If you take a road trip to Chicago, Illinois, at the right time, you will encounter a sign at the side of the road. A sign so small it could go unnoticed by anyone else. Not by you, though. On that sign is a two-digit number and no words.
You can ignore it. Nothing will happen to you if you do, but, if you decide not to, you’ll have to be one hundred percent certain of your choice.
Should you choose to follow the sign, keep a close eye on the speedometer on your dashboard, and drive at a speed that is exactly the number you saw. Do not falter, for they have now noticed you, and there is no turning back.
You will drive for a long time. Hours. Maybe the entire day. Thirst will start to bother you. Any other physiological needs may cause you some discomfort, but none of them will be strong enough to force you to stray from your path. Your thirst, however, is the one feeling that will tell you when to pull over. When it becomes nearly unbearable, make a right and count to exactly the number that was on the sign before stopping the car and exiting immediately.
If you encounter a house only a few feet away from where your car is parked, you’d better begin to say all the prayers you know. Your destiny is now sealed, and your only choice is to step into the house – the front door will be unlocked, and you will find yourself in whatever place you used to call home as a child. All of the doors will be locked, except for the one to your old bedroom. Open it, get in, and lock it swiftly, for they are now behind that door, and it is the only thing standing between you and your terrible, terrible fate.
Your childhood bedroom will appear to look the same as it had years ago, at first glance. However, you will soon realize your bed looks like it has been slept on, and your toys are strewn about the floor in a very careless manner. Most of them appear to be broken. Find the toy that used to be your very favorite; it is now torn apart beyond repair. Amongst the remains of it, there is a note. If the note says “we proposed a better way”, count yourself the luckiest bastard alive – they have deemed you unworthy of their attention. You are now free to lie on your old bed and sleep until the sun rises; then, you may exit the house through the same door that led you inside, and be on your way back to Chicago.
However, if the note says anything else, you will also proceed to lie on the bed as silently as you can. Do not dare to sleep, and move as little as you can, no matter how long you stay there. Shout out, as loudly as possible:
“I am nothing but the sum of those who came before. I know nothing, and will remain this way until my dying day.
At any moment, they will break into the room, whether you say it or not. If you do, however, they might be merciful and make your death a swift one.
But there’s another possibility.
When you exit your car, you may find yourself at the border of a large, large river. You will not be able to see the other border; for all you know, you might be looking at the ocean itself. There will be a bridge exactly twelve feet away from where you are; walk to it and stand before it without getting on the bridge.
It is vital that, despite your thirst, you do not take one sip of the water on that river. If you do, the souls of those who have succumbed to that same urge will be more than happy to drag you to the bottom and turn you into one of them.
Standing before the bridge, you will begin to experience flashbacks. Every wrong you’ve ever done will come crashing upon your memory; if the guilt doesn’t drive you to madness, count yourself lucky. The voices of all the people you have ever wronged will swirl in your mind in a whirlpool of unspeakable anguish.
If you manage to stay sane, at some point you will feel the torment begin to slowly dwindle, and with it, so will any other emotion. When your heart is as numb as if all the feeling had been drained from it, step on the bridge and begin walking at a leisurely pace. Walk until you hear a soft male voice whispering from somewhere behind you; then, stop immediately and close your eyes. The voice will ask you, calmly:
“Do you have faith?”
To which you must simply reply, “Yes”.
Keep walking, faster now. Whatever you do, do not look down or back. The end of the bridge behind you has begun to burn, but if you keep staring straight ahead, you will not be harmed – for now.
You will walk along that bridge for what may seem like an eternity. When you smell smoke, close your eyes and keep walking; do not open them again until the storm begins. Should you open your eyes at any time before that, It would sense your underlying fear, and It is not fond of the weak.
Just keep walking. No matter how tired you are, pay no mind to the thirst that at this point seems to be tearing at your throat like a blade; walk and walk until you hear thunder crack. At that point, and only at that point, it is safe to stop and open your eyes.
Rain will fall. You are free to drink the rain water, if your thirst hasn’t driven you insane yet. The rain will grow more and more intense, until it has soaked through every piece of clothing on your body and seems to have drained all the color from the scenery. The sky will have become pitch black in a matter of minutes.
When the darkness has consumed everything around, a small light will appear in the horizon. Run towards that light; if you aren’t fast enough, the fire will devour you as well as the bridge it has been tearing at. You will soon be on solid ground again, and find the light is coming from a male form in a dark cloak, with a lantern on Its right hand and a knife on the left.
Look It in the eye and say this, and only this:
“I cannot argue with you, but I am not your equal. I see through your disguise as clearly as I can see my reflection on the blade in your hands.”
If you have pleased It, the cloak will fall to the ground, along with the blade. Both are now yours; the knife can slice through any material it encounters and never lose its cut, and the cloak is designed to shield its owner from any attack – be it human, animal, or inhuman.
If you haven’t pleased It, you will either be smothered with the cloak or cut to pieces by the knife. In any case, your death will be nothing but quick – It likes to play, and has heard the voices of the people you’ve wronged just as clearly as you did.
Should you be as fortunate as to become the true owner of the objects, pick up the knife, lay down on the ground and cover yourself up with the cloak. You will undoubtedly fall asleep in a few seconds – just make sure you’re holding the knife. You will wake up the next morning on your own bed, still in the same position, with the blade in your hands and the cloth over your body.
Put them to good us