I sacrificed Mary’s life to save my own skin. But it’s her words that stick with me – ‘to survive, you’ll do things you never thought yourself capable of, and you’ll carry it with you for the rest of your life.’
Once again, she was right. I’m glad to be out and really do have a new appreciation for life, but what I did to survive has changed me, and the nightmares of that beast will never end, because now Mary is a part of its monstrous form, doomed to crash around the Labyrinth for all eternity.
My final advice to you all is not to fall into the same trap. If you see a mysterious advert online or in the back pages of your local paper, don’t answer it. Believe me, it’s not worth it. I was lucky, but the chances are you won’t be. Take care friends and stay safe.
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