I could hear him. He was right behind me now; close, so very close. My footsteps echoed loudly through the damp, mildew-ridden abandoned tunnels. My legs ached as I pushed myself to go faster. My breathing was nothing more than ragged gasps that pulled painfully at my chest, my lungs screaming for more air. My heart pounded wildly in my chest and echoed in my ears, like an eerie drumbeat.

It felt like the old concrete walls were closing in around me, like a trap on an old Indiana Jones movie; forever imprisoning me within the maze-like tunnels.

I couldn’t see in front of me; the thick, coiling shadows were almost impenetrable. But I knew, with a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, that he was getting closer.

I pushed on, desperately straining all my senses; my eyes, my ears, even my mind, desperately searching for something that was familiar, something that would tell me where I was, and where the exit was, where safety was. Down here, I knew I wasn’t safe.

I felt his breath, hot on the back of my neck, sending tiny pinpricks of shivers throughout my entire body. I could hear his own labored breathing behind me, and could feel his dark presence, like he would reach out at any moment and grab me. I could feel his sharp eyes boring into the back of my head, burning me alive with the intensity.

I felt a mangled hand reach out and grab my arm in a firm grip, yanking me backwards, pulling me towards him.

“No, let me go!” I cried, flaying wildly at the hand that held me, clawing, hitting, biting; everything I could to make him let go.

I felt his grip around me loosen slightly, and I quickly yanked my arm free. My skin crawled where he had touched me. I forced myself to keep running, my body aching in protest. All previous adrenaline that had been coursing through my veins like an electric current, vanished like early morning fog on a hot day. My heart was beating wildly against my chest, and I thought for sure it would burst through my ribcage, cracking and splintering under the pressure that was building up inside of me. My body was quickly tiring, but I had to keep going. I had to get away. I had to…

I saw a small flicker of light ahead. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief flooding over me like water over stones. If I could just get closer…if I could just reach the exit…

I ran around the corner, my feet skidding on loose pebbles, as I felt the hope inside of me grow. I came to an abrupt stop. It was a dead end. The light was coming from a small grate in the roof of the tunnel. There was no way I could reach it.

“Damn it!” I screamed in frustration and disbelief, the hope shattering inside my chest like a broken window.

I stumbled against the wall, quickly being swallowed by the heavy shadows. My back scraped against the rough concrete and bit into my skin. I looked around desperately for a way out, or a weapon; anything that would help me to get out of here and buy me some time.

A low growl made me snap my head around, and made my heart leap into my throat. He was here, eyes scanning the darkness for his prey. Me.

I gulped and pressed myself as far back against the wall as I could, trying to blend in with the shadows. I clasped my hand tightly over my mouth, not daring to make a sound. My legs shook and I felt like I was going to pass out.

I must have made some kind of noise, because the next thing I knew, his fiery eyes snapped to where I was concealed in the darkness. A low growl escaped his throat and his lips twisted up in a cruel smile as he advanced towards me slowly, like a lion would stalk its cornered prey.

I didn’t realize I was doing it, but I became aware that I was screaming; screaming in absolute terror. This only made his grin widen, as his sadistic eyes sparkled, mirroring and capturing my own terrified eyes within his.

I tried to move, tried to run, but it was like my whole body was frozen. Suddenly, his hands were on me and I was slammed back into the wall. My head hit the rough cement, hard, causing me to grunt in pain. I crumpled to the floor, unable to move. I turned my head around just as he loomed over me, leering at me with malice, his face twisted in a grotesque mask. It was like I was in a movie, and it was playing out in slow motion. I saw his hands reach out towards me, wrapping around my neck and hoisting me into the air, cutting off my supply of oxygen.

I stared at his carnivorous face; I could see myself reflected in his steel grey eyes. Then he was calling my name…

“Marcus!”

“No, let me go!” I screamed, struggling vainly in his un-relinquishing grip.

“Marcus!”

“No, get off me!”

I bolted awake, panting wildly as a thick sheen of sweat clung to my body like a second skin. I was back in The Room, the padded white walls taunting me.  

Hugging my knees to my chest, I wrapped my arms around myself and began to slowly rock back and forth on the old cast-iron bed. In this place, it warped your mind. And now, I had no idea what was real, and what wasn’t.