Michael furtively knocked at the metallic door, carefully peeking over his shoulders. The dull thudding reverberated through the whole night, and he winced as the clamorous vibrations echoed through the large warehouse's walls. The hood of his hooded sweatshirt was already pulled down as far as it could go, but he tried tugging it down further, the material prickling against the short spikes of hair running over his head. His hand quickly returned into his pockets, jammed in there with urgency. He shivered; the night air eerily still as the tall, dark buildings of the city closed in, kept in bay by the street lights and neon signs that supplanted the starry night sky.
It wasn't the crisp coolness of being up at three in the morning that was making him shiver or hide from the elements.
He heard footsteps coming, and Michael once again wished he'd not come. He'd been standing outside the nondescript warehouse since half past two; half an hour of staring and debating and wondering if he'd even got the right address and further debating. There were things he - as a mostly normal person - would do, and things that he would not do; that was what he did. "If you do the things you would not do," he'd argued in his mind, "then what's the good of not doing anything?"
Tonight was the big exception, though, which is why he'd skulked in the semi-darkness for half an hour before daring to knock. "I'm already here," he'd thought, "I've already made the decision to wake up this early and walk the whole way over here. Going in wouldn't be much worse than this?"
But of course it was, which was why it took him so long to knock, and why he almost dashed off in a panic when he heard the jangling of a deadbolt chain as the door was pushed open and a large, muscular male figure glared out. Michael suddenly felt really small. Apart from his bladder, which was suddenly much too large.
"What do you want?" the man's curt request was a low growl. Something looked a little bit off about his complexion, but the flickering electronic light overhead and his state of mind made Michael think it was probably just his imagination overreacting.
"I-" he tried to reply, his voice coagulating in his throat. He coughed, and flushed embarrassedly.
The man's eyes narrowed; to Michael they seemed to glow less too as his eyelids contracted. "You lost?" he prompted.
Michael struggled to breathe heavily; it came out as a nervous whine. He blurted out, "No!" a little more loudly than he intended.
The man growled, and said, "Look, punk, fuck off and don't come back here-"
Michael clenched his hand together; he'd come this far, he wasn't about to turn back now to just do the things he would do. "Pull yourself together," he screamed in his mind.
Aloud, he stammered, "No, I- I found this address online..."
Time slowed down for Michael, as the bouncer or whoever it was seemed to mull things over in his mind. He noticed the guy's tall, wide frame; probably a foot taller than Michael. Whatever he weighed, he was well-muscled, because his body strained against the black shirt he had on, and the bare forearms were gnarled with cords of muscle and thick veins. The giant fist gripped against the inside door handle, ready to slam the door in Michael's face. The heavy forehead that was furrowed with annoyance and judgment extended over his head - the guy was either bald or had had shaved his head quite recently, with the only visible hair on his head being his thick eyebrows and face stubble. The ears that seemed pointed from this angle; not pointed too much but certainly more than usual. The tattered jean-knee as the guy slightly squatted to get closer to Michael's height. And Michael couldn't help but stare at where the package could be, wondering whether that was proportional to the body or whether the guy had used too much "assistance" to get his physique.
While it wasn't exactly on Michael's would not do list to stare at that area; it was in the gray area where there would be conditions and stipulations.
"Wasn't that the whole point of coming here?" he asked himself.
He didn't get a chance to answer his rhetorical question, because the large guy shut the door on him, and for a second Michael held his breath, anxious and relieved at whichever way the next moment would go. The feelings only intensified when he heard the chain links jangling against each other and the door opened.
"Come in if you want," the guy growled, "you've got five seconds to decide or you won't be coming back in. One." The guy started to count audibly. Michael dashed in after the guy uttered "two", nervous about what he'd gotten himself into, but also kind of excited.
The room inside was dark, and even having been out in the night of the city he needed a few moments for his eyes to adjust. He blinked, the dark outline of the bouncer demarcating his huge mass from the rest of the shadows.
"You are gay, right?" the bouncer suddenly asked. "We've had some guys going to the wrong address before."
"No, well I mean yeah, well sort of..." Michael tried to explain. Suddenly he felt his sweatpants being pulled open at the front, while the rest of him was pulled forward. One of the bouncer's large hands dipped through his boxers as Michael's nose got a good whiff of the other man's sweaty chest.
"Well, you're in at least one of the right places," the bouncer grunted amusingly as Michael's body responded to his actions. He stepped away, Michael almost feeling the musk being pulled back with the hand and the body. He wasn't against the idea - or at least, his body wasn't - but the bouncer hadn't been his usual type.
"He's a stranger, for one," Michael thought to himself. "And probably a bodybuilder with maybe a few too many lumps..."
Michael's reverie on the bouncer was cut short when the large man's deep voice growled, "Take off your jacket and shoes here, and anything valuable like your cellphone, wallet and keys. It's easy to lose stuff in there; it'll be safe here."
Michael asked, some common sense returning even though his body was tingling with excitement and confused by arousal, "Is there a locker or something?"
The bouncer snorted, his hot breath swirling against Michael's jacket. "If I wanted to rob you, I could have knocked you out already and probably done far worse than that. We don't steal; you get everything back, then you pay on your way out. If you don't like it, I chuck you back outside."
Michael glanced at the doorway's vaguely lit outline briefly, then reached his arms over his head, grabbing his sweatshirt and pulling it off the top of his head. Handing it over to the bouncer, he fished in his pockets, pulling out his wallet, phone, keys and the loose change he'd shoved into his pocket from when he'd caught the bus earlier. The bouncer had folded his top, then held the other items while Michael removed his shoes and socks, handing them over. He watched the bouncer stuff his shoes with his socks and the valuables from his pockets, before he disappeared into the darkness for a second. Michael heard a pair of metallic clangs, then he smelt and felt the bouncer getting closer.
"Going to stamp your hand now," the bouncer replied, "it's the number for your stuff." Michael held his hand out palm down, then cried with shock as the stamp came down: it was heavy and seemed to rip into his flesh, but running his hand over it later seemed to not show anything as too bad.
The bouncer's heavy hands gripped down on his shoulders, and Michael was pushed forward; he quickly started walking to keep from falling over. The bouncer pushed him forward into the darkness several steps, before one hand left his shoulder, and two large bangs reverberated from what Michael sensed was a heavy wooden door in front of him.
The door creaked open; light finally came through into the darkened chamber, and Michael risked a brief glance to the side to see a large metal-lined room inside the warehouse, separate from the outer walls by what kind of looked like a large locker room, without the showers or changing benches. Then he was pushed in and scrambled to retain his balance.
Michael's eyes widened, with some irritation now that he was in a lit room. The fiery, shallow pit in the middle of the room, and the burning torches lining the stone or faux-stone inner walls of the central room was a lot more elaborate than he was expecting, as was the large throne with the large, rather attractive and completely naked man in a crown seated on it. Everyone else in the room were all male and mostly naked - the only clothing of mention was made of leather and only loosely fit into that classification - with some in a state of arousal, most of them engaging in some kind of sexual act with themselves or one or more of the others. A wide variety of male body types were on display, but all looked healthy and generally in good shape; skin tones and sexual endowments ranged too, but the curling smoke from the various fires, the smells from the mugs dotted around the room, the animal skin decorating the walls and floors, the deep drum beats from the simply-constructed drums in the corners, banged by some excited naked men who didn't engage in usual drumming practices - although Michael admitted to himself he didn't know that much about drumming to judge - and the general vibe of primal masculinity tended to blur everything else in to one alien sensual assault.
The man on the throne, whose cock had vanished into the mouth of an eager young man lounging by his legs, noticed Michael's entrance and tapped the other man on the head. He pulled off, and slid out of the way while the host - at least, as far as Michael guessed - stood, bobbing erection dripping with clear fluids. As the host made his way through the maze of nude male forms, Michael blushed as others at his side came over and started to grope at his body.
"Another potential hero comes to test his mettle against the pit!" the man joyously exclaimed, as Michael felt his shirt and pants being tugged in opposite directions. Michael stood still, too nervous and confused to do anything else. The host's tall, tanned skin glowed in the flickering firelight, his lightly toned muscles twisting as he maneuvered around the other men in the room.
The host greeted, "Hi. William Ryan." He extended out a hand to Michael, whose arms were currently above his head as two guys worked his shirt off.
"Uh, Michael Laird," Michael, finally free of his shirt, shook William's hand - slightly sticky with something Michael didn't want to think too much, especially with his boxers currently being pulled down. He felt them slide down to his knees, caught as his foot was lifted out of his pants.
"Didn't have too much trouble finding the place?" William inquired, the sticky hand releasing its grip on Michael's, and now starting to slide over his shoulder as Michael felt a leather belt being strapped around his waist. "Oh," he added, "sorry, I was kind of distracted when you came in so late. I've been rude: would you like a drink?"
Michael felt his boxers being slipped off, whatever modestly he had now after being undressed by other naked men now preserved by the leather loincloth placed over his slightly engorged member. He shook his head, his bladder still full from nerves, and replied, "Not right now, thanks, but if you could tell me where the toilet is..."
William smiled, his mouth twisted up at the corners impishly. "Need to pee?" he chuckled, his long, warm arm sloped over Michael's bare shoulders.
"Yeah," Michael replied. He tried to turn his head to see what had been done with his clothes, but with William so close and guiding him to a wooden trapdoor in the floor.
"How urgently?" William prompted. "We can walk while I tell you the rules, but if you need to go now, we can make provisions for you." He tilted his head towards another guy and whispered something; Michael found even the cords of his neck to be slightly attractive. William was also giving off a very pleasing odor that was Michael fully aroused.
"Uh, well..." Michael trailed off as an older, forty-something guy with a slight round, hairy belly and huge thick arms extracted himself from against the wall where he'd been pleasuring himself and stepped around and over the others, coming towards Michael and William. "I think I should be alright."
"Are you sure?" William prodded; Michael nodded and William lifted his hand to his neck, passing it over twice quickly in a cutting action, and the forty-something guy, looking somewhat disappointed, merged back into the crowd. "Fair enough, some guys get a bit weird about that, especially amongst strangers."
"Another thing you wouldn't do, eh?" Michael's brain added. "We'll see how long that lasts."
Aloud, Michael replied shortly, "Yeah. Well, I don't need to go so much now."
William looked down at the erection pointing out, displacing the loincloth to one side, and chuckled, "It is hard to piss like that. Alright, our initiation is pretty simple, in theory at least. You head down into The Pit, as we call it, and make your way down to the bottom. You'll know when you get there because there's a large pit of glowing green water: in the middle there's a stand with a chest of keys on it. Get one of those keys and come back up to the door."
Two muscular guys were summoned by William to pull on the heavy metallic ring of the trapdoor, which swung it open; a cool blast of air swirled up from below, and with William pushing him down and continuing to explain the rules, Michael headed down the steps - they certainly felt like stone if they weren't; the effort this club went to in order to at least fake authenticity impressed him - and disappeared below the floor to a torch-lit stone chamber with another heavy stone door, similar to the front door, though scaled down somewhat, in front of him. A rather ornate-looking mirror was embedded into the left wall, while a torch in a metal ring burned to the right.
William pointed at the door, explaining, "This is the door you go through to get into The Pit, and this is the one you need to come back to. It locks on this side, and can only be unlocked on the other side, so once you go in there you can only get back out with a key."
Michael noted, "Extreme." His arousal dropping, Michael started to feel anxious after having relaxed earlier. The website had said that the initiation wasn't suitable if you had 'other commitments in the foreseeable future', but this seemed to be far beyond what seemed reasonable.
William shrugged, "It wouldn't be exclusive otherwise, would it? You don't have anything planned for a while, do you?"
Michael shook his head, "Nothing at the moment; my friends might miss me after a while, but I don't have a job at the moment, or close family or anything."
William nodded, "Good, I thought Eduardo might have been losing his touch."
"Eduardo?" Michael asked.
"Oh," William chuckled, "our doorman. He tends to be a little quiet, but he's a great judge of people. Especially whether they're properly employed or not. We do other checks before we let you in too. Cameras, facial recognition, Internet searches, background checks; that sort of thing"
Michael's face paled, but William quickly assured him, "That's just for everyone's benefit. If we let someone in who has a nine-to-five and they're away too long it can cause problems at work. Same thing for families and friends: most initiates don't want them turning up here seeing what goes on. And if an initiate is taking their sweet time, we don't want the police raiding us for kidnapping or anything.
"Besides, you should be alright. There's other initiates down there at the moment, and you can always team up with them if you can catch up to them; we usually send you down there in small groups, but you arrived a bit later than the others. But if you do, you'll each have to bring back a key, or we won't let any keyless people out. It's kind of our club symbol, members can use it to go down into The Pit when they like or are asked to by me.
"There's plenty of food and water down there, so if you can find it you won't starve to death or anything; and if you can't someone down there will help you. Same thing if you get hurt; we're very safe and even if it seems dangerous, nobody's ever died down there, and I can promise you won't either. Just go down there, have fun, hopefully make some new friends and generally enjoy yourself. Bring back a key, and enjoy yourself more!" As he ended his speech, William grinned broadly, his teeth showing.
"Oh, well, just before you go, we need to cover our asses legally," William added, stepping out of the way of the mirror to the left of the door. "Just say, 'I, Michael Laird' - it was Michael Laird, right? - 'I, Michael Laird, understand the rules explained to me and am a willing initiate to The Pit.' Assuming you want to still go on, of course. It's a two-way mirror, there's a camera on the other side. Kind of elaborate when a written contract would do, but it goes against the image, and I like the image."
Michael paused, really needing to pee again. It's not that he hadn't known about the club - he'd seen their website after all, and had done a quick check on them and hadn't heard of them caught up with any major crimes - and knew at least some of what William had explained to him already.
"It's why you came," his brain reminded him. "If you were going to do something you wouldn't do; you wanted it to be exciting and memorable."
He turned to face the mirror, and repeated, "I, Michael Laird, understand the rules explained to me and am a willing initiate to The Pit."
As if on cue, the heavy door swung open beside him. Michael jumped, and William chuckled, "That catches a lot of people out; it's one of the reasons why I enjoy handling the initiates myself." His smile turned very lascivious at the end; opening out his hand, the naked William proffered the dark, open doorway to Michael. "In you go, have fun!" William said, before tilting his head back and yelling out to the reveling men above, "Another one for The Pit, boys!"
A thunderous cheer followed Michael as he walked through the door, entering into a room a fair bit smaller to the room above, with a door facing him. What the room made up for by its lack of space and naked men was the stuff: piles of long, sturdy poles; leather pouches, water-skins and small leather backpacks in various, though all small, sizes; shards of brick and chalk; unlit torches in a small metal rack; jars and corked bottles of various liquids; and a few closed wooden boxes and crates whose contents he couldn't even guess. All these things were in slightly haphazard piles, some looking out of place, a few of the boxes and bottles were opened and empty.
When he heard the door shut behind him, Michael turned his neck instinctively, the gnawing in his guts returning. As did the pressure in his bladder returned. Not really wanting to be the one to piss on the equipment, he ignored the equipment, pulling on the large round handle on the side of the door. It opened with surprisingly little effort - from the smell of oil coming from the hinged side, it didn't require as much strength as such a heavy door might. Quickly glancing out, he sighed in relief: the passage beyond was, though dark, free from anyone and was covered by the same mottled stones as the rest of the surfaces were, so after fidgeting his loincloth to one side, he held his prick and started to piss.
As he did, he noticed the sign; it was on the wall directly across from the door, chiseled into a mostly-smooth surface of rock, filled in with some kind of metal that made the letters twinkle slightly in the low light. He couldn't read it clearly with the lack of light past the door, but he could just make out what it said from what he could read and some guesswork:
THE SECOND LESSON
YOU AND YOUR PARTY ARE NOT ALONE IN THE PIT. YOU WILL NOT BE KILLED, BUT REMEMBER THERE IS A PRICE TO PAY FOR ANY WOUNDS OR ASSISTANCE WE GIVE YOU WHILE INSIDE THE PIT.
Michael shivered as his warm piss soaked into the stones. He quickly squeezed out the last drops before he shook himself off, then dashed back into the store room, slamming the door shut, bracing against it with his body.
Facing the other way, he got his first good look at the other side of the door: it had a gilded lock to one side, and on its back another sign. This one had been printed on thick card, overlaid with glass. The glass was scratched, but it was either replaced regularly or it was rather tough, because there were no major cracks in it, only a few worn scratches and patches of dirt. It read:
WELCOME TO THE PIT, INITIATES
THE FIRST LESSON
REMEMBER THE PIT IS A CHALLENGE. RELYING ON BRUTE STRENGTH OR KNOWLEDGE OR PERSONAL CHARMS WILL NOT GET YOU FAR ON THEIR OWN, BUT TOGETHER THEY ARE POWERFUL.
TAKE WHAT YOU NEED, BUT REMEMBER THAT EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE MAY HAVE A CONSEQUENCE DOWN THE PATH. THIS ALSO APPLIES THROUGHOUT THE PIT.
THROUGHOUT THE PIT YOU WILL SEE GOLD LOCKS SIMILAR TO WHAT ARE ON THIS DOOR. THESE CAN BE USED BY ALL MEMBERS WHO HAVE OBTAINED A COPY OF THE KEY FROM DEEP IN THE PIT. FEEL FREE TO USE THEM ONCE YOU HAVE IT TO MAKE YOUR RETURN JOURNEY BOTH SWIFTER AND MORE ENLIGHTENING.
Michael shifted his weight from foot to foot, thinking. This wasn't exactly what he'd been expecting from what had been touted as a gay sex club - he'd been expecting something more like the party going up above - and he was kind of regretting agreeing to do so, since according to what he'd been told he was now trapped in here.
"I bet you wish you'd not done the things you wouldn't do now," his brain taunted him. Grumbling to himself, he looked around. Michael rummaged through the piles of stuff, thinking, "I should definitely take some of this stuff, but I don't want to be taking a lot if it's going to weigh me down. Especially while I'm on my own; I can maybe try to catch up to some of the others. Think, think, think."
Looking down, Michael picked up a backpack, putting one of the water-skins inside. He took one of each of the torches and poles, placing them to one side. He took a look at the jars and bottles; each had a label as part of the glass, which made reading in the current light a challenge, but he managed to get an idea about them: a lot of them were various "potions" or "lotions" with various attributes, or that apparently bestowed gifts such as flight or tough skin; quite a number of them were rather sexual in nature. Michael decided he probably wouldn't need those, and could always come back if he needed them; however, he did take one labeled as oil and carefully wrapped it up in a couple of the larger leather pouches to help keep it from breaking. The boxes seemed to be far more useful: some had some dry rations, and he took some - though he hoped he wouldn't be trapped in here long enough to actually need to eat - as well as taking (for what it was worth) a compass from the box filled with them. Going through some boxes with various things, he also decided that taking a flint and tinderbox would probably be sensible.
Michael's backpack was mostly empty, but he didn't really want to take much: it was made of leather and given his naked upper body he didn't really want it digging into skin. Safe or not, who knows what kind of diseases were just waiting for some open flesh in a barely-lit, underground pit; Michael added the hope that William or whoever was in charge of cleaning was good enough to get rid of the more toxic fungi.
Opening the door, he lit the torch using the ones burning in the room, before grabbing the pole he'd chosen and heading out, closing it behind him. "Just in case I run into trouble," he reasoned, "it'd be nice to be able to back up somewhere safe where - hopefully - nothing bad can get in if I keep the door closed."
Turning around, and while trying not to stand in the puddle of his own piss he'd left on the floor, Michael quickly scanned the other side of the door, before turning left. Noticing another one of the gold locks, he turned around again, heading forward along the path.
Past the door, he started to hear things coming out of the darkness beyond. The torch only illuminated a few squares in each direction, and as he was forced left by the corner up ahead, he felt even more nervous now he was out of direct eyesight of the door.
At the next turn; this time to the right, the wall at the end had another sign:
THE THIRD LESSON
THESE LESSONS WILL EDUCATE YOU ON THE BASIC TRICKS AND TRAPS WE HAVE IN STORE. THE FIRST LEVEL IS MOSTLY SAFE, AND EXISTS TO TEACH. HOWEVER, THERE IS DANGER EVEN HERE: UP AHEAD SOMEWHERE YOU WILL HAVE YOUR FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH ONE OF THE PIT'S LESS FRIENDLY DENIZENS.
"I don't like the sound of that," Michael thought, and gripped his wooden pole tightly. The more immediate sounds further into The Pit were starting to filter back: the vague scrabbling of who-knows-what against stone. Nervously, Michael proceeded.
A few paces down the hall, and there was a turn, followed quickly by another turn; the scrabbling sounds growing with each step. Alongside the scrabbling were cries or snarls, and something else Michael couldn't discern quite yet.
The path forward was twisty, but Michael was thankful it didn't appear to branch off; all he had to do was press forward. Difficult enough, because the source of the noises were getting closer, and he could hear the screams - both human, and inhuman - as he advanced.
After a couple more turns, he sighed in relief as the faint reflection from the stones signified light was ahead; even if the sounds were getting closer, at least he wouldn't have to worry too much about holding the torch, though he waved it in front of him as he advanced, hoping that if he was charged, whoever - or whatever - came at him would get a bellyful of fire.
Michael pressed his back against the wall and inched along, peering forward. He could just make out a large chamber up ahead. It was mostly shadows and noises at first, scuttling and snapping and crying, but he froze when he actually saw what was in the next room.
He stood there, petrified in disbelief as two giant rats tumbled around the corner. The impossible creatures - the size of men, with even some vaguely hominid features such as the misshapen but still definitely not completely rodent-like limbs, and the scraps of leather warn around them as clothing - appeared to be fighting over some food; one of the muesli bars he'd seen stocked in the supply room was tightly gripped in both their misshapen hands, being pulled towards each of the rat-men as they struggled. They were so focused that they didn't notice Michael standing there, a disbelieving, frightened stare seemingly permanently carved into his features.
Somehow snapping out of his paralysis, Michael shoved his torch at the pair; suddenly, the unpleasant smell of burning hair was in the air, and the rat-men were yelping and pulling back, the once-precious muesli bar dropped on the ground, now forgotten. Swinging his torch in front of him, Michael advanced to the chamber's entrance.
There were about six rat-men in the room, in various states of clothing, but all had brown-black fur and all had roughly the same appearance: rat-like features on a body that was vaguely humanoid. The two he'd burned had recovered somewhat, and although awkward from the burned flesh, they crouched in preparation of an attack. The rest, apparently alternating between gobbling at the pile of muesli bars that had been dumped in the far corner, and harassing a young man - much more human than the rest, but with certain rat-like features - vainly waving his pole to whack at any of the rat-men who ventured too close. He was sobbing uncontrollably, and hardly noticed Michael as he advanced slowly with his torch.
Dropping his own pole, he held his torch in two hands, and thrust forward at one of the rat-men he'd singed earlier; the burning hit him square in the chest and the rat-man squealed in pain. Another pounced at him, but Michael had already started swinging it in panic; the rat-man grunted as his chest landed straight on to the fiery end of the torch, then crumpled to the ground, the wind knocked out of him. However, the weight of the rat-man knocked the torch out of his hands, and Michael quickly scrambled backwards to get his pole before the other rat-men took their chance.
The distraction of his entrance seemed to relieve the other, less ratty person, who ran towards the doorway, swinging somewhat feebly with his own wooden pole, defending the entrance from the other rat-men long enough for Michael to secure a hold on his. Jabbing forward with his own like a spear, Michael thwacked another rat-men in the large scrotum that dangled underneath its body; the creature dropped quickly, crawling away on his clawed, misshapen hands as fast as possible. The other rat-men, on having had half their number beaten, decided to pull back; grabbing whatever food they could, they retreated through the maze through the only other exit to the chamber.
The other man shakily dropped his pole, the wooden staff clattering to the ground, before tightly hugging onto a surprised Michael. "Oh thank god you came," he sobbed.
Michael, somewhat unnerved by the inhuman tinges to his new comrade-in-arms - the young man's body was thin, and not as stocky as the rat-men's had been, was quite hairy; he had too-large ears and a too-pointed face to pass as completely human, before even considering the short bud of a tail Michael noticed over the shoulder - and quickly pulled out of the hug. The young rattish man's legs gave out, and he slid to the ground, still crying but having used up his energy and tears already, and he seemed to slowly be recovering.
"I'm just going to make sure those rat guys aren't hiding around the corner, okay?" Michael explained, gripping his pole before slowly glancing around the corner. No rat-men appeared, though the passage was just slightly too long with the lack of torches to see too far forward with any clarity, and the shadows could have easily hidden something. Michael did, however, notice another sign:
THE FOURTH LESSON
THROUGHOUT THE PIT WE HAVE PLACES WHERE FOOD AND WATER CAN BE FOUND. HOWEVER, IT IS FIRST COME FIRST SERVED, AND YOU MAY HAVE TO BATTLE THE OTHER DENIZENS FOR A CHANCE TO EAT.
A few moments of waiting and tightly gripping the wooden pole later, Michael pulled his head back, and sighed "I guess we're safe for the moment; keep an eye on that passage while I relight my torch."
"Are you one of the members?" the rattish fellow asked, glancing out of his reddened eyes towards the exit the rat-men had used.
"No, I guess I'm just an idiot like you who decided to join," Michael grumbled. "I guess we would have met, but I wasn't sure about coming, so I was later than the rest of you, apparently. What's your name?"
"Oh," the other said, "I'm Jack. Jack Allington."
"Michael Laird," Michael answered, sitting on the opposite wall, his torch alight and held pointed towards the doorway, indirectly towards Jack as well.
"I was with the main group," Jack explained, his voice weak and shaky, "I guess, I mean I was here at midnight with about six other guys. I thought it would be a good place to come; I like fantasy stories, so I thought I'd get to meet some other guys who were interested in the same thing, you know?"
Michael nodded, feeling very tired all of a sudden. "I didn't really come here for that" he replied, " I just wanted to do something different, somethings I. Would. Not. Do."
Jack asked, "Would not do?"
Michael shrugged his shoulders slightly; he was getting thirsty and tired. "Yeah," he continued after a brief pause, "Random hooking up with some guy for some fun. Not so much for the fighting-rat-men-in-a-dungeon-thing."
Jack's breathing became heavy, his voice strained further. He explained, "It was fun at first, you know? Getting undressed, seeing all the guys doing the things I'd only ever imagined or saw in porn before. Then the fantasy thing made it seem great. Everyone else seemed to be alright, a few of the other new guys seemed a bit assholish, but I was looking forward to it. I was even mapping out the maze..."
Jack paused to look around, then continued, "Anyway, we came in here and saw the food. I was at the back with a guy - I think his name was Chris - and the two of us got separated when those rat-men came in. The other guys took off. Well, nobody was supposed to die, right? T-they swarmed him and... and then..."
He sobbed, "He - we - started turning into them. They swarmed him - he was closer to the door than I was - and I tried to beat them off but there were too many of them, and then they came after me. Then, I don't know, eventually he stopped trying to fight them, and then... I guess he became one of them. I've been trying to keep them off me ever since, until you turned up."
"Do you think they're were-rats or something?" Michael asked.
"I don't know," Jack replied, "I mean, usually werewolves or other lycanthropes-"
"Lycanthropes?" interjected Michael.
"Werewolves, but it's often used as a general word for any were-animal," Jack explained, "if they bite you and you become one, then I probably should be one now too if it acted as fast as it did. Maybe Chris got more of it, because, uh..." Jack's eyes shifted to the side. "Well, the rat-men did things with him. Sexual things. I don't really know exactly what, but I remember stuff happening. He seemed to be enjoying it, but I wasn't really watching him closely after that."
"Ah," Michael replied. "Well, I guess we did come here for gay sex..."
Jack snorted into a giggle, before quickly calming down. "Maybe that made it worse? I don't know. I was smacking them away, since I had a pole and he didn't."
"Plus," Michael said, "rat-men aren't supposed to be real."
Jack sighed, "No. But you saw them too."
Michael nodded, "Yeah." After a brief period of silence, where he felt he could fall asleep, Michael forced himself to his feet. "Look, I'd really rather not get infected with what you've got," he said, "and I don't want to have to keep watching out for you in case you turn into one of those guys..."
Jack cried, "Please, no. I don't want to be alone!"
Michael shrugged, and said exasperatedly, "If you'd let me finish. Anyway, I was going to add that it would also be stupid to go traipsing around here on my own when I don't need to. So, you're going to go in front. That way, if after a while you turn into some horny rat-guy, I can smack you in the balls with the pole and send you on your way; if not then we'll know more about what you've got. There might even be a cure further on, but that might not be a good thing to hope for."
Jack grinned weakly, replying "Thank you. I hated being alone with those things; I'd go crazy if I had to do it again."
"Just don't get too close to me," Michael warned. "Even if you get transformed, if I can get out of here I'll be able to maybe get help for you and anyone else down here." He shrugged, and asked, "Are you tired?"
Jack nodded, "A little, I guess. Who knows what time it is now. I've not slept, and I'm worn down from fighting those rats."
"Maybe we should try to sleep here?" Michael suggested. "At least for a little while, taking shifts to stay awake or something?"
Jack nodded, "Yeah, that's sensible. Assuming we can even sleep on these stones."
Michael decided, "Well, you've been through the most, so why don't you sleep first? I'll walk around for a bit to keep myself awake, maybe try to eat something or whatever."
"Okay," Jack answered. He poked around through some of the leather lying about until he grabbed what looked like a backpack, then dumped it in the corner. Jack flopped down, resting his head on the backpack and stretching out, his eyes closed. From that angle, Michael got an eyeful underneath Jack's loincloth; the rat hair spread around his crotch may not have been the only change in that area, he noted before turning away, eying askance the other guy with a level of suspicion.
Leaning up against the wall, Michael yawned. "I wish I had a watch," he thought, "or something to tell the time." Thankfully the room didn't seem too cold, especially with the burning torch in his hands. He wondered how long the torch would last, musing whether they should get another before they continued on. The torch also kept him from falling asleep, as if he lowered it the heat would come uncomfortably close; Michael found this out the hard way when he almost nodded off standing up.
Michael checked his body over as thoroughly as he could; he was relieved when he found no transformed parts on his own body. Staring at Jack some more, with the corner of his eye towards the other exits, he tried to watch out in case he got worse. Nothing seemed to happen; at least nothing that Michael couldn't chalk up to being excited. When the exhilaration of the night's events, in particular the previous battle, began to wear off, he started to feel tremendously exhausted. He paced the room, hoping to not stand in any of the rat-men's spunk - assuming Jack could remember things correctly - his mind only half-alert.
Thinking of Jack, Michael pondered the guy's story. If it were true, and Michael got the disturbing impression that it was, then the poor guy was going to have some serious issues when they got out of here. "If we get out of here," Michael muttered to himself. He suddenly felt rather ill.
They weren't disturbed while Michael was on watch. As time passed, his attention mostly moved to keeping an eye on Jack: partially out of concern he was getting worse, which he never did aside from in Michael's tired, fuzzy mind for a few moments; partially because Jack was the only thing in the chamber that wasn't stone or torches or bits of muesli; and partially with the idea that his focused gaze would wake the slender, nerdy, now-somewhat ratty guy up and then he could finally get to sleep himself.
After waiting as long as he could before the nodding-off became too strong, Michael gently tapped Jack's side with his foot. Jack stirred, slowly opening his eyelids into a tired squint, before mumbling a few moments later, "That stuff with the rat-men, that was real, wasn't it?"
Michael said, "Yeah, at least some of it. You might have dreamed of more."
Jack curled his legs up, rolling to the side, before standing up. He glanced over himself, asking, "Nothing else happened, did it?"
Michael shook his head, "Nope, all quiet. The rat-guys might have taken off for good. I'm not sure how it works."
Jack nodded, asking reluctantly, "Did anything else happen?" After a brief pause, he added, "To me, I mean. I didn't get any worse or... or better?"
Michael shrugged, "You look the same to me." Handing the torch over, he yawned, "I was falling asleep on my feet; I figure it would be safer if one of us was awake, and I don't think I'm going to stay conscious much longer."
Jack nodded, gripping onto the torch tightly "That's fine. I wasn't all that tired anyway. Goodnight."
Michael sat, his back to the wall; he tried to reply to Jack, but he wasn't sure if it actually came out of his lips, or he just thought of it. His head swam, suddenly very nervous over leaving himself prone to a guy who might become a rat-man at any moment.
But he was far too tired for that, and Michael quickly succumbed to a dreamless sleep.