By David Horwitz
Scarlet light splashed against the walls and filled the tight spaces of the facility, illuminating the words, “Stygia Research Labs.” I huddled silently within the crawlspace on the lowest level while the sounds of the monsters grew louder, drawing ever nearer. A blast of hot air washed over me from the darkness behind, and I balked, thinking the demons may investigate the sound.
Slowly, I crawled backwards, the walls of the tiny space closing in on me. My arms pressed into my sides painfully, and memories of my coffin-like confinement scattered through my mind. I waited, focusing my thoughts as best I could on my breath, trying to keep it shallow and soundless. Finally, I was certain that the creatures had moved on to another section of the facility to continue their hunt for me. After removing the vent cover, I pulled myself out and into the hallway.
I crept past the mangled corpses on the floor. Torn lab coats and blood drenched security uniforms lay together in a heap. I wretched, careful to swallow the sounds and the bile before either could escape my lips. My eyes scanned the corridor for a way out. The elevator was offline, due to the lockdown protocols. The stairway was filled with the echoes of the creatures scrabbling up steps. Yet, the emergency ladder next to the lift was unobstructed. I hurried, careful not to make noise.
I began my ascent out of the labs, rising out of the lowest level of this damnable place. Above, I could see only black. It felt as if freedom and death waited for me there, standing as two unmarked doors, and through one of which I would have to stumble blindly. Better to have a chance at survival than the assured death that would come should I remain. Upwards I climbed, into the waiting void and the terrible unknown.
After what felt like hours, exhaustion gripped me as I reached the apex of the shaft. I wasn’t used to such strenuous prolonged activity, nor could I recall anything more than the frosted glass in front of my eyes, and the feeling of my limbs trapped, unmoving, against my sides. The hatch creaked as I pushed it open, shaking me from the memory, and with the last of my strength I pulled myself to the metallic floor. I was still in the facility.
The dark red light played about the walls, dancing over the painted number “1,” taunting me. My lungs drew in breath quickly and audibly, destroying the silence I struggled to keep for so long. My hope of escape began to fade. I drew my knees to my chest, my back pressed against the cold metal wall. Memories of my confinement began to again scratch at the window of my mind. I recalled old wounds on my skin that I could no longer see, sharp needles piercing my bones, and liquid filling my lungs. My muscles burned and my temples ached, and the pain of the past faded, only to be replaced by the pain of the present. Though I wanted nothing more than the peace of unconsciousness, the sounds that echoed down the halls kept me from slumber. The hunters had reached this level, and they fast approached.
I forced myself to my feet, drawing on inner reserves I was unaware of until that moment. The energy surge drove my legs to carry me away from the hunters, and I followed its guidance blindly down halls of dark red.
They rushed after me, their feet like jackhammers on the metal floor. I felt the air getting thinner and colder as the sound of my pursuers got louder and closer. Finally, I reached the end of the hall. As if by pure divine grace, a door with the letters EXIT printed above it appeared just ahead, and I flung it open. The heat from the room dissipated immediately, and a world of white lay before me.
. . .
My ears still rang from the din inside the dark facility. I ran out into the frozen world, into the worst weather imaginable. The night stretched on endlessly across vast fields of white. Biting winds howled through icy canyons, the sound interrupted only by the crunch of snow beneath my feet and the shouts of the devils that pursued me across the wasteland. Though I felt nigh unbearable cold across my naked flesh, I did not die. My blood still pumped through my tired frame. Each heartbeat seemed to strengthen me, each pulse gave me purpose and drive. I knew then that death was not inevitable. Moreover, I was assured that I would survive.
I turned back towards the facility. The lights from the pursuing security team were getting closer. Desperation to escape became desire for vengeance. In that moment, the floodgates lifted, and the sea of memories flooded my mind. I knew then who, or rather what, I was.
My face contorted into a smile as I went to greet them. Nothing would remain of my creators, save for the evidence of their success, written in crimson upon the snow of my alabaster home.