Enter the Mze
"Oh man!" I chuckled. The girl in the video sounded like a bug hitting a windshield when she hit that back wall. She almost exploded like one too. The screen blacked as the video ended with the sound of her leftover pieces hitting the floor.
"Last year's Games really were the best." Erik was my new 'bff' as he put it. He'd been my first friend here at university and that had made us inseparable. From the day we met we spent every weekend watching a marathon of horror movies and ghost TV shows. In three years we'd never missed a weekend, not even the summer or winter holidays had cut the visits short. It had been during one of the first weekends when Erik introduced me to a new Internet sensation, the Games. I'd thought it was going to be another one of those silly flash animations like 'Salad Fingers' or something. I was wrong. It was more like 'Saw' on steroids.
Officially the videos are called Death Maze but the fans had decided the name was far too lame for the content and re-named it The Vampire Games or the Games for short. It's sort of fitting in a sick way. They're like the Olympic Games of gore. Basically they're nothing more than a series of videos put up over the span of a weekend, sometimes longer, following a group of people trying to make their way through a deadly maze. They always have these amazing no name actors and they roll the credits like a funeral list. It was morbid and horrifying and I looked forward to it like a kid looks forward to Christmas.
"Mmm?" I didn't look up at my name, I was too busy hunting for the next video to watch.
"I know we're in the middle of the countdown for this year's Games but I just realize I forgot some stuff at my house. I just need to run home to get 'em."
I tried not to pout as I turned to face my friend. In all this time we'd never once interrupted a marathon or countdown for anything longer than a bathroom break or a short nap. He'd finished exams last week and moved back home. That meant over an hour of driving to get there and back. Plus this year the Games were being hosted 'live' which meant one long continuous video with no rewind capabilities. With all that in mind I fought with a whine that threatened to escape. "Sure. Take my key so you can let yourself in. Unless you wanted company for the drive?"
"No, it’s okay. I'll drive faster on my own." Erik snagged the key from my fingers. Something in his manner seemed off. What was that uncertainty that flashed in his eyes? It passed so quickly I wasn't sure I'd really seen it.
I shrugged it off mentally. "Be back before the Games start. Don't make me kick your ass for missing it."
"Thanks but I'll be quick." I craned my neck as Erik stood to leave, throwing him my best 'how could you' glare. "So long Rosie, see you soon." His lips brushed my hair, hesitating a moment as if he wanted nothing more than to stay here. By the next heartbeat he was out the door before I had a chance to say anything.
With a sigh I started up another video, this one was a guy crawling through something with spikes piercing the tunnel behind him. With every set of spikes that emerged, the distance between them and the victim decreased. He wasn't fast enough and they caught him, snaring him just as the exit was within arm's reach. A shiver ran through me as the camera focused on his unmoving form before cutting off. Sometimes it was too realistic even for gore hounds like me. I would never confess it to Erik but every so often their screams sent a shot of fear through me.
I started up another video but my heart wasn't in it this time. I had to cure my fidgeting. I stood, stretching my stiff muscles. Maybe a break from this room would help. I should have gone with Erik for a drive, give myself a chance to calm my nerves. Instead I would have to make do with a short walk to the bathroom. The unease that had been gnawing at my stomach didn't lift as I hoped it would when I splashed my face with the coldest water I could stand. I couldn't pinpoint the source of my goose bumps but I ended up just chalking it up to watching one too many horror movies alone.
It hit me as I made my way through my dorm's corridors. The silence. It was nine o'clock on a Friday night in a busy university dorm. There was no way it should be this quiet. Where were all the shrieks and yells of young girls getting ready to party? This floor had always been a loud bunch and the sudden absence of sound made my skin crawl. When was the last time I heard them, an hour ago? More than that? I couldn't remember Erik was the last person I remembered making any noise at all. Something was definitely not right.
"It's probably nothing." The sound of my voice fell flat, failing to reassure me. The unwelcome silence answered and I couldn't make my feet move fast enough as I sprinted to my room. The sound of my lock clicking in place behind me was almost as eerie as the unwanted quiet. Leaping onto my tiny bed I wrapped my covers around me like a cocoon. My breathing, though still shaky, still slowed and my body began to relax. My imagination was running away with me. Pulling the comforter over my face, my eyelids fluttered closed. I would just wait right here like this until Erik got back, save scaring myself silly for when he was around to calm me down. Finally my pulse stopped racing and a sigh escaped my lips. With my ears covered it was easy to pretend that the muffled silence was normal.
I didn't realize that sleep had taken me until my eyes jerked themselves open. Still in a haze I freed myself from my blankets and hunted for the noise that woke me. A frown formed on my lips as Erik's absence registered. Shouldn't he have been back by now? What time was it anyway? It took another moment for me to realize my room was bare. It was completely empty. Everything was gone. My computer, my clock, even my clothes, all of it was gone. A trembling set in as I swung my feet over the side of the bed. What the hell happened? I'd locked my door I had heard it. The light above me flickered and gave out. Light from the hallway illuminated my room through an open door. I reached for a flashlight that wasn't there anymore. There was no way I could stay in darkness.
How long I stood there, staring into the hallway, I don't know. Numb I finally stepped forward leaving the confines of my room. The buzzing of fluorescent lights interrupted the silence that had continued to haunt the halls. Half of them had already died and the rest were flickering like fireflies. The shadow they cast raised the hair along my arms I tried to figure out what was going on here. A sloppily painted arrow pointed me towards the second set of stairs, the first were lost in darkness. My legs marched me forward without my permission, following the signs that had been left for me.
"Hello?" my voice cracked as it tentatively hit the air. Clearing my throat to try again my voice gained volume. "Hello? Is anyone there?" This time my words echoed as a response. The stairwell was close enough to catch the sound. "Hel…" I clamped my hands over my mouth. I'd seen enough scary movies to know making noise was the worst possible idea in situations like this. Not these kinds of situations were even supposed to exist. Still, I kept my mouth shut. It was bad enough that I was already following the damned arrows.
The stairwell had even dimmer lighting than the hallway, stairs masked in inky shadows. My dry throat tried to swallow but it found nothing but air. My body shocked as I reached for the handrail. The cold metal bit my palm and I winced. Even with the cold I couldn't afford to let go, I didn't trust myself not to fall down the steps. Down was the way to go another arrow marked my path. Time crawled and ages passed before I managed to descend the first flight. Every step was harder to take than the last. I almost froze completely at that first landing, giving up. I'm not sure how I managed to get myself going again.
The markings lead me straight to the basement and I took a moment just to breath. I'd actually fallen down the last few steps when my footing gave way. Oddly enough the sting of the fall dragged me out of my trance. Pain meant this wasn't just some fucked up nightmare. Of course this realization brought a fresh wave of fear with it. Fighting the urge to hyperventilate I forced myself to take in my surroundings.
All of the lights had burned out, the emergency lighting barely denting the darkness around them. Light from somewhere around the corner illuminated another arrow pointing to its source. A few cautious steps toward it brought something new to my ears. Voices. Loud and agitated voices. It took all I had not to run towards them. After all what if they were the ones behind this? I paused at the corner, hugging the wall like some sort of spy in a movie. Maybe if I could hear what they were saying? It was no use they were too muffled. I don't know how long I stood there before my curiosity took over.
The new hallway was empty of people, the voices emanating from behind one of the doors on the right. Light spilled out of the small study room's window. Creeping my way closer I strained to hear words within the shouts.
"Where the fuck are we?" A male's voice cut through the air, making me jump. "Is this some sort of stupid joke?"
"Calm down." Another guy, this one sounded less angry. "We won't get answers if you scream at everyone."
"Who the fuck are you, telling me what I can and can't do?"
The first speaker ranted on for a few more minutes before he fell silent. From the sound of things they were as confused as I was, though that could be just and act. Great. Well at least in a group I was more likely to get some answers. Taking a deep breath to procrastinate I finally reached out and turned the doorknob.
"Who the hell is this?" It was the first speaker again. He was a big guy with muscles rippling under his t-shirt. Not someone I would want to cross. Unfortunately it seemed I already had since I wasn't given a chance to respond. He pulled me into the room and pushed me up against the wall. "What the fuck are we doing here?"
Keeping still was a struggle with all the adrenaline pumping through my veins. "I don't know!" The words were nothing more than a cough as he crushed my windpipe. My world started to get hazy around the edges.
"Jesus fuck, let her go!" I was vaguely aware of the second speaker something to my aid as the darkness closed in around my eyes.
I hit the floor hard, my body was on its way to becoming one massive bruise. Sweet air rushed in, expanding my lungs painfully. A fit of coughs racked through me when a hand was pushed into my view.
"Here, let me help you."
"Thanks." A crackling pulled our attention as speaker number two lifted me to my feet. My breath caught in my throat once more when my gaze rested upon a P.A. It had supplied the static. There were no P.A.s in my dorm's basement and it looked newly installed.
"Good evening and welcome to the Death Maze." The oily voice was smooth but it left shivers down my spine. Someone whimpered but the voice interrupted. "There are six of you in this year's maze and we finally ready to start. Two of you are already in the maze, the rest are at the starting gate. You have five hours to make your way to the exit or you will be automatically eliminated. The only rule is that only one may survive. Try to keep things exciting, good luck."
The silence that preceded the announcement lasted for a long moment before an explosion of sound.
"What the fuck!" My assailant's voice was the loudest but his thoughts matched my own. All I wanted to do was scream until my voice gave out and then scream some more. Instead I bit down on my lip trying to make sense of things. Death Maze was just a series of gore filled videos it wasn't real. It couldn't be real. This had to be a joke. Except, hadn't it always seemed too real?
"Oh my god." Pain flared in my elbow, I'd fallen into a stray chair. A metallic taste flooded my mouth; I'd drawn blood when I bit my lip.
"What?" Muscles started toward me only to be cut off by speaker two. "What is it?"
"We're in the games." Their eyes stared blankly at me. "We're all going to die."
"What?!" This time it was a girl who spoke, one I hadn't noticed before now. "What do you mean?"
"She means we are trapped in a deadly maze and we're all going to die in it." The helpful guy's face was as hollow as his tone. I wasn't the only one here who had sent he videos.
"We need to get moving." I cut Muscles off before he could finish his temper tantrum. In the past those who lingered at the start for too long were usually poisoned or something after an hour.
"I'm not going anywhere with you." The asshole was trying to make himself the biggest obstacle
here. Well, screw that.
"I don't care what you do but I don't want to die here so I'm going." My eyes hunted for the next arrow as I tried not to think about where I would die, Spikes? Chemical gas? There were infinite possibilities and none of them ended happily. There! The next to a row of desks stood a door I'd never seen before It sat there, taunting me, the red paint of the arrow dripping like blood. I took just one step when something hit my chest.
"You aren't going anywhere bitch."
"Yes I am. You stay here and die for all I care. I'm getting out of here." My words were brave but inside I was screaming. The chances of any of us making it through the maze were less than
"Back off." The nice guy put himself between Muscles and I for a second time. The jackass looked like he wanted to say something but decided against it. He stormed ahead of us all, pushing open the door with unnecessary force. I nearly dove behind a chair, sometimes the first door would be trapped to make things interesting from the get go. He lumbered through totally unaware of the very real danger ahead. With his attitude, the maze would claim him soon.
I let a few minutes pass before I finally started for the door again. There was no way I wanted to be behind the asshole would probably trip every trap in his path. Still I couldn't linger long. Only five hours to find the exit. Great. Nice guy let me pass him but started to follow. Good, he knew the rules of the maze, knew its realities.
"Wait." The shake voice belonged to the other girl. "Can I, can I come with you?"
"Yeah." No point in reminding her that only one of us could make it, even if we did find the exit.
"Thanks." Her eyes looked lost, as if she couldn't figure out why she hadn't woken up from her
nightmare yet. There was no waking up.
"I'm Rose." No point in being rude, these were our last hours.
"I'm Zane." Nice guy added his name to our list. I just turned back to the open door. There was no point getting attached, we were all going to watch each other die. With that out of the way, we entered the maze.