Reports from the Dark Places, vol. 2

The Summary

Many days had passed, but I still remembered the fall of the civilization. I remembered how it all had begun. I remembered the first wave of panic. How the news had aired uncontrolled riots in the streets. How the police and the army had tried to intervene, but soon afterwards had joined the fray. They all had been dogs trying to bite the neck of the other. There had been no regard for life. They had wanted to murder.

In desperation, top scientists and brilliant minds all over the world had tried to put an end to this, to reverse it. They had thought it was a virus. They had used their brains, their state-of-the-art technology, yet they had failed miserably and had been consumed by madness soon thereafter. All efforts had been made in vain. Countless of lives lost within a single day, communications gone black, cities fallen, bombs exploded, society dissolved. I remembered the day when the civilization had gone dark.

Yet I was still surviving. I had gone a long road since then, but I had persisted. Of course, dark ideas had haunted me since the start, but I had never heeded them. I had never tried to commit suicide, despite knowing there might not be an end.

Up until my visit to the Corrupted City, I had thought I would have spent all my life in endless wanders, resisting the insanity, but my stay there had given me hope.

A man calling himself the Eternal Lord had claimed that it indeed had been the end. An elderly man not stricken by madness. If he was a god, if believers had been right all along, then he might have been a clue to our salvation. On the other hand, I knew I had slipped up back then, giving in to my naivety, blindly believing I had been talking to god, but how could I have been so sure? A god in whose name millions had died. What kind of god was he?

If he was a man, then that meant there was another sane person besides me. And maybe there were even more. Perhaps civilization was not yet lost.

However, if he was a god and this was the Apocalypse, were we all doomed? I had never read the Bible, thus I didn't know what such an event consisted of, but something was just not right. Where were the four riders of the Apocalypse? Or was that another story? I cursed the fact that I had rejected the wealth of knowledge in my youth, not paying attention in school. Had I done so, I would have known whether the horrific events I found myself in had been actually a supernatural forces' creation or not.

Nevertheless, my journey continued and I… well, I was just surviving.

Darker than the Night

It was the seventh sign so far. It always said the same: "Factory of death. I produce the deadliest toxin ever made and spill the air with it. I will make it eat you inside out and you will scream like a little child while you rot alive. You are just a mile away now. Continue this way."

I didn't know what was more mortifying. Was it the sick sense of humour and the recognition of individuality the man had chosen in his communication via these signs? Or was it its credibility demonstrated by a large green cloud emitted by a legion of strangely shaped black smokestacks?

I wasn't really sure about anything, but somehow it made me believe it was a man-made plague that had twisted man into a morbid monster. This factory must have been producing deadly agents to poison the entire Earth! I was determined to shut the toxin factory down.

As I was drawing near, I felt the air becoming acrid and pondered whether there were more like me. More people trying to destroy the toxin facility. My questions were answered soon enough as I stumbled upon a dead corpse, which was preserved thanks to a hazard suit.

Clever idea, I thought to myself as I put it on.

The change of air was strange. I thought I would be feeling better, but somehow, I got used to staleness and corruption that was floating in abundance there. The sterile mixture my lungs were breathing in made me somewhat nauseous at first, but I started to ignore it very quickly.

I walked along a dirt road surrounded by wild grass reaching up to my knees. Sometimes, I could see a tree or two, but both the trees and the grass were greyish – a sign of decomposition caused by the poison.

I continued along the path and with every metre I was happier at the thought that this was the source of madness and I would be the one putting an end to it.

The building was becoming larger and larger as I was closing in. Black and twisted in shape, bending and whirling into various designs ending with thorny edges or the aforementioned smokestacks. Had the building not been in harmony with the dark haze that was occupying the skies, I would have thought it had been an overgrown, mutated vine.

With every hundred metres or so, I came across an increasing number of corpses. Whether they had been murdered by someone else or the toxin's concentration had been already high enough to kill wasn't something I was able to answer. Still, it was sufficient to stir unrest and wake fear in my head. I frequently asked myself whether it was a good idea to carry on, but it didn't hinder my progress.

It was such a gigantic structure, I realized when I arrived at its front.

"Come," said an entertained voice. "No, do not hesitate! It will be a show you won't ever forget!" When the voice turned silent, black doors with strange ornaments on it opened. A large hall full of stuffed bodies hanging on ropes tied to steel pipes on the ceiling was in front of me. Unsure, I stepped in, wondering if it really was a good idea.

It occurred to me that those dead corpses lining the road to the toxin facility weren't bodies of unfortunate besiegers, but merely a morbid decoration. This place belonged to a madman. I had to be careful.

"Welcome to my little sanctuary. You will soon find that you are not the first one to arrive, as well as that there is a fierce competition within these walls." An amused voice was talking to me as if I was on a scary rollercoaster ride. Immediately afterwards, the doors behind me closed, leaving me alone with hundreds of dead and dim lights helplessly trying to shine through the steel pipes.

The walls were covered in large portions of blood, which had been sometimes used for, apparently, drawing desperate scribbles calling for help. Either there had been so much torturing or it was a part of the macabre decoration. The floor, on the other hand, was spotless, as if an army of cleaners scrubbed it everyday.

I tried to look around for an exit, for a way that would lead me to another room. It didn't take me long to spot a small grate that was half-open. I headed for it but had my suspicions. It could have been a trap.

I thoroughly checked the grate when I stood in front of it and after I was sure there was no danger, I passed through.

I was in a long and narrow passage where only bleak lights guided my way through. The floor was still neatly clean, yet the blood on the walls was so close it was making me sick.

Turning to various directions as the passage led me deeper into the factory, I continued walking while someone talked to me again: "Come closer, do not take even a single step back, for only the cursed and the weak ever do so."

"Who are you?" I asked in hopes of getting to know more, but the voice apparently didn't hear. The man who had spoken was only capable of watching.

The passage led me into yet another hall with an even fouler theme. Spikes and hooks were sticking out of the walls and mutilated corpses were impaled on them. Sometimes they were not headless and grimaces on their faces were representing the deepest of agonies.

Apart from dead people, I noticed the room had a large set of tubes and pipes spanning across the entire room, creating an intricate labyrinth.

I searched for exits and this time, there was a choice of doors, but all of them were identical. I moved forward to the leftmost one, but the voice spoke again: "Are you that ignorant? No. You can't leave this room just yet when you haven't even noticed that you have company." The glee in the voice was undeniable.

I looked around but saw nobody. What had the man been babbling about?

I thought it had been a trick. Perhaps the man relied on frightening others and thought it would be a sufficient defence. However, it didn't work with me.

I was just a step away from the desired door when someone spoke again: "How very short-sighted of you. Look, I tried to spare your life, but seeing that you are stubborn and stupid I am unable to help my most favourite friend yet. Just don't say that I haven't warned you!"

Great, that madman was completely insane. He was thinking of me as a friend yet played with me as if I was a victim. I realized he was playing a psychological game and I couldn't afford to fret.

I noticed one of the pipes near me leaking. The gas that was emitting from it was hitting the wall, which was already full of holes – a sign of more leaks that had been there before and also the fact that somebody had been seeing to the maintenance of this place. I understood the gas was harmful and reminded myself to keep out of its way.

I almost put my hand on the doorknob but was interrupted. Somebody seized my wrist and held it firmly. I turned to the left and saw a slumped man with a crazy look on his face.

"Let go!" I ordered him.

"Okay, okay, just don't shout!" he said in a sycophantic voice while curling his body as if he was feeling sick. Immediately after, he indeed let go.

"Who are you?" I asked while stepping backwards and expecting an attack. I even checked if somebody wasn't behind me, but luckily nobody was.

"Okay, okay, I am Jeremiah," he said.

"How did you get here?"

"Okay, okay, I got lost," he said and laughed a little. It wasn't a happy laughter though, more like a sign of shyness and fear.

"Can you begin a sentence without this okay?" I asked nervously as I expected something fishy to happen.

"Okay, okay…" he said unsurely and searched for words, but apparently found none as he remained silent.

I frowned upon his behaviour, but realized there was no time for making fuss about such things. "How long have you been here?"

"Okay, okay, long. It is long. Time. Long time." The man battled with grammar. It occurred to me that he must have been mentally challenged.

"So, I intend to close this factory down. Any ideas how to get to the one in charge here?"

"Okay, okay… ok… time? I am Jeremiah. Yes. The pleasure is all mine. I got lost. I have spent a long time here. No…" He babbled nonsense in an intense and desperate voice and nearly got out of breath.

"Hey, ease off a little, nobody is going to hurt you," I said.

The man gazed at me for a brief period of time, twisting his arms and folding them afterwards. Then he started talking again. "No, I haven't met Mark. I haven't met Mark I said! Do you hear what I say? I haven't seen him!"

"Hold it right there, buddy," I tried to calm him, "I am not looking for Mark!" I realized he wasn't really paying attention to what I was telling him. Most likely, he didn't even understood what I had said. He carried on talking.

"Do not hit me! Mark is not here! I swear! No! Don't do that again! Ouch! That hurts! Do not… not again! No. I will not allow you do to that again. Have at you!"

Immediately afterwards, he thrust at me with a makeshift knife that I had overlooked. I jumped backwards and looked around if there weren't any spare means of defence that I could use. Unfortunately, there weren't.

I stepped back once more and felt a tangle of pipes blocking my way. I tried to crawl under them, but they were everywhere and there wasn't enough space to do so. The crazed maniac was getting closer fast. Impact was inevitable. He attacked once more, jumping at me like a monkey. I tried to dodge his move as much as the confined space I stood in allowed me, but it wasn't enough. His knife barely scratched the hazard suit I had, but his bodyweight hit me hard against the pipes.

I tried to get him off me, but he was like mad and hammered me. With every effort I made he hit back with ten times more strength. He was so crazy he didn't even bother using his knife. He was determined to beat me to death.

I noticed the leaking pipe again. It was not that far away. But he was persistent. I felt my ribs were about to break, yet he pressed on. And another hit. I reached my hand out. I tried to grab the pipe. Another painful blow.

"Stop it!" I shouted while finally getting hold of the pipe.

However, the madman didn't want to let go. His resolve was unquestionable. After all the attacks, he didn't ease up even a little bit. My ribs were getting weaker. I made a desperate move when he was preparing for another hit, I gathered all my strength and strafed closer to the pipe while pulling it towards me with force until I felt it crack. I was shaking it like crazy while the madman crashed into the pipes instead of me.

Such a fact enraged him even more and after he altered his course, he hit me much harder. I couldn't resist groaning and made a painful hiss as he attacked me and made my ribs hit the pipes again.

Nevertheless, I persevered. I didn't stop shaking the pipe until I broke it off. The gushing gas drew closer immediately, hitting the madman in the back of his head. It was some sort of an acid, I presumed as he fell to the ground with a hole that was spraying blood all around the dreary room.

I sat down and breathed in deeply. Respite was mine and my exhaustion needed some tending to, not to mention the shock that this horrid occurrence had induced.

As I was leaning my back against the pipes and checking whether my bones were still intact, the increasingly annoying voice started talking again: "See? I told you that you were not alone. Why haven't you heeded my advice is beyond me. Such a stupid man you are. And to think that I started to like you. Well, at least you still live. Congratulations. Oh, and to be honest, I have yet another hint for you. You had better stand up and move, or else you will have to deal with a group of insane marauders that are heading our way. Now, you wouldn't like that, would you?"

Damn, I thought to myself as I pulled myself together and get up from the ground.

"Come! Are you a pansy or what? Get a move on!" The crazy owner of the voice saw my hesitation and commented appropriately.

I wondered how he would have handled my situation. I imagined him as a short fat man with receding hair, double chin and piggy eyes. I imagined him right in front of me. I imagined him laughing and pointing at me. Such a brat he was! I wanted to hit him in the face.

"Have you not heard?" he asked impatiently.

"Stop that already," I grunted while heading for the door.

"I will be kind enough again. Do not bother with going through there. You won't find anything special."

Fine, I thought to myself and crawled under the pipes to my left to quickly reach another door.

I entered a darkened corridor with some sort of a slime covering its walls. My steps were leading me towards the other end, but they stopped as soon as a scream could be heard. An agonic scream. My heard was pounding at the very image of what torment could have been happening just behind the door ahead of me. My body resisted to go forward as the shrieks grew stronger and drew closer. Panic got the best of me and forced me to retreat, but reason ordered me to stop shortly after. I was paralyzed by a struggle within my head.

I was standing frozen. The screams were nearing. Was I sane? Wasn't it my imagination? It drew even closer. Why was I standing on one place? The screams were so close. They must have been inside my head. Did I go mad? Such an agony, such horrors. Who could have been doing these vile things? The sounds were just a metre away! I had to move, yet my body resisted!

Just to open the door, just to reach out for me and kill me. The screams were all around me. I covered my ears with my hands, but the shrieks grew even stronger! It was becoming unbearable. How much was remaining until I would get mad?

The source. It must have had some source! But I saw none! I must have been going crazy! Or was it some twisted game I hadn't volunteered to play? Nonsense. Just to stop the noise!

It was as if millions of tormented souls were screaming in pain. My ears hurt. Another minute and I would go deaf. How to silence the shrieks? I held my ears, shouted at these unforgiving voices, squirmed in agony, but nothing helped.

I found myself crouching in a corner of the room, aching in fear. I didn't realize the voices had already been gone. I couldn't recognize whether it was my imagination or some sort of a trick… or a real event.

I tried to stand up, but my whole body was still in such a terrible ache I just had to sit down again and wait until it passed.

It would have taken me ages had I not recalled that the madman, who communicated with me only by spiteful remarks, had warned me of incoming marauders. I really had to pull myself together and continue. I didn't long for being slaughtered by a gang of crazy murderers.

On the other hand, it could have been a trick. A motivation to make me move. Of course! I might have been heading into a trap! I was glad I had realized a possible plot soon enough. Yet I knew I had no other choice but to continue. Either it was a trap and I was aware of it, or it wasn't and I had to move so as not to get killed.

Better safe than sorry, I thought and finally stood up from the ground.

I opened the door in front of me and a dark wave of disgust filled my mind. Gory pieces of meat bathing in a pool of blood were all the room before me consisted of. The smell coming out of it – a smell of rotten meat – was horrifyingly sickening. But as if that wasn't enough, there were no other means of traversing the room but to swim across.

At first, I objected to it, but I reminded myself that I had to keep moving. I felt a sudden qualm as I delved into the gory basin, but it worn out so quickly that it woke a fear inside me. The anxiety rose in strength as I swam across and realized my pleasure in having so much blood around me.

I couldn't stop it and so the delight grew to the point I wasn't controlling myself and started to splash about and wrap myself with meaty pieces.

Thankfully, my morality woke me soon enough and I, horrified at what I had been doing, jumped out of the bloody water as quickly as possible, grabbing a door handle and rushing through a door, closing it behind, not wanting to remember, not wanting to admit that I must have been going crazy.

Strangely enough, the voice remained silent even though I had faltered not just once.

It was very uncommon of the man's voice as I got used to being reprimanded for each stop I had made. I had to keep moving though, so I forced myself to climb a winding staircase that was next to me.

As soon as I got upstairs, a foul smell surrounded me. It was a stench of the dead. I could see corpses in front of me, piled up in the corridor ahead. I swear they were moving. They were alive, yet dead!

At first, I thought my senses were trying to fool me, but that proved wrong soon afterwards. A rotten hand reached out for me. I dashed aside, my mind freaking out in terror. Armed with a pipe, I hit the hand of the living dead and it retracted back to the pile of rotten corpses.

Even though it was not a joyful experience, it wasn't scaring me as much as the restlessly moving hoard of corpses, pulsating with life, humming with sound.

It was a dead end. How was I supposed to get through such an animated morbidity? I prayed for a miracle to move them out of my way, but nothing had happened. I waited for minutes, yet nothing had changed. Was I condemned to be stuck here? And what had happened to the madman who communicated with me only by voice? Had he died too? Was he inside the pile of dead?

Suddenly, the hoard started to drop away as if a hole had opened underneath them. As it was getting thinner, I realized I wasn't far off. A large grinder was processing the corpses, mashing them into squash. The moment I realized it sent me into a deep shock. It was much worse than being alive and moving. They were being ground!

The pile grew smaller and smaller until I could see the sharp steel covered in a thick layer of blood and meat spinning madly like it was demanding more dead. I felt as if it was asking me to step in.

No, I was not yet that mad. Why would I want to step further to my death?

I headed for the stairs behind me, but a large grate closed the way to the stairs.

"No turning back," the voice said. "Just continue. No harm can come, can it? What pain is there in being crushed alive?"

"You are mad!" I shouted helplessly even though I knew I would get no response. But to my astonishment, I received one.

"Am I?" the voice replied. Either the madman could hear me all along or the place I was standing in had some hidden microphones.

"Yes, you are," I said.

I awaited a reply, yet none came.

All of a sudden, a strange force started pulling me towards the grinder. I didn't want to come, but my legs were moving on their own. I ordered them to stop, but they acted as if they weren't mine. And my hands… they were reaching out to embrace the cold steel in front of me. In a moment, I was jumping into the pit in spite of my will. I didn't wish to, but it was happening. I imagined a ticking clock in my head and with every tick I saw myself being closer and closer to the grinding blades. It was just a second before…

Was I getting crazy? The moment I blinked everything vanished. No blood, no meat, no grinder. Just a narrow room leading to a darkened place.

I felt somewhat unsure as to whether it was a good idea to continue, but I convinced myself that I had no other option.

The next room was dimly lighted because only a fire in the middle of it served as a source of lighting.

My eyes immediately fixed themselves upon the fire's surroundings. There were two men sitting near the fire and each was holding an end of a pole. I wouldn't have considered that really odd had it not been for a man that was tied to it and being cooked alive. I could see him shaking madly but to no avail. The pain must have been agonizing.

At first, I thought of helping, but then I reconsidered. Was there any need to interrupt at all? What kind of people were they when they didn't even bother to ease one's pain?

I scanned the room for an exit and when I found a door I started treading as lightly as I could. I didn't wish to draw unnecessary attention.

I managed to reach the half of my path and would have continued further, but somehow they spotted me.

"Stop right there!" one of the men said whilst not even moving.

"You don't need to drop your friend into the fire, do you?" I felt like I could negotiate.

The two men looked at each other and then fixed their gazes at me while their captive was still struggling for survival.

"That doesn't mean we can't kill you where you stand!" the other man shouted and pulled a gun out of his jacket.

"Hey, there is no reason to aim a weapon at me, is there?" I tried to be assertive because I figured that dealing with anyone reasonably was a sure way to get myself killed.

"As a matter of fact, there is," the armed man said happily.

"You don't want to do that."

"Tell me a single reason why I shouldn't," the armed man said and put his index finger on the trigger.

"Why don't you shoot your friend instead? That's a lot more interesting. I imagine you have killed many in your lifetime, but have you killed a friend yet?" I realized I found myself in a dire situation. I had to come up with something special or else he would shoot.

"I have," he said and at that moment I knew all was lost, "but he is not my friend. He is my brother!" He stressed the last word so much I sensed a point was behind it. It was as if he had realized something. My life wasn't over. He slowly pointed the gun at his brother, who didn't even move. Perhaps he didn't out of fear or shock, I didn't know, but either way, his brain was splattered all over the floor in an instant.

And to make things more mixed up – when the dead man fell to the ground and released his grip from the pole, the unfortunate living person being cooked alive set himself free whilst falling into the fire. Even though he immediately started burning, it didn't prevent him from dashing against his captor, who was about to turn back to me.

I didn't wait to see the chaos evolve further and ran towards the exit. I heard the sound of gun shooting as I closed the door behind me. There was a crate near so I pushed it to the door and thus effectively blocking it.

Just a few seconds after, I could hear someone pounding on it. It must have been the armed man. He intended to kill me. I didn't wish to wait until he got through and so I used the gained time to run away. A pipe against a gun equalled no chance of winning in my case.

I was running in a long and wildly twisting corridor with lots of pipes going along the walls. It seemed that it had no end and I would spend the rest of my life running in that vile place, but thankfully I was just one major turning away from the exit.

"Second door on the left will lead you to an elevator you want to take."

"Can you hear me?" I asked out of curiosity while scanning the next room's surroundings. There were at least twenty doors and all of them were weirdly and distinctively shaped. Some resembled stars, some looked like a splash and some appeared very polygonal.

I shouldn't waste time on this, I reminded myself and headed for the second door on the left, which had the shape of a five-pointed star.

There indeed was an elevator albeit a primitive one. Just a ramp tied to a large weight by a long metal chain on a pulley.

I pushed something that looked like a lever and the elevator started screeching so hard I had to cover my ears.

Fortunately, it didn't take long for the lift to arrive at its destination.

I happily stepped out of the rusty elevator and proceeded to a room behind a door in front of me. A place of state-of-the-art monitors and computers surrounded me. In the middle, there was a tall thin man sitting in a large and cosy chair. I was wondering who it could have been until he presented himself: "Hello. I am the Chief Overseer of the Toxin Facility. A fancy title, isn't it? I like it, though." He burst into laughter.

I recognized that voice – it had been the same all along – the one who had provided a guide from time to time. Quite the opposite of what I had imagined him.

"Fancy… why are you…" I started asking questions, but got interrupted.

"No talking when I do!" he said angrily. "You said I was mad! Yet I am not!"

"What?" I said disgruntled. I wished to kill him and stop the facility, but was not really sure about the danger he could have been posing. I certainly didn't want to make a stupid mistake and rush into a killing frenzy just to get shot a moment after. I had to wait and observe.

"I demand answers, now!" he said like a small and angry child.

"What do you wish to hear?" I enquired and realized a huge discrepancy. If he indeed had asked me whether he had been mad back at the imaginary grinder, then it must have been real! And if it had been real, then how come it had disappeared soon after? Or had I been hallucinating only to an extent? Indeed I had experienced many strange occurrences already and most of them had likely been the creation of my own imagination, but how to tell real from imaginary? I felt getting gradually more lost.

"The truth. Your opinion. Anything you have to say."

"You are mad," I said in a distracted tone as my mind wandered and sanity was involved in an inside struggle. Was I talking to a real person? Was I in a real place? Was there a need to respond to the madman?

"But then, who are you?" he said in a serious voice. What kind of change in behaviour was that?

"I don't kill people! I don't kill hundreds of them and grind them to dust!" I objected, assuming that the grinder had been real.

"But what is wrong about doing so?"

"The very concept of murder is…" I fell short on words.

"Sickening?"

"True."

"But what do you eat then if you want to survive? And you have had to survive up to now, you can't deny that!"

"I…" I realized my own sins.

"We are not that different, right? We have never been. Be it animals or people, does it matter? Why should we… or I… why should anyone be considered a monster when it is natural to kill for survival? It is one of the basic urges – to kill, to destroy. You must have noticed that sometime since your birth. On the contrary, the one who thinks this is wrong should be called mad, as he denies the reality, no matter how cruel it may seem. We all die. We all suffer. And only through the suffering of others can we live in joy."

"But what kind of joy is it when you poison the air and kill millions? What do you gain?"

"Such a delicacy in killing dozens can't be denied. You would do the same if you were me."

"No. I wouldn't."

"Naivety and nothing else."

"How can you say this? You are the madman. Not me!"

"Be careful with your words. I am not a madman but just a messenger of the one which you seek."

"The Eternal Lord?"

"If you call him so."

"But why have I stumbled upon you? Of all the people, why you?"

"I must admit I was offered this position at a rather late time, I sense the… Eternal Lord, as you call him, carefully observes you. He says you have different brainwaves."

"Different brainwaves? What are you talking about?"

"I don't know," he said and his voice showed bits of moodiness.

"Then why have you told me that?"

"I said I don't know. I tend to the perfect tailoring of this fine facility! You can't possibly imagine the work I need to do! All the work, oh my!" He came back to his mad senses. It was as if they were waking from a short sleep.

"Why have you helped me to get all the way to you?" I asked.

"Me? I didn't help you! You just had to get in here! I am curious!"

"Curious? About what?"

"About the curse, of course! That is what the man said. He babbled a lot. Something unintelligible. I wonder who the hell he was anyway."

"Could the curse be this madness that makes everyone kill?"

"Curse… curse… killing is right! But… you… you understand nothing! The curse has evolved! In a wrong way! This must end! Soon! Or else we will all die! Do your part! Do it! Prove that you are human. Even if it means tainting your own sanity, there might still be a chance to preserve the initial right state of things."

"What the…" I didn't understand his insane speech. Had he guided me so that I could have killed him? Or was there a hidden moving force behind it?

Suddenly, the eyes of the madman turned red and a fire could be seen within them. His complacence once again waned and was replaced by a sense of enlightenment.

"There are things that you do not understand. I can reach into your mind. See your questions. I can answer that you are mistaken. Your opinion will soon fade anyway. It will be replaced with a sober look. You will see that you thought wrong… about everything that is happening. And when you do… you will find your long craved peace."

"Who are you?" I pondered at the strange shifts in the madman's mood.

"I am who I am," he said and grinned evilly.

"The Eternal Lord?" I said almost whispering.

He remained silent.

"I feel like a pawn in some twisted game!" I pressed the matter. "What is happening?" Why have you led me here? You must have known I would want to destroy this place. Or was it a coincidence?"

"A Coincidence? This is no coincidence. Or are you trying to tell me you are that naïve? There are many places like this one. Toxin factories, nuclear facilities, you name it. They all specialize in destruction. Powered by madmen's desires, every single one produces a deadly array of products that kills everything within its sight. By shutting this one down, you will gain nothing. By killing me, you will gain nothing. Life will go on. You will be on your way. I will no longer exist and my toxin factory will stop producing deadly agents. One down, so many to go. It will take you a lifetime to shut them all down."

And to think that I had believed this had been the only place that had caused the air contamination. A victory once again seemed somewhat insignificant and bitter. However, what was I supposed to do? Turn back? Escape?

"Do it. I won't pose any danger to you. There is nothing to kill you and your way out of here is secured. The gunman already killed himself anyway."

"How can I shut this facility down?" I asked although doubting the sincerity of the madman or… whoever it was. The entire situation just got so complicated.

I didn't understand what was happening, who I was talking to. What to believe? How to understand what I had been told? All these questions popped in my head at the same time, yet I had no answers for any of them.

"Do not bother. I will take care of that for you."

As he said he did. In a moment he made all the computer screens go black.

"But why haven't you done so sooner?" I asked.

"I will not answer that. The deed is done. Now do your part."

Confused, somewhat angry and unsure whether I had been used or not, I raised my hand, firmly holding the steel pipe. I walked to my victim very slowly. We were just a metre away from each other. Our eyes met, but there was neither a sign of flame nor red colour in his. The enlightened tone in his voice had vanished, too.

"What the hell are you doing?" he screamed as I hit him in the head.

There was no stopping now. Was I doing a mistake?

Another hit cracked his cranium. It felt so satisfying. The sound of a skull breaking, the sight of a face in pain – it was all too enjoyable.

There he was, lying on the floor in his own pool of blood. The end of a mass murderer at my own hands – and I was the only spectator.

Provided that I hadn't been hallucinating, the Eternal Lord had been trying to tell me something. I believed there must have been more to it than just not seeing it in the right light. What to do next, though, when I had reached the end of the road once again?

This time, even though I had achieved a somewhat remarkable feat, I felt the world being darker than before. It was a bitter victory, because I knew I had been merely a pawn in shutting down the toxin factory. If it had been a part of someone's dark plan, be it the Eternal Lord or whoever, was the good deed I thought it was actually a stepping stone to our final doom?

Seeking answers… surviving… that's what I had to keep doing to find out.