I have roamed these empty, dark stone walls for weeks, months, maybe even years. I am the only living soul inside this dreary underworld, yet I hear disembodied, taunting voices calling out to me. They are everywhere, but nowhere. Every day, I follow those strangely familiar voices, hoping to escape, but alas, it is always the same: a dead end. But I don’t give up. I hear a noise. Whispers? Yes, there they are. They are begging me to follow. Instinctively, I walk once again through the maze.
It is almost impossible to see in the labyrinth; whether by darkness or excess of light, I’m not sure. As I feel my way through, my hands slide against the cold surface of the grey stone walls. They are smooth, but the cold is sharp. The ground juts out in the most unexpected places, the abnormal rises only revealing themselves at the last moment. I look up to the sky, but there isn’t one. Just infinite, inky blackness. Infinite, just like this death-trap of a maze.
It gets even darker as I venture on, but those whispers do not fade. I fear that I will trip in this darkness, and end up lying on the ground, concussed, bleeding, alone. I now crawl on the dirty, gritty floor like a hound out of fear. I am so wrapped up in my thoughts that I completely forget about the voices. I have not been paying attention to where I have been going. Am I lost? I feel for a wall, but there are none. I look behind me. It is brighter, only slightly, but just enough for me to make out the outline of a long, high wall far behind me. I stop in my tracks: am I out of the labyrinth?
I feel like jumping for joy, but I stop myself. So I’ve escaped the twists and turns of that maze, but now I’ve got to figure out where I am. I look ahead of me. Nothing. Just perpetual darkness. One side of me wants to go forth and explore, but the other side is not so sure. Pushing my doubts aside, I reluctantly put one foot forward, expecting to touch solid ground, but instead, I fall.
The wind is bitterly cold and the noise makes my eardrums sore. I am falling through some kind of tunnel of light and colour. The voices are still there, calling my name. Some are happy, some angry, some sad, some just a mere whisper. Ahead of me, I see that I am approaching ground. As I get closer, I brace myself for a landing…
“…Attention, passengers, this is our last stop. Please exit…”
I’ve finally landed. I’m sitting in some kind of bus. Somehow. I glance out of the window. There’s a city with lots of tall skyscrapers and all sorts of vehicles in the streets. It all seems very familiar.
My attention is turned to a great looming shadow that emerges from the dusty grey clouds in the sky. It’s an airship of some sort. A hatch in its underside opens up and a huge flaming ball descends upon the city. It sends people screaming as the buildings are engulfed by the flames.
My surroundings fade into darkness and yet again, I am travelling through the tunnel of light. The strong wind makes my eyes water. And there it is again, an opening before me, brighter than ever. Streaks of light whizz past me like bullets. My surroundings morph into another world, and it gets brighter still..
The mud in the trench makes my feet damp and numb. Rats and lice are virtually everywhere. The little devils lurk in every dark corner, scared by the exploding shells surrounding us. Bullets are whizzing overhead. I then notice the other men around me. They’re all soldiers in khaki uniforms, barking orders at each other and shooting at the enemy. But who is the enemy? I get up and I notice I am also wearing a uniform. Strange. Peering over the wall of the trench, I can make out the outline of some people. Germans? No, that can’t be it. Judging by their clunky shape, they look more like…robots? I scramble down. My eyes must be playing tricks on me.
Boom! There’s a huge explosion right behind me. Our gunfire ceases. But the enemy’s carries on. We are losing the battle. All the soldiers are retreating into their dark little holes in the trench, just like the rats. All of them, except one. A lone soldier stands in front of me, shooting his limited supply of bullets at the enemy until he runs out. Now, he can do nothing but cower behind the trench wall. Panting, he looks at me. I sense his friendly warmth, but I can see the despair in his eyes. I study his face closely. I know him, but from where?
Bang! Before I can think any further, a shot is fired. The bullet hits the soldier squarely in the chest. I cry out, but nothing can be done. He lies on the ground, slowly bleeding to death. I whip around and see two menacing humanoid figures standing in front of me, rifles in hands. An airship flies behind them, the very same one that destroyed the city. And once again, the great fiery weapon is released, this time heading towards me.
Soon, roaring flames surround me, and their tongues of fire leap out to me, wanting to singe my skin. The voices are louder than ever, screaming for help. Then, all at once, the fire disappears. The voices stop. I’m back in the labyrinth. How? Was it all a dream? A stupid hallucination? My head is spinning. There’s a loud ringing in my ears. I grow dizzier, until I collapse on the floor.
I wake up. It’s bright and warm, and I’m in some kind of incubator, with multicoloured wires snaking out of it. I try to turn my head to see where I am. The room I’m in has all sorts of devices lying around. There’s a man sitting a few metres away from me. He’s noticed that I’m stirring. He seems surprised.
“Hey! He’s moving! He’s out of limbo!”
Limbo? What is that supposed to mean? So the labyrinth was really just inside my head? Suddenly, I am surrounded by many men and women. They’re all whispering things like, “By God, he’s really alive…” and “This can’t be happening!” The crowd parts to give way to a bald old man in a pristine lab coat. He looks down at me, squinting. Finally, he speaks: “Hello there, Sergeant.”
Sergeant? Am I a sergeant? Does that have anything to do with the trench vision? Or was it really a memory? Were they all memories, the ‘visions’ and the ghostly voices I chased after? I’m confused. “Where am I?” I ask. “And who are you?”
He replies in his croaky voice, “You are in the London Institute of Biological Research, and I,” he says, his lip curling into a smile, one that seemed to betray innocence, “I am the scientist who just brought you back to life.”