You choose the ladder.
You close the distance in seconds jumping up onto the third rung of the ladder and not pausing to think before you begin your climb. You look up at the circular opening five rungs above you. You still can’t make out where it leads; all you can see is a sea of white.
You pop your head through the opening but don’t stop until the rest of you is through as well. At last you step off of the ladder and turn to look around. You discover you are in a large, round room painted a sterile white, unblemished saved for several cans strewn about the floor and surrounded by dots.
You walk carefully over to one of the dots and crouch to examine it. It appears to be a bean. Timidly, you reach out and pluck the dot from the floor. Indeed it is a bean and it is cool to the touch. It is a cool bean. You are surrounded by hundreds of cool beans.
Actually, you’d go as far as to say that they are cold beans. Very cold.
Well, you think to yourself, I suppose this goes a long way toward explaining the stench downstairs, but what’s the deal with all of these beans?
You step over to a can. No surprise, it once contained beans. You pick it up but drop it immediately when it is so cold that it burns you. It shatters to the floor.
“There you are,” Malloy’s voice growls from behind you.
You turn and see his head poking up through the opening. You can tell by his bare shoulders that he hasn’t bothered with a shirt and you wonder for a moment what the view is like from below.
“What’s up with the beans, Malloy?” you ask, forgetting for a moment that you are running for your life from this man.
“You didn’t expect us to just sit up here unprotected because the president wants to make nice with the grays, did ya?”
“So you froze a bunch of beans for protection?”
Malloy sneers. Good God, that must be what he looks like when he’s happy.
“The beans were just target practice,” he says. “But now we’ve got something much better.” Malloy offers one last sneer before turning and climbing back down the ladder.
For a long moment you are alone in the room. Suddenly, there is a whine of a hidden motor and a dozen doors open in the wall. Twelve men step into the room. They’re wearing helmets and goggles, which hide their identities, and are carrying white, bulbous rifles with blue streaks swirled on them.
The first man sneers so much like Malloy he could be his son. The thought of that man reproducing sends a chill down your spine.
“Do us a favor,” the sneering man says. “We’ve had nothing to shoot but bean cans. Run around a little, make it interesting.”
You stand dumbly. Your brain can’t process what your ears are hearing.
“Suit yourself,” he says with a shrug. He nods at the guy next to him who hoist his rifle to his shoulder and fires.
A beam -- the same color blue as the swipe on the rifle -- flies out of the barrel and hits you in the left arm. You scream as cold fire swallows up you left side. The force of the blast pushes you against the back wall. Colliding against it, the appendage you once used to write with and, on certain nights, used to relieve a little tension, shatters.
You gape at the cavity which was once your shoulder. Since the initial burning faded to numbness, there is no feeling. No physical feeling anyway. Inside you feel violated and betrayed -- but a surprisingly large part of you wants to yell, “That was awesome!”
Before you can do anything, though, another blasts freezes your leg. It shatters under your own weight, sending you careening through the ladder opening and crashing in a heap on the floor below.
“Good, I was hoping to get at least one in,” Mallow growls from somewhere to your right.
You turn your head and immediately wish you hadn’t when you discover the shirt isn’t the only piece of clothing Malloy decided not to bother with.
Your last thought as Malloy raises his own rifle is, Why does his junk have to be the last thing I ever see?