Cont. 1Mature

He jumps and trembles. Catching some of his panic you free your right hand and frantically untie your feet. You are wearing brown leather boots and blue jeans which you utterly fail to recognize. Before you've managed it the fanfare sounds again and he yelps, jumping up and running from the room.

"Wait!" you shout. "Stop!"

He doesn't; what a surprise. He doesn't even hesitate. You hear the sound of his running footsteps dwindle and by the time you've made it to the door he's nowhere to be seen. There's just the bare hallway stretching away to the right and left, old plaster walls which sag and are stained with damp and mildew, here and there the plaster has fallen away in chunks to reveal crumbling old stones. It doesn't seem at all familiar.

The horn sounds again, closer this time you're sure of it. There are other noises too, the thud of hooves very faint and far away, dogs barking and a jingle of tack.

You run, choosing to go left because it's the way he went. If you can catch up to him, you'll make him give you answers; if asking nicely doesn't work, of course.

Still, your blood pounds and your heart races, and the chase, the hunt, seems to be getting closer, catching up with you. You find a set of winding stairs at the end of the hallway and hurtle down them, your lungs burning. They don't end for the longest time. By the time you stumble out of them, breathless and more scared than you remember being at any time in your life, (which isn't so hard, as right now you don't recall much) you can hardly stand for dizzyness and the woven floor-covering under your feet seems to undulate and sway like a brown, choppy sea.

You fall over something, and the spots dancing in your eyes retreat enough that you can see it's your rescuer. He's lying prone, his long skinny arms and legs splayed out, but you can't tell if he's dead or just fainted. Maybe it was those god-awful stairs. You feel sick enough yourself to want to lie down for a while and shut your eyes. Just until the world stops spinning.

You don't get a chance, not even to check whether he's still breathing as the horn fanfare sounds again, close enough now to hurt your ears. From around the corner, at the far end of the darkened hall, something comes.

There's the smell of blood and sweat and fear. Foam-flecked horses galloping flat-out, an insane pack of dogs, snarling and barking. On the horses sit riders in cloaks and red masks, whipping their mounts frantically, the eyes of their masks red wells of rage. The rider in the lead, his masked face crowned in ivy, raises the horn to his lips.

The sound floods you, it's more a feeling than a sound, coming up from the floor through your boots. There's no way they can fit in the hallway, the ravaging pack, the huge horses, and yet they do. The space bends around them, wide enough to let them pass. Under the smell of blood and fear there's another scent, of wet leaves and dank tree-trunks, old old wood in a primeval forest. The riders should be banging their heads against the ceiling, and yet they don't.

They're going to tear you to pieces.

The End

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