Chapter 55

When Alice first walked into the new room she noticed the style more than anything else. It looked like an abandoned morgue. Gurneys were flipped over and left on the ground, doors to the freezer drawers hung open or had been ripped from the hinges entirely, and the whole room was bathed in a dim green light that reflected off the stained emerald tiles. Whoever built these scenes went to a lot of trouble; that was evident. There were bloody handprints scraping at the walls like someone had been dragged off, and a few scraps of clothing next to a forgotten name badge.

“Creepy,” Alice whispered to herself. Only after she’d thoroughly soaked in the eerie ambiance did she face her traveling companions. That was when she got a genuine fright.

“What the hell?”

“Yeah, that was our reaction too,” Rich said. He was dressed in a long coat with a top hat and carried a teacup in his pocket for when people asked who he was supposed to be. There were still three others besides Alice, but Vince and Camille had been replaced by Rich and Mary. “Looks like the rumors of them having a few Supers on hand are true; the doors must be portals.”

“Portals that randomize where each person comes out,” Nick added. It figured he would be the one person Alice was still stuck with. She wondered if his little luck ability had any bearing on this arrangement.

“Maybe random, maybe not,” Mary said. “All we know is they shuffled the group, possibly just to add one more element of the unexpected to the mix. It does leave one with an unstable feeling, after all.”

“Random or not, let’s just get this show on the road and head toward the lounge,” Alice suggested.

“Great idea,” Rich agreed. “Any thoughts on how?”

Alice looked around the room once more, realizing for the first time what the others had already observed. In all of the gory details that made this room come alive one rudimentary piece was missing.

There was no door, only smooth emerald tiles rippling across every wall.

*    *    *

“Maybe we have to turn the statue’s head?” Alex tossed out.

“Good an idea as any,” Hershel agreed. He and Alex had wound up in the same room, an Egyptian-style tomb with scenes of bloody sacrifices adoring the walls. There was also a statue of Anubis in one corner next to a few sarcophagi, so the duo headed over to investigate it.  

“I still can’t believe they split us up like this,” Alex said appreciatively. “It was a hell of a slick move. These guys really go above and beyond.”

“True. At least we wound up with a friend. I’m not sure I’d have been as receptive to the change-up if I’d gotten someone I wasn’t on such good terms with.”

“Oh yeah, we totally lucked out. If we can’t run the maze with our girlfriends, running it with a buddy is almost as cool,” Alex agreed. He reached Anubis first, grasping the statue by the snout and tugging it right then left. Anubis held fast, his stony neck offering up not even a bit of give. “No dice.”

“Crap.” Hershel leaned against a sarcophagus propped against the wall. To his surprise he felt the lid slide a hair or so to the side. Hershel turned around and pushed the lid, moving it all of the way over and revealing an exit into a dimly lit tunnel.

“Nice job,” Alex complimented. “How’d you ever know that was there?”

Hershel shrugged. “Just lucky I guess. Let’s see what’s next.”

Alex nodded his agreement and the two boys plunged onward into mystery.

*    *    *

Vince was not one for superstitions, generally speaking. He simply didn’t have it in him to believe that throwing salt or avoiding ladders could significantly influence how life unfurled before him. Truthfully, until meeting Nick, he likely would have said he wasn’t even an adamant believer in the concept of luck. Be all of that as it was, Vince was finding himself rapidly becoming a believer in at least one superstitious constant: Murphy’s Law.

It wasn’t that the first room he’d wound up in was particularly challenging. It had merely been a series of plaster skeletons painted to look gory, as though the flesh had been rendered off of them. The trick to that room was finding the skull tucked away in a corner and placing it on the skeleton missing a head. Reuniting the two triggered a switch that opened a door in the wall and just like that, the way to the next adventure had been cleared.

It wasn’t that he was scared, either. Vince had spent most of his life walking in darkness so as not to be noticed. Remote locations, unexplained noises, dim lighting, these things were no more terrifying to him than a white picket fence would be to normal people. Even in the haunted house, it had only been the surprises of people leaping out that caused his adrenaline to surge. With that stimulus gone, his perception of terror was rapidly retreating.

It wasn’t even that he was upset about his group being rearranged, specifically. He grasped that it was part of the fun of such a place, expecting the unexpected and having one’s preconceptions turned on their head. He understood the need for such a practice; however, this specific outcome seemed to indicate someone up in the cosmos must bear a grudge against him.

“I think I see another room ahead,” Vince said, his voice bouncing off the walls. “See how the light changes to a red glow?”

“I know what a fucking change in lighting means. It’s our third goddamned room. I’m not stupid, despite what you might think,” Sasha snapped, her teeth practically dripping in venom.

Vince opened his mouth to apologize then thought better of it. He’d tried talking a few times, only to relay necessary information or discuss strategy, and that had pretty much been the constant reaction. So instead of focusing on communicating, he turned his attention to getting this maze the hell over with. Hopefully, if that sly old dog Murphy wasn’t up to his usual tricks, there would only be a few rooms left to go.

If Vince had been more superstitious, he would have known that such thoughts are like chum to the gods of mischief.