My eyes opened and I was on the ground.
I tried to blink the afterimages away. The only thing I could remember was… there was a light. From the book. Agnes tried to do something, to figure out what was going on. Then, she stepped away from a brief moment to consult with Zoey on some religious allusion in the text. And then…
My eyes opened and I was on the ground. There was a big white ceiling over my head. I could tell I wasn’t in the temple anywhere. But where could I be?
I got up to my feet. At least, I had some strength still. I looked around and once I was standing up, it was clear where I was.
I was back in the mausoleum, outside the temple. The same mist was surrounding the mausoleum, as well as the path into the temple. The temple door, though, was closed. Hadn’t we left it open? Well, there was no one else around, and I was too scared to see what would happen if I tried to enter the mist surrounding me. While on the one hand I was grateful to be out of the temple, I also had no other options but to try to get back inside. Outside the temple was a hopeless dead zone. There would be no returning anywhere from out here.
I trudged across the path yet again and stood before the stone door. The symbols from before were etched all around it. I remembered Agnes had said some incantation to open it. At the time, it was very foreign to me, but in the time I had spent alongside Agnes I had picked up a little bit of her knowledge and felt that I could probably piece together the incantation to make the door open again.
It took me many, many tries and I was starting to abandon hope of ever making it inside, but I finally managed to get the door to happen. I made a note to myself that as soon as I saw Agnes, I would thank her profusely for giving me enough knowledge to let myself back into the temple.
Once the door opened, though, I immediately realized something was wrong. The Button Room – the first chamber we came across back when there were 29 of us – was pitch black dark again. I stopped myself from entering.
This was wrong.
Shouldn’t Lola and Carolyn be in here, with a torch, which Silas would have given them?
“Lola? Carolyn?” I shouted into the room, but all I heard was my own echo. They must be gone. Where could they be? They couldn’t have possibly decided to explore elsewhere. According to Silas, they were committed to pushing the button.
Well, the next task I faced was figuring out how to explore the room again, given it was now pitch black. I didn’t have any way to make fire on my own. I had a general idea of where the button was and I had a general idea of where the hallway was, but I wasn’t confident enough to risk just walking in. I knew that the timer began as soon as I entered, so I was holding off on that until I had a plan for how to make fire.
I looked up and realized the door hadn’t lowered at all. And even if it did lower, I could just open it again from the outside by saying the incantation again. Now that I could open the door, I could do whatever I wanted out here. I returned to the mausoleum and searched it thoroughly. I found some sticks on the ground off in a corner. That was a start on making a torch, although I still had no fire.
Then, I had a wild thought. What if I stuck the stick into the mist? I did it and… it ignited immediately. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, not just that I had a torch now, but also that I didn’t try walking into the mist blindly.
I returned to the Button Room, torch in hand. As expected, the symbols flashed and the door began to lower again. Just as before, I would have 600 seconds to press the button, or 10 minutes. I looked around. Lola and Carolyn were definitely not here. The button was where I remembered it being and I gave it a quick press, just for fun. It was odd that I was doing things for fun at this point, but I had been alone for so long that I figured nothing was normal anymore.
I thought about pressing this button more, but I felt that wouldn’t actually help me escape. Lola and Carolyn might be around here and still in danger. Ten minutes was plenty of time to do a quick check of the temple, especially since I now knew pretty well what was on this floor.
I entered the main hub again. The seven chambers were all as they were. Still no sign of Lola or Carolyn. I wasn’t really expecting to see anyone else, since everyone else – everyone else who didn’t die on this floor – would be upstairs. I figured I’d check the Pride Room again, the room I had originally been in where Ursula found the crown relic.
What I saw in there shocked me.
The crown was back on top of the pyramid of stairs.
How did it get up there? Ursula should have it. Unless there were two… unless…
I ran as fast as I could, realizing I only had a few minutes left to test my theory. I went into room after room after room. The floor was back in the Sloth Room. Daisy’s corpse was not in the Gluttony Room. The statues – which I took great care to stay far way from, after listening to Yorick’s tale – were back in the Lust Room.
That’s when I realized where Lola and Carolyn went.
They were missing, because they were never here, in this temple. I had been dropped into an alternate dimension of the exact same temple completely and utterly alone.
The book must have done this. I didn’t know how or why, but remembering what I knew about the temple, I knew it was literally impossible to bring the stairs down by myself. The Envy Room required 8 people after all to clear the puzzle. Unless, you could use something off to set off the pressure pads, but… this place was so dangerous, I’d be almost guaranteed to die trying to solve the mysteries of this temple all on my own.
The least I could do was try to push the button again while I thought this all out.
Judging by the symbols, I made it back with about a minute to spare. I reached out to push the button, then stopped myself.
What actually happened when the symbols ran out? We never actually found out, did we? I didn’t have much hope solving the puzzles of the temple on my own. It would be a risk but…
I closed my eyes as the last symbol disappeared from the wall.
The door to the temple slammed shut.
I expected my consciousness to fade away into nothing. To die. But I was still breathing. Still alive.
I opened my eyes again and my jaw dropped wide open.
Letting the button tick down to zero caused a portal to open in the middle of the Button Room. We had a way out of the temple from the moment we walked in, but we denied it to ourselves because we forced somebody to stay behind to push the button over and over again.
I couldn’t imagine where it would lead but anywhere would be better than here.
I walked through it and found myself back in the mausoleum.
A wave of despair washed over me and knelt on the ground. There was no escaping this place. It was dark all around me, and I was doomed to repeat this cycle over and over and over again.
“Oh my god… Sefina! SEFINA!”
I turned to follow the voice. It was impossible to believe, but…
“Rita? What are you doing? Where am I?”
Rita ran towards me, dropped to her knees and embraced me in a huge hug on the ground. “I don’t know how you got out, but you’re back in Arkham. You’re out of there. Amanda, give her the provisions we brought. She’s going to be in rough shape.”
The blonde haired woman who I assumed must have been Amanda wrapped a blanket around me and gave me some water to drink. I blinked slowly, not believing what was happening. I drank some water. Then, I set it down. This was no time for rest.
“Rita, we have a lot to talk about. I just realized how the byakhee get here. We’re in even more danger than we thought we were.”
June 17th: SEFINA, transported alive via a portal to Arkham
June 16th: MARK, devoured by an abomination in the West Room
June 15th: SILAS, succumbed to earlier poisonous gas exposure while in the Book Room
June 14th: AKACHI, succumbed to poisonous gas in the East Room
June 13th: RITA, woke up alive in Arkham
June 12th: LEO, shot dead by Finn in the South Room
June 11th: REX, torn apart by byakhee in the North Room
June 10th: MARIE, fell into the chasm in the South Room
June 9th: CAROLYN, head smashed by Lola in the Button Room
June 8th: JOE, shot himself in the Lust Room
June 7th: SKIDS, dismembered in the Greed Room
June 6th: JIM, possessed by Ambrose in the Lust Room
June 5th: DIANA, possessed in the Lust Room
June 4th: MATEO, drowned in the Sloth Room
June 3rd: DAISY, shot dead by Roland in the Gluttony Room
June 2nd: NORMAN, disintegrated in the Envy Room
June 1st: LOLA, abandoned in the Button Room
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