The darkness was total. He turned and couldn't see any light seeping around the door. In fact, he couldn't tell where the door was.
"This is different. Have you been on this ride before?"
He felt for her, lacking that for a wall. Nothing.
"Annie?" He felt around again. "Anita?" he bit back a curse. "This isn't funny, you know." He pulled out the military pocket flashlight and shone it around.
The power beam illuminated nothing as far as the eye could see. There should be something in the close to hundred meter the beam illuminated. He turned slowly.
This was a haunted house, it should be all narrow corridors, animatronics, people jumping out of the shado-
"Boo!" yelled a face coming at him.
Eric backpedaled with a scream, tripped on his own feet and fall on his ass. The flashlight rolled away. He caught his breath to the sound of familiar laughing.
"Very funny," he called. "Very mature."
"I did think so," Anita replied. The flashlight stopped at her feet. She took it and walked toward him. In the light reflected off the floor Eric could make out her form.
"Remind me why I love you again?" He stood, rubbing his backside.
"It's all these curves," She replied. "You are a sucker for a curvy woman with brains."
"And nerves of steel, it seems. Didn't you worry or freak out?"
"I didn't have the time. You called my name, so I knew you were here, and I knew you'd have something to help."
"So, instead of responding, you waited for your chance to give me a heart attack? You do know I have nothing to leave you on my death bed, right?"
"You have this nifty light." She shone it around. "I've never seen one with such a powerful beam." In her hand, the flashlight showed nothing different. "This is an impressive setup. I can't even tell where the door we entered through is."
"Eerie is a better word for it. This is nothing like the haunted house I see when I was a kid."
"Yeah, same here. They were all cramped halls, things poking out of the walls to rub against you when you least expect it." She rubbed a hand against his side. He chuckled at her. "Where's the creepy sounds? The actors in costumes? Where's anything?"
"May I?" he indicated the flashlight. She handed it to him and he pointed it up. "No offense, but as a native Tiranian, I'd think looking up would be second nature." The rest of his jab died on his lips as the beam vanished in the distance. "This is impossible. How tall was the building?"
"Ten meters at most, if you take into account it's on an elevated platform."
"Right. This is a ride. So all this had to be a trick. Clever use of backdrops and shadows to give in the impression it's bigger than it actually is. It also means there's a point to this, to entertain us."
"What else could it be?" Anita asked, still far calmer than he felt.
"That's a question I'm never comfortable asking in this city. You're read the history books; you know just how many possibilities there are. And keep in mind that in the six months I've been back, I've had to disarm bombs, rescue a kid, blow up the kidnapper's base, went crazy, came back from that, was almost mobbed along the kid's family, with the police's help, I might add, and stopped a mind-controlling Tecker. There are mornings I think I'm some sort of magnet for the city's crazy."
Anita looked at him with an odd expression. Hope? Expectation? "Maybe the Lord knows you're the guy who can fix problems."
Eric sighed. "I hope not. I don't want to be on his radar. My life is already interesting enough." He indicated around them with the light. "Case in point."
She nodded, her face regaining a serious expression. "If this is a ride, let's play it. Clearly we need to look for an exit."
He eyed her. "There's no way you can be as calm as you look."
She smiled at him, from her mouth to her eyes, even her ears got into the action, twitching. "Come on, Eric, this is fun. It's a mystery. That's so much better than a haunted house."
He sighed. "I prefer a haunted house. At least with those I know what to expect."
She took his free hand. "If you're so worried, I'll keep you safe."
He smiled. "And if I'm not worried?"
"I'll keep you safe anyway. It's what girlfriends do, right? Keep our men safe from harm?"
He motioned with the flashlight. "Alright, my lady, where to?"
She walked, and he followed.
He studied the floor. Old wood, set in staggered planks. Well maintained, but it showed age and wear. They walked thirty degrees to how it was laid down. After five minutes, he stopped.
He looked behind them, ignoring her questioning look.
"We've walked beyond the confines of the ride," he said. "We should have come to the outside wall."
"Maybe it's clever tricks to make us think we are going in a straight line, when in fact we are walking in a circle?"
Eric shook his head and pointed the light the floor. "The planks are laid straight."
"Maybe the angle is too slight for you to see it?"
"You're forgetting my ability, I'd be able to tell if there was any sort of angle to them."
He crouched. "It could be that the floor's moving with us." He placed a hand on the wood. "But I'd expect to feel the treadmill mechanism underneath. As far as I can tell, this is solid. I could check, to make sure." He looked up at her.
Her smile faltered for a moment. "You mean, you haven't checked yet?"