‹ Prequel: Hurricane Heart
Sequel: Storms in Utopia

Martyr's Run



Making my way up to the second and then third floor was easy. And then, after running round a bit on the third level, and narrowly avoiding getting exploded by a bomb, and then being plunged into intense darkness a few times, I found a staircase up to level four. How many more were there going to be?

Up here, it looked exactly the same as any other level; you couldn’t appreciate how confusing the Maze was until you had actually experienced it for yourself. Every time I thought I had orientated myself, a wall would slide across in front of me, the lights would go out, some foul smelling and potentially toxic gas would drive me off down some random path until I was lost again...it was near impossible.

And I still had no idea which level the exit was on. Usually, it was about as far away from the entrance as you could get, but sometimes, a contestant would get all the way to a fifth or sixth or even seventh floor, only to realise that the exit was actually right back on the ground.

In those circumstances, the contestant nearly always lost.

Still, I could deduce that the exit was probably on one of the higher levels by the fact that, the higher I went, the more frequent and hazardous the traps were becoming. The ground floor traps had been pretty pathetic, and I’d encountered virtually nothing on the second floor besides the giant rolling boulder—not that I had been on that floor for very long. The third floor had brought the first real problems; a couple of bombs and some serious lighting issues, plus some gas that had made me want to throw up, and now, the fourth floor seemed to be even worse.

The one good thing was that I hadn’t used up too much time. I couldn’t have been in here for more than an hour; I’d made pretty good progress. Therefore, I still had two thirds of my time left.

Something creaked behind me and I whipped round, my gun out at the ready. I hadn’t had a chance to use it yet, which probably meant I was in for a nasty surprise later on.

There was nothing there. Out of the corner of my eye, though, a shadow flickered across the wall to my left. Turning to face it, the shadow took a human form and seemed to disappear behind me. As I spun, trying to keep it in front of me, a second one flashed across my vision to the left, but was gone before I could find it.

A simple paranoia trick? Or something more sinister?

Another creak.


The voice was not quite human; surely it could not be human. But it sent a chill racing up my spine all the same. Stepping backwards, I spun round, only to be confronted by a larger, thicker, more realistic looking shadow and, without hesitation, I bolted.


I knew it was a mistake as soon as I turned the corner. A trap that I was intended to run away from was probably only ever going to push me into another one.

A bomb exploded right close to me, throwing me backwards so that my head slammed into the metal floor. I cried out in pain as fire seemed to surge up my left leg and, too hurt to sit up, I hit at it repeatedly with my arms until it died down. The outfit I was wearing was supposedly fire-proof; they weren’t trying to kill us or injure us too severely; only enough to make for good entertainment. Nevertheless, the pain was still intense and, when I finally managed to sit up, I saw that my trouser leg was blackened and burnt. The smoke from the bomb began to clear and I sat coughing violently, rubbing at my leg until the pain was mostly gone. Bombs were usually sound-activated so that they didn’t require us having to step right on top of them. After all, having a Dreamer get their legs blown off was going to be pretty costly to fix.

And then I heard a clanging sound from behind me, so close that it could only be metres away. Leaping to my feet and crying out from the pain, I wheeled round to face it, but there was nothing there. More paranoia. They were trying to convince me that there was someone else in here.

‘Fuck,’ I muttered, shuddering and then coughing up half my guts having inhaled far too much smoke.

Carrying on, my gun out ready, the clanging grew more distant as I got further away.

And then it started up again as I rounded another corner, this time coming from a pathway to my left.

When it seemed to be practically upon me, it died away again, and immediately started coming from the opposite direction. Whirling round, my eyes so wide as they scoured the area for signs of life or tricks, there was still nothing there.

Then it was coming from the other direction again. It seemed to be getting closer and, as much as I tried to ignore it, knowing now that there was nothing there, I turned to face it, wide-eyed, my gun poised, ready to fight.

And then someone crashed round the corner.

A person.

A real person. Even though I had given up on the idea of finding an opponent, I was coming face to face with one of them now.

Only, I recognised this man.



‘J—‘ I began. I was too startled to speak; I could only manage pathetic words and stutters.

He ran towards me, but after I was initially consumed by shock, and then rage, a strange feeling of desperation engulfed every other emotion in my body.

I pointed my gun into his face. I still didn’t know what it did; it was probably for stunning, but I could never be sure until I fired it.

Fear crossed Jake’s face as he stared, almost going cross-eyed, at the barrel of the gun.

‘Do it,’ he whispered. ‘Only one of us can get out.’

My finger rested on the trigger, tensed, ready to pull it, my entire body shaking with the intensity with which I was holding the gun.

And then I dropped it, allowing it to clatter to the floor in the silence.

‘Aw fuck!’ I cried in exasperation. ‘You always were a better man than me.’ Slowly, the desperation subsided. Jake was here. Only one of us was going to make it out.

And, whilst I had been prepared to shoot him to save myself, he was only too willing to give himself over and let me win. And when a person was that nice, how could you do anything other than be nice back?

Jake looked shaken. I didn’t blame him; there couldn’t have been many times when his own friend had pointed a gun in his face.

‘How the hell did you get in here?’ I asked. Now, the rage was coming back. They actually had the nerve to kidnap my best friend as well?

‘We, uh, we tried to break you out,’ Jake said. He looked uncertain of how to proceed; after all, anything we said was going to be aired on national TV. ‘Me, Tim and Rina. But I got caught.’

‘You what?’ I repeated. ‘Jake, we’re in a bloody government compound! How did you expect to break in and rescue me?’

‘I don’t know,’ he replied in a small voice. He looked sorry, but the hint of a smile kept twitching at the corners of his mouth. It alone conveyed everything he was not allowed to say; that Tim and Rina were still here.

A small spark of hope ignited inside me. Yes, anything could have happened to the two of them since Jake had been caught, but if he had seen them break in, then I had to trust him.

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘we’ve got to get going.’

‘What’s the use?’ he moaned melodramatically. ‘They’re gonna Operate on us whether we get out or not.’

So Hartnett hadn’t told him what she’d told me, then.

‘Jake,’ I said, looking into his downcast eyes. ‘Hartnett has promised me freedom. For me, and for you. She said that if I made it through the Run, I was free to go, but if I failed, I was in for the Operation.’ I was suddenly overwhelmed with anger at her devious catch. I’d made sure that Jake could come with me. But that was before I knew that he would be in the Run with me. That was before I knew that, whatever Hartnett had ‘promised’ me, only one of us was getting out of this Maze alive.

‘Freedom?’ he repeated in awe. ‘Are you sure?’

‘I’m sure.’

And that was when a great, grinding sound started up.

Looking up, my eyes darting from side to side, I saw to my horror that the walls on either side of this path were beginning to close in on us. Slowly, they began to move inwards, the path becoming narrower with every passing second.

‘RUN!’ I shoved Jake and he staggered backwards. I scooped my gun up from the floor—it still might come in handy—and charged after him, pushing at his back as the walls converged on us, getting closer, pressing in, pressing down. It was a long path; there were no turn-offs close by; we weren’t going to make it; the walls were going to suffocate me—

I staggered out into an open path. Looking behind me, I saw that the walls we had just squeezed out of were now barely a foot wide, and were still closing in further. After that, coming into a path that was several times wider felt like the time I had burst into the fresh, rainy air after being trapped in the Institution for weeks on end.

Jake looked out of breath. In fact, he looked terrible all over. His hair was dishevelled, his eyes were wide and haunted, a great gash ran up his right arm, there were blotchy, bruise-like patches on his face.

‘It seems they don’t want us standing around talking,’ he said, managing a slight smile.

‘I’ve long since passed caring what those bastards want,’ I said boldly, hoping that Hartnett heard that. It was likely that if we started openly protesting, they’d cut the sound; possibly even cut the programme—and then we’d be punished severely even if we made it out—but it was hard to control the odd line here and there.

I didn’t ask Jake how he’d sustained his injuries and ended up looking so scared—there was no time, and I most certainly didn’t want the walls to start closing in around us again. So without another word, I opted for the right hand path, and then took it at a brisk walking pace.

‘Are we on the top floor?’ I asked.

‘No,’ Jake replied. ‘There’s a fifth floor. That’s the top floor—you can tell.’

‘You’ve been up there?


‘Why did you come back down?’ I asked.

Fear crossed his eyes, which had taken on a haunted sort of light, and he actually seemed to shudder.

‘Level five isn’t a nice place,’ was all he said. Seeing the dread on his face, I decided not to pursue with any more questions. Instead, I broke into a gentle jog, taking pathways almost at random. I’d seen how big and confusing this place was, and the exit could quite literally be anywhere. The only hope was to try and cover as much ground as possible. I’d given up on tactics; now, I was just going with speed, skill and a hell of a lot of luck.

I’d almost been lured into a false sense of security when the ground began shuddering beneath me. Flying into the wall, where my shoulder collided with the hard surface, a manmade earthquake seemed to grip the ground beneath my feet. After the myriad of traps and psychological disturbances I’d faced so shortly after coming up to level four, I had almost assumed we were safe for a moment after I’d met Jake.

But Martyr’s Run was never safe. Martyr’s Run was deceiving.

A wall slid into place across the pathway we’d just come down, blocking us off from that route, and trapping us in this earthquake zone. The metal floor seemed to break up and churn about beneath our feet, as though it was being tossed about on the surface of a violent ocean.

‘Run!’ Jake yelled at me, already a few paces ahead, tripping and falling over a jagged spire of flooring that spiked up suddenly out of this crumbling ground. He righted himself, only to be thrown to the side by a violent shudder, slamming hard into the wall, which seemed to be moving in and out with the force of the quake.

I hadn’t even made it that far. Trapped on a tiny safe platform in the middle of this vicious tempest, I watched as a whole section of grating in front of me crumbled in on itself, leaving a large hole about three feet wide between my platform and where Jake was standing.

‘Jump!’ Jake cried, watching me helplessly as he was thrown to the side again. I readied myself, then lost my balance as the earthquake increased in intensity, thrown forward before I was prepared, flying into the gap where the grating had fallen down.

By some miracle, I got half a leg onto the opposite platform, and used this to propel the rest of my body onto the semi-solid ground. Jake managed to help me to my feet before we were both thrown forward violently, and the walls around us began to groan. The lights started flickering repeatedly like strobe lighting, only adding to the confusion of the situation. I just about got to my feet, reaching out for any sign of Jake in the delirium. I found an arm and heaved him forward. He cried out—in shock, in pain, I had no idea, and then collapsed into me as the lights came back on solidly again, and the ground reared up around us.

Desperately, I threw myself across the ground, gasping in pain as a sharp bit of flooring dug into my side, and then crying out as I was tossed mercilessly into the wall, slamming into it face-first. Jake grabbed onto me as the lights went out once again, this time staying out, and we charged blindly over the torn up ground, tripping, stumbling, falling.

And then we reached the end of the path, and the lights came back on, and it was as if nothing had ever happened. A wall closed up behind me, shutting us off from the path we had just come down—not that we were likely to go back anyway, and then, just when I thought we were back to the closest thing Martyr’s Run could offer us to normality, the lights went out once again.

‘Simeon!’ I heard Jake cry out. I groped around blindly in the intense darkness; a darkness that betrayed no hint of light. I quite literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

And then there were running footsteps, seeming to grow distant.

‘Jake?’ I called out, wondering where he was running. He seemed to be getting further away from me, and I staggered forward, my hands out, running straight into a wall. Turning to the right, I stumbled stupidly after the footsteps.

And then they stopped.

And then started up again, only from behind me.

Whipping round, they were still running away from me—it couldn’t be Jake; he had gone the other way, and this was only meant to confuse me. Or was this Jake, and the first set of footsteps were the computerised ones sent to confuse me? Or were both of them computerised, and Jake was still standing right next to me?

‘Jake?’ I called out.

‘Simeon!’ a voice said from surprisingly close by.

‘Simeon!’ Another voice, identical to Jake’s in every way, shouted from behind me. I turned towards it, still blind in the darkness.

‘Simeon!’ It was coming from the opposite direction, now further away, even though I had heard no footsteps.

‘Simeon!’ This time, it was right behind me; sounding quite literally inches away. It was so shocking that I whipped round, instinctively lashing out with my hands, but I was hitting at empty air; there was no one there.

‘Simeon!’ Once again, it was behind me, and once again, even closer. But there were ‘footsteps’ running away from me, clanging over the metal grating, but distant, and further away.

Insane with fear, I lashed out all around me, trying to make contact with anything. But there was nothing. I staggered forwards, backwards, left, right, but I was unable to even feel the walls. It was as if I was standing alone in a great void of nothingness.

‘Simeon!’ The voice was further away this time, but it was in the opposite direction to the ‘footsteps’. They were running, confident, assured—that couldn’t be Jake, but they were coming closer, closer, behind me, metres away, centimetres away, practically on top of me—

The lights shot back on, and there was nothing there. I was surrounded by empty air. Jake was standing ten metres or so away, his expression showing that he’d just experienced everything I’d experienced. The walls around me seemed to have quite literally disappeared; moved backwards or sunk into the ground perhaps, and I was standing in a pathway that was at least three times wider than any I had been in so far today.

‘Fucking psychological shit,’ was all that I could get to come out of my mouth.
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I know I have a somewhat over-active imagination, but I seriously can't read this chapter before going to bed. I don't like the dark! :P