Anne's Escape (2 of 3)
rating: +20+x

"Being marked for death makes you a light sleeper. Guarding someone marked for death means no sleep at all."
Amy Cochrane
M.E.G. Team "Harbinger"

When Amy Cochrane made a silent "shush" gesture with her index finger placed vertically in front of her lips, Anne Dunne stopped fiddling with the small pan of water on their portable cookstove. It was too early for polite company this morning. Nobody here slept last night.

The approaching footsteps on the concrete floor of Level 1 stopped several feet away from the locked door to their M.E.G. VIP sleeping quarters. Careful listening hinted that the intruder was removing heavy boots.

Amy assumed a combat stance, with short swords at the ready.

Light knocking startled them both.

"What do you want?" Amy growled.

"I am delivering your Unicorn, as promised," came a refined, male whisper from the other side of the steel door.

"You ordered a unicorn?" Amy asked Anne.

"I did," Anne answered. She unlocked the door and invited their guest inside. Amy was taken aback by the size of the fellow carrying his boots.

"I am Gunther," he told Amy. "It is very early in the morning." He bowed to them both and handed Anne a flat sculpture of thick, black metal that measured about four-by-four inches. "This was cut from Tom's oldest skillet," he said with pride. "I hope it is to your liking."

Anne slipped the sculpture between her middle and ring fingers and made a fist. The points of the "iron knuckles" looked like unicorn ears and horn with a little imagination. She gave the giant a kiss on his cheek and thanked him. Gunther blushed, nodded, and left.

Amy reached over and ran her hand along the Unicorn.

"Hmm. Two-inch blade. Extremely dull. I am so very impressed. Maybe you can poke him in the eye with the pointy tip of the horn."

Anne ignored the sarcasm and removed the small pan of boiling water. She poured half a cup into a metal mug and added two pinches of white powder from an apothecary jar and stirred the mixture.

Amy looked puzzled and curious.

"It's Seer Tea," Anne explained.

"C-R-T?" Amy asked. "What's C-R-T?"

"No," Anne stifled a laugh and smiled instead. "Seer Tea is an elixir created by pulverizing dead Sightless Seers and dissolving the powder in a cup of boiling water."

"Crushed dead Seers?" Amy made a face. "What are the benefits?"

"This medicinal tea enhances mental focus and intuition, luck and psychic abilities… "

"Can I try it?" Amy asked. "What does it taste like? Is it bitter?"

Anne poured a taste into a second metal mug. "Let it cool," she added, passing the sample. "When you spit it out, please spit it back into the cup."

"Spit it out?" Amy wondered. She filled her mouth, her eyes went wild, and she spit the tea back into the cup and screamed. She plunged her finger into the mug and stirred the contents. "Where did they go?"

"It's called the Living Mouthful," Anne said.

"It felt like my mouth was full of live nightcrawlers and squirming minnows!" Amy shivered and shuddered. "I still feel them."

"That is how it feels the whole way down when you swallow." Anne added cold water to her tea and emptied the mug in a single go. She caught her breath and grinned.

M.E.G. Object of InterestLevel 365 Survival Kit

M.E.G. recruits J.J. Jordan and Kris McKenna independently no-clipped to Level 365 while examining the same table mirror framed in heavy brass. This antique mirror was one of the items held in an unmarked Sandalwood chest hidden on Level 1. Also found inside this wooden box: a matching brass hairbrush; mortar and pestle; glass apothecary jar; carved micro spoon; and a parchment scroll of pictorial instructions without text. The jar contained a white powder later identified as the crushed remains of Sightless Seers. The "Sandalwood Relic" was crafted so that the contents of each compartment was secured from damage. This was a toolkit, created by persons unknown, to visit and survive Level 365 and gather dead Sightless Seers.



The route to the Pilgrims Path from Base Alpha on Level 1 was easy: up the first staircase, down the long hallway, left past the elevator, and a right turn into the dead end corridor.

Where was everybody?

This section should be bustling with M.E.G. personnel. They were, technically, still in Base Alpha.

Amy saw him first. The Man in Black stood tall and stretched thin, like an anorexic cadaver dressed for his funeral. The malignant tumor on this space-time continuum blocked the only local route to Pilgrims Path.

"Nobody can foretell their reaction to facing death."
Anne Dunne
M.E.G. Team "Looking Glass"

Amy grabbed Anne's hand, and the pair made for the north exit from Base Alpha. She was looking for holes in a certain wall there. They found the right hallway, and both poked their heads inside one hole after another. The duo hit paydirt and entered Level 19.

They dodged their way through a bewildering maze of randomly shaped attic spaces and the damp confusion of stacked boxes, furniture, and memories long forgotten. The enticing, fireplace-like "Orange Glow" flickered through the floorboards, attempting to instill a sense of comfort and tranquility. Amy had no intention of staying on this level long enough to suffer the nausea, dizziness, or hallucinations experienced by other wanderers. The MiB stayed hot on their heels.

A tight squeeze, like some claustrophobic version of Twister, opened up into a large, empty area. Amy let fly with some heat of her own. The salvo of Firesalt crystals erupted into sparks upon impact. That one was for Alberto.

"This one's for me!" Amy added insult to injury and hurled a second volley of fire gems and guaranteed the immolation. The MiB did everything a creature aflame should do. Flesh blistered and blackened. Hideous screams sang solo to a macabre dance as it staggered and clothing burned.

Then he laughed. The Man in Black taunted and promised to cuddle them in a hellish embrace. He drew closer, wrapped in flames.

MiB

Man in Black
(Original State)
M.E.G. Archives

They ran for their lives. Their pursuer extinguished himself somewhere along the way. Finally exhausted, the pursued fell to their hands and knees, and struggled for every breath.

The MiB caught up with them and picked a nearby spot to relax. He wasn't even breathing hard. In fact, he wasn't even breathing. It was unnerving to watch him reconstitute his flesh and face and clothes. He stood up, tipped his fedora, and said, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Those yellow eyes flashed at Amy, and he told Anne, "Abandon your friend. She will be unalive quite soon." Anne's second sight had enabled her to see the twin beams of psychic energy, as thin as pencil leads, shoot from his eyes and strike Amy's face. He smiled and vanished in plain sight.

Amy jumped to her feet and bared both blades. The sparkle and life left her eyes as the enchantment took hold. "Momma!" She called out. "I can't see the man! He is here, but I can't see him. Momma! Help me!" There were no words to describe that soul-wrenching scream that followed.

Anne said softly, "You have tangles. Let me get the hairbrush from your pack and brush your pretty hair."

"Tangles?" Amy whispered.

Anne retrieved the brush and showed it to the girl.

"Tangles? Tangles! I have tangles," Amy babbled, her eyes unlocked from this place. "I hate tangles, Momma."

"You certainly do have tangles." Anne worked around those swords "at the ready" and calmly stroked and gently brushed Amy's hair. The girl's body stiffened like the torsion spring of a mousetrap. Even though one wrong move could trigger an unconscious and lethal attack, the psychic continued with this meticulous chore, working from the ends of the hair up to the roots.

"I have tangles, like Alberto?" Amy asked.

"Exactly like Alberto," Anne answered in a quiet voice. "Your tangles are on the inside…"

"Will I die?" Amy interrupted. "Like Alberto?"

"No. You only have two tangles left. They are stubborn, but I will have them undone in a few moments."

The warrior sheathed her weapons, relaxed her shoulders, and reacted like a kitten being scratched behind its ears. You could almost hear her purring.

Amy was back in the game. "Let me test my memory by telling you something." She took Anne's hand and said, "Let's walk as we talk. The entrance to Level 20 is not far from here."

Anne needed this respite and nodded.

Amy began, "I no-clipped into the Backrooms on my eighteenth birthday. It was Thursday, July 7, 1977."

Anne did some math in her head and said, "You look fabulous for being old enough to collect Social Security."

Amy smiled politely and her eyes got a little wet.

"My parents hooked up one of those Slip ’N Slide water slide toys to the garden hose in our backyard to occupy the kids. The yard sloped downhill just a bit, and the kids were having a terrific time zipping along and getting soaked. It all looked like so much fun.

"Everybody else was inside, finishing up the cake and ice cream. I had a little breather before it was time to open my presents. So, I said to myself, 'Why not?' I did a running belly flop onto that slippery ramp and will never forget racing along on wet, yellow plastic and ending up on wet carpet. Alberto was the first one to find and rescue me."

Amy stopped and pointed to a pair of matching gilded bird cages on floor stands. She squeezed between the cages and disappeared behind a tower of stacked boxes. "Over here," she called. Hidden behind the boxes was the rusted door that led to Level 20. "I trained on these levels."



"What happened to our Man in Black?" Amy wondered aloud, her eyes peered into rooms filled with abandoned machinery and scanned corridors crowded with stacked wooden pallets of products that were mostly shrink-wrapped. A tacky, oil-like liquid dripped from cracks in the roof and gathered, here and there, in pools on the floor. The warehouse known as Level 20 was a huge and magnificent mess.

MEGtags

MEG Dog Tags
for Anne Dunne
and Amy Cochrane
M.E.G. Archives

"My guess is that he is recharging his batteries after facing Hermosa Muerte," Anne chuckled. "You reduced him to his original state, all by yourself."

"This is the second time you called me Hermosa Muerte," Amy said. "It's spooky."

"I know. Alberto used to call you that. I think it fits you."

"How does that hairbrush work?" Amy changed the subject.

"The Sightless Seers on Level 365 use metaphysical weapons to accelerate the process of poisoning the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of their victims," Anne explained. "This hairbrush was specifically created to remove all forms of negativity and psychic attack in order for the user to safely negotiate the level. Enchantment is just another form of powerful psychic attack. Used promptly and correctly, the hairbrush removes these tangles of negative energies."

Anne pulled out her pocket flask. "Do you want a hit of Seer Tea?"

Hermosa Muerte took the flask, took a good swallow, and took her first steps into a larger world. She looked a bit queasy at first, but recovered nicely. There was a new ferocity in those gray eyes.

"You saved my life. Thank you."

"You are welcome," Anne said. "What's the plan?"

"I remember that there was supposedly an empty room nearby with a Pilgrims Path stone sculpture just sitting in the middle of the floor. Talking with visitors to the Harbinger Arch, I often recorded their journeys to Level 710 in a notebook and cross-referenced the data."

For what seemed like hours, they walked these corridors, backtracked and retraced their steps, compared their surroundings with the testimony of those who walked this path. They found a rare hallway devoid of clutter and hoped that it would lead to that equally empty room. It ended in a tidy dead end.

They turned around and found the Man in Black.

They were trapped.

And yet, the psychic saw something that filled her heart with hope.

“I ask that white light fill and surround us, cleansing our minds, bodies, and spirits. Protect us from all negativity, lower vibrational energy, or entities. I ask this, according to Divine Will, for the highest and greatest good. And so, it is." Anne called forth the divine light of protection. Holy light filled her conscious thought and blinded her mind's eye with psychic energy. She could feel the darkness trying to penetrate the light and make her vulnerable again.

"Amy," she called. "Take the hairbrush from your backpack and put the pack back on."

Anne locked her gaze on the Man in Black.

Amused, the MiB waited patiently for his kill. He looked pleased.

"I am holding the hairbrush," Amy declared.

"Study the brush. Memorize it! Fill your mind with only that brush and do not look at anything or anyone else. Follow my instructions."

Anne reached out with her right hand and increased the psychic barrier. She refused to allow her secret to be known. Dark shadows began to appear on her white wall of mental concentration. The MiB was more powerful than any human. If this being knew her next move, it could be their undoing.

"Remember when I told you that the hairbrush was part of a magical pair?"

The MiB's focus moved to the hairbrush and those dark spots on her mental barricade vanished.

Her distraction worked. Anne could feel that confused, dark mind searching for answers. She took Amy's hand with her left and tightened her grip. Amy responded in kind.

The image of the Ring drawing itself on the wall next to them created a new step in the Pilgrims Path. Someone or something was definitely on their side, helping them. Anne's right hand pressed hard against the pictograph that she kept hidden from her conscious thoughts by pure psychic willpower and misdirection. She never let go, even when the no-clip ended and tossed them both roughly on the grass. A silvery Ring floated in the sky overhead. The Harbinger Arch stood before them. This was Level 710.

"He followed us here," Anne announced.

"You can feel his presence?" Amy asked.

"No. I see him. He is standing behind you."

To be continued...

rating: +20+x
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