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Five hours on a plane, and I'm finally here in Egypt. We’ve only been landed for five minutes and my clothes are already sticking to me, the sweat running off me. I take a swig from the lukewarm water in my bottle and long for the comfort of four walls and an air conditioner. A taxi pulls up and the driver gets out, holding my name up on a shiny white plaque. I hop into the taxi (which smells the same as every other taxi in existence) and wait to be delivered to my hotel.
It’s a twenty-minute drive to the hotel and it's magnificent! All marble pillars, freshly mown grass, and, even though I can't use it because I don’t have a car, a valet service. I walk through the grand oak doors and find myself in a massive hall, littered with expensive artifacts on either side.
“Hello,” booms a voice from behind me.
I jerk my hand away from an intricately carved clay pot, and spin around guiltily, preparing to defend myself. I see a large, imposing man walking towards me from a side entrance that I hadn’t even noticed.
He doesn’t look angry, on the contrary he looks rather pleased, and smiles as he makes his way to me.
“You might be wondering why I look relatively happy,“ he asks loudly.
“The staff of this place,” he says, gesturing around himself.
“Take a bet on what the first item a visitor will touch is.”
“I knew you would touch that pot.”
He mutters, “The ones like you always do…” he trails off.
I look on confusedly and open my mouth to ask what he means by that, but before I get the chance, he offers to take me up to my room and leads me up a dazzlingly white staircase with extravagant gold trim.
On my bed is a booklet, provided by the hotel. It’s already fallen open on a page, reading ‘Places to go in Egypt’. Curious to see where a hotel like this would recommend you go, I read on.
‘Don’t go to any of the main attractions’ states the next line.
I'm getting the feeling that this is probably the opposite of what any other hotel would say.
‘They are simply too crowded for you to feel any emotions. There is one unique place which you absolutely must visit, cars leave from here once every week, and, like everything else here, it's completely free!’ Well, I think to myself, that was lacking in details, so I'll just fill in the blanks myself!
I spend the remainder of the week in absolute luxury, bubbling jacuzzis, private swimming pools and prepaid helicopter flights. Finally the time comes to leave for this mysterious place that the booklet spoke of. I appear to be the only person going, apart from the driver. There appears to be something off about him. He only ever answers my persistent questions with grunts, and the way he holds himself makes me think that he’s badly hurt. I just shrug it off. So, some people are shy and he’s hurt himself. Haven’t we all?
We appear to be driving into the middle of nowhere. After a while the car stops, I step out, wondering what’s so great about some flatlands, and then I feel a harsh shove from behind! I fall face-first and my head cracks against the ground. As my vision starts to cloud over, I see the demonic leering face of the driver. One last thought goes through my head as I pass out, ‘that’s no leer. He has no skin around his mouth!’
I awake in total darkness, but I still have a torch on my keyring. I turn it on and find myself in a tunnel. I panic and begin to run. I get about two steps before I trip. I look more closely at the floor. Train tracks. I'm in an underground train system. The thought should bring joy to me, knowing that there will be a way out, but all the signs show that it’s abandoned. I move to the side of the tunnel and resume running, adrenalin spurring me on. I run for what must be somewhere near five minutes before my lungs and heart need a rest.
I can see a light up ahead, so I press on towards it. I arrive in a bare concrete room with oil lanterns burning on the walls. The doorway behind me closes. One of the walls is made of glass and appears to have some sort of control room behind it, with lots of flashing lights and screens. I bang in the glass to get somebody’s attention. Soon enough I see the door in the corner of the room open, and the large man from the hotel walks through.
“Help me,” I mouth at him through the glass.
He grins, leans over and presses a button. His voice comes through loud and clear.
“Release the test subjects!”
Another door opens to my left and there stand five humans all in different stages of decay, from best being a rotted away nose and covered with mold, to worst, having almost all of their flesh eaten away by whatever was done to these creatures. The door slowly closes behind them, and the hungry look in their bloodshot eyes tells me all I need to know. I back into a corner as they groan at me.
“No,” I whisper as they begin to close in...