With the immediate danger gone, I slow to a stop. Fumbling through my pockets to find something to illuminate the blinding darkness ahead of me, I fish out a mobile phone. It casts a dim blue light down the tunnel, illuminating approximately half a metre to my front.
The smooth (blood-free) concrete is covered in a coarse, grey grit. It would seem that no-one has come here since it was constructed, or if it was ever used for its designed purpose, whatever that may be. Regardless of the intended purpose, it doesn’t take me long to find a ladder in an alcove.
Thankfully, the manhole cover is light enough for me to lift (or am I that strong?) and I emerge from the underground slaughterhouse in a dark cul-de-sac.
This skyline is unfamiliar.
Wherever I am, one thing is for certain. There is no possible way that I arrived here by sleepwalking. But exploring my shattered memory will have to wait. I can’t afford to be seen like this (covered in blood), especially without my “backup”. Pain shoots through my head as I recall the look on that girl’s face. I squeeze the bridge of my nose in order to force it back.
I need to focus.
Stalking from shadow to shadow, I move quickly away form the manhole and into a niche between two buildings. An inventory check reveals my knife, a mobile phone, a wallet stuffed with $5000 and no ID, and blood-stained clothes. Whilst the cash is more than enough to buy new clothes and book a room for the night, in this state I doubt I will even be allowed near the front door of anywhere worth staying. Besides, without knowing where or when I am, appearing in public is not a good idea.
It does not take long for the high-rise dwellings to give way to smaller blocks of units, then town houses, duplexes, and finally, my target, fully detached housing. Skulking from one house to the next, I chance upon the perfect candidate. No car in the carpark, a letterbox stuffed full of letters an advertising material, and a fully-furnished home. The home of a vacationer (how do I know these things?); and a perfect place to collect myself.
Forcing entry into the house isn’t hard. At this hour, the breaking glass only seems to disturb a dog in a nearby backyard, and even it seems to forget about it in short order.
My clothes hit the floor with a sopping thwack; the gore caking it clotted but not yet dried. The hot water of the shower numbs my skin as it touches it and then slowly starts to scorch as my body readjusts to the temperature. Rust-red rivers of ichor and blood swirl around the drain, slowly becoming clear as I wash myself.
I stand in the shower until the bathroom is so full of steam that I can no longer see the door. Helping myself to a towel form the hamper, I dry myself and fall onto a ready-made bed, naked. You don’t get this kind of service even in the best hotels.
Sunlight trickles through the curtains, gently stroking me into consciousness.
(Where am I? Whose house is this?) A splitting headache prevents me from opening my eyes completely against the sun’s onslaught, but it doesn’t stop my curiosity. I vividly recall the events of the night before (well, everything after waking up), but everything before that is still fractured, as if my memories were roughly copied from someone else’s mind.
“So you’re finally up.”
My hand grasps out, searching for the knife I left in the bathroom. Defying my natural instincts, I force my eyes open. If I’m going to be caught, I’d prefer to at least see my assailant.
Sitting on the end of the bed is the girl from last night. She wears a red ball gown, and shows no signs of the wounds that were so real last night.
“How…? you were…”
The girl cocks her head in the face of my confusion, as if I had just asked her why the sky is blue.
“Aren’t you happy to see me? Even after I followed you all the way here…”
“But… I saw you…”
She leans closer to me, and I recoil in fear, pressing myself against the bed head.
“Are you feeling alright? Let me look at you…”
I frantically try to bat her away, but she deftly grabs my wrists with one hand whilst grabbing my head with the other, her thumb just below my eye. Her strength is incredible, and enough to let me know that resisting her is pointless.
“Look at me.”
I instinctively react, and stare her right in her black-flecked auburn eyes. She moves her head around mine, as if she were looking for an errant speck of dust that had been trapped in my eye.
“Damn. Looks like you’ve been fried. Lemme guess, you can’t remember shit right now?”
“Uh, yeah. Nothing since you told me to run.”
She releases my head, and returns to sitting on the end of the bed, pouting.
“Damn. This is going to take some explaining. But first, get some clothes on. This place it packed full of neat stuff. Check out this dress! Cool, huh? You really know how to pick ‘em, Mike…”