All eyes turned to her. Adeline's included. “My, my, that was quick.” Her smile faded as she cleared her throat, drawing herself up taller, looking down at them all. “You have been... selected... to take part in an experiment- the second on this particular creature. All you are required to do, is to live your lives as you did before, and fulfil your roles as innocents, or...” She looked around at them all, the smile returning- this time it did reach her eyes. “Werewolves.” A quiet wave of muttering spread through the gathered. One question was repeated multiple times:
“What is the experiment for?”
When the talking had stopped, and all eyes were back on her, the woman continued, adjusting her papers as she did. “This experiment is to find out more about the behaviour of one afflicted with something commonly known as Lycanthropy, or a 'Curse' that turns a normal human into a beast called a Werewolf. You will all be observed as one is released into your environment, and you are to figure out which one of you it is. We will not tell the Werewolf what they are- it is for them to discover. And no, you don't have a choice whether you take part or not.
“Now, to explain your task... You're all going to be playing a game.” Again, quiet muttering broke out amongst some. She waited for it to stop. “The objective of the game is simple: If you are innocent, find the one werewolf and kill it. If you are the werewolf, kill all the innocent. Simple, right?” Her voice was overly cheerful. “However, there are some... complications. During the day, everybody- innocent or otherwise- must vote to kill one person. This person will be chosen by majority. If someone does not vote, then their vote counts toward no one. If there is a tie, the two will draw straws. Whoever gets the shortest is killed. Yes, ties can go multiple ways.” Her smile broadened. “So if nobody votes... then you all have to draw straws.”
Adeline watched as some of the assembled shifted uncomfortably. She herself felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
“Now. It isn't fair just to leave the werewolf's kills to the complete chance of a majority vote now, is it? Therefore, each night, the werewolf gets to kill one person. This decision is made by the beast itself, whether they are conscious of it or not. Which is why I suggest people with roles such as... say, the Doctor, refrain from telling everyone their role. Werewolves aren't stupid, you know.
“On to the matter of roles. I have to say, there are quite a few. The first role, the Doctor, is fairly simple. Each night, you will receive something which can successfully ward of the werewolf. You must then visit one person of your choosing's home, and leave this object outside their house. This will ward of the wolf if it comes to kill them. Thus, you protect this one person. Nobody will be killed in their stead, and you can use it on yourself if you wish.
“The second and third roles are fairly similar, so I suppose we can describe them as one... The Seer and Wolf Hunter can both identify the role of one person. The Wolf Hunter can choose, while the Seer can not. The Seer also gets one apprentice, who inherits-” She stopped, frowning. Everyone watched her carefully as she put a hand to her ear, listening carefully. After a few moments, she gave them a quick smile, turning back toward the door. “I am afraid that is all we have time for- You will get your... 'roles' and a quick description of what you must do when you arrive.” She stopped by the door, turning around to look at them. She smiled again. “Take my advice, and don't tell anyone what your role is. It could be disastrous for both you and them.” With that, she left, and the door closed behind her.
They were left in silence, stunned by the sudden disappearance. After a few moments passed, another conversation broke out, as room mates discussed the situation amongst themselves. Adeline looked toward Christina helplessly- Christina herself chattering away to the person next to her. Adeline sighed. She was alone, once again.
After a few minutes of twiddling thumbs, a faint hissing became apparent. The chatter died as more and more people noticed it, and as a translucent mist began to form within the room. There were a few murmurs around the room, things like:
“What is that stuff?” and “Is it dangerous?” were said, as panic started to grow within the gathered.
As the mist thickened, turning into a fog, people started to slump. Adeline could make out the shapes of those on the other side of the circle, suddenly dropping in their chairs, heads falling against their chests, eyes closing as they fell into what appeared to be a sleep.
It didn't take long for Adeline herself to be affected as well. By that time, more than half the circle had already fallen asleep, and Adeline had been expecting it to happen. She let herself be taken away into her dreams, not really caring any more. It seemed like they wouldn't be killed until the werewolf came for them, anyway.
The first thing she noticed was a bright light in her eyes. The second was a cool breeze, and the feel of her hair blowing across her face. Adeline sat up, rubbing her eyes as she opened them. She glanced around, taking in the waking forms of the nineteen other people, all in varying states of awakening in what appeared to be a cobbled market square. It was a warm summer's day, the sky was clear, the white clouds drifted lazily across the sky, casting shadows on distant hillsides.
She frowned as she stood up. Others followed her example, staggering up as they were dazed by the sunlight. After waking up from the dark room, all of them had a few blinding moments as they opened their eyes. Someone started to move, picking their way across a floor littered with semi-conscious forms, making their way to an empty space a few meters away. There, they stood, looking around. Adeline followed suit, hopping between arms and legs, before coming to a halt in the same, empty space.
“So who are you?” Was the first thing they said, turning to her.
Adeline froze, like someone caught in the act of something they shouldn't be doing. “I'm Adeline Marsden.” She managed to say, diverting her eyes down at the ground. An ant walked past her shoe.
The woman in front of her held out a hand, offering a smile. “Annelise Morgan. Pleasure to meet you. Well, if we forget the circumstances, at least.” Adeline took the hand, smiling back.
Another person walked over, stretching his arms as he did. “I don't know why we're all so surprised.” He said, looking at the two women. “I mean, they knew we weren't going to accept just like that.”
“Yeah... but drugging us isn't the best way to earn our trust.” Annelise pointed out, regarding the newcomer critically.
The man shrugged. “Who said they wanted our trust?”
“Well it's pretty stupid to expect us to go along with their game.” She said, twisting a curl of her hair around one finger. “I mean, can't the werewolf just... lock themselves in a house the entire time? Couldn't they just sacrifice themselves for everyone else?”
He raised an eyebrow as he looked at her. “You really think someone is going to give up on life that easily? Besides, the lady told us the werewolf wouldn't know who they were.”
By this time, two others and wandered over to them, and were listening to the short argument with interest. One of them decided to join in. “We could all isolate ourselves, but still keep an eye on everyone else. That way we'd know who the werewolf is because we can see them.”
Annelise spread her hands, smiling at the newcomer. “Exactly!”
Adeline sighed. “Maybe you're taking it too literally... She said werewolf, but who knows what that could mean? Do you really think that a creature like... like that would exist? Why would such a thing be a part of this world? Wouldn't someone have found one already?”
The man opened his mouth to argue, but quickly shut it as a loud noise reached them. Everyone was up by now, whether they had been awoken naturally or by the noise. Everyone looked in the direction it had come from, curious. All talk had stopped. It was only now that Adeline really noticed where they were. They stood in the middle of a small market square, surrounded by small shops and houses, and a little village hall. They were in a village. She presumed this was where they were to play the 'game', whether it involved actual werewolves or not.
By this time someone had started to make their way to the house nearest to the source of the sound. A few others trailed after, curious about its source. Adeline stayed where she was, as Annelise and the man started to drift over there as well. The woman in front turned around, waving a hand as she yelled. “There's something in here! It looks like a letter or something. There's a radio of some kind here as well!”
With that, all the assembled started to walk over, while someone went in and retrieved the letter and the radio. A green light flickered on its side, and a quiet static could be heard. Again, Adeline stayed at the back of the group, while they all puzzled over the two objects.
On the front of the letter, it clearly said “Open when Instructed”, but there was currently a debate as to whether they should ignore the words, or obey them. In the middle of a rather heated discussion between Annelise and the man once more, somebody started talking on the radio.
“Sorry about the meeting being cut short.” A voice said. “I'm assuming she managed to tell you how the game works... So we'll start at roles.” There was a pause, as a muffled conversation took place between someone behind the microphone and the person talking to them. “Oh. Alright then, that makes things easier. So I only need to tell you about... the Wolf Cub, the Diseased, the Spellcaster, the Sorcerer and the Martyr. That makes things vaguely easier. Alright. Each of these roles affects... 'gameplay' in some way. The Wolf Cub, if killed during the day, will grant the Werewolf two kills the following night. The Diseased, if killed by the werewolf during the night, will make the werewolf unable to kill the next night. The Spellcaster has the ability to render a vote useless. The Sorcerer is allowed to search for the Seer each night, and finally, the Martyr can take the place of someone who is voted to be killed on a certain day. Some roles are allowed to know who others are, like the Seer and Apprentice, for example.” There was another pause as the person let the information settle in. “Got that?” Another pause. No one spoke. “Well I can't hear you anyway.” They said, cheerfully. “Now, you'll get your roles when you find a house to settle in. A lovely example of this is the letter that someone probably picked up. I suggest no one opens that. Or at least, not until you know that it's your letter. And perhaps I should also mention... the werewolf has already been chosen.”
Adeline took a deep breath, quickly scanning herself for some abnormality where they could have injected her with something. She found nothing. Relief washed over her in a wave, and she took a deep breath. She noticed others around her doing the same.
“Alright, now for a few rules.” Everyone's attention was back on the radio. “Whatever you do, do not leave your house at night. The curfew is 7pm. Well, I mean, you can leave if you want to. Just don't expect to survive if you do. One person per house, unless, like before, you want to get torn to shreds. No matter how many of you there are, the werewolf will always triumph, okay? No point wasting your lives when you could be listening to sounds for who the werewolf is.” There was another pause, this one for longer than the others. “Well, that's all from me. I wish you all good luck, happy werewolf hunting. Oh yeah. The werewolf will change form when they're killed, so you'll know who the werewolf is as soon as their last breath leaves them.” The radio returned to static, leaving the new villagers in silence.
Someone turned around near the front, and started addressing them all. Adeline couldn't see their face. “So, I guess we should find out our roles sooner rather than later.” There was murmured agreement. “Everyone go find a house? We can meet back here in ten minutes or so.” With that, the crowd started to dissipate, as people looked around for houses with letters in them. Adeline herself hurried off down one of the nearby streets, looking back and forth, peering in windows at empty houses. The village itself was quite big, there were a lot of completely empty houses. It took a while for Adeline to find one to call her own. It was a small house, near the edge of the village, where a large forest grew. She walked down the small path, and opened the door. It was unlocked. She stepped inside and, not bothering to take her shoes off, walked over to the low coffee table, and picked up the letter. With a deep breath, she opened it, removing the piece of paper within.
Your role is:
You will replace the Seer if he/she is killed before you.
The Seer’s letter is in:
5 Chapel Alley
Dispose of this letter using fire.
Adeline looked around for a fireplace, or at least somewhere to burn the piece of paper. Her eyes fell on the small wood-stove in the corner. She walked over, opening the door and putting the piece of paper in it. Then, she went through into the kitchen to search for a lighter of some kind. When she had, she returned to the main room and set the paper alight, shutting the door of the stove as she straightened.
She looked around again, taking in her surroundings. It was a small room, with only a few chairs to sit on. She took one, collapsing into it. Adeline sighed, and started to think about what had happened. Her mind had been racing on other things, spurred on by the information they had been presented with. She hadn’t had a chance to sit back and think about everything. Now she had a chance, however, she saw just how bizarre the whole thing was. She had been taken from her home a year or so ago, with no previous warning, nothing to indicate why. She had been left in the facility, to make friends for herself. A few weeks later, Christina had appeared, and the two of them had managed to get along fairly well.
Since then her life had been pretty bland. She hadn’t really dwelled on her situation, merely accepting what came as it came. Now, after such a long time, she had been moved from her previous surroundings and put in a village with a bunch of other people, and told that they were to play a game. She frowned, leaning back, staring at the ceiling. Had they been joking about the werewolf? The woman and the voice at the end of the line had seemed serious. There hadn’t been a hint of any doubt, nothing to suggest that they weren’t telling the complete truth.
Did that mean there was indeed a werewolf? Did that mean that everyone in this village was doomed to die? Or at least, most of them. Adeline sat up, finding herself glancing around once again. She felt restless in this place, like there was someone watching her. The woman had said they were part of a test- did that mean there were cameras set up in the houses? Did that mean they were being monitored? Another thought struck her. Could they escape? Neither the woman nor the voice had specified any form of restriction as to where they could go, neither had said anything about being stuck here. She stood up, once again lost in thought as she started toward the front door, stepping back out into the sunlight. It was about time she headed back to the village center, anyway. It had taken a while to find this house.
She walked back down along the paved path through her modest front garden, this time noticing the flowers blooming around the edges. It had been a while since she had seen flowers. She sighed, finding herself relaxed despite the situation. It couldn’t be a werewolf, she assured herself. They don’t exist.
Adeline made her way back to the square at a leisurely pace, taking her time to examine her surroundings. The village didn’t look at all out of the ordinary. Every house looked well-kept, with beautiful gardens and drives, paint on fences wasn’t faded at all, and most looked like they had been painted the day before. It was strange- almost as though they had been switched with the real inhabitants of the houses. The village itself was nestled in a valley, and on either side large hills rose up from the ground, covered in dark-leafed trees. In the distance, a plane was flying past.
She reached the square in a daydream, only noticing so when Annelise came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. “So what do you think now? You still sure it’s not a real werewolf?”
“What are you talking about? Of course it’s not.” She sighed, stopping as she came to the edge of the group that had begun to gather. Annelise shrugged in reply, pushing through the crowd. Adeline decided this was probably to find someone who believed it was a werewolf. She let herself fade back into her daydream, pondering over how she would live her life now, and how the game would affect their daily life. She was once again interrupted as someone started speaking up front, standing on the small, elevated platform in the centre of the square.
“Hello everyone! I’m called Aeron, and I’m just about as clueless as the rest of you. But hey, someone’s gotta say something, right?” His tone was carefree, his face was bright. Adeline couldn’t help but wonder whether he believed it or not. “I’m guessing everyone has their letters and roles by now, right?” There was a consensus among the assembled. “Okay. Good! I propose we make a schedule of what we do in this place, and figure out what everyone’s going to do. From what I can tell, we’re going to be relying on each other for however long we’re here.” Again, agreement was uttered. “So, without any further ado, shall we start with introductions? If you say where you live and your name?” There was silence, as everyone watched him expectantly. “So, uh, as you know, I’m Aeron Milligan. I ‘live’, I suppose you could say, at number 2, Cotton Street.” He stopped there, “Any volunteers for their introduction?”
Someone raised their hand, and he gestured for them to come up onto the platform, before jumping down himself. The woman who now stood there looked at her feet, averting her eyes whenever someone met her gaze. “I’m Reagan Norman. I live- I live at number 6 Rabbithole Track.” She dipped her head, as though thanking them, before jumping down off the stage.
After a while, the only two to remain were a middle aged woman and Adeline herself. So far they had been introduced to: Kira Lauren; Gretchen Wembley; Cahal O’Hanegan; Giselle Kennedy; Todd Morris; Rouben Keefe; Mervin Fairchild; Edan Carmen; Marija Averill; Cameron Savege (Who had been arguing with Annelise when they first arrived); Emlyn Buckley; Elvin Webster and Elissa September. Along with the other few who had introduced themselves earlier, there was a total of twenty people, including herself and the last person. Adeline had stayed as close to the back of the crowd as possible- she wasn’t particularly keen on introducing her to what was still a bunch of strangers. However, she decided that introducing herself last would make her all the more memorable, and if they were really going to be voting to kill someone each day, then that was something she did not want to be.
She walked up toward the platform, stepping up and smiling in greeting. “Hello everyone. I’m called Adeline Marsden. I live at Number 1, Stony Line.” As she was skimming over the faces, her eyes met the last woman. She tilted her head, raising an eyebrow. After a few moments of blank silence, she understood. This lady had to be the Seer. Adeline returned her attention to the crowd, dipping her head toward them, before stepping down and taking her place at the back as the Seer walked up.
“Greetings, everyone. It’s nice to meet you all.” She paused, glancing toward Adeline again. “My name is Keelan Greer, I currently reside in number 5 Chapel Alley. I hope we all get to know each other well in these next few days, and that we end this experience sooner rather than later.” With that, she made her way to the edge of the platform, stepping down back onto the cobbled square. Adeline lost sight of her as she shuffled into the crowd of people.
Aeron walked back up on the stage, clasping his hands together, smiling again. “So, with introductions out of the way, should we start on some sort of schedule?” Nobody protested. “From what we’ve been told so far, we’ll all need to place a vote at some point during each day. They left it up to us to figure out how it’s going to work. Does anyone have any suggestions?” He stopped, looking around hopefully. Nobody volunteered. Nobody wanted to suggest a method in which people would be selected to be killed in. Aeron sighed, his smile fading momentarily. “No one?” He waited another few moments. “Well, alright then. I suggest we put a voting box somewhere like…” He looked around for a suitable building. His eyes settled on the Village Hall. “Somewhere like there.” He said, pointing toward the doorway. “If the box is open from the hour that the sun rises until 3 in the afternoon, then that gives everyone plenty of time to submit their vote.”
Adeline heard Cameron calling out with a suggestion. “Multiple people should count the votes, that way we make sure there aren’t any unfair changes.”
He was re-payed with a grateful look from Aeron, who smiled, and nodded. “Indeed, and then the final result would be told at four? Then… whoever has to…” He trailed off, his eyes dropping. “You know. We’ll do that within the hour.” He stopped there, and there was silence for a while. Nobody spoke, even the wind seemed to quiet, the birds seemed to stop singing. In the distance, the sun was beginning to drop beneath the distant hills.
They heard a plane drone by, and that seemed to spark the end of the silence. Adeline felt uncomfortable. She was ever-conscious of the approaching dusk. Aeron spoke again after a while. His cheerful tone had returned, and acted as though nothing had just happened. “Alright, on to the next matter. I’m pretty sure everyone here is starting to feel hungry?” There was a mumble of agreement. “We don’t know what we have here, we don’t know if there’s anything in the houses, we don’t know if there’s anything planted. There are probably at least some animals in the forest, so we have that.
“We need to sort out general jobs, people to gather edible plants, people to hunt, people to prepare meals, we need to fulfil all our basic needs before we can move on to making this village our home.” He stopped, looking toward the distant horizon. “But… I suppose this will have to wait until a later time. It seems night is coming, and that means… that means the werewolf will emerge soon. I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t fancy being eaten alive on the first night. Besides, we need to let the Doctor and Seer do their thing, don’t we?” He sighed. Adeline imagined how it must feel, standing up there talking to a fairly quiet audience of strangers.
She heard Annelise as she spoke out. “So we meet back here as soon as the sun is up, right? And see who was attacked? Well, if someone actually is attacked, that is.”
Aeron nodded, stepping down from the platform. “We’ll sort out the rest tomorrow, I guess we’ll have to go hungry for the night…”
The crowd started to spread out, everyone beginning to head back to their own homes. There were a few smaller conversations among some roommates, and Adeline managed to catch a few of these- things such as:
“I wonder if the taps work…” and “I didn’t get to finish my breakfast this morning!” were common thoughts within the group.
Adeline sighed, glancing around and catching a glimpse of the Seer- Keelan- heading off toward her own home. She felt a smile on her face, and walked onward with a slight bounce in her step. Perhaps life in this strange little village would be alright after all? Maybe the ‘Game’ was just a way of releasing them from confinement?