You decide to check the bottom door that bears an active symbol. As you near it, you hear a light scuffling noise on the other side. The tracker tests the doorknob and you ready your rifle. The door is unlocked. The tracker opens the door and you step into the room.
The room is much larger than you expected, and its size is emphasized by the ceiling, so high above that it disappears in darkness. You feel cool, fresh air that you suspect is coming from a vent high on a wall. The walls continue to curve around the center silo, though the left wall swings wide. A large array of computer equipment is stacked up against it like a command center. Most of the sensors and buttons are flashing erratically. You take a closer look at the panel and realize it controls the center silo, raising and lowering it like an elevator. On the right wall, the glass you saw in the previous room has transitioned back to concrete, though there’s a wide gap where it meets the floor.
A dead body has been jammed into the crack. His limbs are bent and twisted awkwardly. You can’t see his face and you’re glad for that.
There isn’t a lot of blood in the room but you can tell there was a hell of a battle in here. Rolling office chairs are upturned and torn. The cement walls are marred with gashes and bullet holes from a small firearm. Makeshift weapons lie on the floor, broken and discarded: a kitchen knife duct-taped to a wooden chair leg, a glass shard wrapped in cloth, and a hammer with a broken handle.
You wonder what sorry bastard was left with the hammer as a weapon.
Your eyes follow the spray of bullet holes that run upward along the center silo and you notice one of the engraved symbols high on the wall is partially grated off, making it inactive. It looks as if the center silo was on its way up to the surface when the fight broke out.
A scraping sound brings your attention back to the wall beneath the symbol. You notice a small hole in the wall and some granules of grated cement falling out.
The tracker grabs one of the chairs and wheels it over. She climbs up and looks into the hole.
She yelps. Her eyes widen and her head snaps back. The office chair pivots wildly and tips, throwing her to the floor. She doesn’t seem to care. She scrambles to her knees.
“Oh my God,” she whispers. “It’s in there. The Second Rider.”
You pull the chair upright, wheel it back over to the wall, and climb up. The hole is a couple of inches wide and the wall is at least two feet thick. You hear a soft rustling of wings. You look into the hole.
A large ruby-red eye stares back at you. You’ve seen enough demons to know this eye doesn’t belong to one. It’s unnerving. You jump down from the chair and look at the flashing console. You see the lever that would send the silo back down, sealing the Second Rider back into the bowels of the earth. You take a few steps toward the console and stop.
You turn around and climb back up on the chair. You look into the hole. The ruby eye is still there, watching you.
You clear your throat nervously.
“What’s the catch?” you ask. “If I let you out, the world ends. If I trap you underground… what’s the penalty for that?”
A thin lid slowly closes over the eye, shutting it for a few seconds. The eye opens. The walls around you start to burn away. The tracker gasps.
You are alone in a land scorched by fire. Nothing grows. The ground is cracked and barren. Rivers and lakes are red, fouled with blood. The air is thick and dry and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth. You taste sand and noxious fumes. Above you, the sun is barely seen through a murky haze and the sky grows dimmer by the minute. All around, the bodies of the damned rise up from the ground — a new army of Hell. You look down at your hands and arms. They’re covered in boils thick with puss. A swarm of locusts descends; without their natural food source they feast on flesh.
This world is trapped in its near-death state. It longs for a release that never comes.
You blink and you’re back in the control room.
Your heart is racing as you step down from the chair. If you set the Rider free, you’ll be responsible for the end of the world. If you secure him underground, the world will be saved, but without the happy ending. What you saw wasn’t Hell on Earth. It was worse.
What do you do?
A: Let the Second Rider go free
B: Secure the Second Rider underground
Image courtesy of Marie Richie.
UPDATE: Voting is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated. See you on Friday for the grand finale!