Class was boring as usual. I'd arrived late despite all my rushing. For some reason, I couldn't remember my classroom number or my locker combination. I forgot my class schedule too. Embarrassingly, and naturally, I've been lectured about it by just about everyone. It's all pointless anyway. I can't concentrate on anything. The teacher's words sound like gibberish. Before I knew it, class was over. Again, I'd forgotten the order of my classes. I reached into my bag to get my new schedule. I couldn't read it. My eyes refused to focus. Everything was blurry. I tried recalling off the top of my head, but I couldn't remember what classes I'd already gone toaa, or what I was taking this year. Was math next? No, science. Or was it an elective? I'm taking art...right? All of the faces around me in the hall were strange, unrecognizable. I looked for a friend, anyone familiar. What class did Aaron have at this time? He'd know my classes. Wait, did he come to school today? I couldn't remember if I saw him or not. The bus ride was a blur. My head ached. I stepped outside, staring at the place where the buses stopped to drop off students. The day had already been bad. Despite the consequences, I walked out into the parking lot. Then the road. Strangely, not a single person tried to stop me or say anything. Everyone seemed to be too busy shuffling amongst themselves. I walked down the road towards home. My red bike lay at the left side ahead of me. I blinked. That's impossible. Why would it be there? I picked it up and checked it over. Every scratch and dent was exactly where it should be. Honestly, I was surprised I could remember such details. They simply came to me. As I started pedaling, I heard another bike coming up behind me. The wheels gave it away. Looking back, Aaron was there on a blue bike. I didn't remember him having one. "To the same place, right?" He sped up past me. "What? No, I don't want to go back there." That hill from earlier. Wait, why would he mean there? That was in a dream. No, that would still be the place. We go up there all the time. "Somewhere else." "I know where." He rode down off the road into the woods. "Wait!" I followed behind him. The woods were thick. Branches and spider webs caught in my hair. I swatted to get the webs off me. My hair felt like spiders were crawling in it, but I knew it was in my mind. A fearful reaction. The trees cleared to a small creek. Aaron got off his bike and climbed atop a little hill the creek ran off from. The drop off was like a sharp cliff. He sat at the edge, hanging his legs off the side. He sunk his hands into the running water. The sound of the water echoed through the woods, so loud and piercing it sounded like a sharp wind during a heavy storm. A spray of sideways rain that comes down to earth in sheets. I could see it in my mind--a bright gray, the same shade as the exposed rock on the side of the little cliff and the pebbles that lined the edge of the creek. "This place, do you remember it?" I put my bike beside his, the colors creating a beautiful contrast. "Of course. We used to come here all the time." "Sneaking out at night by bike with an electric lantern. Do you remember where you'd hide everything? That diary of yours, your bag of emergency supplies for plans to run away..." Something seemed off. I could recall having a little hidden base in the woods, but in my mind, I saw a drainage pipe and my dirty sneakers sitting in the water runoff. The image was so real in my mind, but how could it be? The reality was in front of me. I used to keep my treasures hidden in the rocks. I pulled out a rock halfway down the cliff. Behind it, a small book was stuck in the dirt. I took the book out. An old diary. The cover was a ruby shade and the word 'journal' was printed in what looked like it was once black ink. The word had long faded to a soft gray. I opened it. The pages were stained with red clay from the earth, making it impossible to read. Aaron jumped down from the cliff. "From years ago. When was the last time?" "I don't know." I really couldn't remember. It was right there, but I couldn't reach it. As if it could have been last night or years ago... He pulled out another rock from the face of the cliff. A flashlight, small and shining sapphire. It sparkled like a jewel in the sunlight. The back end was crusted over with clay like my journal. "Surely, you haven't forgotten our 'secret place', right?" He stepped through the tiny waterfall supported by the cliff. I blinked, my vision changing to a shaking, sharp light. The back of my head stung. I held it for a while before crossing through the water. On the other side, another sharp light hit my eyes. The light of Aaron's flashlight. There was a world of darkness on the other side. As I stepped towards Aaron, my feet hit against a hard surface. A metallic 'clank' bounced with each step. I couldn't see how big the place was, but it felt too large to have been underneath that hill. In every direction, my body met with nothing but more rusted metal. "What is this place?" I asked. "Our secret base." He moved the flashlight around, revealing a large, metal structure with rails and stairs downward. The floor was like a grid, and I could see at least two more levels below this one. "Something abandoned." "But what?" "Military related. Whatever it was originally used for, they cleaned it out a long time ago. Don't you remember? We've explored nearly everything here." "I can't remember anything right today." "Well, I'm sure it'll come back to you. And today, we can explore again. I found something earlier." He held up an old, rusted key. "There was only one room we never went in." "How do you know it's the right key?" "It's exactly like the others, and the room number is engraved on the key, same as before. The final room on the fourth floor, 4-13B. Let's go. I'm sure you're dying to find out what's in there. Don't you want to unlock the mystery? Maybe there's something left here." "What if there's nothing?" "Maybe there won't be anything, but maybe there will be. We've always found vague clues in each room. This room might give us a clue that makes the other pieces line up. We have to do this." "Alright. But let's not stay too long down there. This place creeps me out." I followed him down the flight of stairs. On the bottom floor, the fourth floor, he opened a door to a large hallway. The light couldn't reach the end of it when it pointed it in. I couldn't get a good look at any of the many doors we passed. The floor, the walls, and the doors were all solid metal. This area was much colder than the top floor. Dark brown stains covered the floor. I didn't inspect what they were. They appeared to be so old the original color had faded away. The pattern suggested a liquid. I wondered if mud had leaked in from somewhere. "Here it is." He stopped at the door near the back of the hall, though not the last door there. The door's number was etched on the same as the key, 4-13B. He put the key in and unlocked it. There was a heavy 'clank' when he turned the doorknob. "Are you ready?" "Yeah." My heart pounded. I didn't really think anything would be behind the door, but the atmosphere of this place was so unsettling. Anything could be down here. Snakes, rats, spiders--just out of sight. Slowly, he opened the door. He shone the light in. At the back of the room, there was a figure. A human figure. A girl sat in a chair. My heart pounded at the sight of her. Hesitantly, I called out to her. "Hello?" The girl gave no answer. "She's dead." Aaron walked closer, keeping his light on her to reveal the mangled nature of her body. "But...how? This place has been abandoned for years and you've just found the key. Shouldn't...she be a skeleton by now?" Aaron walked closer as I spoke. I didn't dare walk into that room with him. "Mysterious indeed." He held up her rotting face. "Who do you think she is?" The face was so badly decayed that parts of her skull was visible. My stomach turned. "Let's leave. This isn't right...we shouldn't be here..." The body slumped and fell off the chair. Aaron kept the light on her. Her legs were badly broken, one barely attached. Her arms were twisted in an unnatural way. Dry blood trailed down her neck. My eyes did not follow it. I kept my eyes on her hands instead. The poor girl had clearly been murdered and left here. "Let's go. We need to tell the police." Aaron flashed the light over at me, casting himself and the girl into darkness. "We haven't seen all the clues contained here yet. Come in." "No, I won't!" I backed away. A hand grabbed onto my wrist, pulling me back in. "Aaron, let me go!" "I haven't left the room." He flashed the light on himself. He hadn't moved from the chair. My heart pounded. He shown the light on my arm. A boney hand clamped onto my wrist. The light followed down the body. The head was turned down, twisted like her arms. Broken. Long hair covered her face. The neck turned at an unnatural angle, hair falling away from her face. I didn't want to see it. She began to open her eyes. I wanted to scream, but my voice was gone. And then I opened my eyes to see my math textbook. My heartbeat rang in my ears and my head still hurt. No one around had noticed me sleeping. I sighed and sunk down into the seat of my desk.
Round | TOC