The hallway was icy cold, as if somebody had left the air conditioner running for far too long while they were out. Splotches of condensed water vapor could be seen forming as mist as the group traversed through the dark hallway. As they trotted deeper into the corridor, they could see the light from the mess hall fading away. Slowly but surely, the door behind them started to creak close as if taunting them to return to the light. Within seconds, it swung shut by its own, leaving the group in complete abyssal darkness.
“Holy shit.” Mariah cussed, her voice echoing through the hallway. “It’s fucking freezing in here.”
“It’s pretty dark as well.” Carter chipped in. “Can you guys see me?”
“No.” The Asian boy’s voice rang through the air. “It’s pitch black in here, can’t you see?” His words sounded sarcastic and cold.
“I’m just asking.” Carter took slow and steady steps through the freezer of a hallway to make sure the entire group was sticking together. Clasping his hands around his arms, he started to rub them furiously in an attempt to generate some form of heat. “Mighty handy to have a coat don’t you think?” He was directing his voice to Coat.
“It isn’t very warm for me too, you know?” Coat replied as she tried to perk up the collars of the heavy jacket to make it a bit warmer for herself. “This is a coat for fall, not for winter. It’s more of a windbreaker in fact.”
“Well, a coat is a coat. Better than the T-shirt and jeans I’m wearing.” Carter laughed it off as he choked on some dry saliva. There was suddenly an odd sensation under his feet, as if he was stepping on something on the ground. His footsteps started to sound muddled and there was a weird ‘sloshing’ sound as they walked through the hallway. The floor beneath their feet started a feel elevated and soft to the touch for some odd reason.
“Hey guys.” Cane spoke out first. “What’s this thing?”
Carter squat down and grabbed a handful of the substance in his right hand. It was icy cold, very loose and a bit wet. The object slowly melted in his hand as he rubbed it between his palms. “It’s snow, or sludge I think.” He said.
“Definitely sludge.” The Asian boy noted as he picked up a piece up to feel it. “Snow isn’t so wet.”
“What’s sludge doing in the middle of a building?” Carter questioned. It was one of those things he asked which was rhetoric at best. Nobody knew the answer of course and just decided to ignore him.
Suddenly, they heard an odd sound – a cry from far away. Slowly, the sound grew louder and louder. It sounded like it was from a little girl, saying something in the most incomprehensible of voices as if it had been broadcasted through the various air vents and ducts that spanned the building. The words eventually came to light as the sound grew more audible with every passing minute. It was saying in muddled tones:
“Carla!” Carter shouted in panic as he recognized the eerie voice. “Carla! Can you hear me!?”
The voice merely repeated itself over and over again in a loop. It was beginning to amplify within the corridor until it reached an unbearable level for the entire group. Carter had to close his ears shut with both his hands as the voice started to throb his skull violently in its deep bass beats. By now chaos ensued as he felt the sludge underneath his feet move and slosh around confusingly. The entire group was in a panic as the voice of the little girl now filled the entire hallway until it was saturated and ear busting.
Carter tried to scream something but couldn’t hear his own voice at all from the chaotic background noises. He started to run ahead, hoping that he wasn’t being left behind by the group. The pitch darkness seemed everlasting, spanning the hallways like an endless maze. The voice itself was causing terror and disorder within Carter’s mind as he tried to find his way out of the frigid deathtrap. As he continued to run, his body bumped into a cold hard wall and he fell on his behind, hands still covering his ears.
Getting up quickly with nothing but his feet and a little momentum, he turned to the left and continued running until he saw a small green light in the distance. Quickly, his feet gained the strength to move and he dashed for the exit. The sludge under his footsteps started to splash and puddle together as his legs worked like clockwork and took him as fast as he could go. Within a matter of seconds, he was at the end of the hallway, directly under the shine of this green shimmering light. Freeing one hand, he touched what was in front of him. It was a rusted metal door, like the ones he had met before. Grabbing the handle, he twisted it till it clicked and swung it open like a madman.
Florescent light bathed him as he got to the other side of the door. He quickly turned back and slammed the hulking piece of metal shut. The noise behind him was still playing in the background but it seemed much farther away now that the door was closed.
“Seems like you fucking made it.” A voice whistled to his ears. Carter turned to see a tall lady in a bright red tank top leaning against the wall. Her legs were long and slender, covered by the tightest of slim fit jeans. Her black puffy hair sat nicely at shoulder length. “Bloody hell, what was that.”
“Mariah?” Carter scratched his head. “Where’s the rest?”
“I don’t know, but I’m guessing we both took the same route down that hallway.” Mariah flicked her hair backwards as she said that. “Well, it’s just you and me then I guess. The rest can take care of themselves.”
Carter felt a bit apprehended by the notion. “Let’s just wait a while and see if anyone else shows up.” He leaned his back against the wall several meters away from Mariah. It was clear he wasn’t too fond to be left alone with the foul mouthed lady.
He turned to look at Mariah and stared at her face in contemplation. One striking feature he noticed right away on the woman’s face was her deep cherry red lips. It was clear she was wearing a thick gloss of lip stick on her somewhat pouty lips. Her face had sharp features, very befitting of her attitude and style. A sharp nose and slender cheeks complimented her charcoal black eyes well. Even in the florescent white light, this lady standing directly in front of him looked very attractive. Rare, especially since mood lighting played a big part in one’s appearance.
“Are you a pervert or something?” Mariah noticed Carter examining her from top to bottom. “Seriously, all you men are always like this.”
“No. I’m just wondering.” Carter went defensive in his reply. “Are you a model or something?”
“That’s one of the cheesiest come backs I’ve heard in a while.” Mariah smirked as if taunting him.
“No, seriously.” Carter was trying to place her properly in his mind as he continued to contemplate. “I mean, with the kind of style you’re trying to pull off, you’ll have to be a model or something right?”
“Don’t try to be so evasive about it.” She laughed as if to taunt him further. Carter did not appreciate this gesture very much. “Sex is something all you men seem to think about all the damn time.”
Carter merely grunted at this. He was mildly irritated at Mariah’s statements.
“But you’re almost right anyways. My job requires me to dress up like this.” She was very nonchalant with what she saw admitting. “In my line of business, sex sells.”
“What?” Carter looked confused as he heard the words she was spouting. Almost immediately, he was reminded of a documentary he had once seen on TV years ago. “What are you then? A pros-“
“Not that! Are you stupid?” Mariah seemed genuinely pissed at his assumption. “I’m a private detective for god’s sake.”
Carter was caught by surprised at the revelation and nodded in line with her. “Well, that’s unexpected.” He scratched his head and raised both his eyebrows. “Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover.”
“Yea, you can’t.” She turned to face the metal door in front of them and examined it for a moment of two. “I’m also actually wondering about you and I mean this in the nicest way possible.” She paused as if shy about what she was about to say. “You’re not a fucking idiot, right?”
“I’m not.” Carter was a little irritated by this as he lifted himself off the cold concrete walls. “Do I look like one?”
“Just checking.” Mariah grazed her fingers lightly on the crusted rusty hulking metal door. “Because I’m a fucking idiot myself.” She sneered cheekily. “You may be solving most of what’s on the other side of this door. Just a fair warning. I didn’t do shit the last time with Cane and mushroom head too.”
Carter sighed at this. “Aren’t you a detective?”
“Well, I’m a fucking stupid detective.” She laughed it off. “I get the information, I don’t process it very well though. I’m not the thinking type smart asses you see on TV all the time.”
“I don’t think that’s something you should be proud about.” Carter commented.
“Well, I don’t mind.” Mariah shook her head, flinging her bulbulous black hair from side to side.
“Anyways, seems like nobody’s coming. We better get a god damn move on before anything bad happens to the little girl.”
Clicking his tongue, Carter felt a sense of abandonment by both Coat and Cane. He wasn’t particularly fond of Mariah because of her frequent bad choice of words, but in this situation, he had no alternative. “Alright.” He said. “Let’s go.” Carter voice emitted a tinge of scorn within it as he walked up behind Mariah.
Mariah nodded at his presence. Slowly, her young slender fingers gripped onto the door handle and twisted it hard. It felt as if there was an oddly placed pulse coming from the other side of the door as she did so. The lock eventually clicked open and she gave the door a little shove. It swung open wide and what stood before them looked almost surreal.
“Huh.” Mariah blurted out as she stared at the sight before her.
“Oh boy.” Carter gasped as his shoes stepped on and crunched a handful of dried leaves. “Talk about advanced engineering.”
What stood before them was shocking to say the least. Vegetation grew around them in sparse clumps. Tall trees stood in several neat rows, spanning all the way up to the top of the ceiling where a bright yellowish white light shone down onto them like an afternoon sun. The temperature in the room seemed slightly cooling as a breeze flew them by. It whipped up some dried leaves that covered the floor in a combination of brown and red that made it seem like autumn had arrived rather early.
“What the hell is this?” Carter’s eyes were captured and his heart held captive by the majestic forest in front of him.
“It’s a deciduous forest.” Mariah noted as she examined the entirety of the forest.
“Deciduous forest.” She placed her right hand against her hip. “Last time I was working on a case in Southern Chile, I got lost in this kind of a forest. Horrible experience.”
“Chasing down a convict?” Carter asked.
“Nope.” Her lips turned into something like a wry grin. “Finding a fucking pet fox somebody had lost earlier in the day.”
Carter merely raised an eyebrow. “But you’re a detective, aren’t you?”
“I’m a private detective. Are you one of those idiots who think all detectives take criminal cases or something?” Mariah picked a palm full of leaves off the ground. “Anything that brings food to the table is a good enough case for me.”
“And you cracked the case?”
“Yup.” Mariah said with some scorn in her face. “Fucking fox was running around the damn place, but I still caught it, tied it up in a sack and then got lost in the forest.” She laughed it off. “Took me a day or two to find my way out. Talk about a shit day, that really takes the cake. But it paid off in the end anyways.”
Carter merely nodded at that and moved towards the tall slender tree closest to him to examine its bark, his shoes crunching and crackling the dry golden leaves as he walked over. The tree had a crusty outer layer that scraped against his skin gently as his fingers ran across its wooden frame. The bark itself was painted in a greyish brown hue with patches of dark green and brown on it. Golden yellow and red leaves were bursting from its branches magnificently at the very top. The rest of the forest was about the same, with similar species of trees spanning most of its tree line. In essence, it was a beautiful forest, filled with the inkling of what would be the perfect spot for a picnic.
“Well, time to set ourselves to work.” Carter scratched his head.
“What do you suggest we do?” Mariah asked.
“Well, for starters.” Carter paused. “Let’s check out each end of the room and see if there are any exits we can find.”
“Okay.” Mariah took off in a hurry, running towards the other end of the forest.
“Wait! Wait for me!” Carter shouted as he ran towards her. “Let’s stick together. It’s good to stay safe, just in case!” He was clearly frantic about being left alone to do his own detective work.
Mariah stopped, turned back to him and smirked.
“You’re a fucking scaredy cat aren’t you?”
Written By HoiHoiSoi
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