The Ones That Walked

I.

 

He opened his eyes, and a rush of blood came surging into his head. The feeling of yet another blackout overcame him. After a deep breath, he climbed to his feet. The sound of running water bounced around the absolute darkness. He was standing in a void. “Hello…is anyone there,” he yelled out, “HELLO!” Only his echo returned to him. He stumbled around splashing water with his feet. Feeling for a wall, he faintly brushed his fingertips against what appeared to be brick. “A tunnel,” he thought to himself! He stepped over the small stream of water and felt the other side; it seemed the width of the tunnel was only a little over his arm length. He leaned against it and tried to think of where he could be. No specific smell and no light, and absolutely no recollection of how he got there. For all he knew, it was a tunnel, perhaps a sewer. He stuck his hand down in the one-inch high water to see which way it was flowing. It was going behind him and so he began to walk with it.

He felt as though an eternity passed when he came upon a dim light at some point along the tunnel. He paused and stared straight at it. After seeing something move, he jolted towards the miniscule apparition. His pant legs were now soaked with water. As he approached the faint light he saw someone, a girl! She was unconscious and dressed in climbing gear. A flashlight was clipped to her backpack strap that overlapped her right shoulder. “Hey,” he whispered as he began poking at her. “Hey, you okay?” She fluttered her eyes open. “Wh-what,” she could barely speak. Then her eyes locked onto his. She threw herself back and began screaming, “GET AWAY FROM ME!” She tried escaping the man’s view by crawling backwards and continuing to scream, as if that was going to help. “Shh hey hey, look calm down,” he said, “my name is James.” He grabbed her arms and pressured her against the wall. She gasped, “What?” “I said my name is James,” offering his hand out to help her up.

“M-my name is Ashley.”

“Ashley? Okay mind telling me where we are.”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head.

“What do you mean you don’t know? Why are you here? Why are you wearing all this climbing gear,” James asked aggressively?

Ashley was panting. “Just let me breathe okay.”

James stepped aside and sat down across from her. He exhaled and rested his head on the damp mossy interior of the tunnel. Ashley’s flashlight began to flicker off and on, and the couple panicked. She unfastened the light and started smacking it. “No no no,” James stuttered as he feared the dark. “Don’t worry,” said Ashley smacking the flashlight once more, “lucky flashlight!” It restored visibility after the last good hit. “Lucky flashlight, right,” James said. He used the light to his advantage to see what he was wearing: a stripped long-sleeve shirt, boots, and some khakis. He checked his pockets and found nothing but some change and his phone. He tried powering on the phone but alas it was dead. Ashley began checking her person as she sat up. She had a watch and a small backpack which included: an extra pair of batteries, a pocketknife, a climbing course map, and a water bottle. Attached to the side of the pack: a coiled up 100-foot rope, three carbineers, one belay device, and some sunscreen.  James noticed her watch and asked for the time. “Well according to this it’s 10 in the morning,” Ashley responded.

“Is that right,” James asked?

“I don’t know.”

“How do you not know, don’t you remember what you were doing!”

“Obviously I was climbing,” she said with laugh, “but I don’t remember what was going on earlier, it’s like all a blur.”

James started to panic, “What do you mean like a blur!?”

“Look would you just calm down,” she said growing serious again.

James took a few breaths, “Sorry I just don’t know what’s going on.”

“Well you remember your name,” she said. James tilted his head forward and did think that was strange. “Mind telling me how you found me,” Ashley asked?

“Well I woke up, it was pitch black, I ran following the direction of the water, and well, here you are.”

“With no recollection of how you got here or anything?”

“Yup, pretty much.”

“Well we have a direction,” Ashley said in the process of standing up.

“What are you doing,” James asked?

“Well I assume you were looking for a way out of here so I guess we better get going,” she said sticking her hand out to help him up.

Suddenly a high pitched noise sounded off very sharply and James fell to his feet; the sound produced vibrations that skipped along the tunnel walls and rattled the duo’s eardrums. “Ahh,” screamed James, “Do you hear that?” Ashely didn’t say anything, she just fell to her knees cuffing her hands around her head. James’ face turned red and his veins began to protrude. The noise was having some sort of physical effect on them. Then it stopped. They caught their breath and collected themselves. “What was that,” James wondered in agony. “I don’t know, but I think we need to get out of here…fast,” said Ashley climbing to her feet. “Come on let’s go.”

After what felt like an hour, they came upon their first turn, which mysteriously led to a ladder. “Ok who’s first?” Ashley said sarcastically looking at James. “Who me,” James nervously replied, “of course!” He turned around and placed his feet onto the ladder. As he began to climb down, a chill ran up his body. “This place is really creepy huh Ash.” The interior was made of grey brick with slime-like green moss protruding from various areas on the walls. It slowly crept its way between the brick mortar; it looked as if it were alive.

“You’re calling me Ash now?”

“Yea why not?”

“I-I don’t know, I just…”

James suddenly slipped when his foot made contact with a wet step. He quickly slung his left arm up to catch the step above, saving him from the fall. “YOU OKAY,” Ashley yelled from above!? “Yea I’m just really we-I mean slip-I mean; I slipped.” Ashley started laughing hysterical as she made her way down, following James. The ladder had to be around 30 feet high. James departed the ladder and adjusted his eyes to the new area. An eerie reddish glow started to serve as a light source; after James’ eyes focused, he could make out the interior. It was an open, square room, exactly symmetrical. Three tunnels branched off starting from one to the right, straight, then left. Ashely finally came down and joined James in deciding which direction to go.

“So which one?” James asked.

“I don’t know maybe we should split up.”

James looked at her, “Seriously?”

Ashley started laughing; she could tell he was gullible.

“Oh right,” James replied.

“I say straight,” said Ashley smiling.

“How do you know that’s the right way?”

“Well how do you know it’s not,” Ashley replied being witty?

“Good point.”

“Ok then let’s go.” The two marched forward and continued on. Almost another hour into the new tunnel, Ashley’s flashlight began to flicker again, and the feeling of fear and panic grew quickly in the two. Ashley did the old, smack it trick and James tried to control himself. “Can I have some water,” he asked? Ashley gave up on the flashlight and reached into her backpack. “Water break it is.” As the two refreshed themselves the flashlight faded ou. “Great,” James said, “just great.” Fortunately the red tint from before masked the atmosphere, giving them the ability to see each other’s silhouettes.

“Would you look at the bright side,” Ashley said.

“You mean the dark side?”

“Oh shut up! You’re still alive down here and you’re not alone either.”

James palmed his face and tried to clear his head. Ashley could see he was starting to lose it.

Ashley toned down. “Look, I wanna get out of here just as much as you okay but we are gonna have to work together,” she said with her thick southern accent.

James took a few steps away and remained silent. All of a sudden the tunnel began to illuminate like the room at the bottom of the ladder. “How is this possible?” he asked. “I don’t…know,” Ashley said squinting her eyes. A few seconds passed and James began feeling the mossy walls. He brushed his hand into the gooey like substance. “This smells like shit,” James exclaimed, “yuck!” He started shaking his hands to get the juice off when he noticed something peculiar. His hands began to glow. Ashley was astounded. “How is it doing that,” Ashley asked aloud. “That’s a good question Ash.” “Again, with Ash,” Ashley said with a smirk.

“What you don’t like Ash?”

“No it’s just, only my family calls me that.”

“Oh,” James said not knowing how to feel.

Unexpectedly the noise from earlier sounded off again. “Woah,” James said holding his ears. The sound came with an even harder hit, as if they were closer to where it was coming from. The layout of the tunnel seemed to disturb the sound further. The two crouched clutching their heads; James mistakenly got the goo all over his face from doing so.

“Come on we need to move, fast,” Ashley yelled grabbing James by his arm. A burst of adrenaline and fear installed itself in their bodies. Still holding their ears they sprinted away as fast as they could. Further down the new path, the moss disappeared off the walls and darkness began to bestow itself upon the trail once again. They didn’t hesitate to look back, however James began to lag behind. Ashley was far faster than he and as the light around them began to fade, so did James.

After a minute or so, Ashely slowed down and caught her breath. She ceased to hear the noise, but she also couldn’t hear the sound of James’ boots pounding the ground. She halted and attempted to hear any sign of life. A faint scream whispered through the tunnel. She immediately threw down her bag and began to look for the spare batteries. Now panting, a sliver of water slowly ran down her forehead reminding her time was valuable. She felt the tiny metal cylinders and snatched them out. After plopping the batteries into the flashlight, the bright LED beam reflected off the tunnel’s mossy walls creating a green hue. Ashley put on her backpack and started to backtrack. Keeping a steady pace she kept her ears open. “ASHLEY…HELP ME,” screamed in the distance. It grew louder and louder as she kept her direction. She finally stopped and tried to tune into the mayday call. Ashley could see a good distance down the tunnel with the flashlight, but she still couldn’t understand exactly where the screaming was coming from. She called out, “WHERE ARE YOU!?”

The entire environment became still. “THE WALL,” sounded off! Ashley began feeling the walls. Pounding on the right side of the tunnel she quickly moved to the left. She briefly took a moment to scan a portion covered in an unusually small amount of moss. She moved her light over it and quickly noticed a brick where the concrete was slightly removed on all sides. Throwing her fist at it, a click sounded off and Ashley fell straight down dropping the flashlight; she tightened up her body expecting a hard hit to the ground when suddenly she felt nothing. Ashley lifted her arms away from her face to find she was upside down. Her backpack became caught in a rope dangling from a rock ceiling. She scanned the floor to judge her height and picked out the light coming from her flashlight. “Ohhh that’s not good. I must be 60 feet from the ground. Lucky flashlight survived that fall.” Adding the height upwards, the total fall was a good 100 feet. Something that would surely end Ashley; unfortunately death forgot she was an experienced climber.

She unclipped the strap around her waist attached to the backpack and quickly fell, catching her backpack straps with her hands. Dangling, she paused and looked around the massive cavern. “I’m definitely not in the tunnel anymore.” She climbed up her backpack and wrapped herself around the rope, guilty of saving her life. She detached her coiled rope off the pack and linked it up to the one hanging from the ceiling, afterwards clipping herself into the new line. She eased her grip and leaned back, now fully supported by her attachment. Ashley untangled her backpack and put it on. She then proceeded to repel down to the floor. “Step by step Ashley,” she reminded herself.

The flashlight’s beam grew brighter. Impressed with herself Ashley began to descend faster. As she did so her carabiner caught a tear in the rope causing her to bounce up; as she jerked back down the rope broke its link to the ceiling rope, causing Ashely to fall. “Ahhh,” she screamed thinking she was surely dead. She stopped, only being greeted with luck again, for she was only three feet from the bottom. Adding to her fortune was all her gear fell with her. She sighed in relief then collected her gear. After coiling up the rope, she clipped it to her pack and sought out the flashlight. “Not too far,” she said to herself. After picking up the light she heard a faint scream.

“JAMES,” cried Ashley! The scream followed but she still couldn’t make it out. Ashley aimed the flashlight around and crept towards the noise. As she approached the sound, it became more distinct. It was James calling for help. Ashley raced to him. “Ashley!” “James, James I’m right here okay,” Ashley reassured him. After a moment her flashlight caught a glimpse of a fish net that entrapped James “Ah what took you so long,” said James.  “Sorry it just took me awhile to find the stairs,” Ashley said feeling a little relieved, “Ah how did you get in this thing?” “I don’t know, but I think that fungus made me hallucinate when I touched it,” said James. Ashley started looking for the pocketknife in her bag. “Oh, the knife, perfect,” said James. Ashley cut him free and James’ body fell straight to the floor.

“Ouch,” James complained getting up, “How are we supposed to get out of here now?”

“I don’t know James, you tell me.”

James took a deep breath and contemplated for a moment. “Let me see your torch.”

Ashley gave James the light and he began to lead to way. “Where are you going,” she asked. “I’m looking around,” he replied. The room was more of a massive cave, almost dome-shape. There seemed to be some structures integrated into the rock. It was definitely not something they have ever seen before. “Look at this place,” exclaimed James! “It’s really something!”

“What do you think it is,” asked Ashley?

“I have no idea, maybe some station or like a mine or something,” James continued to wave the flashlight around. “There’s no moss in here. Man this room is big and it’s definitely newer than the tunnel.”

“How do you know all that,” questioned Ashley?

“Just a guess, I know a little bit about architecture.”

“Oh so you’re an Architect.”

James’ light finally caught a glimpse of something. “No, historian”, he said as he shined the light at the object. “Now come on I found a ladder.”

“Up,” asked Ashley?

“No down.”

“Is it a good idea to keep going down,” contemplated Ashley?

“Do we have a choice?”

“I guess you’re right.”

They made their way down the ladder and entered a dramatically different area from the tunnel and the cave. This room was definitely man made. Big white tiles made up the walls and floor. As the flashlight’s beam made its way across the room, it revealed a metal cage; instantaneously, torches burst into flames and two human-sized bird cages became visible. Inside these miniature prisons were two individuals who were unconscious and constrained. One had on a suit and the other, jeans and a leather jacket.  “What the hell,” said James. The room began to vibrate and the spaces between the tiles on the floor began to glow.

“Woah, Ash you feel that? Do you see what the floor is doing right now?”

Precipitously, Ashley’s eyes caught something even worse, the floor was beginning to separate under the two cages. As James and Ashley scrambled to figure out what to do, two pedestals arose out of the floor in front of the cages, on each, laid a rusty key. As the prisoners began to wake up, Ashley and James now felt that even their own lives were in jeopardy.

“What do we do Ashley?”

“I-I don’t know!”

II.

As the rumbling grew stronger the two prisoners awoke. The smell of smoke tickled their noises, furthering their hesitation.

“HELP! HELP! GET ME OUTTA HERE,” screamed one of the men!

“Ashely what do we do,” James panicked?

“How do you expect me to know, I don’t know everything,” replied Ashley!

 

James took off and ran to each pedestal, grabbing both keys. “Here you take one and open that cage,” said James pointing to the left cage. The two bolted into action and sprung onto each cage, holding on with one hand and trying to unlock the rickety cage with the other. As each rescuer hovered over the pit below, fire began to make its way up to the cage and the smoke grew thicker, intoxicating the room.

“HURRY,” yelled the prisoner in the leather jacket. James was struggling to release him as Ashley tried to free the man in the suit.

“I have a family, please,” cried the man in the suit, trying to rush Ashley. “We don’t have much time!”

“I-I can’t get the key in,” said Ashley trying to remain clear minded. All four began to cough as the room had become completely clouded.

James finally managed to get his key in before Ashley. As he threw the door open, he grabbed the prisoners jacket and pulled him out, jumping off the cage at the same time.

The man Ashley was trying to help, looked at her with teary eyes, “please.” Suddenly the cage jolted down, causing Ashley to fall off. When she hit the ground the cages dropped into the flames below, engulfing the man left behind. His screams pierced through the depths of descent and bounced off the walls in the room above. The survivors, choking on the smoke, remained speechless until the man’s agony ended.

Ashley climbed back to her feet and noticed James untying the suited man. “What happened,” James asked the survivor?

The newcomer sat down and leaned against one of the pedestals. “I don’t know man, you tell me,” he replied. James put his hands behind his head and screamed, kicking the other pedestal down in his rant. As the grey stand fell and broke, the ceiling above them opened and released the smoke in the room, restoring visibility and fresh air.

“What the-”

The stranger caught his breath. “It-it was designed like that,” he said.

James crept toward him, “What do you mean?”

The stranger coughed still trying to catch his breath, “I mean, you had to choose.”

James’ face turned red and Ashely, feeling the steam off of James, took a step back. James took off towards the stranger and grabbed him by the collar. He threw him across the room and screamed, “YOU KNEW!”

“JAMES STOP,” yelled Ashely rushing to intervene!

“YOU FUCKING BASTARD,” James yelled, returning to punch him in the face.

“GET OFF HIM,” Ashley demanded, wrapping her arms around James and taking him to the ground. The beaten man didn’t dare move. “It’s not exactly like that James,” the man said spitting blood out, “It’s a bit more complicated.”

James didn’t care to keep questioning; as he paced around the room, Ashely approached the prisoner.

“How did you get here-”

“Sean, my name is Sean.”

“Okay Sean, where did you come from?”

“The last thing I remember was I was riding my motorcycle.”

“So how do you know what’s going on then huh,” James interrupted in his angry stupor.

“I’m not finished.”

“James let the man finish!”

James threw his hands up and walked away.

“Before I ended up here in…this…cage, I was taken to this room. I-I don’t remember specifics but there were these people, these things. Ah it’s all a blur.”

Ashley crouched beside him and put her hand on his shoulder, “Please, try to remember.”

James noticed this and regrouped with the two.

“They, put me here. It’s just so hard to remember. Like something is preventing me from remembering.”

“But you remember your name,” interrupted James.

“Don’t you,” Sean asked?

James scoffed.

“How did you two end up here?”

Ashley arose to her feet, “We don’t know either.”

“Gah that’s just great,” exhaled Sean.

As the new group contemplated their next move, the walls began to shift.

“Quick move to the sides,” James called out, believing the floor was moving.

“Look!” Ashely pointed to the wall to the left.

An opening appeared as the wall descended into the floor. “Well looks like we have a way to go, come on.” James led the way through the clearing in the wall.

“They’re leading us,” Sean whispered to himself.

The trio ventured out the tiled room only to end up back in a tunnel. “Great a freaking a tunnel.”

“Quit complaining James,” said Ashley.

“Oh laugh it up, not like a man just died and we’re lost.”

They continued through to the new path. Sean didn’t talk, he just kept struggling to remember. “So what do you think this place is,” Ashely said shining her flashlight around.

“I’m not sure there is an answer to that,” said James. As they kept walking further and further, the light from where they came died off. “I mean we are definitely underground, but the way each room differs, there’s no synchronicity. One minute we’re in a tunnel the next, a thoroughly constructed room.”

“What are you trying to say James,” Ashley asked intrigued?

“I’m saying it’s not impossible someone put us here.”

“But why?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

“Hey, shhh. Get down,” whispered Sean.

“What is it?” Ashley aimed her flashlight around.

“Would you turn that off? Get down!” Sean pulled the flashlight down and crouched. Ashley and James followed suit.

Footsteps echoed in the distance followed by two men calling out at each other.

“Where do you think you’re going huh? You’re not getting away from me!” A loud gunshot followed the man’s call.

“Woah did you hear that?”

“How did I not Ash,” James and the other two were clutching their ears. The hallway had amplified the sound of the gunshot.

“Maybe we should turn back.” Sean was becoming concerned.

“I found you bitch,” the stranger called out again followed by a set of rapid gunshots.

Each one fired grew louder and louder as the hall worked its magic against the fearing trio.

“Ah, is he getting closer?” Ashley took a step back.

“Wait.” James thought it best to hold their position. “We don’t want to let him know where we are.”

They kept quiet until the shooting had stopped. Once it did however it became uncomfortably quiet. Feeling their own heart beats, the three grabbed onto one another. The darkness swallowed them.

“What’s th-“

“Hush.” James wasn’t taking any chances.

The sound of leather dragging the cold hard stone cut at their ear drums. “He’s coming this way!”

As James continued to latch onto Ashley, Sean let go of them both, bolting away to safety; little did he know his actions compromised their cover.

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