By Martin Webb
A low cacophony echoes through the stairwell. She sprints blindly, not knowing where this path will lead. The diaphanous walls skim past her, whispers of silk brushing her reddened cheeks.
She’s been running for hours and is exhausted, but she has no choice but to keep going. The insubstantial earth tilts, throwing her headlong onto a new course. The voice is closer now, a heavy, sustained growl that chills her blood. She runs further and then skids to a halt where the path ends in a wide balcony. Flared wrought-iron railings encase a glass floor and she looks down onto an immaculate lawn. Ahead and below is a tall maze, carved from a mass of hedge. Spread across the grass before the maze, couples in fine Victorian garb talk and laugh and enjoy picnics in the sunshine.
The sky grows dark, roiling black clouds forming and folding in upon themselves. From within, bright streaks of lightning and that hollow growl, soft at first but growing steadily. The revellers are oblivious, lost in their own self-importance. She screams, but her voice is silent. The clouds build, creating a monstrous, gargantuan shape, a horned man with incandescent eyes. He grins and his smile shatters her sanity. She screams again and turns.
She’s in a stairwell heading down and he’s right behind her. She runs outside, onto the grass, and is confronted by the dandies in their antiquated clothing. They are all still, their faces frozen in rictus, empty eye sockets staring at nothing. She feels breath hot as a fever cascade over her back. Still screaming, she runs into the maze where the demon, grinning, awaits her.