rating: +17+x

The Rabbit Hole



Chapter 1

Rosemary stood wreathed in bituminous dust, only illuminated by the refraction of dim crimson light from the mirror across the room. The floorboards creaked and crawled in the darkness, each splintered remnant of wood curling upwards like dead rats’ tails. The mirror was broken, shattered by impact. The door barricaded. The window sealed. Nary a sound punctured the foreboding atmosphere. One could almost hear the heartbeat of the unseen and unknown predator sidling along the shadows.

The only girl in the abandoned suburban neighborhood, Rosemary crept forward on tiptoe towards the fulgent crack in the window. She dared not take a seat, lest the shifting of her weight cause the dilapidated furniture to cry out – she knew ears were listening, and they were much more potent than hers. With a lilting step, she bent over and cracked the window ever so slightly ajar. Tenuous eyes roved up and down the landscape. First across the dark moss lawn whose grass had grown to serpentine lengths, then across the murky street full of iridescent petroleum puddles. They double-checked all the trees’ knolls – they might be faces – before doubling back across the bramble and decussated wire fences. No figures in the bushes. Coast clear.

She fingered her canteen. Blast – it was empty. She pushed her finger through the opening and squeezed at the elastic lining inside. Not a drop, but she licked her fingers anyway. Moist was better than completely dry. Her pack had grown conspicuously empty as her rations declined despite her worries diminishing her appetite. It was either starve or be disembodied. With evaporating time to ponder the lesser of two evils, Rosemary arrived at the conclusion that a quick death was better than a slow one. Willing her body across the undulating floor of the room, she pressed herself against the barricaded door, listening for any sign of movement. She gingerly began to pull back the various frayed pieces of furniture she had placed in front of the entryway, and then geared herself to exit her hideaway. In one hand, she held a short but jagged fragment of glass she had salvaged from the mirror, and in the other, a flashlight set to dim. She clicked it on, pointing it towards herself as to not alert any malignant entities waiting outside. She observed the red circle on her black windbreaker jacket, hovering tentatively over her heart. It looked like a target.

C r e a k …

Sundry configurations of haphazard junk littered the hallway. Across it, several blockaded shadowy rooms yawned open like ominous cave entrances, maws of angry beasts. The fear of what could have been residing in them this entire time propelled Rosemary forward. She cut a lithe figure through the darkness, slinking surreptitiously down precariously decayed stairs. Her flashlight swooped through the gloom like a bat. Pareidolic visages emerged from the corners abounding, though a cursory sweep of the crimson light revealed them to be mere stacks of cardboard boxes and unused, broken appliances. Deserted. Absconded. Unspeakably lonely.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs, she found herself face-to-face with the front entrance of the house. Knowing that the most dangerous part was yet to come, she could no longer afford the luxury of a light source. She clicked off her flashlight and strode towards the dim outline of the white door across the living room.

"Going somewhere?"

Rosemary shattered the following second to pieces with her quick reflexes, thrusting her glass shard in the direction of the voice. A corner. The darkest one in the room. From it emanated a grisly chuckle. The ratchety man in corner flicked open the tip of his lighter. A bright orange spark of flame illuminated the rocking chair in which he sat. His dirty, unkempt tweed jacket and his stained plaid dress shirt flickered in the light. He had no beard, but the corpse of one lingered around his scraggly chin. Black and ashy hairs peppered the surface, like the scarce remnants of trees after a great conflagration. They crawled down his skin like worms until they receded at his neck – the very place at which Rosemary’s shard was pointing. His Adam’s apple bulged as he opened his mouth in a slimy yellow grin.

“Who are you? How did you get in here?” Rosemary hissed in a biting, cutting whisper. The door. No noise had been made. But now that the man sat before her, she could hear the rhythmic, eerie creaking of the rocking chair as the man swung back and forth. He threw his hands up in mock submission, but he flaunted in the face of death as he swung forwards, edging his throat devilishly close to the tip of her blade. Without a word, his eyes darted to an unknown spot behind her. His grin dropped, and his relaxed posture turned to one of defensiveness. Rosemary felt the breath of the beast on her and whipped around to see-

Nothing. She turned back around, her heart twisting. The man was laughing at her.

"You ought to lighten up a bit," he said with a smirk. By now he had lit his cigatette, and it was burning softly in the murkiness of the abandoned house. "You want a cig?"

"I'm not accepting a cigarette from a stranger," Rosemary spat back. It had been an immeasurable amount of time since she had last used her voice, and it came out in a raspy, choked sputter, like the death cries of a venomous snake. The man shrugged, leaning back and breathing a puff of smoke in Rosemary's face. She winced and leaned back, the stench hitting her like acrid, acid spit.

“Suit yourself.”

“What do you want from me?” Rosemary demanded, restraining her coughs as best as she could. “And put that lighter out; it’ll attract the deathmoths. How did you get in here without me noticing when you’re stupid enough to do things like that?”

“Rather crude for a host, I’d say,” the man replied without missing a beat. “Did they not teach you hospitality on Earth?” He shook his head dismissively. “Well, the reality of it is – I don’t want anything from you. In fact, I’m here to give you something.”

The man withdrew an envelope from the obscured depths of his pocket and handed it over to Rosemary. Eyeing him suspiciously, she pinched the edge of it with her fingers and tucked it in between her flashlight and her thumb.

"What's this?" Rosemary asked.

“Why, just take a look at your situation,” the man replied. “Living in an abandoned, dark, depressing shack of a building. Scrounging by on scraps, barely eking out a living. Do you enjoy it? I can see the rings under your eyes. Don't pretend that you have control here. Your blade is shaking.”

"I don't know what your deal is, but one false word and you'll find that my shaking blade accidentally slips inside your throat."

“Of course, of course. But I have hope that that won't happen. That's something that you lack, and something that you need. Hope. I'm here to spread some of that to you.”

"Out of what? Pity? Fancy yourself above mortality or some shit? Thinking you can just waltz in here - in Level Nine, no less - and fool around?"

"I don't know what you're up to, but that look in your eyes… I hate it. I don't know how you got here, but I can tell that your life up until this point has been a cakewalk. I've dealt with so many people like you back on Earth. I was hoping against hope that I'd never have to interact with people like you again, but here you are. Gallivanting across dangerous as fuck paths because you expect the world to bow down at your feet. Do you know how hard I've worked to make sure no entities even got a whiff of me? Do you know how paranoid and painstaking it makes you? Evidently not. You say you have some sort of panacea that can let me throw all of that effort away? I call bullshit. This world doesn't work like Earth. You don't get to live life on easy mode."

The man stood up suddenly, his smile unwavering. His chest rose upwards, past Rosemary's blade. She pointed it upwards to his neck, but he was much taller than she was, and it was clear this position was much less advantageous for her. Even though he hunched over, he loomed half a head over her. The dwindling fire and billowing smoke obscured and tinted his face until it was unclear whether he was advancing on her or not. He extended his hand - the the one opposite to the hand that held the blade - and the proffered a handshake. Rosemary simply stared.

“If I don't know anything about you, what gives you the right to assume you know anything about me, hm?” he cooed into the dark. “Tsk, tsk. Assumptions like that will be an obstacle if you're to figure out how to escape the Backrooms.”

"Escape the Backrooms?" Rosemary cursed herself inwardly as she let a faint glimmer of hope uplift her cadence. Beyond reason, it was. She quickly hid it, but the man was astute.

“My name is Homer,” he said. “If you're willing to put in the effort, I'll be the one to lead you out of this forsake place. Now, what is your name? Come on, don't be shy.”

"Not telling."

“No name, no game,” Homer smiled, his hand still outstretched and searching for a handshake.


“Good, good. Now, you know the proper etiquette. Shake my hand like a gracious host.”

Rosemary transferred the blade to the other hand as she tentatively took Homer's callused, creased palm in hers. She trained her eyes on his neck the entire time, glaring tenebrously at his throat. She shook.

“Follow the directions in the letter, and you'll be able to find a way out of Level Nine. When you do, I'll be awaiting you. I'm a very patient individual, but I have me limits, so don't take too long. Good luck. And remember, don't lose hope.”

With that, Homer retracted his hand. Suddenly, Rosemary realized that while they were talking, Homer had somehow inched away from the corner and was no longer pressed up against her blade. She cursed herself for getting distracted by his words as he waved amicably. He walked away casually towards the door.

"Don't exit, you'll alert the-" she started, but stumbled on her words and Homer approached the entryway. Instead of reaching towards the doorknob, he placed his hand upon the door itself - and through it. His fingers passed through it as if it were nonexistent. He threw his head back to give a supercilious, smug grin to Rosemary as he walked through the door and disappeared from view.

"What the fuck?" Rosemary gasped, dashing towards the spot where he had disappeared. She slowed just in time to prevent herself from crashing headfirst into the now-solid doorway. She pressed her body up against it, feeling for any intangible spots. There were none. The door was hard as a rock.

"I already checked the door…" she mused to herself. There was no way that anyone could clip to another level through that door, not after she'd used it before without difficulty. She took a look through the peephole.

"Oh, you think you're above the laws of reality yourself, don'tcha?" Rosemary muttered, her temper rising. She squinted - but all that she could see were the tenebrous silhouettes of the houses across the road.

Retreating from the peephole, she flicked on her flashlight and slid down backwards against the door, coming to a seated position in front of it. She gave the room a cursory survey with her dim light, then shone it towards the unopened envelope that she held in her hand. On the front of it was a red wax seal with an odd logo relief printed open its surface. In the center of the flowery design was the singular outline of an 'H'. With her other hand, she hastily tore open the sealing, ripping it as she did. Thankfully, it did not make too great of a sound. A small, yellowed piece of parchment slipped out.



"What the…" Rosemary mouthed to herself under her breath. With shaking hands, she hovered her flashlight over the elaborate calligraphic letters. She could tell they were written by hand, but they were done with such precision and elegance they almost appeared typed. Definitely not the sort of handwriting she expected from someone in such dingy vestments.

"I knew you were a pompous dickhead," she said in the off chance Homer was still somehow around to hear her. "Who else learns to write like this?"

Though her survivor's instinct told her otherwise - told her to hide away in her dismal shelter, staving off death, but shutting out life, her temper and hatred for elitism and the snide way in which Homer had treated her smothered out her reason. Though she had held the blade to his throat, he had thrust an invisible one into her heart. Maybe she was playing into his trap. Maybe he just wanted to see her struggle and writhe and squirm in anger as he sadistically played puppetmaster for whatever deviant reason he had. But if there was a chance to wipe that turgid smile off of his face… even if it was out of spite, beyond all reason…

Rosemary sat down and began to decode the message.

rating: +17+x
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