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Just In Case…
"What happened? Where am I?" the man asked to no one in particular. He had just awoken in a dark room, completely unaware of where, or who, he was. The last thing he remembered was dropping his girlfriend off and going back to his apartment. He had been tired and went straight to bed. He supposed that whoever had brought him here was either in his house or came in later. He felt himself to make sure there was no bodily harm and there was none so he wasn't hit with anything, he assumed.
He got up and searched around the room for any usable objects. He didn't find anything but he did come across a door. He tried the handle and found it unlocked. He opened the door slowly and peered out into the hallway behind the door. It was about six feet across, he guessed as he walked into the hallway. A single ten-watt bulb, covered in cobwebs, dimly lighted the hallway. It cast a faint glow but left many corners still shrouded in darkness. He looked around but saw no pull-chain or switch so he concluded that the light was meant to be on. There seemed to be no other doors except for the one behind him. He turned to shut the door and found a small razor taped to the door where the keyhole would be. There was a Post-It note stuck underneath it reading, "Just In Case". He pocketed the blade and crumpled the note up, then threw it on the ground.
He turned around and stared down the hallway. There were doors at intervals down the hallway, one on each side. All in all there were about six doors that he could see. He could tell that there would be more though, since the hallway continued on. He stared so hard that, to him, it seemed that it was collapsing in at the end. He shot his foot back and kicked the door shut behind him, enjoying the sound it made. The impact made some loose dust from the ceiling fall and he sneezed. The sound reverberated down the hall, making ghostly echoes. He started walking; his head moving so much it resembled a swivel. The only sound in the hall was the soft sound of his breathing and the steady clomp of his shoes on the cement floor.
As he walked down the hallway, he saw many doors. None had locks or latches of any kind, but when he tried them they wouldn’t budge. Nonetheless, he tried every door he came to. He figured that at least one door had a lock or was unlocked. After walking for about two minutes, the light started to lose its effect.
"Must be getting too far away," he muttered to himself. He continued walking, hoping against hope that there would be another source of light up ahead. He went steadily further into the all-consuming darkness, like a soldier with dreams of glory goes headlong into a firefight. He looked toward the end of the hall and saw another glow and a glint of light on metal that he thought must be a doorway, an exit of any type. He abandoned all self-control and bolted toward it. As he got closer he realized that it was another dim bulb and the metal was a brass door handle! Ecstatically he ran harder, faster, until he forced the breath from his lungs out of pure desperation.
He made it to the last door and the hope he had in his heart melted away. It was a door alright, but it had been padlocked with a large, menacing-looking lock. He slammed his fists against the door, sobbing helplessly, pleading to the heavens. Tears streaming down his face, he reached in his pocket and fumbled out the razor. After trying all of the doors, and facing that heart-sinking feeling every time, he gave up.
"Just in case...just in case..." he murmured. " It seems to me that there is no way out. Therefore whoever put me here wants me to die here. Well, I have the tool and the mindset, so why not?" As he raised the blade up to his arm, he looked up. As he looked up he saw a small crack in the door. He stopped and stared at it. He tried to look through it but it was too small. He looked down at the razor and was struck by a sudden thought. He started carving at the slit in the door, enlarging it, ignoring the cuts he got whenever the blade slipped or when a splinter pierced his skin. After about ten minutes, he was able to see through it and stick a couple of fingers through the rough peephole. As he pressed his eye to the hole, he braced himself for anything that he might see.
As he looked through the hole, he was shocked at what he saw. Directly in front of him was a note. It was as if whoever put him here wanted him to use the razor on this spot and not on his wrists. He used his middle and index finger to grip the note, and pulled it through carefully. He read the note aloud, to no one in particular. "In order to get to where you're going, you have to know where you've been." He stopped to ponder this cryptic message and then it hit him... the room where he started! He turned around and ran back down the deserted hallway until he got to the room. He looked but it was so dark he couldn't see anything.
He went back out into the hallway and looked at the light. The ceiling wasn't very high; he could reach it without even having to stand on his tiptoes. He reached up and punched the ceiling as hard as he could. Dust and plaster rained down on him, but he shut his eyes. He looked up and saw the fist-sized hole in the ceiling, right next to the light. He punched the ceiling five more times, making a circle around the light. He cleared the hole and then tugged out the light. He grasped the cord that gave the light power and yanked it out of the ceiling until he had about five feet of play. He pulled on the light and brought it into the room to cast a light on everything. He looked around and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Upon closer examination, he saw that there was a discoloration on the brick wall. He went over to it and poked at the bricks. He held his breath in anticipation as he poked at them. When the first one moved he went into a frenzied state. He hurriedly forced them out until there was a large hole in the wall, and then a box fell from the hole. He opened it and saw that it was lined with red velvet. There was a key inside it. He pulled it out and didn't see anything else important, but he put the box in his pocket anyway. He left the room and started running down the hallway. He stopped at the door for a second to catch his breath. With great care and deliberation, he inserted the key into the lock and turned it to unlock the latch.
He pulled the lock from the eyehole and opened the door. He saw a staircase, and right next to him was the string the note had hung from. He went up the stairs and at the top of the landing he stopped in front of another door. It was unlocked so he went in.
He found himself standing in a brilliantly lit room. It was furnished with a threadbare couch and chair with a table in the middle of them. The room wasn't empty though. There was a man sitting in the chair, with his hands folded on his lap. He was dressed elegantly in a crisp three-piece black suit with spotless black leather shoes. On the table was a laptop that was showing a live feed of the hallway. He turned his head and stared into the man's eyes.
"Hello, Jason. I have been watching you for quite a while now. You have fared better than the others. They always resorted to the razor before actually thinking about how to escape. You have shown great tenacity and quick thinking. I applaud you."
Jason stood there in shock, arms dangling by his side. He opened his mouth to speak but it was a while before he could formulate any coherent sentences.
"You mean...there were others before me?" Jason asked, dumbfounded.
"Oh yes. Many, many more. I have been in.business...for over twenty years," he said with a smirk. "I have put countless men through that same test and only a handful have survived. Congratulations."
"Well, now what do I do? I don't remember anything except that I have a girlfriend. Wait, who are you?" he asked.
"Ehh, names are unimportant in my business, but for the time being I guess you can call me Jacoby. I cannot tell you the answer to any of your questions because I don't know them I have been doing this to find an apprentice, but everyone seems to decline. If that happens, then they go through door number one. If they choose to stay, they go through door number two. It’s terribly cliché, I know, but for some reason everyone goes through door number one. Will you be the person to go through door number two?"
Jason looked at the doors. They were both average doors, like the one he had cut through in the hallway. The only difference was that was that door number two was dustier, due to apparent lack of use. He turned, again, to the man in the suit.
"What's behind the doors?" asked Jason. Hearing this question. The man sighed.
"Alas, I always get this question. Behind door number one is the outside world. You can leave here and never return. Start your life over, be the person you always wanted to be. Door number two holds a more adventurous lifestyle. When you cross the threshold you become my apprentice. You devote the rest of your life to finding bad people and punishing them. You watch and plot. Make them atone for their sins. If they make it through the course, you give them the same options I have given you and respect their choices."
"But that would make me a murderer, which I'm not," interjected Jason.
"Haven't I said 'you will find bad people'? Why do you think I picked you? Do you want to know the one piece of information I will impart to you? You are a murderer. You killed three people in a convenience store robbery gone wrong, and let your accomplices take the fall." This shocking piece of information shattered the small sense of knowing Jason had. He was a killer. He couldn't go back into the world knowing this.
"I made my decision," Jason said in a shaky voice.
"Good, I hope you made the right choice," the man said. "For your sake."
Jason walked unsteadily to the middle of the doors. He stood, contemplating, making sure this was what he wanted to do. With a resolute nod, he turned towards the door on the right. He walked up to it and saw that there was an engraved "2" on the door. He blew the dust off of it and stood there with a small smile on his face. He turned the door handle and opened the door to its fullest extent. As he entered he uttered three words that made the man in the suit very happy, very happy indeed.
"My new home."
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