Jack limped back to the intersection. After kicking the thorned beast-man, the soles of his feet ached and he felt more inclined to kick his feet up on an ottoman and drink beer for a week, instead of heading deeper into the damned haunted funhouse. But he knew that such choices remained behind him and he had given up the comfort normal lives afforded.

He chose north this time and again the lighting stayed dim. Dark angler shapes loomed up on either side of him. For a moment he thought an attack came, but they remained in a fixed position. Upon moving closer, he found them to be walls dotted with numerous passageways. “A maze, it figures. I’ll probably be assaulted by a scarecrow next.”

He hadn’t traveled much further when he hit his first dead end. “Damn, I hate these things. Hated them when I was a kid and I hate them now.”

Something snorted loudly. Jack readied himself and hurried out of the dead end. Shadows moved and the walls shivered. Small piles of darkness dotted the floor. They looked like splattered brains or tossed organs. With closer investigation he discovered that some were indeed such things. The severed arm he discovered left little doubt to the common fate that befell those who entered this labyrinth. But something else littered the floors as well, the steaming piles of some type of feces. Jack would have guessed a herbivore if white pieces of splintered bone weren’t protruding from them.

He could hear it breathing.

He hurried though corridor after corridor. How big could this place be?

Every shadowed passage held a menace. The hairs on the back of his neck rose and he could have sworn he felt the unknown creature’s hot breath on his shoulder, but when he whipped around, there was nothing there.

He tried to pick up his pace, but cursed when he ended up in yet another dead end.

It was behind him.

He turned just in time to be buffeted but a charging thing. Two oversized horns sought to disembowel him, but he turned his body sideways and avoided the lancing points. However, the ramming he received by the head of the creature proved enough to send him flying.

He scrambled to his feet with hand axe in hand, but the beast had stopped to… laugh at him. It sounded brutal and primitive in the dark, like a pig that had found speech while it crewed on your bones.

Then he saw the source of the creature’s amusement, for it grasped an axe in two ham sized fists that stretched as long as Jack was tall. Over the twin crescents of pewter tinted steal, a large bovine head was topped with glaring red eyes. metal links of armor covered him from chest to waist. The thing made bipedal strides while caused his massive form to tower over Jack’s by at least three feet.

“A flippin’ Minotaur, all half a ton of him.”

With a bellowing roar that shot globs of bloody spit into the air, the Minotaur raised his axe and charged.

Jack’s back was at the dead end and the monster’s bulk blocked almost any hope of escape.

Gritting his teeth, Jack waited for another second and then leapt at the thing. It might have expected an attacked, but it wasn’t prepared for Jack to wrap both his arms around its mighty axe. It bellowed again and tried to shake Jack free, but Jack wrapped his arms around it tighter and refused to let go.

With another roar, it bit down on Jack’s shoulder. His several layers slowed down the bite, but Jack still cried out in agony as those huge squared teeth tried to meet in the center of his shoulder.

With a roar of his own, he chopped down with his hand axe and took off three of the Minotaur’s fingers. This caused several things to happen. The first was the thing opened its mouth to scream which released Jack. It also released the grip of its right hand and with Jack’s full weight on the axe, it slipped through the Minotaur’s left hand.

Jack scrambled to his feet and hefted the giant weapon.

“Nice Axe.”

The Minotaur roared in rage and charged.

But again Jack surprised it. It had bent in low, perhaps expecting a hard blow from the Stalwart, but instead Jack braced the end of the axe against the wall. With its head down, the Minotaur didn’t see the axe until one of the metal crescents had shattered its skull. The axe broke and so did the thing’s neck and Jack couldn’t be sure with echoed louder. Jack’s body was hammered horribly and he might have lost consciousness for a moment for he woke up pinned under the dying beast. He had a moment of panic where he thought the weight of the thing had him trapped, but with some effort and spraying himself with blood, he made free.

 

Once he’d gathered his wits, he inspected the broken battle axe. Half of it hit was gone, but it had been too big for Jack anyway. “It will be a little awkward, but not to bad.” He placed his hand axe back into his jacket, shoved the wooden stake of the broken axe through his belt, and strode back into the Maze. “Hey, I got a real weapon now, you pukes and I’m coming to get you!”

That was when the ride was plunged into complete darkness.

 

 

 

To be continued next Monday

 

 

 

Find out how Jack’s Adventures Started Here!

 

Jack had reached the second floor of the Haunted Funhouse and for the present nothing threatened him. He took a moment to check on his wounds, focused his Ki, and used a small slice of his mystical skills to heal the worst ones. He still felt fresh and ready—although the fact remained that he was just one man facing a Xemmoni infested carnival that had most likely claimed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of victims over the years.

The room had four exits and he picked the one he sensed went west.

Hand of Blood

Encased in Darkness

He wondered how many people had perished that had chosen west. Attempting to do what hundreds had died trying to accomplish hadn’t slowed him down before, so after drawing a deep breath, he pressed on into the billowing darkness.

And dark it was. A muffling blackness surrounded him. Not only did it seem to absorb light, but even sound. Soon he couldn’t even hear the sounds of his boots connecting with the floor. It was like he floated in space, groundless. An uncertainty enveloped him, like he hung suspended in space with no up or down, no direction spelled safety.

Just to assure himself that he hadn’t lost his mind, Jack called out. Nothing. He tried to speak louder. The silence remained. It was tempting to scream, but he didn’t want to give them the satisfaction.

He tried to move, but again it was like he floated in air and was unable to make contact with any surface.

Is this what being dead is like?

Am I dead?

He tiffed, angry with himself. I need to concentrate. He flexed his fingers. He could still feel the knife in his right hand. He punched his own chest with his left. There was no sound, but is still hurt. He still existed. His body existed, even if they tried to make it seem otherwise.

He slashed the air before him, but made no contact with any substance. He tried to kick below him, but all that did was cause his body to sway in a manner that churned his stomach. He growled, but of course the noise remained unheard.

Then something was heard. A clicking sound and it came from behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up like a cold breeze had hit them. Something moved in the darkness. It came for him from behind and he was helpless.

Grinding his teeth, he figured, I can’t panic. That’s what these bastards want me to do.

He stabbed upward with the dagger and felt resistance at the very end of his thrust. The clicking got agitated and hurried toward him. It grew louder, like dozens of long nails being dropped on glass.

He stabbed upward with all his strength. This time the dagger embedded into the ceiling and he grabbed hold of the handle with both hands. Whatever it was rushed at him, but he used his grip on the dagger to ground him and kicked back with both his feet. He cried out in pain, although his anguish remained silent.

He might as well have kicked a cactus with six inch thorns for his feet became pincushioned with spikes even through his boots. However, he might have knocked the thing over for an explosion of scratched and scrapings were heard. Lucky for him, the spikes tore free and didn’t remain in the soles of his feet.

Jack swung forward and then swung back again. Behind him the creature sounded like it had regained its footing. Jack swung forward again, but this time let go of the dagger. For a moment, he swung weightless and he wondered if the gravity well would draw him back in. Instead he was suddenly falling. The unexpected impact with the floor drove the air from his lungs.

His head turned and he took in his foe. It was some sort of mangled cross between a bear and a porcupine, with perhaps a dose of zombie thrown in. It stank as bad as it looked and he wondered why he couldn’t smell it before.

His primary weapon remained impaled in the ceiling, so he grabbed his hand axe out of his leather jacket just as the thing charged him. Jack dove to the side—careful to avoid the churning silent darkness. The thing was awkward at best and missed him. The Stalwart gained his footing before the thorned monstrosity charged him again.

Figuring he wanted the beast no where near him, Jack hurled his hand axe at its face. The thorns slowed the impact, but he did draw blood on the creature’s cheek. It remained silent, but looked at him with dark eyes that blazed with hatred.

Circling the darkness, Jack headed back the way he had come. The walking cactus pursued him, but slowly. Jack wondered if somehow its mass had been increased so it could move through that gravity well, but such matters of physics remained far beyond his education.

Looking behind him, he saw that the manhole cover he had just passed through had stayed closed, but he hurried into the room and searched for a switch. The buttons on the floor that had closed the passage, did nothing to open it and Jack started to feel dread as the lumbering thing drew near.

Only then did Jack notice some toggles on the wall. “This had better work.” He said out loud and suddenly the thing stopped and began to wail. “What’s the matter? You don’t like noise.”

A keening low pitched cry answered him.

“Well screw you then!” He yelled.

The beast fell to his knees.

“So how many people have you killed and tortured, you ugly freak?”

It wailed louder.

Jack drew two throwing knives out of his jacket and ran them over the metal walls while screaming. “DID YOU HURT THEM THIS MUCH OR MORE?”

The beast toppled over and even though Jack knew the horror had murdered countless innocents, its pitiful state left him feeling sick. He sung his favorite DOA song at the top of his lungs as he drew near the cowering creature. In what he figured was an act of kindness, he drew his knife across the thing’s throat.

“One more down,” he grumbled, as he returned to the room of silence. He had hoped the darkness might have been dispelled, but he wasn’t that lucky. His knife would have to remain there. Retrieving it could be too risky. His hand axe was recovered and rested in his hand as he continued deeper into the Haunted Funhouse.

 

To be continued next Monday

 

Find out how Jack’s Adventures Started Here!

After limping a few yards away from the dying clown, Jack figured he should stop and bind his leg wounds. The others weren’t as bad, but the first stab he had received went deep. Cursing his poor progress, he took in his surroundings as he tied the torn t-shirt over the seeping wound.

The hallway stretching before him appeared to be lit just enough to keep someone from walking headfirst into a wall. The walls themselves twisted in odd angles that distorted his vision. It looked like Alice in Wonderland meets Willy Wonka after taking some bad acid.

 

Groaning inwardly, he pushed himself to his feet, but then froze. Another scream could just be heard echoing through the place. It sounded like it came from overhead.

“I wonder how many poor souls entered this ride tonight?” he whispered. Then the thought occurred to him as to how many might have entered it over the years and never came out. Town after town, parking lot after parking lot. This ride, like some horrid monster, could be swallowing up the locals by the dozens. Then it would just move to a new, small dying town and start over again.

Jack shivered once, but after clutching his dagger tighter, he entered the chaotic corridor. The walls and even floors pitched at strange angles. Soon, it became difficult to walk without braced one hand against a wall for support. Before him the hallway appeared to be shrinking. He crouched over and his skull ran along the roof. A door loomed before him, but it barely looked big enough to fit a mouse.

Behind him something moved. A blackness rose from the floor. Like a man picking up a dark robe, something sprang out of nothing. A moan filled his ears as the living darkness spread across the length of the hallway. It scrapped long ebony tendrils against both walls. These seemed real enough for these talons created a sharp shriek that sounded like metal being dragged over a tin roof.

“Ah, holy hell,” he muttered as the thing filled his vision.

Turning back toward the tiny door seemed a fool’s errand. He would be lucky if he could fit his boot through the thing. But looking back at the swirling cloud of blackness, he didn’t want to fight that if he didn’t have too. More talons had formed until the encircled the shape completely. Jack guessed that it must have at least forty jagged edges that it would be able to use to cut him to pieces.

Thinking that he might be able to cut through the wall, Jack leaned down and opened the miniature door. He figured he could at least see what lurked on the other side and wouldn’t waste his time trying to break through if it was just a steal wall.

Turning his back to the moaning blackness made his skin feel like insects crawled over his clammy flesh. Any second, he figured dozens of sharp fingers of writhing darkness would be tearing at him.

Then something completely unexpected happened. As soon as he had opened the fake door and panel had slid to the side revealing a steel leader heading up. The sharp fingers of darkness were only two feet from him and without another wasted second, he leapt to the ladder. It held as he rushed up its length.

Behind him, the creature moaned in anger as its sensed its prey’s escape. Torn strips of razor edged darkness grasped at him and Jack cried out in pain as the calves of his jeans were shredded. They sought for a hold, but Jack scrambled past its grip. Passing through an opening about the size of a manhole cover helped, but the nebulous shape moved toward him and appeared to be continuing its pursuit. As he crab walked away from the opening, his hand brushed something. A loud click was heard and then, a second later, a cover slid over the passage he had just traveled through.

“They must want to keep it down there for the next victim,” he mumbled to himself. “It’s hard to believe that most people would have made it this far, but maybe they’re pulling out all the stops for me. Either way, if there are any innocents in here I need to find them before I burn this hell hole to the ground.”

With new determination, Jack pressed on and began his exploration of the Haunted House’s second level.

 

 

To be continued next Monday

 

Find out how Jack’s Adventures Started Here!