The weirdest things always happen on the most normal days. Those days where things are seemingly perfect but not so perfect it’s suspicious. Alex Mason was as normal as everyone else, having a normal day at his normal school in his normal neighborhood in a normal town. Alex was a soccer player and was the fastest person on the team. He got decent grades and occasionally failed a test, like everyone else. Every day he’d go home to his mother and father and sister and the family dog, Lucy. He was so funny and charming and social that what happened today seemed overly abnormal to a point of insanity.
It happened after Soccer practice, Alex was the last one out of the locker room with his duffel bag slung over his shoulder. The lights in the hall flickered and at the end of the hall was a figure. He would have thought it to be another student if not for the ears. The rabbit ears that twitched upon its bald head and the faint sound of snapping teeth. It didn’t walk towards him, it’s more like it teleported forward with every flicker of the lights, getting closer and closer until it was close enough to make out its small beady eyes and a black sludge dripping from its mouth. Alex ran, hitting the door at the end of the hall and bursting into the next long stretch of tile. He looked back and saw that the strange beast was right there at the door, screeching at him. Then, he was falling. It didn’t register at first. His hair whipped around his face and it took a moment for him to realize the ground was no longer under his feet. He could see the quickly closing hole at the top and the rabbit creature looking at him. It was smiling.
The hole seemed to pulse with flesh and crisscrossed wires and tubes. His screams were taken by the rusted metal and the dark ooze that dripped from the tubes and then it spit him out in a river of dark water. He swam to the shore and screamed again when the water made his skin sizzle. He still had his duffle bag that was luckily waterproof and quickly toweled himself off and throwing the towel away as it sizzled and disintegrated into a pile of dust.
“My my, another one for the slaughter,” a voice echoes through the silence. Alex looked around frantically and on a metal branch of an industrially withered tree was a cat. It wasn’t a normal cat. It was withered and skeletal with a wide, pointed smile. Alex attempted to speak, wanting answers, but he couldn’t speak. His voice was missing. “Don’t bother, your trivial blabbering will not be missed.” the cat chimed, its voice deep and uncaring. “At the least, you deserve the riddle. The clues, the journey, the inevitable ending. You won’t have a chance, but I’ll give you one anyway.
“She has the key and she hates tea. The way you would stay is the way to the day, but the night is not far behind.” The cat smiled a wide, grim smile and disappeared into the darkness that surrounded the trees like canopies. Alex tried to run after it, dodging dying metallic trees and trying to see in the dark. He only stopped when he reached the top of a hill. The land had no color. It is dark and bleak and smelled of rot and burnt materials and rusted alloy. It was hard to see due to the darkness and fog, but it weighed down the dead forest behind him and swirled around an industrial palace off in the distance, but not too far. He could make out hearts bent out of metal and the rest of the decorating was hidden by shadows.
Alex reached the large metal castle in a day. Dead grass and leaves crunched underneath his feet as he walked with purpose. The dirt had changed to grating with black ooze bubbling underneath. As he walked over the drawbridge and into the huge structure, but on the inside was a maze, made of fencing and metal plating, held together by wire and slowly decaying into reddish dust. There was no other way in.
As he navigated the maze, the black ooze started to rise through the grating of the floor. It burned him and he started to stumble down corridors, trying to find a way out. He stumbled out the exit after forever and found a pedestal. It was under a single beam of light and floated as if it held the remaining innocence of the decayed world. He reached for it, but he never touched it. The metal under him suddenly bent and bowed and he fell. Again, he was falling. Farther and farther, he only saw black ooze and the fading wisps of fog. Then, it consumed him.
“..lex.. Alex... Al!” he shot up, hearing his name shouted at him. He was surrounded by students and teachers. He had traces of goop on him and was still burned from the toxic river of that whimless land. They sat him up and he recognized his team and his friends. “Dude, where have you been?!” His team captain asked. “It’s been a month. Do you know how...” The voice faded out as he noticed, past the crowd of concerned people, was the rabbit creature. He was still smiling and had his finger over his mouth. “Shhh.” He breathed before disappearing and finally, Alex could scream.