Written by Calvin Sanders
Cover by Rachel Hoard
It was deftly quiet and the various neon colored lights from some of the mall stores lit up the entire mall just enough to see where you were walking. The four story mall was filled with tons of empty stores. The mall was so big it was hard to guess where it started and where it ended. The lights made it beautiful, but also a bit nerve racking because of how silent the enormous mall was. Some of the stores had gates which stopped people from entering, but the ones that were open had the bright neon lights on. It was as if the group had stepped into a mini Las Vegas.
"What do you mean you have something to tell us?” Stacy said with slight concern.
Just before Brad had a chance to answer Eugene angrily looked around for a moment before shouting, “What the FUCK, man I was pretty sure that we were done with this.”
“How do you know it didn’t work…I mean, we aren’t in a school anymore,” Stacy responded.
“Well for starters this place gives off the same creepy ass feeling just like the school did, but instead of empty classrooms they’re empty stores.” Eugene said back to her.
Brad got up and walked towards Eugene “You said it was supposed to work. What the fuck, man?”
“I never told you it would work one hundred percent, so don’t blame me, asshole.” Eugene said.
Suddenly Brad grabbed Eugene by the collar, “What the fuck Eugene, we died over and over again just to end up in the same shitty situation and you sounded sure that it would work.”
“Hey guys, maybe we shouldn’t be fighting each other right now, especially when we all have the same goal,” Cameron said, trying to defuse the situation.
“Cameron’s right I don’t think we should be fighting each other especially not right now.” Stacy said
Brad looked at Cameron with anger. “Fuck that man what’s the point when we’re all going to end up still trapped in this loop, we might as well fight each other.”
Ava walked towards Brad and grabbed his shoulder, “Brad you need to cut the alpha shit, I don’t know how but we will get out of here and live our best lives. Although we can’t do that unless we’re all on the same page.”
Brad loosened his grip on Eugene, “Fuck man, it just seems like we’re never getting out of here...being in this loop makes me feel like I’m losing my mind.”
Eugene looked at Brad.
“I’ll take that as an apology.”
Cameron looked at the group saying, “Well I guess the good news is that I don’t really see any axe wielding maniacs trying to hack us to pieces.”
“Do you guys remember anything that happened after we drove through the fog?” Brad said.
“The only thing I remember is a flash of light and then I woke up in this delightful place with you guys,” Ava said.
Brad looked at the group with a confused expression “So you guys don’t remember me trying to wake you up?”
“What do you mean?” Ava said.
“Well, I woke up in some strange room with all these kinds of wires hooked up to me and when I opened one of the doors you guys were all hooked up like me and I tried to wake you guys up, but I think you guys were in some kind of deep sleep or something.” Brad said.
The group just stared at each other with confusion and puzzled expressions.
“OMG did we like get abducted by aliens?” Stacy said sounding slightly freaked out.
Brad paused for a moment, thinking and then looked at Stacy, “Nah I don’t think so because I remember seeing some asshole in a suit that looked like a human, but he sounded pretty pissed off that I found you guys.”
“Well if that’s true then I think it’s safe to say we’re in a pretty fucked situation here,” Eugene said looking at the group.
Before the group had any time to digest the information, a loud scream echoed in the big mall that was so loud it actually felt like the mall shook.
“What in the actual fuck was that?” Eugene said looking back at the pitch black area in the mall.
“I don’t know, but it sure as shit didn’t sound very friendly,” Ava said moving ahead of the group.
“We’ll talk more about our situation once we can get to an area that’s a bit safer,” Cameron said as he pointed to a different direction with lights lit up.
As the group began to make their way through the first floor of the mall the layout was a lot different from the school. But it otherwise looked like a normal mall although the group could tell something was off because of the eerie atmosphere, but they kept moving until they came across a store directory which made it somewhat easier to understand where they were.
“Damn this mall has 4 levels and a store for everyone,” Cameron said as he was studying the mall map.
Ava looked over the map as well and was surprised by some of the stores, “They even have a store named Zombie Take Over and Sock Land,” she said.
“Wow they have a nail salon, an Until 27 clothing store, and even a store dedicated to different lighters. This place would totally be like my paradise in the real world,” Stacy said with slight excitement.
“Maybe this place wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t, you know, trapped against our will,” Brad said as he was putting his finger on the map to find the best escape route.
“Well maybe we should try to make our way to one of the exits while looking for supplies on the way,” Cameron suggested.
“They’re 3 emergency exits on each of the 4 floors and it looks like the closest one is placed in the middle portion of the mall, so unless that screaming asshole bothers us we shouldn’t have a problem getting out of here,” Eugene said.
As the group made their way around the mall they took in how quiet and even peaceful it was. They noticed that the loud scream they heard previously had not been heard since, but didn’t let it bother them and walked forward until they noticed a sign pointing to the cafeteria.
“So if we didn’t get abducted by aliens where do you think we are?” Stacy said to the group.
"All I remember is that I woke up in some place that looked like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie and you all were hooked up to machines just like me,” Brad said.
Eugene let out a sigh, “I’ve been thinking about it and it’s going to sound completely fucking crazy, but I’ve read about people having an out of body experience and it sounds like our bodies are supposed to be stationary while our minds or consciousness are left to wander---kind of like lucid dreaming.”
“Wait so you think we’re in some lucid dream state or something?” Cameron responded.
“It’s just an idea I thought of based on what Brad said, but if that’s the case what kind of crazy ass high tech are we dealing with to force us to be trapped in this nightmare and feel pain, but more importantly where the actual fuck are our bodies?” Eugene asked.
The group was quiet for a couple seconds because they knew if Eugene was nervous then they must be in some deep shit.
Cameron looked over at Ava and noticed she was looking at the ground “Hey Ava, you good?” he asked her.
“Yeah I’m fine---I’m going to go check out this zombie store to check for anything to use in case shit hits the fan,” Ava said as she began to walk over to the store.
“I’ll go with you,” Stacy said.
“Alright well the exit isn’t too far up ahead, but I’m still freaked out that we haven’t seen or heard whatever those screams were earlier. Let’s just make sure we’re not hanging around too long,” Brad said.
As Ava and Stacy made their way to the unusual store, Ava was quiet and Stacy could tell something was wrong.
“Are you sure everything is okay, Ava? You haven’t cracked a smart-ass joke in like fifteen minutes,” Stacy said.
Ava paused for a second and let out a sigh. “I’ve been thinking about this whole time loop we're stuck in and I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember exactly how we ended up here,” Ava said quietly.
“I guess being chased by a maniac made me not think about it much, but I’m also having trouble remembering things that I know for sure happened not even a month ago,” Stacy said.
“Yeah I know what you mean…I know for sure my family threw a party for my Mom when she got her Doctorate Degree last month, but I can’t even remember if I was there,” Ava responded.
Before the two girls could continue their conversation they stopped to look at a nearby wall that had something written on it that was barely visible, but because of the store’s light, it lit up just enough to be able to read.
“What…the….hell” Ava said shocked as she walked closer to the writing on the wall which looked to be written in spray paint.
“We need to let the guys know, and quick,” Stacy said as she began to walk back in the previous direction.
“Yeah I don’t think we were the first ones here,” Ava said looking at the writing on the wall which read in bold---
DON’T TAKE THE EXIT.
As the girls ran back they heard a faint clicking noise that came from the darkness, they both starred in the direction of the sound. They heard what sounded like loud footsteps approaching them and soon the source of the clicking noise began to step out of the darkness. The figure started out as a black figure until it slowly came into the light and the sight was so scary Ava had to hold Stacy’s mouth so she wouldn’t scream.
Unlike the psycho with an axe who was chasing them previously, he at least had a human looking body; this creature looked like something straight out of a cryptid video. It looked like it was eight foot tall although it was hunched over, completely naked with no definable reproductive organs, large eyes and pupils so big it almost completely covered itss eyes. Strains of long black hair coming out of its head, and long sharp nails and teeth.
Ava’s eyes widened as she was still holding Stacy’s mouth. She was almost paralyzed with fear.
“Don’t move, Stacy. I don’t think it saw us,” Ava said as she started to remove her hand from Stacy’s mouth.
“Hey you two hurry up and get under here,” Cameron said, hiding under a table.
Ava and Stacy both ran under the table with Cameron, still looking at the creature as it was standing there just looking around.
“So I’m NOT even going to ask what the fuck that thing is, but I’m glad you two are okay,” Cameron said to them.
“I’m glad you’re okay too…where are Eugene and Brad?” Stacy asked him.
Cameron looked at them while also trying to keep an eye on the creature. “Well after you guys walked to the store we started to do the same until we heard that thing walking around and when we saw what it looked like we decided to hide in different spots.”
“This probably isn’t the best time, but we saw writing on a wall that told us not to take an exit. I don’t think we’re the first ones here, Cameron,” Ava said to him.
As the three of them stayed under the table to ponder what to do next, the sound of a can fell not too far away from them. It alerted the creature who started to make a mad dash in odd fashion towards the three which caused them to freeze in a panic, but before the creature could get any closer a loud bang could be heard coming from the side of them and the creature immediately fell to the floor.
A person wearing what looked to be night vision goggles and a bullet proof vest armed with a double-barrel shotgun stood on a nearby table. “Come with me if you guys don’t want to end up as a scratching post for that thing.”
Without a second thought, Cameron, Stacy, and Ava ran out from under the table to see the person wearing the makeshift body armor. The person jumped off the table and looked at them for a couple of seconds.
“Let’s blow this popsicle stand…oh and don’t worry about your friends, they're safe,” The unknown person said pointing to some stairs.
“Well you’re the one with the gun, so I’m following you,” Ava said.
As the group ran up the stairs the unknown person directed them to another flight of stairs leading onto the third floor. The unknown person pointed to a store that had wedding dresses in the windows, as the group got closer the gate opened and a kid wearing an orange backpack and blue flannel shirt with large curly hair opened it.
“Took you long enough I almost thought you kicked the bucket,” The unknown individual said.
“Nope not kicking any buckets yet,” The other unknown person said back to him.
“Fuck me I thought you guys were as good as dead,” Eugene said running to aid his friends.
“It’s good to see you’re okay too,” Ava said back to him.
Cameron looked at the two unknown people for a second. “Thanks for saving us, but who are you guys and how the hell did you get here?”
The person with the night vision goggles started to take off the goggles and bullet proof vest revealing a frizzy red haired girl, “My name is Isabella and this is Alex and welcome to the shittiest mall you’ll never want to visit---that actually sounded much cooler in my head. Also don’t worry about that barf bag out there it’s blind, so unless we’re close it shouldn’t be a threat.”
Alex looked at Isabella with an awkward glance and then looked back at the gang, “Yeah sorry if this is a bit overwhelming for you guys, it’s only been the two of us trapped in here for some time.”
The gang paused and looked at their rescuers. Then Stacy asked, “Um….just how long have you guys been here?”
Isabella paused and started counting on her fingers ,“Not too sure, but I know it’s totally been over a thousand days---at least in here.”
Brad looked at Isabella. “Oh I get it you were trying to tell a joke because we’re in a time loop. I get it….it’s a joke, right?”
Alex started to take his backpack off. “Well yes and no...it’s true we’re in some weird time loop and jokes help pass the time, but uh….this might give you an idea of how long we’ve been here.
Ava took the worn out notebook and opened it. “Shit no wonder you guys know how to fight against that thing,” Ava said with shock as she showed the others the notebook.
“Every tally mark was everytime we died and we have 7 other notebooks just like it---some died more than others,” Alex said.
Cameron looked at it. “This is insane this whole notebook is filled with tally marks even on the back of it.”
Stacy looked at Cameron with a worrisome look, “So is there really no way to escape this place? Are we really gonna be trapped here forever?”
Cameron looked at her, “I know we’ll find a way out of here. Even if it doesn’t look like we will. I promise we’ll get out of here.”
“Well this is gonna sound strange, but we kinda thought somebody was gonna show up sooner or later I just wasn’t expecting more than one.” Alex said.
“I knew Steve was on to something, he was right about it all along” Isabella said.
Ava looked at Isabella and Alex, “So what exactly did Steve figure out?”
“You guys are going to want to sit down for this one. I’m about to tell you some crazy shit,” Isabella said.
“So I can’t remember how long ago it was, but back then it was me, Steve, Ruby, and Alex who ended up trapped in this place. We were all confused about the situation, but quickly grew to an understanding when that thing out there ended up chasing us and picking us off one by one. That’s when we realized if we wanted to escape we needed to work together and we needed to figure out where we were and how we ended up here.”
She continued, “Nobody had any ideas and at first we thought we were all just dreaming, but Steve had this crazy thought that we were stuck in a time loop. Which didn’t make sense until he explained it, since he was a total nerd that loved sci-fi movies and comics I guess, that’s how he knew so much about it. He came to the conclusion that when we die certain things around us stay the same, so if we spray painted an area we knew, we were there before or not to go there. Since dying over and over again sucks, Steve thought it would also be a good idea to make a hideout so that freakish skinwalker thing can’t get to us. Ruby came up with the idea of making a notebook to document everyday we spent here… or die and it seems like time works like ours, but it doesn’t get light it only stays dark.”
“We escaped from this place tons of times, but no matter what we just ended up back here no matter how many exits we took. Before uh...Steve and Ruby passed they had vivid dreams about being trapped in some place and hooked up to machines. Everytime Steve and Ruby died the dreams became more vivid and soon Steve was convinced that we weren’t just trapped in this place by accident, but that somebody kidnapped us and forced us into this place. He was so determined to get us out he wanted to have more vivid dreams in order to help us, but one day when he died, he didn’t come back and neither did Ruby after a while. Steve left his journal of notes that had a bunch of theories as to how to escape. But we never actually tried them because we didn’t have enough people and after that we just decided to chill in this place until we had somewhat of an idea of how to escape. I mean there’s a bunch of stuff that happened in between, but for the most part that’s how we ended up here and eventually you guys showed up.”
“Wow I’m sorry to hear that it sounds like you guys have been through some shit and it sounds like Steve and Ruby were good people---man is it a draft in here?” Brad said wiping his eyes.
Isabella twirled her thumbs, “Well Ruby could be a real bitch at times, but she was pretty and taught me how to speak some Italian. She was also a really good painter and Steve was probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met. Also wasn’t bad looking for a nerd. We even talked about trying to be together if we got out of here.”
Alex looked at the group. “Steve’s journal had one theory that somewhat made sense. He theorized that we’re not the only ones trapped in a time loop and that there could be other time loops. He thought that if we’re trapped in the same space then someone could eventually show up from another loop, but we never actually believed that would happen. He had a bunch of weird theories and even a way to escape.”
“We tried that already and we just ended up here,” Stacy said.
“Yeah but based off the notes we need to do things in a certain time frame to mess up the loop, like a very strict time frame. Did you guys manage to kill that thing that was chasing you in the school before you escaped?” Alex asked.
The gang all looked at each other until Eugene said, “Well that would be a fuck no.”
“Alright well let's look over these notes. I think I might have an idea for how to escape this place for good and since we have more people it’s possible. Whoever is behind this is going to have one shitty day when they have to deal with all of us,” Isabella said.
As the group looked over Steve’s notes and came up with an idea for escaping the mall of horrors, another conversation was taking place in the real world at a company known simply as The Syndicate. A red headed man with a nice comb over wearing a silver suit walked down a brightly lit hallway with many green doors and one red door at the end of the hall. The man took a deep breath and knocked on the door only for a woman with a stern voice responding, telling him to come in. The man’s hand was shaking a bit, but he opened the door and sitting relaxed in a chair with a large desk accompanied by a head in a jar, was a woman who looked to be in her forties with long brown hair sided to the left of her shoulder with a serious expression across her face.
“How is Project Pathway coming along, Jerry?” The woman asked.
“It’s coming along nicely, Miss Director,” Jerry responded.
“You know there’s been a lot of money and labor put into this project for many years right, Jerry?”
“Yes ma’am that’s why I intend to put every ounce of effort into this and I’m working non-stop to make sure we can achieve the Dark Abyss and use it.”
“Unlocking the Dark Abyss has been far more difficult than you make it seem. We have to use real people, then put them in a sleep paralysis state and then study them as they explore an area that is beyond our understanding. Then we have to hope that our top notch scientists can figure out a way to harness more power from the place. Do you know the end goal of all this Jerry?”
“To make use of a power that can aid us in future wars, Ma’am?”
“Not just that, to control the mass media with that power of fear. And if the Dark Abyss can make nightmares come true then we harness that kind of power and use it to control most of the world through fear alone. We’ve only tapped into a fraction of it, so far putting it into the factories and having it polluting in the air has worked thus far. People have been controlled by fear for years and if we can tap into more of that power we could control more than just the U.S.”
The woman looked at Jerry for a few seconds. “Your deadline is about a couple months from being up, so I suggest you don’t let things like teenagers reeking havoc in the facility that my grandfather created happen. I’m telling you not to fuck up again, Jerry.”
“Yes Ma’am I understand and I promise it won’t happen again.”
“You may leave now.”
Jerry was scared and tense because he knew if he said the wrong thing or made The Director mad she would have him “replaced” like she’d done to many before him. Jerry took an elevator to one of the other floors and walked into a large room with a bunch of workers wearing dress shirts.
“How long do you think it will take to figure out how to open a portal to this world?” Jerry asked one of the workers.
“Well if everything goes well we should be ready for testing in forty-eight hours,” the worker responded.
Jerry patted his shoulder, “Good if anything happens just call me. I have a yoga session in thirty minutes.”
As the conversations continued to happen in the real world, in the Dark Abyss the teenage group came up with a plan to escape not just the mall, but break the entire loop.
"Alright I hope you dudes and dudettes understand what we’re doing because everything has to go right for this to work,” Isabella said putting her night goggles on.
“Who would've thought the way to break the time loop is by using time,” Eugene said.
Isabella looked at Eugene, “It sounds simple, but we have about fifteen minutes to get done with everything, so one fuck up and we could end up screwing up our chance at getting out of here. That weird fucker out there can only see through sound, so if we pull this off it shouldn’t be that much of a problem for us.”
“Anybody got any words of encouragement?” Alex said.
“Not really, let’s just kill that fucking thing and make those assholes in suits regret trapping us in here,” Brad said.
Ava shrugged her shoulders. “Close enough I guess.”
Stacy asked the group, “Just to make sure we’re all on the same plan. As soon as the time hits eleven forty-five we make our way to the two closest fire alarms and pull them to distract that creature then kill it and use the entrance as an exit?”
“Yeah I’m not sure how long that thing has before it comes back to life, so we have to haul ass. Don’t forget the exit doors are to reset the loop so no need to use them unless we’re in a shitstorm,” Isabella responded.
“Alright guys let’s break this loop and get the fuck out of here,” Brad said holding a hockey stick.
As soon as the gate from the store opened the teens split into two groups with Brad, Ava, Alex, and Eugene being in one group while Isabella, Stacy, and Cameron were in the second group.
“This thing must be sleeping or something cause it’s been dead silent since we’ve left,” Cameron said.
“It’s probably because it can sense everyone moving and it’s throwing it off.” Isabella said to Cameron as they moved through the mall.
Stacy looked around and held her nose, “OMG is it just me or does something smell like a rotting corpse?”
Cameron put his sleeve over his face. “Not even gonna ask how you know what one of those smell like, but yeah I smell it too.”
“Sheesh...do you guys see it?” Isabella said in a whisper.
As Isabella pointed, the group looked over to see what she was pointing at and in the distance there the creature stood facing a wall with its head leaning against it. It didn’t move, but it stood as still as a statue with the lights from the stores shining just enough to see it. The only problem was that next to it was one of the fire alarms they had to pull.
“Is that thing---just staring at the wall?” Stacy asked.
“I’ve seen it do that a couple times before. I think it’s sleeping but it sorta...sleeps with its eyes wide open,” Isabella said.
Isabella let out a sigh “Sooooo we have a huge problem guys. One of the fire alarms that we have to pull is on the left side of that thing.”
“Shouldn’t we just wait for the other guys to pull the alarm?” Stacy asked.
“We could do that, but the goal is to kill it and if it chases after them we risk losing it and we only have about twenty minutes to kill that thing and walk out the front entrance doors. We have about a minute to figure this out,” Isabella replied while looking at her watch.
Cameron looked at the two girls. “I think I have an idea, but if it goes bad I need you to keep going.”
“There’s no way I can just leave,” Stacy said.
“We have a chance to finally get out of here, so please Stace just keep going,” Cameron said while looking at her.
Stacy paused and looked at Cameron. “Alright just make sure whatever you do, as soon as it moves, you move.”
“Alright,” Cameron said while nodding.
As Cameron crouched his way over by the fire alarm Isabella looked at Stacy.
“Don’t worry if that thing decides to attack your boytoy I’ll just shoot it like I did last time.”
Stacy looked at her with her cheeks slightly red, “Uh what no Cameron’s just--- a friend.”
Isabella looked at Stacey with a smirk, “I can totally tell you guys are hooking up I mean he’s hot your hot it’s not a surprise. I liked Steve for the longest time..I guess when you're trapped in a time loop with someone for so long you guys just kinda...form bonds I guess.”
Stacy looked back at Isabella and rolled her eyes, “Alright you got me. We just didn’t know if we would ever escape or die in this time loop so we...decided we would hook up just one time. Until that one time happened over and over again.”
“It looks like you think of him more than a quick hook up though. If you guys ever escape from here maybe you guys could be in a normal relationship,” Isabella said.
Stacy smiled. “I guess a proper date would be pretty nice.”
As the girls were talking Cameron could see the fire alarm and was inching his way toward the alarm and the creature.
“Man how the hell did I end up in this situation?” Cameron said to himself.
As Cameron made his way over by the creature the smell got stronger and Cameron was terrified by the height difference. He walked closer and with each and every step his heart was beating even faster until he was standing about two feet from it. Cameron grabbed the alarm but not before looking at the creature who was just staring at the wall and as Isabella said it’s eyes were wide open just looking at the blank wall. Just before pulling the alarm the other alarm ringed throughout the entire mall which alerted the creature who looked around and had it’s big wide eyes on Cameron.
Cameron didn’t move a muscle, but the creature was staring at him and let out a scream which freaked Cameron out and caused him to fall back and cover his ears. A split second before the creature was about to attack Cameron, a shot rang through the alarm and forced the large creature to fall against the wall, Isabella starting walking towards the creature while shooting it with her shotgun. Cameron quickly stood up, pulled the other alarm and ran away from the beast all while Isabella unloaded her double barrel shotgun into the creature, which was trying to get up. Just as she was reloading she noticed she was running low on ammo, but she kept shooting the creature down.
“Hurry up Stacy!” Isabella shouted.
Stacy ran up to the creature and threw a molotov at it causing it to scream in pain before it stopped moving, but before they left for the exit Isabella shot the creature two more times before leaving.
“There, it should be dead,” Isabella said, putting her shotgun away.
“Are you two alright?” Cameron asked the two girls.
“I should be asking you. I thought you were going to die back there,” Stacy said.
“Well aside from almost shitting myself I think I’m good,” Cameron responded while smiling.
“Let’s keep moving guys. I don’t know how long that thing is gonna stay down,” Isabella said.
As the group made their way to the entrance they saw the other group there waiting for them.
Alex looked at Isabella and said, “We’re finally gonna get out of here.”
Isabella looked back at him. “Yeah it almost doesn’t feel real. I only wish Steve and Ruby could be here.”
Alex touched Isabella’s shoulder. “We’re gonna make those fuckers pay for putting us through this.”
As the group opened the door they could see the same familiar fog from the school and Brad looked at everyone for a second.
“Alright guys hopefully this works,” Brad said as they all began to walk through the fog.
Just before Alex could walk through he heard fast approaching footsteps and before he could notice it the creature jumped on him and started clawing at him.
“ALEX!” Isabella shouted before grabbing her shotgun and shooting the beast with her remaining ammo.
The group ran back towards the noise and Brad ran at the creature with his hockey stick and hit it a couple times until the hockey stick broke. The creature finally fell and it’s wide eyes closed. The creature which had various bullet holes and burns had finally been killed, but not before causing one of the teens to succumb to his injury.
Alex was on the ground with large claw marks on him, but he looked at Isabella and pointed towards deeper into the fog.
“We can try again, let's just try doing this over---,” Isabella said as her eyes were full of tears.
Alex looked at her and shook his head no and in that moment Isabella knew what she had to do. Isabella looked at Alex who was now lying motionless on the ground. She closed his eyes and said, “You will not die in vain friend.”
Isabella looked at the group and said in a tired tone, “Let’s just get the fuck out of here.”
As the group went deeper into the fog a bright flash of light occurred and everything went white. Brad opened his eyes and noticed he was in the familiar state with wires hooked up to his body, but now he was in an all white room with the only thing in it was a white chair in a corner. The room was a lot different from the previous room he woke up in before and the room looked so clean that it seemed like it had never been used before. He quickly grasped the familiar situation he was in and got up slowly while still looking around. He got off the table and took the wires off him. He made his way to the only door in the room and opened it.
Brad was breathing heavy and was extremely nervous, but when he opened the door the first thing he noticed was the loud blaring alarm. He also noticed the lights outside the hall were flashing red, but most importantly nobody was around. Brad gathered his courage and walked outside the room and started opening the other doors that were close by and to his surprise he walked into a room that looked empty, but the room was similar to the one he was just in. Just then, Brad heard footsteps running in his direction, so he hid in the room and left the door cracked just a bit so he could still hear what’s going on. The multiple footsteps ran past Brad, so Brad cracked open the door more and heard one of the guards talk about a “breach from the portal” and the guards took the stairs to another level.
“Breach from a portal? What the fuck is going on?” Brad said to himself as he walked out of the room.
“Brad?” a familiar voice said from behind a door.
Brad jumped in shock and turned around to see a friendly face, “Ava---I’m so glad to see you.”
Ava looked at Brad with a look of concern, “Where the fuck are we Brad?”
“I think this is the shithole I woke up in the first time. We need to find the others and get the hell out of here.”
“Yeah I agree,” Ava responded.
So Brad and Ava began to look for the others and started opening doors on the floor they were on until they walked into a room filled with different files and boxes. They were about to leave until Ava noticed it looked like the files had already been looked through and papers were scattered. Ava picked up some of the files and started looking through it. A guard armed with a gun cracked open the door to see Brad and Ava.
The guard looked at them and shouted “What the fuck are you subjects doing here?”
Before the guard had any time to think about his next move a fire extinguisher hit him over the head and knocked him out cold. To Brad and Ava’s surprise it was Stacy and Cameron who were just as surprised as they were.
“Thank goodness we found you guys,” Cameron said.
As much as the gang was relieved to see one another, they knew they weren’t able to celebrate long because of the current situation at hand. Ava looked at the group with one of the many files in her hand.
“Guys these files date back to 1965 that talk about something called the Other Side. I don’t know who or where we are, but I think whoever these people are they might be involved with the paranormal.”
The group looked at each other all with puzzled expressions, “This doesn’t make any sense...where the hell is this place?” Stacy asked.
“We can ask ourselves all these questions once we find Eugene and Isabella, leave this place, and call the police,” Brad said.
As the group left the room they decided to take the stairs which is when they noticed this building had five floors and they were on the third. They decided to make their way down to the first floor before a guard came out of the door on the second floor and spotted them.
“Hey wait, you guys,” The guard said as they grabbed Ava’s arm.
“Let go of me you creep,” Ava screamed trying to break free from the guard’s grasp.
“It’s me you guys it’s me,” the guard responded, taking off the helmet to reveal a pale looking woman with unkempt red hair and a thin face.
“Who the hell are you supposed to...wait….Isabella is that you?” Ava said.
“Yeah. I guess I was trapped in that mall longer than I thought,” Isabella said with a smile.
“Wait, that's impossible, you were the same age as we were in that loop,” Brad said.
Isabella looked back at the door and then back at the group, “Listen I want answers more than any of you, but I can’t explain everything right now. When I woke up I fought a guard, found the records room to gather some data, and found an exit, but---”
“But what?” Stacy asked.
Isabella let out a sigh, “Well I guess when we broke the time loop we messed something up because uhhh...I’ve seen some monsters walking around this place killing guards. We have to find Eugene and find another exit because I’ve been to the first floor and it doesn’t look good.”
Just then the gang heard a familiar sound that they’ve heard before walking up the stairs and when they looked down they saw a tall figure with an Axe walking up the stairs with a potato sack over his head. The figure looked at the group and started running up the stairs as if he somehow remembered them.
“Oh are you fucking shitting me?” Brad said.
“GET THE FUCK DOWN!” a voice said from behind the group.
As the figure ran up stairs he got blown back by a shotgun blast to the chest and hit the wall. The group turned to see the shooter was no other than Eugene.
“That’s for punching me in the face back at the library asshole.”
Isabella looked at Eugene. “Well fuck man, where the hell have you been?”
“I checked up the stairs like you said and didn’t see any windows, not even in the director’s office,” Eugene said as he reloaded his gun.
“Well that only leaves us with one way out” Isabella said.
“Please don’t tell me we’re going to have to go through the first floor?” Ava said.
“Well I could tell you that….I’d be lying if I did though.”
The gang made their way past the figure still lying on the ground and to the first floor. When Isabella opened the door a horrible smell overwhelmed the group and they could see blood on the walls and limbs everywhere. The group made their way through the floor until they saw a man laying on the ground covered with blood on the right side of his face near a door. The man looked like the one Brad saw before. Brad was the first to notice and the first one to run over to the man.
Brad looked at the man with a frown, “Hey fucker, you remember me?”
The man laid there for a couple seconds before opening his eyes and looking at him and started smiling, “Well isn’t this ironic?”
Brad stood over the man. “Where the fuck are we and how do we escape?”
“We’re all gonna die anyway. This place is crawling with nightmares everywhere. Even if I told you it’s not like it would matter.”
Before Brad got a chance to ask the man another question Isabella asked the man “What is the Dark Abyss and how are you guys able to access it? And why were there files of various missing kid’s cases dating back to the 1940s?”
“We still aren’t sure what the Dark Abyss is, but the theory we had was that it was home to everyone’s worst fears, think of it as a place specifically for those monsters you were scared of when you were a little kid. Also if you must know we’ve had access to a fraction of the Dark Abyss since the 1930s and we use it’s power of fear to influence the world...through various means of pollution. We wanted to gain full access to it though, but as you can see that didn’t work.”
“Okay well what about the kids?”
“We had to find a better way to gain more access to it, but we didn’t know how. We’ve been using kids from various parts of the United States to transport their minds into the Dark Abyss dimension, so we could better understand how to use it and hopefully travel there. But again, you can see how that backfired on us. I guess humans really aren’t allowed to have access to certain things.”
Isabella looked at him with anger and tears starting to fill her eyes, “Give me a good reason why I shouldn’t torture you until you die, asshole? You know what you’ve put us through--how many---lives you’ve taken?”
“I don’t mind being called an asshole, but I’d prefer Jerry and I’m as good as dead already. There is one thing I might as well tell you guys though, just so I can get it off my chest. If you think I enjoyed doing this job I didn't, but we all had to follow orders or else we would be killed on the spot. This place is no different than the Dark Abyss; we just fear different nightmares.”
Just then a voice could be heard over the walkie talkie near Jerry. It was a voice that sounded distressed.
“Jerry. Hello? Come in, Jerry”
“Yeah I’m still here”
“The nightmares are breaking through the bunker and I don’t think the guards can hold them off forever. If you can do one thing for me, type in code bronze in the cell phone I gave you. It will self-destruct this building and destroy any evidence of this place.”
Jerry looked at the scared teens and looked back at his phone.
“I’ll do it but there is one thing I want to tell you beforehand. I hope they rip every limb off your body.”
Jerry threw the walkie talkie only for the Director to be heard screaming and through the device.
“When I type in this code I need you guys to make a left at that corner and then a right through the double doors. The exit will be there, but you’ve only got a minute before this place blows sky high."
“Why are you helping us?” Stacy asked.
“I’ve decided that I should do something with my life that doesn’t involve hurting others anymore. Just wish it didn’t take me this long to do it.”
“Yeah, no shit,” Eugene said.
So the group did as he said and ran the way he told them until they found the double doors and the exit. As the group ran for the door they heard Jerry scream and before they knew it they were outside the place. The group continued to run until they heard an explosion from the building that sounded like multiple loud fireworks going off. They looked back to see the large building now burning and soon the building was completely covered in flames. It didn’t take the group long to realize they were in the middle of the desert.
Eugene smiled and laughed, “We fucking did it guys.”
Cameron was relieved, but tired, “So what did you see in that records room Isabella?”
“Jeez where should I start? Well um...I guess I was born in 1984, ways to keep the body alive and well while in prolonged comas, I guess some people call those monsters cryptids and they’ve escaped this building before, and this place was originally supposed to provide shelter for high profile people from some world changing event called Y2K.”
“Y2K? What is that?” Ava asked.
“I’m not sure, but from the little I read it sounded like some sort of apocalypse. Like electronics were supposed to stop working or something.”
Cameron grabbed Stacy’s hand and looked at her, “Well everything out here looks fine to me. What now guys?”
Brad looked around for second, “This place looks like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but maybe we can use one of these cars to drive to the nearest place and look for help”
Isabella looked back at the group “Sounds good to me. Maybe we can find out what the date is too."
The group walked towards the cars, but unbenounced to the group most of their surroundings and the world had been destroyed.
They would later find out the date to be January, 2, 2000.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Calvin Sanders III (he/him) was born in Jackson, MI and lived there until his early teens before moving to Lansing, MI. A graduate of Sexton High School, Calvin currently attends Michigan State University working toward a BA in communications. His love for video games, cartoons, manga, movies, and all things entertainment has inspired him to create various stories and comics for people to enjoy.