I stare into the cramped empty cubicle. Nothing but a dull white commode and gray panel enclosures. In a single second my confusion dips off the side of a cliff. It threatens to spiral uncontrolled into very real terror. But I am Batman. The iron hand of vengeance. I am terror.
Bruce Wayne is the one that succumbs. That boy who fell in the well and faced bats and death, but escaped in the arms of his father. Bruce Wayne, that boy who faced bats and death alongside his father and mother in the alley behind an opera theater. Bruce Wayne, the boy whose soul died that day. But whose spirit lives on in me.
I step calmly back into the bathroom counter, placing the flashlight on the counter. It rolls into the sink with a scraping clatter. Reflected light bounces ghostly white squares and undulating worms on the tile walls.
I wait without removing my eyes from the empty cubicle. I am not only focused on the stall, but my peripherals are waiting to sense movement.
Reflections continue to sway, like cast-off light from the swimming pool at my manor. I turn off the tap. Silence falls like a thick blanket, cut by a couple of dripping sounds. Total silence is a few moments away. I watch. I wait.
The door to the ladies' room has not yet opened. I can assume the woman is still inside with me. While her stealth is impressive, perhaps equally matched with my own, she would still have to open the door to pass through, and I would have heard it creak. She is not an apparition.
What if she is? Bruce questions warily inside me.
I feel a wave of disgust and frustration. This is the same sort of emotion-muddled thinking that got Rachel killed. Suppressing such thoughts, I pick my wet flashlight. I step forward and push open the door on the right. Empty.
I turn to the one on the left. It is more than twice as big as the others—meant for people that are in wheelchairs.
I stop in front of it. Hold my breath. I listen for rustling clothing. Breathing. I feel for a presence in the room with me. But I sense nothing.
I push open the door. Logic tells me she will be here. But my instincts are sharp. I know the stall will be empty. Inside there is a low-set sink with a mirror mounted on the wall above it. The commode sits unassumingly in the corner. The stainless steel assistors on the wall gleam in my flashlight.
I scan light over the ceiling, the floor, searching for her, hiding suspended like I could do with a rappel hooked on the edge of an airvent. But I find nothing but white corners. The airvent is sealed. However, from the look of it, it is not too small for a petite woman to squeeze through. It is, however, too small for me. I step into the stall and look up at the vent. A cursory look is all it takes to reveal that the screws are sealed in place with rust. She didn't leave that way.
A secret passage perhaps? But why would there be a secret passage in a place like this?
Quickly tapping the edges of the room with my foot reveals no hollow points. Solid walls.
I check the stall she had previously occupied. The tiny spaces of wall behind the commode is solid. But as I check, I notice something inside the toilet. It is sunken all the way to the bottom, obviously some metal object. I lean in to see what it is. When I shine the light in, I see that it is a key. I fish it out with my gloved hand and turn it over. As water drips and taps onto the floor, I realize the keychain matches the ones I saw earlier behind the front desk—a patch of brown leather folded over a stainless steel metal ring with a single brass key. And burned into the chemically-treated leather is this: 218. This the key that was missing from the front desk.
I am intrigued by the peculiarity of such a find. But I do not believe in coincidences. The placement of the key was premeditated. Somehow she knew I would search the walls. She knew that I would go close enough to the toilet to find the key inside. In fact, the key must have been there even before I entered the bathroom. I never heard it splash into the water—but of course she could have placed it there quietly. I would not have heard it over the running tap water. But in that case, however, it also meant she knew I would come into this bathroom. She had, after all, been waiting for me. Very few people know me well enough to predict my next move. There is Alfred. And then there was Rachel. Is. There is Rachel. She must be alive.
I resume checking all the walls for a way she might have escaped. But I find nothing. Not a single tile out of place. Not a section of grout dislodged.
Left with nothing else to investigate—aside from the key and room 218—I turn back to the bathroom counter. Washing my gloved hands first, I quickly disinfect and place a seal over my throat and leave the restroom. The door creaks as expected. I wonder again how she might have disappeared from the room.
Recalling the map I had seen downstairs, I search for the other stairwell on the other end of the hotel. I check the locked stairwell again before going that way—the one with the padlock dented with an octagonal shape and no key hole. It is still locked. And the elevator is still broken.
As I walk down the long corridor, night vision on, I don't notice any signs of life. I don't hear any other patrons in the hotel rooms—and of course, why would I? All the keys at the front desk were still in place when I checked. Silent Hill appears to have been evacuated. I wonder about the reason. Perhaps it is connected to the deep holes made in the earth.
My footsteps fall almost silently on the worn carpet. My heavy cape flows fluidly behind me, practically grazing the floor.
The other stairwell is not locked. Before heading upstairs, I go downstairs—because that is where the heavyset man with a tall staff disappeared. There are two short flights of stairs. The paint is a lifeless greenish pallor in the night vision. The walls are unpainted concrete. As I approach the basement door, I begin to hear a faint rumbling. It grows louder when I put my ear near the door. The rumbling seems to oscillate, like a roaming lion. I realize the rumbling is actually a steady growling.
I check the basement door. I cannot tell if it is locked or not. When I try the handle, it doesn't budge. But it makes a slight click. The growling halts.
I take a wary step back. A snarl rips through the silence. Then a deafening bang as something slams into the door on the other side.
Miraculously, the door does not give. Again the door buckles. The floor shakes. The walls seem to crack from pressure. Again the beast crashes into the door. Then a fourth time.
I brace myself for that hulking giant to come bursting through any second. But instead, what I hear is a deep, mournful air raid alarm. It starts low and begins to whine, higher and higher. Then it crescendos and dips down again, the shrill, slicing whine distorts into a deep bellow. The beast stops trying to break the door down. There is no more growling. Only the wailing alarm. It seems to be getting louder. There is no pause in its shrill scream on the way up, nor in its guttural horn on the way down. It seems designed to induce panic rather than herald warning. I decide to pick the basement lock another time and head back upstairs toward the second floor. The alarm seems to be getting louder. It is making me grit my teeth. It makes me feel like it is going to melt my brain and make me bleed from my ears.
As I climb up I start feeling like everything is beginning to swing side to side. Within a few short steps, dizziness washes over me. My night vision falters. The alarm continues to shriek, high-pitched, deafening to the point of pain. Then it peaks. Then down it dips again, low enough to start boiling my insides.
I stumble up the stairs. My dizziness heightens as I reach the second floor landing. I trip over the last step and fall. I lay there a moment, winded, my eyesight swimming in front of me. When I am able to breathe, I wince at the skull-splitting siren. Still it has not stopped. It continues to grow louder and louder, even as I think it cannot gather anymore decibels.
Finally, my night vision fails completely. I am plunged in darkness.
The siren continues to moan.
I close my eyes for a moment. When I open them again—hardly two seconds have passed, of this I am absolutely certain—there is a pair of bare feet and thin ankles in front of me. The sight of their heavy silhouette against pitch dark startles me. I grunt and move back. For a mometn I am worried it might be the monster I saw earlier, the one that sprayed acid from its chest cavity and melted my armor plating. But these feet are not twitchy. They are steady. I raise my head to look at the person. My lips are already parted but the name Rachel dies on my lips. As the young woman bends closer, the siren starts its ascent again. I feel as if a blade of ice is cutting open my skull. Blackness falls over me. Then silence.