The Forewarning - Part 2
Duo's Friendship Arc 24
by Dyna Dee
The two students sat in front of their computers the next morning and took their exams via the Internet. Duo had two tests while Quatre had only one, but both boys accomplished their exams in the time frame allowed. The testing was given within a set time limit, allowing the student only enough time to answer but not look up answers, this helped to ensure the answers were the student's own, and that they two teens were out the door on schedule.
They were already packed for their weekend and left immediately after shutting down their computers, happy to be heading for the colony docking port around noon with Ramal in tow.
Duo merrily piloted the streamlined and luxurious Winner private shuttle and did so with practiced efficiency and some Maxwell flare added along the way. The journey to L-3 took less than two hours and, after docking, the three rented a car and bought a map. After arguing a few minutes on the quickest route, Ramal planted himself behind the wheel of the car despite Duo's vocal protest that he was driving. Ten minutes later and with sore eardrums, Quatre sat behind the wheel with two sulking people as his passengers.
The colorful striped tents with their flags hanging limp from the poles sticking out of the top of each corner of the canvas, were a warm and welcome sight to the two teens. The car was stopped and parked and the three exited along with their shoulder bags. Quatre locked the doors after the other two slammed their doors shut and together he Ramal chased after the quickly retreating Duo.
It was immediately apparent to the two teens hat the circus had grown from the last time either of the them had seen it. Along with the circus tents were carnival rides, game booths and food concession stands. Ahead of them, Duo had stopped to talk to a woman who had been walking by. She pointed towards the direction of the third and largest tent, then with a smile to the long haired teen, she turned and moved on.
"He's in that tent," Duo said as they caught up to him, excitement glistening in his eyes.
Quatre recognized that look as he felt the same sense of excitement and expectation at the imminent reunion with their friend. The three visitors moved together and quickly, their goal in sight. Moments later they entered the tent and their eyes rose to the trapeze high above them. Trowa had just jumped from the small platform on the tall pole with the trapeze bar in his hand. Catherine was on the opposite side, her eyes steadfastly on the young man swinging in a long arch in timed movements. They watched as she readied herself then, at the perfect moment, she too leapt from off the small platform where two other people clung to the pole awaiting their turn.
The four watched with rapt attention at the two on the swinging bars. Both performers allowed their bodies to gain the full momentum of the trapeze, using their legs to gain more height. Their rhythm seemed off to the bystanders, but both boys knew there was a reason for it. They watched as Trowa brought his legs up and looped them around the rope. His head and torso dropped down, facing Catherine who, at the upswing peak of the arch, let go of her bar and spun her straightened body twice around, then found her outstretched hands caught by Trowa. The empty bar found its way back to the side and another young man grabbed hold of it, timed his exit, then jumped. Trowa held Catherine until the timing was once again right. Catherine was passed off with perfect precision to the other trapeze artist. Several times the young woman as well as the men were tossed or flipped back and forth high from one bar to the other high above the ground and the safety nets below.
At last the four performers tired and leapt from the trapeze onto the safety net below them and were met with the enthusiastic applause of the three unexpected viewers.
Trowa looked up at the sound of clapping and an enormous smile lit his face. He quickly flipped his body over and off the end of the net, said a brief word to his co-workers, then headed towards his waiting friends with a large smile on his face.
Each of the three bystanders took note of the changes in the Heavyarms pilot during the months they had been apart, and two of them found it altogether unfair that he was almost six feet tall. And even though Quatre and Duo were beginning to get some added height as promised by Heero after his shocking announcement as to why their growth had been stunted during the war, they were still much shorter. It still seemed unfair for Trowa to have even more growth added to his already taller frame. There was little chance of either of the two smaller friends of ever catching up with him when it came to his height. The second most obvious change in the circus performer, of course, was his new, well-developed physique. Trowa had somehow produced very noticeable and defined muscles, leaving the other two boys envious again, with each silently promising themselves to work out more often.
"Hi guys," Trowa smiled warmly at the three visitors and brushed the chalk from off his hands.
Quatre embraced his friend as soon as he was in close proximity, then turned him over to Duo who did the same. Ramal stood back with a grin on his face as he watched the three teenagers greet each other with warmth and affection. He knew exactly how they felt. He felt as if they men he worked and fought in the war with were indeed his beloved brothers, and he could see it was the same with these three boys.
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming today?" Trowa asked, still smiling at the happy surprise as he stepped back from Duo, having received his welcoming hug.
"We're being spontaneous," Quatre announced proudly and beamed a bright smile.
One of Trowa's eyebrows went up, showing his skepticism.
"Which means we planned this five days ago." Duo chuckled. Quatre was anything but spontaneous. The blond Arabian seemed to take great pleasure in planning in advance and in great detail any excursion, meeting or event that he or Duo were to attend or sponsor.
Ramal's chuckle was deep and he clearly showed he was also amused.
Trowa, still smiling, reached for Duo's arm and held up his wrist to study the other boy's wristwatch. "I have a ten minute break before I start another hour of practice," he told them and let Duo's wrist drop. "I can get away after that, though, if you'd like to do something."
"That's fine," Quatre replied, then a crease of worry formed between his pale eyebrows. "I hope we're not inconveniencing you by showing up like this."
"No," Trowa laughed lightly. "It's good for you to practice being spontaneous. Good for me, too."
"Ch!" Duo snorted. "I've lived most of my life being spontaneous, mainly flying by the seat of my pants. It's definitely got its good and bad points, but you definitely don't want to live like that everyday."
Trowa and Quatre nodded in agreement, knowing Duo was speaking in reference to his life on the streets as a child and as a teenage gundam pilot. Quatre remembered Duo telling him once that most of his time spent on the streets of that poverty ridden colony he didn't know where his next meal was going to come from. If he saw an opportunity to grab a loaf of bread, beg for a handout from someone looking sympathetic, or snatch something from out of a bag belonging to someone passing by, that usually was as far ahead as his dinner plans went. He then had reminisced that, once he had food in his hands, that he usually shoved it down his throat as quickly as possible so it wouldn't get taken away or stolen by someone as equally hungry as himself.
The blond smiled warmly at his friend, happy to know that Duo would never know that kind of hunger or poverty ever again. "But today seems to be a good day for spontaneity, doesn't it?" he asked and moved closer to his long haired friend in order to bring his arm around Duo's shoulder.
The long haired boy gave him a mischievous wink. "Yep, a good day to fly by the seat of your pants," he chuckled with good humor. "Or maybe I should say a good day for Trowa to fly. Man Tro, that trapeze stuff is a sure chick magnet. It's just a good thing we don't have any girls with us 'cause you know what they say about acrobats, don't you?" Duo cleared his throat, alerting Quatre that he was about to break into song. The first word he sang was drawn out so that the bright Arabian would know what song he was referring to, one he had taught the Winner heir during the war when he found out Trowa worked in the circus, and Quatre could join in, which he did.
Heeeeeee flew through the air with the greatest of ease,
That daring young man on the flying trapeze.
The two teens swayed in an overly dramatic fashion, arms locked around each other's shoulders and their heads tilted to the side to meet each other's as they sang the lyrics to the ancient song with cheesy smiles plastered on their faces. Quatre took the next line.
Hiiiiis movements so graceful all girls he did please
Duo joined up on the last line,
And my true love he's purloined away.
The two boys laughed at their lame singing as their audience of two rolled their eyes at the corny song but couldn't help grinning at the pair.
"Duo's been quite an influence on Quatre, hasn't he?" The auburn haired young man asked Ramal and loud enough for the two so-called singers to hear.
"You have no idea, Master Trowa," Ramal replied in a tone of long suffering and shook his head with all the memories of the mischief the two had cooked up over the summer months. "Wait until I tell you of last night's escapade." The grin on his face telling Trowa it was a good one.
Trowa's smile broadened. "Could you save it until I have more time to hear all the details?" he asked. For some reason it pleased him that Quatre was engaging in some of Duo's antics. He knew from the e-mails he'd gotten that Quatre felt overwhelmed by his family and business at times. Duo provided an outlet for him when things got to be too much to handle. It seemed that Duo's decision to go with Quatre after the war had been mutually beneficial to both of the teens in front of him. Quatre looked relaxed and happy and Duo looked healthy and back to normal.
"So what's with the extra attractions?" Duo asked as they left the tent and motioned his head towards the carnival.
"We met up with this carnival a couple of weeks ago," Trowa replied with a shrug. "Seems the post war economy on this colony is depressed and has hurt their income base. They asked if they could team up with us while on L-3 in hopes of making enough money to pay their employees." Trowa's eyes scanned the area on which the carnival stood and his eyes narrowed slightly.
Not missing a clue like that, Quatre wondered what was wrong. "Is something wrong? You don't like them, do you?" he ventured to ask.
Trowa's brows drew together. "I'm not sure..." his voice trailed off. "I don't know if it's something to be cautious about or if it's just me being paranoid and distrustful," he answered. "But there just seems to be something off, like I'm sensing something no one else seems to."
Duo's attention was definitely piqued. "What's suspicious?" he asked, folding his arms over his chest.
Trowa' shook his head. "Not much really, but some of them just don't act like carnies. They're generally a pretty low life and crass group. But I've found some of these people to be of a different ilk. They just don't seem like carnies. They're too well dressed and well spoken. It seems sometimes that they're trying hard to fit in, and yet they don't."
"Sounds like you're describing yourself and Catherine, Trowa," Duo said with a grin. "You guys don't look like carnival workers."
Trowa gave the boy a mock glare. "We're circus performers, Duo, not carnival workers. If you don't want to find yourself pinned to a spinning wheel and have Catherine throwing knives at you, you had better remember the difference," he advised him with a grin and Duo snickered.
"So you think they're here for some reason other then what they stated?" Quatre asked.
Trowa shook his head in a dismissive manner and a small deprecating smile appeared on his face. "They're probably alright. I find I'm always suspicious of new people." Seeing a look of concern on his friends' faces, he decided to change the subject. "How long can you guys stay? Just for tonight's show or for the weekend?"
"The whole weekend," Duo beamed a brilliant smile. "You get to give us a taste of life at the circus."
Trowa found a grin came easy to his face at Duo's obvious enjoyment in visiting him. He thought for a brief moment to recall what Duo had said their last night together on Earth? It was something along the lines of the circus being every kid's dream.
"Don't get your hopes up too much Duo, life at the circus means a lot of work. But the shows and the applause of appreciation are well worth all the sweat equity. And speaking of work," Trowa looked behind him through the open tent flap to see this fellow trapeze artists gathering at the net. "I've got to get back to practice. Why don't you wander around and come back when you're done."
Quatre nodded. "We need to check our bags into the hotel anyway," he said. "We've got a loaner car in the parking lot so we can get around, but there weren't any hotels near here, so we'll be staying more near the hub of the colony.
"I've got room for two more in my trailer," Trowa offered, then looked dubiously at the large man standing behind his friends. "But I'm afraid it's a bit too small for a Maguanac." He couldn't help the stray thought as to why the group of large men that devoted themselves to Quatre's service all seemed oversized. He'd heard rumors about them being genetically engineered and test tube babies, and he would ask Quatre to sate his curiosity, but it was a subject the other boy didn't like to discuss.
"We don't want to put you out," Quatre began to mildly protest, obviously not meaning it but too polite to not say it.
"Nonsense," Trowa dismissed this friend's reason for refusing. "We've got a chance to really catch up. It would be great."
Ramal frowned. "I don't think Rashid would be too pleased with me staying somewhere other then where these two are sleeping," he said.
Quatre rolled his eyes and Duo answerer his statement. "Ramal, there are three of us. We're former gundam pilots. Who is going to mess with us?"
Ramal gave the teenager a pointed look. "Is that what you thought when Master Quatre was kidnaped on Earth?"
Looking at Duo, the three with him noted how his demeanor and facial expression changed instantly, as if he'd been severely rebuked. The spark of brightness in his eyes dimmed and the boy's smile faded at the same time his slender shoulders slumped just slightly.
"Ramal!" Quatre scolded, and the man immediately regretted his words, especially with Master Quatre's eyes shooting angry daggers at him. Trowa took the situation in hand by simply putting a comforting arm around Duo's shoulders.
"Don't tell me you're blaming yourself for that incident?" he teasingly chastised his friend.
Duo shook his head and sighed. "Not the kidnaping," he replied in a bit of a subdued voice.
"He thinks he should have been able to save me from being shot." Quatre cut in and looked pointedly unhappy at his braided friend. "We've talked about this Duo. It wasn't your fault, so...so get over it." He said in a firm manner.
"I'm sorry, Master Duo." Ramal spoke up and looked apologetic. "I didn't mean to upset you."
"No, Quatre's right." Duo waved off the apology, his face brightening slightly. "I've got to get over blaming myself for everything." He paused for just a moment, then added, "Because we all know that's definitely Quatre's job." He quickly jumped behind Trowa to avoid the blond's lunge as the two on-lookers laughed.
After a few more minutes of conversation, Trowa excused himself to return to his practice for the evening's performance. During that time, the three visitors went back to the car and dropped their bags off at Trowa's trailer. They were then free to begin to wander about the carnival, stopping and enjoying several food and game booths along the way.
Over an hour and a half later, Trowa caught up with them, freshly showered and changed into jeans and a long sleeve, dark green tee shirt. His three visitors were in the middle of a game at a shooting booth, concentrating on keeping steady their guns that were spewing a stream of water aimed at a plastic clown's brightly painted face. The object of the game was to get the water into the open mouth of the clown causing his hat to rise up a pole and hit the bell at the top. From his view point, the three intent on their task were pretty much dead even. But in the end only one could win the game, and it was Duo's practiced eye that won the day as the blaring of the winner's bell sounded even as the flashing red light appeared over his risen hat. Trowa watched with an amused grin as Duo performed a little impromptu victory dance which stopped abruptly when the carnival worker handed the long haired teen a cheap, fuzzy imitation of a long, ugly snake. Duo gave a puzzled glance at the odd stuffed animal, then promptly handed it off to the first kid who passed by and turned with a smile to greet him with a broad smile.
After a few minutes of discussion, it was decided between them that they would go to a restaurant nearby and continue visiting while they ate a more nutritionally balanced meal than was offered by the carnival. They sat in a corner booth and leisurely ordered and ate their meals while enjoying each other's company and conversation, two things that seemed to make the time they had together go by too quickly.
It was six o'clock when Trowa announced that he had to leave to get ready and warm up for the evening's show. He stood, and from out of his wallet he removed three complimentary tickets to the performance. "Best seats in the house," he said as he smiled down at them. Quatre accepted the tickets with gratitude and with a little protesting that they should pay for their entry. Trowa waved the protest off, telling them to just be on time. With that and a wave of his hand, he left them.
The circus itself had expanded since the last time Duo had attended a show with Hilde during the war. She'd basically dragged him out to the circus in order to distract him from the worries of the war, and that action had led him to finding Trowa, suffering from amnesia. The memory of that day sparked another memory of a promise he'd made that particular girl. He made a mental note to talk to Catherine or the Circus manager before he left. Hopefully, he would make his female war buddy very happy. It seemed the girl had a major crush on Trowa and wondered if Duo could inquire if there might be a job with the circus she could apply for with the hope that she could get to know the quiet, tall and handsome young man that she'd found very appealing. Duo didn't really know what to make of that request, but after all she did to help him during the war, how could he refuse her?
Once they were seated inside the main tent, the three visitors took in the three fairly large rings that was the circus stage and their central location to them. Trowa was right, the seats were the best. From their position they would be able to clearly see what went on in all three of the rings.
The tent was soon filled with an excited audience, eager for the show to begin. The lights brightened and the colorful parade of animals and circus performers marched around the circumference of the three rings. A full hour and a half of moment to moment excitement began with a flourish.
Quatre and Duo were always on the lookout for their friend. Trowa seemed to go from one ring to another in constant motion. His talent was readily seen and appreciated with no small amount of awe with each act he took part in. He was at the receiving end of Cathy's knife throwing act, he worked with the tigers, juggled with the clowns, and to top it all off, his trapeze act was the highlight of the evening's performance. The audience gasped with fear and excitement at many of the daring tosses and gravity defying hand offs performed high above the rings.
Ramal leaned over to the blond teen sitting on his right. "I sure hope they're paying him enough," he said in a lowered tone of voice. "Master Trowa is practically the whole show."
Quatre nodded, never taking his eyes from the trapeze show. His expression, however, became thoughtful. He'd have to ask Trowa, as a business man, if he was being fully compensated for his many talents that drew and most of certainly contributed to a great part of the circus revenues.
The performance ended and the circus show drew to a close with the audience on its feet giving the performers a thunderous, well-deserved applause.
As the crowd slowly filtered out of the tent and into the eagerly awaiting carnival, the three visitors waited twenty minutes in their seats before Trowa showered and changed into the clothes he'd worn earlier and joined them.
Approaching with a smile, he held up a handful of tickets for them to see. "One of the carnies saw that I had some friends visiting and gave me a bunch of tickets. Care to try any of the rides?"
Ramal looked hesitant, but Quatre and Duo's eyes sparkled with anticipation.
"Sounds great!" Duo answered for the three of them.
As with most carnivals, the music coming from the rides was loud and tinny. The four worked their way from the area just outside the big tent down the double sided fairway of game and food booths to the carnival rides.
Duo had always been and still proved to be a ride junky. His favorites were those that had moments of free fall and controlled spinning, saying it reminded him of piloting Deathscythe. They rode every ride available at the small carnival with Ramal agreeing to accompany them only because he made up an even number and was usually paired with the quieter Trowa or Quatre.
The last attraction located at the end of the brightly lit and noisy fairway was a three-story fun house. The first two levels were a series of shifting walls, moving walkways, stairways that tilted oddly and appeared to wobble and a spinning tube, painted with a spiral to disorient, that you had to pass through in order to get out. The woman at the gate, looking to be in her mid thirties, dressed in jeans, white blouse and the carnival's distinctive red vest, called out in an enticing manner for their patronage, promising even more challenges for the able-looking young men, challenging them to complete the entire course within ten minutes to win back their tickets plus a bonus of a small packet of a dozen more. The four weren't interested in the prize, but being naturally competitive, a challenge against the clock was a weakness for all of them.
The woman's eyes lit up slightly at they recognized one of the four. "Mr. Barton, welcome." She greeted Trowa with an appreciative look and a seductive tone of voice.
"Hello Sheila," Trowa responded in a cool, aloof tone that the others knew he reserved for people he didn't care for. His green eyes didn't linger for a moment before they drifted up to the third floor of the fun house. "Is that a moving mirrored maze?" he asked.
"Yes, and a very fine one too," the woman answered, not put off at all by the circus performer's indifference to her by the looks of her smile and friendly manner. "If you'll just wait for a moment, the noisy children up there will leave and you and your friends will be free to explore it at your leisure," she promised.
Trowa turned to his friend. "Do you want to wait or leave?" he asked.
"It looks fun." Duo grinned, looking up at the shifting stairs, already calculating the best way to climb them. He could cheat and walk up the edge of the stairway, avoiding the stairs altogether, but what would be the fun of that other than beating the clock, he thought. "I vote that we wait."
The others agreed, liking the look of anticipation on their friend's face. All three separately thought it wonderful to see Duo returning back to the boy they'd known during the war. For Trowa and Quatre's part, they had missed him terribly.
Ramal looked at his watch. "I need to check in," he told Quatre. "Rashid specifically asked me to call at ten so he could rest well tonight."
"You guys need to stop worrying about us. We are capable of taking care of ourselves and I think we've proved that," Quatre answered, then sighed. He'd had this argument repeatedly with Rashid and his older sisters on a weekly basis and he was weary of it. However, Ramal was only following orders, it wasn't his fault Rashid was a chronic worrier and took his task of watching over he and Duo to the extreme. Conjuring up a reassuring smile, he looked to his older friend. "Why don't you go to Trowa's trailer and use his phone. It's far too noisy here for Rashid to hear you. We'll go through the fun house and wait right here for your return so we don't have to look all over the place for each other."
Ramal nodded his agreement. "You'll wait right here?" he asked for a reconfirmation, not wanting to spend the rest of the night looking for the three of the five most elusive people in the universe.
"I promise," Quatre replied agreeably with a trusting grin in place.
Having confidence in the blond teen's word, Ramal turned and retraced his steps to find the trailer they'd left their bags in earlier in the day.
The three former pilots stood chatting and watched as a small group of children were escorted out of the fun house by a man not much older than they were. The woman at the gate had also watched the children exit, and with a three fingered wave of her hand to the young man, she unlatched the chain that had feebly barred the entrance to the entertaining trailer.
"Alright, it's now child free and ready for some real challengers," she called out to them in a manner similar to how other carnies called out to fair goers.
Duo leapt at the chance to be the first to try the tricky pathways, but the varied obstacles weren't much of a challenge for any of the three, and especially Trowa who made it all look like a walk in the park. Still, they laughed and enjoyed their fun together as they followed the arrows through the maze of traps and tricks and odd staircases until at last they reached the landing on the top floor facing the mirrored maze. They were met there by the young man they had seen earlier escorting the children out the gate. The three noted the neat and clean appearance that was unusual for a carnie as was his posture, which was impeccable. Duo leaned forward to catch Trowa's eye, giving his friend a slight nod and a raised eyebrow regarding the questionable carnival worker. His unspoken gesture was asking if this is what Trowa had referred to earlier, a carnival worker that seemed out of place in a traveling carnival.
A slight, almost imperceptible nod from the former Heavyarms pilot was his answer.
The person in question smiled at the three boys as he began to explain in a clear, colony accented voice how the maze worked. "This is the ultimate in mirror mazes," he said with no small amount of pride. He hit a green button on the wall panel behind him and immediately the mirrored walls in front of them shifted . The three pilots looked down to the floor to see the mirrors were on sub-level tracks. "As you can see," the worker continued, "the mirrors shift, but they do so every twenty seconds to make the maze more challenging. Because of this, you have to enter one at a time at twenty second intervals, and because you are entering at different angles, your paths out will be somewhat different. There is a way out from each entry, you just have to be clever and lucky enough to find it. Our record is five minutes. Think you can beat that?" he asked in a coaxing manner.
Duo looked at his friends and then back to the worker and shrugged. "Sure, why not? I think we're up to the challenge."
The worker nodded. "At the next shift, one of you will lead the way."
The three teens looked at each other. "I'll go first," Trowa volunteered.
"I'll follow, "Quatre said, looking to Duo to see if that was alright with him. The braided boy grinned at them. "Guess I'll come last and have to pass you guys on the way out. Just call out and I'll come and get you if you get lost," he said in his most cocky manner that used to annoy the hell out of Wufei.
Before an appropriate come-back comment could be made, the mirrors shifted. The sound of the many panels moving at once produced a loud rumbling sound until they all locked with a sharp metal snap into place.
"Good luck," the carnival worker said as he motioned Trowa to the entrance. With a nod, the tall teenager stepped into the mirrored labyrinth. The three left on the beginning platform watched him until he turned a corner, then managed to watch a little longer as his image was reflected on the mirrored surfaces.
"He's going to show us up again, isn't he?" Duo asked with a rueful shake of his head.
"No doubt about it." Quatre replied with a matching look. "I'll call out if I'm pathetically lost."
"Me too," Duo grunted, shoving his hands into his pockets.
The mirrors shifted again and with a departing smile and wish for good luck to his friend, Quatre stepped onto the reflecting path.
Duo's foot tapped repeatedly on the linoleum flooring, showing his impatience to get going. He looked over at the worker and caught the other's eye. "How long have you been working the carnival?" he asked in a friendly manner.
"Just a couple of months," the guy answered in an equally conversational tone of voice.
Duo nodded, it made sense now why the guy didn't look like the usual low-life carnie. He watched with interest as the worker opened up another panel next to the other board with the green button, and revealed a control board with two columns of switches and several knobs. He flipped a switch and the constant bright light above the mirrored maze blinked, then switched into a strobe light pattern of blinking. He then turned another knob which immediately increased the already loud level of music playing. The man turned his head to Duo even as the mirrored maze panels switched again. "Have fun," he shouted out and motioned the teenager in. With a nod of his head the long haired teen entered the maze.
The sound of the music piped through some well placed speakers was almost deafening, and the strobe lighting bounding off the mirrors, mimicking an eternal line of flashing lights began an ache behind Duo's eyes that was very disconcerting.
He made his way through the twisting path when the mirrors began to shift again. At least they moved slow enough for him to be clear of the tracks, he thought. Otherwise it could be dangerous when nearly blinded by the flashing, blinding strobe lights.
After a series of turns and shifting of the mirrors, which he counted to be five times since he began, he was pretty sure he wasn't near the end of the maze. Duo was beginning to regret having wanted to try out this so-called fun house. He wondered if Quatre and Trowa were faring any better than he was. The mirrors shifted for the sixth time, and he thought for a moment that he heard someone cry out. He snickered, thinking that Quatre had probably been caught unaware by the shifting mirrors and nearly got pinched.
He wandered the path for another three shifts of the mirrors then stopped to look at his watch. The strobe lights made it almost impossible to read the dials, and the ache behind his eyes was growing into a full-fledged headache. "Damn, this fun house is more like a torture chamber," he muttered darkly, having lost all his patience and good humor.
The mirrors moved on their tracks again and as he moved forward, his extended foot met with empty space and he yelled out as he dropped through a trap door into a dark space below.