…if you only walk long enough

…has to be a way out!”


We’re going in circles, and it infuriates me. “Because we got in. Where there’s a way in, there’s a way out. It’s obvious!”

The man shrugs, and strokes his bushy beard. “So you don’t need my help. Go back the way you came.” He shakes his head. “Why ask if you already know the answer?”

I want to grab his shoulder and slap his cheek.

But I don’t. Instead, I watch him leave. Then I turn and head through the other door, muttering about how I’d like to…

* * *

…no windows. At least, I haven’t found any yet. Some rooms have wooden boards in window frames, stuck fast. And there are rooms with thick drapes, but yanking them apart only reveals more wallpaper, although sometimes it’s surrounded by a frame, like the boards.

I don’t know if it’s night or day. I have no idea how long I’ve been here. My phone’s dead, and I can’t trust any of the clocks I find. I came across one room with five of the things, all telling different times.

But there must be a window somewhere. Or maybe a door, one that leads outside. I just haven’t…

* * *

…dozed off as soon as I sat down, because now I’m groggy, and my mouth is parched.

But there’s a chilled bottle of water on the table next to me. And it gives me the creeps to think of that man coming in here while I slept. He could have done anything to me. He could have…

* * *

…remember how I got here. I remember waking up and using my en-suite. But when I came out, the room had changed. The bed was smaller, and the wardrobe was open, with only a single set of clothes and a pair of sturdy boots. And everything had gone. Even the picture of my parents, the one on the window-sill.

And now that I think of it, I couldn’t see anything through the window. It was like the glass was painted. Or someone had changed it for a sheet of…

* * *

…book on a shelf, the cover all ripped and damp. I read the first page‌—‌‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’ I think I’ve read it before, think I enjoyed it. The book fits snugly in my coat pocket.

I feel my face, and it’s gone beyond stubble now. If I could find a razor and a mirror, I’d…

* * *

…stink, and my skin itches. I need a shower.

But the rooms are clean. And that means there’s someone around to clean them. Maybe it’s that grumpy old man. Maybe he’s trapped here, and all he does is clean the place.

I’ll ask him if I see him again. But last time I tried getting back to that room, I must have taken…

* * *

…microwave that works. And it’s wonderful to finally have hot food. Makes a pleasant change from the fruit and the cold cuts.

But the food is always fresh. So someone’s watching me. And they’re not helping me escape.

I’m a prisoner. Freedom to walk around, but no way to leave.

I wonder why I’m being fed at all. Maybe I’m being fattened…

* * *

…must be a way out! There has to be!

And why are there no other people? I’m starting to wonder if that old guy was even there.

Maybe I’m imagining all of this. Maybe none of it’s real.

I test this by slamming my fist into a wall, but it hurts like hell. If it’s a dream‌—‌a nightmare‌—‌it’s more vivid than anything I’ve…

* * *

…shower, and the water’s hot! I stay under for ages, trembling with bliss, skin brilliant red. Then I dry myself.

And there’s a new set of clothes, where I left the old ones, on the wooden chair.

I shiver as I change, the heat from the shower already…

* * *

…thirty-three rooms today. I counted them. Four had food (none hot). Five were bedrooms. One was a bar, but there were no drinks, only the smell of stale alcohol. There was a games room, but the billiard table’s cloth was ripped, and there were no balls or cues anywhere.

And when I say today, I mean between sleeps, obviously. My days. Because I still…

* * *

…used to this beard now. But I feel so old! Must be the lack of sunlight. That’s not good, right? I shouldn’t be this tired all the…

* * *

…only a kid. Guess he’s not much younger than me, and I should be pleased about coming across someone, but his attitude bugs me. He’s cocky, thinks he knows it all. Thinks there’s a way out. I try correcting him, but he insists I’m wrong. So I tell him to retrace his steps. He annoys me, so I say, “Why ask if you already know the answer?”

I have to leave before I yell at him. But as I pull the door closed I hear him stomp off, muttering about finding that exit, and how I’m just a…

* * *

…that book again. ‘The man in black fled across the desert…’ How many times have I started this now? I have no idea.

But the words make my eyes drop. There has to be a bed in one of these rooms.

And maybe I’ll dream of daylight, if I can remember…

* * *

…bladder, so I crawl out of bed. There’s an en-suite, so I use that.

But when I come out, the bed seems smaller. Something else is different, too, but I can’t put my finger on it.

There’s clothes in the wardrobe, so I put them on. The book’s on the night-stand, and there’s a bookmark, a strip of card sticking out between two pages. Funny, I could’ve sworn I was nearer the end than that.

I shrug, put the book in my pocket, and open…

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