Phantasmagoria

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Sudden Death

How dare he!

I knew I should never have trusted Drew. It's always the quiet ones, some people say. Or, in this case, it's always the nerd.

''Any one agree with him?'' Vaughan speaks to the other participants. I look at each of the other participants faces and see one or 2 put up their hands.

''Well what do we know, so far?'' I hear the participant called Kevin say.

''He told me he got 1000 points in the last round, so his score must be one of the highest, if not the highest on the leader board,'' Drew says.

That little snake!

He's trying to...oh, it's already started. The murmuring. I can see the participants' reasoning on what Drew just said. And I think they are starting to believe him.

''Hey, Kevin, are you going to double the wager?'' Vaughan asks Kevin.

''I'm not sure, what do the others think?'' Kevin speaks. He looks for confirmation at the other participants.

''Alright, let's put it to a vote. Whoever thinks that I'm the King of Hearts, raise your hand,'' Vaughan instructs the others. I look to see who will put up their hands, and I see each participant look to one another. I see two participants I'm not sure of raise their hands.

''OK, and who thinks the Jack of Spades is actually the King of Hearts?'' Vaughan asks. One by one, I pan across and see each hand (except for the Vaughan voters) go up.

And with the exception of Pete.

''Undecided, Pete?'' Vaughan says, noticing Pete hasn't put up his hand at all.

''Yeah, I'm not totally sure,'' Pete says. Good ol' Pete. I knew he would stick up for me. However, Drew Naismith's another story.

''Hey Saya, is the Jack of Spades the King of Hearts?'' Drew Naismith shouts to her. Saya smiles and raises her hand slowly.

BOOOOM! CRAAAACK!

One of the giant hands we saw earlier emerges out of the sky and races down towards us. It spreads out its fingers like a giant swat. We all anticipate what's going to happen next. The hand stops and hovers over us, as if it is waiting for something.

''What's the hand for?'' I hear Kevin ask before the hand comes over him.

And slams onto him.

What...

Just...

Happened?

''Wrong!'' we see written on top of Saya's head as she smiles happily. We see the hand remove itself slowly from Kevin's card, and as it goes back up to the sky, we see no trace of Kevin. Not even parts of him.

He's...gone.

Without a trace.

''But...Kevin wasn't the one that said it...,'' Drew stumbles to say.

''The Queen of Diamonds doubled the wager, and he got it wrong, so he is out of the game,'' Saya explains with a smile. So even though Drew accused me of being the King of Hearts, it was Kevin who got taken out because he doubled the wager. I see.

Now I know why many people lose in this level. Saya is one evil girl.

''So at least we know that I'm not the King of Hearts in this round,'' I say as I turn to Vaughan. He's looking at me with so much disdain his eyes look like they could turn into swords.

''I think we're looking at it wrong. I don't think it's based on points,'' Pete surmises.

''Then what could it be based on?'' Vaughan asks him cuttingly.

''I don't know...,'' Pete says as he looks down. Pete really does look stumped. Even I don't know what it could be. All I know for sure is I don't want to get squashed like Kevin.

''Re-shuffle!'' Saya says excitedly. All of us are suddenly pushed off of the cards, and we watch as the hands come back down from the sky to shuffle the cards on the sand and deal it out again. I notice that the countdown timer is still going as I turn to look at it. 15 minutes left.

''The time...hasn't restarted,'' I say to Saya.

''Of course not. The challenge is still going until you find out who the real King of Hearts is,'' Saya replies. OK. So this...could go on even though no participant may survive until the end. This is just great.

''Start!'' Saya shouts as we advance once more towards the cards. This time, I see Vaughan run onto the Jack of Diamonds card. Everyone else rushes towards the cards they had before, but me and Drew are left with the King of Hearts and the Queen of Diamonds. I see Pete has taken the Jack of Spades. Me and Drew both look at each other, carefully seeing who will take what card. Without a moment's notice, though, I sprint to the Queen of Diamonds. Drew runs but is no where near as fast as me. It helps that I was in the army, I guess. Nerds like him hardly use their legs. Mostly use their brains.

''I wager that the King of Hearts is...the real King,'' Vaughan says with a smile. Of course he would say that. He's happy he gets to be the Jack of Diamonds now.

''I think...it's someone else,'' Drew tries to defend himself, but he sounds...weak.

''Is it double or nothing, Williams?'' Vaughan asks me pointedly. I have to think about this for a while. Is Drew really the King of Hearts? Or is it another participant? Or is it Vaughan, and he's trying to get rid of other participants by making others follow his lead?

''I say...nothing. I don't think it is Drew,'' I answer up. Vaughan looks at me with daggers. Then he laughs. Why is he laughing?

''The guy accuses you in the last round of being the King of Hearts, but you don't think it's actually him this round?'' Vaughan says with a mocking smile. He's trying to make me sound like the dumbest person in this game. But I know how he works. I know what he is trying to do. And I'm just having fun with him.

''I also think it's not Drew,'' Pete speaks up. Oh, Pete. I knew he would side with me. I watch Vaughan roll his eyes.

''All those in favour of Drew being the King of Hearts, raise your hand,'' Vaughan announces. Only three participants including Vaughan put up their hands.

''All those not in favour, raise their hands,'' Vaughan says quickly. Me, Pete, and the other participant put up our hands.

''So it's a tie,'' Pete says as we all put our hands down.

''Yatta!'' Saya screams happily as she jumps up and down like Chun-li.

''SUDDEN DEATH!'' we read in capital letters above her head. Sudden death? Because we had a tie? We hear the thunderous entrance of the giant hands again as we look up.

Oh.

I just got it.

'Sudden Death'.

Kevin had a 'sudden death'.

But it looks like the giant hand decides who gets a 'sudden death' now. We all watch as the hand comes to a standstill above our heads. I wonder who is next...

''Death...to the Queen of Diamonds!'' Saya says.

Huh?

The Queen of Diamonds?

That's...

Me.

I watch in silence as the giant hand hovers over me, spreading out it's fingers so that it can squash me nice and good.

''But...why?'' I whisper.

''Because you didn't wager,'' Saya replies. Because I didn't wager. Because I didn't wager? So Drew is the King of Hearts...?

I close my eyes as I wait for the hand to come and get me.

I guess this is it now.

No hacker to come and save me.

No easy ticket out of here.

Just death to come and take me away.

At least I did my very best.

Well, at least it will be quick and painless.

Here goes.

''Why...is it not moving?'' I hear a voice ask. It sounds like Vaughan.

Why is what not moving?

I open my eyes slowly, and see that the hand is still over me, but has not come down. I look over to Saya, who has got a cross look on her face, and is pouting. She makes angry noises as she places her hands on her hips.

''The Wretched Geists are here,'' Saya says as she looks past us.

Did I read that right?

The Wretched Geists?

What on earth are they?

''What...is that?'' I hear Pete say as I turn to look at him. I see the other participants are looking in the same direction. Behind me. I slowly turn around and behold what they are seeing.

''Oh my...,'' is what slips out of my mouth as I see a horde of strange looking men. They are bandaged from head to toe, with black shades covering their bandaged faces. Almost all of them, no in fact, all of them are wearing black top hats and long black trench coats and black boots. They are all standing in a line. At most 30 of them. Watching us with their blind eyes.

These guys must be...worse than the Nevers.

I hope not.

But they have saved my life.

At least, I think they have.


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