It was sunny in New York City, though you could barely tell because the tall buildings practically blocked out every bit of the sun. The air smelled heavily of car exhaust, and the noise was deafening. The air was warm though, and the streets weren't as crowded as they could get. In fact, the street I was on didn't have a single other person. The sudden realization of being alone in a city where you could barely turn around without running into someone was eerie. The city seemed big, open.
As I was consumed in those thoughts, a man appeared in front of me. He was dirty and his clothes were torn. As I was about to walk passed him, he grabbed my purse and yanked it hard. It flew from my arm, and as I fell from the force the man took off down an alley. I pulled myself up to my feet, gawking at the alley and the bold theft. I looked around for assistance, but the street was still devoid of people, so I turned to the nearest shop.
There were two women sitting at the front desk, both were plump and in their mid-30s. They stopped chatting when I came through one of the glass doors.
"Honey, we're all full up today. You'll have to schedule for a later day." said the woman on the right, her lipstick neon red in the bright halogen lights.
"I'm sorry. I was just mugged. I just need to use a phone."
"We don't have a phone, you'll have to go somewhere else." said the woman on the left curtly, her face was turned up in a sour expression.
"Do either of you have a cell--" I began, but was cut off when a screeching sound came from a set of unlit stairs in the corner. A tall lady with a severe face came quickly up the stairs and headed toward the front desk.
"Get the tranquilizers ready, we have a 400." As the woman said this her eyes shifted to me. "Who are you? Why are you here?" she demanded.
"I just need to use--"
"Get down those steps now. Now!" She pointed to another set of stairs on the other side of the store. I stared at her for several seconds, until a louder screeching shook me out of my stupor.
I turned and began walking to the stairs, they were covered in a thin layer of plastic. "Only go in the white lit corridors." said the woman behind me, and when I looked back she was holding a large gun.
The plastic made the stairs slippery and I had to hold onto the railing. They descended in a tight spiral and deposited me in front of three corridors. Two were lit with a dim purple light, while the furthest to the left was lit with the bright white halogen from the lobby. Remembering the severe woman's instructions I followed the white corridor.
I walked for several minutes before I could hear the bustling of many people. The corridor lead into a large area with many people on computers. I walked up to a lady at a desk. "Excuse me, can I use your--"
"Why are you here?" She interrupted.
I was growing impatient and was ready to explain myself when an argument broke out behind a glass divider in the area. It seemed to be separating a physical examination room from the computer room. Without thinking I moved closer to the ruckus. It was between a young man, perhaps only in high school, wearing a numbered jersey and an older man with a balding head.
"I won't do it. It's too risky." the young man was on the verge of yelling.
"You're the best candidate we've got." The older man's face had turned a livid purple.
Before I could hear more, the woman from before had pulled me away from the commotion. As I was being lead back to her desk I was able to look around the place. There were four rows of computers, with a person working on each one. Across the screens flashed 3D models of odd creatures, large chunks of small text, and other more scientific looking data. It brought to mind a few video games I had played in college, with diverse creatures.
"We're having a few problems today, I think it's better if you just go back--"
It was my turn to cut her off. "The woman upstairs told me to come down here." I protested. The lady studied me for several seconds, before sighing and sitting back in her chair.
"Well. It's not like we're taking people today. Who are you?"
I didn't know what she was talking about, and stared at her.
"Well, come on then." She stood up and led me passed the divider where the two arguing men had been before. Both of them were gone, and nowhere in sight. We were drawing near another set of stairs, when the woman stopped abruptly. "Oh fuck." she said, her eyes glued to a dark corner.
I turned to look as well. Before I could focus on the spot I heard a low rumbling followed by one of those piecing screeches. The lady pushed me towards the stairs, and began running in the opposite direction. "It's a cat type!" I could hear her yelling to the workers who were also standing and shuffling chaotically towards other doors. I got the distinct feeling she was using me as bait.
The creature leaped out from its corner. It was a dull gray, with large fleshy ears. It looked vaguely like a cat. My heart was pounding. It moved towards me, stalking me. I ran towards the stairs frantically. I didn't bother to hold onto the railing, more worried about speed than safety. I could hear the large cat creature clamoring down the stairs behind me. Because the stairs were spiraled I could catch brief glimpses of the creature's paws just above me. I could hear my heart beating, I could hear my strained breath, I could hear the cat's extended claws tearing up the plastic as it hurried after me.
The stairs led into another brightly lit corridor, on one side a large door stood open, above it a sign read "School Sector". I continued to run passed it, not wanting to lead the cat near children. The white corridor continued far ahead of me, but a purple corridor broke off to the right. I took the purple corridor, knowing that I couldn't outrun the cat in a straight dash.
The purple corridor had many closed doors on each side. Most of their panels said "Lab Area" with a number. I turned another corner and ran for only a minute or so. My lungs were burning and there was a sharp pain in my side, I couldn't keep up my pace. I looked behind me and didn't see the creature. I couldn't hear anything but my own wheezing. I followed the dimly lit corridor for almost 10 minutes until I heard voices coming from an opened Lab Area.
"What do you mean it escaped?"
"Well, sir. That's just it. It couldn't be stopped."
The two men turned into the corridor and came face to face with me. Both looked shocked and exchanged glances.
"Why are you in this area?" Asked the older of the two, with graying hair and a lab coat.
"There was a-a monster chasing me!" I cried out.
"What? That's impossible." Said the younger of the two, adjusting his glasses.
"No it's not!" I practically yelled.
"Alright, alright, calm down." said the gray haired man. "Come on now, this way." He said to me, before turning and saying to his assistant "Tell Alex that this woman is going to need Protocol 7. Head to Sector 18 when you're done."
The younger man nodded, with a dire look on his face and went back into the lab. The older man gestured for me to follow him down the corridor.
"Who are you?" I said, wanting to dispel the tension.
"A doctor." said the man.
"What's Protocol 7?" I asked.
"Protection, sedation, things like that."
"I don't need sedation."
"You're nearly hysterical."
"You would be too if a monster just chased you!" I said, and realized I was indeed becoming hysterical.
We walked for several minutes in silence before I could bring myself to ask more. "What is this place?"
"Lab Sector." said the man.
"But... what was that... thing?" I struggled to keep my voice calm.
"Nothing. Not important. We're here." the man stopped in front of a section of wall like any other. I gave him a puzzled look. The man took out an ID card and slid it into an almost imperceptible slit in the wall. Afterwards, the wall shuttered open, to reveal another passageway hidden.
"Go through here and you'll come out at the School Sector. Keep traveling along the white corridor until you reach the stairs to Red Zone, Alex will be waiting for you."
I walked down the quiet corridor. It was clean and barren. There were no doors leading to labs or stairs. Eventually, I came to a dead end, and I was becoming frustrated. I leaned on the wall, looking back the way I'd come. Could the doctor have made a mistake? The wall began to slid behind me and I nearly fell out into a sector of corridor behind the stairs. The School Sector was right passed, but something was different. The large doors were closed and one of them had a long cut starting midway down. It almost looked like someone had taken a chainsaw to it. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I walked further down the corridor. I could hear what seemed to be a buzzing sound, getting louder and louder as I walked, it seemed familiar somehow.
After several more minutes, I could make out a man standing near a set of red lit stairs. His hair was very short and he was wearing a lab coat.
"Are you Alex?" I said, happy to finally be with someone again.
"Yes. Come." He said tersely, beginning down the red lit stairs.
As we descended I noticed how odd the light made my skin look, bleached. It was otherworldly. The shadows cast on Alex's face made him appear evil and suspicious.
We came out into a large area with cages lining the walls. Now I recognized the buzzing for what it was. Human voices. In the cages, there were people of every caliber. Many were shaking the bars, crying out, pleading. Others were laughing, seemingly having gone mad.
"What's going on here?" I stammered.
A woman in a cage closest to me grabbed at my shirt. "Are we dead yet? Are we dead yet? We're all gonna die." She laughed, a deranged smile on her face.
"Don't let him get you. You'll be just like us." A man yelled from the darkness, his voice nearly engulfed in the other noise.
"He's coming." A dark man behind me said, pointing to Alex.
Alex was coming towards me with a syringe. I backed into the cages, which was a mistake because several arms went around my waist, pulling at me and locking me in place. I struggled to free myself, my eyes on Alex's distorted face.
"Please, stop. Don't." I begged. My voice seemed small compared to the cacophony around me.
He had a devilish smile which gave me goosebumps. I was struggling against the many arms holding onto me, pinning me to an early death. Alex continued to get closer, as he did his eerily white eyes seemed to glow with malevolence.
Suddenly, seemingly from nowhere a lanky shadow descended on Alex and slapped the syringe out of his hand. Alex turned toward the shadowy figure just as it entered the lit area. The attacker was a tall man with red hair kept in a pony tail. He wore what appeared to be army fatigues. Alex was more than stunned by the presence of the man and gawked at him while backing away.
"Why'd you do that? This was a order! We can't let her out, she'll tell, you know she'll tell." Alex backed into a cage near to the one I was still being held against and met with the same reaction I had. However, soon this escalated as the people in the cages tore at him ruthlessly, furious at their treatment. Alex was screaming, the caged people were screaming, and soon I was too as the excited people began pulling on me more roughly.
The fiery haired man tugged me away from the collective grip of the caged people. I was shaking like a leaf and could barely walk forward without holding on to the man. He led me to a set of stares hidden in the murky shadows of the awful room and guided me down them quickly.
"Thank you" I said after I had calmed down, which took several minutes. I realized I was still holding onto the man's sleeve but didn't let go. I felt secure and calm with the red-haired man.
"You shouldn't have came here." he said finally, his voice was soft, kind. Perhaps it only sounded that way because of the contrast to the howls of the caged people up above.
"What is here? What the hell is going on?"
"A lot of bad things."
"Like what?" I pressed.
"You saw up there" he said pointing "they're testing them, making them crazy, changing them."
Before I could ask for clarification we were at another level, which was thankfully devoid of caged humans. However, there were many docile animal-like creatures laying in cages. It seemed as if they were all kept under sedation, they didn't react to our presence and barely were breathing.
"The elevator over there is for emergencies and goes straight to the top. Take it and get away from here." he said as he pushed me to a dimly lit elevator door.
I turned to look at him, I saw how handsome he was, how kind he seemed. And then I saw the monster behind him, its claws ripping across his back before he knew it was there. The monster roared and the red-haired man roared along with it, spinning around to face the beast. For the first time I noticed the man was carrying a large gun, which he raised and fired rapidly into the creature. This seemed to make it more angry.
Between the howls of the beast and the thundering of the gun I could hear the man yelling to me "Go Go Go Go". He didn't turn to face me, but as I quickly made my way to the elevator he backed up along with me, still firing at the monster, but his aim seemed to be suffering.
The elevators shuttered open and I clamored inside, looking expectantly towards the man, hoping he'd be getting on as well. Before I could even shakily yell for him the beast attacked. I could see flashes of claws and bright blood spewing everywhere. As the elevators began closing I could hear myself screaming "No".
The elevator rose steadily towards the top floor, its only passengers being me and the crimson blood of the man who had saved me. Had died for me. I could feel tears sliding down my face.
The elevator clicked open and I looked into a very different lobby. The front desk was shifted and crooked, all the bright halogen lights were out or flickering. The receptionists and severe woman were no where in sight. Most disturbing of all was the broken glass of one of the doors, a large whole was broken into the lowest part of the middle door and around the hole was a dark, congealed red liquid. Blood.
I quickly left the building, looking down to notice a few drops of blood on my blouse, perhaps from the scratches the caged people had inflicted, or perhaps from the man who gave his life for me. With that thought I turned back to glimpse the building.
The sign read "Glytech, The Greatest Alternate Reality Game in Town".