ONE

"BLARGGFLHEH!" the monster growled. He was gaining on me, much too quickly at that.

Run, run, run, run, run, run and don't look back! My mind screamed. This was real, very real. My nightmares had been brought to life in the heart of this accursed castle.

As I moved as fast as my legs could carry me, I spotted a heavy metal door at the end of the corridor. Yes! I whipped out a rusty key from the inside of my pocket, lunged at the door, and rushed through it. Once I was safely on the other side, I waited. The monster scratched at the impenetrable metal. He moaned in frustration, and then began to shuffle away in search of easier prey.

I sighed in relief and sank down to the floor. There was finally some time to evaluate my situation. My current inventory consisted of a broken lantern, three small oil bottles, two sanity potions, a fancy key, and a book full of notes and diary entries I collected around the castle earlier. No laudanum – just my luck. Grunting in discontent, I discarded the lantern. It would serve no further purpose. I would have to rely on my sensitive eyesight from now on…assuming that I wouldn't lose my glasses.

Upon close inspection, I noticed that the only things in this room were a fountain, some crumbled pillars, a large window, and a couple of winding stone staircases. I tried to stand in order to make use of the fountain that was located a mere five yards away, but now that there was no danger present, my mind was fully aware of pain. Fire immediately shot down my left leg when I regained my footing. I winced and limped over to the fountain anyway.

Once there, I sat on the marble edge of the shallow fountain and pulled up my jean leg. I regretted the decision all together – that monster had left a massive amount of damage when he hit me. The image of long, black claws flashed through my mind. I shuddered. Then I mustered up enough courage to clean the bleeding flesh with cold water, despite the pain it brought me. I found some cloth in my bag that I used as a wrap for my leg.

My injury tended to, I took a good look at my reflection. It was amazing how much my appearance had changed during one week of this hell. My hair, which once cascaded down my back in beautiful light brown waves, was now chopped in various places and frayed at the tips – I had a run-in with a butcher knife monster earlier on; perhaps it would be ideal to tie my hair back to prevent further damage. My skin had lost all color. I looked like a ghost. My lashes were surprisingly still long and dark. My large brown eyes, however, had grown much more intense. I could probably burn a hole through someone's head simply by staring.

Sighing again, I stood up. There was no use waiting around. It was time to move on and escape from this infernal place.

About an hour and a half after my run-in with the monster, I found myself lost in the east wing on the second floor. I was in some sort of library. Some of the books inside were useful. I came across one called The Gatherers. It contained several pictures of the monsters I had seen so far, along with some new ones. I figured it would give me all the information I needed to outwit them, so I placed it in my bag.

Rummaging through shelves of papyrus scrolls landed me a map of the castle. A quick examination told me that I was close to the stairs. All I had to do was cut a left from the library, head down a long corridor, and the stairs would be right there. Simple.

Easy, my conscience warned me, that's the kind of thinking that made you run into the monster the first time. This place is dangerous. I never questioned my conscience in unfamiliar situations. It was always right...except when it wasn't. But I knew that it would save my life in the end this time, even if I did somehow get into trouble.

I rolled up the map and placed it into my bag, next to the book. Slowly, I reached out towards the door. It swung open by itself. I poked my head out of the doorway, glancing left and right. No sign of any kind of monster. Cautiously, I took the first step. So far so good. I turned left and began to creep my way down the hall with a slight limp.

I only made it a few feet before I heard the shriek of another human being.