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The Capricorn House

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Thirteen teens are locked in a house and told by their kidnapper that they'll be set free is if their numbers shrink. When they start killing each other off, it's up to Virginia to solve the murders.

Mystery / Horror
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

I was only fourteen when I woke up in that place. It was cold, dark, and completely foreign to me. Everything was new, as little as it was, and I couldn’t make out a single thing in the darkness, other than the general things such as a floor, walls and so on. It was quite smaller than the average room and my knees dug into my chest. I was never one for tight spaces so, as soon as I was entirely awake, I began shaking erratically from side to side and causing loud metal thumps to sound throughout the box, but it wouldn’t tip or give to the side.

“Hello? Is someone there?” someone asked in a weak voice.

“Yea, who are you? Where am I?” another voice called out. This one sounded much stronger than the last and was accompanied by two steady thumps against a metallic surface. “Let me out of this damn thing!” More thumps sounded from the direction of the voice.

There were more people out there, and they seemed to be all around, but I couldn’t seem to find any means of an exit or a place where they could be hiding around my small confinement. I was trapped, and I had to find a way out.

Voices began crying out for help around me and, regardless of my situation, I felt as though I had to help. They all sounded my age, and scared. Soon enough, the wall in front of me fell and receded into the floor to reveal a bright room. I felt like I couldn’t move from the wall behind me, as if I was weighed down by something. Finally, I got the idea to slide my legs forward so that I could crawl on my back and finally get out of the box. By that point, I was breathing heavily and tears had already begun to sting my eyes. I immediately looked around the strange new room, only to see other kids crawling out of boxes that were similar to my own. I looked at my back to find that my own book bag was the very object that was weighing me down.

The walls of the room were plain aside from one giant screen, and the floor was even more so with its white, fuzzy carpet. Of course, I didn’t know it was fuzzy at the time due to my boots. As soon as we were all out, the crates slammed shut. There were boys and girls around me of all different shapes and sizes. The one that immediately caught my attention was a small, pale boy with a ginger flat top that just looked scared and petrified where he stood.

“Ruth!” one girl exclaimed as she ran over to a girl and threw her arms around her.

They both looked identical to one another, with the same creamy skin, blonde hair, and bright blue orbs that flinched wildly around the room. The only difference was that one wore glasses on the edge of her nose, and the radical differences in their styles of dress. I knew they were sisters immediately, if not from their appearance then the way they were clinging to one another. It was later that I would find out that these two were actually twins. I will never forget them.

Ruth, the one with glasses, held her sister close. As they both looked around at the strangers in the room, we all did the same with similar expressions of confusion and fear painted onto our faces in differing amounts. I couldn’t remember how I got there, and I had to assume that they didn’t either as Ruth asked “Where are we?”

A boy with curtained mousy brown locks shrugged and responded with a simple “I have no clue. What makes you think we’d know?”

“Well someone has to know something!” a girl with a tight pony tail yelled as she banged on one of the closed crates.

I noticed that the boy with bright ginger hair was rummaging through his bag in the back of the room and seemed to be getting more worried the more he searched. He continued pushing up his glasses and biting his lower lip as he searched for something that couldn’t seem to be found.

Another girl with her shiny black hair styled in a dido flip said in an excruciating voice, “I can’t find my cell phone!”

The ginger boy then said, weakly, “Neither can I” but kept looking through his bag desperately, as if it would certainly turn up if he continued the search.

“What’s going on?” one boy with dazzling emerald eyes asked. “Why are we here?”

The noise in the room grew as we began talking over one another. Suddenly, all of the questions were cut short as a flicker was heard from the wall and we looked over to see a screen lighting up. On it was a goat with a long elegant fish tail sweeping behind it. The entire screen was in red coloring, the mer-goat included.

“Hello,” A voice said, seeming to come from all sides of the room. “I apologize for the delay in talking to you all. We were having some… technical difficulties on my end. This is my first broadcast to your house, you know. You can’t exactly blame me for getting too excited to check the correct settings.” That voice was so indescribable when I first heard it, but now I can only call it prideful and malicious. “Allow me to introduce myself. You may call me Capricorn. I will be the ringleader in this circus, and the show is about to begin.”

“Where are we?” Ruth asked, pulling her sister closer as she glared at the screen.

Capricorn paused, almost as if they were surprised by the outburst. “As I was saying, I am the ringleader, and we are about to start the show. So, now, we will start with the formalities. The thirteen of you have been chosen for one reason and one reason alone: You are teenagers. That is all. There is no other thought behind that, so don’t hurt yourselves thinking too hard about it.”

“I asked you once already, now tell me: Where are we?” Ruth asked again. This time, her voice was harsh and unforgiving towards the person talking from the other side of the television.

There was another pause. “Ms. Lawson, I have been struggling for some time now as to how I will demonstrate to you all that I am in full control. Thank you for volunteering as my example.”

Ruth’s back arched as her icy glare widened and bore into the ceiling with utter agony etched into her face. Her jaw seemed to lock in some form of a mock-scream, yet no sound escaped her throat. The lack of a scream as small gurgling noises attempted to escape was even more horrifying than any sound she could have made.

“Ruth?! Ruth, are you okay!” Her sister held onto her shoulders, even as she stopped letting out that airy gargle and fell to the floor with a low thump. She whirled around on the television and demanded to know “What did you do to her?!”

Capricorn chuckled darkly. I could practically hear a grin spreading over the face of our unseen kidnapper as they sat, probably watching us at that very moment, in their secret location. Of course, we were oblivious to all of that. They had the upper hand. They were anonymous. “As I said, she was my example to the rest of you. In case you haven’t noticed, you’re all wearing some interesting neckwear.” My hand shot to my throat and dove under my scarf to feel a band around my neck. As someone who never wore jewelry in my life, I wondered why I didn’t notice something sooner. Ruth stood up again, breathing heavily as she clung to her sister’s arms. “Don’t worry, those collars are only in place for if you disobey my rules. So, listen closely. I don’t know what I’d do if you couldn’t take the punishment doled out to you for simply not knowing your crimes.

“Now, as I was saying, the thirteen of you are here for one purpose: My entertainment. You see, as you grow older you’ll begin to see things and those things get… boring. Boring, repetitive, and all around unentertaining. But one thing has always captured my heart. And that thing is high school dramas. There’s something about hormonal teens in a close, mandatory, setting that just seems so appealing to me. You all have so many impulses,” they paused and let out a disappointed sigh, “but you also have many restrictions. It’s such a pity. So, I wanted to put you in this setting where you’d be freed from your normal limitations- well, aside from peer pressure. But that’s all about how you decide to dictate yourselves. I will now accept questions.”

I didn’t want to say anything, and decided to look around at everyone else. Some held vacant expressions while others clenched their jaws in anger and fear. Finally, the boy with curtained hair decided to say “You can’t keep us here! People will come looking for us!”

Capricorn took some time to think on what he said, as if it was an unexpected response. “I don’t think you should worry about your families and friends for some time now. I’ve already taken care of that possibility.”

“So, wait,” one girl said, “you want us to spend the rest of our lives here?”

“Nonsense! I don’t expect anything of the sort. I’m actually quite glad you asked that question, Ms. Rodriguez. There is one way to leave this place.”

After a long pause, the girl with a ponytail spoke. “Well, what is it? How do we leave?”

Another dark chuckle sounded through the room. “Well, obviously, we have such an irreplaceable cast, so the show would have no choice but to stop if your cast grew smaller, or if large character changes were made.”

“I still don’t understand what you’re saying. How could our ‘cast’ grow smaller without you letting us go?” the same girl asked.

There was nothing but silence for some time.

We all waited in shock and awe for an answer until a boy spoke our shared thoughts. “This is all a big joke, right?” he asked. “I mean, this can’t be real! It can’t be!”

“Oh, but it is. Now for the rules!” At Capricorn’s word, the screen flicked and a list of rules appeared and they were read off to us in that same, twisted, tone of voice. “Rule number one: When I call for you, please report to this room immediately. There will be no excuses. Rule number two: the curfew is precisely ten pm with a five minute grace period after your first warning.”

“A grace period?” one shorter girl asked.

“A grace period, Ms. O’Connor, is a period of time for you to complete an action before a penalty is doled out for your ignorance. Meaning, if you are not in a bedroom at ten o’clock, you will have five minutes to get there from where ever you are on the property. This brings us to our third rule: There is an outside to this place, which you may explore. But, if you try to climb the wall outside, you will be killed.” I stopped breathing. This was the first direct death threat that Capricorn had forced upon us.

Ponytail did not look happy at all as her hands curled into fists. “Enough of this crap! You can’t keep us here for your so called ‘entertainment’! We aren’t going to act like we are, either!

“Very well, Ms. Robinsons. If that’s how you feel, let me say this: If I grow bored, even for a moment, I will stir the pot. And you never want an outer force in a high school drama. It’s always one dimensional, and completely absurd as a plot point.”

“How would you do that?” one girl asked. Her eyes scrunched into a nervous glance as she played with the hem of one of her fingerless gloves.

“Well, at this particular moment, I’m going to give you a fair chance to entertain me. And if you choose not to,” there was a pause “I’d have to think of some more motivation for you all. Now, feel free to explore the house! Just remember those three rules, and keep me entertained. Good bye for now, children!”

The screen died again, and my gaze shifted back and forth to look at the other kids in the room. In such a short period of time, I was forced into such a predicament with these complete strangers. My hands grew sweaty as my fingernails dug small crescents into my palms.

One boy, after the silence had finally gotten to him, collapsed onto his crate. He ran his hands through his blonde hair and said “We’re screwed. We’re all screwed!”

“Stop talking like that!” I looked over to see a boy from the other side of the room trying to mask his wide eyes by twisting his face into an attempt at a determined fashion. It wasn’t as convincing as he may have thought it was, but it was worth the effort on his part. “Look, I think we can do this. If we all just, think logically!”

I took that moment of relative peace to say “What do you suggest then?”

He looked at me and tried to smile. “So what would happen if we did nothing? What would ‘stirring the pot’ do? If we just sat here and did nothing, we might get let go right?” he asked.

“So we just try and act normal and boring, and we might get released if we don’t get provoked,” Ruth said. She was standing tall now, her sister behind her. “Are you sure?”

“Well, I can’t be one hundred percent sure,” he said “but it’s a good bet, right? I mean, there’s nothing that we know for sure but, it’s better than doing what they want us to. Right?”

There was a long, thick silence that fell over the room. It remained that way with no end in sight until one of the twins said “My name is Ruth Lawson.” We all looked at her as she introduced herself. “This is my twin sister, Iris.”

The boy who had just spoken, the one with those precious green marbles embedded into his face, nodded and forced another smile as he said “My name is Cory.” He ran a hand over his head, which didn’t stop a stray piece of hair from sticking up once his hand had crossed its path. “I hope we can work together to get out of this mess, or something like that.

I debated saying my name, but held back on it as another girl said “Judith Rodriguez! But you can call me Judy if you want” as she twirled her short black hair around her finger.

The boy who had been rummaging through his bag zipped it up as he stood up. He slid it over the sleeves of his sweater as he said, “My name is Ernest McCoy. I wish I could say it was nice to meet you all, but you know.” His nervous green gaze started running over the people in the room. He appeared to be calculating. It wasn’t in a cold way that most people appear, but it was clear that he wasn’t just looking at us. He was studying us.

“Yea, we get it,” another guy said. He let out a deep sigh as he rolled his eyes before looking back to the group. “The name’s Felix Johnson.”

“I’m Kim.” I followed the halfhearted voice to see a girl sitting on her crate and looking at the ground as she adjusted one of the straps that held the bag hanging from her shoulder. Her hands then went to her pony tail to pull it even tighter around her hair.

Seeing that the introductions were dying down, I finally decided to say “My name is Virginia Miller” in a quiet voice, almost as if I was ashamed of the title.

One girl, dressed in black and a few neon colors with matching hair, genuinely smiled at us and said “My name is Marsha, but my friends call me Mars. So, I guess you can call me that, or whatever!” I thought it was very odd how cheerful she seemed in that situation, but didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to start anything that early on, after all.

“I guess I’ll tell you my name too then,” a boy said. “My name is Arthur. No nicknames, please.” Another odd attitude for the situation, and I couldn’t help but think of him as pretentious.

“I’m Jimmy,” a boy said. His thumb slid under the lip of his blue beanie as he offered a weak smile for our troubles. It was a bit comforting, if I’m to be completely honest with you.

“My name’s Dave!” one boy said. He tossed a wink in with my introduction, which surprised me into hiding my face behind my bangs.

“I’m Mabel.” The voice startled me, and the girl that said it even more so, as she was standing right next to me. She smoothed out her skirt and lounged against her crate before she turned to us and said “I guess we’ll all be here for a while then? What should we do until we get out?”

Dave nodded. “Yea, maybe we should, like, look around or something?” he asked “I mean, I think we should find those bedrooms before ten o’clock, in any case.”

“Yea and there might be a phone somewhere around here,” Ernest said as he adjusted his glasses. “We also have to worry about food and fresh water.”

“So, where do we start?” Judy asked as she placed a hand on her hip. “I mean, there are two rooms, two hallways, and a stair case here. I mean, we could solo it, or something.”

“We probably shouldn’t stay alone,” Ernest said. “I mean, you don’t know what Capricorn could be planning.” The way he said it brought what little weight was taken off of our shoulders crashing down once more. “So, maybe we should go in pairs with three groups of three? Or we could do groups of three, with one group of four, and look at the other room later?”

“I like the group of two idea,” Kim said. “That way, we can get this all out of the way now.”

“That’s true, but the group of three does sound a bit safer,” Arthur said.

“How about a vote?” Iris asked, her eyebrows coming together while her blue orbs smiled at us. This was her first attempt at a compromise within our large group, and I greatly appreciated it.

“I think that sounds like a great idea!” Dave said. “All for groups of two?” he asked, raising his own hand in favor of the idea. Kim, Judy, Mars, and Jimmy all raised their hands as well.

“Alright then, groups of three it is,” Kim said, putting her hand down in a defeated manner. “Who wants to come with me?”

Mabel stepped forward and said “I will, if that’s alright.”

“Me too, I guess,” Dave said.

“Iris and I are in a group,” Ruth said. “Who wants to come with us?”

I awkwardly walked over to them when no one else did as I said “I guess I will.”

The other groups ended up being Ernest, Jimmy, Arthur, with Mars and Judy, Felix, with Cory. So the staircase and the three hallways we’d chosen were to be explored.

While the other groups ended up taking their own paths with little discussion, we took the third door way, which ended up being a dining room with two tall double doors behind a large table, which was decorated with a red and white runner down the middle of it. Around the table were fourteen chairs, fourteen placemats, and fourteen place settings. Capricorn obviously expected us to eat there, but my attention couldn’t leave the two doors. The same goat from the screen was etched into the white doors, along with a mold that resembled waves around them. The floor trim matched the waves in the doors and totally surrounded the room. There was no phone in sight.

“Why are there fourteen place settings?” Ruth asked.

“It’s probably just to keep it even,” I said. “I mean, setting up a table for thirteen would just look wonky, am I right?”

I was cut off by Iris’s shout of “Hey, guys look over here!” We looked in the direction of her voice to find a door along the wall beside a china cabinet was wide open.

“Iris! Don’t wander off!” Ruth said, running through the door.

What we found there was a kitchen with two stoves, one gas and one electric, along with a large fridge, a microwave, toaster oven, and so much more. But what Iris was focused on was the pantry she’d opened up, full of canned foods.

“Sorry, Ruth. But, hey, at least we won’t starve here!” Iris said, smiling at us both as she motioned to the room and shelves full of food.

“I wonder how long this will last us though,” I said. “I mean, how are we expected to stay here, if not our whole lives? A month? A year?” My voice didn’t change, but my body shook. Tears threatened to spring over my eyelids as a hand lay on my shoulder and I turned to see Iris standing there with a large, bright smile on her face.

“Don’t worry about it right now! If we worry about it, then we’ll be giving in!” she said.

“She’s right,” Ruth said as she pulled the cabinet doors shut. “We really shouldn’t stick around for too long. I don’t think everyone else will be done as quickly, but we should get back.”

“Yea, maybe we could even check out that other room!” Iris said.

She began walking out of the sizable kitchen and Ruth quickly followed. I trailed after them, back out to the room with the crates, but ended up crashing into Ruth when she stopped suddenly. I followed her wide-eyed gaze to the metal crates that still lay on the floor. On each one was two suitcases. Looking over at my own crate, I saw that I recognized the two suitcases on my crate. I walked forward immediately, as if an invisible rope was pulling me towards the metallic box and the bags that sat upon it. Ruth and Iris must have felt the same thing because they were already unzipping the suitcases on their own crates.

Slowly, and carefully, I walked over to my own crate and began unzipping one of the suitcases to reveal neatly folded clothes. Upon seeing this, I quickly pulled my book bag off of my shoulder as well and opened it up. The objects inside were three notebooks and a binder. Curious, I considered pulling out the binder but I was stopped when I heard thundering footsteps on the stairs. Mars was standing there with a wide grin on her face.

“Hey! You guys need to get up here so that you can see this!” she practically shouted. “It’s amazing!”

She quickly ran up the stairs, not waiting for our response. I looked behind me at Ruth and Iris who were digging through their bags. Iris stood to go, but Ruth pulled her back down. “You can go if you want,” she said “We’ll check it out too, but we have to wrap this up first.”

I smiled and nodded before zipping up my bags and walking up stairs. What I saw was a long hall filled with rooms. I couldn’t tell what was so special about that, however. The hall stretched in a long rectangle around the whole floor with rooms at every turn. One of the doors was opened and I peeked inside to see Mars staring at the walls of in awe. This particular room was decorated in blacks and dark purples with neon blue and posters of singers I didn’t recognize strung around the room.

She didn’t seem to notice me, so I just shrugged it off and walked away. Each door was labeled with a different name. I passed about five of them before coming to the door that I wanted. It held no other markings than the name “Virginia Miller”, which was carved into a plaque and then screwed to the door. I nervously pushed it open. This may be just because it was my room, but I have to say that it was decorated fairly normally. A plain desk, full bed, and a dresser were all done up with neutral colors. The dresser, which was short and wide, also held an assortment of make up with a large mirror hanging above it. On the wall across from the dresser, above the bed, were two windows. The drapes covering them were in dark colors, but they still allowed light to come into the room.

After looking around briefly, I walked out again and back down the hall after closing the door behind me. Mars disappeared down the stairs, but Arthur cut me off quickly as he came out of his room. Unlike Mars, he didn’t seem to be too pleased by the decorations of his room. Quickly, I peeked through the still-open door. There were pictures all around the room of people, plants, bugs, and all kinds of things. Most of them were in black and white, but I could tell that it wasn’t because they were old. It was because of some sort of camera filter.

The door slammed shut, startling me into looking directly at Arthur himself. “What are you looking at?” he asked. He didn’t give me time to respond, stomping towards me and causing me to reel back in fear that he might actually do something to me. “Just stay out of that room, got it?”

It wasn’t a real question, which I understood entirely at the time, but I nodded anyhow. Now that I think about it, it wasn’t so much that I was scared of him, but I didn’t want to get on his bad side. Not only that, but I also couldn’t imagine what would get him so worked up about that room. He then turned and walked down the stairs and I waited a while before I thought of following him.

That was when Jimmy came out of the room right next to where I was standing. I flinched back at the surprising noise, which had broken the silence quite suddenly, and must have looked like a scared cat from his point of view.

This startled him into asking “Hey, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” When I calmed down, he proceeded to smile. “Hey, I heard ‘Captain Hipster’ chewing you out earlier. If he does anything like that to you again, you just come to me okay? I’ll knock his head out of that scarf.”

He said it in such a serious tone, and I knew that it was supposed to be reassuring, but I laughed anyhow. It was only a light chuckle, but it made me feel better. “Thanks. I will. And don’t worry, it wasn’t too bad.”

“Yea, I know. I can tell that you’re pretty strong.” After a while, he asked “Sorry, I know I’m such a scatter brain and everything, but what’s your name again?”

“Virginia,” I said, my smile never faltering. “You’re Jimmy, right?”

“Yea! Nice to meet you, hope we can talk again some time!” he said, walking over to the stairs as he threw a smile over his shoulder.

That smile, just like the one he gave me earlier, made me feel so much better. I couldn’t explain why. Maybe it was how laid back he was. The lack of fear or stress that the others carried certainly made me feel better, and made him easier to talk to.

When we finally got down there, I saw that Kim’s group had returned and had joined Iris and Ruth in looking into the suitcases. So we were just waiting for Judy, Felix, and Cory to come back.

“This is, like, so weird!” I heard Mars say. When I turned around, I saw her holding up what appeared to be a band t-shirt. “How did our clothes get here?”

“I have no clue,” Ruth said, practically sitting on her bag. “I can only guess that Capricorn took stalking us to the next level.”

“Stalking?” Kim asked. “What do you mean?”

“Do you really believe that we were brought her just because we’re teenagers?” she asked. “It seems a little weird, doesn’t it? I mean, it would certainly explain how our clothes got here, and our book bags for that matter.”

“And the room designs,” Jimmy said. “I mean, how else would this ‘Capricorn’ know about my favorite band? Or that I like to skateboard? Not to mention there was, like, three packages of Monster Energy in my room!” He lost his grin when he suddenly began to think on that further. “Oh wait, that’s kind of, really creepy.”

“You think?” Arthur asked, rolling his eyes. “Anyway, we can talk about that later. What did you all manage to find?”

“Well, we found a dining room and a really big kitchen!” Iris said. “It’s stocked with food, so I don’t think we should worry about that at all!”

“Unless it’s poisoned,” Kim said, bringing our collective gazes onto her. Her face appeared serious for quite some time before she let out a small chuckle. “Sorry! I’m so sorry! I don’t seriously think it’s poisoned, though!” At our newly curious glances she rolled her eyes and said “Well you don’t think he’d try killing us off, do you? I mean, what would be the point of buying a house we could fit in, or all of that food, in the first place? To scare us? That would totally be a waste of time! If you ask me, I think that food is one hundred percent okay for us to eat!”

“Well I didn’t think it was too funny!” Mabel said, crossing her arms lightly.

“No need to get upset, just because you don’t have a sense of humor!” she responded. After a while she looked back at her and said “Hey, I’m sorry! We shouldn’t be getting off on the wrong foot so easily.” She held out a hand with a smile in place of both an olive branch.

Mabel looked at the hand in question for a while before shaking it lightly and smiling at her. “I suppose you’re right.”

It was nice to see that we were getting along so easily. If someone so seemingly fiery headed as Kim could be kind, then maybe there was hope for us after all.

“So, what was upstairs?” Ruth asked.

“The bedrooms!” Mars said. “That’s what we were just talking about- there are bedrooms for everyone. And they’re all really cool!”

“Yes, I think Capricorn took extra care to make sure that our tastes were shown throughout,” Arthur said, grabbing his upper arms in some form of a hug.

“So that’s what you meant by ‘room designs’!” Iris said. “Wow, I wonder what ours look like.”

I wondered about that for a second. It’s hard where our minds tend to wander. As opposed to wondering why we were brought here, like Ruth, or if the food was truly poisoned, like Kim had joked about only moments before, my mind decided to ponder over why my room was so plain compared to Mars’s. Thoughts such as Maybe I’m too boring and Maybe I just don’t have as much of a life, or as many interests as her crossed my mind.

Soon, Judy’s group returned, covered in mud and without their shoes.

“What happened to you three?” I asked, already running over to make sure they weren’t hurt.

“It’s okay, we just slipped. I guess it was raining outside recently,” Judy said with a slight laugh.

“You guys went outside?” Mars asked, her eyes stretching across the span of her face. “So that’s what was taking you so long!”

“Well, the hall we took led to a door, then another hallway with a lot of hangers and places for shoes,” Felix said. “That part had a door to the outside.”

“Oh!” Ernest said, calling attention to himself. At that moment he hid himself under the hood of his sweater before saying “Yea, that’s called a mudroom. I guess you guys found the main entrance to the house. So, what was outside? Anything at all?”

“Well, nothing much. We could see that fence, though,” Cory said.

“Nothing much?!” Judy asked an incredulous look on her face. “We found a pond in the back with fish and everything! That’s not all either; there was this porch with these fancy doors and a whole breakfast table and everything! It’s actually pretty amazing out there. Oh- and, along the fence, there was flowerbed. I think there might be some vegetables in it.”

Cory sighed deeply. “Oh yea, how could I forget the garden, considering you pulled us over when you saw it,” he said, slopping some of the mud on his hand onto the ground. Only then did he notice the suitcases. “When did these get here?” he asked, walking over to one of the three unclaimed cases and opening one up.

“They were here when we came back from the kitchen,” I said. “We don’t know how they got here though.”

“There’s a kitchen!” Judy asked, eyes lighting up with the idea. “Is there food?”

“Yea, it’s stocked!” Iris said.

Before she could say anymore, Ruth stood up and nearly shouted “You aren’t going to eat like that!” while she pointed to their mud-soaked clothes. “You should really clean up first! If not to make sure that we all don’t have to live in a dirty house, then for your own health! If you stay in those wet clothes for too long, then you’ll get too cold and then you’ll get sick!” Cory, Judy, and Felix were all huddled together at this point as Ruth calmed down considerably and lowered her hand. “Did anyone find a bathroom?” she asked, turning to look at everyone.

“Yea, actually!” Mars said, unfazed. “There’s two upstairs in the middle cluster of rooms!”

“Yea and we still haven’t checked out that other room,” Arthur asked.

“Is there carpet up there?” Ruth asked. “I’d prefer if they didn’t walk on more carpet than they already have.”

They’d taken off their shoes, but there were still blobs of mud dripping from their clothes and onto the white carpet of the room we were in right then.

I was the one to say “No, just in the bedrooms.”

“Alright, why don’t you guys grab your bags and do rock paper scissors or something for the bathroom?” Ruth said with a long sigh.

“Who put you in charge?” Felix asked, glaring at her somewhat.

“Are you saying that you want to stay wet and muddy? How childish of you!” she countered.

He couldn’t say anything to that, so he simply grabbed his suitcases and his book bag, which he’d left behind, before marching up stairs.

“Hey, you know, I agree that we should totally try and keep this place as clean as possible,” Judy said “but do we seriously need someone in charge? I mean, will we be okay without a leader?”

Everyone seemed to think on this for a second, and I definitely was.

Ruth, after a moment of silence, said “I don’t think we need a leader per say, but I think it’d be nice if we had some type of rule system.”

Mars whined quite clearly in the room. “Is that really necessary?” she asked. “I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just do without rules while we’re here?”

“You mean social anarchy?” Ruth asked, stepping towards her. “And what would happen when the dishes start piling up? Or food isn’t being made properly? Do you think Capricorn would take care of us if we ended up hurting ourselves? Or maybe just getting sick from unhealthy living conditions? Do you really think that would benefit anyone?” When she saw that Mars was shrinking lower and lower, she let out another sigh. “I’m sorry. It’s just that this situation is making me antsy. I’m not saying we should have a whole list of chores, and I don’t care what you do in your own living spaces. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that the picture I just painted wasn’t very pretty.”

“I get what you’re saying,” Cory said. “But, maybe we can just take it one step at a time.” He turned to Judy and asked “Do you want to take a shower first?”

“Oh no! You can go ahead!” she said.

“Hey! There’s another bathroom in here!” Iris shouted from the other unexplored room before emerging from the door way. “So there! That way you guys can just get it over with now!”

“Iris!” Ruth said, losing her strong demeanor and running over to her sister. “What did I just say about running off?!”

“Jeeze, Ruth, chill out! I was just in the next room! And it isn’t that big either, come on!” she said, leading her sister into the other room while she motioned for the rest of us to follow.

And a few of us did, myself included. You had to step down a step to get into the room, which was draped the same white carpet and grey paint on the walls. This room also had a large white sectional and white futon. The right wall was mostly a large sliding glass door where we could see the fence. It wasn’t really a fence as it was a sturdy cinderblock wall, complete with barbed wire and a few surveillance cameras. Honestly, the only thing the place needed was a handful of guard dogs. It was growing darker outside and that was the only thing I seemed to register as more people began flooding into the living room of this house we were trapped in. It was as if I could see the sky changing color. That was impossible of course, but it was calming somehow, so I didn’t look away.

That was when I heard someone coming up behind me and turned to see that it was Cory. “Hey! You’re name’s Virginia, right?” he asked. “Like the state?”

I wanted to laugh, but held it back as I smiled and said “Yea, that’s it. And you’re Cory.”

“Yep! Wow, I’m surprised you remembered that with everything that happened!” he said.

“Yea, I’ve always been kind of good at remembering things,” I said.

“Pfft! Not me! Between you and me, I can’t even remember the name of that bossy chick over there,” he said with a laugh as he pointed to the back of Ruth’s cropped head. “So, why are you staring out the window so hard? Did you see something?”

“No,” I said a bit too quickly. I turned to look back out the window. “I just, can’t understand why we’re allowed outside,” I said. That was a lie. I knew exactly why. I didn’t need to see the entire outside to know, judging from the tree line, there was no one nearby. This place was probably picked because of its isolation. There was no one coming for us. No way to get help to come for us.

Cory didn’t bother answering, she just said “Hey, don’t worry about it! I know that we’ll get out of this alright! All of us!” He had the widest smile of the most perfect white teeth I’d ever seen on anyone. He was gorgeous, tall, and I got the feeling that he was intelligent to boot.

His entire appearance and atmosphere put me in a much better mood somehow and I ended up smiling genuinely as I said “You know, Cory… I think you’re right.”

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