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Project: Phantasma

By John Ghost All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Horror

Blurb

Following his recent breakup, Gabriel Sherwood is in no spirits to compete in an international robotics competition, yet his allegiance to his team draws him out nonetheless. Housed in a not so modern shopping mall, all is not what it seems at the robotics convention, as a myriad of all manner of characters begins to present itself to Gabriel and his colleagues and events quickly take a turn for the macabre. With people going missing, doors locking themselves and the body count rising Gabriel will have to do anything in his power to lead himself and his friends to safety. But the very idea of reality will be twisted and turned around Gabriel's mind...

I. Know Your Anime

“Where is she?” Gabriel asked to any familiar face he ran into.

Sweaty in his school uniform, he has been running all around the campus looking for Danielle, his “girlfriend.” They agreed to settle yet another misunderstanding in the school parking lot, but there was no sign of her, 15 minutes since their appointed time. Gab’s robotics team was packing their things up for an international competition happening in 2 days. His big buddy Ken and the bouncy-haired Vincent agreed to do the packing for him, all for the sake of resolving a problem that makes Advanced Algebra feel like looking for a fuccboi in your school. (I-It’s uh... It’s pronounced “foosh-bwa,” kids. Trust me.)

His map had only one destination left undiscovered which is the third floor, the same floor where the haunted comfort room (that seems to be in every school) is. He shifted to walking and eased his breathing, pulled out his handkerchief and wiped the sweat off his face. The rooms had few people in them, probably students cooling down by the wall fan in their vacant period. They’re too occupied to take a look at the person walking by who was scanning each room as his hanky traveled across his head.

Finally, he reached room 309. Danielle’s voice could be heard followed by a heterogeneous mixture of male and female giggling. He scanned the room and found a blonde with curly hair at the front and straightened hair on the majority. This rebonded mess made her less appealing he thought, but something else totally scrapped off what little appeal had been left: the presence of a slick-haired dude with a long chin who was way beyond the personal-space zone.

Danielle’s flirting with Ivan again, in spite of having a boyfriend. She called it “being friendly.” Gab called it “The Just Friends Effect.”

The Just Friends Effect is the name for the phenomenon wherein two individuals engage in flirtatious gestures and know deep inside that something is going on one way or another but deny it in forms of very sure-sounding words like “just friends,” hence the name.

“This isn’t what you think it is,” Elle said defensively as she stood up, raising her two hands up to chest level. Her face had guilt written all over it, and a mustache drawn under the nose, if you will.

“Uhh, yeah dude,” Ivan followed up. “We were just—like—talking.”

Gab shoved his hands inside his pockets, looking half-pissed and half-amused. The kind of look your dad gives you when he catches you going through his hidden magazines, if ever your father showed up at all anyway.

“Of course you two are. Talking inside a classroom. Alone together.” He raised his two hands towards chest level, mocking Elle and making a face like that of the Badass meme. “Oooh oxymoron power.”

“This is not happening,” Elle said as she cried and covered her face with her two hands, muffling her voice a little. “I’m sorry! I totally forgot about-”

“I’m sorry, too,” Gab interrupted, raising his right hand. “I totally forgot the reason why I loved you in the first place. One does not need to study proxemics to understand the situation.”

Elle inched towards Gab, but he stepped back and gave her a disgusted look. She wiped what apparently looked like tears from her innocent eyes. “Gab, please. This is an important day and you’re letting your paranoia ruin it. Can’t we just talk about this outside… And spend these few moments together before you go?”

“I’m not planning to ignore any more of your shit, Elle. That bucketload of shit I tried to ignore is still lurking inside this toilet bowl,” he replied, pointing at his head. “I’ve had enough of your legendary Pokémon logic.”

“Legendary Pokémon logic?” Ivan butted in, tilting his head and cocking an eyebrow.

“I’ve spent 30 minutes of my life trying to catch you but all you do is break free. I’m sick of this. We’re through.” Gab replied in a straight face as he walks away coolly.

“Goodbye, Agumon!” Ivan wittingly said, laughing.

Gab’s head peeks on the corner of the door frame with a rather amused face. “Agumon is from Digimon, you dumb assface.” He then disappears completely.

“I should’ve said Pikachu. Everybody loves Pikachu,” Ivan muttered.

Elle dove to her knees in opera fashion as Ivan grabbed things other than opportunity to comfort her.

Gab found his way to the haunted comfort room. He leaned on the sink with his arms and faced away from the moron in the mirror. He’s trying hard not to show he’s affected, as he felt conscious of what people might say if they see him grumpy. He’s the type of guy who doesn’t really get upset with things other than a really good video game getting cancelled, or having a girlfriend who might as well be a standup comedian for her high quality entertainment towards everyone. It has been a long time ever since he started wanting to break up with her, but her delaying game is so strong that if she held back a zombie horde for you, you and your squad would have travelled the Earth twice and the horde probably moved back four inches.

A year wasted.

At the time when they showed no more love and let pride set them apart, he developed a deep infatuation with a lower year. This was already a heinous crime for Elle. Her obvious, unreasonable actions however, were left ignored. That’s the way she plays. When the boy does something bad, make him wish his father had vasectomy 9 months before his birth date. It was inevitable, but she wanted to keep the relationship.

He perfectly remembered what Elle used to say: “I don’t think I’ll ever love again after you.”

Yeah, right, he thought, smiling faintly. I bet not even a month has passed, you’ll be happily bragging about this new guy willing to make out with you.

He laughed at his thoughts and washed his face, trying to wash away sweat and all the dirty things he just thought of. Not like anything can be fixed right now, let alone just washing his face. He dried off with his hanky that now can be confused with a dishrag, fixed his wavy hair and tried to look serious. He wouldn’t want to walk around with a face that will look like a billboard saying “I have problems greater than you right now. Guess whose fault it is.”

That’s going to be Elle’s face later on, he predicted, like she always did… Something she’s so good at, like the line on Mayday Parade’s song, Black Cat:

This jealous actress has a habit, making things sound way too tragic.

With the engine revving audibly, Gab hopped on and sat beside Vincent at the backmost part. At the other end is Ken, who asked Gab without looking into his eyes. “So, how did it go?”

“Fine.” Gab replied with an unnaturally calm face that turned into a smile.

Vincent knew that Gab was lying. He just let the thought be and smiled. The wheels started rolling. They maximized the air conditioning and relaxed as they readied for the 7-hour trip to the airport, where their private plane was waiting. They’ll be sharing it with the other Philippine Robotics Team members for the International Robot League. It will be held in the town-turning-to-city named Silvercrest, a remote area that has a vintage theme like that of Vigan, but the venue will be inside the newly built, out-of-place mall called The Genesis.

I mean like, yeah I know right? Why the fuck would you build a mall in the middle of a place of vintage culture? Neoliberalist assho—ahem. Sorry.

Gab plugged in his earphones and covered his face with his now moist hanky, like he always did. Van-smell might vary, but any air freshener smelled like a better-smelling fart for his tall-bridged nose. He listened to his playlist studded with All Time Low and Mayday Parade, two bands he boasted as artists who fill their 3-minute .mp3 files with meaning, unlike “beat-and-fame-focused shit that’s been on mainstream lately,” so he says.

He was an elitist. He never admitted it but proving things and criticizing others made him feel better about himself. He knew he didn’t have anything else he could boast about, so he boasted about things he didn’t make.

The cool temperature lulled them to sleep, including their coach Severino Solt who was on shotgun seat. Gab was awake a little longer as each line started to seem exactly like the story of his life.

If you believe that everything’s alright, you won’t be all alone tonight. -Stay, Mayday Parade

Suddenly he thought, If you aren’t alone tonight when you know you are, then who are you with?

And he was awake 30 minutes more just because of that random thought, not realizing that hours from now, he will be having a staring contest with a girl with bleeding eyes, a corridor chase from a huge man with a butcher knife, a man in a straitjacket that can crawl on walls, an encounter with a blind man with a gun in a closed room and clown on a wheelchair faster than your local pizza delivery guy.

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