7: Chilled to the Bone
America and England stood in the darkened hallway. Their third companion had vanished from sight. England knelt down and lifted the cloak in his hands. So many times he had criticised France for wearing it, but the agonised sounds of his dying cries outside rung in his mind chillingly. Never again would he scoff at the very sight of France. What had happened to France told very possibly the same fate Italy had met. It was very likely that it was Belarus, and that she had dragged France away with her in her crazed pursuit to find Russia.
He stood and hung France’s memorial on the door handle. America picked something up off the floor.
“I suppose this is what he wanted to show us,” he commented bleakly, holding one of Ukraine’s bras.
Both of them considered it for a moment, before deciding to hide it under France’s cloak on the door. France’s last moments were spent ogling a woman’s undergarments. England couldn't help but pity the fool.
“What do we do now?” America asked, as they stood lost in the hallways.
“Going back won’t help us,” England checked his watch to see it was around twenty to nine. “We’d have to wait over an hour in plain view until all the others arrived. I think our best option is to keep going. Maybe Belarus’s room will have something that will pinpoint us in the right direction?”
America appeared alarmed. “Do you really want to go anywhere near there?”
“We have to,” England said with a new resolution.
They left the remains of their friend and progressed further down the hallway. It was America who knew the direction, as he had borne witness the devastating effects of Belarus’s obsessive personality. Without hesitating, he opened the door to her room.
The lamp remained on, its soft purple light filling the room. Belarus was not present, and her book had been moved to her bed table. England cautiously walked into the room. It smelt of girl, the faint aroma of perfume. It was weird to think such an abnormal person could have such a normal room. He ambled around, glancing at her belongings. There was a family photo with Ukraine cut out, making it just her and Russia. A little shelf showed a row of books all with Russian and Belarusian covers. She had a little snow globe that still had a little card on it that read “Merry Christmas. Russia.”
How impersonal, England thought, setting it aside and thinking of the educational classical literature books he often sent to Sealand each year for his birthday with a personal note displaying necessary family affection in the front. Thinking about it, he never got anything back... Then again, Sealand was absorbed in his own childish imagination, and could be extremely inconsiderate... Not that he cared...
“Hey, she keeps one of those photo books,” America commented from the other side of the room. “I'm always one for nostalgia and sentiment.”
He flicked it open and started flipping through the pages. England left him to idly doing that, whilst he checked under the bed, only to find a strange, black box. Cautiously he pulled it out, and saw it had a strange padlock to keep it closed. He picked the lock and opened the lid, seeing what looked like a diary inside. England dared to open the diary to see if it was recent, only to find it was. He looked at the current entry.
Russia and his nasty friends played a terrible trick on me. He was dared to kiss me, and although I knew he desired to do so, he was clearly embarrassed to do it in front of the company of others – especially the baguette and the hamburger. But I forgive Russia, because Russia is the only one for me.
The book is still taking me a while to read. It’s a little boring (and I mean really boring), but Ukraine told me it was one of Russia’s favourites, so I'm really trying to plough through it…
Awkwardly, he snapped the diary shut and placed it back inside the box. He closed the lid, and pushed it back under the bed. She would only know someone had opened it at the end of the next day, which was a full twenty-four hours. He doubted he would still be around by then... He stood just as America started sputtering with concealed laughter.
“What’s wrong with you?” he hissed impatiently.
“This girl is such a freak,” he turned the book round to reveal pictures of Russia, fast asleep and unaware of the presence of someone taking photos of him.
If she wasn't his sister, England would almost pity her strange approach to attempting to get Russia’s attention… America closed the photo book and set it aside once more. They both checked the bathroom, but there was nothing of importance there.
“Guess she hides her tracks pretty well,” America sighed. “We have no evidence against her.”
“We’ll just have to keep looking around,” England said. “There’s a lot more of the house we need to look through, and it’s not like we've explored the ground floor either.”
“How many floors are there?” America asked as they left Belarus’s room, closing the door behind them.
“Two – I think,” England muttered, and they continued their journey down the darkened hallways as the time ticked on.
Germany was sure he had heard screaming in some distant part of the house. His body had gone tense at the sound, and his companion’s expressions hadn't been as relaxed as earlier. China was still on edge, staying close to Japan and glancing over his shoulder. The way he was already using him as a meat shield was somewhat disturbing in Germany’s opinion.
“What do you think that was?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I am not going anywhere near that,” China trembled. “My life is way too valuable to sacrifice, aru.”
“And mine isn't?” Japan glanced at him.
“I didn't mean it like that, aru,” China said doubtfully, but he still didn't move away.
“I say we go,” Germany declared. “The other three sound in danger. The more of us there are, the more likely we are to take down our enemies.”
Through an overall majority, China was outvoted, and the three of them turned direction and progressed towards the sounds of danger, rather than away. It was with foreboding hearts that a particular member of the group walked unaware of their own fate.
Russia was cowered down in the corner of a room, having crammed himself underneath a table and turned off all lights. He was pretending to not exist, because he had heard some very horrible screams not far from where he had been walking, and since Lithuania had vanished, he was completely alone and unsure of what to do with himself. After the dreadful sounds of dying, Russia had heard the all too familiar voice of Belarus searching for him. It had become too much at that point, and hiding had been his only option. Other than that, he didn't exactly know what to do with himself. The world had been plunged into silence, and the quiet was suffocating him.
Russia blocked his ears and put his head in between his knees, trying to drown out the world around him.
England and America had been opening doors and finding nothing, and it came to a point where the searching process seemed repetitive and worthless. As they were walking along, England noticed a square outline on the ceiling, noticeable compared to the flat, light coloured ceiling. His eyes widened as he realised what it was.
“That’s a loft,” he stated, drawing America’s attention to the square.
“Russia has a loft?” America frowned.
“Yes – it could be the location where Italy and France were taken,” England pointed upwards. “We just need a ladder…”
“Where can we find a ladder?” America pondered.
“Oh, I don’t know,” England rolled his eyes. “The garage, perhaps?”
“Good point, but does Russia have a garage?” America neared the closest window and looked outside. “Besides, his garage will be outside. I doubt we’ll be able to get to it.”
“Unless it’s attached to the house,” England mused. “Some garages tend to be.”
“That’s true,” America said. “I guess we should be looking for the pantry then, or the kitchen.”
“I assume those would be close to the dining room,” England said. “That means we should return to the east wing.”
“Good idea,” America said.
The two of them made a silent mental note of how they reached this area, and then preceded to walk back in the direction from whence they’d come. America was invigorated by new life and enthusiasm after the disappearance of France. However, a nagging feeling in the back of England’s head told him that something terribly wrong was happening.
Japan, who was walking a few paces behind Germany, was aware of how close China insisted on standing next to him. In his opinion, people had decided to play on the element of horror and use it as an excuse to invade his personal space. He disliked it greatly, but felt too uncomfortable to blurt out anything that could offend them. Instead, he had to silently endure what he hated most.
“We have an hour left,” Germany noted as they walked swiftly down the corridor. “Although, we may meet them anyway.”
As they were passing by the kitchen, movement caught Japan’s attention. He paused and saw that all candles had been blown out, the dining room blackened inside, where nothing could be seen.
“Someone’s in there,” he stated, and they all looked towards the dark room.
“Let’s go, aru,” China panicked. “I don’t want to die. I'm happy being alive. Don’t make me die with you two, aru.”
Germany stormed into the dining room and turned on the main lights. Japan looked in as well, only to see it was empty. Strange, considering the light of the candle had just gone out. There was a moment’s pause before Japan noticed what looked like a door behind the curtains.
“Look at this, you two,” he murmured, opening a little door that led into what looked like a hallway.
He ducked under, and fit himself into a narrow tunnel that was dimly lit. He saw a glimpse of movement at the end of it, disappearing around a corner. He sucked in a breath. Whoever that was at the end of the tunnel was the one who had taken Italy.
He darted forwards, hearing the footsteps of his allies behind him. The tunnel was small and confined, even for him, and something you’d expect only a child to comfortably travel through. Never the less, Japan pressed further, turning the corner and seeing a door at the end of the tunnel.
He hesitated a moment, hearing the soft breathing of either China or Germany behind him.
“I saw someone go down this tunnel,” he explained, walking forwards, eyes trained on the door. “I bet this is where the attacker’s been hiding.”
He had slowed his pace to remain quiet. The attacker would be in that very room. He approached slowly, then closed his hand around the door knob. He inhaled deeply, nervous as to who would be on the other side.
With one movement, he flung the door wide open. It was completely dark inside, and very cold. A strip of light revealed that the room was, strangely, empty. Rusted hooks hung from the ceiling. Japan wondered what kind of room this was.
Suddenly, hands planted firmly on his back and shoved him through the doorway. He fell to his knees and the door slammed shut behind him. With great agility, Japan leapt to his feet and grabbed the handle, but a tell-tale click told him he was locked in. His hands were clammy, and he turned around. It was utterly silent.
“Hello?” he called out as loud as he could, sweat breaking out on his palms and forehead. “Is anybody there?”
He received no answer. Japan was alone. It only just occurred to him that, when going down the tunnel, it had never been China or Germany behind him. His skin prickled at the thought of the attacker breathing down his neck the entire time without him realising, right behind him, luring him into this deadly trap.
Germany paused in the corridor, after hearing only one set of feet behind him. He turned and saw China staring at him, bored but tense. There was no sign of Japan.
“Where’s Japan?” he asked worriedly.
“Right here, aru,” China jerked a thumb over his shoulder at thin air, but only checked over his shoulder from the fearful look in Germany’s eyes. “Oh, shit.”
Turning, the pair of them raced all the way back to the dining room. Germany found the core lights and slammed his fist against them in rage and panic. The lights shot on – and the room was empty.