"I found this the other day when I was looking around for a party spot, what do you think?"
Ed looked skeptically at the hole leading into the depths of the earth. It was more or less an even circle, about seven feet in radius, bored into a slanted hillside deep in the forest. The first few steps into the hole were even with the ground, but afterwards it dropped straight down. Ed gazed down the precipitous drop; it looked particularly black and not at all inviting. "I dunno, why can't we just have a bonfire in the woods like a normal party?"
Colby scoffed, "Been done before. How cool would it be to have it in a cave? We could be louder, could be messier, could sneak off to be alone more easily, you know what I mean?"
"Yeah, but..." stalled Ed, looking for further objections to the plan, "what about at the end of the night, when we're trashed, do we really want to have to climb out of this thing again? That seems like a recipe for disaster."
"How often do we go home after a good bonfire?" asked Colby. Ed conceded the point with a nod; they usually ended up falling over where they stood and sleeping on the ground. "At least this way there's more protection from the elements."
"Alright, let's take a look inside and see what it's like," Ed decided, instantly regretting it.
They pulled a long rope ladder out of the pack that Colby had been carrying, and holding one end, dropped the other into the hole. A few seconds later they heard a thud as the bottom rung hit bottom. "See, not too deep," Colby remarked, "the ladder is twenty feet long, and it just hit bottom." He secured the other end to a tree just outside the opening, tugged on the knot to ensure it would hold, then grabbed the big flashlight and started his descent. Ed waited a little longer than necessary for Colby to reach the bottom, working up his courage, before venturing down as well.
When he hit the bottom, Ed was surprised to find that his feet had not touched rock, but rather concrete. "It's concrete, what's..." Ed started to ask, but his words died in his mouth as he listened to the echoes of his words come back to him. He couldn't put his finger on why, but hearing his voice repeated like that made his hair stand on end.
Colby answered the question without having heard it fully, "Probably that military base they say used to be out here in the 50's."
"That's an urban legend," said Ed, much quieter this time.
"Apparently not," remarked Colby, casting his flashlight's beam around the walls. It was obvious that they were standing in a man-made, concrete corridor.
"Then that's a reason not to be here, let's go before we get caught."
"By who? Nobody's been out here in ages. Probably just some bomb bunker that they decided wasn't useful anymore."
"No," protested Ed, "I really think we should go."
Colby sighed, looking down the unexplored corridor. It split into two branches just a handful of yards down. "Let's just look a little farther in. We'll turn right twice, and I'll even leave these matches on the way with the head pointing the way we came from so we won't get lost." He took the matches out of his bag and shook them to prove his idea would work. "And if you're still not sure that this place is long abandoned and totally awesome, then we'll turn left twice, and be right back here. K?"
Ed crossed his arms and thought pensively. "Fine," he consented.
They proceeded down the hall, and took the right branch, leaving a match pointed backwards just as the corridor split. Ed rubbed his arms as if he were cold, even though the inside felt a bit muggy.
Ed and Colby followed that corridor for another minute, before it split off again. They turned right as well, leaving a match pointed left, the way they had come, as a precaution.
They could tell as soon as they turned right that this corridor had a series of doorways built into the sides. They strode down to the nearest and peered inside. It was a small room, about ten by ten, built out of the same concrete and just as barren and empty as the corridor was. The second room was identical, as was the third.
Colby looked at Ed with a slight, victorious grin. "How perfect is this?"
Ed was still rubbing his arms, trying to shake himself of his sense of apprehension. "Something is wrong here. Look," he said, finally figuring out how to say what he felt, "there's nothing alive in here, and it looks like there never has been. There's no graffiti or trash, it looks like we're the first people to ever find this. But there's no bugs either, or even any spider webs, or anything at all. It's totally... lifeless," he ended with a shudder.
"Why are you complaining about that, it's even better like this than some damp, smelly, dirty cave." Colby's voice tailed off as he spoke, as the feeling of lifelessness sunk in. He peered around him, obviously wishing there was something damp, smelly, or dirty to look at and relieve the creeping feeling of dread that both felt.
Suddenly Ed went aghast. "Colby... look at the doors."
Colby pointed his flashlight at the nearest of them. It was made of heavy, bolted steel, with a small barred window at about eye level and a slot at the bottom. It was a prison door. The whole hallway was full of open jail cells.
"I think it's time we go," said Colby, his voice uneven. Ed didn't bother voicing his vehement agreement, and grabbing Colby, turned around back down the corridor.
They arrived at the first branch in the corridor. The two were about to turn left when they noticed that the match which they had placed on the floor was pointed straight forward. "I thought we turned right," said Ed, panic entering his voice.
Colby looked at it just as shocked. "We did, we did! I left the match pointing left!"
"It's pointing straight, Colby."
"Maybe we stepped on it, I dunno, but we're turning left."
They turned left and began jogging down the corridor, the beam of their flashlight bouncing up and down the walls. The corridor felt far longer than it had coming in, but they finally reached the intersection. They peered left; there was no rope ladder.
"Where is it," yelled Ed, truly afraid now.
"I don't..." the words died in Colby's mouth as he looked at the floor.
Written in matches on the cold, cement floor was the question, 'ARE YOU LOST?'
Terror. The two bolted back down the corridor from which they had came, and came to a skidding halt at the next intersection. Instead of a single match, there were again many, continuing the question asked at the last intersection; 'OR ARE YOU ABANDONED?'
"Where the hell are we," screamed Ed, hands tangled in his long hair.
Colby couldn't answer, instead looking up and down the corridors, searching for any hint of an exit. "We must have made a wrong turn coming out of one of those rooms, let's find those again and go from there." He did his best to sound confident to try to calm Ed down, but it didn't help much.
They took a right turn and found another set of rooms, possibly the first set, but it was impossible to tell. "Ok, here we are, see, we just need to go from here."
Ed wasn't listening. He had gone pale as bone, and with a shaking arm pointed into the room which was lit by Colby's flashlight, staring at the interior completely transfixed. Colby, with his gut tied into knots, slowly turned his head and peered into the room. Against the far wall was the silhouette of a hanging man, the rope around his neck attached to the ceiling above. It seemed to sway slightly in an invisible wind. But there was no body, nothing to make the silhouette; the room was empty but for the shadow.
The two ran, screaming, away from the cell, not even paying attention to where they were going. Every room held the source-less shadow of a corpse; some hanging, some crumpled on the floor, others elevated with their limbs stretched out as if they had been affixed to the wall.
They ran and screamed, wildly turning up and down corridors with no plan, until their voices went hoarse and their muscles burned. Ed collapsed at an intersection and stayed down, panting. Colby stopped by his side, hands on his knees, struggling to catch his breath. But when they had stopped screaming, the whispers started. It sounded as if they were surrounded by a multitude, all malevolently whispering to each other about the trespassers. The two couldn't hear any words, just the soft murmur of sinister plotting. As Ed jumped back up and joined Colby in running again, one whisper became intelligible. Its words, spoken softly, seemed to follow them, resounding down the corridor as they ran; it said, "You may be lost, but you will become Abandoned."
They ran and ran, confronted at every turn with the formless shadows of suffering and death, each corridor the same, endlessly branching left and right. They ran through the pain, ran through the fear, ran as if their lives were on the line.
After what seemed an infinity of turns, the flashlight flickered. Both stopped in their tracks and watched the bulb fitfully flashed on and off, the power diminishing and the light growing dimmer with each flutter. Ed and Colby stared at each other, mouths agape. Their lifeline flickered one last time and extinguished itself, leaving them in the dark.
The two groped through the dark, found each other, and held on. Colby started to scramble blindly in his pack for the box of matches when, from every direction, a series of fluorescent blue faces poked their heads out of their cells. Paralyzed by fear, Ed and Colby watched these forms, the only things visible in the dark, as they dragged themselves towards the two living beings. Their mutilated faces and gruesome bodies bore testament to the horrors they met during their lives in these corridors. The Abandoned closed in, and in unison whispered, "Join us," as they overwhelmed their prey.