Nineteen: "Enter the game for the prize, leadership."
“Enter the game for the prize.”
I place my finger on my lip, telling Zoey to do the same and she does. The lighting in this part of the building was out of order, allowing us to use it as camouflage against whoever was roaming the corridors. I put two and two together when I saw Chase and Diane being led into one of the rooms. This wasn’t something Philippe filled us in about. It was never about those people he wanted to kill, it was about us.
We follow the trail of where Chase and Diane were being taken. It was calming to see they didn’t have any bruises on them. With Zoey close to me, we crouch over the grey carpeted floors. The takers stop at a door and lead them inside. Through the small opening, I managed to see Alexie and Jack inside, but their condition was the opposite of Chase and Diane. My stomach knots at the sight of them. I glue my eyes around the room after I see the four people, the room was unlike the rest. The walls painted in a low maintained colour of white and black, alternatively.
My eyes dart across all the specifics. There was no lock for the door that they held four of my best friends captive, which was great news. There were three guys standing outside, guarding the room as if there were the queen’s jewels inside. I pull my head out and my mind starts calculating the situation, looking for any loopholes in their scheme.
Zoey purses her lips together, “Come on Em, use that brilliant head of yours.” I give her the stink eye and she shuts up, tapping her fingers impatiently.
Enter the game for the prize.
Amongst our crew, I’d call myself the focussed one. Whenever something bad happens, people cloud their minds with emotions that deepen the magnitude of their situation. The solution is in hindsight, waiting to be discovered if only the mind didn’t cloud judgment with emotion. Having said that, I’m not a robot. I feel. I killed me seeing Jack and Alexie in the state that they were in, inside that jail cell. A dull pain accumulating in my insides, but I quickly shut it out. We were in a game, a game run by the people who kidnapped us and brought us to this building for reasons we will come to know off very soon, but not now. Being in this labyrinth, there’s only one way out. That way cannot be concocted magically. To win the prize, you have to play the game skillfully. That’s how for two years, I pushed my emotions aside, digging them deep inside so that I could try being the hand everyone needed when they were collapsing after the death of.. our friend, Hunter.
Taking notice of my diverting mind, I concentrate. No matter how I tried, I looked around for loose ends but I couldn’t find one. None of the guards flinched from their positions, and the door was closed after Nick entered. Nick’s presence didn’t faze me, considering his past of his addicts and using our help for his own good. “Shit, I got nothing,” I state, almost inaudible.
Zoey bites her lip, nervously. “What we do man?” She questions herself more than me. I shake my head, clueless for the first time. “We can try to take those three outside, out.”
I purse my lips not loving the idea. “That’s a long shot.” I lean my head at the back, it touches the cold black wall that I was supporting on.
Zoey gets to her feet and I widen my eyes as she does so, completely sacrificing our camouflage. “Sometimes,” She grins at my horror-struck face, “You need to be unpredictable.” I should’ve expected something like that from Zoey. Before I yank her back down, the guards notice her.
Their clanking boots against the ground as they walk to us. I get to my feet in haste, preparing myself against the giants that stood in front of us. I crack my knuckles and stretch out my lazy muscles, looking back at the three pairs of bloodshot eyes. Zoey gives me a cheeky grin which I reciprocate nonetheless. In a way, we didn’t have a choice, and contemplating out next moves would be wasting time. Lucas was great at forming ideas, his mind just sprouted with new ones for all circumstances.
Where’s Lucas when you need him?
“Leadership isn’t power, it’s a responsibility.”
My feet crash on the grey carpets, making loud thumping noises as I run faster and faster towards the screams. Their voices still stuck in my head even after the tape recorder stopped playing in the hollow corridors. Another scream echoes through the hallway, this time it was Jack. I bolt towards it before it shuts off again. Another few minutes and another ring, filling the hallway with Zoey’s yells for help.
I stop running back and forth, my heart pounding against my chest. A few pants escape my mouth, I grunt, “Who’s doing this?” Another scream flows in the hall, this one was of Ashley’s.
It’s overwhelming, it always has been. For two years, I’ve been filling the gap that our mentor, Tomlin had in our lives. After he left and after Hunter, everything fell apart. Our lives took a turn for the worst, I had to lead my friends out of the phase. The phase that was doing all possible delinquent things. We hid our outside lives from our families and school people, which was probably the best decision we could have made. If our families found out that their teenage kids were roaming the streets getting into a horrible habit, and getting involved in a business that had nothing to do with us, they would have probably got heart attacks. But without any supervision, and being the oldest, I had to lead them somewhere especially after Tomlin screwed us over that bad. I live by just one lesson, I’ve learned:
Leadership isn’t power, it’s a responsibility.
There’s silence lingering in the hallways. I could hear myself breathing deeply, my pulse on my wrist, and the growing sweat rolling down my back. The silence was odd, to say the least, after continuous running around trying to find the source of the screams.
And then it came. The combination of everyone roaring out from down the corridor I was in. I walk slowly this time, prodding my steps in anticipation. The adrenaline taking me over, sending my hands shaking slightly at my sides. I push open the metallic rusted door, walking in.
The room was dark, black walls just like the corridors. A frail table in the center with a tape recorder playing the noises. I reach out my hands and whack it on the floor, the anger consuming me as false hope brims in my body. After so long trying to regroup, I thought the voices would get me back with my crew but it was all a lie.
“The oldest is the protector.”
I stumble back almost falling over from bumping onto the chair behind me. I look around, finding a speaker on the corner right. That’s where the voice came from. I concentrate on the words and a blinking light bulb metamorphic-ally appears on my head. There has only been one person who has ever said that repeatedly over the years to me. He used to say it in pride and adoration, thinking I held the group together. I never believed him since I only started acting my part when he was.. shot.
Searching every nook and corner of my body for just a small voice, I finally manage out in a croak, “Hunter?”