Hayly sat next to the corpse of a messenger, reading through the document he had carried. Parts of it were things no one should ever see. So she pulled out her tube of mascara and opened it. The brush had fallen in once again, and soon her fingers were dyed black in the substance, quickly blotting out parts. When she was done, she tried her best to wipe her fingers on the grass. The document had looked unimpressive, but since her time in the labyrinth, she knew better than to expect important things to come in pretty packages. Opening one of those had called a monster and nearly cost her her life.
At the same time, an young woman, maybe a bit older than she, appeared from the port at her back. The shimmering air took a while to settle. Her shirt was covered in mud and a black liquid that Hayly knew too well. She grimaced and turned away. "I'm going to change," she said matter-of-factly, and began to strip.
Hayly just turned back to her fingers, and said softly, "Don't mind me." despite the woman clearly not. By the time she had dressed and walked past, she was in a pair of cargo pants and a tank top, her backpack slung over one shoulder. A few minutes passed before Hayly, too, placed all her things back into a bag and trudged on down the road.
A ways ahead of her, the woman had just past two awkward teens in the middle of the road. Hayly frowned. They could only have come from outside the labyrinth like they had. The labyrinth and its illusions liked to play tricks, but she had been here long enough to tell the difference. The younger girl sat directly in the middle of the dirt path, her pack fallen behind her, and was sobbing. The gangly boy with messy brown hair stood over her, reaching out then withdrawing again, his face a twist of confusion and pain.
Aside from pretty things bring monsters knocking, the other thing Hayly and most others had learned, was to never travel in groups. Those who did, usually became the easy targets and died quickly.
Just as she passed them, a rumbling sounded. The cliff that had loomed over them all on the right slid back toward the portal. Hayly's eyes narrowed. It sensed them. It was changing and laying new traps. The woman just continued on her way, marching down a small dirt road that was barely visible in the now tall prairie grass.
From behind, the boy gasped. "Are those cows?"
Finally ripping her eyes from the path, Hayly looked farther ahead. There were. A field of brown-green grass stretching for a good distance. Filled with a herd of cattle. She almost smiled. It had been so long since any of them had seen such normal things, despite their odd placement. On the other side of the field stood houses. They spread out farther than they could see, and wrapped around the side of the cows fence, continuing until they met the hillside. The woman had disappeared into those houses already.
Hayly had been struck by the womans brisk manner and clothing choice. Judging by her age as well, she supposed the woman was most likely a military deserter. That wouldn't be uncommon. Many people escaped the horrors of the real world in the labyrinth, thinking it would be a paradise as its makers had intended. But the A.I. had become as sick as a psychopath, seeming to enjoy its captives who would never leave.
The boy was still in shock. "But those cows can't be real, can they?" The girl had finally stopped crying and was hiccuping and gazing at the creatures in the distance. The sun began to set.