So there I was, standing in front of the Pannel, when...
Well, first it occurs to me that, in order for you to get a good grasp of the situation, I'd better describe a little what I've come to call "The Mall", "The Place", or even, in a simpler if more dreadful way : "Here".
I told you it looked like an abandonned mall with all stores closed. Well, it did. There were columns everywhere, post -modern, greek imitation style. The overall style was a mix between a cheap 50's Hollywood peplum movie set and a sick, unimaginative architect's view of what could be deemed "beautiful and innovative". Expensive, but not too much. Kinky, kitsch, way too much. A place like that could give nightmares to Escher till the end of time, and make Giger give up all hope of ever instilling a parcel of his genius in future constructions. This one "Level" was really made of different "platforms" varying in size and aspect, and linked together be it by flights of stairs or by concrete bridges. Still, in a weird, unexplainable way, it was still only one Level.
All in all, it looked pretty much like any other stupid mall. Places like that are all over.Only, this one had a weird quality to it which would have made me uneasy even under other circumstances ; and it was dirty. Very, very dirty, like in "something died in here", or in "which way do you think the Alien went ?".
The ground alternated between slippery and slimy. In some spots, you could see it once had been beige, or maybe even white. But mostly, now, it was grey. The Despair kind of grey. The walls and colums were variations on the same hues. And the roof... Well, you already know about the roof.
I was wondering where all the flies were. A place like this had to have flies. Maybe they hid at night, waiting for the day to come and hunt for human flesh, like reverse zombies ? Hope not : it seemed I was the only human flesh around...
MOst of the corridors were very large, but some could be as narrow as to give way to only one being at a time, be it human, dog or what-have-you. These were usually small passageways leading from one big hall to another, or sometimes to what looked like staff closets, or even out-of-order (since the Flood at least) toilets. Yes, there were toilets, like in real malls. And the only good thing about these was you didn't have to pay them, or look at a piss-dragon reincarnated as middle-aged woman. Bad thing was : no water.
In the alleys, there were a few leftovers from disposable displays : pieces of wood or cheap metal which had been used as for makeshift tables, coloured paper for covering the displays, sometimes even wrapping paper for X-mas gifts (what a stupid X-pression, as if Christ was an X-Man or starred in X-Files or something). All this and many more things - ribbons, dead balloons, torn toys, thrown papers - paved and littered the way to my own private hell.
Even with curtains down, you could tell one shop from another. First, there were the neon signs (not working, of course). This one said you were looking at a shoe shop, that one was a lingerie shop, this used to point to a man's clothing shop. Shop shop chop. And a bar, there, from time to time. Closed, of course.
Not all shops had iron curtains. Some just had closed glass doors. The glass seemed solid enough, and I saw no interest at all to try and break it. Not for now. I had no immediate use of women's underwears, nor of sunglasses or of fashionable T-shirts with supposedly funny slogans up front or Girl's bands picures. And that was the fashion of ten years ago anyway. Only : brand new. In an abandonned mall full of dirt. Shit. What WAS this place ?
What a stupid question. I knew, of course, what it was : Level 366.
NEXT... NO EXIT.