Wednesday, 30 November 2011

In which there is a knock on the door

There was a short story published a while ago in Thrilling Wonder Stories. It was by Fredric Brown - I like his stories. It was only two sentences, but to me, it was quite chilling:

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door...

I don't know how long I have been in this city, but I know in all my time here I have not seen another living soul. Not until today.

There was a knock on the door.

Two simple knocks. That was it. I thought that perhaps I would open the door and there would be another package from A. Perhaps another riddle or another Biblical quotation to mull over. I went and opened the door.

There was someone outside.

Slowly, I stepped outside, one hand clutching my camera. Was this the elusive A? They wore a completely black outfit, including a hood that covered their face. "Hello, Hider," they said. I couldn't even tell from their voice if they were male or female - it sounded strange, the pitch a little too high for a man's voice, too low for a woman's.

"Why do you call me that?" I asked. "That's not my name."

"But it's who you are," they said. "You hide. You hide behind your name, behind your words, behind your pictures. One mustn't hide, not from oneself."

"Are you A?" I asked.

"I am," they said. "I am A and A am I. To deny it would be to deny that I exist. I exist, thus A equals A. I am that I am."

"Now you're quoting the Bible again," I said. "You're not God."

"I'm not?" A said. They titled their head and looked at me. "Then how is it I can come and go and you cannot? You are trapped here and I am free." They stepped closer, their feet making crunching sounds on the ground. "I have given you food and water. I have given you technology. And what have you given me? Disbelief. I don't think that's very fair, do you?"

"If you're a god, you're an awfully capricious one," I said.

"Of course," they said, stepping closer. "What else would the God of Humanity be? Capricious and willful and indifferent and cruel. All the qualities that humanity posssesses in abundance. But the God of Humanity would also be powerful and strong and able to adapt quickly." They stepped closer still and I raised the hand that held the camera. I was going to snap a picture, but they grabbed the camera out of my hand. "Now, now. I have given and I shall take away. Besides, you were wasted on it, taking snapshots of stone lions and fountains. You could have shown people the enormity of the City, the brilliance of this place, but you didn't. You don't deserve a camera." They dropped the camera on the ground and before I could try and stop them, they stomped on it, crushing the camera under their boot.

"What," I said, unable to comprehend what they had just done. My camera, which I had taken everywhere, was now cracked and broken on the ground.

"I did say that I was cruel." A leaned in closer and I could make out the shape of their face underneath their hood - round and thin, a face like any other. "Do you believe now?" A asked. They turned and started to walk away. "You should. Or else the next thing I step on might be you."

They opened a door and step through. I stepped forward, but the door closed and then vanished itself.

I kneeled down and carefully picked up all the pieces of the broken camera. Looking at them, I knew I could never repair it - it was so complex, if I had been younger, I might have thought it was magic. I picked up each piece and cupped them in my hands.

Then I walked back to my room and sat down.

I sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.

I jumped, then placed the broken camera on the table and walked towards the door. I opened it carefully, but there was nobody on the other side. But there was a note stuck to the door, a piece of spiral notebook that looked like it had been ripped haphazardly. On it was written:

I looked at the note, then closed the door again.

Sam Norton

Saturday, 26 November 2011

In which I receive a reward

There was a large metal box beside the lion today. On top was a square filled with letters, like the letters I type on this machine. I entered the letters B-A-S-E-B-A-L-L and the box unlocked itself. Inside was food -- packages of crackers, dried fruit, beef jerky, and bottle after bottle of water.

And near the bottom of the box was a piece of paper on which was written: MARK 5:36.

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.

Curious. Of all the Biblical passages A could have chosen, they chose this one. This is about the healing of a dead woman. Am I...dead? Is this some sort of purgatory?

No. No, that's a plot from a bad pulp story. Besides, there are plenty of other weird passages from Mark 5. I mean, that's the chapter where Jesus comes across a wild man who cannot be bound in chains or fetters and, when he asks him his name, the man replies, My name is Legion: for we are many.

Sam Norton

Friday, 25 November 2011

In which I walk from lion to lion

There was a lion in front of my door this morning. It was light outside, so I decided to take a walk and I opened my door and I saw a lion.

It was a stone lion, like those found outside of old buildings. It looked strange though. Like it was from a drawing made by a child. It was...deformed.

I closed the door and tried not to look at it as I walked past. Instead, I tried to think of the answer to A's riddle. "Joe wants to go home but he cannot. The Man in the Mask is waiting for him." It sounds like a trailer for a new detective film.

After a few minutes of walking along a stone path, I found myself in front of a tunnel.

I could see that beyond the tunnel were stairs, seemed as if tunnel was leading going to lead me somewhere else. Somewhere I hadn't been in this city. So I walked through the darkened tunnel and when I came out the other end, the stairs had vanished. Instead, there was a dirt footpath that led to a pond.

It was one of the most beautiful ponds I'd seen, but it looked...too real. Too vivid. The colors were too colorful. The ducks...they were real ducks, but they didn't make any sounds. They moved and flapped their wings and I'm sure had I brought some bread, they would have eaten it, but they didn't make a sound.

The sky began to darken and the air felt like it was filled with static electricity. I closed my eyes and there was a thrumming sound and when I opened them, it was night and the pond wasn't there anymore.

Instead, there was a fountain.

Bright jets of water colored in green lights fell into the rippling water. The air felt heavy. My fingertips tingled. And the answer came to me.

"Joe wants to go home but he cannot. The Man in the Mask is waiting for him." The Man in the Mask is the catcher. Joe is playing baseball.

For some reason, I can't help but think that the city gave me this answer. That being here, in front of this fountain, I was able to think of it and it led me here just for that purpose. But that's stupid. Just as stupid as a riddle about baseball.

I walked back along the path, through the tunnel, and back to my room. There was the lion again, but it had changed. It no longer looked like it was made by a child. It looked...refined.

I looked into its eyes, then closed my eyes and opened them again. The lion didn't change. It looked like it had been petrified. Like it had seen the eyes of a basilisk and been turned to stone.

I turned away from it and went back inside.

Sam Norton

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

March 1, 1923

The Messenger has been deceived, and the evil still permeates this world.

It falls onto me to be the hand of God now.

For my sins, for Grace, I shall not fail.

Let evil beware.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Diary Entry: Video Log - Testing My Toy Out My Window.


My thanks to the commenter who suggested "stop imagining"; inputting the word "stop" into the machine resulted in the familiar light beep and the sound of the door opening. A semantic puzzle indeed; it's almost funny, in hindsight. A very simple puzzle, once you look at it in the right manner. I'll keep an eye out for these sorts of things in future.

Upon the opening of the key-bearing cage, I found a sheet of paper; the key was wrapped inside it. Before I inserted it into the door, I looked at the paper; on it was written the following words, in this formatting. It was torn from a lined A4 sheet of paper, as if the writer had been in a great hurry.


Scritch scritch. Heavy breathing; almost feral. The sound of the thing beyond the locked door returned; I hesitated. As if narrated by some cosmic being, a voice rung in my head, as if someone had set the bells ringing. The voice said: Let me in... 

I hesitated then, and did not stop. I don't know what to do; I have a key to a locked door, but beyond it lies something that wants to enter. The other door was locked the last time I tried. There's no other ways out.

Imagine a room with no escape...

Sunday, 20 November 2011


I woke up to find myself back in the room. This time, I walked around the room.

Much like the ones before it, there are two doors in this room; the one through which I entered (which was now closed) and the one with the key, through which I was to leave. The safe was the same as the others, of course; it would be the same, too. I stopped, and paused. I reached into my pocket, and removed the two keys I already had.

This wasn't some video game; the keys didn't break when I used them. I inserted the first into the lock, turn; no result. The second, the same. I sighed, and put them both back into my pocket. I then realised that there was no table in this room, which was a new change-up to the structure, I guess. I then stopped, and wondered about the door through which I entered. Surely, that one would still be open? I tried it, and found that it was locked. Looking through the slit on the side of the door nearest the handle, I saw nothing; no light. Perhaps it was dark outside?

Some mental note caused me to look around the room, to wonder where the light was; I saw a light-bulb in the ceiling, emitting a constant stream of light. I looked up at it, and wondered where the power was coming from. Then again, logically speaking, electricity would work, as this very device does...

And it was when I looked down from the light that I saw the puzzle-holding note, underneath my pillow. I walked over it, and my heart dived into my neck. Something was scratching at the locked door. Scritch, scritch, scritch. And then, a hesitant knock. Knock. Knock. And then it stopped. I remained frozen in place for several moments, before my goosebumps settled. I silently removed the paper from the bed, examining it.

Imagine that you are trapped in a room without doors, without windows, without any possibly ways to escape. How do you get out? -#010, T=3D

When I finished reading, I suddenly heard a voice from the other side of the locked door, as the scritching returned. "Let me in. Please, let me in." The voice was totally alien to me, and it was all I could do to swallow my racing heart and quell the goosebumps rising on my neck.

I've typed this as quietly as I can. I think it's gone now. Then again, I thought that before. I'm totally lost on this puzzle, by the way. Hm.

Friday, 18 November 2011

In which I find more reading material

I just looked out my window and saw a lake. It was in the middle of the city, but I could see no streets leading to it, no paths that ended at its shore.

I just got my camera, but now I'm looking again and the lake is gone. Replaced by a row of buildings, brick and mortar.

Earlier today, I received another message from A. At least, I think it was A. It was different from the others. Not a Biblical quotation this time. A riddle.

First, I found this slipped underneath my door:

It's a copy of one of my early stories. Someone took an image of it and then duplicated it another page. The sheet was fine - not rough like the pages of the digests I write for.

And then on the back was this:

Who is Joe? And who is the Man in the Mask? Or is this riddle simply hypothetical in nature?

And why is A suddenly leaving riddles? Strange.

My food supply is running low. Will they leave me more food somewhere or do I need to answer this riddle first? The more things A leaves me, the more I don't understand them or why they are doing this.

Sam Norton

Diary Entry: Run run run as fast as I can...


I was just going to do another video from that weird lake thing, but I just can't catch my breath. I'm 47 years old, 30 years now out of high school track, I can't push myself like this anymore. So... Doors bad. Doors bad. Doorsss bad. Doors badd. Doorsbad. DDoors baaad. Doooors Doors Doors Doors Do

orsdoors DoorrRs




Upon inputting "heap" into the machine, I was once again greeted by the loud beep and the opening of the box. Relieved by my rest, I almost-tearfully bid the bed goodbye (I hope I see one again shortly - they are such wonderful things!), I placed the key into the lock, and turned it. Upon stepping out of the room, I found myself in an alleyway, with another door a short distance away.

However, perched on a outcropping of rock, I bore witness to a being who's presence felt far too familiar for my liking. A single word from their mouth gave me reason to recall their identity.

"Hello, my dear Paragon," they said, with a smile that almost seemed sincere, and far too much like the jaws of a shark.

"A." No comma on that sentence, there's a full blown damn period on it. I knew who it was, and instantly felt as if I wanted to turn around and run.

"Aw, why so hostile?" The smile remained, although they thankfully closed their lips. "I only wanted to give you some friendly advice, and a charming comment from... well, let's call them observers."

"Shut up. I don't want your advice," although I had some mild curiosity. Mostly as to why A hadn't already thrown me against a wall and began punching me.

The seemingly sexless figure dropped from their outcropping, and walked next to me, before placing a casual arm around my neck, and leaning against me, with a leg raised off the ground. To use an uncharitable metaphor (and why should I use a charitable one?), it was much like a flamingo with arms. "Honestly, it's in your best interests."

"... fine." I couldn't run now; I should've made a break for it already. "Go on; tell me what you want to tell me."

"Listen to this, could you?" From some unseen pocket, they produced what looked like a mobile phone of some sort. Upon seeing my quizzical expression, they laughed (a fouler-smelling breath I've never smelled!) and shook it. "This, my dear, is a dictating machine. If you don't know what that is, tough. Now, this is a comment that I heard someone make regarding the little task I gave you to solve: you know, the first one? Tell me what you think when you hear it..."

After pressing a button on the so-called dictating machine, there was a few moments of silence, before a deep, masculine voice came out of it. "A caesar cipher and a riddle that answers easily as SOS, I'm honestly a little disappointed..."

There was a beat, and then A's voice spoke. "I'm afraid that the answer is useless unless the right person has it in their possession."

Another few moments of silence, before the deep voice came once more. "I'm more interested in seeing him figure it out on his own." And then the machine clicked, stopped and was returned to it's pocket.

My immediate reaction: "... who was that?" Who on Earth would be so callously malicious?

"A human being, my dear Paragon," A said; they detached themselves from me, and begin walking down the alleyway, their feet skidding over the cobblestones. The worn brickwork piled up far over their head, soaring into the sky, at least from where I was standing. "A human being, just like any other. A being who could help, but does not lift a finger out of some dark spite that lingers in their heart." They turned to me, a grim smile over their face. No longer smug, as if now confessing before preacher. "These are dark days indeed, when you do not need any mythical monsters, for it is so simple to create the most monstrous of beasts from the common human, isn't it?" A grim chuckle. "That's the way things are, though."

They turned back, and walked up to me, and placed a kind hand on my shoulder. "I would say that I'm sorry..." I had been looking down, turning their words over in my head. Why? I had another thing to turn in my head, as I felt a sudden pain in my gut, as A's kneecap promptly imprinted itself in there. I instantly felt winded, and stumbled backwards. "But I'm not. I'm just the bearer of bad news. You can't trust anyone, you know; why, you'd be so much better off alone..."

I didn't see them go. I was too busy fighting back the pain.

When I could stand again, I stumbled over to the second door, pushed it open. I suddenly felt as if my head had been given a large dose of clarity; parity reigned in my mind, purifying my pain and turning it into a sort of patient anticipation. Waiting for an occurrence. Beyond the door, I looked around; I was atop a building, looking around at a city around me. Skyscrapers soared over my head; roads run beyond the building, weaving between pillars of concrete and glass. I took a step; the support in my leg did not give way, and I walked forwards. If I was to observe the artwork that was the architectural planning that had gone into the city in which I found myself (which looked, somehow, newer then the streets and rooms I had been traversing thus far), I would have gone to the edge.

But another thing caught my interest; a statue, composed of myself and of A.

I'm not even kidding. It looked as if it could have been the scene of not even five minutes ago, with A's arm wrapped around my neck, as if we were the best of friends. The material was of darkened stone; I am, I admit, not a student of geology, and thus the type somewhat passed me by. It was a work of art, though; the creases of the clothings looked as if it had been a photograph of the reality.

I looked around; there was another statue some distance behind, which I had missed, due to the other statue having been in the way. I walked from the first to the other, only to be greeted by a most curious site. It was another statue of myself.

The stony-faced being was lying on the floor, as if they'd fallen into a deep sleep; the eyes stared forward into oblivion (or they would, if they were anything but stone); grasped loosely in one hand, a revolver. And in the side of the being's head, a head torn asunder and within it, a skull shattered..

Upon looking at it and realising it for what it was, the parity and clarity that had infected my mind dissipated as the night before the sun; the pain clenched my stomach as it had done before. My vision blurred and worsened, and I awkwardly stumbled back to the door from which I'd entered the rooftop plaza from; I angrily pushed against it, and found myself back in one of the "safe rooms". If there is a riddle to be found, I have not found it yet; I've no plans to find it at present, either.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

In which I read again about John Sunlight

Another message from A.

I was trying to write Down the Labyrinthine Ways when I heard the knock. From what I could tell from my excursions outside my room, I was the only one in the City. And yet there was a knock on the door.

I opened it. There was nobody there, just the darkened street, now lined with wooden garages, each one painted white and marked with a number.

There was something in front of Number 4.

Perhaps it was because "4" kind of looks like "A," but they had left something for me. Something I remembered from my childhood.

An issue of Doc Savage and a blank domino. I remembered reading my old issues of Doc Savage, hiding in my covers when I was supposed to be asleep, my fingers achingly traveling from word to word as I became enraptured by the world of Doc Savage.

And I remembered this issue. The issue about John Sunlight. The only bad guy to ever be Doc Savage's equal. Oh, how he frightened me. "It seemed from the first that John Sunlight had been put on this earth so that men could be afraid of him." Men and little girls, as it were.

I flipped through the pages, looking to see whatever message A had left here. The book wasn't exactly like the one I had when I was a kid - it seemed like this one was a reproduction. The copyright said it was from "2006." And then I found what I was looking for:

"1 SAM 15:32."

1st Samuel 15:32. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past.

Maybe I should explain this for all of you without a Christian background. Agag was the King of Amalekites. God instructed King Saul to "completely destroy" the Amalekites; however, Saul spared Agag. Samuel saw this as a defiance of God's will. So he took Agag and cut him up into bits.

I don't know what to make of this. Should I be worried that A will cut me up? Am I Agag? Or am I Samuel? Should I obey A is if they were God?

And what about the domino? It has no dots on it - it's just blank. What does that mean?

At least I have some reading material now that isn't gibberish. Although the last time I read this story, I had such horrible nightmares.

Sam Norton


After my last comment, I keyed in the answer I had derived into the box: "SOS". If one looks at the sentence structure that emerges from adding the punctuation into the question, the first letter of each bracketed sequence of letters is just that; it seemed to fit the question, too. The box gave out a loud beep as I put the last character into it; there was the sound of a tumbler moving within it, as the door of the box opened.

Or, should I say, the door of the safe. And within the safe was one thing: a single key. I removed the key, and looked around the room; I noted the keyhole on the door closest to the safe, and inserted the key. A single turn, and I heard the lock open. I opened the door and saw a room similar to the one I was in; another safe, another door. On the table was a slab of pork, with the steam rising from it; newly cooked, apparently. The smell instantly pulled me towards it; I was struck by a sudden thought, and turned back into the room I had left, and gathered up my few belongings, before entering the new room and closing the door behind me.

With that, I looked around the room; practically identical to the previous one, apart from the food and a bed. Ah, how good it is to see a proper bed...

I laid my few things upon it, before devouring the food with the ravenous hunger I find myself filled with. And with that done, I turned to the sheet of paper. This time, instead of a sheet of paper as blank as the walls, there were words written upon it in the same scrawl as the first note I had; the note I found upon arriving here.

I am whole. Remove one thing from me, and I am less; another, and another. And yet, no matter how much you remove from me, I remain what I am. What am I? - #002

So this is the second puzzle, is it? I think I can solve this on my own; there's no fancy codes or anything of that sort. But I think that I will sleep now, so that I can approach it free of the ills of tiredness. This bed is so... comfortable. Ah...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

February 1, 1923

Today as I sat before my window, I observed a most peculiar individual. I could not determine the sex of this person, nor any physical features, as the lighting and the person's manner of dress thoroughly obscured such details.

The figure moved about apparently unaware of me, and its attention seemed focused on a row of neatly trimmed hedges. It approached the headges and placed what seemed to be a white square of paper upon it.

As the figure moved away, so too did the window, and I observed as the figure walked across a long field of golden grass before disappearing through the door of a dilapidated shed.

I have resolved to take careful note of everything I see through the window, for I believe that whoever owns this place is trying to send me a message.

Diary Entry: I've Been Learning More About This Fear of Humanity Thing

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Friday, 11 November 2011


After my last post, I continued to do what I had done; wander. The ground is too hard to allow me to rest comfortably, regardless of what I do to attempt to cushion myself. I kept walking; kept waiting for salvation.

And I found it; no, I found something. A door, slightly ajar. I staggered over to it; but before I could do so, my leg gave way, and I found myself sprawled on the floor. The laptop is damaged, but not broken. My digestive system did not take quite so kindly to the sudden jolt, and I soon found myself... forcefully evacuating my stomach, you could say. It seems that my time in this place has largely been a conga line of injuries and traumas. Ugh.

After dragging myself (and the laptop) to the door, I climbed inside; the sweet aroma of food danced through my nostrils. I didn't even know what it was, but I was ravenous all the same. The room I was in contained a plate of food (which I wolfed down without even comprehending what it was), and some support to bind to my leg to allow it to heal. After doing so (quite inexpertly), I turned my attention to the last item on the desk before me, and the rest of the room around me.

On the desk was a single sheet of A4 paper, along with a single, black biro pen. The room is mostly bare, apart from the table, the chair I was sitting on and a safe next to a door on the far side of the room. The door is looked, with it's keyhole exposed. The safe is not too large; the door of it is largely composed of an alphabet and numberpad. I'd call it a "keyboard", but it's not arranged in a QWERTY fashion. It's laid out in alphabetical order, and arranged like so.

S T U V W X Y Z 1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

That looks about right, I think. As I examined it, I heard a noise coming from... somewhere. I think, in hindsight, that it may have come from the safe itself.

"Greetings, Paragon," the voice said; A. "You are suffering, my child; so I shall help you, as I have helped you." A dry chuckle. "But giving everything to those who do nothing is the way of despair, even for beings as patient and caring as I. If you succeed, you shall live. If you fail..." Another chuckle, this one far more sinister. "Well, let us not dwell on that."

There was a brief pause. "The aim of the game is quite simple; the consequences, too, are simple, as earlier outlined. You will have-" and there was a sudden burst of static here - "to solve this little puzzle of mine; you may seek outside assistance through the blog. The puzzle is as follows. You may wish to write this down."

There was another pause as I grabbed the pen and placed it over the paper, writing down what they said. "Riddle me this. (6-2-26-18-2-1-18 6-18-1-17-6 14 16-5-12 19-2-5 21-18-25-3) (2-9-18-5-25-12 10-2-5-5-22-18-17 19-2-5 7-21-18-22-5 6-14-19-18-7-12 2-19 16-2-8-5-6-18) (6-2 10-21-14-7 6-2-5-7 2-19 26-18-6-6-14-20-18 10-2-8-25-17 7-21-18-12 6-18-1-17)? The challenge begins now."

 Naturally, they read the numbers/hyphens/brackets out; but blow me if I'm going to actually type them all out. And, first things first, I am totally stumped. Hm... they said that I could access outside help via the blog, which is this... could I get some help through the comments, I wonder?

Monday, 7 November 2011

In which the night is cold and my mind wanders

I'm trying to write, but it's hard. It's hard to describe this place. I haven't even decided on a title and usually those come to me easily. I mean, I can't title this like my normal stories, because it's not like my normal stories.

I don't know if anyone is even reading this entry. What do you think, unknown person, of the title Down the Labyrinthine Ways? I don't know. On the one hand, it's the first thing I thought of, but does it fit?

It's been getting colder here. Does that mean it's winter? How many days, weeks, months have passed? I feels almost like no time at all.

I haven't seen anymore notes from A. And I don't know what I would make of them if I did.

I am trapped within this city, but it does not feel like a trap. It feels like...well, when you were young, did you ever in your bed, under your covers, and imagine the white sheet was the rolling hills of some fantasy land where you could wander forever? I feels like that. It feels like if the sky was lifted away, I would see the face of myself as a child, messy hair and everything.

I just babbling. I'm putting off writing, because I know it will be difficult. But I can't help that, I just have to dive in and hope for the best.

Wish me luck.

Sam Norton

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Diary Entry: Back "Home"

I'm back. I'm back where I started. There was a knock on the door, it was unlocked, I opened it, and I woke up here at my home base. I typed just home there, but it's not. Not by a long shot. Anyway, someone cleaned. I tore this place apart before I left, looking for food, a key, a clue, something. Now it's actually cleaner than how I found it.

I did find something though. A new toy, I suppose. More to follow when I figure out how to work it.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

March 9, 1923

I have not seen the dog in three days.

The window continues to show me visions of strange and terrible people. Sinners one and all.

I found something lying on the floor of this room when I awoke this morning.

It was a noose.