“So what are we looking at?” Vicky peered over the platform, careful to not tip over the edge since there was no safety railing.
Kyle leaned out to look as well, “It appears to be lava.”
“And what are we doing here,” she asked, stepping back away from the perilous drop.
“We need to get to the next platform, like this!” Avera stood at the opposite end while the others looked on. She shifted her weight a few times, crouched, and bolted across the ledge into a flying leap out into empty air. She landed in a chaotic roll across the next platform, smacking her head. Dazed, Avera sat up and waved back at them.
Vicky’s jaw dropped, “you’re kidding right?! There’s no way that’s happening!” Vicky turned to find a wall of spikes blocking the exit and muttered, “it’s going to be one of those days.”
Kyle laughed, “I’d say that says otherwise,” as he took a running leap over the abyss and landed solidly on his feet next to Avera. They hi-fived.
“Argh! I hate this place!”
BUT YOU KEEP COMING BACK.
“Shut it! I will end you!”
BEFORE OR AFTER YOU’VE BEEN PUSHED INTO THE LAVA?
Vicky made a mad dash off the platform, flailing wildly and screaming the entire flight. She landed hard, pitched forward, and full body slammed into the rubber matted metal grated platform. She laid there, gasping for air to return to her lungs.
“Are you alright?” Avera helped her sit up.
“Peachy,” Vicky coughed in a strained whisper. Holding up a hand, she counted then inhaled slow and evenly, held her breath and then exhaled faint wisps of green thread. “Okay, I’m good.” She stood up, wobbled and steadied herself against Avera. “It will be BEFORE!”
THIS WILL BE FUN.
The ledge lurched, throwing them all off balance before settling into a smooth loop of rising and falling. The next four platforms followed suit, all out of sync with each other. They rode the platform for several minutes.
“We need to time the jumps, like this.” The girls looked on as Kyle waited for the next one to line up and jumped.
“You should go next,” Avera said.
“So he can catch you. You aren’t very good at falling.”
“Jumping over a pit of open lava was not in the job description when I applied!” Vicky complained, waiting for the platforms to align. She jumped early with more screaming, missing the next landing. Kyle caught her and swung her up onto the grate. She kept screaming until she ran out of breath and collapsed.
“Neither did I,” Avera said before coming across and landing in another disastrous roll of limbs.
Two more near misses for Vicky and they were across the first challenge.
IT WASN’T LAVA. JUST ORANGE COLORED PILLOWS. LAVA KEPT ESCAPING THE CONTAINMENT VESSELS DURING TRANSPORT.
“See! We would have been fine,” Kyle laughed as he patted Vicky on the shoulder.
Vicky sighed. “I still hate this place. Are we done yet?”
“That’s not how that works.” Avera moved ahead, “Look, spinny things!”
Ahead, the walkway narrowed into a bridge about one foot wide over a gurgling black bottomless pit. On either side and reaching over the bridge, large forked tines spun lazily around each other, mixing like a taffy puller. Avera dove headlong through the first tine, landed, jumped, and twisted over the next fork as it spun past her. Balancing on her hands, did a cartwheel through next set, ducked and slid past the last. She stood up and bowed. “Easy!”
Kyle clapped, “yeah, that’s not happening, Avera.” He stepped up to the first set of tines and grabbed them as they passed. Grunting, he brought them both to a stop as metal and machinery whined around them. Carefully, he stepped through the tines, before grabbing the next set as the sound of grinding gears increased. “Go ahead, Vicky.”
Vicky hurried through, nearly pitching over the side from vertigo after accidentally glancing down. She managed to step through the last set of tines and reached the other side. Kyle let go of the first and stepped through the second and third sets while he held them in place.
“That was easy,” Kyle grinned at the two.
MANY NOTES HAVE BEEN MADE.
Ahead, the sounds of metal crashing on metal reached their ears. They all frowned and continued forward until they reached a row of massive steam hammers smashing away at regular unsynchronized intervals. Between the hammers, gouts of fire spat up to the ceiling. It was obvious that the path went under and through them all.
“Who designed this place?” Avera shouted over the cacophony.
“That explains a lot,” Kyle said.
“That’s too much, look you broke Vicky.” Avera waved her hand in front of the other girl. “See.”
“Don’t ever make one of these things again,” Kyle said after they had made it across. “No one will like it.”
“No one asked you.”
MORE NOTES HAVE BEEN CREATED.
Vicky roused, “what happened.”
“You saw an impossible possibility, and it looked back at you,” Avera kneeled down to fixed Vicky’s hair.
“Oh. I hate it when that happens.”
Ahead, the path split into two tunnels. On the left a sign above the tunnel said ‘Polybius,’ the right side said ‘Dance of Doom.’
“Dance of Doom it is then,” Kyle announced.
“Polybius doesn’t exist.”
They headed down the right tunnel which opened into a large field of flat stones with arrows carved into them. Each arrow pointed in one of the eight cardinal directions.
“This looks harder than I remember,” Kyle said, surveying the field, “It usually has less arrows.”
“I can do this,” Vicky said.
Music boomed from speakers somewhere high above them, and the floor lit up into an array of pulsing and oscillating colors.
Vicky folded her arms and stared out across the field, “The wall behind us has turned into spikes and is slowly advancing on us.”
“Bring it.” Vicky jumped onto a diagonal arrow just as it reached its maximum brightness. She flailed around until she found her balance. The tile turned green and held steady. She jumped to the next arrow as its color peaked in time with the music. It turned green as she landed. She turned back to Avera who was still standing on the increasingly narrow ledge. “Hurry up!”
“I don’t get it! I never played!” Avera hopped back and forth.
“Jump on the tile with the brightest color,” Kyle yelled back, already a quarter of the way across.
Avera jumped, landing on a fading square. It turned red and then dropped away, revealing a floor of spikes. She screamed as she fell through the hole. Surrounding tiles turned red and fell away as she scrambled madly for one to hold on to. One finally turned green. Avera flipped herself up onto the tile. “That’s crazy!”
“You have to jump before so that you land on it when it reaches the high point in its cycle,” Vicky called out.
“Or, I follow your trail,” Avera jumped to Vicky’s path of green arrows. They turned yellow, then red before falling away. “I don’t like this one!” She chased after the green arrows, quickly catching up with Vicky and leaving a trail of holes in her wake.
Vicky moved faster through the maze, afraid what would happen if the other girl caught up to her.
As they reached the safety of the far side, the music ended. All of the remaining tiles turned red and dropped away leaving nothing left but a gaping hole. Below, the sound of shattering tile stones reached up to them.
A ball descended from the ceiling and burst open with confetti.
YOU HAVE COMPLETED STAGE ONE.
“How about we end here for today. Our shifts are over.” Kyle said.
WE CAN RESUME TOMORROW.
“How about… later, a lot later. Next year? Never?” Vicky suggested.
THAT WOULD BE PLENTY OF TIME FOR IMPROVEMENT. AGREED.
All three groaned.