Nicholas sat, staring wide-eyed at the opposing wall. He did not blink; nothing but a soft static echoed inside his ears. He blinked and shook his head as if he was breaking a hypnosis effect. His eyes ached, and it wasn’t until now that he noticed his mouth had been open slightly, leaving him with a dry tongue. Blinking through the pain in his eyes, he adjusted to the darkness of the room.
“Strange.” He said as he rubbed gunk from the corner of his eyes. “I could have sworn it was morning; where did the day?”
Nicholas rolled his tongue around his mouth as he tried to bring life back to it. Meanwhile, his hands had already started to tap away at his knees as random tunes appeared in his head. He stared at every inch of his room; the strong white walls were overwhelming with the white lights in the Fluro tubes in the ceiling. His desk was somehow whiter, and the crisp sheets on his bed were whiter still. A simple, red, round rug filled the center of his room with the only sign of color that wasn’t himself; even though he was pale, he seemed tanned compared to the room.
“Where.” Nicholas said as he finally took in his surroundings. “How did I get here? Where is here?”
A small latch on the padded door flipped open, and the sound of a deep voice fell through.
“Now that you are awake, please wait for transport.”
The latch closed as quickly as it had opened, leaving more questions than answers.
“Transport, where are you taking me?” Nicholas yelled, jumping to his feet.
He stood awkwardly as he waited for a response, but he was left standing with his mouth slightly ajar.
“You can’t just keep me in here; you have to tell me something….”
The door opened abruptly, two large orderlies wheeled in a bed with wheels as an elderly man followed them in with a syringe in hand and a medical face mask.
“You are free to go if you no longer want to participate in the experiment.” The man said as he lowered the syringe. “It was your choice to come here; you are only one treatment away from being paid for this trial; memory loss is an unfortunate side effect of this particular medication. Something we were unaware of until this experiment started.”
Nicholas looked at the now smaller-looking orderlies and how he felt as if they were not blocking his path. They simply stood patiently to one side of the room while the elderly man gestured for the door to be used.
“If you do decide to leave, the exit is just through the doors at the end of the hall; push the green button on the wall to unlock them, and then you will be met with reception; sign out there.”
Nicholas looked at the syringe with a cautious eye.
“How much was the payment?” He said, still looking at the syringe that shook gently in the man’s grasp.
“For a full session of nine dosages over a thirty-day period, twenty-four thousand dollars.”
“You said this was my last dose?”
“That is correct, Mr Baker. Lucky last.” The elderly man’s face rose as if he was smiling.
The man left the room and grabbed a clipboard off the wall next to Nicholas’s room. He flicked through the pages until he came across the second to last page.
“Here, in case you are unsure of anything,”
Nicholas took the clipboard and looked over the page. It was covered with his information, date, and signature at the bottom.
“Well, no doubt that is my signature and my handwriting.” Nicholas shrugged as he handed back the clipboard. “One last dose, then. What do you need me to do?”
“Just lay on this bed; we will administrate the medication, then you will be shifted to your resting room.”
“Yeah, no worries, sorry, this is just a little jarring; it just feels a little creepy, you know?”
Nicholas waved his hands for emphasis when he noticed a plastic tube going into his hand.
“Oh, it is one of these easy access point things. I guess I have been here for a while.” Nicholas looked up at them, smiling. “Man, you think I would be used to memory loss stuff by now, considering my past history with it.”
Nicholas rambled on nervously as he lay down on the bed. The old man administered the medicine, then stepped back from the bed.
“Hey, what is this medicine for?” Nicholas asked, trying to calm his nerves.
“It is not medicine.”
Nicholas chuckled nervously.
“Oh, right, because for it to be the medicine, I have to be sick, right? So what is it?”
“Well, you see, Anodyne was having issues with holding onto you while you slept. This sedation will hold you asleep until he can do what he wants to do with you.”
Nicholas’s eyes went wide as he clambered from his bed, falling to the floor.
“Where am I?”
The old man removed his mask to reveal severe facial burns, his teeth, and mouth as black as coal. His voice changed from a soothing old man to one of someone who had smoked since they were born.
“You are already in Hollow Nicholas. We are sorry, but we can’t let you out. Those pesky Vindicators are still trying to get to you, and last time we forced you into taking the medicine, my face ended up like this. You have more Anodyne in you than you realize; there is a fire in you, Nicholas.” The old man started to cackle as Nicholas fell from consciousness.
Nicholas felt the same dizziness that he was used to when he fell into a nightmare. The darkness that surrounded him felt thick and cold. He spun, round and round, until he slammed down hard on the cold ground.
“God, this feels so much worse with whatever that doctor gave me.”
“You know you were the one that burned him, right? You torched his face without a second thought; pretty cold.” Anodyne spoke softly from the darkness of under a tree.
“Where are we this time? What new horror are you going to put me through?”
Anodyne walked out from the shadows, grinning.
“I have a new game for you, one that I will enjoy. Greatly.”
Nicholas had grown tired of Anodyne’s games; he stared at him, unamused.
“Fine, fine. You used to be so much fun, Nicholas; so many questions. Now you just wait for me to speak; that is fine, though because this time will be like the first time. The serum that you were given is going to affect your memory; soon, you will be just like the others. Just another one looking for a fun for a scary but fun time.”
“What are you on about?” Nicholas asked as his vision went hazy.
“Find me; you know my symbol.” Anodyne called out as he disappeared.
Nicholas’s vision started to clear, but his mind clouded. He strained to keep his memories; kneeling on the ground, he grasped his head and groaned until his memories fell from his mind. He slowly stood, trying to think as hard as he could with no luck.
“Nicholas!” Yelled a woman’s voice from behind him.
A short woman with long black hair ran up to him, giving him a big hug.
“Oh hot damn, how are you going, Mia?”
She grinned and stepped back.
“So good, the others are here too; you ready for a great night, a spooky night?”
Nicholas laughed as two more people wandered over.
“Sophia, Jason. You two look great! What exactly have you come as?” Nicholas called out.
“We have come as zombie rockers; we planned this, remember? Mia came as her signature sexy short person, and I am ashamed to see that despite you loving Halloween more than the rest of us, you have come, once again, in a hoodie and jeans.” Jason said before giving a hug to Nicholas.
“Oh shut up, just be glad I am never bothered. Otherwise, I would show all of you up. So what are we even doing here?” Nicholas said, looking around, confused.
“This was your idea; we booked the most intense Halloween horror house. You booked us in two years ago. Come on, Hollow awaits.”
Nicholas’ expression faded, his eyes fluttered, and he looked to his friends; they seemed to move in slow motion towards a large dilapidated building with a large, flickering neon sign.
“Hollow House, here we come.” Jason yelled as he wrapped his arm around Sophia and marched towards the building.
“HH.” The two girls yelled in response.
Nicholas followed instinctively, but his mind raced as he tried to remember something that felt like it was shrouded, just out of reach. Suddenly a panicked man fell from the exit door of the building screaming with a high pitch. His friends followed him out laughing. Nicholas’ thoughts were pulled from what he was thinking, and he laughed, jogging slightly to catch up to the others.
“Hurry up, loser, or are you telling me that the horror writer is scared of the spooky house?”
Sophia said, turning around and walking backward. She mocked Nicholas with a smirk.
“Oh, very funny, woman; how about you turn around and cling to your man again. Hide under his jacket, why don’t you.”
“How rude; well, we all know you are going to cling to Mia.”
“Damn straight, nothing scarier than a sexy short woman.”
Mia flicked her hair and took Nicholas’ arm into her own before strutting past the other two.
“Damn straight, you two, prepare for this queen to march us through here like a walk in a park.”
“Yeah, you tell us, Mia.” Sophia screamed and cheered as they got to the front door.
At the front was a man who stood over six-foot tall; he was dressed in a tattered suit with a manual ticket dispenser. He wore a mask with closed eyes and a soft smile. He bowed slightly with one hand pressed against his chest. He then cranked his dispenser, and four tickets came out. In silence, he handed them to Nicholas and his friends individually. He then stepped back and gestured for them to enter through a small crawlway.
“Do not drop the ticket; that is not so you can enter; it is so you can leave.” Said the tall man before he stepped out of the way. “Enjoy your trip to Hollow.”
The group laughed with one another as they all crawled through the entrance hole. Mia went first, followed by James and Sophia, then Nicholas went last. As Nicholas crawled through, he looked back to see the tall man lean down in front of the entrance to the hole and wave.
“Have a hellish time, lost ones. Like lambs to the slaughter.”
Nicholas shook his head as he continued.
“What a terrible line; I can’t believe anyone thinks that; that is scary.” He muttered as he climbed from the tunnel to find the others looking around the room he had entered. The walls were made from pallets, and the floor looked like well-worn concrete; there were work benches and hay littered around the room, with the floor painted with just one word.
“Well, that seems vague.” Nicholas said.
“Yeah, but there is some cool stuff around here.” Mia said as she waved around a sickle. “Look, a tiny scythe.”
Jason laughed. “That is a sickle used for gathering; guess what.” He said as he knelt and threw some hay in the air. “Hay.”
“Come off it; I am not that dumb. I was making a joke.”
“You know what they say. Those who laugh the hardest in a scary situation are usually the most scared.” Sophia said, staring over at Mia.
Mia gave the evils to Sophia, and they all continued looking around the shack.
“What are we even looking for?” Jason said as he flicked through old mechanical manuals.
“Has anyone tried the door?” Nicholas asked.
Everyone looked around at one another and rolled their eyes.
“Surely not.” Sophia said dismissively.
Nicholas walked over to the door and held the handle; he looked at everyone else in turn before he turned the handle slowly. It creaked as the rusty mechanics of it struggled to move past one another. Nicholas pushed the door and released the handle at the same time, allowing it to creak open. It struggled to open and came to a stop quickly, but it opened.
“Maybe we have to search for other things further in?” Nicholas said, laughing. “This is such a classic misdirection. As an author, I know these things.”
“Fuck yeah.” Jason yelled and high-fived Nicholas. “Sorry, So’so, but if I am going to survive this house, I am buddying up with Nic.”
Sophia stood with her mouth ajar.
“You are the one that will be sorry. Me and Mia are going to ace this place; if there is ever a point where there is an option to split up, we are splitting up.”
“Dude, I think you just got dumped.” Mia added.
“Fuck yeah.” Sophia said mockingly as she high-fived Mia, and the two of them started talking in deep voices.
“Oh bro, we are bros; we don’t need no woman.”
“You mean Hoe’s right?”
Jason and Nicholas watched as the other two listed everything they could think of that is considered manly in their deepest voice.
“This is dragging on; we are moving on; enjoy the shack.” Nic said as he slammed the door closed.
Behind the door, he could hear the others still listing in their deep voice.
“I vote we leave them; they will catch up in time.” Jason said as he walked forward, but suddenly jumped as the door behind him swung open, and the two girls came out screaming, then laughing.
“Maybe us girls should take the lead. You two don’t seem like you can handle the Hollow experience.”
Mia and Sophia fist-bumped and pushed past the guys, taking the lead.
Nicholas gestured for Jason to go first, he followed the girls, and Nicholas took the rear again.
He muttered under his breath.
“Hollow, I know that name. But where from?” He scratched at his head as he stared at the ground. Walking into the back of Jason.
“Woah, what with the hold up?”
“I am a genius, that is what.” Mia said smugly as she pointed to the sign above the next door.
‘insert tiny hand scythe to proceed.’
“You have got to be kidding me.” Nicholas said as Mia ran back to get the sickle.
“I think this ghost house was made by someone as illiterate as Mia.” Nicholas continued.
Mia returned with a huge smile on her face, a sickle in her hand. She tried to place it in the slot above the door but could not reach it. Nicholas and Jason laughed.
“Shut up, you two; she is clearly smarter than you two. You are just jealous.”
Sophia took the sickle and just barely placed it in the slot above the door, which made the two guys laugh even harder. But their laughs were cut short as a crackling speaker started to make noise.
‘You are now breaching the world of Earth, heading to Hollow. Prepare for the real house to begin.’
Everyone cheered, they opened the door, and it seemed like a black void on the other side. The others ran through without thinking, but Nicholas stopped as soon as he took the first step through the door. He felt the chill that caused his bones to ache, and he knew where he was standing. He reached out, but the others were already out of sight, their voices already faded.
“Oh god, what have I done.”
Nicholas could hear Oculi’s tentacles as they writhed in the sea of black. He knew that his friends would not make it to the door. He turned from the door and ran back the way he came, colliding with a wall that had not been there before. When he regained vision from the collision, he found himself standing in a strange hallway made of white, smooth walls. Before him was an exit sign above a door. Nicholas pressed the small green button on the side of the door and walked through once the electronic lock was released. Taking one last look back, he saw three charred corpses stacked on a bed with wheels. Closing the door behind him, he found himself awakening in the middle of his friends’ workshop.
“Yo, Nic. Wake up. Nap time is over; we got work to do.”
“What?” Nicholas said as he sat up.
“We gotta go. Lunch break is over by a lot. Fuck I got caught up doing other shit. My whole damn day has disappeared.”