Here’s a joke for you: Where do you let an 800-pound flesh monster fight an all powerful janitor wizard? Anywhere he wants to.
But that didn’t mean I was planning on sticking around.
I managed to lift myself up from the ground just in time to avoid being slammed as the Janitor was sent flying in my direction by a surprisingly agile punch from “Minotaur 2”. Despite their differences in physique, “Minotaur 2” had a similar fighting style to the original Minotaur, namely, rampage forward and smash your opposition to little tiny bits. But whereas the Minotaur was a hulking brute, this new one was relatively light on its feet, though no less powerful.
By contrast, the Janitor wasn’t going to be winning any strength contests, and he knew it. He was playing defensively, jumping back and forth out of the monster’s reach as he tried to get a solid hold. Every time the Janitor managed to touch “Minotaur 2”s skin, he left a small white patch. Occasionally, he was able to get a hit in with his broom, which erased any affected areas, but there was only more and more meat underneath. It looked like whatever these creatures were made out of had a natural defense against the Janitor’s power. Was there some kind of connection between the two?
It hit me harder than ever that I just didn’t know anything about what was going on. What were these weird Minotaur things? Where did this one come from and why was it attacking the Janitor? Was Scoria still alive? What had happened to Harold when…
Wait. What had happened to Harold?
A white flash in the corner of my eye caught my attention as it darted through the large archway in the back of the chamber. Had Harold decided he was outclassed and ran away?
Actually, that’s a really, really, smart idea.
I took one last look back at the battling duo behind me and decided I’d rather take my chances with anything that wasn’t the single most dangerous area I had ever been in. And so I ran, back the way I came from. Back to the portal.
Harold was waiting for me in the hallway outside the portal room. Now that I could finally get a good glimpse of him, I was relieved to see he was still alive, although something was…different (besides the fact he had been completely drained of color). Even without pupils, I could tell he wasn’t focusing on things normally. His body faced me, but his head was turned to the side, as if he was looking right next to me. I worried that he might be blind, but there was more to it than that. His fingers moved at his side, as if he believed he was playing with some invisible device, and he swayed slowly back and forth in place. I thought back to a few days ago, when I had mistaken him for a ghost in the upper window.
I approached him slowly. “Harold…are you okay?”
His mouth moved, but no sound came out.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, but we have to get out of here. There’s a portal in that room, just like the one that took us here. It could lead anywhere but…I think it’s our only choice. I’m going to go through and I want you to follow me. Even if we don’t make it home, maybe we can find someone to help you…”
Harold reached out his hand, but I didn’t take it. I had already lost one arm to the white; I wasn’t going to risk a second.
“Just follow right behind me,” I whispered.
I ducked into the room, and luckily, he trailed along, his hand leaving a faint, slowly spreading white trail on the wall as he passed through. Behind us, I could hear the roars of the Minotaur echoing through the chamber. Ahead of us, the portal was waiting.
Except it wasn’t showing anything.
Rather, it was showing something, but wherever it was happened to be a pitch black void of nothingness.
My body froze, and the tingling feeling increased tenfold, spreading out like electricity across my fingers, even the ones that had disappeared.
Something appeared in the darkness. I had seen it before.
A central curved body, with millions of small feelers, each one reaching out towards me. The two times I had seen it in my head, when I came through the portal and when I received my powers, it had been black and gray, like an x-ray cross-section, but now, in person, I realized it was more red than anything else. But still, I knew that I had seen it before, multiple times over the course of my life. I was on the cusp of remembering…
Then the image changed, and we were looking at a small attic room with a TV.
It had happened. The portal was showing us home. And in any second it would disappear.
“Harold, run!” I yelled, but when I turned around, I saw he was facing the way we had come. And the Janitor was standing in the entrance.
I grabbed Harold by the hand and dragged him along with me, feeling the numb whiteness spread down my only arm and up over my chest and head. We were only a few feet away…
But the Janitor was faster.
I felt my feet go out from under me and panicked, but they hadn’t been erased. Harold had grabbed me and fallen down, bring me with him.
The broom passed directly overhead and cut through the edges of my hair. Harold had managed to dodge it too, from the looks of it. For the moment, we were safe.
It was a short moment.
Although the broom arc has sailed harmlessly over us, it had accidentally crossed through another target, the portal in front of us. Except two things had changed in the few seconds since the Janitor had entered. First, the white trail Harold had left behind on the wall when he entered had been spreading, and it had reached the edges of the portal. Second, the portal had switched viewpoints. Our attic had been replaced by the same inky black hole of nothingness from before. Except now it had a bright white gash cutting through the center.
Blackness exploded out of the portal in a thick stream, engulfing Harold, the Janitor, and everything else in sight. Searing pain shot through me and I watched my hand disintegrate into the air. In my last moments before I died, I tried reaching out to Harold, only to realize that I had nothing left to reach out with.
And that too, was fleeting.
END CHAPTER 5