Chapter 1

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My feet rhythmically strike the ground as I move down a torch-lit stone hallway. I don't know why I am here, or even where 'here' is, but it doesn't matter. My actions are coordinated and sure, and the layout of this place is familiar. Even now, as I check left and right into rooms that hold petty treasures and trinkets, I know what I'll find. I know what lies ahead, as if I am watching a movie that I've seen a dozen times. My arms and legs move almost of their own accord, and my mind fails to grasp the intricate details of the treasures that lie here. None of it matters. I am asleep. I am dreaming.

Soon, I find the end of the hallway and fling open the door to the next room. The interior is round, forming a stone dome over my head. A circle of pillars mark the center of the dome, each pillar brandishing its own torch. I'm beginning to understand my subconscious modeled this dream after. Adventures from video games and movies I've seen are conspiring together and invading my mind while I sleep. I enter the blatantly-sculpted battle arena, and an armored scorpion the size of a car skitters out between the pillars.

I should probably be terrified. I'm not. I should probably run. I won't. My sleeping mind has put me into a dangerous position, but has also turned me into a dangerous person. My feet are already moving me forward. I'm going to roll with it.

"Oh, yeah, boss time," I hear myself say. Where did I get this confidence? I rush at the giant scorpion, parrying one of its claws with a sword that appeared in my hand. The beast stabs at me with its tail, but I sidestep, and it misses me by a hair. I can feel the stale air move as it retracts its deadly stinger, poison dripping from the tip. As it positions for another strike, I dive and roll to the side, out of its range of vision. The cold floor catches my back as I tuck my head, and the rough stone tiles feel surprisingly real. Utilizing techniques that I have never attempted in reality, I end up on my feet again, without a bruise on me. Clacking its claws angrily, the scorpion skitters away, but not quickly enough to save it. My world spins as I leap twenty feet into the air and flip over the scorpion, striking it at the apex of the jump with my sword. The blow cleaves it in two, and it fades away with a shudder. A skull-shaped vapor replaces the beast, then immediately dissipates.

As if on cue, the door on the other side of the room unlocks with a loud click. I put my sword away and take the exit, only to find an empty chamber. This room is small and square, with a single identical door on the opposite wall. That door leads me into another similar room. Then another. Shrugging off the strange layout, I continue through the rooms. Unlike the stone hallway that I came from, this place does not feel familiar. The confidence I felt earlier slowly fades, and my sure stride slows to a reluctant shuffle. Each room is darker and smaller than the previous, each door harder and harder to push through. As I trudge along on autopilot, some details enter my mind, explaining to me why I am here.

I am in this dungeon to investigate rumors about a dark ritual that took place here. It makes little sense given my triumphant victory a moment ago, but my subconscious apparently doesn't care for continuity. After all, I'm not an investigator, even in this dream. My clothes, my thoughts, and my past are all normal, even here. I'm just a simple seventeen-year-old kid, trying to survive this elite boarding school my parents sent me off to.

Leaving that aside, here I am, and these dim, musty, small rooms are making my skin crawl. As my eyes adjust to the continually dimmer lighting, I can see that there is a hazy mist in the air, leaking out of cracks in the walls and ceiling. The floor is now damp, and there are fewer torches lighting my way. The smell of this place... ugh, it's a mixture of the smell of spoiled clothing and rotting food.

Every fiber of my being tells me that I should turn back. Even the idea of investigating dark rituals should repel me, but the panic that grips me runs far deeper. The prospect of moving on makes me feel nauseous, and every squelch that marks another step into the darkness sends me another burst of anxiety. It isn't a fear of darkness, small spaces, underground, or even death. Pure, undiluted revulsion pushes me back, an understanding that once I reach the end, going back will be impossible.

The smell worsens, and each room grows more and more detestable. I feel as if I am getting close to the end, and it can't be something good that awaits me. I hold on to the hope there's a way out of here on the other side, some manner of escape, because I can't seem to force myself to turn around and run. As I open what seems like the hundredth door, I find myself in a scummy public restroom.

I finally stop. Shock has petrified me. Everything I felt, the revulsion, the dread, the force that pulled me on and on until I had nearly lost hope of return, all of that led me to this restroom. Ridiculous. I begin to chuckle at the stupidity of my own subconscious, when the vile smell reaches me, and my chuckle turns into a gag and sputter. My watering eyes are drawn to the single bathroom stall. The smell is coming from there, assaulting me. It's awful, horrible. If there are any scents that could actually cause plants to wilt, this would be it. Actually, it may be causing my clothes to wilt.

The door to the stall is closed, but I have an overwhelming urge to open it. I move towards the stall, my shoes making squelching noises as they step on the moldy tile floor. The lights on the ceiling buzz and flicker. I can feel my body tensing up. This is the place I was supposed to reach. My heart races as I reach out to grab the stall door. I ease it open, but really, it seems to open of its own accord. There I stop, blood pounding in my ears. My breath dies in my throat. Lying dead and half-decomposed by the toilet is a human body. MY body.

I try to scream, but nothing comes out. I hear a scream, but it isn't mine. I can't move. I feel my heart stop, and my ears plug, and the body I am in collapses to the ground. Or am I in the other body?I can't think, can't move, can't breathe! My body is falling apart...


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This is an old story of mine, one that I want to get out there and allow people to read. I would appreciate any feedback or comments, any at all!

I hope you enjoy your read.

-Kyle Adams

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