I’m laying on a bed. It’s certainly not mine.
“Did you take care of it?”
“Yeah, it’s done.”
Voices. Horrible distorted. Never knew the world could go all wavy like this. My eyes are adjusting depth perception on the remote bythemselves and they’ve got no idea what they’re doing.
“She almost didn’t make it.”
“Better luck next time.”
There was two of them. Shit, that made things worse. No, things were already at the worst. Why wasn’t I dead yet, or was this death and either I’m slowly dying in a pool of blood and carbon monoxide or this is just how the underworld works.
Damn it, I need to get up. Need to get out. Need to get away. That lifeboat. I should be able to set it off myself, though I think I broke one of the oars.
“Woah, she’s moving.”
“Make sure she can’t get up. I’m going to go get him.”
I wait a few minutes to clear my head. The gas has gone now and I can breath again. Fresh air is a godsend to my lungs and I abuse the hospitality of whatever deity gives it to me. I stay still though, slowly lifting my lungs. One of them is still in the room and I need to get away from him before the other gets back.
From where the light shines through my eyelids I figure myself to be on the right hand side of it. If I’m in a room similar to mine, and all our first class rooms were on the same side, then it should be over-
“there!” I bolt for the door, falling out of the bed and collapsing in a heap , the blood to my legs cut off and not in an energetic mood. I’m immediately caught and I look up to see Robin staring at me with a grin. He lifts me back and tosses me onto the bed, curshing my legs with his weight and hefty smile.
“Let me go, damn hunter!” I scream, struglling futilely.
“Calm down, Jenn,” he shouts to me, pushing me down and completely immobilizing me. “You’re still delirious. Breath deep.”
“Is she okay,” I look round to see Will, who seems disturbed at what he sees. There’s another behind him, carrying a small bag.
After another three minutes of struggles and attempts to get away, I find myself being examined by a doctor. It takes a while, but since he decides not to give me anything and that I’m also still alive that I’m in no danger. He just tells me I need to get penty of rest and this boat is the perfect place for it.
I drink of water I get for myself from the tap later and Will and robin are telling me what happened, how they found me shivering in one of the lifeboats after Robin saw me wandering in there. They presumed me drunk at first but when they heard what happened to my room they put two and two together.
Though the answer was still wrong.
From what they can tell, there was a small gas leak in my room, possibly caused by a gap in the plumbing. It had filtered out so slow that it amy have been impossible to notice the build up if I went in there near when it started. And like a frog in slowly boiling waters I ended up only realizing when it was nearly too late.
They mentioned nothing of the trap.
My hand is covered in bandages, mummifying my entire right arm. From what they could tell I fell into the mirror in a panic or something. I tell as much as I can back to them to satisfy their curiousity and kick them out as they insist on staying further to look after me.
Why was I still alive?
Ad I simply been found by the wrong people just in time?
Then why did it feel like my hunter opted not to kill me over going to remove all evidence that I was trapped in there.
There should have been a shirt round the radiator at the least.
Reagrdless I had survived.
One down, four to go.
And if it wasn’t for othes and luck I may have very well ended up getting pushed off the side as I foolishly dangled myself over it, my hunter tossing me in with the rest of the lure he sed to entangle me.
I hate this.
And yet I want to be challenged again.
Is that weird, the feel of being trapped, the threat of being killed, that hopelessness that sinks into my soul when I realize I’ve been tricked. The pressure of anxiety, and the attempts at resourcefulness to make my escape. That was good right, testing the limits of my cage, checking for everything, working out the trap instantly, using the mirror in order to fashion a screwdriver, pushing pass the pain of cutting myself and going loopey as I broke down the trap bit by bit. Even if I did slowly lose it in there,, I performed well to escape from that deathtrap (and that is what it actually was, a geniuine deathtrap). The only thing that could have made it beter was if I got the hunter trapped there as well/
No! I’m not hedonistic like that. I’m not doing this to play survival games. I’m doing this because I refuse to let them get to me. I’m not going to die for this game or any of its hunters. I have to keep telling myself that. I shouldn’t have to keep telling myself that.
And even if it was kind of fun, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. What would have happened if I didn’t get that ful length mirror. Would I have been able to find another solution. It was unlikely. If anything, I’ve only survived once again because my hunter screwed up a little. If he was a perfect assassin I’d be dead.
And I have to learn how to beat that.
I rest, letting my eyes fall short for a few moments. Then I’m back up again and locking the door into the room. As long as there’s no gas in her I should be fine.
I rest properly for another few hours, my trues euphorically peaceful.
When I wake up, another day would have passed.
When I get up, the sun is going down, clocking out of our hemisphere for another day, only to have to do its other side job. It appeared someone took the libery of dragging my bag in here for me and as I kneel down to it I can already smell the fumes coming off it. It reminds me of such cheap cider my friends bought years back and I choke out an urge to projectile whatever’s in me.
Most of the clothes on the outside still smell bad and I try airing out what I can on the chairs and anything else that lets fabric hang. My phone, glasses and ID are on the side table and I pocket them after slipping on some khakis and a top.
I declare this room for the Connoley empire.
With it now mine, I take the key card and head out. I’ve got no idea what I should do now but first things first is-
Arijit bumps straight into me and dodges to the side to spill coffee everywhere. He grunts in surprise and I quickly apologise to help him.
“no no, I will handle it,” he tells me, mopping it up with a tissue. But I go down to help him anyway.
“I’m alright now.”
“You have carbon monoxide poisoning,” he states. “You are not alright, and as my employee I insist you go back in there and relax.” He tells me all this without loking, so he misses my glare. The scum. Just because you pay me doesn’t mean anything. You’re all dirt to me anyway. The only one that matters is the hunter and until I get my hands on him, you’re all pawns for me to…
My head rushes with the contortion, and I lean against the wall with discomfort. Mybe he’s right, I find myself think, and I fall back into the room.
“Get me a coke,” I say to him as I leave.. “Can’t stand coffee. And make sure it’s in a can!”
The bed welcomes me back and I receive it eagerly.
Five hours and several trips back to the canteen for Arijit later, and I’m finally fit enough to go back out.
The hunter will have to be careful now. I seem to have obtained bodyguards with that last incident. Everyone swarms around me the best they can, constantly checking up on me like I was four and sick with the flu again. With the only time I get to myself being in the bathroom, I find even that being taken away from me as they ask Robin’s wife to go in with me. I suffer from her lack of non trivial conversation skills as fast as possible when I go in there now.
The crew have, of course, apologized furiously for the incident and have already offered me a full refund on my journey here. They tell me in private of course, and ask that I don’t get discouraged with using their services again.
Then they tell me that the rest of the journey I will have full access to all amenties. That was useful.
So the next night passes with me barely seeing the day. I feel queezey and make sure I’m careful with my food, always conveniently swaping whatever meals they give me and acting like a real pig with my new privledges. It’s not that I want to, but the carbon monoxide endangered my food supply and now I have to be super careful not to inject more poison into my system.
I guess that was ironic, the only food I could be sure wasn’t poisoned getting poisoned. Oh well.
It seems like I don’t die from the consump-tion of the duck in orange sauce, and I wolf it down quickly with relish to regain my strength. With the first trap down and the extra protection, I was now unsure what the hunter would try to do next. By the time we were off this ship, the turn would be over, and though I wasn’t sure if he would still try and kill me then, I should at least do my upmost best to make sure I never die at all.
My room’s out of bounds, and now Will is shacking up with Phil for the rest of the trip, all other rooms being fully booked. Technically it would be easy to pull off the gas trick again if I wasn’t careful with the room, so I figured from now on I’d inite two people back with me each time I go there to ensure nothing funny goes on. The only question is who to pick. Should it be random.
Part of me wanted to say Robin. He had saved my life after all, and he seemed like the nicest of the lot despite his little act.
But wouldn’t that be stupid. After seeing me escape from the deathtrap, he followed me to the outside deck in a panic, wondering if I had figured anything out. All it would take was two words from me and he was in danger, so he followed me right to the lifeboat. Then picking me out, he went for the starboard side and got ready to toss me in. It was only with the intervention of other workers that made him stop, and handed me over while he went back to remove the evidence.
Of course, I had no proof of this.
If I make random choices each time, it’ll be more natural and enable me to get to know everyone better. The hunter must be ticked off that he failed in his trap, that shift in expression just once wuld be all I needed to tell who it was.
With that choice made, we spend the rest of the day chatting away on the luxery sofas. A student just a year older than me seems to be assigned specifically to the seven of us that night and we take time to order our drinks one by one to annoy him. After going over the most meaningless of reality television shows and enduring the most dreadful talk on a match they all watch earlier whle I was in gaga land, we head out to the life boat that I decided to snooze my gas poisoning away in. Whilst it turns out I didn’t break the oar in it like I thought, it wasn’t enough for Robin and Roann to do twenty minutes later when they decide to play kendo. After hearing that maybe it was the captain’s spare playboat, we sneak the oars into the ocean where no one will look for them.
Finally, we all go to retire. Finding a pack of cards on Ronan, we quickly move that we all play a game of Go Fish in my room. After unconvincingly trying to find Arijit all night to get him to join in because Will reckons he’s lonely, we spend the next three hours in my room tossing cards at each other and having everyone compliment my skills. I kick them all out shortly after.
And that concludes the second night of the trip, the ?? night of the turn.
Three to go.
Recognising my own faults, that’s good. I’m not some super villan with a blad head who’ll always thinkthemselves undefeatable and place on others. A true tatian rationalizes all of their mistakes, but takes them in all the same and accepts them for what they are, so as not to be crippled by each and every one.
And as long as it isn’t too late, I should be fine.
Now, I just have to make that final choice.
Ronan or Will.
Who should I use?
Who is best t call?
The CB radio clings to my pocket. It’s been with me the whole time and, if I’m lucky, Will still has his. He’s a curious enough type to want to know what is being said over the radio waves. Hopefully I can still catch him. That was the only thing in this situation that I had to rely on others to do, unless you count the whole trap thing in the first place.
I tune in.
“Will, will, come in Will. This is Jennifer.”
“Will, do you copy? Please respond. Over.”
Nothing. I tighten my grip.
“Jen-“ I cut It off impulsively. “Jenn? Is that you?”
His voice sounds raspy. He’s been running around a lot. Probably panicking like all the others. I suppose in a situation like this, that’s all people like him can really do. That means I need to get him to be strong for me. Only by getting him to focus will I make sure he gets me to live.
“It’s me. Can you switch to the frequency I asked you to earlier?”
“Sure give me a second?”
That line might be getting used by the cabin crew, as they pass forth messages of survival to one another. Whilst my primary reason for switching was simply so that no one else could hear us, I did also think they need to handle the evacuation without us getting in the way, so I mentioned earlier if we wanted to talk to switch to another frequency. Making a game to ensure he memorized it also ensured privacy.
“You there?.” A pause. Do it properly, my fool. “Urgh, over.”
“I’m here. Over.”
“Where are you? What’s ging on?”
“More importantly, where are you?”
“I’m evacuating along with everyone else. I was getting worried when you weren’t with our group. Are you one one of the other ships. Over.”
”I need you to cme pick me up. OVer”
“What?” He sounds tired.”Where are you?”
“At the bottom set of stairs nearest your room. Into the engine section, three doors down to your left.”
“Good lord, what are you doin- Are you responsible for all this?”
“Unfortunately not, else I wouldn’t be asking for your help. I got trapped down here when exploring.”
“Okay, I’m coming to get you. Be careful. Out for now.”
Will wasn’t involved. I was guessing that for now. No, I was a scertain as I could be without evidence, and it was more a process of elimination that had got me choosing him to be my saviour once again. He was ultimately the less guilty out of all the possible groups. Robin maybe ranked under him in terms of suspicion, simply because I couldn’t place him at any of the accidents in places that made sense. Plus I later caught wind that he was heavily intoxicated
Not to mention it had to have been ‘him’ who had done it.
“I’m down here. Where are you? Over.”
Three doors down on the left. There should be a cleaning bucket there. Over. Wait!”
I hear nothing but static and assume.
“Are there some rubber gloves in there? Over,”
“No, no there aren’t.”
Lousey, unhygienic cleaners.
“Okay, never mind. Now listen, I think the door may have an electrical charge going through it. There’s a cable round here somewhere, and it’s not letting me touch the floor.”
“If you can’t see the cable then how do you know…”
“I ot a fairly good idea.”
“There’s a broom trapping the wheellock here. Did someone lock you in? Over.”
“I’m not sure, I didn’t hear any noises like that when I was in here? Over.”
“I just don’t get why you were down here. Over.”
“Hey. Ship sinking and rescue attempt forst, kiddo. We’ll have plenty of time for an exposition later. Over”
“What’s an exposition?” Over”
“Open the damn door!”
“There’s something weird at the top. Over.”
“Really, like what? Over”
Actually I think it may be part of the design. It looks different though. Over”
“Tere are some hinges on this side. Maybe you’re suppose to push them down or something. Over.”
“Yeah, they seem to click. Must be a special lock or something.”
If only I had the answer, I could have saved lots of time and not damaged myself. Waiting with foot tapping, I hear grinindg as the door is reanimated, pistons turning away from their resting place and into the door. I don’t hear any screams of agony as it occurs, so I assume it’s okay. There must be some kinfd of internal insulati0on in this place to prevent it from becoming one huge electromagnet, or maybe I just have y science wrong.
The door swings majestically open and I see Will push through the doorto greet me. Acting the part, I run up and hug him, thanking him for the rescue. He makes a wsie ass comment about being the hero and I laugh and punch him lightly.
“I can’t believe you were foolish to get stuck here,” he tells me, holding me tightly. “I was worried you know?”
“Sorry, but it seems like a few things happened and i-“ I can’t finish the sentence. There’s something in the way. His lips are over mine, and his smooth nose is brushing pass mine gently. He embraces me, and I feel his fingers push my hair back. My breath traps itself in my lungs and waits for him to finish, expelling when he finally lets me go. For a second I feel my cheeks bleed red, and part of me wants him to do it again, just because I didn’t quite catch that taste he had to give me.
“We can talk about it later,” he tells me. “For now, let’s get you uout of here.”
Turning away, he grabs my hand to lead me, only to turn back when he sees me grabbing his shirt. Through my hair I can see him smiling at me, a calm, gentle smile that feels custom built to help me in particular relax.
“Hey, come on,” he says with a reassuring tone. “We can do more later. But for now we gotta-“
My grip tightens.
I’m grabbing skin as well.
I let you hug me! You do not respond by taking extra privledges.
“Hey. Hey! That hurts!”
You think I’m going to fall back and let you dod things to me. I am in control of the situation here. Not you. You were summoned by me and you will do as I see fit. I give you a hg to show my graditiute, you do not steal my first kiss.
“Jenn,, what? Stop…” And don’t try to talk me out of it now. You had to go and do it. Was this your plan as well? Seduce me and then strike me down when I wasn’t looking. To think you also show up that I make a mistake.
Fall, creature, fall on the floor screaming electric blue. Fall knowing you were beaten, and will never win again. Let even your salivia turn against you, and your blood boil its way out of your body. Remain twitching as this ship submerges into the liquid blue and even if you should live form that, let the ocean take you for its own.
Be alone in your loss hunter, knowing that the price for hnting me was eternally more that what you thought to be getting in return.
I rush up the stairs, by now the speaker has stopped making announcements. That must mean there are no passengers left on the ship as far as they’re aware, and even as I reach outside to the main deck, I can see a buzz of fireflies covering the night ocean. Some as already reaching the horizon, while the ship lurches oddly for the first time. It ccours to me that I still don’t know what’s wrong the the hulking mass, but now I can make an accurate guess that it must have had a hull breach, else surely they’d be some major sign of fire in the engine room or up here.
Sliding down the deck, never a good sign, I run as fast as I can to the othe rend, noting that the little boat was no longer there. I had made it useless anyway and I continued skidding and sliding to the end of the boat where safety hopefully roamed. Appreciating the full one hundred and ffty meters ??? of the ship in about thrity seconds, I twist the corner to see a collection of crew members panicking over the ;ast three boats.
They barely even look at me except to taunt my lateness, and toss me along with all the rest. Our life [pod is the first to crash into the waters, and from there I meet up with the waiter boy we had serving our drinks earlier. I nod to him with a grin and he seems to return it, but it stays silent from then on. We’ve already got word that rescue ships oare on the way, and I get handled a blanket to share with others.
I scan the faces for anyone I know. The captain isn’t here and I wonder a little if he really does still go down with a pleasure cruiser. None of my work colleagues are here at all, and for some reason I am releaved. I think I really will have to quit that job after this. It’s all proven much too danger, but I can’t help but laugh at the situation. Wth a mixture of smarts and instincts, as well as a little luck, I managaed to preserve over the odds of having a deranged lunatic hunt after me. The fact that I had several remaining measures pleased me as well, though I feel disappointed at not getting to use them.
No, I should not eb like that. This is my first true victory, my dominance over those who would dare try to make me play with them.Ive won the first turn, and my prize is satisfaction. One was down. Others would fall.
I wonder if he knew how much I knew. That I suspected others. It wasn’t like he was omniscient after all. Did he even suspect that I suspected others? That I had spent hours contemplating the possibility that it was Ranan and or even Arikit. That I had shivered and nearly vomited when Robin found me, believing that I had been going thewrong way all along and he was somehow responsible for all of this.
I am sure I will find the full answers later, that I will get told that Will, the son of the CEO was missing as the last of the boats left for sea. That he was seen getting into one but shortly disappeared well after, and then will come the story of how his father sued the company, never knowing what his son was really doing, how he foolishly tried to build up trust to someone so he could kill them, and set up elaborate scenarios to test my ability and try me until I died. Maybe I could find ways to reveal his mistakes. Like rescuing me. Like giving mehis room. Not so much kindness but the options he tried to give himself that were always foiled by the accidental efforts of others.
Though I suppose it will be best that I don’t. I don’t want to reveal my own stake in all this after all.
Others were laughing with me, my reveling their relief. I let it continue, and they get to know each other beter in front of me and start to talk about what bad luck it was they decided for summer jobs on a cruise ship.
I agree with them completely.
A few days pass after that.
When I get back into the city I don’t even show up for work. I spend the days that I should be taking off at home in my room, waiting. I have time and I check up on Mrs. Gillepsie. With her own status as still alive, I give myself a five day break from activities. Despite all that had happened, I was still a suffering of carbon monoxide poisoning, and I wished to make sure I was up to full strength before tracing the jewishwoman’s actions.
I quit the job on the day before I was due to start up again. Left as many people as I could an a phone call telling them not to expect me. I think they were understanding of it. Not everyone nearly dies three times in a row ike that all on work related activities (unless it’s the CEO getting sniped again, they joked to me, mentioning nothing of the bereavement). I get a hefty severance package and my salary for the next year. At the end of the day, Martin and Phil pop over to return to me my Rubix cube. They try to chat but I have wargames night.
I spend the rest of the night with the radio and the television on, each struggling to drown out the other in an eternal war that the radio won de to its static. I reward it with subsequent destruction and get to bed with only Tim waking me up to ask how I am twice.
The last day of the turn passes, and I work hard the next morning pulling what info I can on Mr. Wallace. Turns out he’s still alive as well, which is obviously good, as I’d hate to realize that I’m some schizophrenic psychotic who murdered him without realizing. As expected with only two days left, Mrs. Gillepsie outlives the turn as well.
I’d have to check at least two more times with Mr. Wallace though. There are, of course, plenty of reasons why he may not have been able to kill that day, and I would wish to learn them all before I strike him off as a passive.
Hopefully the next turn won’t be as long. If they’re shorter i can be assured to lose the hunter a lot easier. If I’m moving round the country like I plan to I should be able to keep away and focus on the bounties I aquire. Then, if any come, I can handle them at the time in situations that don’t suit either of us.
Since I’m stronger, I’ll surely win.
“Does your shadow know you’re following it?”
Chapter Six…I think
Four days had passed since my trip up to Scarbrough and, as the rules of the game had stated, the first turn had reached its end on that night I spent with James in the caravan. I know this solely on the appearance of a second envelope but yesterday, clattering through my door along with a bill for broadband and a Capital one credit card. I had originally thought of taking a glance at the documents I had received, but now I had no wish to indulge in whatever mainiac was trying to waste my time, and I deposited all the mail to the recycling bin, where it waited for disposal later on in the week.
I hadn’t found any further evidence for the existence of Mr. Francis Betterman. Besides other people that shared his name al around the world, the only proof of his existence was the telephone directory and the website which advertised his caravan park. Though each were extensive in their detail of the man, his website containing pictures of him with his family, they were the only examples and thus I had nothing extra to back up his claims to existence. Even if he did exist, I could find no reports on hisdeath anywhere on the internet or local news reports for the area. This may have not been too suprising, as the death did not have any major signs of suspicion of controversary behind it. I had figured that maybe being the ownerof a caravan park may have given him some small circle of fame to the local newspapers that would get him a sadly missed article given the circumstances, but a brief glance through whatever I could find revealed nothing.
I thought about heading back to Scarborough, of simply insisting that James doing a 360 on the A?? and rushing up nto the brother for definite proof of a body, but it was easy to predict such a situation to result in nothing. There would have been no reason for them to oblige in showing me a body. If they were in on the trick, then they would stall about and say that they didn’t want to show the body to a stranger. And in the now unlikely event they weren’t, they would say the same thing. I was better off heading the way I came from.
In the end, I simply had to abandon the search. I was ecstatic with this really. Whoever was playing this thing had made a big mistake by trying to play me. Jennifer Connolley was no fool. I had approached my localHSBC and opened up a brand new account in which to desposit all the bounty money I had received so far. A simple current account, whoever had put it in my original account would have no access to this now, should they jump out to ever tell me their joke. I had gone so far as to consider Swiss, but I didn’t believe it was necessary. Besides, I had a feeling I’d be using this a lot more.
So that was my choice. Not to play.
Not to play the game. Not to pick up the envelope in the morning and look at my bounty as I dripped frostie encrusted milk onto the picture. Not to spend a few hours pointing out which rules contradicted each other, or how they could have made it better. Not to think about the possibility of getting some easy cash, or to set up elabpourate traps to try and get away with murder. Not to rationalize with myself that if I did it right I could get away with murder. Not to be seconds away from my victim only to have armed police jump at me while reporters shoved microphones up my noses. Not to have scientists emerge from the bushes, taking notes for their sociology dissertations. Not to pass Go. Not to take #200.
Not to do anything.
It said there was no penalty for not playing, didn’t it?
So that’s what I’ll do.
I think Nash Equilibrium would agree with me.
It’s just a shame no one else did.
Wednesday now. My holiday p[ay had become so much more tewmpting now that it meant absolutely nothing to me, the one hundred and fifty quid of ‘goes straight in the debt pile’ now a mere pittance. Giving up that Enron of a job was now a distinct possibility. As long as I remained smart with this money, I could last a while without a job. Though I hadn’t quit yet.
So we were in Town. Me and James and Tim. Both were taking time off their studies to indulge me in a wander to the greater shops of Nottingham. I had calmed down now, and James was looking a lot happier than when I had threw him out of the car last Sasturday. It was a good time to relax after a stressful week of total stupidity.
We had already emerged from the workshop, my sizable False Balance army receiving another two regiments plus some Stormriders after some select purchases. Noprmally I’d hissed at how much this would cost me, but it didn’t seem to matter at the moment.
“Yeah, I had got a bonus,” I told them both after they inquired, not wanrting to bring it up in the store. “Something to do with my work being great.”
“What is it you do again?” Tim asked me, looking bored enough to ask Medusa if he could see her for a moment. It was a slowly declining process for him, and he shook his arms to tell us that he’ll beback to lively just as soon as he got the stench of paint fumes on lead models out his system.
“Research analyst,” I told him, admiring the unpainted False Judge within the ??, the bodiless Riddleklutz staring back at me behind its mask. The model so wasn’t worth it in terms of actual lead used, but he’d helped me dominate in demon scourge games. “It’s statistical analysis of the company’s demographic data or something. I can’t say I pay too much attention.”
“And yet they give you bonuses?” he retorted, yawning the carbon monoxide out of him (think paint fumes). “Makes you wonder what you get if you actually worked.”
“I do!” I complained back. “Hey, I work hard at that place. It’s good to get appreciated every once in a while.”
“That’s true. Just the other week you were saying how much you hated it.”
“Yeah, I guess i just didn’t notice how much I was being appreciated.”
Fast food was our next destination. However, on the way we were waylayed by arcades and had to defend ourselves valiantly upon on onslaught of fruit machines. It looked like we were without hope until we found the legendary staircase that existed beyond our illuminated adversa\aries and shortly we were able to reach the holy land of coin op and dance games, where we celebrated for many hours with pool wenches and ales from the vending machine. It took us about an hour to get out, James inability to die on Other Fists Three proving meticuosl until Mr. Jupiter was able to be the most broken character and wipe the floor with him.
I never liked playing against the computer myself. Human opponents were much more of a challenge in their ways, their ability to freestyle, adapt and overreact gave them qualities the computers could never have. Even a weakness could prove a strength at times. If anyone was ever going for me, I’d definitely consider such tactics. How many would be fooled by a helpless girl looking like she had given up, only to get shivved by themas they took their ime in finishing me off. With so many ways, it was just too easy.
I guess, thinking about it, part of me sdidn’t want to stop thinking about it. It was ultimately such a simple game. A surviva game. Thought up hundreds of times by hundred of people. Performed throughout the centuries, stereotyped by italien hitmen. Paradied ion films and videogames games to the nth degree. But it always remained fantasy, the very thrill and infinite variety of it appealing to the minds of everyone with ambition. Which of us could deny that wish completely. To e given a permission to kill someone. Even if that very permission was transparent, or even a trick. Everyone has someone theywant to kill, no matter how much they deny it to themselves. Everyone has someone that believe that the world would be better, even if just for themselves, if there was one person that wasn’t here. But of course, we’re human beings. We both smart and scared. Smart enough to know not to act our primal urges on others and scared of what we might unleash if we did, be it the law or oursaelves.
And that game allowed us to do it how we wanted, and only if we wanted. That would have been the great part of it. Being forced to kill the last boss with a rocket launcher was amusing one time only. The chance to use anything and everything you could get your hands on allowed for that infinite variety that usually existed only in my imagination.
I guess, in a way, I just wanted to stop being sick of life.
The trip to fast food heaven had been arduous, our one hour detour starving us significantly. I’m lucky I had brought bottled water with me on a whim, else the hot desert day might have already taken me to a place where I dreamt of sand being a nice beverage for me to have at that moment. There was no sand near me at all at this moment, so I’d have to put a request for my brain to stop teasing me.
“But is it too much to ask for at least the illusion of choice,” Tim continued as we paced the long sparsely crowded high street. “Machina had that. We had a choice during the game and we had a choice of three endings during the last stage.”
“That didn’t matter though,” James contradicted. “No matter what you did during the game, you could just switch your allegiances to see which ending you wanted.”
“But that wouldn’t matter to most people. Most of the idiots out there would be content with the premise of three endings, do one of them on easy and then over to the website to read up on the other two, before claiing to their friends that they had got everything and that the game wasn’t hard enough.
“That’s an interesting jump.”
“That’s just it though,” Tim continued. “Most say they want these things, but they really just want to think they have them. People don’t want the ability to earn multiple endings, but , to make them think their early choices when they started playing meant something, even when they clearly didn’t. Games don’t’ provide that now, even when they claim to. I mean, I personally want a game where you have a choice of A or B right there at the beginning, even if it was just male or female, that eventually led to two completely different sets of multiple endings, with two different games in the same setting.”
“That zombie game did that,” I remembered briefly. I loved zombies.
“But did it though? From what I saw of that game, both characters just did the sdame things, and then their cut scenes were worked around a little. No real difference. What I’m thinking is two aliens on opposite sides, with other different factions apart from the two main races, starting on different planets, being forced to play apart from the other. Even if you did get to the other’s part of the game, it’ll be completely different. And you may say that people want simple shoot em ups, but there are other people like me that want the difficult and mentally challenging games that diversify themselves. They can’t be that hard to make. Developers are just lazy or too focused on graphics and which console is going to rape which console.
Some people really needed a rant control. With only three contributions to the conversation, me and James were already lost in listening as Ti illustrated every little point he could find, countering every argument we could think of, some even before we had thought of them, yet somehow managing to attribute them to us. Both of us grinned at each other, knowing the score and having already placed bets that Tim would win the argument. This was no game to me. Most debates started with the impossible condition that the idiot on the other side had already cememnted his opinion within the bowels of the earth. All I could do now was nod my head and agree.
I suppose you have a point. I’d always like-” I said as the wind caught passed my ear sharply and the pavement in front of me shot a block of rubber into the air with a quiet ping.
Stopping briskly, my heavy bag jumping ahead of me, I looked estranged as the dust followed it, permeating a light vapour into the air. That was weird, I thought, looking closer, walking closer to it as the others carried on without me, only partly noticing I was no longer walking. Getting next to it, it looked at the now clear indentation in the pavement, a little hole destroying yet another part of the desperately in need of replacinghigh street. Had I just missed something? I looked around, no one else searching around as I had. Maybe it was just the wind bringing something off the road. Weird though, there’s a clear hole here and…
Another ping, and I watched as just ahead of me another crater formed in the pavement. That wasn’t just there, the dust told me. What was going on? Looking up, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. What could even be causing it? These indentations looked to have been made by a jackhammer. Slowly, I saw a crack start to formon the second crater.
“Jenn?” James said. “What’s up?”
Nothing was up. I nearly said, instead turning around and getting a full dose of light injected into my eyes. What the fuck? I fliched and squinted, my body twisting for my hand to try and block whatever was attacking, when I heard a third ping rush pass my head and bury itself deep into the ground.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
I nearly fell back, my bags dropping to the floor without me. Fuck!
I looked to Tim and James. James was looking at me confused, a calm expression on his face. Tim wasn’t even facing my way. Fuck!
Oh god… no. No! Fuck!
The bag hung limply from my hand as I swung around, slipping it off as if it were handcuffed to me. I had to get out of here. It didn’t matter where. My legs stretched out, my tight jeans complaininginstantly. I ignored them. I ignored James and Tim, sprinting passed them in a heartbeat.
“Oi, Jenn!” James called after me. For that second I felt the urge to turn back around, to tell him. Perhaps warn him, or at the very least say I was okay. Make an excuse as normal. That I needed to pee, that I forgot something. Fuck was i. I’m not thinking anything. I’m running. Run.
No time to think. No time to do anything. No time to sit and calmly analyse the scenario presented before me. Like there wasn’t actually a threat. Like there was no danger. Only time to run. Only time to retreat. Only timeto escape.
I took down the high street, the downhill pavement making me regret having worn platforms as they punished me with each agonizing step. People weren’t quick to step out of my way and I felt my throat close as I was forced to stop for a second, a sudden crowd in the street overcoming me. Dodging what I could, I screamed to myself for people to let me passed, hopping on the spot as an old woman saw my stress and made an exit for me.Pushing past, I looked ahead. Why was this road so long? The last turning was just a bit behind me but the one afterwards was.
I hear something. Another ping? More dust shooting into the air? I can’t tell. Just another ten meters and I’d be round the corner. My legs wanted to give out on me. My thighs were bloated and ready to explode. My tongue was wet and dry at the same inapproachable time.
Fuck! I skidd, nearly tripping and grabbing a bus station for support. People turn to glance at me for a second and as a fool I look back, clambering around the prefab to hide behind it a little, still sprinting on dying legs wearing inapporopiate footwear
I take the next five meters in one stroke and swinging round, I hit the corner anddisappear around it, more dust erupting behind me.
Could I stop there? No, no of course not. I don’t even know what’s going on. Fuck.
Push it further. I look up, my chin dripping water to the floor before. The multitude of shops looked back and I scan the roofs of half of them. I can’t waste time. I look to the buildings themselves, seeing a fast food joint we had never intended on visiting again. With a shoive, I pursue it, catching its entrance and thursting myself it, my state catching the eyes of everyone there for a split second, before I dart at the toilet. Disabled but doesn’t matter. Ripping the door open without checking the occupied, I fall through, landing on the wet floor on my demin knees. I exhale, and then quiockly clumber round to shut the door.
I escape from my hunter for a short recess.
“It doesn’t matter how many there are. There are a finite number of people after all. All I have to do is keep killing those who are willing to kill, until none of them are left.”
“But can you really do that. Would
Of course I’m able to do it. It’s either that or let myself die..”
Whoever’s doing this has perfect information on all of us. Spending the night here sent the envelope to me here. Whoever it was knew I would be here and not back at my house. But how, I decided this last night spur of the moment, yet the letter would have had to have been posted at least twelve o’clock yestersay. Was my move predicted somehow?
At the football game
“What if I told you, that everyone in the stadium here, from those in the back seats to the players on the field, were all p[articipants in the Beautiful Game.”
“I’d look for a witty reponse and then hit you with it.”
“Is it that hard to imagine. Look at us. For all we know, we are two of the remaining four players left in the game at the moment, and everyone else is dead. Tell me Jennifer. How many people do you think are playing the game? How long do you think they’ve been playing? Do you honestly think you can kill them all?”
“Are you trying me for a fool? You honestly think that if over fifty thousand people were active hunters then we wouldn’t be noticing something, an extremely high death rate for one. People talking to each other.”
“Who would talk? Those who have no proof besides the envelope would be dismissed as nuts. Those who do kill will keep it quiet. The closest you might get is a hunter with nothing to lose and tries to blow the lid on the whole thing by turning himself in, but even he would only have a few disaccoiated names and not enough evidence.”
“We are all alone in this game There is no team in I.”
“And yet here you are, running out of reasons why I shouldn’t remove you.”
“I wish to help you, Jennifer.”
“So you can kill me yourself?”
“Exactly.” That was supposed to be sarcasm.
I stare at him. He’ss smiling, yet also has a sinister seriousness to his face.
“You survived three of my traps. That makes you the second to have done so. I wish to play against you again sometime, so I will help you survive until that turn comes again.”
“The turns repeat?”
“I assume so. It has not happened to me yet, but as you say, there are only a finite number of people in the game. A second chance must occur sooner.”
“You’re a freak.”
What was it? Two meters. Two meters half. How long was the long jump back in school? A lot longer that’s for sure. But how far could I jump it?
With exhaustion in hand and mobile phone on the brain, I finally let my body fall onto the unexpectedly comfortable hotel suite bed, the padding covers absorbing me into them, as I flicked the lights to dim and started scrolling.
This had certainly saved time and effort, though I was still worried that Irene would mention something to her husband. The plan so far seemed to rely solely upon her not mentioning anything. I didn’t want to upset whatever balance he had, anything that might knock him off his current typerope might change his schemes completely, whether he has them or not.
The person in the other side of the two mexapixel camera stared back at me. This was the first time it had been of any real use bar photographs in the pub and I scanned through each snapshot of part part of every document that I took back at 42 New Lane.
He had actually kept it on the top of his desk. In plain site. The place was reasonably tidy, so it was a spot of luck that I could at least grab that. Furthermore he had a copy of the player involved in the last turn.
Both profile sheets would be useful. If either player was dead in the time set for his turn, then I would know he was an active hunter. If not, I at least know have the names of two other players involved in the game.
Maybe I should pyramid this? Hunt down each person along the list of bounties until I find one dead. It would certainly get complicated and there’s the issue of discovering who killed who if I go with it for several turns.
I yawn, and turn for my tomato juice, slurping it down like it was thick soup, the pulp swimming round my teeth like a cat squeezing through a gap. No, I’ll need more resources to do that. It would have to wait. I should probably start hunting, no tracing one or two of them down though, see if I can get more. Maybe then I can get some sort of database set up. It’ll be useless though if I don’t find a way to get their bounties each turn though. Maybe I should get people on the inside each month. I have enough money now to hire private detectives, though it would be difficult to convince them to hunt for me.
As for Mr. Wallace, I just need to wait to see if Mrs. Rickmoore in dead in the next ten days. If she is, I’ll have to confront him about it.
“And then what? You’ll kill me.”
The voice startles me from my daydreaming. By the door of the room, a man stands watching over me. With no time telling how long he’s been there.
I can’t see his face just yet, since he’s hanging back in the shadows, but he’s wearing a brown tweed jacket and trousers lithat look like they belong in Casablanca. For a second, I can’t help but think secret aganet, but then my hand in focused on slipping under the covers, looking for my flickknife.
“Who are you?” I asked him tensively. It’s not there! Did I leave it in my car?
“You spend half the day talking to my wife about me and you don’t know.”
Where did I go wrong?
“Yeah,” he says, flicking his finger at me from his forearm as he headed for the room’s only chair and fell into it with the threat of breaking it. “Simon Wallace. Pleased to meet you. Don’t bother getting up.”
I watched as he picked up my bag, left on the dressing table by the wall near the door. Rummaging through it, he found what he was looking for instantly. His profiue chart. I waited as he scanned through it, judging the distance from the window and wondering just why the hell there were bars on it, blovking my three storey jump to the other side. Even if there weren’t, he could probably grab me as I scrambled for it. The door was out for the same reasons.
His wife talked. She must have done, but that wouldn’t explain how he knew me or even got here. Did he have camera’s in his house? I’m sure he didn’t. They must have been hidden.
“Not the best picture of me, wouldn’t you say?” It certainly looked a lot better than he did at the moment. He was unsahved and smelled in desperate need of a bath. “I probably need to shave my head when I get the chance.”
“Erm, yeah,” I reply, holding the covers to hide my nakedness as I get up properly. “Listen, Mr. Wallace. Know that I didn’t have…”
“Any intention of killing me?” he finished. “How convenient, and just when I have you at my mercy as well.”
Mercy my smooth rubber ass! You’re fifty nine years old. Though you’re big and bulky, I’m a pretty good runner and a tactical genius. Even if you should catch me, I’m one scream away from alerting hotel staff and getting you arrested for trespassing.
“And even if you do escape, Ms. Connolley, how long do you think that would last?”
He knows my name. How? It’s Emily butters that visited 42 New Lane today. There’s no obvious way he could have found out this quick. I even paid the hotel register in and Amanda Simmons just so it wouldn’t cause problems.
“This is your first time here, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I reply, like the location really made a difference.
“Tell me, how many have you killed so far?” He was taking control of the conversation, but I found I couldn’t refrain from answering.
“That’s complicated,” I said, glad that my refrain weas still ambiguous.
“I’m sure it is,” he replied, stuffing the profile back into the bag. “That’s why you should back out now. You’re still young. There’s no need for you to get involved in this sort of life. You should live in the real world with everyone else. It’ll be happier for you that way.”
“-dare?” I shouted, leaping from the bed. “You think because you’re old you can tell me what to do with wisdom? Live in the real world. Live happier. Live easier?! Who couldn possibly want such a broing life? I’m already sick of it.”
Choking him, squeezing the life out from around his neck and watching the death spread around him, infecting his body like a cancer.
“That is the real world? A work of bueracracy and tedium. Of mindless drones and repetive strain injuries. Of talks of sports and makes of cars! You’ve ogtta be kidding me. How can you be that old and not be sick of it? How can you even suggest I don’t just abandon that life?”
His mouth spits involuntarily, his salivia landing disgracefully upon my cheeks. I don’t care.
“I was going to let you live, to see how you played the game, see if you were innocent in all this. But if you’re going to come and do this you can just die like every hunter that dares to ruin people’s lives. So go right ahead and die for me, will you?”
He’s already dead. For some reason I choose not to notice.
“I won’t be told what to do no longer. I won’t be ordered around by work, my father, you, or some mindless game that thinks it can own me by threatening my existence.”
The mouth continues to make sounds, even as it has the throat forced up it.
“I will be free!”
“Yet you condemn yourself with each life you take.”
Suddenly my hands are locked in a battle to break the other’s fingers, squeezing round each other so hard that they’re all red with the blue liquid puring through my veins. I reel back as he pops out of the room like someone hit pause on the video camera and got him out the way.
Now, with a lightning bolt that shakes my world, a shadow appears.
I think I know by now, but something isn’t letting me spoil it.
“Who are you?”
The shadow doesn’t answer. Indeed, it can’t. We don’t actually know each other yet. The black void is a gap in my life that I can’t see. That’s wrong actually. I know it could speak to me. But instead, it starts walking towards me, but this time it’s different. I’m closer to the door, so I start to escape, taking him out of my vision just in time to see he hand raise to the sky.
Like a carpet being pulled, the floor is taken out in front of me as I’m impaled by a thousand girders that run the hotel apart. We all fall, and I crash into an opern construction site that reminds me of the one where I used to work.
I can’t do anything now. My legs are trapped, possibly gone under the colossal weight of beams that wouldn’t be trapping me if a certain homosexual errand boy wasn’t also here. I cry out in poain, my tears choked out yb the velocity of the impacts as I struggle uselessly. A clean cut would have been better than this.
My shadow hovers over me, staring at me with black eyes in perfect lack of contrast to the rest of its black body. I’ choking hairballs as I scream for that hotel help, and I reach for a bellboy that will never come.
Could we just get this over with already? Part of me screams, facing the shadow with what I hope is a grim expression full of resolve and determination whilst somehow knowing that I’m a sniveling crybaby at this particular moment. All I need now is for the curtain to unveil and reveal everyone I’ve ever known or loved.
The shadow kneels down to me, reaches out, and wipes his fingers under my chin, as if examining lips it wished to kiss. I stop. Okay?
“Who are you?” someone says.
“Don;’t you know?” it replies. “I’m your hunter.”
Two seoncds, and I’m back on my bed, the sheet covers not even over me, and I’m panting from exhaustion as the sweat drips off me in puddles. I shiver, and look round the room in case any demons just happened to be there as well as in my head. Flicking the light switch to full, I rush for the door and check the lock. It’s still bolted., and the window is still closed. No one came in.
I relax to the floor, only screaming when I notice it.
“Ah, ah ah,” I mutter, feeling my dead leg go fully numb beneath me and trying to get it back into shape. I play pat a cake with it a few times, but give up when I notice it wants a lie in.
I was having dreams about it. That was bad. I couldn’t waste time like this.
No wait, was it because of that? I have been pushing it a little these past few days. I haven’t even eaten properly these pass two days. Motorway food does nothing good for the constitution. This was something I hadn’t even considered. If I don’t keep up my physical health through diet and exercise, how long would it be before I begin to mess up. I might have to start regularly going through enduring situations and yet here I am relying on tomato juice and health bars as my main source of nutrion.
Dang! Well, it was simple to fix, but I’ll have to time and focus my habits a bit from now on. Last thing I need is messed up dreams where I confront my bounties like that.
That was my two worse fears in one. Getting cornered by a bounty who thought I was going to kill him when I wasn’t, and losing myself to the game. I have to be stronger than that. If I freak out, I may survive, but I’ll lose everything.
Last thing i\’m going to be is just another psycho.
The next morning, I’m out after around nine hours of sleep. I’ll cut it down to seven next chance I get, but for now I have to get out of here. I’m not needed round here, and all I have to do is wait for Mrs. Rickmoore to expire or not. I hope she doesn’t. I don’t want to see this guy again.
Regardless, moments before I hit the duel carriageway, I turn back, heading for his house one last time, ensuring that the old man at number forty two was still alive.
His car wasn’t there, but he wife seemed okay. I left it at that, and headed back for the motorway.
It seems I could focus fully on my hunter for now.
Final four thousand
“Echo breaker to tango one. Come in tango one.” This was getting tedious already.
“We should return these Jenn, we’ll get in trouble.”
“I didn’t copy that Tango One, please repeat.”
“I said, you know what, never mind. I’m going to go to bed. Call me if you need anything poison related.”
“I’m out for the night too.”
“Fine,” I said dejected, as both CBs cut out. Why were humans like this, so intentionally boring. It was like they only wanted to do things as long as they were convtroversial with instant satisfaction. All we had done wasb borrowed radios from the cabin crew. Eariler they had been standing on top of tables just to scream before the waiters showed up to pull them down. Now I try to spark a little fun and they act like it’s childish. Surely it’s more fun to do something and not get caught than the other way round.
Well, it dsidn’t matter. That wasn’t the point of this.
I switched the radio off and left it by the side table. I felt like getting an hour of sleep, but didn’t want to rsik turning that into a nighttime of sleep. With a day passing quick, it was clear that the hunter would try to strike again tonight. With two already gone, this would be the final trap that he’d try to set. The others had been traps anyway, I didn’t want to get into the mindset of a pattern but it appears to be what the hunter prided himself on.
Something that would take the bounty out without much suspicion.
It was clear with that how this one played. As long as I die, he gets his bounty. If he’s playing like that, I can assume them to be an active and competent hunter. He likes the game. Whoever it is is glad to be playing and wants to play as much as he can. He also wants his bounty to know he’s playing them, and that he wants to beat them. Else the first trap wouldn’t have been that flawed and reliant on other people.
It’s not just beating them. He wants us to know we’re being beaten, that we are nothing before his power. The second trap gave me plenty of chance to escape, and I wasted most of it and still got out. There are quicker ways to kill people even in private.
Foolish hunter, you shall soon learn you’re nothing compared to me. I already have counter measures to your next plan, whatever it is.
I doze lightly under the cover of my bed lamp. It’s warm, but it keeps me out of total slumber for when it happens.
RED ALERT REWD ALERT. THIS SHIP HAS BEEN DAMAGED AND IS CURRENTLY UNDERGOING EVACUATION PROCEDURES. COULD ALL PASSENGERS LEAVE THEIR CABINS IN A SAFE AND ORDELY MANNER AND PLEASE BELIEVE THAT THIS SOUNDS LIKE WHAT IT WOULD DO WERE THIS A RELATIVELY DECENT EVACUATION WARNING.
Evac? Amazing. To think the hunter would go so far as to damage the ship for the final part of the trap. Were we to sink, sending all those still onboard to a watery grave. If so, the entire ship was now a deathtrap, and all the hunter need do is make sure I failed to get off it.
No, he knows I won’t get off it.
He knows I’m not panickey, I haven’t had two attempts on my life whilst knowing of the existence of hunters and haven’t curled up into a squash ball to bounce around the ship’s hull for nothing. He must know that by now, seeing how close we’ve been this entire time. My plans are to find him now and settle this, and he’s thinking the exact same thing. He knows I’ll stay and make sure he drowns and he intends to use that against me.
All I have to do is use that against him.
Evacuation will take at least another ten minutes of the drones mindlessly panicking outside, so I wait for them all to clear off, their footsteps scattering the corridors like ants with iron boots. A few times people bang on my door, but there’s no one home for the first fourteen times. Hopefully, the cabin crew won’t check the rooms since there’s no smoke or fire around here yet.
With that reminder I take my shirt and make it into a suitable face scraf. I should note that I don’t know exactly what the hunter’s done to the ship to make it crash, but it more than likely involves the engine room. I’ll have to be stealthy heading down there. From there on I can figure what he’s done and where he is. There’s a chance h’s left other traps for me as well so-
“Jenn, are you in there?”
No, no I’m not. Just go away and let this room drown.
Maybe I ought to be the sole survivor of this ship wreck, that would certainly make sure there’s no hunter in my way and I wouldn’t have to bother with these people anymore.
I would have noo need for this job come the end of the turn anyway.
Ten minutes pass. The time limit was too much of an issue to check ‘it’ out one last time, so for now I’d have to leave it and hope for the best. It was all set up two hours ago anyhow.
When silence finally conquers the corridor, I step out into it, gazing around for any signs of anyone. It’s empty and I tiptoe the living quarters.
Out for obvious reasons, I skipped passed the elevator and headed for the stairs. The entire place was a ghost ship now, with everyone up on the decks and out fo their minds with worry. What were they asking themselves right now? Were they blaming sabotage? Terrorism? Did they think that Arijit was going to plunge this ship into Buckingham Palace or something. He wasn’t even religious.
Though I suppose it did inspire terror, it wasn’t exactly the same thing. Even so, the news reports should have a field day about this.
It htit the last floor, the smooth cream walls and red carpeted staircase turning into wire mesh and industrial boxes that probably did something important. Through the door a lot of equipment started pumping at me and drowning out my thoughts. I went on instinct and stood by the door, checking it for anything. This was mty way out after all, I didn’t want to get caught by another set of bolts on the door.
The klaxons switched to speaker again, the captain was screaming orders like the entire place was set on self destruct whiole the tyrant chased me. I couldn’t even see what the problem was yet. I half expected this place to be full of smoke and tipping with water, yet each motorized doohickey seemed to be running fine. I guess these ships are built to last even when they’re damaged enough to throw everyone off them.
With hesitantncy filled to the brim with uncertaiancy and then hesitancy held within tredipation, I swung the door open, heading into the red flashing room that interweaved all the bottom parts of the ship.
I was no ship person. I knew the basics that others had pointed out to me, but I couldn’t say that the weird rumbling thing to the right of me was a hydroxide pressure remover or was just filled with a thousand hamsters fighting to the death. Regardless, avoiding traps in this place should be relatively simple, as long as I kept my eyes open and senses alert.Just because my ears were occupied with the sound of death all around me shouldn’t stop me from being focused.
I pace down the corridor, fixed for anything suspicious. I knew everyone now, spent the last few days speaking to every last one of them. Recognising them by face would be easy enough, even if I did know who was responsible.
Could I waste time here? The ship was going down after all, and here I was at the bottom. I should be seeing the warning lights everywhere. I am for that matter, but I should be heeding them. Damn, could the trap of this place be that I spend too much time looking for the hunter while he’s already pissed back up to relative safety? There’s no major need for pride on his side, nor is there recognition. He can be a sneaky manipulative fuck and all I have to die is die for him to win the turn. Escaping would be smart right now, but it would also be defeating-
Stop. A sign. Written in black marker on paper stuck with bluetack against an iron door that just makes it confusing.
Does your shadow know you’re following it?
I don’t even begin to know where I say what’s wrong with this, but I know this is where he plans me to be.
Of course this is a trap.
This is The trap, the only one he actually plans to kill me with.
Guess I should step right into it then.
As I do, I see a door straight ahead of me, about ten meters on the other side of the room. The room is a cutaway, with two industrial doohickeys to the left and right of me, taking up most of the room and leaving room only for a walkway on the left and right sides of the room with another in the mioddle that leads to the next door.
The machines aren’t on (at least I don’t think they were), but I can hear humming coming from the lights, which were set to maximum annoying glare.
Staying against the wall, I slide sidesways down to look at the right walkway. Devoid of life I bounce over to the left hand one, empty as well. Is he in here at all. Maybe I should just shut the door and lock it behind me. If I do that, I should check the door on the other side. If I lock that one shut and then head back to the first one and jam that ibe aktogether, then he’s got no way out and I’m free to get back on the lifeboats-
A crash. A bang. A wallop.
The entrance crashes shut as I reach the second door, the sound of two sheets of metal scratching into place and jamming it shut, as another noise on the outside rushes off into the distance. It’ll hardly take Seuss to know what happened before I turn around.
The door was shut. I knew it was locked and even if I didn’t, I could see those two weird bolts on the top of the door impeding me once again.
Well, I had certainly made an ass of myself right now and here. I didn’t even need gas to take meout this time. The foolish hunter obviously planned to just leave me here to corrode with the rest of the ship.
Repeating the same trick twice seemed amateurish, but it may have made sense. We were essentially both trapped on the ship after all. If he had intended to gas me to death the other niught there would have been no need for a second accident to occur on board. Therefore, he would just have to repeat it.
Of course, there is the matter that he brought materials to destroy the ship with.
No, He may not need materials.
Of course I can’t say i\’m unprepared for this. Even a rabbit wouldn’t go near the same trap again after just narrowly evading it without bringing something to get in the way of the farmer’s intentions. I’m not unprepared in the slightest. Just completely unprepared.
Okay that’s not true at all. I had several ideas of what to dohere and all I need to do is-
Maybe I could just work on the fly after all.
About three feet from the second door, scattered between a lunchbox and a hard hat, lies a tool box of life saving proportions +3. Red and rusted, it was just the treasure chest I needed to see at the moment. I could see the screws on the sdoor here and this thing hadto have something I could use, perhaps even a-
Too easy. Far too easy. I would be turning around to look at my dead wife if I did this now, taking the apple and thanking the old lady for her genorsity. The toolbox was obviously a fake and as my hand nearly it, I felt an uncomfortable bristling that made the hairs on my back stand on end.
The floor was electrified.
The toolbox sparks as I kick it, the spanners and tools shaking up on the inside. Knocking it over, I see everything scattered and light up the metal walkway. One of the smaller pieces dropping between the gaps before I can idenfiy it and drowning in the shadows below.
The entire floor must be electrified. I can’t feel anything with the rubber of my soles protecting me but that has to be the case.
How powerful is it? I’m no monkeymade rubberman but I might be able to withstand about a hundred volts tog et the screwdriver and pull it away from the current. Of course with no way of testing it, the temptation of touching the floor was about the same as that of opening certain doors on airplanes at 40,000 feet…. Strangely appealing.
I head back for the door, kicking at it and feeling something electromagnetic. Fuck! The door was affected too. Just where does a ship hold all this power. Everything around me is pure danger and water has to start coming in soon. Once it does I get to be flash fried without an oil coating to help me along, though the amount of tanning fluids I have on me might object to that.
Focus! That gas did a number on me more than I thought. I’m starting to get complacent, making jokes where jokes are not due. Do I think that just because I beat two sticking traps by pot luck and make plans in advance I can just lie back and let instinct take care of everything. I am not stagnate!
I search the room twice, making sure I have everything in mind. The toolbox is out of bounds. All the screwdrivers are purely metal, and I don’t have a chance of holding one without testing myself for electrocondutively. I also can’t touch the door with my bare hands for the same reason. The second door is locked as well, and the first is unopenable with usually means as longas those hinge bars are in the way. Furthermore, there’s something blocking it on the other side, I think.
And I give myself ten minutes before this starts to become completely hopeless.
A ship should need about half an hour to sink at this size, I believe, though I don’t know the exact calculations. It would require a martian death ray to make it fall underwater too quickly, and I sincerely hope my hunter is human.
“Now, you need anything and Will can get it for you. He hasn’t been here long, but he’s capable. He’s also the least scariest looking of all the guys here, so it’s him or me you want to approach.”
“But you looked like you dragged yourself out of a swamp,” Will complained. “She’s not going to speak with you.”
“Ah yeah, but if she wants a real man she can’t come to you can she? You got a boyfriend, girl?”
Smile now, don’t let them know you’re a killer.
“Er, no,” I replied, accidentally catching a glance of the man’s bellybutton as it popped out under his sleeveless shirt. Five seconds in and that question came up. Amazing, a new record.
“Then she’ll be wasting her time to speak with you, won’t she?” Will gave off a snort of annoyance, one which I felt like mimicking but held back, merely laughing as the larger man got closer to me and whispered in ym ear. “I think he’s in a little bit of denial love. Maybe you can cure him for us if you got the time.”
“I’ll consider it,” I said smiling. If the hunter is on site, where would he be?If he was a worker, he’d have had to come in the pass few days. He may also have chosen to set me here and then come later, so I should watch out for any other newcomers to the place. I should also find if there are any recent employees, but I’ll need to ask someone I know hasn’t been here for a while.
“How long have you been working here?” I asked Robin, causing a look of confusion to show on his face, surely he wasn’t stupid enough to forget such a thing.
“On this project….” He began, looking up to where his brain hopefully was to get the answer. “I was here when we started so it should be about three months.”
“Is it good here?” Who cares if it’s good here.
“Not bad. Not bad. We got a whole new bunch of workers here in the past few days, same as yourself I think. But most are okay. Only one I don’t like is the boss.”
“Yeah, bloody pkkie. Acts like he owns the lot of us the way he bosses us about. Most of the time he’s in his office though. He should be back this afternoon.”
If he was one of the non-workers, then it would explain how he got me here…to an extent. Am I thinking too much into this? What would my hunter need to be in order to get me transferred here. Regional manager more likely, but Sue and Robert have technically moved me away from them. But then anyone else above them could have also pushed for this without no one suspecting.
“I should probably meet him Can you trell me when he gets here?”
“Sure thing love,” Robin said, sucking all his nose mucus into the vacuum of space behind his nose. “I’ll get Will here to tell you. Come on Will.” With that, the burly worker strolled off, the sound of men in the background pitching into her ears for just a second. Will stayed behind for a moment.
“Don’t worry,” he tells me. “You’ll get used to him…hopefully.”
“I’m not sure I want to,” I say with a snigger. But then it could be someone just on the outside, reacting to the luck of taking me away from the office and into a place where I own’t be familiar with the other workers. Maybe I should take time out to get to know them, but then would that be putting myself in unnecessary danger.
“Oh, some of us are heading out for drinks tonight if you want to come. Give you a chance to get to know everybody better.”
Far too unnecessary.
“I’m afraid I’m busy tonigyht,” I shunned him. “I wasn’t exactly warned of this in advance.”
“Oh right,” he replies. “Well, tell me when next you’re free.”
Well, tomorrow night I just so happen to be free to stand outside Market Square at around seven o ‘clock, wearing a red shirt and jangely bells round my neck. If you’re just so lucky you might be able to pop me off with your high powered long ranged sniper rifle, before I catch the glint of your weapon. Or failing that you could always wait until I head home, where I always take Dark Alley Road down into the Red Light District, before catching the number fifty nine and heading to my house which I would have forgot to lock that night. If you catch me at any of these times, I’m sure they’ll be good for you.
I waved him off, and when he was gone, fell down into my chair.
The lack fo security was Kraftequesly scary considering how mny security camera there were. I had counted two by the entrance, and several littered all over the yard, yet the screens in the office were completely unmanned. Wherever this Bob was, he wasn’t doing a very good job.
There were five moniters in the windowed office, and they were almost adjacent to my own desk. I just needed to shift it slightly and I could get a good look in there at all times. Slowly, I shifted it across and was pleased to sit down to a view of five screens. My chair also no longer had a window behind it now. Anmd with two exits on either side, I shouldn’t have to worry too much about surprise attacks unless they immobilize me, which the camera should now hopefully prevent.
I’d see how long it would work. Four days should be enough.
Simon Wallace lived at 42 New Lane in Andover, Hampshire.
And Hampshire was behind London.
This would be taking some time.
I leaned back in my uncomfortable, cheap black office chair, lamenting the loss of the dearly departed foam that once separated my vertebrae from the height adjusting support. It wasn’t too much of a problem, the location that is, but I’d have only the weekend to get there, search for him and get back if I was still looking to keep this job.
So far the location had proven suitable. In terms of surveillance and escape options I had plenty and had made more. Of course the blatent danger of the entire area wasn’t to my liking still. I had thought up things that I couldn’t counter against and most of them including destroying the rentacabin with me in it. This wasn’t going to work for the long term.
Was anything going to work for the long term?
The urge to fall into patterns was something I had already sucuumbed to several times already since that first envelope fell through my door. The mere fact that I had rationalized my way through the first turn showed me that if I didn’t force myself to constantly adapt, I’d stagnate and be shot at. The one thing that’ll truly fail me at the moment is if I insisted on going back to ythe old office because it was safer.
Mind you, by that logic, I should leave my current living quarters and change them every month.
Maybe that’s why we got such a large sum at the beginning. Merely to cover living expenses.
“Hey Jenn,” the voice of Will caught me as it banged alongside his hand on the plastic door.
“Come in,” I chimed, feeling in the mood to order tea, though the coffee machine was less than three feet away from me.
“Boss wants to see you.”
Were we already at the stage of our relationship where we don’t listen to each other? I shouldn’t be that amazed.
“What? He actually exists?” I called back, but got no reply. He had already wandered off it seems. The supervisor hadn’t come back yesterday, and for a short while I had begun to figure that maybe it was one of the others and a prank was being played on me-*thisall needs adding into converse or something. She doesn’t think about the mundane anymore*
I left my perpectual sanctuary to enter the myrid corridors of open field and dust that immediately assaulted me upon leaving. Checking around me, I looked for any possible strikers. Will’s back was already turned away from me, but he indicated in the direction of a man that I could just make out in the distance on the phone. Also, with his back turned to me, I started to approach the man, checking all my sides. To the right, the burly fat man and a few other lackeys sat around drinking some thermos tea, while people on my left were half way through bringing some girders further up the support complex as another crane drove pass me and ten men marched behind it carrying supplies with distant tunes coming out of their whistleing mouths.
This was the problem. I could only just keep track of the forty muscle men that surrounded me, dancing a jig that only their architects could comprehend. Any and none of them could be the hunter and no matter how much I told myself that it wasn’t helping. I need to compile a list at the very least, try to narrow down suspects. Implment a few tests that may reveal hidden intentions. I couldn’t just wander blazingly into work every morning with a yawm and cup of tea and expect people not to just fire an arrow into one or poison the other.
I will leave. I’ve got no choice really. Any longer and I’m closer to doomed than most comic book maidens. All it would take isa-
Peering behind me, I look behnd the giant roller to see everyone staring above me. It causes me to look the wrong direction and I catch everyone else staring and Will running towards me. I focus on him a second too long and barely notice the shadow looming below me.
By then I’m already moving, my feet taking me away, sensing gravity being pulled into service against me before I did. I take four steps back, not caring for any madmen that may be standing in my path with knives. Then I trip, and scramble further. By this time my eyes have already registered them. Girders, too many to count and far too much sunlight in the way to even try, falling towards me like giant, oblong hailstones.
Fuck! I look away, needing to get away, but already somethings hit me and I nearly struggle against it. Not so much heavy as it is tense, I briefly seeing another much closer shadow pull at me, trying to tug at whatever resistence I can provide in that one short instance, before pulling me away completely and out of harm’s way.
The ground shudders below us as the girders hit the ground in a contest to see which hits first., each block of metal impaling itself in the ground, crushing the supplies beneath it like they were mouldy paper mache and striking the roller a glancing blowas they ricochet off and drop to the ground.
I look on beside the interference, who grips me tighter with each earth shuddering thurst into the ground. I endure it and start looking around me for any other attack, , on me for any missing limbs I may have missed, above me for any hunters on the scaffolding.
Then I notice the roller again.
It starts to rumble, wholly on its own this time and even as the last girder strikes it and slides onto the floor all it does is get it going faster. IT starts to roll down the incline it was placed on top of and its easy to follow its path to the the bottom, where the supervisor continues his conversation on the mobile phone.
Picking up speed, the roller serves unreservingly towards him like a runaway train in a children’s cartoon.
Even as I heard the opera mouse singing I was up and ready to run.
“Will, get him,” I end up shouting, my body halting when we’re both up.
Without hesitation, the errand boy is already up and down the little rump of a hill. The roller gives the impression of unstoppable at this moment but not outrunnable and whilst trying to wave his hands and sprint his fastest at the same time, I see as boy finally grabs the asian man’s attention and begins pulling him out of the way.
The boss only has enough time to drop his phone before following the springing lean lad, and as the large concrete roller drives to them they watch it tackle harmlessly pass them and into two tones of metal, dislodging them and stopping its progress.
I let myself breath again.
I’m following it down before I know it, tracing the path along with a few others to meet the two at the bottom. The supervisor’s hugging Will like a baby does its mother when in a swimming pool, latching on and thanking him in a crisp London accent that isn’t speaking English that I’ve heard for the first time.
When we get down there, Will is able to separate the boss from him, who looks around with a smile, before turning back to the supplies and swearing a few times.
“Shit I can’t fucking believethat. Did ya see it? Came at me like a fucking ton of bricks.”
“Are you okay?” I asked him needlessly. It was a good job that Will was here. The last thing I need is some innocent dying because I’m here.
“Yeah…” he replied, slowly his breathing down, shouting to compensate the ringing in his ears. “I’m good. I’m good. Just give me a minute.” The man’s words slowly switched back to comprehensible as he rested against the errand boy. “Who are you?” he asked after a moment. “If you don’t mind me asking?”
“er…Jennifer Connolley,” I said, having forgotten. “I started working here yesterday.”
“Oh right, the admin lady,” he sighed, supporting himself on his knee now as well as Will, who looked like he should be the one doing that. “Pleased to meet you.” I took his fear covered hand and shook it, looking around me for anyone looking partly disgruntled that I was still alive. I mostly caught people cracking friendly jokes or questioning their boss’s stamia.
Will got a lot less praise than I thought he should have,