It’s been a year since I lost everything. My house, my car, my life.. all for the few hours of joy the needle in my arm brings. On the first night, disoriented from the high bought by my last cents, I got lost. A strange man tapped me on my shoulder. Because of the darkness, I couldn’t make out his face, but I knew he was smiling. He told me “Move forward.” and so I did. I walked forward right across the street. Without realizing it, I walked into a rehab center. I got in, I got better, I got out.
My first day sober in the outside, among a crowd of moving people, I saw the man. Dressed in black, with his face covered in shadows, even though it was noon. He told me “Move forward.” and so I did. I walked and walked until I reached an office building with a sign out front “Now hiring”. I got in, I got the job, I got promoted.
They threw a party for me. Everyone was there: my boss, my coworkers, the man in the shadows. He told me “Move forward” and so I did. I walked right into the men’s bathroom and found a single needle on the sink. I lost everything, I lost everything, I lost everything.
I found myself on the rooftop, standing on the edge of the 40 story drop. The man was standing behind me. I didn’t need to see him, I just knew. He told me “Move forward.” and so I did.
Charlie Morgan of 23 Pentraven Drive had read about lucid dreaming on the internet. “Learn to control your dreams!” one website proclaimed. “Wake up… TO YOUR DREAMS.”
Charlie devoted himself to the idea. He kept a dream journal, lit scented candles, and set his alarm for odd hours of the night. Finally, after five days of dedication, Charlie had his first lucid dream.
He was lying on the ground in a dry desert. He could feel the sand beneath his body and the warmth of the sun’s rays. And there were ants. Thousands of small red ants crawling towards him. “Hey, I’m dreaming!”
Charlie started running, bouncing, and swimming through the sand. “This is fun!” Charlie thought. But the ants kept coming.
Charlie saw a tree off in the distance. In a single leap, he was next to it, and with two swift moves he had climbed it. There were ants on his legs.
Now Charlie was flying. Gliding above the sand and then tumbling down into it. The ants had covered his body. “Damn these fucking ants.”
Charlie saw a pool in the distance and bounded towards it. But of course, it was a mirage. And now the ants were biting. Nibbling into his skin with razor sharp teeth. “Motherfucker. I’m ready to wake up now!” Charlie shouted to no one in particular.
The ants bit harder and deeper. Charlie could see bone. He shrieked in pain. No matter where he went, no matter how high he leapt, no matter how fast he ran, the ants were there. Nibbling.
There were no survivors at 23 Pentraven Drive the night of the fire.
If you’re reading this note, I’m sorry. I assume you’re in the same situation as me—that smug bastard drugged you and dumped you in these catacombs, with only a candle to find your way out.
I don’t know how many people he’s done this to, but there have probably been a lot. He wouldn’t spend so much time on it otherwise, would he? He told me the catacombs are a maze, and he’s set traps and deadfalls at every turn. But he promised there’s one safe way out, if I’m lucky enough to guess the correct path.
I’m not lucky. I’m just an art student, here on holiday. There’s no way I’m getting out alive. But I want someone to. I want revenge.
I’m sure you do, too, so let’s help each other. I still have my sketchbook and pencils. Before each turn, I’m going to leave them behind for the next person, writing down which way I went. If I survive to another passageway, I’ll come back and leave a page like this one. If I don’t, then it’s up to the next person to carry on and go the opposite direction.
Eventually, if we keep leaving breadcrumbs, one of us will escape. Get to the police and find that bastard. Do it for those who didn’t make it.
My name is Jeff. I went left here.
Reading the note by candlelight you feel a glimmer of hope, until you realize you’re reading from the sketchbook itself. Jeff never returned to tear out the page, and you’re the first person here since him.
You look to your right, where the dark maze awaits.
My name is Harry. Every night I find myself in this little girl’s room. I don’t know why, I’m just naturally drawn to her. Most nights, she wakes up and tells me about her day, the new doll her daddy bought for her, the things she did at school. When she goes to sleep, I watch over her. The night we met, a hand came from under the bed and grabbed her foot. I kicked it hard and it went away. The night after that, a hooded man came from her closet and grabbed her by the hair. I fought him until he went away. They come every night, and I always fight them off. She calls me Brave Harry.
But I’m scared. I’m scared because a week ago she told her dad about the monsters. He managed to convince her that monsters aren’t real, that she’s just having nightmares. Then… they stopped attacking her. It’s like they ceased to exist. No hand from under the bed; no man in the closet. And I’m scared. I’m scared because today she told her dad about Brave Harry and, just before she went to sleep, her father told her “Harry isn’t real, he’s just your imaginary friend.”
And I’m left here wondering. Wondering how long before she stops believing in me. How long before I cease to exist too.
Two weeks ago I’d thrown away all of my diaries, years’ worth of writing. The bins had been collected, the diaries wouldn’t be found. I’d sold what furniture and electronics people would buy, left the money in an envelope, everything else was boxed up. I’d made the house spotless.
I took my car along the coast. I wanted to drive that way one last time. I rolled down the window; the salty wind in my face felt wonderful, and I laughed in spite of myself. The laughter kept bubbling out, and I realised how light I felt, how free, for the first time in such a long time.
I stopped about halfway along the white bridge over the cove. Sitting on the rail my laughter dried up and the tears came.
A car door slammed. A stranger came to the rail. He told me: “I was once where you are now.”
“What stopped you?” I wanted to know.
“I made a friend.” He sat with me for about an hour silently, while I cried, on and off.
Finally, he said: “Come on, let’s go for a coffee,” and started towards his car. I hopped down and looked at him a moment, before sliding into the passenger seat.
He shut the door after me and I realised that the interior door handle had been forcibly removed. There was a handcuff dangling from a piece of the metal frame.
He grinned at me from his seat, and reached to close the cuff over my wrist.
As I thought of the suicide note I’d left with my neatly boxed belongings, white blinding panic threatened to swallow me whole.