Footsteps. I haven't heard them in a while, and then clicking and clacking echoes throughout the cave. Something- no, a person- moves towards me, and it's a black robe that covers the wearer from head to toe. The ends of the robe circle the person, and it's a bit too big for them. They probably wore it to appear larger, yet it does the opposite effect and instead exaggerates how small they are.
They remove their robe, revealing a small little girl, probably a tween. She wore slacks and a beige sweater over a white t-shirt. She looked left, then towards me, flinched in surprise, then stumbling and falling to the ground.
I chuckle, "Did I scare you?" She doesn't seem amused, and she picks herself back up, flicking dust off her clothes.
She clicks her tongue in response and glares at me. After hundreds of decades, it seems that children still scare me. How humorous.
She scans the two doors and turns towards me. "Do you know what's going on?" she asks.
I shrug, my robe too loose for me crawls down my shoulder. "I've been here for so long that I forgot how I got here in the first place," I respond, picking at my ragged fingernails.
I can't see the girl's face that well, but I can tell that she's annoyed at how disinterested I appear to be.
I extend my arm and grab the twig beside me, and I make a jagged line on the stony ground. Our eyes meet, and the girl sighs, then sitting down. "Why haven't you gone past the door?"
She looks like an Amber no- Meara, perhaps. "I do not know which one to choose," I respond.
She stares at me, "How long have you been here?" While eyeing the wall next to me that I've embedded tally marks. I shrug in response, and I stopped keeping count after a month.
We sit in silence, staring at the walls for a while, and I break the silence by muttering, "Talia."
She tilts her head, "Hmm?"
I lift my chin looking at her pale blue eyes, "My name." I blink, "It's Talia." She blinks slowly and nods her head as if she doesn't believe me. That's okay. I've been many people before. I've been Henry, Max, Vanessa, Lora, Bianca, and the list goes on. Today, I'll be Talia, and she'll be Meara.
A lot of people don't remember their names. So instead, I make up names for them. Ones that I think would suit them.
Meara takes a deep breath. I laugh, "Why so solemn? You're so young, but you act like an old grandfather."
She flops to the ground, "I'm just tired." I open my mouth to speak, but she quickly adds on, "Just tired of life." and closes her eyes.
I snicker, lifting my arm in an attempt to suppress the sound, but we're in a cavern, so it doesn't do anything. "Good thing we're in the afterlife," the edges of my lips curve up.
She doesn't answer, and her chest rises, then fall back down. "You're wrong."
I look towards the two doors, the one that I've seen so many people get dragged into and never come back. The first time I had an encounter with it was when I met Jason or was his name Jay? I don't remember it. We had just met and got along; we didn't know where we got our robes from and what we were doing here. His robes were teal, or was it a light shade of peach? I don't remember clearly. We both saw the two doors and swore we'd open them at the same time and walk into it. Later we would come back and report what happened.
His hand had brushed against the handle of the door, and he got dragged through the door, and it suddenly slammed shut after engulfing his whole body. I turned back, stairs were leading up to another area, but I got chills. I had a feeling something horrible was up there, and you know the saying "curiosity killed the cat," I want to keep living, despite being dead and all. Somehow I knew I wasn't a mortal being.
"We're in between life and death," Maera's voice cuts off my train of thought. "Which door should I choose?" she mumbles. Maera sits up and turns towards me, "Doesn't it get boring here? Just pick a door," she says.
I roll over to face her, "I've heard their screams. I've seen about a dozen people pass by, and no matter what they choose, they never come back." I sighed, playing with strings, the ones that Lena gave me. I warned her of what happened with Jason, so she wrapped the string around the handle and tried pulling it open, but she too got sucked into whatever was there.
She looks towards me, "What if we go into the same door together?"
I'm tired. I'm tired of everything, tired of waiting for absolutely nothing, being scared of basically everything. I'm tired of the feeling that every decision I make is wrong, even not making a decision. If this girl leaves, there might never be another person that'll come here again. I'll be alone. Forever.
I nod my head, and the two of us walk towards it. "Which one?" I ask.
She points to the one on the left, "Just because." she explains before I even ask why. She grabs my fingers, and the two of us slowly reach our arms. "We both grab it and pull- at the same time- in three... two..." she pauses, "WAIT! Do we grab when I say 'one and not 'go.'"
"Hmm," I say in response.
"Okay, three, two, one!" The moment my hand grazed on the metal part of the doors, it felt like something was banging against my head at all angles.
My body was not my own, and my knees are about as sturdy as laminate paper. There are lights somewhere, they're flashing, and I'm not sure if I'm moving, or something else is, or maybe the both of us are.
There are parades and cheering, a chorus of noise and banging. "Congratulations!" A voice that has a voice forced to be deep and has somewhat of a robotic tone screams. I move my head up, and there's this thing. It's black and white. Its figure seems triangular with a circle on top along with a giant magician's hat. What is going on?
My arms, oh how slim they've become. "You've made it to the end of the Tournament!" There's a big screen, underneath it, a wooden platform, and the floor is of hard rocky material. Everything else looks like a galaxy, and the stars are infinite.
Wait, where's Meara? I whirl around, searching for a black robe as the announcer screams out, "You get to restart your life from scratch!" He starts to giggle, or at least I think that's what it is because the noises sound very forced.
"Let's recap!" The screen starts to show an example of a tower. "This tower has one hundred floors! Now, I've given people like yourself a choice to either live in eternal darkness or finish this tower! Of course, you didn't know there were 100 floors, so some people quit thinking it'd go on forever." He starts laughing, "Silly humans! Breaking too easily."
The screen zooms into the first floor at the top, "Now this tower is full of your fears. Floor one is the easiest, and it goes all the way down to 100. You, sir, have completed all the floors!" He points at me with a giant finger.
I don't recall any of that, "Since you've worked so hard. I granted you a reward by erasing all your memories of what's happened. I've spared you," he says as if he's waiting for a "thank you."
What? "Wait," I'm still processing what's going on. "You said 'people like you.' What does that mean?" I ask, my voice seems louder than before. I have so many questions.
He chuckles, moving down the stadium, walking closer to me. He looks bulky but smooth. Weird, "People like you have perpetrated atrocities in society! Of course, I'll give some a second chance, only those who are worthy of it." The creature had a big crease on its face, which I'm guessing is a smile.
Wait, he erased my memories, and I finished the 100 floors. That must've been why I had a sick feeling when I tried to go outside the cavern. I guess I won't ever really forget the feeling.