His hands glowed red with a singeing pain as he ferociously gripped the steering wheel. Darius Chambers had reached his breaking point. Though the speckles of blood on his tank top and the telltale stench of whiskey on his breath would spell his demise if the police caught him, he shot through winding back roads like a bull on a cocaine binge. In his drunken stupor, he cared not for the ubiquitous blackness encompassing his vehicle. The way Darius saw it, he had done nothing but survive in darkness since his daughter's death; one more ride in it could do no harm.
His intoxication slowly began dragging him into slumber. Drifting to the point where he could no longer uphold the weights on his eyelids, he collapsed at the wheel. At breakneck speed on a sharp right turn, his prized Mercedes veered violently off the road, crashing through a forest before striking a massive oak. The vehicle wrapped around the tree, leaving a heap of glass, metal, and flesh in its wake. The forest heard nothing but silence for upwards of an hour, until miraculously, with sputtering breaths and a limp arm, a gangly figure trudged out of the carnage. Unaware of his surroundings, Darius turned the serene silence of the forest into a chaotic collection of echoing screams. Screams for help, screams in anger, screams for answers. He screamed until his vocal cords strained, until his throat burned, and finally until he realized his screams were silent.
Although devastated in both confusion and sorrow, he had the wherewithal to realize he wouldn’t survive the harsh chill of the night in his tattered clothes. He sought shelter, and after an eternity, he reached protection. Standing before him was a massive building. The structure resembled a factory, coated in dingy brick and shattered windows. The sides were stained with endless stories in the form of graffiti. Overgrown vegetation and winding vines acted as a demented guardian to the structure, almost appearing as a sentient being under the gleaming moonlight. Bizarrely, the building emitted an alluring warmth, drawing Darius toward its dilapidated front door in an unwavering trance.
Upon entry, to Darius’ shock, he was greeted with what appeared to be the lobby of a lavish hotel. The room held no inhabitants, though it seemed to be fit for a king. The decadent setting was welcoming to Darius, and he was relieved to know that even while on the run, he’d still be able to fall asleep in luxury. With no workers in the building and the whereabouts of his retreat unknown, he breathed a sigh of relief. In the aftermath of the crash, he could not remember any of the events that had transpired earlier that night, nor could he remember why he was on the run in the first place. All that Darius knew was that he needed to escape this town before the police forced his departure.
In the lobby was a single door. Puzzled, Darius cautiously motioned toward it, before hastily pulling it open, expecting someone to escort him off the premises for intruding. Instead, he was simply greeted by an empty hallway. There was one dim light hanging from the ceiling which exposed the hallway’s contents, though there wasn’t much to show. The corridor contained no windows and only two doors: one on the right side about halfway down the hall, and one at the very end. The hallway was a relic of the past, with the modeling one would expect out of a building from the 1920s. To the right of the entry door, there was a golden plaque with the number “0001” emblazoned on it. Though ancient in design, the hallway appeared to have been refurbished, as it was in relatively good condition, giving Darius the confidence to walk forth.
He first attempted to enter the side door, but the door was locked, thus leading Darius to head out and go into the second door. When he opened it, he was greeted with an identical hallway, aside from a golden plaque near the door that read: “0002”. Confused as to the layout of the building, Darius again attempted to open the side door, and again this was to no avail. Confused, he exited through the second door once more, only to be greeted by another corridor, identical in size, shape, and color, aside from a plaque which read: “0003”. Darius burst through six other near identical hallways, one after another, with nothing but locked doors and a dangling light to greet him. Darius was growing impatient and decided to instead bunker down in the lobby, so he headed back from where he came. He went out through the door entered, but instead of the plaque reading: “0008”, it remained, “0009”. Rationally, Darius assumed he had simply miscounted, so he continued his backtracking. Another hallway: “0009”, and another, and another, until he had traversed through more hallways than there were numbers on the plaque.
Darius figured that the only way to go up a number would be to exit through the last door in a hallway. Naturally, Darius rushed through countless corridors in an effort to reach a true exit. In an unadulterated, manic blur, he ran through upwards of thirty near identical hallways. With his hope all but diminished, upon reaching door forty, there was a change.
A bright light illuminated the corridor. The walls were draped in majestic violet curtains; what lied behind them, however, was hidden in darkness. Relieved, confused, and alarmed by the abrupt change of scenery, Darius slowly took his first steps. When he attempted to discern what lied behind the violet drapes, he was bludgeoned by an intense, inexplicable fear, yet when he attempted to ignore their contents, he was met with a cold emptiness and an almost inability to move forward. Frightened by this bizarre onset of conflicting feelings, Darius forced himself toward the exit door. When he opened it, his heart sunk as he was met by the same, ominous drapes and a golden plaque that still read: “0040”. Every time Darius attempted to leave, he would loop back around to door forty, and each time he looped back around, the guttural feelings evoked by the drapes gained more power. When the internal agony became too much to bear, and his fears were overwhelmed by fury, Darius ripped open one of the violet drapes and was immediately thrown back onto the floor.
Behind the drape lied a mass darker than anything he had ever encountered. Out of the black drifted the silhouette of a hand whose outstretched, bony finger jabbed Darius’ cheek. In an instant, he was overrun with memories of the events of the night. The events that led him on the run. The events that brought him to this prison.
Liquor had cuffed him again, his mind in a state of delirium after one shot too many at the bar. He rolled into his house, immediately crashing onto what was now his bed, the living room couch. From the upstairs bedroom, Darius heard heavy, continuous weeping, loud enough to disturb the sleep he so desperately craved. Darius stormed up the stairs before nearly kicking the bedroom door off its hinges. In the room, he saw his wife clutching a scarlet, tear-stained dress.
“I-is it our fault? Did we do this to her? Oh god… I wish I could’ve known… I could’ve helped her through this… I-I wish she was still here.”
There was a silence in the room. Darius finally spoke with words as virulent as they were slurred.
“She’s gone, Michelle. No amount of crying will ever bring her back. Stop your sobbing. She’s dead, gone, and it’s her fault. When the hell are you just going to accept it?”
“Her fault? You and I both know we played equal parts in this. W-we were so cruel to her, no, you were so cruel to her. I-I can’t believe I played along, maybe out of lov- no… that can’t be it, out of fear… out of fear, I played along, and every day I’m sinking deeper because of it, because of you. Oh, and as for accepting things, you’re one to talk, at least I’m trying! Our baby girl ends her own life and what do you do to help? Huh? When’s the last time you’ve made it through a night without a bottle of whiskey by your side, or the lips of another woman around your jock? You think I don’t know? I just choose not to notice! Hell, speaking of, when’s the last time you’ve made it through a night withou-”
Michelle was cut off by a sharp slap. One slap turned to two, to three, to a closed fisted strike, to a stomp, to an unrelenting flurry. Within an hour, the police were called, Michelle was sent to the hospital, and Darius went on the run. Next thing Darius knew, he was trudging through rubble with a dislocated arm and a gash in his side. The memory reverted itself back into his subconscious and he was sucked back into reality, finding himself in fetal position against the corner of the wall. When he finally managed to lift his head, he was in what he knew to be the normal hallway: red carpet, dim light, two doors. A plaque beside the door read: “0041”.
Darius began to disassociate himself from his surroundings, something he’d only sparsely done since his turbulent youth. His body worked on autopilot as he traversed through nine more separate hallways until at door fifty he stopped. At the edge of door forty-nine was a hallway painted in black, with absolutely nothing inside other than the two doors he had grown so accustomed to seeing. Peering through, he recognized that the side door was left ajar. In a near zombified state, Darius headed toward the opened door, and when he entered, he was immediately awoken. In that side room was nothing but a mirror. He walked forth, the door slammed shut behind him and welded itself to its hinges. Darius didn’t even bother trying to escape; he instead locked eyes with his reflection. As he looked into the mirror, he witnessed his image contort, forming into a ghastly beast. The beast mocked his suffering, its beckoning laugh so thunderous that it formed a crack in the wall. While the incessant laughter tormented Darius’ ears, the events of the night ran through his head once again. Tears stung his face as the bubbling regret in his stomach surfaced itself as vomit. With a swollen throat, he apologized, begged for forgiveness, even accepted his suffering, yet when he raised his eyes he was still met with a monster. The monster responded to his pleads with a toothy grin.
Seeing this, Darius’ loathing transformed into anger, and he shattered the mirror where it stood, before collapsing onto the shards beneath his feet. Had it not been for the crimson pool drenching his back, he would not have even known that he was wounded. The glass burrowing into his skin was relieving at first, though in time his numbness receded, and when it did, it was as if he was swimming through a sea of fire. Despite this, Darius refused to move, becoming one with the pain that once shackled him. After over an hour of agonizing freedom, the door slowly screeched open. As Darius peered into the hallway, his eyes were scorched by a blinding light, and as he painstakingly attempted to crawl, he passed out by the time his body was halfway out the door.
In a flash, he woke up in the all too familiar hallway with his feet sturdy beneath him and his wounds cleansed. At the end of the hallway, a childlike, brooding apparition formed before him. As he gazed into the figure’s face or lack thereof, the events of his life presented themselves in its blankness. All his misdeeds, his neglect, his deception toward himself and toward others performed like a demented theatrical production. The apparition slowly drifted toward him. Every inch it floated promoted a new horror. Darius could endure the harrowing sights no longer; his legs buckled and his eyes locked shut. Alone in his mind, the visions prevailed. Though a blurry image, faded with time, he saw his father’s eyes. He peered into them- bloodshot, emotionless, empty. Darius looked into those eyes one more time, and then finally opened his. He watched the apparition’s face, the reality he had blocked out for so long. The apparition kneeled before the shuddering man and stroked his hair like a mother would to her child. The figure lowered its head to his ear and uttered one word in a gut-wrenchingly familiar tone: “Walk.”
Darius opened his eyes. He was alone. Without hesitation, he dragged himself to his feet and walked through the hall. Darius knew his misfortune was at his own hands, and he would accept his punishment with open arms. Until then, however, he would be forced to wander an infinite series of hallways, each step delving him deeper into the memories, thoughts, and emotions that he had spent so long repressing.
Written by Incorrect3