Estimated reading time — 18 minutes
Amanda awoke with a painful feeling of dread deep within her gut. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, her fear was justified. Nothing has changed. Her coffee table was overfilled with beer bottles and pizza boxes, while the ashtray was over pilling with cigarettes.
She awoke on the leather couch early in the morning, just after sunrise. The night was a haze. All Amanda really remembered was buying a six pack and drinking alone. She couldn’t find her phone anywhere she looked. There were momentary thoughts of her to determine the day, but it was futile. After much consideration, she concluded it was Saturday out of fear it was Sunday. She had work on Sunday and didn’t want to be anywhere.
“Water,” she whispered to herself. “I need lots of water.” In fear of making her headache any worse, she slowly made her way to the kitchen. Amanda filled the biggest cup she had to the brim and finished it within seconds.
With her thirst quenched she looked around the all too familiar kitchen. Much like her entire apartment it was small, old, and rectangular. The window was in the furthest part of the kitchen. From the window you could get a good glimpse of the bad part of Los Angeles. The wall to the side of the window had a dust covered white stove with a fridge and some drawers. Eggs sat on top of the drawers.
That’s when Amanda smelt it, the terrible smell of eggs past their prime. Amanda rolled her eyes, grabbed the eggs, and tossed them out of the window; this side of town was always trashy anyways. She slammed the window in frustration. The commotion caused the dust to float through the air. She sat on the ground in an empty part of the wall, on the other side of the room. She watched the dust particles float in the ember waves.
A memory floated in her mind of when she used to live at her father’s house. The living room was cozy and whenever Amanda got the chance, she’d take full advantage. One day she was laying on the couch underneath a fleece blanket watching TV. Her father James walked in. He was just on his way to a business meeting with his firm.
“How do I look Mandy,” He asked clean shaven with his hair slicked back in a suit. His green eyes were almost beaming.
“You look great dad,” Amanda replied with a smile.
“Great! Just need to fix my…” a phone call interrupted him. “Hello?” There was a small silence before, “Yes this is James Waylan.” This time a long silence before, “What happened to Christine,” James said in a panicked voice. Amanda stood up with full interest when she heard her mother’s name. James dropped to his knees and began to sob.
“What happened to mom,” Amanda said pushing the words out; she could feel the fear in her fingertips. James couldn’t respond. “Dad?!” It was no use James couldn’t find any composure. Amanda now felt her stomach knot. She grabbed James by the shoulders and…
“No,” Amanda said interrupting her own thoughts. “Not again.” She rubbed her eyes realizing just how dry they were. The smell of rotten eggs still lingered through the apartment. She thought about cracking the window, but she hated the early morning noise of traffic. There was an air freshener in her bathroom underneath the sink. There was also some eye drops and ibuprofen in the bathroom, so she pushed herself up and made her way to the bathroom.
When she got to the mirror, she stared at a reflection that was almost unrecognizable. Amanda’s dirty blonde hair was like hay reaching down her back, her pale blue eyes were accompanied by dark circles, and her lips were dehydrated to the point of bleeding. Washing her face off, she put the thought of the reflection behind her and opened the medicine cabinet. The eye drops soothed the irritated eyes. Finally, Amanda was beginning to feel human again, she just needed to relieve this headache. She dropped the pill onto the floor. It landed next to a pint of whiskey and her pocket knife.
She paused as her stomach sank. Thankfully, a search of her arms and legs yielded no results. With a sigh of relief, she examined the knife for the first time in a long time. The blade was black with blemishes of blue for design. Its handle retained that same color of blue but here it was the primary color of the weapon. What was it doing in here she thought.
The knife was given to her by James. He was always protective of Amanda, but that phone call changed protective to overbearing. The thing that Amanda hated the most about it was that it was never about Amanda being safe. It was about James not being alone. Then James found a flyer for the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Whats this,” James asked impatiently. Amanda was cleaning the living room and was thrown off by the question.
“A college in Los Angeles,” she responded sarcastically. “My counselor recommended it and I have the grades…”
“You’re not going to California,” James cut her off.
“I mean I…”
“It’s not safe for you there.” James wouldn’t let her get a word in. She sighed and silently returned to a blanket she was folding.
“I can always handle myself,” she said without making eye contact.
“What are you even planning on doing there?”
“I’m not certain. Probably just explore my options.”
“See you don’t even have a plan!” James took the flyer and threw it to the ground.
Amanda stared at it. “It’s been long enough since the accident. I need to do anything regardless of if I have a plan or not. Mom wouldn’t want me to…”
“You’re not going,” James said with a stern voice.
Amanda has been dealing with this same type of overbearing protectiveness for five years now. She had seen it all, but this was different. James was severing her chance at an actual life. The knuckles on her hand turned white and the spark in her stomach was lit. Grabbing the flyer from the ground, she looked him in the eyes and…
A deep breathe came from within her bathroom. “What is wrong with me today,” she said out loud. She shook her head from side to side in an attempt to rid herself of the memory. Amanda looked at her knife in the light of the bathroom and put it in her pocket. There was a thought of going through her drawer, but she needed a cigarette.
Checking the coffee table proved fruitless, even after moving the beer bottle and pizza boxes. She did, however, find her lighter. Maybe in the kitchen, she thought. For some unknown reason they were in her drawer next to the kitchen knives. Well at least she found them.
The smell of rotten eggs was persistent. She opened the window and just as she expected the morning street blared her away from the window. Leaning up against the empty part of the wall, she took the cigarette to her mouth and lit her lighter. In the split second it took the lighter to ignite she discovered where the smell of rotten eggs was actually coming from. One of the knobs on the stove was turned to full and for the entire night the kitchen was being filled with propane. It was too late.
The heat came before the force and knocked Amanda back like a truck made of flames. She was blown directly into the wall. She felt the concrete wall behind her as her head was the first part of her body to hit. She noticed something off about the sensation. It felt as though the concrete wall was caving. That was the last thing she remembered before… Black.
Amanda could feel this almost slime consistency on her back. When her eyes opened, she saw and heard orange, fluorescent lights above her. Amanda groaned to sit up. She looked over her entire body for any marks, scraps, or anything worse. With as bad as that explosion was, she was relieved to find nothing was wrong, aside from body aches and a worsen headache.
What was this place, she thought as she looked around. There were many rooms all connected to one another with about four openings in the wall. The wallpaper was this hideous shade of yellow with a rather bland pattern of three triangles overlapping. Throughout each room was a carpeted floor with this shade of brown that reminded her of brown construction paper. It was moist and stunk of mildew. All Amanda could think about was the buzzing of the lights above here.
“Where am I,” she said out loud as she stood up and started to walk around. She wondered how she had gotten there when it occurred to her that there were no doors to be seen, only rooms. The only thing Amanda could do was continue to walk, so that’s what she did. All the while getting angry with herself that she left the stove on for the entire night. She formed the conclusion that she must have tried to light a cigarette in her drunken stupor, from the night before, with the stove. This could explain why she left her cigarettes in the drawer next to the oven. And why the lighter was underneath the pizza boxes.
“Hello,” she yelled for anyone to hear her, “anybody!” The buzzing of the lights was the only thing to reply. She began to walk for some time. One room, two rooms, three rooms. The smell of mildew remained constant regardless of how far Amanda walked. Ten rooms, eleven rooms, twelve rooms. The feeling of dread was creeping on her as she felt her stomach drop. 30 rooms, 31 rooms, 32 rooms; or was that the 34th room. How long has she been walking? Where was the exit? In a panic she picked up her pace and began a light jog.
“Where’s the exit,” she yelled for anybody. “Hello! Anyone! Please!” Now running at a full sprint, she made a break for any exit she could find, but there were no exits. “How the hell are these lights so loud!” The only thing she could see was yellow, brown, and more rooms. Eventually, Amanda collapsed to the floor exhausted from running. Her throat was beginning to tighten, and tears welted at the corner of her eyes. “I’m dead, aren’t I?”
She pulled the hunters knife and fingered it for comfort. As of now it was the only thing connecting her to life. She longed for the day she got it. It was her fifteenth birthday and Amanda’s parents wanted to do something for her, since she had little to no friends of her own. Her mother came up with the idea of all three of them just having a day together; Amanda loved it. They went to the movie, played mini golf, and had a dinner at an Applebees.
After they finished dinner they left to their home to open Amanda’s gifts. Christine got her a PlayStation portable device she could play video games on. Amanda used to play her PSP all the time. She loved it and always tried new things with it. She tried to speed run games and finish them as quickly as possible. James on the other hand decided to get her the pocketknife she currently clung to.
“I want you to have this knife Mandy,” James said to her. “When I was young my uncle gave it to me before he had passed. I’ve held onto it ever since because it made me feel more like a man. The security this knife had given me always stuck with me. It kept me grounded to the world around me and never let me lose my way among the voices that threatened me. I want that same security for you.”
“I… don’t know what to say dad,” Amanda replied.
“Well, now I feel silly giving her a PSP,” Christine exclaimed. There was a light chuckle before Amanda gave them both a hug.
Amanda with a smile and a shake in her voice said, “thank you guys.”
James looked at her and said, “You don’t ever have to worry about me; I’ll always…”
Amanda’s thoughts were interrupted when she saw a shadow many rooms down pass by.
“Hey,” she exclaimed. Amanda jumped to her knees and started to run swiftly. “Wait!” Room after room she passed before she started to lose track of where the shadow was. “Hello!” Her paced slowed to a walk as her eyes searched frantically. There were only walls to comfort her. “Where are you?” Amanda yelled.
The gaze from her eyes landed on one wall that looked different. The wall carried the same hideous wallpaper as all the others except it looked as though someone, or something, didn’t like it as well. There was a long scratch across it. It was as big as Amanda’s torso. Amanda’s mouth became dry, her stomach dropped and beyond all else her eyes wouldn’t stray from the wall. Her internal instinct wouldn’t let her move. She was a slave to her own fear.
That’s when she heard it. The low growling sound emanated from a couple of rooms down. It was grating and caused her stomach to move in ways she never thought possible. Instinct was now screaming at her to run. She didn’t want to turn her back to the growl, but she had to move; she had to leave anywhere, but where she currently was. Her leg made one step back before she turned and ran.
To Amanda there was nothing else but her, the growling, and the damn buzz of the lights. She ran as fast as she could, all the while she could feel as though whatever emanated the growl were right behind her. There was a sinking feeling in her stomach that whatever was lurking within these rooms was about to pounce on her. She made a left. She made a right Amanda hadn’t the slightest clue how many rooms she had passed.
Eventually her adrenaline came crashing down upon her. She could feel the weight of her body on her feet. They gave way and she fell to her knees. The wet carpet soaked into her pant legs as she prepared for the worst. The worst never showed. Amanda looked around through teary eyes to get a bearing as to where she was at now. She turned around and found the first solid wall.
The wall had silver doors and a button to its left. An elevator! The elevator took her by surprise since it was the only thing she had seen since she entered this wasteland. A thought appeared in her mind. Where did the elevator come from? It wasn’t there a second ago. This unnerved Amanda who was uncertain if she should call the lift. Going against her intuition, she pressed the metal button. A green light surrounded the button before she heard the ding of the lift arriving.
Steel divided before her and the interior of the elevator was well lit. Amanda, clutching the pocketknife to her chest, took a step inside and looked around it. Silver walls, yellow-fluorescent bulbs, and one single button; the elevator was more normal than what she had anticipated. She pressed the button and the doors closed.
She couldn’t of have gone very far, as she was in the elevator for only a moment before the loud ding sounded again and the doors opened. This floor was almost identical to the first floor. There were minor changes, but they were obvious. The first change she noticed was that the wallpaper, while still the same pattern as before, was now black. The next thing she had noticed was that the fluorescent lights were now blinking on and off more chaotically. Many lights retained compliance and stayed on, but there were some that disobeyed. Lastly, some walls were just gone. Before it was an infinite amount of the same rooms, but now there were differences in some. Some were long and others were shorter.
Amanda left the steel box into the emptiness. She couldn’t over come this feeling of fear and sorrow. She was trapped. To her this was the rest of her life, infinite hallways. No, infinite hallways and whatever was following her. The growl of which cemented itself within her head and replayed itself. There had to be something that could bring her home. She found comfort within her knife and couldn’t help but hold on to it at all times.
Was that thing still on the floor below her? It was a hopeful thought, but it helped her feel better. What even was it? Her instinct forced her to put her back to the walls she could find. She walked slowly and with less confidence with each step. Amanda couldn’t help but feel as though it was following her. She could feel its eyes from rooms far away.
The more she walked the more she noticed the lights blinking. It started off as a couple of rooms here and there, but now it was almost every room. Anxiety caused her hands to shake and she held her knife out in front of her. Her breathing was sporadic. Then about a couple of rooms down she saw the shadow again. Her whole body was rattling as the lights ran crazy. There was another low growl then silence. She let out a small whimper.
Amanda’s instinct didn’t care where she was going it just knew she had to leave. Her legs left before her mind and she ran in the opposite direction of the growl. The lights had no control of how fast to turn on or off and every other second she was without lights. She was losing sight of her surroundings now that the walls were black. Where could she go? A plan needed to be formed so she stopped to look around.
The fluorescent lights shut down and Amanda was engulfed in darkness. She held her knife out. This was the first time since she had arrived that there was no sound. Absolutely mute. She held her breath in fear the shadow would hear. The predator pierced the silence with its growl and left the silence dead. Amanda tried to silence her breath, but it was no use. Small, short gulps of air could be heard from rooms down. Pitch darkness. She gripped the knife with sweaty hands and shut her eyes tight.
There was no way of knowing where the damned things growl came from; she was disoriented. Lost in the chasm of nothingness. Then the footsteps came; slow, precise, and near. Even with how close they were, she couldn’t determine where they were coming from, but she needed to know. Thud, thud, thud. The steps stopped and Amanda held her breath. This growl was loud. This growl was so loud that Amanda could feel it in her bones, and it rattled her throughout. It was right next to her. She could feel its warm damp breath on her right forearm.
Her instinct swiped with her knife at the beast and a booming roar shook the foundation of wherever they were at. Amanda, now almost deaf, ran as fast as she could in the darkness. Sight was not an option so she prayed she wouldn’t hit a wall. The darkness started to swirl around Amanda who started to lose her bearings. Ears ringing and eyes filled with black it finally happened. She ran directly into a wall and lay dazed, lost.
Shaking her head to make herself feel a little better, she finally noticed it. Light! Hope! She stood and an explosion of pain blew through her left leg. The beast swiped at her leg. She screamed in agony as she limped as fast as she could towards the elevator. If there were any hope at salvation it was at the light. There was another elevator underneath it. Thankfully for Amanda it appeared as though the beast couldn’t see in the dark either. As soon as she made it, she slammed the button and almost instantaneously the bell dinged for the elevator. Her heart sunk as she heard the beast again. The lifts doors opened slowly. Footsteps from the beast were distant, but rapidly approaching. She forced herself inside and pressed the only button repeatedly. Clomp, clomp, clomp! The beast was close now as Amanda screamed. The monster got to just the edge of the light before the doors finally closed all the way. Amanda caught a small glimpse of the nightmare. She only saw its lioness face with skin pitch black and an elongated snout of a lion. Its mouth was filled with sharp teeth. Fur surrounded its head.
Her leg finally gave out and she fell onto her bottom and sat against the wall of the elevator. Tears welted in her eyes. Amanda buried her head into her arms and sobbed loudly as the pain engulfed her leg into fire. The tears weren’t for the pained that swelled or for the life she might not return to. They were in fear of whatever that thing was. She didn’t even notice when the elevator doors opened.
When her eyes peaked from the safety of her arms, she realized she had a choice to make. Either stay there until the beast returns or leave to find an out. There was no use in crying anymore, she was on the next level.
This floor was entirely different than the first two. It had looked like it was still under construction. The carpet was gone, and the bare smooth concrete was exposed. Most of the walls were gone in favor of a translucent tarp hanging from the ceiling. Those orange lights were gone. The whole floor was light by these small lights shining from the ground upwards.
Amanda stood and put all her weight onto her right leg. Clutching the walls that she could, she limped with knife in hand expecting the worst. She still had no idea what this place even was. Fearing the answer could be hell, she concluded it was not the afterlife. The idea of limbo was entertained for a moment. A place in between death and life where there could be a better judgment of her life. That still doesn’t explain the beast. What was it? Why was it chasing her? How could she rid herself of it? This didn’t seem like limbo either. There were too many questions still left unanswered if this were limbo.
The low toned growl of the beast was heard again. A tear rolled down Amanda’s cheek. She was tired, scared, and more than anything wanted to just put this whole event in a box and toss it down a lake. There was nothing left for her to do, so she limped to the nearest wall and sat down on cold concrete. Her eyes were closed tight. The light to her left shone directly on her and part of the room she sat.
The knife was clutched closely to her chest. Her fingers ran across the blade and she thought of her father. It was probably the last conversation they had had together. Amanda had just gotten the money she needed to pursue her dreams and planned on telling James.
“Dad, I’m going to LA,” Amanda said with a shaken voice. “I can’t sit here and be sad with you anymore; it’s been five years and you have yet to do anything but drink. I’m tired of this I need to leave.”
James was quiet for some time before he responded with, “I need you Amanda I can’t live by myself.” This was the third time Amanda told her father her intentions. Every time she had, he found a way to keep her there. Through all the false promises and pleas Amanda received from James she stayed. She wanted her father back. This time there were no words James could use to get Amanda to stay.
“I’m not staying,” Amanda stated. “There has to be more than this. I need to know that I can leave. I need to know that the world hasn’t ended. I need to know that if I leave, you’ll still be my dad.”
James was quiet for a moment. “Amanda I can’t be alone. I don’t know how to be okay without you.” Amanda was quiet. James clenched his fist. “Dammit Mandy don’t you understand that I’ll be all alone!”
“And don’t you realize that I have been all alone,” Amanda yelled back. “I have been your crutch ever since mom has been gone! I am a Human being and need to live. I’m asking you to please just understand that.”
“No Amanda, I can’t understand this. I can’t understand how you would harm me. After everything I did for you when your mother left.”
“You drank every night and I had to deal with you!”
“I was trying to survive! I had to work and pay for everything you take for granted in this house while going through grief. You know how hard it has been to even get up in the morning? How many times at work I had to endure through pain just to make sure you have something to eat when you get home from school? And I did all this for you! So, how can you hurt me like this?”
Amanda lost her voice for a moment. She almost gave in. He almost won. Amanda had to say anything. “I… really am sorry dad,” she choked out. “I can no longer help; I am not a prisoner here. I will leave and become something, anything!”
James was quiet for some time. This was it; he was going to be alone for the first time in many years. This was a threat. “No,” James said with wide eyes. “You won’t become anything. You will end up just like me. You’ll get to LA. You’ll see people you want to talk to, but you won’t say anything. Do you want to know why?” His voice was calm, clear, calculated. James knew what to say. “You won’t because you’re just like me. Terrified of everything that comes at you in life. You won’t make it and I’m trying to spare you, Amanda. If you walk out there, you’ll end up just like me; alone and scared.”
Those were the last thing James ever said to her. Amanda cried for the entire trip to LA and when she landed, she went straight to a small motel. It only took her a month to find an apartment. She wanted to go to school, but she had difficulties talking with anyone to do it. She found a small job at a factory. She remained stagnant for the next three years. It felt as though there was nothing left to do.
The beast was nearing Amanda now. She looked at the knife as the fear in her stomach turned to a fire in her chest. The knuckles on her hands were white from how hard she grasped the knife. Her breathing became more rapid as the beast came into the light.
It was the first time Amanda got a good glimpse as to what this thing hunting her was. The beast stood at least seven feet tall on lion’s legs covered in black fur. The skin all over its body was a shiny black. From the torso to its wrist was human, but its hands were long sharp claws. There was the fur around its neck, black and puffy, it surrounded a lions face. It had black beady eyes with the snout of a lion with razor sharp teeth. The beast roared at Amanda who didn’t budge.
“Well,” Amanda yelled back at it. She pushed herself to her feet and couldn’t even notice the pain swelling throughout her leg. “I’m here! Do it already!” The beast was quiet waiting to pounce on her. “Just don’t expect it to be easy!” It was quiet. The only thing that was heard was the breath of the beast and Amanda’s heartbeat.
The beast made the first move with a quick lunge at Amanda. She was expecting this and doge to the right and swiped with her left. The knife sliced through the beast’s shoulder. A booming roar came from it and shook the foundation of the infinite hallways. There was a loud ringing in Amanda’s ears following the roar. It was distracting her, and the beast took advantage.
It swiped with its right arm and swooped Amanda off her feet. The beast held her in the air before letting out another roar. Then it dug its claws deep into Amanda’s side; she screamed in agony. The beast pulled her close and opened its fang infested mouth to roar in her face. Amanda wiped the spit off her face and smiled. She slammed her knife directly into the beast’s throat.
The nightmare let go of Amanda but held onto the knife. Amanda struggled and tried to release the knife out of its neck. Claws dug into her left leg again and threw her across the room. The knife stayed lodge in it. She could see the wall coming quick. Amanda closed her eyes and awaited death. Only, when she felt the slam on the wall, she felt that familiar caving feeling. Then… black.
Amanda awoke next to the coffee table with a pain in her stomach from fear. That fear was justified as she pulled her hand away from her stomach and saw blood. Her right side still had holes. Luckily for her the bleeding had stopped. She looked around to see the remains of her charred apartment. She found her phone underneath the couch with a small amount of charge. The date on the phone said she had been gone for a couple of days. A look for her knife yielded no results and she realized that it was still left in those infinite hallways. Melancholy fell upon her.
“I just need an ambulance to Golden Avenue,” Amanda said to the 911 dispatcher. There was nothing to do now but wait. She checked the internet for anything she could find. Scrolling on her phone through random threads, she couldn’t find much more. She found common theories throughout, but there were many that all followed the same thing she had gone through. They called them the backrooms. A place you go when you clip out of reality. Think of it like clipping in a videogame. There are certain boundaries in a videogame that you cannot cross, but speed runners cross those boundaries and inadvertently break the game.
It is said that if you accidentally cross the boundaries within reality you will end up within those backrooms. Many people describe the place differently. Some say the place has one floor, while others say there are thousands. There are rumors of humanoid dogs roaming throughout, while other rumors say there are shadow people. Amanda found her experience different than those.
Amanda saw the flashing lights of the ambulance parked next to the rotten eggs she threw out earlier. A thought crossed her mind that those eggs probably weren’t bad at the time she threw them out. She stood and started to limp towards the door before stopping. There was one last thing she needed. She limped all the way to her room and check her bottom drawer. The University of California, Los Angeles flyer was there waiting for her. She put in her back pocket and left that destroyed apartment behind her.
Credit : Terrell Ortero
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