Hide and Seek
Turn out the light,
Let in the fear,
Feel the hot sweat on your skin.
I smile in delight,
Close your eyes, my dear,
And let the game begin…
“It’s merely a game of hide and seek, my friends. If I find you, you lose. Understand?” No one answered him. “Good. Now go, hurry.”
Kitty Bay didn’t understand what was happening. She didn’t understand how she’d come to be enveloped in the compressing darkness, sitting in front of a man who wanted to play children’s games with her. She didn’t understand what he meant when he said ‘lose’, and she was almost certain she had no desire to find out. She listened to the scuttle of feet, the panting of breath, as faceless people retreated deeper into the shadows. Surely they were wondering the same things as she was. Feeling the same gut-wrenching, twisted terror that churned inside her stomach.
“Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. Ready or not, here I come.” The man teased, almost childishly. Kitty scooted across the rough ground, using her heels to push backwards before the man came into contact with her. No matter how terrified she was, she knew that nothing about this was right. And she knew that this game meant so much more.
A beam of light flickered into existence, hitting the ground and roaming the greying floor with precise arcs. Kitty pressed her back against the wall, feeling the chill of it prickle against her skin through the thin garment she wore.
She’d been on her way to a date. She’d met the man on Tinder, and despite her mother bickering about how it would never work, Kitty had still wanted to try. Still wanted to hope, deep down, that love could be found in the most peculiar of places. She’d thought that cutting across the forest would save time. She’d been content, feeling the touch of happiness settle on her after years of bad luck and misfortune.
And then a cloth had smothered her mouth. The fear of that moment was still fresh in her mind, so much so that she could remember the fluctuation in her heartbeat. How it’d pounded against her chest, as if trying to break free. The world around her had faded into a black canvas of nothingness, and she’d remained there until that same man - her kidnapper - had shaken her awake.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are. God, you guys are great at this.” He mumbled, seemingly stifling a chuckle. Kitty was afraid to breathe, just in case he caught the sound and shone the light right onto her springy brown curls and petite, pinched face. “Well, look at this.”
Kitty didn’t know what he was looking at, and nor did she want to. She got onto her hands and knees and began crawling forward, the movement sending a dull ache skittering up her thighs. She kicked off her heels, feeling along the walls in case there was a door.
A man screamed, so stridently that Kitty froze in her place. His shriek was abruptly cut off, and Kitty was sure she could recognise the trickle of something liquid. Her chest constricted at the thought of what had happened, tears burning her cheeks as they silently splashed onto the ground, forming a puddle of despair and false hope. She heard the unseen killer tut, and without thinking she picked up her pace, feeling the edges of desperation begin to poison her fragile heart. She knew that if she let her fear consume her she would meet the same fate.
This was a game.
And games could be won.
She breathed in and out heavily, taking in confidence and letting out dread. She slowed herself, making her movements lighter and her presence less and less noticeable. She didn’t know how many people were there too, trapped within a nightmare that was almost too ridiculous to be happening.
But even Kitty’s rabid mind couldn’t dream up something like this. This was all too real.
Kitty leaned on her wrists, attempting to take the pressure off her palms. By doing so, the charms of her bracelet clinked against each other, creating a sound so small yet so clear that she felt her determination shatter. She watched the torchlight turn towards her, landing perfectly on her ashen features.
“Well, hello there.” The monster dressed like a man greeted, trying to mitigate what was to come for her. She could hear the sadistic smile in his tone. She could feel his beatific gaze running the length of her body, turning her heart to stone. “Looks like I’ve found you.”
Kitty scampered to her feet, the after-effects of the chloroform making her stagger. She ran forward, feeling a rush of vulpinus energy flooding her veins. She wanted to live. Wanted to fall in love and get married and have a child. She was twenty-seven, in the prime of her life.
And she was going to die.
The man stepped forward apoplectically, slamming his boot down and making her flinch. He picked her up and threw her across the length of the room, as if she weighed next to nothing. Her body flopped to the ground, rolling across the floor. Her arm folded under her body, and she felt a scalding pain as one of her fingers was bent so far back that the bone snapped beneath her skin. Perspiration lined her back and chest, and she couldn’t stop herself from howling in agony. The man stalked towards her, his face still nothing more than a mask of shadow.
“I found you, so you lose.” He berated, his breaths seemingly strained. “You know what I hate most?” Kitty knew the word that rested on his tongue before it slipped from his lips. “Cheaters.” He raised his foot and sent it rushing downwards, crushing her head against the ground. Kitty’s vision became a deep crimson as pure torment became the centre of her being. In that moment, anything and everything was the pain that blinded her, and the truth that marked her fate.
She was going to die.
Kitty felt his clammy hands on her body, lifting her and shoving her limp form against the wall. His fetid breath tickled her blood-soaked cheeks, and she knew that he was squatted in front of her. He placed his palms either side of her head, feeling his fingertips dig into her temples in a callous manner.
“Please…” Kitty blubbered, tasting the metallic substance on her lips.
The man-shaped monster twisted her head to the side in one swift motion, snapping her neck with disturbing ease.
He got up from his position, wiped his hands together casually, and then turned to find the rest of them. He loved the game for numerous reasons, but one always stood out against all others.
He never, ever lost.