After having wandered for hours on end, what I saw in front of me was not what I wanted to see. The metallic gate blocking my sole path forward was locked. Because of a single locked gate, I'd have to backtrack miles, all the while I was slowly running out of resources. Though my rational mind was ready to turn back, deep in my heart, I wanted to somehow avoid this fate. Faced with a choice, as too often in my life, I listened to my heart.

I inspected the gate and the lock carefully. The lock appeared weak; perhaps it would yield to force? I shook the door frame with my hands, trying to strain the lock. After failing, I attempted to kick down the gate but only ended up with hurt feet. In a last-ditch effort, I rammed into the gate with the force of my entire body. A loud bang filled the halls, and pain filled my body as I slammed onto the floor. Upon opening my eyes and discovering that the gate had not moved an inch, I gave up. Defeated, I retreated away.


I continued my retreat along the hallway and the path, oblivious to anything being astray. Occasionally, I got the feeling that the layout was somehow different, but I simply ignored it. It was almost impossible to tell the hallways apart from each other; there was nothing memorable about any particular one. Only after spotting a yellow wire on the ceiling did I begin to seriously suspect that something was wrong.

I was sure of it; no such yellow wire had been here on my way to the gate. As my heartbeat slowly returned to normal, it dawned on me that the room had other differences as well—the ceiling tiles were clearly more degraded than before. Pondering about what had happened, I came up with a potential explanation. Perhaps, after ramming the gate, I had seamlessly phased through and landed on the other side. If that was true, I had been moving forwards all along. On the other hand, I had no idea what lay ahead.

The yellow wire was only a prelude to what was to come. As I proceeded, I quickly began spotting more wires. Some were also yellow, whereas others were otherwise colored. Often, the wires formed intricate clusters and messy knots. The walls changed too; the cement slowly shifted into pale tiles, which eventually gave way to more naturally tinted ones.


The amount of wiring had escalated rapidly. The wires covered almost every surface, running along each other in parallel. They convened in iron cabinets, where they formed incomprehensible circuits littered with bizarre buttons and flashing lights. Most cabinets were left open—as if someone had planned to return—but others were closed, hiding their secrets forevermore.

When the wires began to get larger, I knew something was up. Faint sounds of motors became audible, which I soon realized originated from the small machines now present at the corners of rooms. In addition to wires, small pipes ran into the motors from inside walls. It felt like I was approaching the core of something unknowable. The wires were plentiful, the machines were increasingly large, and a throb—quiet at first, but soon overwhelmingly loud—echoed in the halls.


It did not take long to arrive at the source of the throb. When I entered the massive room, I immediately knew I had reached the core. A massive machine, entirely red, stood at the very center of the space. Thick wires ran into it from all sides, even from the ceiling and the floor. Here, the throb sounded like the beating of a heart—a massive, red, metallic one.

The machine was in constant motion. Its gears slowly rotated around their axes, squeaking painfully. Large pistons deep inside the contraption moved back and forth, causing entire sections of the room to shake. Everything gave the impression that the machine was not merely a machine—but that instead, the red abomination was somehow alive.

A part of me desired nothing more than to run away from that disgusting thing. Deep inside, I wished I had simply turned back at the cursed gate. However, I would’ve lied if I said I felt nothing else. As I looked into the spinning gears, a different part of me found comfort in the perfect clockwork and its eternal motion. My legs betrayed me as I stepped in rhythm toward the contraption. Giving into the temptation, I gently touched the red surface and felt the uniform pulse pass through me. With each beat, my mind was flooded by emotions, visions, and memories of ancient days before my time. Entranced, I leaned in.

I'm not sure what snapped me out of it, but something did. Dazed, I ran away as fast as I could and didn't look back. Had I stayed for a moment longer, it's likely I would've never been able to leave.

Over the years, I've learned one thing. No matter how many miles, places, or worlds I travel through, that sound will stay with me in my dreams. Yesterday, I went to bed early and drifted off soon enough. The first sign to manifest was the quiet beat. As it got louder, I was able to see the wires and gears along the walls, until finally, the machine appeared to me in all its glory. Filled with heavenly joy, I started running toward the pulse, only to wake up right before reaching it—as always. As I wept on my bed, I suddenly realized my heart was beating in rhythm with the red one.

rating: +15+x
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