New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

Room Five

Posted Jun 25 2015, 12:00 am

** You wake up at the end of a long, dark corridor. Someone slams and locks the door behind you. There’s no way to go but forwards. At the end of the corridor is a heavy wooden door.

In front of you is an envelope with your name on it. You open it with trembling hands. It says, ‘You have been brought here for a reason. Prove that you are worth saving. Work out the five clues if you want to live.’

You stand up, clutching the letter, and run for the end of the corridor. On the door is a keypad, containing all 26 letters of the alphabet. Knowing, deep down, that it won’t help, you try desperately to open the door.It’s firmly locked. Turning round, you see five doors in the side of the corridor. Three to the left and two to the right. Five doors, five clues. You know what you have to do.

ROOM FIVE

by Darynda Jones

The shadows of the long corridor stretched before me, so black it could have gone on forever. But it didn’t. I knew that. I’d been here before, in this dark place, pounding on this same door, punching these same keys. The memory was like a dream from my childhood, but the scrapes and bruises on my palms told me otherwise. The cut on my wrist. The burn on my hand. The other aches and pains that throbbed with each breath I took. I knew two things to be true: This was no dream and this was not a kind place.

My chest tightened as I fought for air. Only one room to go. I could do this. I would prove I was worth saving. I walked toward the last door on the left, my gaze darting into the shadows, my senses hyperaware A unique stench hit me as I passed each of the other doors. One the acrid smell of petrol. Another the nauseating scent of death. Then rotting flesh and fire. Each so sharp and offending, they singed the lining of my nostrils. But I kept walking forward until the darkness swallowed me. Feeling my way along the wall, I found the door at last, gripped the handle with shaking fingers, and twisted the cold handle.

A white brighter than the sun hit me, blinding me for a solid minute. Garish even with my eyes closed. I peeled open my lids and blinked, waited, allowed my vision to adjust, then turned a full circle. The door I had yet to step through sat yards away from me. I stood in the middle of a massive white room, one in which I couldn’t make out where the floor ended and the walls began. Did it even have walls? After a moment, I realized there was a sound echoing around me, a high-pitched whistle like the steam from a boiling teapot.

The room, though completely empty, had to contain a clue. Wasn’t that the whole point? Either way, I would feel much better assessing my situation a little closer to my only escape route. I started for the door when two things hit me at once: A stench so noxious it made me gag and a dark figure in my periphery. I turned quickly, but it disappeared. I did the full-circle thing again. Saw nothing.

Fine. Door. Just get to the door.

I continued walking and the sound grew louder and louder. One solid note, like an emergency broadcast signal, punctuated the absolute emptiness of the room around me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood erect. I walked faster. Took off at a full-sprint, but the faster I ran, the farther away the door sat. My feet grew heavy, like my shoes had been filled with lead. Had to stop at last to catch my breath. Lungs burned. Legs stung from exertion.

The signal escalated. My eyes watered. I fell to one knee and slammed my hands against my ears. The stench hit me again. My stomach convulsed. I covered my mouth, afraid I would lose the contents of my stomach, when I saw it again. A darkness in my periphery. I whipped my head around just in time to see it dissipate into a cloud of black smoke. Caught sight of another one coming at me from my right. Turned toward it just as it was about to grab me. The scent, as though the figures I saw had been rotting for days, assaulted me to my core. I grew dizzy. Nauseated. Another figure emerged. Charred fingers inches from my face when I turned.

Again on my left. A caustic smell. A dark figure lunging toward me. Another to my right. As long as I saw them before they got to me, they disappeared in an undulating sea of smoke.

The sound surged to a fever pitch. My eardrums were about to burst. My stomach was about to heave. I fought the bile burning the back of my throat as I swung blindly at my attackers. A hand clawed at me. I pushed at it, scraping long, broken fingernails down my forearm.

Another one grabbed my leg. It scratched deep grooves into my calf as I kicked it off. A child appeared on my left. Its joints popped with every move it made, making its progression jerky and unnatural before it dissipated with my glance. A giant materialized on my right. It crawled along the floor, hitting the top of its head—a head that sat backward on its shoulders—as it lumbered closer. It stared up at me, its neck twisted, its mouth grotesquely elongated before it vanished.

Each was a little different. Each a little more disturbing than the last. They came at me fast. The smell suffocated. The sound disoriented.

Razor-like nails raked across my face before I could look at the being wearing them. Stinging ribbons of blood dripped into my eyes. I blinked the red away, unable to keep up. Unable to fill my lungs. My arms burned with effort. My skin stung as though I’d been dipped in acid. I couldn’t keep up. No matter what I’d done, no matter what other terrible secrets hid in my missing memory, I didn’t deserve this.

Anger rocketed through me. I closed my eyes, clenched my fists and screamed one simple word. “STOP!”

And it did. Everything stopped. Though my ears still rang and my stomach still churned and my skin still blazed, everything stopped. Just as I started to open my eyes, a hand slid from behind me, through my hair, past my ear, and over my face to cover my mouth. I stood my ground, refused to withdraw from his touch as the being leaned in and whispered into my ear.

Then I was at the door, standing with the handle in my hand as though I were about to enter. I stumbled back, looked toward the vault door with the keypad, and sprinted toward it. I had the last clue. The last letter.

I hit the door hard, pressed a shaking index finger to the keypad and entered the letters of the clue until I came to the last one that had been whispered into my ear: E.

THE END . . . or is it?

 

 **This short story by Darynda Jones was written for an amazing creepy Halloween Blog crawl for Piatkus.

Christopher Rice, Kate Ellis, Tim O’Rourke, Kristen Callihan joined forces to write a spooky story each day of the crawl.

Click HERE for links to all the wonderful short stories.

Comments

8 responses to “Room Five”

  1. Yodamom says:

    Well, there is the magic behind my nightmares tonight. I loved it to goosebumps !

  2. kaitibooshoe says:

    Excellent writing. I may just borrow this prompt for my own attempt.

  3. Gina says:

    Wow…..I would love to read more!!

  4. Whoa! Hairs still standing up…now I want to know what it was all about!

  5. Cashea Rigney says:

    That was awesome! You are my favorite author and u can’t wait to see what comes next!

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