Dark Icon Original Fiction. SciFi/Fantasy/Horror


Wallace's legs were on fire.

The unaccustomed exertion was forcing new life into his lower limbs... the blood was flowing and the muscles were pumping. The itching (now burning) sensation this caused was undoubtedly healthy, but it didn't feel all that good. How long had he been out here? A while, it seemed. But how long, exactly?

Wallace couldn't actually remember, and for the first time since... whenever... it bothered him a little. He'd wandered somewhere and gotten lost, that much was clear... logically clear, anyway. It MUST have happened, but he couldn't actually remember that either.


His footsteps echoed loudly off of stone walls of the labyrinth; the peculiar construction of the place caught the sounds and amplified them, carrying them far longer and louder than one would expect. Not that Wallace minded. No, the odd echoes were interesting at first... and now they served another purpose: They helped mask those other sounds.... the one's that Wallace didn't want to hear. Thinking of the faint scratching that he had heard behind him earlier, Wallace brought his feet down harder for the next couple of steps. The echoes reverberated wildly. He wanted to stop and listen, but he sped up instead.

"There's nothing back there," the thought to himself. Still, he didn't look to see for himself. Instead, he walked on at an unhurried, yet determined pace.

He had to keep moving. Maybe it didn't matter how fast he moved... and maybe it did. But he knew he had to keep moving.

Why was that? Wallace didn't know.

Another corridor intersected this one some distance away, and Wallace had already decided that he would turn right. He had turned left last time. And the time before that as well. What was it before then? Left or Right? Right. He had made some turn, left or right, at every intersection, perhaps hoping that every new corridor would be more interesting that the one he was currently on. Maybe he should go straight a few times. But not yet. Yes, definitely a Right up ahead.

In truth, Wallace didn't have the slightest idea where he was or how to get out of this maze. This didn't disturb him one bit. Except for that... that sound... he wasn't the slightest bit concerned about where he was or how he was going to find his way out. He knew he was SOMEWHERE... somewhere outside. He glanced up at the sky. Gray and featureless. No sun or moon could be seen. Of course, his vision was obscured by the tops of the walls. Wallace's view of the sky was extremely limited, but he could see it, and that was all that mattered. Still, he'd like to know what time it was. Usually a stickler for time, Wallace must have forgotten to retrieve his watch before he ventured out....

Out. Out from where? Wallace stopped walking.

"Where was I this morning?" He couldn't remember.

...scritch....scritch, scriiiitch....

Wallace moved on, clopping his feet loudly to drowned out the sounds behind him. Like dried leaves being blown across rough concrete. Very large leaves. Yes, the ivy clinging to the labyrinth walls could have supplied the leaves, but where was the wind coming from? Wallace didn't feel any wind.

"Doesn't mean there isn't one," Wallace thought... his mind attempting to be logical despite the fact that what he was thinking made no sense. He made his way over to the right wall of the corridor and snatched a leaf off of the wall. He tossed it in front of him. It fluttered to the ground and stayed there, undisturbed by any phantom breezes.

"So?" Wallace said. His thoughts answered him: So the sound behind you can't be a leaf blowing in the wind-


His heart jumped. He hadn't realized he'd stopped walking to watch the leaf. The leaf that hadn't moved. He quickly started off again. He had to keep walking.

"Make a right," he reminded himself as he came to the other pathway. He turned right without looking to see what the other directions held. "Why bother? I've made my decision." Still, was there another reason he didn't look? Something back there he didn't want to see? Something that made the sound of dried leaves on rough stone? Defying himself, Wallace glanced over his shoulder. Nothing. Just another corridor. Same dull gray walls. Same bright green ivy. Same stone block floors. Same everything. How could he tell them apart? How did he know he wasn't going around in circles? Maybe he should leave a path. Wallace patted his pockets. Empty. Empty. And... Empty. He wasn't carrying a single thing. No wallet or identification of any kind. No watch. Nothing but the clothes on his back and the shoes on his aching feet.

"Well, how do I know I'm still Wallace Cobb, then?" Wallace smiled, then began to survey his clothes. He could rip them and leave little pieces of cloth. No. Too much trouble. Besides, he'd have to stop walking in order to take off his slacks. And he had to keep walking. "Oh well, no trail of bread crumbs, then." For the first time, Wallace noticed his shoes. Hard-bottomed dress shoes. Not his first choice for an extended walk in the whatever. His feet had begun to ache earlier, but he had ignored it and the pain went away. It was back, now. He would have a few blisters by the time this was all over, if he didn't already have a few. He thought about taking his shoes off, but decided to wait until they really started to hurt. Then, it would be a trade-off between painful shoes and possible injury from the numerous pebbles and twigs that littered the stone floor. Lesser of two evils. He wouldn't choose until he had to.

Far ahead, Wallace thought he could make out another intersection. No, not an intersection, a branch. Another passageway branched off to the left. Wallace sighed, disappointed, but not very much so. He hadn't really expected to see an exit. Hadn't been looking for one, in fact. The walk had been... stimulating. Wallace didn't get out much; wasn't much of an outdoor person. Nature and all of it's associated annoyances didn't really hold much fascination for him. But this maze, or whatever it was, wasn't really that bad. The air was cool and clean. No smog or ozone. Wallace supposed that this is what 'mountain air' must be like. The ivy gave off a pleasant aroma... almost like mint. Earlier, he had thought about pulling off a leaf and chewing it. He'd heard that people did that. He decided against it; they could be poisonous. Poison Ivy for all he knew. Still, it looked and smelled... pleasant. It gave the otherwise dull walls a distinctive, 'other-worldly' sort of character. Like a church, or a... a... (cemetery?) medieval castle.

The entire place was quiet. Except for his footsteps (and that other thing), the entire maze was perfectly silent. Peaceful. Wallace liked this place; wouldn't mind staying a while longer. He'd like it more if he didn't have to keep walking.

"Nonsense." Wallace stopped suddenly, his feet throbbed sharply for a second and then settled back into a dull ache. He listened. "Come on." Nothing. Then...

...scritch, scritch...

Wallace spun around. The sound seemed to have come from not far behind him, but, as always, there was nothing there.


Leaves blowing in the non-wind. Or an insect. Insects rustling among the leaves. Wallace hated insects, but, now that his mind once again had something rational to grab onto, his unfounded fear subsided.


Louder. Wallace tried to locate the sound but couldn't place it. He walked back the way he had come, looking and listening. He'd find this thing and step on it and be done with it.

...Scritch, Scritch...

In front of him. Wallace had halfway expected the sound to have moved around behind him again. It wasn't logical, but it wouldn't have surprised him. No, the sound was in front of him, in the direction from which he had just come. He scanned the ivy for any signs of movement.


Nothing. At least not where he could see it. The sound seemed to have come from the corridor he had just left. Wallace was almost back at the intersection. He sped up slightly, determined to whip around the corner and face... what? He'd turn the corner and see exactly the same thing he'd been seeing all along. Nothing.


He stopped. That last sound had been different. Almost emphasized... insistent.... as if whatever it was was annoyed that Wallace was traveling in the wrong direction.


And something else... another sound, faint, almost hushed, yet close by. Like the whine of an injured dog and a horse's whinny. Again. Silence. And Again. Silence. A regular pattern, almost like... breathing.
Leaves don't breathe. Calmly. Logically. Wallace turned and ran and kept running, charging straight through several intersecting corridors with no pattern or plan except to run fast and keep running.

It took a few blurred minutes for the blast of panic to wear off and for his body to burn through the adrenaline it had unleashed. But when it was over... it was over.

Bent over, hands on knees, Wallace struggled to catch his breath. He didn't know how far he had run, or even which direction. He remembered passing a few of the branching pathways, letting his fear guide him. If he wasn't lost before, then he certainly was now. Which way had he come? Right, left, right? Or was it Right, left, left? Or had he gone straight a few times? Every time?

Wallace stood upright and tried to take a deep breath to clear his thoughts. He coughed through a few shallow attempts before he managed anything close to normal breathing. His feet and legs were in real pain, now. His hard shoes had transmitted the shock of each step up into his shins. Now his bones felt like they had been split into razor-sharp splinters. It hurt to move, but it wasn't too bad when he was standing still.


It sounded far off, but not very far. Once again, it was behind him, making its way towards him. Whatever it was, it wanted him to keep moving. It didn't matter what direction, maybe not even how fast, but he must keep moving. Wallace took a few more deep breaths and started walking.

The first step nearly broke his ankle.

Wallace's right foot twisted awkwardly under his weight, nearly causing him to fall. He caught his balance and hopped a few steps while his right ankle calmed down.

"Damn! I've been walking for God know's how long, just ran I don't know how far, and now I take one damn step and nearly break my leg off!"

Wallace took a tentative step with his right foot. It hurt, but he could still walk. Almost as an afterthought, he removed his shoes. His blistered feet thanked him with a slight lowering of the pain. He certainly wouldn't be doing any more running, and he felt ready to swear off walking forever. If he ever got out of here. Slowly, and painfully, Wallace hobbled onward. As he walked, he searched with increasing desperation for a doorway or an exit of any kind. None presented itself, but he did notice that the soft padding of his socked feet no longer created enough echo to cover the... other sound. He still heard it. It wasn't getting an closer, but it wasn't getting farther away either. It was content to keep a set distance from him, unless he stopped moving. Then it would close on him.

"Maybe I should just stop." he muttered. "stop and let it..." Wallace didn't even bother to finish the thought. No matter how much he hurt, he wasn't going to let that thing get close to him. Not after what he had heard that last time. Not after he had heard the hushed breathing of that thing as it crept up to him from around the corner.

Wallace began to hum nervously. Not that he felt much like humming. He just had to make some noise to cover up that sound. So he hummed the theme song from some movie. When he tired of that, he did a hum-and-whistle version of a few of his favorite songs. Then a few songs he didn't really care for. Then, some old childhood favorites. TV theme songs. Bits of classical music. A song his mother used to sing him. An lewd drinking song that his buddies had made up one night. More classical music. Some 'oldies.' Wallace was surprised at how much music he knew, how many tunes his brain was dredging up from his memory just to blot out that one sound. He kept going. Humming and singing, as he limped along.

He was slowing down. Even without shoes, his feet were screaming at him to stop. Each step made him wince, and now, his legs were beginning to cramp and stiffen. How long had he been walking? How many hours? Or had it been days? Surely he'd been going for at least one solid day, maybe longer, yet the sky neither brightened nor dimmed. How long? How long ago was it that his throat had given out and he had to stop singing. How long ago was that? He couldn't remember. He couldn't even begin to judge how long he'd been here. How far had he walked? How many miles?

He had to stop. Stop and rest. Surprisingly, he wasn't hungry or thirsty. Why? Why wasn't he thirsty? Maybe he was too tired to be thirty; he'd been walking non-stop for... for as long as he could remember. How long could he keep this up?

He felt ready to drop. His legs wobbled weakly under his weight, but he forced himself to keep placing one foot in front of the other. Again and again. One step at a time. Soon he would drop. Then what? Could he crawl his way out of here? Was there even a way out? Not far ahead, another passageway branched off to the left. He would take it, and then what?

"How much longer...." he muttered, "I can't.... I give up..."


Wallace was almost too tired to be startled. Almost.

The sound was too close. Much closer than it had been the last time he heard it.

...scritch, Scritch....

Wallace stopped just before the branching passageway and looked behind him. And there it was. Far down the corridor... A shape, large and...clearly, clearly, CLEARLY not human... launched itself upward and forward. It sailed high into the air landed with a...


...As clawed feet scraped the stone floor briefly, touching only for a second before the bent, twisted legs propelled it into the air again, claws tossing up leaves and pebbles as they thrust-


"My God..." Wallace watched it land again, a good twenty feet closer than it had been before.


Airborne. No wings... just legs. And teeth. And claws.


And cold, black eyes, set above a gaping maw that almost seemed to be smiling. Wallace's mind tried to piece the creature together from other things he'd seen... Part mantis? Part toad? Part... part WHAT? In truth it was NONE of these things. What it WAS was horrible beyond comparison and its gleaming, liquid eyes were fixed hungrily on him! It leapt-


A hop-skip that carried it more than twice as far as its other motions. Three more jumps like that and it would have him.


Wallace heard the breathing now. The gasping whine of a creature that no longer wanted to hide around corners. A creature that had run its prey down, and kept after it until the meat was too tired to flee or fight back.


Wallace was around the corner and down the new passageway before he even realized he had moved. He neither ran nor walked. He merely hobbled, dragging himself along the ivy covered walls. Each step was an explosion of pain, but his screams were not of agony... they were wails of terror. He didn't look behind him. He didn't have to. He heard the next...


As the thing rounded the corner behind him. One more jump and it would have him. Wallace saw another passageway up ahead. He knew he couldn't make it. But he had to try...


Run! RUN! RUN while you still can!

Wallace's shoulders tensed in expectation of the creature's impact.


What was happening? He should be dead by now...


Around the next corner. A door!

A gaping black doorway loomed ahead of him. A cold wind blew out of it, chilling him. He could see nothing beyond it, but it didn't matter. With a yell of determination, he threw himself into it. The thought that it could have been a trap didn't occur to him until he was already engulfed in the darkness. Why didn't it catch him? Was it trying to chase him through here? Into this doorway? What was this place?

Wallace was cold, almost freezing. His legs were thankfully numb, as was most of the rest of his body. He couldn't even tell if he were standing or lying down. He didn't remember falling... but he must have. He was too weak to catch himself after his last leap. Why couldn't he remember hitting the ground? Was he floating? Where was that thing? Did it follow him? He listened, and heard something, but it wasn't the 'scritch.' What was it? A faint beeping noise Again and again. Other sounds too... people talking. Wallace opened eyes that he didn't remember closing, and painfully bright light flooded into them...

"Mr. Cobb?"

Wallace tried to speak, but his confused tongue stumbled over itself.

"Mr. Cobb, I'm Doctor Crouch..."


"You're in the hospital. You were in a very bad accident. You were comatose when they brought you in. It was rough going for a while, but you pulled out of it..."

Wallace tried to sit up, but found that he couldn't move.

"Just relax, Mr. Cobb. Don't try to move. You were banged up pretty badly, and..."

There was an uncomfortable pause, punctuated by the beeping of the heart monitor.

"...I'm afraid your back and neck were broken. Very serious."


"With therapy, you might regain the use of your arms, and upper body. But I'm afraid you'll never walk again."

The End.

Copyright 1997 by Dark Icon (Marc Washington)
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