Simon opened his eyes, but the world remained black.
He blinked, feeling his eyelids move up and down; still it was dark. Dark and silent, but for his own rattling lungs.
His hand reached out…and touched a wall.
Several walls, all pressed in close. He tried to stand, cramped limbs spasming with each motion, but found he only just had room to crouch. Again, his hands went out, patting every inch his fingers could reach like a mime in a box. All the while a growing weight of claustrophobia hung over him, turning his breaths to gasps… then to whimpers.
Suddenly his fingers slipped into something; a crack maybe?
No… a doorknob!
The wall swung open and light flooded Simon’s eyes. Squinting and blinking to force them to adjust, his fingers probed the opening, feeling its smooth frame. There was empty air beyond the frame, and at last his eyes could make out the colossal space before him.
Colossal was the perfect word. Never had he ever seen such a large room, the floor and ceiling little more than blankets of shadow. He turned his gaze left and then right, but there was no visible end to the room.
There was only wall.
Grey wall covered in a multitude of strange crevices and protrusions.
Leaning his head out into the empty void, he examined one of the nearest objects. It looked like a mould of black resin but touching it he found his hand could grasp it comfortably. The more he thought, the more Simon realised this looked like the walls one would see at a rock-climbing centre. There weren’t any harnesses or ropes to be seen, but the resemblance was uncanny. Another wall, the doppelganger of his, was directly opposite, separated only by the black void below.
Simon’s mind, whirring and jittering, tried to extract some logic.
He was a serious rock-climber. Everybody knew that. His friends, his family, all of them knew how much this was his passion. He’d been doing it for years. Perhaps this was some elaborate birthday present, a challenge he had never faced before. Yes, it was strange not to have any safety equipment on a wall of this scale, but a tiny part of his brain tingled with adrenaline at the prospect. There could even be some illusion being implemented, making the place look far more daunting than it was. For all he knew, there were dozens of cameras watching his every movement.
Yes, that had to be it, why else would he be in this situation? He couldn’t really be trapped with no means of escape… could he?
Simon bit his lip, shifting back into his little room. Again, he felt around each inch he could reach, searching for another hidden door. Once. Twice. Three times he looked but found everything perfectly solid. It seemed the climbing wall was the only way to leave.
His mind debated itself, finally deciding he would accomplish nothing just by sitting here like a jack in the box. There had to be a way out, otherwise how had he got here in the first place? And if the room offered nothing… he would have to climb.
“Ok Simon,” He muttered to himself. “Which way?” His eyes flicked left and right, finger following while he began “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”
The rhyme dictated he try going left.
Turning around proved awkward, but in time he was able to move with his back to the opening. He shifted towards the left, glancing over his shoulder as he reached for a grip. It wasn’t long before he felt his hand was secure, but now was the tricky part; he had to drop his leg over the edge. The feeling of his foot dangling almost made him lose nerve, his stomach lurching until he hooked it into a crevice. The other foot soon followed.
Drawing in breath and bracing himself, Simon edged away from the room.
Instinct took over once he was completely on the wall; even without a harness he had climbed many walls like this. The key was to keep moving slowly, take the time to make sure his grip was secure before he started to move again. The more Simon moved the more he got into a rhythm, and soon it was easy to imagine this was just a regular Saturday afternoon. His brain didn’t let him relax completely. It would be foolish to forget the drop beneath him, or the fact that he could see no end to the wall. But as long as he moved, he felt like he was making progress.
After a few moments he looked back towards the open door of his little room, glad to have a landmark he could judge his progress by. Then he turned his head further
And blinked again.
There was an open door on the other wall. Directly opposite the one he had crawled through. He was still close enough to see the shadowy insides of what, he could only guess, was a room just like his. That hadn’t been there before. Did that mean he wasn’t alone?
His eyes flickered about the room but couldn’t see any sign of life. Maybe he had seen the door before and it simply hadn’t registered.
Shaking his head, he began moving again.
Already his limbs were beginning to tire, likely not helped by being cramped for so long. If he’d had the space, he would have certainly stretched before attempting the climb. It was only his experience and long built endurance that helped him continue this slow pace. Though how long he’d last was another question; there was no change in the wall even as he pushed on. His own breathing and occasional groans aside, the space was as noiseless as it was vast; that silence set his teeth on edge.
He stopped, looking once more at the opposite wall.
A strangled cry echoed from his throat, his foot slipping as his eyes were transfixed.
Hanging on the wall, a little way behind Simon, was a pale, vaguely humanoid figure. Its torso was an oblong shape, from which four long limbs extended. He hesitated to call them arms or legs, seeing them curl around and taper off to a point. Protruding from the top was a large, round head, and even at this distance he could see a pair of bulbous red eyes. Simon could not tell where they were looking, and he had no desire to find out.
For a moment both hung there, Simon’s heart racing as he watched the creature.
Then it moved.
Slowly and deliberately, each limb undulating towards each grip; moving like a spider on its web.
Simon’s instincts told him to get away from it, clambering along the wall with far less caution than before. Some part of his brain tried to keep calm, reasoning that the creature, whatever it was, couldn’t reach him due to the gap between them. This reason was shattered as an image of it jumping flitted through his imagination.
He looked again, cursing as he saw the creature scuttling faster, now almost directly opposite him. Sweat began to soak his skin, making it difficult to keep up the quick pace. His hands started to slip, finding the crevices more stable but further apart. He dared another glance, noticed the creature keeping pace… and dropped.
Gravity had hold of him before he could react, the moulds on the wall flying past his vision while he screamed. Even if he couldn’t see how far away the ground was, he knew a drop like this would kill him. In blind panic his hands and feet scrabbled at the passing wall, grabbing at anything within reach. At last, his fingers lodged into a crevice, and he stopped, the force on his arm so hard it felt like it would be wrenched out of the socket. Somehow, he held out, knuckles turning white with the effort of supporting his own weight.
Simon hung there, panting as he tried to clear his head. The real danger of the situation was finally sinking in; already he regretted leaving the safety of his little room. Perhaps he had missed something back there, like a secret door or hidden panel. But he had searched as carefully as he could and still found nothing, meaning that room would have surely become his tomb. His eyes itched, blinking back tears, and swallowing the lump in his throat.
Now he was certain his friends couldn’t be behind this; however much of a challenge he enjoyed they would not put him in danger. This was a nightmare he wasn’t waking up from. All he could do is keep going, with or without that creature.
“Don’t look… Don’t look…”
Simon looked, making sure his grip was secure before he did so.
The creature stared back. It was hanging from one limb and seemed to be in the same position as he was. Simon shifted his right foot to keep him steady and the creature did the same thing. He froze, hesitating before lifting his free hand and waving it slowly. It copied him, move for move.
Looking back at his own wall, Simon wasn’t sure what to do. The hand supporting him was beginning to get tired; he knew he needed to start moving or risk falling again.
His teeth dug into his lips, little red beads forming against the skin.
Then, with a grunt, he began to climb, moving to the side as he saw no reason to go back up. Every so often he looked back to see the creature mimicking him at every turn, as if it were his reflection. His progress was much slower, still finding his damp palms to be a hindrance on the grips. It was the same slow pace he began with, yet now it felt worse than his instinct driven scramble. He was acutely aware of how tired his aching limbs felt, wishing for another room so he could rest. Or better yet, a way to get out of this horrible situation.
Simon wasn’t sure how long he’d been climbing. There was no change to his surroundings, and it was getting difficult to support his own weight. Turning his head to check on his mimic, he was surprised to find it gone. He turned to the other side and had to cling to the wall to stop himself jumping in shock.
It had moved further ahead of Simon. Higher too, as if it were trying to reach something. He watched it, seeing each leg bend and stretch along the wall until it came to a halt. Then it hung there, staring intently at Simon’s wall with those large red eyes. It did this for a few minutes before quickly glancing down… then staring upwards.
Simon craned his head to try and see what it was looking at. He couldn’t make anything out but now he was certain that the creature’s movements weren’t random; the more he thought about it the more deliberate they seemed. The mimic had come out of a room exactly like his. It had acted as his doppelganger. It had to be showing him a way out.
This could be his best shot.
With a grunt of effort Simon began working his way to his mimic’s level. It became increasingly difficult to find enough crevices, meaning he had to keep wiping his sweaty hands on his shirt so he could use the grips. And his muscles were straining, tightening under his skin while his lungs burned. Every time he stopped, he gulped down air, wondering if the stale taste was from the room… or his own body struggling.
At last, he was eye to eye with his mimic, testing the strength of his holds before turning to look. It was still staring up, but then suddenly looked down again. Simon did the same but saw nothing that could have drawn the creature’s attention. The wall still had no end in sight, and as far as he could see there were no other rooms or doors waiting to be opened. With another deep breath, he raised his eyes above his mimic’s head.
His blood ran cold.
Further up the wall, large enough to make him wonder why he hadn’t seen it before, was a writhing mass of tentacles. They were pitch black, glistening and dripping as they slithered along the wall. Simon could see no body, no point of origin for the wriggling limbs, but they started curling among the grips like thread looped through a loom. He watched its progress with a mixture of horror and grim fascination, his pain replaced by numbness the further down it moved.
Further down… towards his mimic.
“Look out…” He croaked, unable to raise his voice any higher.
On and on the mass of tentacles slithered, coming to a stop just above his mimic’s head. Something black oozed down from one of the tentacles, dripping onto what could be considered his mimics left shoulder. Its red eyes tore away from the darkness below, staring at the stain on its white skin.
Its neck twisted, craning to look upwards.
As soon as it saw the tentacles they snapped down, yanking the spindly limbs into the mass with an audible squelch. This was soon followed by the loud cracking of bones and wet tearing of flesh, ricocheting through the silence. Simon’s stomach curled, bile raising up his throat as he continued to watch the pulsing massacre. He wanted to look away but found himself frozen, knuckles whitening as his grip on the wall tightened painfully.
The tentacles soon grew limp, and a matted shred of pale flesh was dropped into the darkness below, Simon’s eyes following it down.
His mimic was dead.
What did this mean for him? Could that thing cross the gap? Was that the monster wall or was he in danger too?
Something damp spread over Simon’s left shoulder, and he turned to see a glob of black ooze glistening on his shirt.
His neck twisted, craning to look upwards.
Happy Halloween! I figured this was a good day to release my most recent short story, plus it’s been a while since I’ve done pure horror (I love the horror genre but it’s hard to write, one day I hope I can write a full horror novel).
Here it is on itch.io – https://anmanarrative.itch.io/mimic