Tonya was in motion as the buzzer sounded. She swung over the edge and caught the rope between her legs and wrapped it around her left leg. Hand over hand she descended, keeping pace with everyone else. Several of the ropes ended short and the contestant on them had to swing and transfer to another rope. Tonya needed to transfer to another rope halfway down and the further she descended, the less the surface light penetrated below. She paused to catch a breath as another contestant started yelling when he slid down his rope like a fireman on a pole. He hit the ground hard and lay unmoving.
My arms are killing me. Is that an arrow? I think it is. Hopefully no one else notices it.
Tonya and a few others touched ground at nearly the same time and flew in the arrow’s direction. Concrete walls stood taller than she could jump and reach. It was another maze she needed to navigate and everyone dropped into a different starting place. Tonya tried to remember the direction of the arrow, but found it hopeless to navigate the constant turning corridors. The lighting was limited, but allowed full visibility after one’s eyes adjusted.
A few minutes passed with everyone scrambling to advance before a siren wailed, freezing Tonya in her tracks.
Her thoughts were few as she pressed on.
Across the maze she heard someone scream accompanied by a high-pitched squeal that carried on for several seconds.
What was that?
A grunting came from the right hand corner she was about to turn.
That’s close. I don’t want to know what it is.
Tonya backtracked to a side branch of the path she was following. Ducking into it, she waited to see what would come. Less than ten seconds passed before she heard snorting from a brown nose rounding the corner followed by the grotesque head of a massive, wild boar.
The boar raised its head, sniffing the air.
He smells me. I wonder if I can spook it and he’ll run away. It could charge me just as well, too.
The boar’s beady eyes stared ahead while its nose worked back and forth, smelling the air and grunting all the while. It took a few tentative steps forward before Tonya could throw herself in front of it. Yelling at the top of her lungs, she landed in the middle of the corridor with her hands overhead, trying to appear as large as possible.
The boar charged on sight, squealing full-throat.
With no where to go and outrunning the boar physically impossible, she jumped at the wall using it for leverage to leap over the boar as the coarse hair of its back brushed her foot. Pure rage emanated from its throat as it circled back on her. Tonya rounded the corner and heard water splashing nearby. Tonya cursed to herself as her feet flew to the sound with the boar closing on her.
A blind left turn revealed water falling from the ceiling to a concrete pool. The water glowed with a brilliant blue as it fell, but the pool was black and rippling with movement. The boar turned the corner and lost its footing on the concrete floor. It crashed to the floor with a thud and slid several feet. Its nostrils flared as it snorted and set its eyes on Tonya standing two feet from the pool.
Just like old times with Jimmy.
The boar squealed and blindly charged. At the last moment, Tonya dove to the side as the boar’s mouth clipped her feet sending her spinning. She hit the ground and scrambled away as the gurgling boar fought for air.
The boar screamed for life as the water came alive with movement and a couple fish flipped out of the water, landing next to the pool. They twitched and flipped, trying to return to the meal. The boar lost the fight of life and silence echoed in Tonya’s ears. Someone ran by the pool on the other side without giving Tonya a second look.
The race was still on.
She took off in the same direction and wove her way through more of the maze until she saw a door. Back-lit by red light, it had all the signals to stay away, yet the handle opened with little effort spilling the blood-red light into the room. Stairs took a downward angle as the only option. Peering over the railing, she could see that it ended with another door.
If this place has taught me anything, it’s risk equals reward. Let’s see where this goes.
The room was dark and the only visible things were small, blue discs scattered throughout the area.
“Well, look who decided to join the party.” His voice reminded her of a snake blending into a tree. Always watching and patiently waiting as he stood on a small, glowing blue disc fifteen feet away. He held onto a thick rope overhead that formed a loose, sloppy webbing. “I was hoping that little piggy took you to market. But, as before, you’re a hard one to beat.” He spun and picked his way along the small discs.
Oh no you don’t. Your ass is going down. As soon as she stepped on the first disc, it swayed a little under her weight. She was only able to get half a foot on it at a time.
These must be the top of poles or something. And the ropes are too scattered to get across with.
“Come on slow-poke! Are you even trying?” His goading laughter filled the air as he quickened his pace.
“You’re the one that’s been scared of me from the start. I think you’re scared I’m going to win.”
“Ha! That’s a good one.” He looked over his shoulder, “Don’t look now, you’ve got company.”
Tonya looked back and saw one of his cronies starting the section with reckless abandon. He steered his path towards her.
The guy in the jersey leapt to another blue disc and lost his footing. Keeping a hand on the rope, he dangled below the disc and fought to get his leg wrapped around the rope. “Come on, Greg! Take her down!”
Greg’s weight caused massive swaying to the blue discs when he stepped on one. He relied heavily on the overhead ropes to maintain his balance. Tonya kept her pace and gained on the guy in front of her. “It’s easier if you stand on them.”
He flipped her off and went hand over hand up to the ropes overhead. His progress was slowing due to the loose ropes equaling Tonya’s pace. Greg was slowly gaining on Tonya.
A long blue line marking the edge glowed in the dark as the two reached it simultaneously. Tonya leapt and landed solid as the blonde swung from the last rope. When their feet touched the ground, a series of blue circles lit up a few feet away and a rope was visible descending through the middle. Tonya slid down the rope as the guy spoke to Greg. “Greg, slide down the pole and stop her.” Greg nodded and slid down to the pitch black floor below. “Hey Tonya, good luck making it out alive.” He laughed and slid down his rope.
Crap, I can’t see anything. How do I get out of here? The wall is freezing. Aha, here we go. A tunnel or something. It’s going the right way at least.
She crawled on the cold concrete floor towards the pit of vipers. Tonya swept her hand in front of her to find that first pole.
There it is. They’re being too quiet. They’re waiting for me.
A slight rustle of clothing came from Tonya’s right as she got to her feet.
That’s probably jerk-face.
His voice came from further ahead and to her right. “So Tonya, I have to ask, were you and Jimmy close? I mean, was there ever a time when you wished he were dead or out of your life? I know he isn’t your dad, but has he ever acted like a dad to you? I’m just curious.” His voice was farther away from her and Greg’s location was still unknown. “I tried to follow in my dad’s steps, but he never seemed to care. His business was the only thing he cared about.”
Is he for real? Any noise will give away where I am, but I have to move because he’s getting away. Wish I knew where Greg was.
Her steps were cautious as she went from pole to pole, edging to the right of the pit.
“I think it’s cool that he took you in when he did. Must be nice to have someone like that in your family. My dad has been there the whole time and I think he could care less if I died or not-as long it doesn’t affect his business that is. Look, I’d love to stay and chat but I got to win the race. Don’t take too long Greg.”
A slight rustle of his clothes and the room returned to the predator-prey standoff.
The long silence seemed to scream in Tonya’s ears. She knew nothing of Greg or his temperament. He broke the silence.
“Where you at Spartan?”
Wouldn’t you like to know? I think he’s in the same place jerk-face was. There’s the wall. As long as he doesn’t block the door, I can sneak past him.
“I can’t let you win, you know that, right?”
Unfortunately, that’s becoming clear.
“If you give up, I’ll take it easy on you.”
Right. I bet you will. There’s the corner. He’s close, but where?
Tonya’s breaths were shallow as she kept a finger on the gritty wall. Her fingers led the way, guiding her to where the exit was, and the waiting man. Her finger touched something. She lifted a finger to feel the top of it-
The vise-like force of his hands clamped around her hands and scrambled to secure her arms.
Tonya tried to get away. She tried to pry off those bear sized hands that pulled her closer into him. His movements were hidden in the dark as he wrapped an arm around her and took her to the ground. She thrashed her legs as a wild animal until her shin connected with a pole and bile threatened to flood her mouth. Her lack of motion was all he needed to encase her in his arms. The camera mounted to his chest pressed into her as his grip pressure increased, crushing the small box into her. Tonya couldn’t move anything save her head. She tried hitting him with her head, but he just pressed his head into her neck, immobilizing her.
The anaconda grip he possessed pressed the air from her lungs and she never felt her head hit the floor.
TO BE CONTINUED…