“The second line is pretty self-explanatory I think.” Carter nodded. “The line ‘down came the rain’ probably means we have to go down the hill to find something.”
“But find what?” Mariah asked.
“I’m quite sure the second part of that line probably doesn’t mean anything.” He analyzed the ‘rain’ section of the phrase for a moment but couldn’t make the connection with any feature within the room at all especially since there was no clear water source within the room to work with. “That means our next clue is probably in the third line.”
“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men.” Mariah repeated and then added. “Couldn’t put humpty dumpty back together again.”
Carter concentrated on the bolded line and contemplated its meaning with any reasoning he could come up with. A simple line such as ‘all the king’s horses’ could have meant a whole lot of things. Judging from the statement itself though, what stood out as most noticeable were the words ‘king’s horses’. It seemed silly to think that maybe somewhere in the forest, there could really be a horse, be it a king’s horse hiding among the trees and bushes. Not to mention the word was plural, meaning there would have been more than just one horse to find in the room. But maybe the thought wasn’t as far-fetched as it seemed. The forest did look like a natural habitat for a horse to be prancing about happily after all.
He took a look down the hill to the trees below as he thought of the note. Could there really be a horse running about the room? And if not, maybe there was a dead horse hiding beneath the leaves that held the key to the exit? Maybe the horse was a metaphor of sorts? Maybe ‘king’s horses’ was the nick name of a type of tree? Maybe ‘king’s horse’ could be a reference to the song sung by that one English band he had heard a long long time ago? Maybe…
“Well, this one’s pretty fucking straight forward eh?” Mariah laughed.
“Huh?” Carter looked dumbfounded “I’m kind of stuck actually. Did you figure it out?”
“Well, fucking hell.” Mariah pat his back. “Looks like I’m probably not as stupid as I think.” She nodded.
“Great.” Carter smiled as he waved off the thought of the strange song he had heard years ago. “Let’s hear what’s on your mind?”
“There’s only one thing I can think of when it comes to kings and their horses.” She smiled. “Chess.”
“Oh!” Carter’s face lit up. He hadn’t considered that possibility yet.
“The clue is probably talking about the movement of the chess piece.” Mariah said. “I mean, you even said these were instructions right? So I guess the phrase should be some kind of direction for us to follow.”
“I think you’re on to something.” Carter nodded at this. “So that means they’re telling us to move in an ‘L’ shape I guess.”
“Exactly my thoughts.” Mariah replied.
They looked out from the top of the hill to spot any likely candidates situated not too far away. There were two, one on each side of the tiny mountain which were both positioned just ever so nicely that it fit the bill. They looked up and down the tree but didn’t see much of any clues on it. They continued on with the puzzle at hand.
“The final line is from Little Boy Blue.” Mariah told him as she read it.
“Yup.” Carter nodded as he proceeded to read the line aloud. “Where is the boy who looked after the sheep?”
“Under the haystack.” Mariah promptly replied.
“That probably means to check under the leaves, assuming haystack is a reference to the pile of leaves all around.” He said. “So I guess that means that we’re to check the leaves under those trees?”
Mariah nodded. “I’ll check the tree on this end and you check the tree on the other.” Pointing to the direction from which they came from. In a split second, she started heading down to the tree without even listening to Carter’s reply.
“Okay.” Carter nodded back as he slowly inched himself down the hill over on his end. Sitting on the grass, he pushed himself downwards carefully to avoid slipping off and tumbling over. The idea of having some cuts and bruises in such a foreign environment didn’t seem like a very good idea to him at all. Slowly but surely, he got to the bottom of the hill and approached the tall oak tree that stood on the spot where the knight piece was supposed to move. It was a rather old looking oak tree with a brownish moss growing on its bark and a bald spot at the very top. It was the perfect place to hide a shiny little button underneath.
Moving his hands swiftly, he swiped off the leaves to find if anything was hiding under the thick pile of golden brown paper thin tree hair. With a few brushes here and there, a single red button revealed itself under the leaves. The button sat upon a tiny metal podium that was only lifted inches above the ground. A single word was plastered on the button in a rather plain looking font reading ‘Push’.
“Hey! Mariah!” Carter shouted out into the wilderness.
“Yea?” The lady replied.
“I found a button!”
“Do we press it?” Carter screamed out.
“I’ve been trying to press it but I don’t think anything’s happening!” Mariah replied.
“Should we press it at the same time? Maybe it connects the circuits if we both press it at the same time!”
“Let’s try that!”
“Okay! On the count of three!”
Carter pushed the button down as soon as the count turned to three. He heard an odd familiar metallic sound coming from behind the greyish walls that enclosed them within. Gears and pistons could be heard working hard in the background. It got louder and louder until it drowned out even Carter’s voice as he tried to shout something back.
“I hear the gears!” Carter shouted to Mariah. There was no reply. “Mariah? You there?”
The gears continued to churn aloud and slowly but surely, Carter could see a small passage way opening up at the previously enclosed end of the room. The hallway was lit with florescent lights just like the rest of the other corridors he had been through.
“There’s an opening here!” He screamed aloud to Mariah. “Come on! Let’s go!” He waited for a response but got none. Suddenly, he had a flash of cold sweat. He thought of George for a moment and remembered how he looked like staring blankly into space as his dead limp body was sprawled across the ground like a forgotten rag doll. He had a sudden chill run up his back, a vision of Mariah sprawled on the ground in a similar fashion flashed before him.
Quickly, he climbed up the tiny mountain on all fours to see if Mariah was alright. It was only at the top did he see what had happened.
“What the hell?” He gasped. Across him, down the hill, near the base of the tree lay a giant hole in the ground. Quickly, he slid down the hill to the other side and took a look into the hole. It was deep and most certainly dark. He couldn’t see anything past 5 meters down and it was clear that Mariah had been unfortunate enough to have slipped into the hole. Looking at the sides, he found a sliding panel caught between some leaves that was trying to open up the hole even wider.
“Shit.” He cussed. The panel must have slid open when they had activated the room’s various mechanisms and electronics. It had probably caused the hole to manifest and drop Mariah down into the abyss.
“Hey Mariah!” He shouted. “Are you down there? Can you hear me!?” He felt a chill run down his back.
“Shit.” He cussed again. “First George, now Mariah?” Biting his bottom lip hard he looked back up the hill. He had to go before the door on the other end closed and locked him in. In a matter of moments, he made up his mind.
“Sorry Mariah.” He said as he turned back and ran atop the hill and then down again. Whisking past tall trees and kicking up dry autumn leaves, his thoughts were only centered on getting out of the little forest that had already swallowed up two of his comrades. He truly hoped Mariah was fine wherever she was. The hole may have seemed dark and never ending, but it did have a sloping angle to it. It probably behaved like a slide, taking Mariah and bringing her down safely to another section of the building, possibly out of harm’s way to solve another confusing puzzle or maybe into spinning blades that would slice her into a million pieces. He wouldn’t know, but he sincerely hoped it was the former.
As he got closer to the other end of the room, he could see the hallway of familiar whitish tiles imploring him to enter. The florescent lights that lit up the hallway greeted him as he jogged into the long corridor and approached the next door. This door was creepily eerie. It had red paint splattered messily on it that created a disfigured letter ‘A’. It was clear that whoever painted it totally disregarded the dampness of the brush and simply slapped on stroke after stroke of the thick red liquid. Red paint oozed from the bottom strokes of the ‘A’ and travelled downwards till it reached the edge of the door. The paint however dried there and thankfully did not create a mess on the floor.
“Creepy.” Carter noted as he stared at the heavy chunk of metal from top to bottom. He could suddenly hear a sharp creaking sound behind him as the entrance came to a close, shutting him in the hallway alone. He did a double take to see if the door had really closed and then sighed to himself. This was the first time he was truly alone. This was going to be his fight from now on until he met up with Coat and the rest again.
Laying his hand onto the rusted metal handle, a warm pulse started the flicker in the midst of his palm. He turned the handle clockwise until it clicked and the door started to swing inwards towards him. He pulled the door, revealing a crack of gloomy florescent green light that filled the corridor. As he pulled it in further, it was clear the next place looked nothing as nice as the forest he had been through.
This room was sparse, bleak and dirty. It was as large as a small bedroom that could have held at least twenty people packed together snugly. The floors, walls and ceiling was made of plain old grey cement while greenish white florescent tubes attached to the very middle of the ceiling provided what light source it could to the musky looking space. There was a slight bit of moss growing in the crevices and corners which indicated that the place was probably leaking or at least had a water source close by. The spores of the moss probably entered the space from the forest via the ventilation system and managed to find itself a good source of liquid to start propagating and growing itself.
“Bleak.” Carter muttered as he looked around. It was then that he noticed something from the corner of his eye. It was sitting down at the very end of the room behind him, motionless and very much stiff. He was truly caught by surprise at who was sitting there.
“Carla!” Carter shouted as he ran towards the little girl in the green dress. She was sitting down neatly in the corner with her eyes closed as if sleeping soundly. Her head was tilted to one side as if it was leaning on the smooth concrete wall beside her.
“We were so worried!” He exclaimed as he grabbed her arms and shook her in aspiration. “Are you okay?” Carter spoke loudly to her as his shaking became more violent. She wasn’t responding to him at all. Her eyes were shut close and her body was lifeless as if dead.
“Hey Carla.” Carter said. “You’re fine right?” He asked as he looked to see if she had been hurt. Picking her tiny body up, he rotated her all around to see if there were any cuts, bruises or wounds around. He didn’t see anything at all, not even a single spec of blood. He raised up both her arms up to check if there were any wounds under her armpits and it was then that he noticed something odd.
He put her down quickly and examined the underside of the right elbow. There was something there that seemed oddly out of place. It was just a black dot, a single drop of dried blood that had formed on the underside of her arm. Looking closer at it, he quickly realized what it was. The dot was centered right on top of the large vein that ran through her arm. It looked like the mark left behind after an injection. The dried blood even looked fresh.
“God darn it.” Carter said under his breathe, sincerely hoping she wasn’t injected with poison or the likes.
Laying her down flat onto the ground, Carter pressed his ear on to Carla’s tiny chest to hear for a heartbeat. There was none he could detect. He raised his hand and placed it extremely close to Carla’s lips to see if she was breathing. He couldn’t feel the warmth of her breath on his palm. Staring at her in disbelief, Carter wanted to rip his head open and throw it into the opposing corner. He felt the blood in his face drain flat.
“Carla.” He whimpered. “No. No. No.” Biting his bottom lip hard he had to accept the reality before him.
Carla was dead.
Written By HoiHoiSoi
Enjoying The Story So Far? Vote For Us On Web Fiction Guide!