Chapter 8: Natasha
We slept in shifts as we weren't sure when the Illusionist would show his face again. The Wordsmith took the first shift of three hours, the Mute Musician the next, and the Trapper-Spider the final one. I, for my part, did not sleep. I've been unable to lately, I don't mind though, I'm one for insomnophilia. It was during the final shift that the Illusionist decided to come for us.
I hid in the shadows at the base of the stairs, the Trapper-Spider hid at the opposite end of the room. Neither of use roused the Wordsmith or the Mute Musician, their snores would lure the Illusionist into a false sense of security. The light switch flicked a few times as he tried to illuminate the dense shade, the attempt was futile. Rather than being deterred, the Illusionist ever so cautiously took a few step down the stairs. He reached the base, paused, and for the slightest sliver of a second there was utter silence.
And then I moved. Quickly. More quickly than I knew I could. Everything flowed exactly as I had planned it. First I slit across this throat, and I caught his hand as it raced up towards his neck, slicing his palm then his wrist. As he fell the the ground, I stabbed him twice in the stomach, and once in between his ribs.
The Trapper-Spider threw open the cellar doors, allowing sunlight to flood into the dank dungeon. The Wordsmith and the Mute Musician, who had been woken by the ruckus, jumped backwards in a bewildered shock. I took a step backwards myself as I slowly realized what was happening. The Illusionist continued to laugh. Flowing freely from all his wounds, rather then crimson, viscous blood, was clear, pure, cool water.
"Demon aren't you?" asked the Trapper-Spider.
"Shade, actually," said the Illusionist, "I'm the spirit of this lake, I suppose you've found me out." He coughed violently, spewing water from his mouth.
"Possessing the innocent Mr. Granger so that you may live among the humans, am I right? And most likely feed off them," the Trapper-Spider continued. "Except there is a problem with that. You've made yourself weak in this body of flesh in bones, haven't you? You've made yourself mortal."
"Mortal?" the Illusionist laughed hysterically, "You're dear friend just inflicted at least five lethal injuries, and yet I don't seem very dead do I? No, fool, I am not mortal."
"It certainly seems that way," the Trapper-Spider slowly approached the Illusionist who was kneeling on the ground, clutching his side. "However, there is one, small, detail..." Each beat of the Illusionist's heart spilled more and more of his lifewater on to the ground. "Water doesn't clot," the Trapper-Spider whispered. The smile disappeared off the Illusionist's face.
"... You're wrong," the Illusionist said in an unconvincing tone.
"Am I? Wordsmith, go find Katie," the Trapper-Spider said.
"No!" screamed the Illusionist as Oktober started to climb the stairs out of the cellar, he was too weak to follow us, "Don't leave me here! I'll die! I don't want to die! I don't want to die! Please! PLEASE! HELP ME!" His pleas fell upon deaf ears. The Trapper-Spider, who was the last one out of the dungeon, slammed the doors behind him, leaving nothing but the muffled cries of a dying man to escape them.
"That was wrong," the Wordsmith said to Matthias as we approached Katie, who was blissfully picking flowers out side of the Illusionist's house.
"We can argue this later," the Trapper-Spider whispered to him. Katie saw us coming and ran towards us, jumping into my arms.
"Where were you?" she asked.
"Oh we were just having breakfast with the Illusionist," I said, "We're going to leave now."
"Good," said Katie, "This place blows."
"I think it's nice," signed the Mute Musician.
"You would," Katie snarled brattily.
Minutes later, we found ourselves once again walking down the endlessly long path out of Light. Except this time around, it took us mere seconds to reach the clearing.
"Alright, genius, how do we get out?" said the Wordsmith to the Trapper-Spider.
"Follow me!" Katie injected, seemingly assuming that the question was directed at her. She gleefully sprung forward and started hopping down path six. We rushed to keep up with her, quickly finding ourselves in another clearing. By the time we arrive Katie was already running down path three.
"Wait up!" I called after her, worried we might lose her in the woods.
"Child!" she called to me, "Why is 636 so important?" Her words sounded ghostly, the words coming from her mouth unreal.
We dashed after her, once again finding ourselves in another clearing. Escape was no longer our concern, we simply didn't want to lose her in the Illusionist's trap. Once again she dashed off down path six, however this time, rather then continuing to run forward once she reached the end of the path, she froze. Panick rushed through her face, then mine. When we reached the end of path 636, we discovered why.
The was, once again, a clearing. But it was not the one we had become familiar with, this clearing had only one path out of it. A massive, iron arch spread itself high above the exit, the word Labyrinth wrought in the metal of its construction. Below that were the words: Vous êtes un mensonge.
"So... any guesses as to what that means?" the Mute Musician signed.
"You are a lie," I responded.
"I don't think we should go," interjected the Wordsmith.
"Well there is no other way..." the Trapper-Spider mused. Beyond the arch, the trees grew thick, and as the path went on, the patches of light became more and more rare, eventually fading into total darkness. Without a word, the Trapper-Spider took a few steps forward. He passed the arches, and slowly melded into the darkness without one of us moving an inch. Seconds later, Katie began to sob and ran after him, and I after her, and the other two after me. I ran, and I ran, but Katie slowly grew further and further away from me. Meanwhile, behind me, the Wordsmith became more and more distant. Eventually the two of them disappeared from vision, and I found myself in the most complete, most pure darkness I've seen in my life.
"Hello?!" I yelled, as I slowed to a walking pace. No response. I wondered if I should turn back, then if I should continue. Finally, I decided to merely sit and wait, figuring that the Wordsmith and the Mute Musician would stumble upon me in a few minutes, as they were only a bit behind me. I waited. A minute, two, three, five, ten. Time went on, and I became more and more worried. No one was coming. There was no sound. I began to hear my heart beating, it was racing.
"Hello?" I asked again, my voice a whisper.
"Hello," my voice echoed back.
"Where am I? The labyrinth?" I asked.
"The labyrinth," my echo affirmed.
"Can I not get out?"
"Can... t... get out," the echo said, mournfully.
"Where has the rest of the Oktoberists gone?"
"Oktober... is... gone," the echo was apologetic this time.
"You're not saying I'm alone am I?"
"You're... not... alone."
"What is the Labyrinth? What is this place I'm in?! What the hell is the Labyrinth?!" I yelled, growing more and more frustrated.
"The Labyrinth... is... hell..."