Strange happenings in the windy city turn into a nightmare for Mariam Floros.
By Stephen A Abell
Number Of Words: 1932
Scribing Started: 16th May 2016
Scribing Ended: 30th May 2016
Mariam alighted the “L” at the West Superior Street station. As she trotted down the steps, her heartbeat started racing as the adrenalin began to rush. The letter had landed on her parent's hallway floor two weeks ago and she had been astounded to see it was from the Minos Gallery of Art. She had sent an electronic portfolio of her work to them over a year ago, though, she never had a reply. As far as she knew they had not opened her e-mail. Now they wanted an appointment to discuss showing her work. A young voice had answered the phone on the first ring, “Minos Gallery, good morning. My name’s Anne and how may I help?” After ten minutes of brief discussion, the time and place for her interview were arranged… and here she was standing outside the very building… something was wrong.
The building looked empty. It appeared to be undergoing some kind of renovations as the outside was scaffolded and screened off. Mariam could make out the dim shapes of windows on the unscreened ground floor. Inside the building, only darkness reigned.
This can’t be right, she thought as she crossed the road and, cupping her hands about her eyes, pressed her face up to the window. Within were shadows on shadows but she could make out the vacant presentation boards where the artwork should hang. Where is everyone? She walked to the door and pushed. Locked. There was no bell on the outside so she knocked on the tempered glass as hard as she could. Her thumps sounded dull and hollow. Nobody came in reply.
As a train thundered past and mixed with the sounds of road traffic Mariam fished her mobile out of her bag and rang the gallery’s number. The phone was answered by a man on the seventh ring, “Er, hello?”
“Is this the Minos Gallery?” She queried.
“Oh, yes,” the man on the other end stumbled, “er, but we’re closed.”
“I thought so; I’m standing out front; I have an appointment. My name’s Mariam Floros.”
“Miss Floros,” his voice brightened, “of course, I’m so sorry. We’ve been so busy with the renewals, they’re running behind you see. I totally forgot about our meeting.
“The thing is, Miss Floros, you’ll have to come around the back of the building to the rear door. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not Mr?”
“Xander; Malik Xander. I’ll get Anne to wait for you and show you in. She really should have let you know about the renovations.
“So, if you walk up the road and then take the alley on your left then walk down till the end of the building and turn left again you’ll be at the rear. Just a few meters down and you’ll notice the building recesses; the entrance is just at the end. Got that?”
“Yep, and I’ll see you in a few minutes, Mr Xander.”
She ended the call before she heard him say, “Call me Malik.”
The redbrick facade of the renovations gave way to the more dirty and grimy grey in the alleyway. As she strolled further down she noticed how the shadows began to deepen. To her right, a car park burgeoned before her. A late model yellow Datsun Sunny sat alone. She turned left at the end of the building and the shadows embraced her with their ominous touch. A shiver ran down her spine as she left the heat of the sun behind.
As she strolled along the rear of the building she saw the beginning of the concourse that should lead to the entrance. However, when she rounded the corner into the yard like area there was no door in sight. The only thing set in the brickwork were the windows, which stood over six-foot above the foundations on all three sides. They were an onyx black in the darkness of the shadows. No reflections shimmered on their glass surfaces. To Mariam, they appeared to be pulling the shadows into themselves. Creating a vortex. An Abyss.
Suddenly she had the thought that someone was watching her…
She moved quickly back into the dulled light of the alley and resumed her search for a doorway into the building. There wasn’t any. There wasn’t even a fire escape from the above floors. There was no way into the place. She fished out her phone and dialled the galleries number once again.
Trying a second time she received only silence. She looked at the screen and saw there was no reception,
She looked across at the building opposite and a shiver ran down her spine as a thought flashed into her mind. Walking back the way she had come she kept her eyes on the building. By the time she arrived back at the corner of the alleyway she was certain that there was no doors at the rear of that building either,
Something was wrong. The Datsun was gone. Had there been any sound of closing doors, a turning over and revving engine(?) She couldn’t remember any noise whatsoever and she hadn’t been too far away to have not heard anything.
In fact, she couldn’t hear any noise now. Here she was near the heart of the city and there was no traffic sounds whatsoever. She spun to the right and ran down the alleyway wanting the safety of the street, to be out of the confines of these enclosed were spaces.
The street had gone.
She knew it would be.
Gone were the clean open streets, the red brickwork of the galleries renovation, the “L”... All had been replaced by the griminess of the alleyway and the light devouring wicked windows. Stifling the scream building in her abdomen she ran, and ran, and ran.
It felt as though her heart would explode in her chest. With her breathing exploding out of and desperately clawing its way into her body she stopped and bent over double trying to regain her composure. After a few minutes, she lifted her head and surveyed her surroundings. The walls and the windows were quickly becoming familiar to her and a hatred started to grow within.
A maze, she thought, I’m a rat in a bloody maze.
A maze(?) Her hand grabbed the strap of her portfolio and flipped it over her head. No, she prayed, please let me be wrong.
Opening the large flat case she flipped through her artwork until she found the map. This had been one of her earlier works and held a special place in her heart, for it had started her on the path of investing herself into her culture and history. The rest of her work had grown and developed from this original piece. At times, throughout the years, she had pulled the pen and ink wash out of the case and had actually felt pride in how good it actually was. She loved this image of a Greek mythos. It was the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.
Somewhere behind her a scream cut through the silence. One of the sacrifices had been caught. Seven girls and seven boys, her mind reminded her.
It had taken her over three months to complete the artwork before her, She remembered sleepless nights as she scribbled and etched away. Her parents had thought she was possessed as it took the bribery of grannies Kythnos Pie to get her out of her room and away from the canvas. She looked to her left; on the right, she could see three openings and on the left one opening between the second and third on the right. To her right, she could see two openings on the left and a turn to the right at the end of this run. It took her five minutes to find a similar layout on her map.
A shrill scream, closer than the last, made her jump and drop the piece of paper onto the ground. Another gone, she thought.
As she bent to retrieve the map a third scream, closer still, cut the air. Only eleven of us left, and he’s getting closer.
She tucked the map back into the case and threw the strap over her head then set off at a run towards the right turn at the end of this segment.
First right. Second left. First left. Seventh right. Third right.
The carnage halted her feet. This was the centre of the Minotaur’s maze and his own personal nest and feeding ground if her vision was correct. Body parts were strewn around the clearing. Blood spattered the walls and puddled on the floors as guts hung from the dark windows like macabre wreaths. Mariam felt the bile rise in her stomach.
Looking up from her expunged half devoured breakfast she caught a movement at the periphery of her vision. Something was pulling one of the sacrifices innards through the evil blackness of the window to her left. She spotted another to her right… then another.
Something at the back of her mind reigned in her compulsion to flee from the horror. There should have been ten other people in this maze as well as herself. However, there were way too many pieces of flesh scattered around to be only three people. Count the torsos or the heads, her mind ordered.
Thirteen torsos and twelve heads!
Oh, God! She was the last… and in the heart of the maze.
Straight ahead, she reminded herself. RUN! her mind screamed.
She was halfway across the clearing when she heard the soft sound of air being excised through oversized nostrils, and saw the massive dark silhouette step from the shadows. The Minotaur looked to be related to the Centaur. His bottom half was that of a huge bull, muscle and sinews snapped and popped with every move. From the chest upwards, his human half appeared to be borne of a giant, for the whole monster stood over fifteen feet tall, not counting the long and deadly horns erupting from the beast's skull.
“Pray to Zeus,” the Minotaur boomed, “he has been usurped by greater gods; older gods… and they will not help you.”
“I, I, I,” she stumbled, “I don’t believe in gods.”
“Ah, then that is why you’re here then. You are the apostle.”
“Do you scribe?”
“Then if you’re not a storyteller you’re an artist. Good, you need to see so you can render a trueness for the sheep of the Earth to believe and fear. I still have one tribute to hunt down so I will leave you with the masters.” He turned and addressed the myriad blackness behind the open windows, “show her the ways of the old ones so she can spread your word and your message.”
Mariam stood amazed as the Minotaur turned and walked out of the feeding ground. Then hell reached through the inkiness beyond and pulled her into the void of the nightmare of truths.
Did Mariam find her way out of the labyrinth?
Well if you search deep enough on the web you may come across an artist of dark imagery by the same name. Though no one can be sure if it’s the same Mariam Floros. However, if you do go in search of her artwork be forewarned there are rumours abound of insanity, murder, suicide, and other more despicable and tortuous acts, which have befallen or been executed by the purveyors of her craftsmanship.
My advice; go about your daily business and routines; stay well and take care of yourself and your loved ones; stay sheep.