Chapter 6: Nick
"Alright, I just want to preface this a bit here, so bear with me," Matthias said in a tone of anxious calm. A breeze ruffled his hair, and tossed his vest around. He stood resting gently against Katie's trunk, looking off in the distance with an unsure expression on his face. The trees on either side of the road were creaking, the wind was picking up. Above us, clouds could be seen rolling in, harbingers of an oncoming winter storm. "You know that Midas, and Rousseau International are surrounded by... well there isn't really a word for it. Anomalies, I guess is the closest thing. This is of course, intentional. On their part, that is. Midas hunts down and captures these anomalies, he collects them. Often they prove essential to one of his operations, or they give him even more of the power that he lusts for. Katie here... Katie is very special. He needs Katie, a lot, it is essential for Rousseau International to have her. Which is why we aren't letting them even remotely near her."
"What you are going to see next," Natasha jumped in, "Is not a hoax. It isn't a trick, or an illusion, or a joke. You are going to have to trust us and remain calm, okay?" Jones and I nodded. Matthias reached into his pocket and produced the key to Katie's truck, which he then inserted into the lock, and turned. With a swift, forceful motion, and opened the trunk.
"Wait, wait," Smith jumped back in confusion, "How is... wait..."
"Like I said, remain calm," Natasha said.
"That is not possible," I said, my voice shaking a bit, "Explain to me how that is possible."
"Well, Katie have a unique 'spectral signature' if you will, that causes the fabric of reality to-" I cut Matthias off.
"You know what, no, actually don't explain it. I don't want to know. Are those stairs?" I peered into the trunk, there were indeed stairs. About thirty-six of them, descending downwards into an inky darkness that expanded far beyond the physical space of the trunk.
"Bull. I'm calling it," Jones said.
"I wish this were a hoax, but it's not, Smith," Matthias said.
"So what? It's bigger on the inside than on the outside? Not possible," Jones crossed his arms and leaned forward, as though he was trying to find a seam in the trunk, or some other evidence of forgery.
"Well, there's on way to find out if it's fake or not," Natasha suggested quietly.
"You mean you want me to...?" Smith asked in disbelief. Natasha nodded.
"Be careful, there is a two-foot drop to the first step, and then you have to stoop a bit so you don't hit your head on the ceiling." Jones, sweating, took a step towards the car, then froze. After some internal debate, he decided to take another step and lower one foot into the trunk. He sat on the edge of the trunk, both feet dangling in, and every so slowly lowered himself down.
"Smith?" I called in after him, no response, "Smith?" I repeated. After a brief pause, his voice echoed up from the trunk.
"Nick you should come down here," he said. Without a moments hesitation, I followed him down into the abyss of the trunk (my curiosity far outmatched my fear). Dipping my feet into the trunk felt vaguely like dipping them into a shallow pool of electrified water. An icy chill, followed by a static tingling that rushed through my body. I dropped clumsily on the cold ground and stumbled to regain balance. It was too dark to see, and my eyes could not adjust due to the ray of sunshine that I was standing. With the utmost care, I felt around for the stairs, and slowly descended them. They were spiraling, and had no handrails, making an already paranoid journey that much more nerve-wracking. Behind me, I could hear Matthias climbing down, followed by Natasha who closed the trunk behind her.
"Why hasn't anyone made a rabbit hole analogy yet?" I muttered. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, my eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness. We were in the center of a largish, circular room, with six hallways branching off from it. The entire room was completely symmetrical, making it impossible to gain any sense of direction. Every inch of the room was made from some sort of brushed, gray-black metal. A number of doors lined the walls of each of the branching hallways.
"There are six hallways," Natasha said, "Each with six doors, two on the left, three on the right, one on the end. That makes a grand total of thirty-six doors, but the numbering starts at six-oh-one, we aren't sure why."
"So that means the numbering ends at six-thirty-seven?" Jones asked, I could vaguely see his silhouette at the threshold of one of the hallways.
"Guess again," Matthias said.
"Six-three-six? Yeah, that figures," Smith groaned, "So what's behind the doors?"
"A variety of things," Matthias said, "Doors six-oh-one through six-oh-six are bedrooms. I put all the weapons we picked up from Sally in room six-nineteen. Six-three-three, six-two-one, and six-eleven are locked, we can't get them open."
"And door six-three-six?" I asked.
"Well now... you're just going to have to see that one for yourself," Matthias said, "Over here." The three of us followed him down to the end of the hall directly ahead of the bottom of the staircase. Whereas the numbers of the other doors were carved into them, Door 636's numbers were ornately carved pieces of bright orange metal. Above it was a large bullhorn speaker that likely belongs to a PA system of some sort, it was also orange.
"Let's not ruin this moment with words," Natasha said quietly, edging her way in front of all of us. With the gingerest of touches, she pushed the door open. As she did, an expanding slit of light appeared and blinded us all, and when it faded...
Hills. Rolling hills. And tall grass, rippling like waves in an ocean, as the sun set painting perfect clouds a luminous pink-orange. I could see for miles in every direction, and at the horizon there was a sparkling golden sea. On the coast, far off in the distance, a gilded city of gleaming towers could be seen shining like a beacon. Our black, star-shaped building sat like a crown atop the tallest hill in the region, and a single, dirt road lead from our building to the distant city.
Not one of us spoke. Jones collapsed to the ground, and leaned against the wall of our building for support. Natasha stood a way off from us, her hands trying to busy themselves, running through her hair (which was being whipped around gently by an ever-present gust) or putting them in her pockets. Matthias gazed at the city, arms folded, with an anxious expression on his visage. As for myself, I just took it all in, astounded. Unable to express any emotion other than shock.
"Midas wants to see this world burn," Matthias said, after what must have been an decade of silence, "all of it. And our world," Matthias gestured up to the sky, where a tapestry of brilliant stars was starting to unfold across the heavens, "and those worlds. He is an all-consuming fire of lust and hate. If he ever sets his hands on Katie, if he ever sets a single foot on this world, then it's all over. Not just for us, not just for them," he nodded towards the city, "but for everyone. Everything. This will all become clear in time, I promise you. But right now, at this exact moment, this is all you need to see. You just need to know this is here." Matthias let his words sink through our skin, I was only half listening. Faintly, I could hear the sound of waves splashing against the shore. "Come on," Matthias said finally, opening Door 636 again, "Time for us to go."