Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hide and seek ... by Wei Li

I pulled up by a broken little house. I opened my car door and stepped out, immediately greeted by a chilling wind. I paused for a moment and looked around carefully. The sun had just dipped below the horizon, depriving me of its warmth.

Pulling my coat a little tighter around me, I tried to ignore the shadows that were darting between the trees. Somewhere in the distance dogs barked wildly, as if warning away something dangerous.

There was a gravelly path leading up to the house lined with dying weeds, probably the neglected garden. I slowly walked up towards it and pushed the rusty gate aside. A smashed in mailbox displayed the number one and two-thirds of a cracked three. I pulled the crumpled piece of paper out of my pocket and checked the address once again, scowling as the howling wind snatched it away. Shivering slightly, I reached my hand out to twist the doorknob.

My heartbeat thumped at a steady pace, pulsing against my chest. My fingers were less than centimetres away from the door -

“Ion!” An excited voice said, throwing the door open.

I nearly jumped backward with shock. “Geez, Damion! Don’t give your guests heart attacks! It is pretty rude.”

Damion shrugged, rolling his eyes. “Sorry to ruin your moment, Ion. I knew you always had wanted to be in a ‘haunted’ house…”

“Come on, man! Let me in already!”

Damion grinned and stepped aside. The moment I walked in I was greeted by a chorus of voices, previously blocked by the soundproof walls. I laughed madly at my ignorance and picked up a soda can, popping open the tab. Everyone was dancing, laughing, chatting or doing all those things at once.

I was so lost in watching the party goers that I got startled by a hand that clapped my shoulder. “Nice hat there, Ion! You’re like the only person who went that far!” He gestured at my head while shaking his own. “Wow, that is just pure Sherlock.”

I looked at his outfit, which was just a grey jacket over another bland grey shirt. Tilting my head to the side I took my top hat off and placed it, lopsided, on his head. “Now you can match the theme of this party.” After a thoughtful moment I grabbed my hat back and placed it back it on my own head.

I walked on and searched for the host, Damion. The food was good but I wanted something more, something to do with the theme of the party. Soon enough, I found him lounging on the couch, trying to fix his monocle. He looked absolutely ridiculous.

“Hey, Damion,” I drawled, making my first word nice and long. “What’re you doin’? Other than getting tangled in your costume.”

Damion looked annoyed. “I-I’m resting.”

“Well, are we going to do something more interesting? Something more…Sherlocky?

The host of the party looked up at me, without moving his head. “I don’t think ‘Sherlocky’ is a word,” he paused for a second and when he spoke his voice was deeper. “We’re going to play a game.”

The way he said ‘game’ was really creeping me out.

A few minutes later he stopped the music and called out over the chattering of the couple dozen people. Damion spread his arms out wide, in an attempt to quiet his guests. “As you probably already know, this party wasn’t just to meet up with you guys after my years of being abroad and sit around talking, no, we’re going to play a game. Surprise!” Damion grabbed a bag which rustled with the sound of paper rubbing together. “This game combines mystery with one of your favourite childhood games: hide and seek.”

I had to supress a little girlish shriek. Damion knew that my favourite kid game was hide and seek.

“In this bag there are twenty-three pieces of paper which are blank. This bag also contains one piece of paper which has the word ‘murderer’ written on it. You must keep the contents of your piece of paper to yourself. When the lights go out the murderer can start ‘murdering’ people. If the murderer tags you and whispers ‘You’re dead’ in your ear, you lie on the ground.”

This game’s rules were starting to get a little unnerving.

“If you find someone who is ‘dead’ you call out ‘I found a dead body!’ and the lights will go back on. Everyone will then come back here and we’ll have to guess who the murderer was.” He then started to open the bag, then stopped. “Also, the only things you can say are ‘You’re dead’ and ‘I found a dead body’. No murdering someone if you’re not the murderer. So basically, no cheating, I will know if you cheat. Oh, and we’re going to go to the three floor house behind this little house-shack.”

I turned around to see other people’s expressions. Some were mildly excited, some were bored, but surprisingly, there were none who were even remotely fearful. I shook my thoughts away.

Why should I be scared of a normal, childish game?

All the people in the house reached into the bag to select a piece of paper, even Damion. When I looked at mine my heart lifted slightly, only a little. At least I knew how to hide.

We all followed Damion out the door and around the back of the small house.

Outside, the moon shone with a dim silvery glow, which cast shadows everywhere I looked. My top hat’s shadow looked all warped and bent on the gravelly surface of the path. The shrivelled garden plants were like ghostly fingers, scrabbling for handholds on my pant-leg. Accompanied with the spikey dead grass on the steep hill we walked on and my extremely thin pants it was so very irritating. Irritating enough to almost take my mind off the monstrous house in front of me. Almost.

The house looked like a hungry beast, a monster which waited for its victims to walk into its mouth. The paint was left to peel and fall off the rotting wooden walls. Tall, curtained windows seemed like half-lidded eyes, staring intently at me.

I walked briskly to the back of the group, where Damion was. I turned my head towards him, keeping my eyes on the house. “Uh, Damion, my man. How exactly did you find this house? Why is there nobody here? Are you sure this isn’t illegal? What is this place anyways?”

“Hush, child,” Damion said in a mocking voice. “This place is totally fine. It’s fine.” He pat my back with a suddenly icy cold hand. “It’s fine.”

Our ‘party’ group reached the door to the menacing house and waited for Damion to come forth. Then our host opened the door. I noted that the room we were in was fully illuminated already. We all gathered in front of him, everyone but me with excited grins on their faces.

Damion then faced us all. Smiling, he placed a readied hand on the rusted light switch. “Let’s play.”

Then all went black.

Stumbling around in the darkness as I tried to avoid everyone else’s trampling feet. I placed my hands in front of me, attempting to find my way in the near blackness. Crazed footsteps and panicked breathing filled my ears. But the most prominent sound was the emptiness of voices.

I knew the ‘murderer’ was out there, I knew that I was lost in the dark, and I knew I couldn’t ditch the party without Damion finding out. He was a demon.

I opened my mouth to yell for Damion to stop this stupid game, but my throat was dry and raw. Confused, I tried again. No sounds. I clawed at my neck, desperately trying to get my voice out.

Two sets of pounding footsteps sounded behind me, awakening me from my frozen, flustered state. Leaping out of the corner I was in, I ran, careful to not make any too obvious sounds. I could’ve sworn my heart was the loudest thing in the room.

My hands felt a doorway and I threw myself in to the room. I froze with my back pressed against the icy cold wall and held my breath. The footsteps behind me ceased and I heard a little gurgle.

Then came a barely audible whisper which I strained to hear. I felt a chill when I heard a thud of something soft against wood. “You’re dead.”

I would’ve screamed if I had my voice. The murderer disappeared, leaving their victim behind. Cautiously, and with shaking hands, I approached the person on the ground. My fingers poked their skin. Cold.

They were gone.

I was horrified at the person in front of me. “I f-found a,” I cleared my throat, “I found a d-dead body.”

My eyes stung and I shielded them with my still shaking hands. Harsh, white lights shot on, illuminating the paling person in front of me.

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