Original Post: http://www.penana.com/story/9265/chaotic-rooms/issue/0601Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ14B35i78yy
The girl opened her eyes. She wore a gray tank top, gray shorts, and black combat boots. She paced around the room, exploring the space. The room was sixteen feet by sixteen feet with a sixteen-foot ceiling. Four-foot square doors lay in the center of each white wall, surrounded by white ladders that lined the walls and led all the way to the monkey-bar celling grid. Unseen lights lightened the room, just enough light to see, but not too bright to be uncomfortable.
Each door was the same, including the ones in the center of the ceiling and ground, except someone seemed to have opened the ceiling door.
Suddenly, there was a scream, and a damp tank top fell through the ceiling door. The girl picked up the sweaty tank top and threw it back the direction it came from. It caught on the ladder about ten feet short of the top.
Someone above swore violently, and red light flashed through the bars. The girl climbed up, swinging on the bars to the door in the ceiling. Quickly, she opened the door and pushed herself up to peek into the identical room above.
Two teenage boys stared back at the girl, halting their fighting. One was an athletic shirtless Caucasian male with black hair, and the other was a tall, slightly chubby Chinese male. All three of them were around fifteen years old, and they all wore the same gray outfit with combat boots, except the athletic one's shirt was in the room below.
"Hello," the girl said. The athletic boy puller her out of the door and into the room. There was a pocketknife in his other hand.
"Who are you?" the athletic boy asked. Suddenly, the lights turned red again. A stainless steel blade whisked through the door, snagging the girl's right combat boot and pulling it off as she jumped away. It fell into the room below. The lights returned to normal.
The chubby boy shut the door below her. "Who are you?" he repeated. He spoke with a slight accent, one unfamiliar to the girl.
"Claire," the girl said quickly. "What about you two?"
"Gabe," the athletic boy responded. "And he's Mark."
Claire nodded and walked over to the door behind the two teens. "Where do these lead?" She tested the door's lock, finding it unlocked.
"A far as we can tell, just other rooms like this one," Gabe responded. He spoke with a slight swagger, probably used to being cooler than everyone else was.
Claire opened the door, finding a dark void behind it. The air coming from the void was slightly cooler than the air in the room, but other than that, it was formless. There was no visible bottom or top; no walls were discernible.
"That's not a room," Claire said sarcastically. She turned right to see Mark standing in front of a door leading to a similar void. Gabe, on the other hand, opened the door opposite to Claire's that led to a room almost like the one they were in, except it looked warped, like a drug induced hallucination.
"What’s that?" Gabe asked hesitantly.
"Who don’t you find out?" Claire suggested, walking over and shoving him in. She stepped back, curious if Gabe would jump back out and attack her. He did have a pocketknife, after all. Surprisingly, Mark followed Gabe into the room. Claire stayed outside the trippy room.
"What's up with this place?" Mark asked. He ran his hand across the wavy, deformed ladder rungs that lined the walls. One of doors was mark with a red "x," and there was a foul, metallic smell in the air.
Suddenly, in one swift motion, Gabe came up behind Mark and stabbed him in the back of the neck, just where it met the shoulder. Mark yelped and collapsed. Immediately, Claire slammed the door shut and slowly backed away from it. Turning right, there was one last unopened door on a wall. She grasped that handle and turned.
This room was just like the one she was in, white and a perfect cube, with square doors on the walls, floor, and ceiling. She stepped in, looking around. Nothing out of the ordinary. Curious, Claire climbed up the walls and swung on the monkey bars to the door in the center of the ceiling. Carefully, she opened the door.
A bowling ball whizzed past her head. In panic, Claire shut the door and frantically made it back to the wall and down. The bowling ball rolled around, showing a seam that ran across the ball's equator. Claire picked it up and unscrewed the two halves.
A complicated electromagnetic engine spun apart, sending a drill bit into the ceiling door as if it had a homing device. Claire stared in horror as it drilled itself through the door's lock mechanism. The door fell open, unleashing a torrent of identical bowling balls.
Quickly, Claire forced open the door on the floor. Below was a room with its white walls covered in strange blue circular drawings. A dead ten-year-old lay in one corner, a blue sharpie in her decaying hands. A bucket filled with different shades of blue sharpies lay next to the decomposing body. With nowhere to go, Claire climbed into the room and shut the door.
A few of the bowling balls had fallen in, and they rolled around as Claire climbed down from the ceiling. The nauseating smell of the ten-year-old's rotting body completely permeated the room. Of all the doors, the one on the wall directly opposite was marked with a red "x," just like the one in the warped room. She walked over, careful not to trip on the bowling balls.
Claire grasped the handle of the x-marked door and pulled. Blood seeped out of the edges of the door, thickly spreading on the floor. Quickly, Claire jammed it shut. She backed away, grabbing a sharpie and walking to the door to the right of the bloody one.
Gabe rushed up and stabbed Mark in the base of the neck. Hot blood gushed from the chubby boy's neck and Gabe pulled the pocketknife free. Mark collapsed.
Claire, in the other room, gasped, and slammed the door between them, locking him and Mark in the strangely deformed room.
Gabe knelt next to the bleeding boy and checked his pulse. He was still alive. Gabe cut part of Mark's tank top off and applied pressure on Mark's neck wound. He didn't want him dead, yet.
Thinking he'd stabilized Mark's condition, Gabe put the pocketknife in his pocket and eyed the x-marked door. He walked up to it and thrust the door open in one pull.
Blood rushed out the door, cold and sticky. Two huge fan blades sucked air from underneath the blades. Body parts circulated up and down the room, shred over and over again by the massive blades. Gabe slammed shut the door just as half a finger flew at him. The shredded finger caught on the seal of the door.
Mark started to stir, moaning slightly. Between the blood from the door and Gabe's wound, red completely stained the floor. A coppery, decomposing smell saturated the room. Leaving red footprint on the walls, Gabe climbed up the ladders. He swung to the ceiling door, opening it up. Behind the door was another door, circular, with a diameter of four feet.
"Hey…" Mark mumbled. Looking down, Gabe noticed mark had opened his eyes. He muttered something else, too soft for Gabe to hear.
"What?" Gabe called down. He started at the second circular door, wondering what could be behind it.
"Oh shit, you're still here!" Mark said, scrambling up. He pressed his hand against the cloth on his neck. "What are you doing up there?"
"Let's find out," Gabe said, echoing Claire. He turned the lock and pulled the hatch. Suddenly, 2,048 cubic feet of water rushed through the door, along with a chubby Caucasian boy with curly brown hair and a lifejacket on, in addition to the outfit all the others had.
Sputtering in the water, Mark screamed, "No, goodbye!" He dived underwater and pushed open the door to the right of the x-marked door, exiting the room and shutting the door behind him.
Gabe treaded water, staying afloat just barely. The boy in the lifejacket coughed. "Who are you?" Gabe asked.
"Where you stupid, or were you stupid?" the boy sputtered. "What about a circular sealed door didn't you get?"
"I don't know. I was curious," Gabe responded. "I’m Gabe. Your turn."
"Oh, I'm Jason," the curly haired boy responded. "Why's the water bloody?"
"That red 'x' door," Gabe said. "And I stabbed Mark." Speaking of which, he checked his pocket for his knife, only to find it had washed away in the suddenly excitement.
"Please don't stab me. I’m no good to eat!" Jason said. Gabe wasn't sure if he was joking or not.
"I hope you're kidding, but I lost the knife, anyway," Gabe chuckled. "What else is in your room?"
"Nothing," Jason said. "All the doors were circular with square doors behind them. I didn't open any of them."
"In that case, we can huddle in there where it's dry," Gabe suggested. He climbed up the walls, Jason following. Gabe hoisted himself into the above room and surveyed the circular doors. Nothing out of the ordinary, not that anything in this place was ordinary.
Jason was climbing through the circular door when the lights turned red and a stainless steel blade whizzed through the door, turning the water below more red.
The boy woke up in a white room with a weird skinny Chinese girl with glasses shaking him awake, holding a blue sharpie over his face. He shrieked and stood up quickly, before he could process his surroundings.
He took a few deep breaths and looked around the white room. Except for the open door, all the other doors were marked with a red "x." He figured the girl came from the room beyond the open door, leading to a bluish room with a rotting smell emanating from it.
"Hi, I'm Claire," the girl said. "What's your name?" Claire looked tired and distressed, missing a combat boot, and was just about as tall as he was. She wore the same outfit as he, except he had both his boots.
"I'm Jack," the boy said. He pointed to the bluish room. "What's in there?"
"Okay, Jack, more importantly, do you think you could find a way out of this prison?" Claire asked. "I'm sick and tired of going round and round through doors and smelling blood everywhere."
Jack threw his hands up. "I just woke up. I have less idea than you do. Where are we, anyway?"
Claire squinted at him. "Okay, boy. I guess all I can ask of you is don't stab me, 'cause unlike Mark, I'm not going to just stand there," she said without a smile.
"What?" Jack sputtered. "Why would I stab you?" He took few steps away from the sharpie-clad girl.
"Never mind," Claire said. "I'm just tired, that's all. This maze is getting to my head."
Jack nodded, studying the closed doors. Kneeling, he turned the handle of the door on the floor. Claire watched, saying nothing. The door opened, revealing a set of two fan blades blowing air, blood, and severed body parts up into their faces. Jack immediately lost his lunch.
"Hey, cut that out!" Claire complained. Vomit sprayed out of the doorway, and Claire pushed Jack aside, swiftly closing the door. A severed intestine lodged in the seam of the door. "You okay?" Claire asked. Jack nodded weakly.
Jack followed Claire into the bluish room. A rotting child sat in one corner, but Jack had nothing left in his stomach. Bowling balls tumbled around the room, along with a knocked-over sharpie bucket. Blue sharpies lay strewn across the floor.
"How long have you been wandering?" Jack got the nerve to ask. He fought his stomach, knowing that barfing bile was never good.
"An hour? Two? I don't know. Time's been passing really weirdly," Claire admitted. "I need to rest, though. And I'm sure not going to sleep on top of a meat grinder, or next to a dead ten-year-old." Her face scrunched up, like she was disgusted. "It would be nice to have some answers, too," she added.
Jack stared at the other doors. "Where do these lead?"
Claire marched over to the door to the left of the x-marked door. "They usually lead to rooms like yours, but occasionally, they lead to weird rooms like this one, or Mark's room."
"Who's Mark?" Jack asked. "You mentioned him before." He went to the door in the floor and opened it.
Cool air seeped from the edges of the door as he pried it open. A black void stared back at him; no amount of light from the bluish room illuminated any kind of surface below. Jack stepped back, cautious not to fall in.
"You found another void," Claire said, holding a bowling ball. "Want to see how far it goes?" Jack shrugged, and Claire dropped it into the void.
The bowling ball was the only thing that reflected light. As it fell, noting else around it illuminated. It fell, shrinking as it fell further and further away, until it disappeared from sight. They never heard it land.
"You figure it's still there?" Jack asked.
"Don't know," Claire shrugged. "Fell for the underside of the ceiling. Are there bars?"
Jack hesitantly placed his hand under the floor. Steel bars surrounded the door in an organized pattern. He pointed at the ceiling. "Same as these."
"Do you want to check it out?" Claire asked. Jack shook his head. "Afraid of the dark?"
"No, just, what if it never ends? Or we fall from the ceiling?" Jack said.
"Okay. Fair enough." Claire closed the door. "Let's try another door." She stepped over the dead girl to open the door behind the rotting body.
Instead of a room, behind the four by four foot door stood a standard flat-faced wooden house door.
Mark dived under and opened the closest door, the one right of the red "x" door. He followed the current into the other room and slammed the door shut.
A bowling ball hit him in the face, making him black out for a second. When he came to, he saw that the door above was broken off and more bowling balls were raining in. Mark dodged another shiny black sphere while trying to walk in ankle deep water.
Suddenly, Mark heard a scream next door. He tripped on a pocketknife, Gabe's pocketknife, and knew immediately that the crazy teen hadn't attacked the newcomer. Maybe the door-blade thing got him.
Mark opened the door across the way from the one he came out of, finding a plain white room with all white doors. He stepped in, closing the door behind him to keep out the bloody water and the bowling balls. He walked to the center of the room and sat down, thinking over his dilemma.
He was in a maze of shifting congruent cube rooms, except for the red doors, the voids, and the warped room. He a jagged spike of pain shot through his neck as he cocked his head, and he felt the makeshift cloth bandage. It was soaked through with blood, and Mark had no doubt he was bleeding out.
So far, he'd only met three other people, and at least two of them were also around fifteen years old. He hadn't gotten a good look at the latest person he'd met, but he assumed the boy was also fifteen. Mark lay down, feeling dizzy and tired from the blood loss. His shirt was cold, soaked, and stained with blood, and yet his still nearly fell asleep.
The only bowling ball that made it into the room ran into his head, snapping him out of his half-dream state. He realized that if he had fallen asleep then, he probably would have gone under.
Still dizzy, Mark half-crawled, half-walked to the door on the floor. He slowly pulled the hatch and looked down.
A wave of rotting air assaulted him. Mark felt like barfing, but he blacked out, returning a second later. He intermittently lost consciousness, making him unable to control his body. He found himself inside the blue-circled room, his right leg throbbing really badly. There were blue sharpies strewn across the floor, and a skinny blond Caucasian boy stared down at him.
"Hi. Are you bleeding out?" the boy asked.
Mark looked around, but figured there was nothing he could do in this state. "No. I mean yes, I'm bleeding out," Mark managed. "Why would you ask such a thing?"
"I don't know," the boy said. "What's wrong with your leg?"
Straining to hold his head up, Mark looked at his right leg. His leg twisted under him, red and swollen. "You saw me fall in here, right? I think it's broken."
"I've never seen a broken leg before," the boy said. "Does it hurt?" Mark sighed and looked behind the boy. There was an open door leading to a white room. Behind a dead ten-year-old girl was an open door leading to a shallow tunnel. Claire was in the tunnel, opening house door after house door, advancing slowly, the tunnel getting deeper and deeper.
Mark wondered what was there, what was beyond the tunnel, but he was tired and in pain, and he didn't want to think. Mark closed his eyes, leaving the pain of his neck and his broken leg behind.
"Are you okay?" the blond boy asked. "Wake up!" The voice sounded like it was coming from a faraway place. The boy shook Mark, but Mark almost didn't feel it. He calmly slipped into forever-sleep.
Only death wasn't permanent. Mark woke up laying on the grass next to a park with the lifejacket boy standing over him.
Claire opened the door, expecting to find another white room, or perhaps another colorful room. Beyond the door lay a standard wooden flat house door. Clair stepped forward, opening the door and finding another house door three feet beyond. She walked forward, opening the next door to find the same thing. Claire continued down the tunnel, throwing open door after door. Exhausted, she looked behind her.
The blue room was gone. There was grass underfoot, and a blue sky ahead. Claire felt he ground with her bootless foot. The grass was soft and wet, real as it could get.
Claire walked to a sidewalk surrounding a park. A curly-haired Caucasian boy sat on a park bench, while Mark sat on a swing.
"I thought you were dead," Claire said, walking up to the playground to take the other swing. "Gabe killed you, didn't he?"
"I died, but not like that," Mark explained. "I escaped, and I didn't die until I fell into the blue room, where the skinny blond kid was."
"You found the blue room with the sharpies?" Claire asked. "I didn't see you there."
"I saw you as you went into the weird tunnel beyond the dead girl," Mark explained.
Claire nodded. "So, if Gabe didn't kill you, why are you still dead?"
"You didn't see the cut, did you? I would have died anyway, but I think I shortened my time drastically by falling into the room below me," Mark explained. "That Gabe is crazy. I left him as soon as I could."
"Did he kill you?" Claire asked the curly-haired boy. "Oh, and what's your name?"
"I'm Jason," he responded. "And no, Gabe didn’t kill me. The other room hit me."
"What other room?" Claire asked. She didn't like the sound of that.
"From inside, it looked like a stainless steel blade, but only after did I realize that the whole bottom room moved," Jason explained. "The ceiling chopped me in half."
"That's horrible," Mark said. "I mean, finally finding a dry place to stay and immediately dying of dismemberment."
Jason laughed. "Not nearly as horrible as getting stabbed, but not dying until you fall into a room with a dead girl in it."
"Anyway, what's going on?" Claire asked. The sun was hot overhead, and the grass was starting to dry. Time definitely had meaning here.
"There are two ways to win. You can die, like Mark did, or you can find the way out, like you did," a teenage boy said. He was about the same height as Claire, about fifteen years old, and looked slightly Japanese and slightly Caucasian. Unlike Claire, Mark, and Jason, the boy wore cargo shorts with a leather jacket with worn out tennis shoes.
"Where is here? Where was there?" Gabe asked. He walked up to the boy, standing around the same spot Claire had materialized out of the tunnel.
"It doesn't matter," the boy said. "My heist is complete, and I'll be putting the program back to normal soon." The boy took out a slim piece of glass, fiddling with the words scrolling on the screen in a command prompt-like environment, and walked away, disappearing into the distance. Claire looked into the blue sky, validating the realness of the world she was in, despite all the mystery.
Except when she looked directly up, off in the distance, she saw the glimpse of buildings and ground on the other side of the sky.
Claire quickly followed the Japanese Caucasian boy, leaving Mark and Jason behind. The grass underfoot changed to gravel, then to sand, and then to concrete. The ground strangely curved slightly upward, not enough to notice while stationary, but enough that Claire felt an incline when walking.
Every time the boy's head appeared on the tricked horizon, he'd speed up, disappearing once more, as if he could tell where Claire was. Maybe he could. She didn't know, but she had a feeling he knew everything...
The top half of Jason's body fell into a blank white room that replaced the water room. Gabe stared into the new room, curious and frightened. He closed the door, and for the first time, he noticed a slight grinding noise coming from behind the floor door. Curious, he cautiously lifted the softly vibrating door.
Red light flooded in. A stainless steel blade whirled by and a room full of bowling balls appeared. Suddenly, one bowling ball randomly zoomed up, smacking Gabe in the chin, knocking him out…
Jack stepped away from the new boy's body. Right there, the boy had died in his face, next to a rotting girl, and on top of that, Claire just disappeared without a trace. The open door now led to a room with the top half of the body of a curly brown haired boy wearing a bloody lifejacket.
Once Jack calmed down sufficiently, he walked over and closed the door behind the dead girl. He sat down next to the dead boy, staring at his torn, blood stained shirt, his water-lodged boots, and the huge gash on his neck. Jack remembered Claire said someone was stabbed. He guessed this was the guy. What a way to die, surviving a knife to the neck and only dying from fall from so high. Jack sure didn't want to die like that…
Gabe woke up to the flash of red light. Below him, the bowling ball room moved away, the stainless steel blade sliding through the doorway, only Gabe realized it wasn't a blade. It was just the top wall of the room below his room.
Gabe felt the underside of his room. Monkey bars lined the bottom of the floor the way they lined the ceiling. Gabe carefully lowered himself out of his room painfully slowly, tightly grasping the monkey bars. He looked around, finding a red glow in the distance. Probably another room moving around.
Suddenly, his room flashed red and the monkey bars retracted. The room lurched upward as Gabe scrambled in vain to grab hold of something. Panicking, Gabe extended his arms out, trying to catch the air and slow his fall. Red lights flickered on and off in the distance, and timed seemed to slow. He fell through the finite abyss until he hit the top of another room…
Jack returned to the room he started in. One of the previously x-marked doors was no longer marked. He walked over and swung the door wide. Another normal white room lay on the other side, and jack stepped in.
A small white cube, about one foot in length, lay in the center, on top of the floor door. Jack walked over and picked it up. A cerulean button popped up on the top, and jack pressed it. A ray of sky-blue light shot out of the button and broadened until it covered the whole ceiling. Jack carefully set the box down and the beam recalibrated to cover the ceiling.
Slowly, the device projected a sky with clouds and a sun. The walls transformed into a park scene, and grass grew underfoot. A playground appeared in the distance, and suddenly, jack realized the e cube was gone. He wasn't inside a room anymore. A gentle breezed ruffled his hair. He had escaped from the winding, ever-changing maze…
In the distance, Claire caught sight of the boy. She sped up, keeping him in view successfully, only to find he had stopped. She slowed down, walking up to him, and he turned and looked at her.
"Claire," he said clearly. "I always knew you were a nerd. Do you remember your mission?"
Claire blinked, confused. She thought about the ever-shifting maze, and the meaningless of it all. "What mission?" Suddenly, her memory returned. The details of an elaborate heist flashed before her eyes as if they were never gone. "Now I do, Aaron."
"Sorry, forgot about the drug," Aaron said, unapologetically, entering a nondescript gray building. "You were the first."
"But Mark and Jason got out first," Claire said, following.
"Jason didn't fulfill his mission," Aaron explained, talking quickly and slightly mumbling. "Mark on barely completed his mission, and he wouldn't have if he wasn't hit by a bowling ball by chance."
"So I finished the maze blind first. Do you still hate me?" Claire asked jokingly.
"Yes," Aaron smiled. They walked to the living space that they used as the shipping address for the mission, marveling at the sheer amount of tech Aaron was able to order while his friends were tinkling with the with security of the storage complex.
Author's note: So, did I confuse you like a lot? I hope not too much, though I have been told this story is quite confusing. 601Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡJuPtI0sA2l