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Hide 'N Shriek
Author's note: I began writing a story about a girl hiding from her abusive father, counting down the minutes until he fell asleep. It slowly grew into this twisted story about an abused boy that develops an apetite for murder.
Dr. Hillary Welshen has been a psychologist for almost two decades. She has diagnosed over 120 people with mental illnesses. She won the Nobel Prize in 1986 for her psychological findings regarding multiple personality disorder. She does more volunteer work than work she actually profits from. She often visits elementary and high schools to analyze and evaluate students the schools are worried about. That’s how she ended up here: St. James Paul high school. Their principal, Mr. Polk, called her about a student who had a history of child abuse. She quickly agreed because it was only a half hour drive from her home; she wouldn’t have to fly, this time. As she walks in the front office, she is greeted by a tall, lean man with charcoal hair that’s beginning to gray.
“Thank you so much for coming, Dr. Welshen. I’m Ken Polk, the principal,” he tells her.
“Oh no, thank you for having me. And please, call me Hillary.”
He blushes, his divorce still too recent to flirt. “Well the student we would like you to evaluate is Richard Downs. He’s a troubled junior whose mother used to abuse and torture him. He acts like a different person every day; sometimes he acts like a small child and others he’s just himself, and the staff is beginning to worry. I informed everyone to steer clear of the conference room next to my office so you have some privacy to evaluate him.”
“Well, Mr. Polk—”
“Please, call me Ken.” He smiles.
“Well, Ken, it takes a while to evaluate someone.”
“How long?” His face is twisted with worry.
“Well if the things you’re suggesting are true, and I’m sure they are, it sounds like multiple personality disorder. There may be things that trigger him to relapse into his childhood causing him to act strange. I’ll need to determine if he actually has multiple personalities and what the triggers are. If the signs are very prominent it should only take up to two weeks but if they’re more subtle it could take up to two months.”
“We will need to speed things along. His foster parents don’t believe in therapy and they only gave me a couple of weeks to resolve this. Your two weeks started the day I called you.”
“But that only gives me 8 days to evaluate and diagnose him.”
“I know and I’m sorry but I really need you to hurry. Please? You’re the best at what you do.”
“I’ll try my best. I can’t promise anything.” Her eyebrows droop as she creases her forehead with worry.
Ken raises his eyebrows at the change of her expression. “Well, it’s almost lunch so I’ll have him report to the conference room to eat and he can stay with you until 3. Are you hungry? The teacher’s lounge has free food.”
“Oh thank you, but no, I already ate. I’m prepared to give Richard my undivided attention for the next 3 hours. When will he be—” the lunch bell cuts her off and Ken laughs.
“I’ll inform the lunch attendant to send him to my office.” He walks to his assistant principal and tells her to pull Richard out of lunch and walks back to Hillary. “I’ve explained to him that you’re here to talk to him about anything. He’s used to therapy, because his former foster mother doubled as his psychologist, so he agreed. She reported that he won’t talk unless you initiate. But good luck and thanks again for coming.” He smiles gratefully and returns to his office. Hillary paces for a moment. 8 days? That’s all she has? She’s only diagnosed about 3 patients out of 100 in less than two weeks. Those 3 patients were serial killers that had multiple personality disorder and bipolar disorder.
“My name is Dr. Hillary Welshen. I’m here just to talk. We can talk about anything you want. School, your friends, classes, maybe your mother.” Richard winces at the word ‘mother.’ “So where shall we start?” Richard doesn’t say anything; he just looks straight forward out the window of the conference room. Hillary knows he can’t be staring at anything interesting because they’re on the second floor. A minute ago she was staring out the same window and the only things to see are the clouds in the sky.
“You know, the clouds aren’t that interesting.”
Richards quickly turns his head. “There aren’t any more clouds; they left the sky alone and scared.”
“Who else has been left alone and scared, Richard?”
“Richie. Mommy calls me Richie. I go by Richie,” as the tone of his voice changes Hillary jots down at note, “personality changed: #2 = Richie”, and raises her head to face him.
“My apologies, Richie. Who else has been left alone and scared like the sky?”
“I don’t wanna talk about the sky I wanna talk about my classes.”
“What about them? Are they too hard or too easy?”
“I dunno because I draw in all of my classes. Do you wanna see my notebook?”
“Well of course I do!” Hillary coos. He hands her the notebook and she opens the cover to the first page. There’s a drawing of a woman and a child; the child is under a table and the mother is holding a knife. This drawing looks like it was done by a second grader. She turns the page and to her surprise, the next page looks professional; it’s a drawing of an arm, the arm is bleeding from several different cuts.
“We don’t want you to look at that one. Turn the page.”
Hillary’s eyes open wide. “Who doesn’t want me to?”
“I don’t! Now close the book!”
“I’m so sorry, Richie, I didn’t mean to—”
“Why would you call me that? My name is Richard. I haven’t gone by Richie since I was 10.”
“Why don’t you go by Richie anymore?” Hillary is intrigued. He definitely has two personalities but he’s different from most. He accepts that he has two; the two personalities communicate with each other.
“Only my biological mother called me that and I don’t want to talk about her. So shut up so I can eat in peace.” She was used to the students being rude to her. No teenager wants to be the freak in therapy because they’re afraid to be different; the only problem is that they’re in therapy because they’re different and none of them understand that. Richard gets up to leave and as he turns around, Hillary takes his notebook from the open pocket of his book bag. He wouldn’t give it to her so she had to take it.
“Mr. and Mrs. Santiago,” Hillary began. “I’ve spent the last eight days talking with your son. Sometimes we talked about school, or you, or even his interest in drawing; his drawings seem to depict the abuse of his mother.” Hillary opened Richard’s notebook and began flipping the pages. “And as we all know, sometimes he acts strange. Anytime I would try to talk to him about his mother, or try to get him thinking about her, he would convert to his second personality, who goes by “Richie.” Now before I realized the second personality was Richie and the first was Richard, I called him Richie after he had already converted back to Richard; he got angry, yelled, and told me to shut up. I know it’s only been 8 days since I met him, but in my professional opinion, your son has multiple personality disorder.”
“Hello. My name is Ri— Uh—The Game Master. There is one game I love more than anything in the whole wide world. My mommy won't play with me no more bah-cuz she's too old and said that I'm too old but I said mommy I'm only 34. Now I have to find me a new play friend to play hide and seek with to replace mommy bah-cuz she won't play with me no more. My mommy used to punish me when she found me bah-cuz she said I wasn't good enough at the game. Now I get to be mommy. The big building we're in is called The Playhouse. It has five floors. Here are the rules. One, you're not allowed to come to my underground floor. Two, In between every game you get a three minute break to recover and think of a new hiding spot. Three, after 20 games, you get to eat. Four, if we don't play 80 games in one day then the next day you're not allowed eating until 9 night time. Five, we play between 11 morning and 6 night. Six, you can't use the escalators; if you try, your weight will be wrong and a buncha knives will fall down from the ceiling. Seven, the alarm will beep when I'm done counting to 60 in my underground floor. And eight, when I find you, you get punished. If I find you in under a minute, I get to kill you. If I find you in one minute, I get to cut off a finger or a toe. If I find you in two minutes, I get to cut your arm open. If I find you in three minutes, I get to hit you in the face with a chair. If I find you in four minutes, I get to punch you in the tummy. If I find you in five minutes, I get to kick you in the leg. If I find you in six minutes, I get to slap you in the face. If I find you in seven minutes, I won't punish you but you don't get a break. If I can't find you for over eight minutes then I haveta let you go. After eight minutes is up, I’ll come down here to my office and play a celebration alarm. When you hear it, you have to meet me on the first floor and I’ll escort you to my office and we will eat a big yummy dinner before I let you go. The first floor has the most places to hide. The fourth floor has almost nowhere to hide. And just in case you try any funny business, I carry a .45 Smith and Wesson at all times. Good luck Alexandria and enjoy Hide 'N Shriek!” I turn off the radio.
“Richard, you almost blew our cover. Why don't you ever follow directions?! I told you, I want another present but when it gets here, I'll take over. What's wrong with you?!”
I'm so tired of being here. The bell rings. I guess I should find somewhere to hide. God knows how many others he's taken and forced to play his sadistic rendition of Hide 'N Seek. He probably knows every single hiding spot there is in this warehouse. Well I'm going to the top; maybe he'll waste all his time searching the bottom floor and not even think of the fourth. I've never had the guts to go up there for fear I'd be wrong and he'd find me easily. I run up the stairs. Why does he do this? Why does he talk like he's 7? The alarm sounds and I resort to the third floor and find an air duct behind the staircase. I slide off the flap of metal with the cracks in it and crawl in. It's not too small in here. I fit if I hug my knees. Why did he choose me? I don't recognize his voice or anything. Then again I don't know many 34 year old men that act like seven year old kids. The realization of the pain that's coming hits me out of nowhere and I begin counting. I pray he won't find me. It almost seems impossible. You can barely see the door to the air duct from the escalator. His muscles are so huge he probably couldn't fit behind the stairs if his life depended on it, even though mine does.
I wonder how long I was out. When was I was taken? Wait, it was May 29, I remember because NASA just announced that the Spitzer Space Telescope found a planet that's less than a million years old. Mom and dad have been competing with those operators for years and that’s why they went to the conference. I saw the story on the news before I went to bed. I wonder if my parents heard about it. They probably have because we're all astronomy nerds.
I can't believe I forgot to lock the bathroom window. The first time they trust me to stay home alone during a business trip and I'm kidnapped. Yup, I'm never staying home alone again. Hell, my mom is never going to leave my side. If I go home, that is.
A minute and twenty seconds.
I need to make it to at least five minutes. Two days ago we only played 74 games and yesterday I didn't get to eat all day and I had a huge breakfast this morning. If he punches me, I swear I'll throw up. I wonder where he is.
A minute and forty seconds.
Maybe he's still searching the first floor. I have a sequence. I hide on one of the floors for a few games and then I switch to a different one. Then I go to the next one for a few games and repeat. I hid on the first floor for the past few games so I hope he's still there.
Two minutes down, three to go.
I remember waking up in the playhouse. I couldn't figure out where the hell I was. My mom and dad had left town for a business conference. My thoughts just rambled on when I woke up. “What day is it? What happened? I was walking down the hallway to the bathroom—it was like two in the morning. He was so tall and his muscles were gigantic. Everything just went black. There was a voice. It must be the same guy from the intercom. He speaks like he's a child but when I was taken the voice said 'I hope you like to play. The Game Master will enjoy his new gift.' ” I couldn't figure anything out. Now I know what he meant by “play”. I begin to think of my first day here in The Playhouse…
“You have three minutes. When you hear this,” a bell sounded, “I'll begin counting. When you hear,” a really loud, annoying beep sequence sounded, “I'm coming to find you,” he sang. Nothing registered. I was in shock of actually being taken. I hid under a couch on the second floor. I only made it to four minutes. He punched me in the stomach but I had thrown up. He made me clean it while he yelled. That first day was the worst.
“Alexandria! Come out, come out wherever you are!” His voice pulls me back to reality. My heart almost stops. I bring my breathing to a halt as if he has hawk ears. I pray he won't find me. I'm desperately falling apart. It feels like I've been here for weeks. I don't know how much longer I can do this.
“Where are you Alexandria?” He sings. He's the only person that calls me by my first name. Everyone calls me Elisa, my middle name.
Please just give up and leave this floor. Go to the second floor or something! I turn my head, not being able to look out the cracks of the air duct. I can't look him in the eye; they're red, probably from the exhaustion of being psychotic. I pull my knees in closer and hold onto the doorway of the air duct as if its weight is the only thing holding me down on this nightmare of a planet. His fingers tightly grasp my wrist, and almost rip my arm out of its socket, while simultaneously slicing it open just below my elbow. When it heals, it'll match the other 47 scars I have on both of my arms. In the eyes of the Game Master, they're just proof that he's the best Hide 'N Seek player that ever lived. The blood trickles down my arms until it reaches my finger tips and leaks onto the floor. Tears form in my eyes but don’t fall; they never do anymore.
“I win! I win! The first aid kit has been moved. You have two minutes to find it or I'll have to punish you again,” he frowns at this new addition that sends shivers down my back. How can I run around four stories in this castle of a warehouse to find a box that's only one square foot?
I jump out of the air duct and away from his direction. Maybe he hid it on the first floor because it has so many places to hide it. I can barely feel the pain of the gash but I begin to ball without tears, so I guess my body is registering the pain, while my mind focuses on finding the first aid kit. I have to find it. I run down the stairs and out the door of the staircase.
“Who is texting me at two in the morning?” I ask myself. “If its Jason telling me he’s sorry again I swear I’m going to kill him tomorrow.”
Helena: hey gurl u ok?
Elisa: yeah tryin 2 sleep, txt me 2morrow
Oh my gosh, Helena, I’m fine. Leave me alone and let me sleep! Now I have to pee and after I pee I won’t be able to go back to sleep.
I walk down the hall to my bathroom. Mom and dad definitely left yesterday afternoon for their business conference so why do I smell cologne and perspiration? God, it stinks. After peeing and washing my hands, I grab the air freshener from the cabinet in the bathroom and spray it down the hall. I walk past the closet and back down towards my room. I just sprayed behind me and the freshener already faded? I turn around and suddenly feel the sharp pain in the back of my head. My vision in blurring. It's so dark. What just happened?
“I hope you like to play,” my secret pursuer whispered. “The Game Master will enjoy his new gift.”
“You're right. I do,” a child said.
Who brings their child with them to kidnap someone? And the temptation to let my mind slip takes over and everything fades into nothingness. I fade.
My body jerks me to consciousness but my eyes refuse to reveal my new room. How long have I been here? That man took me March 29. I just got home from work. I walked to the kitchen to see what my mom left me to eat from the dinner I had to miss for working a double. I found a bowl of hamburger helper and stuck it in the microwave; it was set for no longer than 3 minutes. I walked down the hallway and up the stairs, carefully tiptoed past my parents' bedroom, but then I realized that it was bowling night so they weren't here. I turned on the dock for my iPod and set my alarm for 8 so I'd be awake on time to get ready for work. I pulled off my name tag and slipped my shirt over my head. I turned to my dresser to get a shirt when I realized the bottle of water on my dresser fell and rolled under my bed. I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the bed until I could reach it. When I finally grabbed it, someone grabbed my ankles and I popped my head up so fast, I smacked it on the wood of my bed frame. I quickly kicked whoever it was and crawled under my bed to the other side.
“I knew we should have stuck to girls,” a man with a red ski mask on said. I spun around; looking for his partner or whoever he was talking to and saw no one when he strode forward and smacked me in the head with something.
“Who are you talking to?” I asked.
“Me,” the same man in the ski mask said, but in the voice of a child. As my mind begins to slip, I faintly hear the beep beep beep of the microwave.
I can't breathe. Having to run up and down these stairs is exhausting. The first aid kit has to be on the first floor. I bust through the door and frantically spin around and look for possible hiding spots. There! I run to the fire extinguisher case, where I see a white box inside, desperately needing to see the Red Cross. I try to grab the hammer that’s on top of the glass box but a few daggers come falling down. I barely dodge the two that fall to my sides but one catches my stomach and all I feel is the warmth of my own body drain down my torso, down my legs, past the bruises, past the cuts and scrapes. The blood, the bliss, the peace, the serenity: every last bit of happiness gone, taken, by a man with the mind of a child.
I grasp the hammer and smash open the glass case; then I just get angry and start hitting everything in sight—the metal around the case, the coffee table, and the chair in front of it. But then I start feeling dizzy so I grab the first aid kit and rip it open. The cut is pretty deep but I think I’ll survive without stitches. I go for some cloth first to stop the bleeding. It’s white cotton with a silver design. I unfold it and quickly realize that it’s a blouse, ruined with multiple blood stains. I feel sick as I apply pressure to it on my arm. It’s not my blood. I open a gauze pad and some Neosporin. After caking on the Neosporin I tape the gauze to my bicep and pray that it’ll be enough. After thinking twice about it, I carefully line up another gauze pad over the first and place more tape on my arm. I begin to scratch my arm as I recall my allergy to adhesive. I remember when I first found out that I was allergic to it. My mom didn’t even care. I was getting a rash and had no idea what it was from so finally almost a week later I annoyed my mom enough for her to take me to see a doctor. Dr. Hancher told me that I was allergic to adhesive and if I leave it on my skin for too long this rash is the result. After that she ignored the fact that the rash would pop up again and she would still put band aids and things on me and then leave them there. She never cared.
The faint buzz of the escalator brings me back to reality. He’s talking to himself. The pain in my stomach hits me like a freight train and I begin to treat my newest wound.
“I think she found it. Punish her. She wasn’t supposed to find it. If she found it, she was already punished by the daggers. Hahahahaha!” He steps off of the escalator talking to himself and begins laughing when he sees my stomach bleeding from the side. “What happened, Alexandria? I don’t recall cutting open your stomach,” he smirks innocently.
You know what happened! You’re the one that set the booby trap! I want to yell and scream and get angry but if I get angry then he’ll get angry and I’ll be punished. I know he’s been waiting for me to break down but it’s not going to happen. The first day I was crying the whole time. The next few days I was just in shock. But nowadays I’m just numb, taking my punishments and trying to last eight minutes; but it’s all a façade. I do cry, but only at night, only when he can’t have the satisfaction of seeing me so vulnerable.
He turns and walks away. I know he’s going to his office to count so I try to quickly patch my cut. It’s pretty deep and there’s a needle and thread in the first aid kit but the needle already has blood on it. I decide to mimic the gauze pads on my bicep, except this cut is bleeding more than my arm so I tape 4 or 5 pads on my stomach. I shove some extra gauze pads and Neosporin in my pockets to change my patchwork later when the blood soaks through, and run for the stairs. “It’s about time to change floors,” I say to myself. I wonder how he would like it if a player tried to fight back.
My name is Demetri. A week ago I didn’t know all of this would happen. He said he was the master of Hide ‘N Seek, except I was almost 95% sure that he said “shriek,” and I was right. I didn’t believe him, until now. I believe I was supposed to be his fourth victim. One of his rules is that game players aren’t allowed in his underground office. I made him chase me up to the fourth floor and as he arrived I raced down to his office. He keeps these sadistic files of background information, addresses, phone numbers, and pictures. He stalks his victims. He must have stalked me for at least three months because he has a picture of me at my aunt’s wedding. It was March 29, 2005 when he attacked me at my house after I got home from work while my parents were out for bowling night; her wedding was December 14, 2004. My record is the first that’s a guy. Why me? He’s taken three girls. After I almost finished reading my file I heard the faint buzz of the escalator moving towards the first floor. I quickly ran up the staircase. Just as I reached the first floor I heard the celebration alarm. I had lasted eight minutes; I thought I’d be free. But I was wrong. When the escalator finally reached the first floor he was maniacally grinning. He began clapping and said something like, “Let’s head to my office for a celebration.” That’s when I knew; I knew he would check the camera of his office and see that I had been down there reading files and such. He pressed some buttons and switched some wires around on the escalator and we rode it down to his office. It was so strange; a meal had already been set. He couldn’t have set it himself because he was upstairs and I was just down there. But I know the meal had just been made because the steam coming off of the food was still clearly visible.
“Shall we begin?” he asked, still grinning. We began eating as he turned all the monitors on with the click of a remote. There were 20 screens: one camera on each floor including his office, one above each staircase, one by each escalator, and five in his office. I dug into the ribs as the first few days played out before my eyes.
Each finding of his brought the recollection of all the pain. He fast forwarded through the “boring parts” and before I knew it we were half way through the second week. The last day of the second week was when he hit me so hard in the head that I could barely stay conscious. I hid behind a chair not realizing that the escalator was right behind me and he found me in just over one minute. He sliced open just above the fingers on my left hand; they were severed and basically hanging off of my hand. Thank God he kept a needle and thread in the first aid kit or I would have been screwed.
I swear he could see me start to shake as the celebration day footage began. Game after game, he eyed me with suspicion.
As the last game began he exclaimed “Ah yes, the moment you became a free man!” Just after seven minutes passed I watched the Game Master riding up the escalator to the third floor as I ran down the stairs to the first floor. Right before I watched myself run down the stairs to his office I pulled his attention from the screen.
“Sir, I would just like to thank you for giving me the chance to play Hide ‘N Seek with the best player of all time.” His back was to the screen so I continued. “It was a pleasure. And thank you for setting me free.” And then something in him changed. His red eyes twitched and he turned back toward the screen just as I began running up the stairs from his office.
“You liar!” He screamed “You don't follow the rules. I knew I should have stuck to taking girls. Guys are too dumb to follow my rules.”
I switch to the third floor to change it up, hoping he’ll waste a few minutes searching the first and second floors. There’s a trash can, about 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, in the corner opposite the escalator. I quickly climb in and simultaneously sit down while hugging my knees to my chest. Actually, I don’t like this hiding spot; I’m very vulnerable, I have no way to know if he’s close to me or even on this floor. When he gets to this floor I’ll have to rely on my hearing which is thrown off by the echo of my breathing off the plastic walls of the trash can. Before I begin to stand, the alarm goes off and I immediately crumble back into the plastic. As I curl my knees to my chest, the trash can wiggles a bit and a lamp on the nearby table falls directly on my head; I wince as the glass bulb in the lamp shatters and this corner of the room grows dark. I close my eyes and begin counting. One-two-three-four. I wonder if he knows that I can fit in this trash can because if he overlooks it, maybe I could last 8 minutes. I stop counting but not on purpose, I lose track of time as I begin thinking of killing him. I stop somewhere around a minute so at least he can’t kill me, yet. It has to have been at least 2 minutes now and he’s still not on this floor; that’s impressive. Actually wait, I forgot I switched to the third floor, I hid on the second floor for the past few games so he should be searching the second floor by now, or maybe he’s still on the first floor examining it with a fine-tooth comb. It’s been three minutes by now and that familiar faint buzz of the escalator echoes through the plastic. My breathing is still too loud so I hold my breath; it’s only been three minutes so he could hit me in the face with a chair, or maybe he would get to punch me in the stomach, I don’t really remember. I think I’d rather be hit in the face—before I finish this thought a thick, cool piece of metal strikes my chin and thrusts up. My neck cracks and out of reflex I spring up with the lamp still in my hand, accidentally upper cutting the Game Master.
“Raaaawoooooggg,” he lets out a tremendous growl and I get angry. I hit him again but he dodges it. I think he’s lost his footing because he tries to turn on his heel but falls to my feet so I hit him again, and again, and again until he pulls my legs out from under me and begins beating me. He straddles me and begins throwing punches; he strikes my face, my neck, my chest, every part of my upper torso. Then, when he finally begins drawing blood, he stands and relief washes over me: he’s leaving. But I’m wrong; he begins kicking my abdomen, stomach, and legs. He even kicks me in the face a few times. And when he finally finishes, I can’t even open my eyes, he’s blackened both of them. “Get up,” he commands. My feeble attempt to place my palms on the carpet and extend them up doesn’t impress him. He cups his hands together, as if he’s holding a dagger, and punches me back to the ground. “I said get up!”
Despite the blood pouring from my mouth, I try to tell him I can’t get up, but he doesn’t care. “We still have 13 more games to play tonight and you can’t move,” he pauses. “You get no dinner and no breakfast.” He grabs my right arm and drags me across the floor. I guess he’ll carry me down the escalator but he turns toward the stairs. Before I know it, I’m tumbling down the stairs that leads to the second floor. I let out a high pitched yell as my left foot turns inward and twirls around my right foot. With my legs locked, I reach the bottom of the stairs. I begin to crawl to the next flight of stairs. I reach up for the railing but he kicks the left side of my abdomen and I lose balance, and once again I plunging down toward the first floor. He grabs my left ankle this time and I squeal in pain. “Sprained ankle. I’ll get the heavy duty first aid kit.” He glances down at me but I’m having trouble reading his face; it’s an expression I’ve never seen before. Could it be guilt? He knows I’ve figured it out because he grasps my left calf harder, avoiding my ankle, and quickly looks away, wiping his face of all emotion and I almost feel bad for him; it must be awful living two lives, one that’s damaged and one that’s crazy. Though I don’t pity him, he almost deserves it. He unlocks the door next to the escalator that leads to my bedroom and he tosses me onto my bed. He pulls out a white box from the closet and rolls out a tall, white pole and stops it next to my bed; he hangs a bag of clear fluid off of the hook and grabs my left arm. It hurts to extend it but he forces me. I close my eyes because it hurts to keep them open for too long and a sharp pain tingles up my left arm. I crack open my left eye and glance at the IV in the crease behind my elbow. He injects something into my IV before hooking it up to the bag of fluid hanging next to me. The pain is unbearable so I begin reciting the alphabet backwards to distract myself and before I reach “w” I’m already falling under.
I’m awake but it’s still hard to open my eyes. The pain is completely gone from my body. I pull my eyelids apart; the thick flakes of dried liquid are evidence of tears and puss. I pull the flakes from my eyes and glance around my room. There’s an empty vile on the nightstand by my bed, and next to it is a full vile of a murky, translucent substance.
“Finally, you’re awake.”
“I would have been awake sooner if you had set my alarm like usual,” I slur my words with a bit too much attitude than I intended.
“Even if I would have set your alarm, the morphine would have made you sleep through it.” That cloudy liquid in the vile must be morphine. “You have to be strong to play. Do your injuries still hurt?” he asks.
“Not really, it’s just hard to keep my eyes open,” I answer truthfully.
“Take the IV out of your arm, wrap your ankle, and report to the exit of your bedroom in 5 minutes. It’s almost 2. You’ve lost 3 hours but we still have to play 80 games so good luck,” he chuckles under his breath and exits my bedroom.
After I hear his key exit the door, locking it, I pull the IV out of my arm like I’m ripping a band aid off. I search the drawers of my dresser for my pants I wore yesterday; he must have changed my clothes for me. The thought of his hands gently touching my body is unfathomable. He probably ripped them to shreds. In the underwear drawer of my dresser I find the gauze pads and Neosporin that I saved for later but I don’t need them because he changed the bandages for me. What’s changed him to be this way? He doesn’t have another personality or something does he? Under the gauze pads is a wrap for my ankle. I swiftly peel my sweaty clothes from my body and begin to dress. Before I slip on a pair of loose-fitting jeans, I wrap my ankle tightly and gently slip a sock over my foot. I pull the other sock over my right foot and pull my jeans on. As I begin walking toward the door that leads to the part of the first floor where the torture happens, he opens it and shouts “Your 5 minutes are up! Let’s play.” He slyly smirks and slams the door shut behind me.
It wasn’t just the allergies that my mother ignored. She never went to my volleyball games, not one. She never took pictures with me before any school dance. All I wanted was a nice picture before my senior prom with my parents. Neither of them would take a picture with me. My dad never cared about me either. At least my dad came to one of my games: one. I hate both of them. They were always so caught up at work; always at the lab looking through the telescope, searching for the “next big thing” or the “planet that’ll make us famous.” Sometimes I couldn’t stand being in the same room with them. I’m interested in astronomy but I’m not going to drive myself insane searching for something that most likely isn’t even there. Oh my god, I haven’t been paying attention and the bell just rang. I panic and run up the staircase I’ve been meandering up. No! No no no no no! I’m on the fourth floor. The only thing up here is a window. I run across the room to the window to try and hide behind the curtain but I trip.
“AHHHH!” I let out a loud shriek as I fall into trap door in the floor.
“UHPH!” I hear someone grunt as I land on top of them. I try to prop myself up and stick my hand in some thick, gooey substance and scream when I realize it’s his blood.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Demetri. You must be Alexandria.”
“Oh my god!” my eyes open wide. “How do you know my name? Are you working with him?” I ask as I back away to the opposite corner.
“I’m not working with him, just please calm down,” he says as he grabs my arm, preventing me from jumping for the only exit.
“If you’re not working with him then why are you here and how do you know my name?”
“I’m here because I played before you got here. I know your name because when he pushed me in this hole he bragged about already having a girl named Alexandria Barnes picked out and how she would be in his possession soon. And he’s forced me to watch you play. Well he tried to anyway. I’ve been sleeping most of the days away because of the pain and hunger.”
“How long have you been down here?” I ask him.
“Your guess is as good as mine. I was down here for two days, maybe three, and then I woke up to him explaining the rules to you. Since then I’ve been trying to keep track of the days but it’s hard because I sleep all the time. I think it’s been a few weeks. I can’t be for sure though.
“How have you survived weeks without food while bleeding?”
“Well he’s been feeding me. Not enough to fill my stomach but enough to keep me alive and suffering. Every time he escorts you to your room and gives you food, he comes up here and feeds me. Sometimes it’s a slice of bread or two but sometimes he doesn’t even come. The bleeding stopped a few days ago but it’s clotting and I’m worried.”
“I’m so sorry. If I knew you were up here I would have tried to help. I’m just so glad to see another person. You’re the first sane person I’ve seen in weeks!” I tell him.
“Yeah you’re the first ‘sane person’ I’ve seen in months.”
“When did you take you?”
“March 29. He attacked me at my house after I got home from work while my parents were out for bowling night. I walked to the kitchen to see what my mom left me to eat from the dinner I had to miss but then I remembered that it was bowling night so I just went to my room. I pulled off my name tag and slipped my shirt over my head. I turned to my dresser to get a shirt when I realized the bottle of water on my dresser fell and rolled under my bed so I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the bed until I could reach it. When I finally grabbed it, someone grabbed my ankles and I popped my head up so fast, I smacked it on the wood of my bed frame. He hit me in the head and then I woke up here. What about you?”
“Well my parents are astronomy nerds. They work at some place that I don’t know or care. There’s a telescope in the lab that they’ve been using, searching for something new in order for them to be recognized by the world, but the operators of the Spitzer Space Telescope found a new planet, so my parents decided last minute to go to a conference out of town and left me home alone. They told me that the cable man would stop by in a few days to fix the cable box in the front living room. They told me to always have him in sight, just in case, and to not let him wander around the house. When he knocked on the door I let him in. He was sweaty and smelled awful; you could tell he tried to cover it with cologne. In the middle of him fixing the cable box he asked to use the rest room so I walked him down the hall. I waited outside the door until I heard the faucet, so I’d know when he was finished and couldn’t slip out and wander; he turned the faucet on so I walked back to the front room. A minute later he walked back in and finished and then left. My mother had told me to lock all the doors and windows before I went to sleep but I never checked the windows because they’re always locked. Around 2 in the morning my best friend texted me and it woke me up. I had to use the restroom so I walked down the hall. When I walked in I realized the window was open and it still stunk from the cable man so, after I washed my hands, I sprayed air freshener down the hall and put in back in the bathroom. As I walked back to my room the smell appeared again so I turned around and there he was. It was May 27.” He doesn’t say anything, he just looks uncomfortable. “So how long do you think it’s been? He’s never going to think about coming up to the fourth floor to look for me.”
“Yeah he definitely won’t come up here. Listen I have a plan. He’s going to turn on the celebration alarm, that’s when you’re supposed to go meet him on the first floor. I’ll hide in the stairwell behind the door and peek out of the little window, when you guys turn around to go to his office, I’ll quietly sneak up behind him and knock him out with something and then—”
I interrupt him, “How do you suppose we’re getting out of this hole in the floor?”
“That’s easy, I’ll hold you up and you can climb out and then help pull me up. But anyway, after I knock him out we’ll search for a way out. And then we’ll run, and keep running until we find a phone or a person or just somewhere to hide that he wouldn’t find us.” I give him a disapproving look.
“I don’t know if that’ll work. Maybe I can just, um, go to my celebration and then when he lets me go I’ll get help to come back for you.”
“No way. If he lets you go, he’d definitely come up here to get my body. He hasn’t fed me in days so he probably thinks I’m dead by now. It’ll work, trust me, you wouldn’t want to go to your celebration anyway; you have to watch all the footage of the games you’ve played. That’s why I’m here. During my last game I waited on the first floor until the bell rang and ran all the way up to the fourth floor while he chased me. Then once I reached the fourth floor I waited until I heard the buzz of the escalator and ran back down to the first floor. While he searched the other floors over again, I ran down to his office looking for a way out. All I found was filing bins. I opened one to see what it was. It was pictures and research on some girl. He had her daily routine typed out next to her picture and a bunch of other stuff like her address and school and stuff. What really creeped me out was that under the papers was a box full of VHS tapes; it was all the footage of her games. On the front of the bin it had the number 1 written in red and under it said “deceased”. But the worst part was I think it was written in blood. I shoved the bin back into the shelf thing and looked around. He had a huge curtain and I assumed it’d be a window so I pulled it back and saw 20 video screens. Every inch of the entire building was visible and he was riding the escalator down to the first floor. As I sprinted to the first floor I heard the celebration alarm. He escorted me down to his office, where I had been not even a minute ago, and the once empty table was now piled with all food imaginable. He unveiled the video screens and told me that they were covered so he couldn’t cheat. He explained that he wanted to watch the good parts of our games and started with my first day. We got to the celebration and I tried to get his attention but he saw me run down to his office and that’s how I ended up here. Watching the videos of him torturing me was torture in itself; you wouldn’t want to have to go through all the pain again.” And then my celebration alarm went off. He picks me up and winces, probably from his wound being stretched, and I pull myself out of the hole. He jumps up and gets a good grip on the edge and I grab his hand. We struggle for a moment but finally he gets his knees over the edge and pulls himself up.
“Let’s stop on the third floor and get something that I can knock him out with,” Demetri says as he opens the door to the stairwell. He struggles a bit on the stairs and tells me that he hasn’t used his legs in a while and kind of chuckles. He walks through the door to the third floor and looks around. “How about this?” I ask and hold up a lamp that’s made out of thick glass.
“I don’t know; it’s kind of big. I need something smaller.” He says as he looks around. “That!” He yells and runs over to the fire extinguisher case and breaks the glass. “This’ll be perfect.” So we continue down the stairs. We reach the door that leads out to the first floor and he grabs my shoulder. “Wait, try to keep his back to the stairs while he explains what happens next and tells you what a good job you did. He’ll ask you where you hid, don’t tell him the truth. Tell him you hid in the air duct behind the fourth staircase.” I laugh a little bit. “What’s funny?”
“I hid in the air duct behind the first staircase earlier today and that’s how I got this.” I show him the gauze on my arm that covers the cut the Game Master gave me.
“Ouch.” He winces. “Just try to keep his attention on you and his back to the staircase. When he tells you that you’re going to his office give me a signal and when you turn around to follow him I’ll run out quietly and knock him out—good luck to you and be careful.” He hides behind the door as I crack it just enough for me to fit through.
“Oh my goodness there she is!” The Game Master yells in his adult voice as I emerge. I’ve only heard this voice once: when he kidnapped me. “You did such a great job!” he sticks out his hand for me to shake it. I position myself around him to where I can see the door to the stairwell so he is forced to face away from it. His hand is still between us and I hesitate as I slowly raise my arm. He lunges forward and I cringe, awaiting pain, but all he does is grab my hand and violently shake it.
He laughs and says “Don’t worry. The pain is over now. You won! Now, we’re going to go to my office to watch all the videos of your games to see how well you did! And, I’ve set up a lovely feast for us!” I shift my weight to my right leg and hold a thumb up towards the door that Demetri is waiting behind but I keep it low so that the Game Master doesn’t see it. “Follow me!” He walks passed me and I wave at the door and then turn around to follow him, but Demetri isn’t quiet enough; I hear the door close and so does the Game Master because he’s turning around!
“Oh no, oh no, oh no” is all I can think.
The Game Master grimaces and yells in his child voice, “How did you get down here?” and begins running toward Demetri. Demetri swings but the Game Master ducks and tackles him to the ground. The Game Master starts strangling Demetri and I panic.
“Jeez, ease up man,” Demetri struggles to say. If only it were that easy. My eyes quickly scan the room, looking for something to throw at him. On a table in the corner is a huge, ceramic lamp. I rip the cord out of the wall and run closer to the Game Master, just as I release my grip on the lamp, he hears my footsteps and turns with just enough time to dodge the lamp. He picks up the lamp and starts running toward me. I try to run a zigzag path to the stairs as I see Demetri stand up.
“Demetri! Help!” I scream but what is he going to do? The Game Master is standing between us. The impact takes my breath away. I’m on my stomach with my legs pinned down and my arms under me. Before I realize it’s him on my back there’s a cord around my neck.
“Dem—Demetri help—me” I struggle to yell. I manage to squirm enough to free my hands. I try to pull the cord down from my neck but he wraps it around again, pinning my hands to my neck, forcing me to assist him in my own death, and begins laughing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Demetri walk around us. I try to plead for help but all that comes out are raspy groans. Demetri begins laughing. Why isn’t he helping me? My mind begins fading. “Stay awake, Elisa, you can do it,” I tell myself. I pick a chair with an awful print in the middle of the room to focus on; there are multicolored flowers all over it, no two of them are the same. I focus on one of the flowers on the arm of the chair; it’s wine red with deep green leaves and thorns on the stem. The thorns are sticking into the stem of another flower; this flower is yellow but the petals are light brown like they’re beginning to wilt. My eyes shut, I try to open them but they’re heavier than elephants. The last thing I hear before fading is the faint sound of Demetri’s laughter and betrayal.
“Sir, I would just like to thank you for giving me the chance to play Hide ‘N Seek with the best player of all time, it was a pleasure. And thank you for setting me free,” he tells me. His expression has changed; his eyes twitch to glance at the screen. I turn around to see Demetri running up the stairs from my office to the first floor.
“You liar! I knew I should have stuck to taking girls! Guys are too dumb to follow my rules!”
“Wait, wait, wait. We could be useful to each other.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask him.
“We could be partners. I could help with the torturing.”
“No that’s the fun part! I wanna get to do that.”
“I mean, I can hide in the good spots and if they ever find me, I can make them fall for me. I can mentally torture them. I’ll give them false hope that I can help them escape. I’ll tell them some story about how you tortured me inches from death; we can fake injuries and wounds. They’ll be so vulnerable at that point that you can pounce. I know you never let the winners go. After the feast, you shoot them and dispose of them. But you could strangle the girls; it’s slow and pure torture and pain. You know you’d much rather strangle them slowly than just get it over with. So what do you say?”
“I say you stay here and I’ll go get Alexandria. Make yourself at home, partner.”
“Well I was babysitting because the parents were out for date night and they offered me $10 an hour so I had to say yes. Plus, there was nothing else to do on a Friday night. I laid the kids down for bed around 8 and then went down to their family room to watch TV. A commercial came on so I went to get a drink. When I opened the fridge I heard the TV cut off. I thought it was the kids so I laughed and told them to turn it back on, but when no one said anything I walked back to the family room and turned the TV back on. Then I went back to the kitchen to get some water when the TV turned off again so I yelled at the kids to get in bed when I heard a little boy laughing. The problem was, I was babysitting 3 girls. So I walked back in there but no one was there, and when I turned about I just remember my head hurting and then everything went black. What about you?”
“He attacked me at my house while my parents were out. I had just gotten home from work so I walked to the kitchen to see what my mom left me to eat from the dinner I had to miss, but when there was nothing left over I remembered that it was bowling night so I just went to my room. I pulled my uniform polo over my head. I turned to my dresser to get a t-shirt when I realized the bottle of water on my dresser fell and rolled under my bed. I got on my hands and knees and crawled under the bed until I could reach it. When I finally grabbed it, someone grabbed my ankles and I popped my head up so fast, I smacked it on the wood of my bed frame. He hit me in the head and then I woke up here. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe,” Demetri said as he hugged the newest player.
Elisa shook her head and thought to herself while looking down at yet another girl fall for Demetri’s sob story, “Just don’t be as Naïve as I was.”