Her eyes slowly blinked open. Her gaze moved around the long room, but seemed to take nothing in. Helia was shivering; her bare feet freezing against the cool cement floor.
Only her echo responded, just as confused as she was. Seeing nothing in front of her, she turned around. Behind her was something. A body, twisted so badly Helia couldn’t tell if it was laying on its back or stomach. Its skin was greyish and what little hair was left, was matted and covered in blood. It must be dead, Helia thought. But then one of its hands twitched and a raspy voice started speaking. The voice was more powerful than Helia would have thought could come from a body that looked like that.
“Get to the other side of the hallway. Get to the other side,” the body commanded. Its words were hypnotic, like watching a snake rise out a basket. Entranced, Helia squatted down closer to the body.
“The other side of the hallway? What’s there? On the other side?”
“Get to the other side,” these words were fainter and the body started to pull itself toward Helia. Its fingers grazed her ankles and she leapt back. “Get to the other side.” Its eyes flickered open and immediately sought Helia’s face out. “Get to the other side.”
Frozen by the body’s gaze, Helia felt its fingers grasp her ankle.
“Get to the other side…Get…to the other side…other side,” as the voice grew quieter and quieter, its grip on her ankle grew stronger.
“I’ll go to the other side-”
“Get to the other side. Get-”
“I’ll do it! I’ll go to-”
“-side. Get…to the other…side. Get-”
“I’ll go! I’ll go!” Her scream echoed over its echoes, a continuous refrain of “I’ll go” overlapping and drowning each other out. Its hand relaxed around her ankle and its eyes grew vacant. Helia whispered one last time: “I’ll go.”
She turned around and faced the hallway. The corridor stretched beyond what she could see clearly; there was no furniture, no doors, nothing in the luminescent white hallway. As she took a step forward, the hand fell off her ankle and flopped on the ground with an unsettling echo. She took another step. Every step felt heavy, like the body’s eyes still drilled into her. She began to run. Her footsteps grew more frantic. The further she got from the body, the stronger its eyes felt and its mantra echoed in her mind. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Helia closed her eyes. The cool cement was now welcome under her feet. Get to the other side. The mantra and her feet formed a rhythm. Get to the other side. Get to the other side.
A boy’s shout broke Helia’s beat and her eyes flew open. His arms were reaching out to her. There was a chair next to him and in the far distance Helia could see a pedestal with something red on it.
Helia stopped. His face flooded with relief and he gestured for her to sit in the chair. His shiny hair was neatly combed and he had shoes on. He motioned again to the chair.
“Sit. You must be tired. Don’t your feet hurt? I ran out of water otherwise I’d give you some. Are you sure you don’t want to sit?” His hollow eyes searched her face.
Helia shook her head. The boy shrugged his shoulders against his crisp navy suit and sat down in the chair.
Breaking her silence, Helia revealed: “I’m going to the other side of the hallway.”
“Of course. There is nothing in the hallway except down there and right here.”
“How do you know?”
The boy looked down, breaking eye contact for the first time. There was silence, except for the echo of “how do you know?” Helia watched him, searching for some revelation.
“How do you know?” she murmured, boring her eyes into him.
He finally looked up. A lock of his hair slipped out of place. He tilted his head and gave her a small frown.
“Last time,” he started then shook his head. “You should go if you won’t sit.”
“What do you mean ‘last time’?”
He shook his head again. “You should go if you won’t sit.”
Helia took a step closer to him, beginning to panic.
“You should go if you won’t sit. I can’t-”
“Can’t what? Can’t what?” Helia screamed. Her body ached with anticipation and her hands began to shake ever so slightly. He stood silently as her words echoed around them.
“You should go.” He turned around and suddenly Helia noticed a door.
“Stop! Wait, stop!” she called after him, but he never looked back as he walked through the door. For several minutes, Helia watched the door. She feared the boy would come back and that he would stay away. In the silence, the body’s words began to echo again, so loudly it felt as though they were coming from outside her head. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Helia stared at the door for a few moments more then turned and looked down the hallway towards the pedestal.
Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Helia began to run again. The pedestal felt so close, but with every step it seemed to stay the same distance away. She closed her eyes and let herself fall into the mantra again. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Get to the other side. Even if she couldn’t get closer to the pedestal, she wanted to get away from the boy with his weird words and strange hair and shoes. Get to the other side. As she ran, the air whipped against her body and Helia realized her clothes were ripping.
She didn’t care. Running, the mantra, getting to the other side, was all that mattered. With every step, Helia felt her body surge forward, desperate for some sort of relief, but she would not stop. Get to the other side. Sweat dripped from her forehead into her eyes and she opened them. Get to the other side. The pedestal glowed with dazzling clarity: frantic etchings covered the deep gray marble. The red thing on it, now, clearly an apple. An apple. Her mouth watered and she pushed herself faster, faster. Get to the other side. Get to the other side.
Helia slowed her steps as she approached the pedestal. The glowing red apple sat alone on it. The chanting in her head grew even louder. The other side. The other side. The other side. The other side. Helia picked up the apple. Hunger and thirst consumed Helia, body and mind. The apple screamed juicy and sweet. With shaky hands, Helia reached for the beautiful fruit. She lifted it to her mouth and took a bite. Her eyes closed as its sweetness flooded her mouth and sent a soft shiver throughout her body. As her eyes shut, she felt juice drip out of the corners of her mouth.
Her eyes slowly blinked open. Her gaze moved around the room; it was empty. Helia looked down at her hand. Something was missing. Helia was shivering; her bare feet on a cool cement floor. Her clothes were ripped and she smelled of sweat; she felt sticky all over. Helia licked her dry lips to find an aftertaste of something sweet. She turned around and behind her was a body, greyish and bloody though its hair was neat and combed: only a single lock was out of place. Its hand reached out to her ankle and once grasping it, its eyes opened and its gaze burned her.
“Get to the other side of the hallway.”