All of the blood in my body froze at the sound of the unknown voice. How does he know his name!? Stages!? Who is saying that!? I carefully examine the walls, the ceiling, the corners, everywhere, looking for the source of the noise but come up with nothing.
“Oh I’m sorry, where are my manners? I am your...guide. Do as I say and you could possibly move up to the next stage and live to see another day. If you don’t, well, have fun trying to survive,” the voice was deep and strong. I assume he is watching us through something that will allow us to talk back. I give my group a look-see and am instantly reminded of the myth of Medusa and her statues; my friends are standing petrified in their places.
“How many cameras are there?” I ask knowing that was the only possible way he could spy on us.
“At least three in every room. I have to admit, I’m shocked that’s the first question you bothered to ask me. I thought you would have questioned whether or not your new haircut looks good on you. The answer is no, of course.”
“What do you want from us? What do you mean by stages?” I couldn’t help myself from blurting out those questions.
“There is something beautiful in watching people slowly turning against each other to let their animalistic survival instincts take over. I find it fascinating,” the voice coldly coos, sending chills up my spine. A pause follows before he goes on to say, “You five seem to be turning faster than normal, yet you're all still alive. I like that. It gets rather boring when the whole group dies right away. But enough talk. You seem to be a very smart girl, I'm confident you will figure it out."
A light flicks on across the previous room, to the right of the obstacle course we rushed through. Jack snaps out of his shock and screams at the top of his lungs, "Is this some kind of joke!?"
I focus on the light.
You’ll figure it out, he said.
I am the first to run. When the others take notice, they all follow, lagging behind me.
"You know, I'm pretty sure running towards the light is never a smart thing to do, Ken," Carter remarks. I reach the source of light, which is a lamp at the entrance of a ball pit, half filled with multicoloured plastic balls, and who knows what else.
Ashton walks up to the lip of the pit, deciding which way we should go to get to the other side faster. The pit is very deep but relatively small in width and length. How could this be a stage in some twisted game? I survey the long wall facing us thirty meters away and notice a door. It’s chained shut.
I stare into the pit again.
"They hid a padlock cutter or maybe a key in here somewhere. We have to find it," I announce with certainty.
"How do you figure?" Mel questions.
Ashton follows the path my eyes just took to find the door, and nods in agreement. "Look over there,” he points to the chains, “That’s out way out. The faster we find these cutters or a key the faster we get out of this place.” He lowers himself down and over the edge into the ball pit and begins to carefully walk around. I join him, and the others follow.
Without saying much, we all sort of decide what sections we will look through, my section being the far left next to Carter and his section. The plastic, colourful balls are more dense over here, giving Carter and I the most to go through. After about ten minutes, doubt seeps in.
“Hey guys, I think I found something,” Carter calls out while reaching down, instantly giving us hope. He pulls up red painted, metal cutters. But his hand isn’t the only one holding them.
“CARTER RUN!” I warn while running towards Carter as the hand lets go and instead seizes his legs.
"KEN GRAB THE CUTTERS!" I grab the cutters from his hands as he continues to struggle against the four arms grabbing at his legs. Wait, four!? Two bodies emerge from underneath the blanket of plastic and tackle Carter down. I back up. I have no idea what to do, how to help! I'm only partially aware Ashton, Jack and Mel are shrieking something. Through the chaos I hear ‘run’ and ‘get away’.
But I can't abandon Carter. I raise the metal scissors and slam the pointed ends into one of the bodies. A blood curdling, female scream pours out of one of the attackers.
Everything is in slow motion now. I’m trembling, and stumbling backwards. The woman I hit is advancing towards me. Carter is shouting for me to run. I see a flash of metal behind Carter, then crimson flying everywhere. It’s blood. A lot of blood. The sound of metal repeatedly slamming against bone echoes in my ears. Blood splatters across my face. The woman is close, a metal pipe held in her hand. I panic and swing the cutters, slashing her across her neck. She falls at my feet. I look up and find Carter’s pale, lifeless face is lying on top of red stained plastic balls. His attacker stands behind him, wielding a lead pipe dipping in his blood. Ashton comes up from behind me and throws me over his shoulder while Jack grabs the cutters. Time speeds up again as Ashton carries me out of the ball pit and to the chained door. Jack breaks the lock off and all of us spill into the room.