's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Entanglement "

Submitted by Ryusui

"The Department takes care of its own. The Department takes care of its own." I repeat the lie over and over in my head as I run amongst the mirrors. He's after me, I know; stalking me at his leisure, whistling a jaunty little tune as that infernal blade of his scrapes across the ground.

Of course it couldn't be anyone else. The Department's finest, sent on a one-way trip into certain death. That's the beautiful thing about pulling yourself together from so many different places; it's so easy to split off another self, easy as plucking a hair from your head, and then send them off on some fool's errand they have no chance of returning from. The only way to be certain against a foe of this caliber.

Invincible. Indispensable. Disposable. That's the price of being the leader of the Department.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are..." The mocking voice rings out, a touchstone to the fragile reality around me; time shattered and put back together like a mosaic of broken glass. Of course he knows where I am already. This maze is his design, and he walks it as effortlessly as if the paths were marked with string. I have no such certainty. I see myself through doors and windows; whether past or future, I can't tell, looking no closer to a solution than I am at this moment. The sound of his approach is the only thing I can trust in this place.

I remember all the times I was the lucky one, looking pitilessly at my doomed other as I sent them into certain death. Did all of them come to resent the cavalier way they were expended, like bandages or bullets? Did they comfort themselves with the knowledge that not one of them had ever failed before, just as surely as none had come back alive? Did any of them ever look down at the gun they carried, a cannon for killing gods, and think how simple it would be to just rest their chin upon the barrel and pull the trigger?

I shake my head violently, trying to force the morbid thought from my mind. But then I catch a glimpse of yet another of my selves fleeing through the labyrinth, still lost and alone, no closer than I to finding a way out, and the thought instead fills me with resolve.

I look down at the ground for a suitable tool; an old piece of shrapnel catches my eye. I pick it up and mark myself, leaving a jagged wound down the length of my arm. Yes. This will do.

I continue my pursuit - yes, my flight no longer. I see the others around me, arms bloodied one and all. My target is nowhere to be seen. My quarry cackles from somewhere behind me. Does he have any idea what it is I'm doing? Is he even capable of guessing it?

Finally, I spot my target. I turn to aim, and my hunter is on me, his blade swinging at my throat. I roll under him, dodging by the merest fraction of an inch, and I pull the trigger.

Five minutes ago, my arm as yet unmarked, I die instantly as a bullet pierces my skull.

The sound rips through the time continuum, and paradox hits my foe like a punch to the stomach. He staggers, hissing like acid, dropping his blade. He slowly turns to face me, his mask twisted into an expression of pure rage. I've stolen his fire and burned him with it, and he knows it: even now, he begins to drip and char. He reaches out vainly, as if trying to wrap his bony hands around my neck, but the ground itself betrays him; a sudden shudder drops him to one knee, and soon after, he collapses entirely into a heap of ash.

I laugh. I don't think anyone's ever laughed at him before, slayer of kings, grinder of stones, and not lived to regret the act. I'm lightheaded; I know I myself don't have much time left at all. What will happen, I wonder? The mark on my arm is already starting to unmake itself; will my head explode from the shot I just fired, or will I disappear in a puff of logic, or will I last long enough to watch this place unravel around me?

My equilibrium is faltering now, my legs unsteady. I let gravity take over and fall on my back, feeling light as a cloud as the shattered history of this place rewrites itself over me. I know I don't deserve this. I don't deserve a gentle death after the things I've done. My other selves - guilty of the same sins, but fewer - no doubt faced far worse at the end.

But in my final moments, it makes me smile to imagine I lived up to their example.