‘Aileen!’ Blind shouted, reaching his hand out as he ran after him. He could hear his footsteps on the hard floor, but nothing else. He didn’t know if the other man came in with him and he didn’t care. Blind never needed anyone else but himself to get the job done. It was peculiar to him, realizing that he had no name; never even tried to make one for himself to see how he’d like it. Instead, he got dragged into someone else’s business and he wasn’t much pleased with how things turned out. Somehow, though, it was like he had been called that before.
Every so often he’d hear things move around him, in the darkness. He wasn’t scared of anything, above all else not of children’s ghost stories. He had confronted and beaten the corrupted thoughts of his own battered and broken psyche, wrestled with the visions and came out triumphant. He felt a sudden grip on his shoulder, remarkably firm and steady. Blind heard the clank of armour behind, felt the hairs on his neck rise, his heartbeat quicken, but I am never afraid.
‘Ready to throw down?’ Blind asked.
He heard a small chuckle and the fingers started slowly digging into his numb shoulder. ‘You will find that shadows hold much worse than mere visions and ghosts.’ Icy breath was blowing at his neck, but he couldn’t feel it. He was starting to boil with anger, his shaky hands wrapping themselves in the cold, solid steel of the chains. He clenched them tight, took a big breath, and filled his lungs with air. Blind turned with a jerk, feeling the grip on his shoulder loosen its tightness and walloped one upside the enemy’s head, the chain clanking against the back of his neck. He heard a loud crack as a figure came crumbling down, light suddenly appearing from the ceiling. He had destroyed a mannequin of sorts, made out of gray stone. Somehow, as he looked around, he realized that he was inside a room with no doors and no windows. There were blurry paintings on the walls, of people whose faces he couldn’t recognize. As he was getting closer to them, he noticed he could see the black robes that they were wearing. His pace quickened, yet somehow the distance between him and the paintings was getting bigger. He stopped, started to walk backwards, in case a secret of sorts would be revealed by doing so, but no luck. He was actually just walking backwards, but as he was doing so he bumped into something with his left leg. A jet black table with nothing on it. He crouched down, knocked it thrice with his thin forefinger. Wood… What the ****? As he moved his hand across the table, he could feel small ridges. He got closer yet, his nose barely above it, scanning the surface with his swift eyes for anything else out of the ordinary. Blind decided to start from the upper left corner and work his way down, seeing if he could manage to find a code of sorts, but nothing came out of it. He thought about going to the other side, got up and as he walked he felt like small changes were made in the woodwork. He sat down on the opposite end, started feeling the table again, but this time it was as flat as a sword’s blade. Something isn’t quite right. Where have I ended up anyway? He looked around again, the same light coming from the middle of the room onto the table, the blurry portraits looming in the dark. He thought about sitting on the table or sleeping, but thought he’d be dead soon in that place. Getting bored, he started to think back to the mundane parts of his life, if one could consider getting beaten and shackled ordinary, but he did, and he didn’t much give a **** about what others thought in the first place. He picked few boogers –at this point, Blind’s moral compass was more of a dice roll- and as he ate one he realized that he had been in that damnable place for what he could assume was at least four hours, and he hadn’t started feeling hungry, or thirsty, or like he needed to use the bathroom for that matter. Hold on… He got up, put his hands in the light. Holy ****. There was no shadow of his palm on the table as he walked around it. When he reached the other side he could see the wood melting together, waves crashing into each other, stopping as he got to the other end of it. He now saw the ridges clearly, but still couldn’t make anything of it. He pouted and kicked the table, realizing his discovery was useless. As his foot collided with it, he stopped, taking a long look at the pattern. What kind of thing is this even? Who could make something like this? I just can’t… At this rate I won’t find Aileen and I’ll be trapped in this ****** maze. Filled to the brim with despair, Blind lifted his fists and struck the table, his chains clattering and clanking. There was no mark left on it, the ridges in the same places. He would almost sob, if it weren’t for the fact that he physically couldn’t any more.
‘You know, it was mildly entertaining observing you at first, now you’re just pathetic.’
Blind turned around and caught a steel boot in his mouth, sent him flying towards the paintings. He crashed onto the ground, the walls moving away from him as fast as he was getting closer to them. He tried to get up, shaking from the impact. He couldn’t feel his face much, except for liquid and mush combined to form a hideous excuse for a mouth. There was a rush of adrenaline surging through his body, yet as he waited for the sting of pain he realized he felt nothing. The room and the ground weren’t spinning, his vision wasn’t blurred by the impact. He got up, blood and saliva drooling and splattering onto the floor, looked at the man that hit him. He was tall and well built, wearing gray armour from head to toe. There was gray blood remaining on his left leg, but the man bent and cleaned it with a small handkerchief. He turned towards Blind, long hair caught in a tail flailing around his blocky, scarred head. His thick moustache moved as he talked, showing spiky teeth. For some reason I can’t help but think they’re yellow.
‘I beg my pardon for not properly introducing myself. My name is Sarb and I am here to send a message. Initially, I had mistaken you for someone else that ventured in this here establishment, but all is well, isn’t it?’
‘The **** do you-’
‘As payback for my blunder I offer to take you out of here. What do you say?’
‘I didn’t come inside by accident.’
‘Of course you haven’t. I’ve seen it and it was a caretaker who put you in this inescapable room.’
‘Why? I need to see-’
‘You need to be more patient. No one can enter here, that is why. The man that you’re looking for, I believe his name is Aileen, is waiting for you outside. We are aware you might find their work ethic bizarre here, but I can assure you the staff are nice. They’ve patched me up quite well, that’s for certain.’
‘Why did they put me here then?’
‘Well, you see, unfortunately someone has wondered where they shouldn’t have, specifically the Intensive Shadow Treatment ward. They had no choice but to confine you here until they’d send someone to take you back to safety.’
‘Sounds too good to be true. What you tryin’a pull on me? What’s so bad about the Intensive Shadow Treatment ward anyway?’
With a long sigh, grimacing, Sarb began: ‘In the past few weeks there have been some people that have complained of experiencing intense headaches, nausea, the traveller’s flu as everyone calls it, but the catch is that they develop a second, more destructive and vindictive personality. Normally, those wouldn’t be a hard enough job to cure, but here in the Intensive ward there are the ones that already had developed a second personality. In this case, the person most likely becomes overwhelmed mentally by the Shadow and either dies outright or…’
‘Or the body gets controlled by the Shadow, right?’