Awaken. I awoke to the sounds of crickets and the cold breeze of midnight. Blades of grass tickled my skin and struggling to fight off my waking daze, I sat up. Something was wrong. The sky was dyed a deep violet. The shattered remains of two moons colliding loomed overhead and illuminated the world with their pale glow.
Remember. I don’t remember how I got here, or maybe I don’t want to remember. Yes, that’s it, I was trying to escape from something, I wanted to forget so I came here, but where exactly is here?
Run. It approaches, it’s multi-limbed body peaked out from the tree line, dozens of eyes reflected the light of the devastated celestial bodies that gazed over this world. The being pulled its limbs into itself, its eyes conjoined and it reformed its body into a long wormish thing and slithered towards me at an alarming speed.
I got up and ran until my frail body began to break down but still, the creature was at my heels, forming long mouth-laden tendrils to nip at the skin of my ankles. Finally, the forest gave way to a clearing, at its center stood an open door suspended in mid-air, a sterile and immaculate white hallway awaited beyond its threshold. With the last of my strength, I dove into the doorway. The pursuing monster halted its charge and let out a final soul-rending scream before its impossibly black form cracked and broke apart into smaller abstract creatures. I watched them dart back into the forest before I felt comfortable enough to take in my new surroundings. A long bright, ivory corridor stretched endlessly, numbered doors lined both sides in perfect rows. A ghastly, inorganic voice cut through the silence and spoke.
I noticed that I wasn’t alone, leaned against the walls were 5 others, all but one ignoring my presence. The man that approached and spoke to me seemed to be the least weathered amongst them.
“Another one, congratulations on moving on to this round. It’ll only get harder from here on out.”
“What will? What is this?”
“You don’t remember? You must have used your memory to pay the entrance fee. I guess that means you don’t remember what you put up as a wager either, what you stand to lose and gain. That doesn’t matter now, what matters is clearing this room and moving on to the next one. The last one was a test of stamina, I think this one is a puzzle room.”
I was about to ask what any of what he said meant when one of the men leaned up against the wall yelled out expletives and ran down the hallway, opened a random door and entered. The others got up and were about to do the same, but stopped themselves the second guttural screams tore out from the room. They looked around terrified and scrambled to pick a door.
I swung around to see what terrified them so much and was met with a grotesque site. An entity seemingly comprised of vantablack plasma was taking form in front of my very eyes. When it finished assembling itself it took the appearance of a multi-limbed humanoid, a corrupted Shiva. It’s chest split open to reveal a massive jaundiced eye. It took a step forward and the first row of doors shifted, distorted and rotated up the wall, towards the ceiling. I stood dumbfounded until I was flung to the side of the wall by the now twisting hallway. This thing must have been distorting space itself because I was still pinned to the side of the wall even as it shifted and settled into the top of the room, leaving me disoriented.
Screams echoed throughout the hallway as reality churned and coalesced at the point of singularity that was the creature, I had to run, to be caught in the path of this being was to be ripped apart atom by atom. If this really was a puzzle, there had to be a way to solve it, a cipher of sorts. However, judging from the screams around me, all the others had failed at solving it and with the creature drawing nearer I had no choice but to leave it to chance. I stood up and lunged at the nearest door and was just barely able to cling on to the handle. I flung it open and stepped in just as the tangle of sundered reality began to curl around my feet and as I fell into the void I couldn’t help but let out a scream.
I awoke in the parking lot of a derelict building, surrounded by the others. Tears stung my eyes as memories began to flood in and I finally remembered what I had wagered, Janice my wife. The tears broke away to retching sobs. I remembered when this building first mysteriously appeared and the entity that spoke to me when I approached. It told me of a game it wanted to play, a game of great loss and vast riches. All I needed to enter was to place a wager and pay an entrance fee of my choosing. Janice had left divorce papers at my desk the previous day, she was poised to take the kids, half of my life savings and there was no chance of me stopping it. So I bet her life and paid with my memories, I knew I was destined to lose this game. I thought if she just disappeared without a trace and I was left with no memory of what I had done I could live with my kids, guiltless. That mercy wasn’t granted to me, no I had to live with the knowledge of what I had done. But I still had my kids, my savings, and an alibi. My crying quieted and a faint smile formed inadvertently across my face, maybe my wager wasn’t as unfavorable as I had first thought.