Chapter 8: Matthias
As soon as the engine roared, a light clicked on inside of our collective friend Mr. Granger's house. Seconds later, Nicholas and Smith came bolting from around back. Natasha floored the accelerator before they were even entirely in the car. Before any of us really grasped what was happening, we were flying towards the exit of the town of Light, dust streaming behind us. It started to rain.
"Hell, we need to get back to paved road quickly," Natasha muttered to no one in particular, "I don't want to get stuck in the mud again..."
"Wait, wait," I called out, my voice barely audible above the din of the wind, which had just recently reached gale force, and the droning engine. "Can you explain to me exactly why we decided to leave that charming epitome of heartland America?"
"No time," Natasha said sharply.
"Didn't it strike you as odd that Mr. Granger was so insistent that we stay?" Nick asked, deciding to be slightly more helpful than Natasha.
"That's called hospitality, Nick," I said.
"Go easy on him, it's a foreign concept," Jones snarked, "He is from California."
All possibility of further conversation died away as the storm gathered force. Rain came down in buckets, and slowly but surely visibility started decreasing. Within fifteen minutes it was impossible to see even ten feet in front of Katie. We drove, and we drove, and we drove, and slowly I got the creeping sensation that-
"This road is longer than it was the first time we drove down it, isn't it?" Nick asked.
"Stay calm, you're paranoid," I responded, despite the fact he had stolen the words verbatim from my mind. We drove for another five minutes, another ten.
"Matthias," Smith said, "The way in wasn't this long."
"Stop the car," I said to Natasha, ignoring Jones. As soon as she did, the rain reduced to a mere drizzle, and the world around us became visible again. We were in a clearing, a rather large one, with six diverging paths. Each path had a large wooden sign with a white number painted on it, ranging from one to six.
"Was this here the first time?" someone said, I'm not sure if it was Smith or Nick.
"No, no it wasn't..." I cursed loudly.
"This is bad..." Natasha whispered.
"Drive. Just keep going straight," I ordered. She did so, but incredibly slowly. The path directly opposite us was path two, we were coming from path five. As we drove, the rain picked up again. Soon, the curtain of gray had return, along with the deafening gale. We drove for ten minutes, completely straight, not turning once. Finally I ordered Natasha to stop again. The rain instantly lessened, and we found ourselves in a clearing. The clearing.
"... Oh hell..." Jones said, in dawning realization.
"No... No, no, that's not..." Nick muttered.
"Everyone stay calm," I yelled, fighting to maintain my own presence of mind, "Natasha, keep driving." She nodded, and we repeated the cycle again, this time going from path two to path four. The rain poured, seemingly more intensely than before, and the wind screamed. Twenty minutes we drove, all of us soaked, all of us on edge. None of us saying a word.
"Stop," I said. With unearthly suddenness, the rain ceased, the remaining droplets rain falling heavily to the ground. The silent, open clearing greeted us once again, this time with a new, nasty surprise. Mr. Granger stood mockingly in the center of the clearing. I got out of the car, and the other three followed.
"Why hello there stranger," I snarled, storming towards the lone figure, "I seem to be lost, mind giving me some directions?" Mr. Granger didn't react until I was about seven feet from him. Casually, in a manner that was barely even noticeable, he produced a chrome revolver from behind his back.
"I told you," he smiled, "You can't leave."
"Who are you with? Midas? This was a trap wasn't it?" I yelled, he just laughed.
"Well son, you're right about one thing. This is a trap. I'm afraid I can't quite answer any of your other questions as, frankly, I've not the slightest idea what you're talking about."
"Then what exactly is your end goal here?" I glowered, "Hmm? Why are you keeping us here? What is it you want?" Mr. Granger laughed, viciously. The spine-chilling sound echoed around the clearing.
"Ah, my dear friend. You don't know how lonely it is out here... one can get... so... hungry..." his voice was inhuman. It had an echoing quality to it, like many voices flooded into it to become one. Like raindrops in a storm. And for a split second, his eyes blazed a luminous green.
"There's four of us," Smith said, "I only see one of him. I think we can take him, what do you guys say?"
"Hahaha, oh boy, don't even try it," Mr. Granger chuckled, "If a single one of you tries anything, I will kill you."
"Really? 'Cause you didn't do anything when I pulled out my gun," Natasha said. Sure enough, she was aiming her handgun directly at Mr. Granger's head. He turned the barrel of his weapon towards her, and I took the opportunity to pull out my own gun. We all stood stock still, Natasha and I pointing our guns at Mr. Granger, Mr. Granger aiming at Natasha. And then, he laughed. He lowered his weapon, and laughed. Then he took a step back, and as he did, it started to drizzle. He took another step, and it the rain began to come down harder. With his third step, the outer limits of the clearing disappeared, and with his fourth, he appeared to dissolve into the rain. Laughter echoed from every direction, and the rain closed in. I lost sight of Natasha in the storm, then Nick, the Jones. A sharp, well-placed blow to my abdomen crippled me, and a swift kick while I was down made sure I stayed down for a while. Simultaneously, I heard screams of agony similar to the ones I myself was making come from the other members of Oktober. Once again, the rain ceased. Mr. Granger was above me, holding both my own and Natasha's weapon.
"Get in your car and give me the keys," Mr. Granger growled. I wasn't in much of a position to disobey. Natasha, Smith, and Nick shuffled into the back, I myself was in the passenger's seat, and Mr. Granger, of course, was the driver. He manipulated the steering wheel with his left hand, and held a pistol to my head with his right. As we drove down another path, path four again, the rain picked up for one last time. After a five minute drive, we found ourselves back in Light. Wordlessly, Granger pulled up to his house and allowed us to get out before he himself followed. His gun, or more accurately, my gun was trained on us the entire time. I made for the front door, but he stopped me.
"No, around back," he grunted. Glaring, I took a step back from the porch of his house and walked around the side, through the gate of a white picket fence. "Into the cellar," ordered Granger, gesturing to a pair of rusty, open cellar doors. Begrudgingly we complied, and as soon as all of us were down the steps, he slammed the doors closed and locked them. There was silence for a few seconds in the cold, damp blackness.
"I can't see," Nick said.
"Guys, I feel like now is the time to start worrying about what he meant when he said he was 'hungry'," Smith added unhelpfully.
"Stay calm, this isn't over yet," I said.
"Really?" asked Nick, "Cause, to be honest, being locked in a cellar after circling around a Cretan Labyrinth for the last half hour seems pretty much like 'game over' to me."
"Oh ye of little faith," I replied. At the same time, Natasha clicked on a lighter, casting a dim orange light on the room.
"Since when do you carry a lighter?" asked Jones.
"I always carry a lighter. It's incredibly easy to slit someone's throat when they're leaning in to light a cigarette," Natasha answered.
"... That's... nice. Of course it only applies if you always carry a knife which-" Natasha held a switchblade up to the light. "Yeah, saw that coming," Smith finished, "So what's the plan then?"
"We cut the wires to all the lights in the cellar. When our good friend Granger comes again, we hide in the shadows. He's from the midwest, so I doubt he has the sense to avoid walking into the room when the lights don't work, and additionally he's probably pretty cocky. As soon as he's down the stairs, Natasha will cut him up, he'll be dead before he knows what happened."
"Okay, great, but what do we do about the infinite loop of countryside hell?" Nick asked.
"That one is simple, I'm surprised none of us figured it out earlier," I responded, "Six-three-six."