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Congratulations! You are one of twelve lucky people selected by me, Chaos, to participate in the experiment of a lifetime. Your mission: Escape this metal room, survive in the wilderness, and be the last one alive at the end of the month. Can you outlast your competitors?

Age Rating: 18+

 

12 by Zac Ramsay is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

Summary

Congratulations! You are one of twelve lucky people selected by me, Chaos, to participate in the experiment of a lifetime. Your mission: Escape this metal room, survive in the wilderness, and be the last one alive at the end of the month. Can you outlast your competitors?

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Zac Ramsay

Subject: Adam Sanderson

Location: Processing

Time and Date: 10:00am, June 1st, 2015

Status: Living; no injuries or illnesses

Tracking Device: Fully functional

Ugh… my head… my back… where am I? What is this place?

The surface underneath me is hard and cold, metal. Above me is more of the same.

Rising from the steel bunk bed structure, my aching back pops and my world spins, the sound of my own heartbeat pounds in my ears as my eyes fill with red and then I crash into blackness.

***

I wake, not knowing how long I had been unconscious for. A pit forms in the bottom of my stomach.

This is not my home, not my room, and that is not my bed.

My breath quickens as I try to think of what home actually is, but I can recall nothing.

I don’t know where I am, but I don’t know where I come from either.

The impact my head took on the hard metal floor sends a ringing sensation in my ears.

A singular light placed in the centre of the ceiling stabs at my eyes with intense brightness and the high-pitched whine filling my ears is the only sound that fills the empty metal cube I find myself in.

Empty of course, excluding the toilet, sink, and mirror that are to my right across from the metal bed devoid of any comforts.

Using the bed for support, I manage to, slowly this time, rise to my feet.

I sway back and forth, my equilibrium disturbed by something. My throat is dry and cracked and my stomach stings from hunger.

How long was I out for when I hit the floor? How long was I unconscious before I woke up the first time?

How the hell did I get here?

Pushing my fear down to the best of my ability, which is to say poorly, I stumble over to the sink to try and quench my thirst, staring down at my feet all the while to spare my eyes from the intense light.

I have to use the sink to support my weight because my legs are so weak. The tap turns, but no water comes out, of course.

My hands are pale and are partially covered in light brown hair.

I can feel them trembling as I come to the slow realization that I don’t remember what I look like, but I’m too afraid to look at the mirror because I know I will not recognize the face staring back at me.

Minutes pass. All I do is stare at my hands and cry. Why is this happening? What did I do to deserve this? Why can’t I remember anything?

As the tears dry on my cheeks, a spot of blood drips onto the back of my hand. I clench the sides of the sink in pure terror turning my knuckles a snowy white against the crimson drop of horror.

My blood courses through my body, the whining in my ears replaced by the great roar of my veins.

I can smell it. Nothing smells like it.

A second drop of blood falls on my right hand and causes me to instinctively lift my gaze to the mirror.

I collapse to a knee and vomit into the sink, gasping for air in between the sobs.

The cold metal stings my bare shin as I read the horrid phrase over and over again.

Dread seeps into the pit of my stomach each time my eyes move from left to right reading the question written in blood, each letter elongated by the pull of gravity.

“Who are you?”

What’s my name? Oh my God…. What the hell is my name? Who the hell put me here?

Holy shit, I’ve been kidnapped, I’m going to die in here, and someone is coming to kill me. I’m too young to die!

What the hell? What is going on?

My eyes dart from one edge of the mirror to the other, analyzing the stranger who is on the other side of the sink. I know it’s me, but I’m not familiar.

The existential nightmare of a question drips from the top of my short, bushy, curly brown hair, down my long, rounded nose, to my unshaven angular jaw and hollow cheeks, and collects on my shirt of the same colour.

I can’t believe I don’t recognize myself. Is this me or is this just another test?

My legs are useless as I clutch the sink for support while letting out a feeble yell with all the air my exhausted lungs can muster.

Staring into my own eyes, I feel a rush of adrenaline surge through me. I reach a maximum point of fear that my brain takes over and suppresses my emotion.

A chill runs down my spine as my terror evaporates into a cold calmness. Fear has given way to survival.

The roaring in my ears has calmed, my breathing normalizes, but my head still throbs, and my legs are ready to fold. I can think more clearly, but my body can’t keep up.

I’m so petrified that my brain has forced fear out, but my body hasn’t had time to catch up.

I will not die in here. I will not give in, not here, not now. I need to find a way out of here.

I analyze every corner of the room in hopes for some kind of clue.

First, I scan the roof, my eyes finally adjusted. There is a bright light that is screwed into the roof and protected by metal bars.

In front of me is a large rectangular frame; it might be a door, but I don’t see any handle or button to open it with a small vent just above the door frame with red, white, and blue streamers flapping pulsing lukewarm air into the box.

The comforting breeze settles the goose bumps on my skin.

I’m dying for a drink. I go to the sink.

Twisting the nozzles again proves useless, the toilet doesn’t flush either, and there’s no water in the bowl.

I have a chance. Not a good one, but a chance.

I mean, I have no idea who I am, where the hell I am, no clue who put me here. I have no food, and no water.

Not to mention my head still hurts, and I’m dying for some water.

I look over at the dancing streamers, each movement reminding me that I’m still alive and that I have clothes on my back and what seems to be an unlimited air supply.

That gives me at least a few hours to try to figure out how to get out of here.

Jesus Christ, what a mess. What a bloody mess I’ve got myself into.

Think, idiot, think.

How do I get out of here?

I look over at the door. There has to be a switch, or lever, or electronic code machine somewhere that will let me out of here.

I lean my body against the cold metal, pushing forwards and pulling upwards, trying anything to get the door to budge. My blue runners slide slightly underneath me.

To keep myself upright and push hard against the door making my nails futilely try and dig themselves into the gray sheet. The horrific sensation shoots through my body.

It doesn’t budge, not even an inch. Of course, no way it would be that easy.

I look underneath the bed and above the top bunk. Running my hands all around the metal frame, I try to find any hidden buttons.

Nothing.

I try pushing the bed frame out from against the wall, but it’s anchored in with bolts.

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

What the hell am I supposed to do? Is this some kind of test?

If it is a test how in the world do I even go about passing?

There are no clues, there’s no water, there’s no way to get out of here! There’s just nothing!

Stop it. If I think like that, I can guarantee that I’ll die in here.

If there isn’t a way out, I am going to spend every last second of my life trying to find a way.

With how barren this room is, the only other place something could be hidden is behind the toilet or under the sink. I can’t move either of them, so I look beneath both appliances without success.

Nothing. Damnit!

The ringing in my ears is replaced by the painful note of my fist against the floor.

The sink looks like it’s hooked into the wall and all the pipes seem intact. Why isn’t it working?

I go for the taps, first the cold, then the hot, then at the same time. Still nothing.

Pulling off the lid, I find a small wrench inside.

Thank God! Something! Finally, something! Happiness bubbles in my chest.

My delight at finding this wrench removed any inhibition I could have possibly had about sliding my hand against the slippery porcelain into the frigid water to grab the tool.

Now, what to do with this beautiful, beautiful, wrench?

The desert in my mouth compels me towards the sink again. The sandpaper that rests between my teeth anxious for relief.

I try to use the tool to loosen the bolts of the sink in hopes to make water come out, but the wrench is too small to be of any help.

Just my luck.

I go back to my bed and try the wrench on the bolts. With a little effort, they loosen, and I can pull the bed away from the wall.

On the hidden wall near the corner of my box, I find a little flap that was obstructed by the bottom bunk’s proximity to the floor.

Underneath it is a valve with ‘water’ written above it; chances not hurting, I turn it and I can hear the toilet begin to run. The water is filling up the basin.

The water is filling up the basin!

The water is running!

In eagerness to test my excitement, I flush the toilet, and pump my fists in the air as the water does its little twirling dance and then disappears.

Realizing what the running means, I lunge towards salvation.

Turning the tap allows the forever trapped water to reach my lips. The hum against the drain causes me to giggle with excitement.

I take a long drink from the cold tap. The water slides down my dry throat and into my stomach. My cracked lips soak up as much liquid as they can as I continue to quench my undying thirst.

My thirst finally quenched, and my thoughts now turning to the gnawing hunger I had not noticed before, I stand to continue my escape effort.

I notice a small piece of paper in the toilet bowl, I must have missed it falling out in my excitement to drink.

I snatch up the folded, laminated note, desperate for a clue to get me out of this damned nightmare.

Hello Adam,

Is that my name? Adam? Is this letter supposed to be for me?

Congratulations on making it this far. You are one of twelve lucky people to have been selected by yours truly, Chaos, to participate in the experiment of a lifetime.

Experiment? What the hell?

Is this guy some kind of sicko?

What kind of experiment involves losing all memory of who I am and getting trapped in a room with no way out? Does this psycho think my life is a game?

It involves mandatory participation from every candidate. If the participant refuses to play along, they will be quickly eliminated.

Eliminated? I guess Chaos does think this is some kind of game.

Your mission is to be the last one alive after one month of competition. In order to do so, you must learn to survive in the wild and defend yourself from the elements, wild animals, and, of course, other contestants.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit.

I squeeze the paper until my intense grip causes my arms to tremble. My paper legs finally fold, but I manage to sit myself on the lower bunk before I fall. This feeling, I can’t pin it. It’s not panic, it’s not fear, it’s not anger… dread. The hope I had just a few minutes ago has turned into a rock of despair determined to fall through my stomach.

I read the note over and over again.

My forehead has become moist, and I find myself wiping every few seconds to allow myself to continue to read the awful note. My eyes are drawn to the same portion every time.

Other contestants. Are we expected to kill each other? What the hell is going on?

No way can I kill another person, but I have to, or I will die.

The manner in which a participant is terminated does not matter. The experiment will end when only one contestant is left alive. That contestant will be rewarded beyond their wildest dreams.

However, if after a month, more than one contestant is alive, the experiment will be deemed a failure and remaining contestants will be terminated.

Consider that an incentive to get moving.

At the end of each day, you will be notified of who has died and how many participants remain.

To prove to you that you must do as I say, you will soon hear a message from me coming from inside your head. This is how I will communicate with you throughout the experiment.

It is currently June 1st, 2015.

Best of luck to you all.

Warm regards,

Chaos

He’s a monster, nothing more than a disgusting psychopath. This maniac wants me to kill eleven other people? I would rather die.

I hope the other contestants feel the same way, and then maybe we have a chance of getting out of here alive.

Everyone must cooperate, though. If only one person decides to kill, it’ll only be a matter of time before I have to kill in self-defence.

Do I even want to leave this box, then?

The fear and agony inspired by this steel box is now miniscule compared to the horrors that lay beyond that door.

I put my head into my hands and sob. My lungs heave as my tears trickle down my forearms.

I will die if I go out that door, but I will die by the end of the day if I wait in here.

Surely, Chaos won’t let me stay in here forever. He’ll cut off my air supply, forcing me out. I can die right now if I smash the mirror.

I pick the wrench up from the floor where I had dropped it to pick up the note and once again stare at myself in the mirror.

I hold up the wrench, ready to smash the glass and end my suffering while I still have the choice. I speak through the sobs, my arm frozen, ready, but unable to throw.

Who are you?

“I am a dead man, Chaos. I am going to die.”

Who are you?

“I am a pawn in your game. I have no hope.”

Who are you?

I scream, drowning out the sound of the wrench on the floor.

I can’t do it. I want to kill myself. I want to give up and let Chaos win, but I can’t. I won’t.

Rage boils underneath my skin.

Who are you?

“I am Adam.” I growl through a clenched jaw.

Who are you?

I am not a pawn in your game.”

Who are you?

“I am the man who is going to bring you down.”

My howl echoes off of the metal walls of my cage and reverberates in my skull. Even if I die, I will spend whatever is left of my life fighting.

I go back to the note looking for loopholes, a way to beat his game, anything that will destroy Chaos and his sick experiment.

Hold on.

How they die doesn’t matter, right? So, I don’t have to actually kill anybody; all I have to do is be the last one standing.

That’s good news…. I guess.

I won’t become the killer that psychopath wants me to become, not a chance.

He wants to treat us like lab rats? I’ll show him who’s a lab rat.

First thing’s first, though, I need to get out of here.

I turn the note over in my hands, but there’s nothing on the back. As I scan the room, I can’t find anything that wasn’t there before.

I place my hands on top of my head, look to the ceiling, and sigh – part in exasperation, and partly to calm my racing heart.

As I lift my head, I notice the bolts holding the metal bars in place over the light are about the same size as the ones that fixed the bed in place.

I shove the frame underneath the light and use the top bunk to help me get close enough to the light to unscrew the bars.

The frame of bars falls down onto the top bunk, making a horrifically loud clash.

Inspecting the light more closely, there’s a dark spot next to the bulb. I shatter the glass casing of the light, leaving a bare bulb. Next to the light source is a small lever that reads, ‘closed.’

With a flick of the switch, the lights switch off; it leaves me in complete darkness, save a small light that was coming from underneath the door frame.

I carefully slide my way down the bunk and make my way toward the sliver of light. Laying low on my stomach, I try to peer through the crack; it’s only about half an inch tall.

I try to push the door up with my hands, but it’s too heavy.

Ofcourse, it’s too heavy; Chaos isn’t going to make anything easy, is he?

I jimmy the wrench in the half-inch gap and use its leverage to open the door a little more. I manage to pry it about seven or eight inches off the ground, but not enough for me to slide underneath.

Crouching, I get a firm grip on the metal door and use all the strength I have to force the door upwards.

At first, the door doesn’t budge. But after a few seconds of pushing, I can feel the door shifting upward.

As I struggle to lift the door about a foot off the ground, my fingers slip and the door comes crashing down, leaving the same small gap. The door won’t stay open by itself.

The door is only a foot off the ground, barely enough to shimmy underneath. I try to pry the door open more, but I can’t manage to lift the heavy metal any higher.

I’ll have to roll under, unless…

I grab the wrench, lift the door up again and use it to keep the door open. Now, if I ever need it, I could return to this place if I needed fresh water.

Looking at my surroundings, I find myself in a forest.

Above me, thick trees allow the faintest bit of light to cascade through the leaves and float down to the ground. Birds sing a peaceful song, squirrels scamper up and down trees, and I notice a small frog hopping through the foliage at my feet.

I turn to look at the metal room; the outside is made of wood, disguised as a simple wooden shack. There’s a large number ‘11,’ carved onto the front of my shack; I must be the eleventh participant of this experiment.

Next to the ‘11,’ I notice initials carved into the side of the shack: T.R. Something about those letters makes me feel like I’ve been here before.

I don’t know why or when, but I feel like I’ve been here before. But the memory is so vague, it hardly seems more than a dream.

Have I dreamt of this place before? No, that can’t possibly be it. It feels too real to be a dream. I must have actuallybeen here before.

Who is T.R., another contestant? Are there other people here? Has someone escaped their trap before me?

Unable to shrug off the strange sense of deja-vu, I collect some sticks and leaves to make a few markers. I skewer the leaves onto the sticks and place one flag each fifteen steps I take.

With each set of steps, more memories flood into my mind.

There was a man and a woman with me when I first came here; at least they look to be a man and woman.

Their cloudy forms only appear in my mind as silhouettes, so I can’t identify specifically who they were or what they looked like.

Could they be my mother and father? Did I even have a mother and father?

I do my best to try to recall anything at all from my life, but nothing comes. The only thing I can remember is the forest and those strange figures walking with me, holding my hand.

Every once and awhile, the larger silhouette would pick me up and put me on its shoulders and spin me around; I loved every second of it.

I can’t help but smile, regardless of my current situation; these memories give me a feeling of confidence and hope.

I will make it out of here alive; we will all make it out of here alive. I continue to walk and place markers.

Not fifteen minutes later, I see a clearing just ahead of me. I rush to it, longing to be in the sun.

It’s strange; I have no recollection of what the sun actually feels like but have an instinct that the beams will give me more energy than I had while walking through the dimly lit forest.

How can I remember the names of things like a bed or sink and their functions, but not the feeling of the sun?

How do I know what a squirrel is, but not the sensation of the wind through my hair?

As concerning as that is, maybe I shouldn’t think about that too much.

This whole situation is a mess, not many things matter now except for my survival; I’ll try and figure these things out when we are all safe and sound.

The sun’s rays beam on my face as I step into the clearing, and I can feel each revitalizing me.

I scan the area and notice the clearing is a perfect circle, or as close to it as I can tell, about half a mile in diameter. Grass rises to my knees, butterflies, and other insects buzz around in the heat, and I can hear cicadas humming in the distance.

When I take a deep breath, the familiar sweet and fruity smell of apples fills my nostrils. The smell sparks another memory of the female silhouette and I picking apples.

“Do they taste good?” I recall myself asking.

“They do, and they’re good for you too. Just try it, Adam,” she says to me as the fruit is plopped into my hand.

I wish I could remember more. I would much rather be there than here.

I look up at the deep blue sky with a few flecks of white clouds here and there.

I see the sun to my right and I look straight into it, leaving a burning sensation in my eyes and an after-image of the bright light on the insides of my eyelids.

All of a sudden, there's rustling from the bushes to my left about twenty yards away.

A woman with long, dark hair emerges from the brush and stumbles into the brightness of the clearing. She has a round, soft face with bright blue eyes, and beautiful ebony skin.

But regardless of her disarming looks. she could also be dangerous; I can’t let my guard down.

With no idea how aggressive she is, I approach slowly. She could very well be out to kill everyone, or she could have missed the note entirely and have no idea what was going on.

“Hi there,” I say in as friendly a tone as possible. Hopefully, this woman speaks English.

“Hello,” she returns softly. She’s squinting, blocking the sun’s light with one hand, and pushing her long, chestnut hair from her face with the other.

She looks relatively harmless, and even friendly, but everyone I meet could be a danger; I can’t be too trusting.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” I ask.

“None,” she replies. “My name’s Evelyn, by the way.”

“Adam,” I say, slowly approaching her.

She notices my movement and puts her hands out in front of her in a fist, widens her stance, and bares her teeth. Her eyes are like daggers.

“Hold it right there, buddy,” she growls. “I’ve no idea what’s going on, but I’m assuming you got the same note too. I don’t plan on dying any time soon, so don’t try anything too drastic now.”

“Hey, relax. I have no intention of hurting you.”

“How can I be sure?”

There’s a long bout of silence between us.

She’s got me there.

“I guess you can’t. The only assurance you have is I’m in the exact same position as you, and I have no idea how strong or how skilled of a fighter you are. It wouldn’t be smart for me to do anything stupid.”

Evelyn places her fists back down by her sides and walks toward me. Caution still flickers in her eyes, but understandably so.

“I also don’t intend on killing anyone, Evelyn. I’m not that kind of person,” I continue.

“Easy to say now,” she huffs. “When it comes down to it, I know you’ll be just like the rest of them.”

“Think what you want, but we are the only two people we know here so far. This is a great opportunity to make an alliance. We can watch each other’s backs and make it as far as possible together.”

We are now about five paces apart, too afraid to go any closer in fear that the other would attack.

“I’ll have to think about it,” says Evelyn.

It looks like she’s about to say something more, but instead shrieks and turns to tear back into the woods.

I spin around to see a man running at me full speed with a sharpened stick in his hand.

“Hey!” I yell as I instinctively put my hands up in self-defence. The giant man slides to a halt not three feet from me. He’s almost a full head taller than me.

“Are you a part of this experiment?” the man growls in a deep, gravelly accent I can’t place. A bead of sweat falls from his curly blond hair onto his stubbled square jaw.

As he wipes the sweat away, I see the veins bulging out of his muscular arms.

“Y-Yeah,” I reply, my heart pounding out of my chest. “You?” This guy is monstrous. I don’t stand a chance if he attacks me.

“You know we’re supposed to kill each other until there’s only one of us left, right?” he huffs, looking slightly confused at my reluctance to fight.

My teeth grind as I pray, trembling, that this guy buys into what I’m saying. I must look so pathetic to him.

“I do, but I’m not going to. I want to find a way out of here with as few deaths as possible.” Especially if that death is going to be mine.

“Chaos says she’ll kill you if you don't participate, so won’t that mean you’ll die either way? Why would I help you if it will just get me killed?” he narrows his gaze, it burns.

“Just because I’m not killing doesn’t mean I’m not participating. I can try to outlast everyone else by running, no?”

“I guess so…” The man lowered his weapon. “I don’t want to die,” his voice catches slightly. Is he holding back tears?

“I don’t think any of us do. My name is Adam.”

“Carter,” the man says as he extends his hand to me.

I shake it without any real understanding of what the gesture meant or why I knew what Carter meant to happen in the first place.

“I’m guessing you have no idea what’s going on either?” I ask.

My thoughts are still running at a mile a minute, but my jaw has unclenched as my feeling of safety grows. Carter is just as petrified as I am, and I can use that to make him work with me.

“None, all I know is we’re in an experiment run by this chick named Chaos, the last one standing wins, and we all must participate.”

He said it again. I figured I just misheard him the first time when he said that Chaos was a she; I assumed Chaos was a man.

“Did you say Chaos was female?” I ask.

“Yeah, I guess. I really don’t know why, just the first thing that popped into my mind. You thought Chaos was a dude?”

“Yeah, I guess so. I just assumed.”

There’s another rustling to our right.

“Hey man,” Carter says as he puts his hand on my shoulder blade, pushing me away from the woods, “I think we should really stay out of this clearing; it doesn’t feel safe.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t feel safe, but that makes our position all the more convincing to anyone who will find us. We’re vulnerable out here, meaning we are putting ourselves in the trust of the other contestants,” as I am explaining this, I see Carter stifle a smirk.

At least I think I do. I’m pretty sure I’m just paranoid. What could he be laughing at anyway? Wasn’t he just on the verge of tears a minute ago?

“Why should we make ourselves vulnerable?” Carter asks.

“If the other contestants are in a position of power, they will be a lot more likely to trust us and listen to what we have to say. We need to show that we are willing to sacrifice our safety for the greater good and hopefully we can convince them to join our side.”

I sincerely hope that my plan works. If we can’t get people to join us, then I can forget about saving everyone.

“Doesn’t that seem a little risky? How can you have any assurance that everyone will actually go into the clearing let alone be willing to listen to you?”

“Three of us have already come into the clearing. Your trap room door faced this way, yes?” Carter nods.

“So, I assume that everyone else’s doors will do the same. Naturally, just like we did, they’ll use the room and door as a point of reference and wind up here. As for listening to us, we just have to be convincing.”

Is my reasoning sound? I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go. I’m basing this plan off of how I would approach this situation.

I would much rather meet people in the center of the field where I can approach how I want to rather than being surprised in the forest.

However, the more confident I seem the more likely he is to trust me, so even if this is just assuming everyone else will approach the situation as I would, I need to act like what I’m saying is fact. If I want to lead, people have to believe that I know what I’m doing, even if I really don’t.

“I’ll leave that part to you. I’m not so good at that,” Carter huffs. “Should we just sit here?”

Can this guy think of anything for himself?

“No, let’s go to the center of the clearing so no one can surprise us. We can talk to the new people as they come. I want to see how many we can get on our side.”

“Our side?” Carter asked.

“I was hoping we could work together.”

“I’m good with that plan, brother. Let’s do it.” Carter sticks his hand in front of him as if to tell me to stop. I smack it with my hand, once again unconsciously.

We walk to the center of the field and take a seat facing each other to give us a good view of the entire field.

We both agreed that while back-to-back may be safer, if we look like we are just sitting and talking, outsiders will be more willing to join our conversation.

We feel the heat of the sun pounding on our shoulders in our places as we sit waiting for the others to hopefully join us.

The sun was higher than it was when I first walked out into the clearing, it must be morning.

If it’s this hot in the morning, what will the afternoon be like? The cicadas seem to be enjoying it though.

“What was your trap room like?” Carter asks while resting on his hands. The yellow grass rises up to his elbow.

“It was a big metal box with a bunk bed, toilet, sink, mirror, and one light on the ceiling. Yours?”

“The same.” Carter wipes a bead of sweat off of his forehead.

“And you found your note after you flushed the toilet?” I ask.

“Yeah,” Carter distantly replies. He seems deep in thought. What’s with this guy? As soon as I think I have a read on his personality, it seems he completely changes.

“And it said everything about needing to kill each other and surviving until the end of the month?”

“Yes.” He scans the clearing. Noticing nothing, his eyes fall back to ground that was scorched by his gaze.

We are silent for a few minutes, his eyes never leave that spot.

“Are you okay?” I ask, more curious than concerned.

“What?” he shakes his head a little, he seems to have snapped out of his trance. “I was just thinking about what we would do for food, water, and shelter.”

“What did you come up with?” I haven’t even begun to think of that. I was so focused on this first step. He’s thinking two steps ahead. I didn’t think he was like that at all.

Then again, I haven’t really been able to figure out what he is like in the first place.

“For a shelter, assuming all of your trap rooms are the same, we could use the metal beds as a frame for the house, and then use leaves and branches and such for a roof and sides.

“One side, of course, would be the trap room. The shelter would be almost like an extension of the trap room.”

Impressive. He’s smarter than I thought.

“Why can’t we just live inside the trap room?”

“For two reasons,” Carter explains. “First, there’s no way we could fit everyone in there, it would be way too cramped.

“Even if we could fit everyone in there, it would be much more practical to build an extension off of it and use the room to shelter a fire. That way, all the heat from the fire will radiate out into our shelter with no chance of it catching on fire.”

“What about the smoke?”

“The vent will deal with that for us. The smoke will rise to the ceiling and be pumped out through the vent.

“Since our bunks are shorter than the door, and the vent was above the door, the smoke won’t fill our shelter.”

Brilliant. How’d he come up with that so fast? I guess he’s not as simple as I thought he was.

Part of me wants to keep an eye on him, but he has cooperated with me this far, so I feel like I can trust him.

“I like it,” I reply. “For water we can use the trap room, but we should store lots of it in case it runs out and we need to find another source.”

“Sounds good. We’ll have a shelter in no time.:

“What are your ideas for food?”

“I’m no hunter, but I assume there must be some kind of animals running around here. Capturing them will be another story. If we can-”

Mid way through his sentence I have another vision of a silhouette pulling an animal out from underneath a large rock.

I snap out of it fairly quickly. Quickly enough that Carter is still talking. I’ll have to save that idea for later.

It seems a little too convenient that I have a vision of an animal trap right as we’re trying to figure out how to catch food. The conversation must have triggered memories.

In our conversation, I don’t bring up the vague memories of my past, or what felt like my past; I don’t want Carter thinking I’m losing my mind on day one.

About twenty minutes pass before more people emerge into the clearing. In a span of thirty minutes, eight more people make it to the clearing.

There are three more men, Trevor, Lukas, and Riley, and five women, Madeline, Victoria, Quinn, Gabrielle, and Emily.

All of them appear to be the same age, speak fluent English, and have a variety of body shapes, skin colours, and attitudes.

Carter and I manage to calm them all down enough to make an alliance of ten and we agree to use our beds to make one home base shelter near my trap room. We also divide up responsibilities.

Victoria, Madeline, and Riley are in charge of water and food and finding ways to make sure we have some on hand and never run out. I share with them my idea for the trap, claiming I thought it up on the spot.

Lukas, Trevor, Quinn, and Gabrielle will be in charge of collecting supplies for the shelter and for fire. Emily, Carter, and I are responsible for building the shelter.

As well, I am appointed leader of the group from a motion made by Carter.

The teams break up to accomplish their separate tasks.

As my group waits for shelter supplies, we begin to craft weapons from sticks and stones to defend ourselves against wild animals and the two other participants who have not yet been found.

After about four hours pass, the team has accomplished all of their designed goals. Buckets have been fashioned to carry water from trap rooms, and a small area was made to store excess water.

The shelter consisted of ten bunk beds forming the frame of the house, and thick branches from deciduous trees function as our roof.

Fire is a challenge, but Carter managed to get one going with the glasses that Lukas luckily wore.

As the sun begins to set, the team has gotten to know each other and seem to be getting along well.

The team that was designated to collect food managed to catch a handful of squirrels, three rabbits, and a small basket of berries.

Somehow, I know how to skin and cook the rabbits and I know which berries were edible and which ones were not. I assume the skill comes from wherever it was that I learned how to make that trap.

Thankfully, it has made me the provider of the group and therefore a necessary part of it. If my leadership was not certain before, it certainly is now.

We eat heartily for a night in the woods. We are terrified of each other, but we are alive, we are full, we are warm, and we are together.

Hopefully this can last, and we can begin to find our way out of this mess in the morning.

 

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2

Subject: Adam Sanderson

Location: Just outside of Trap Room #11

Time and Date: 1:30am June 2nd, 2015

Status: Living, no injuries or illnesses

Tracking Device: Fully functional

No one sleeps.

Although we had talked about being an alliance, each individual was too paranoid to close his or her eyes for more than a second. I’m not mad; I had the same fears as they did.

I trust these people to accomplish tasks that will benefit themselves and make sense to them, and that’s as far as it goes.

Each member on our team knows it would be better to start on our alliance to find a source of water, food, build a shelter, and figure out how to make fire.

Before they can do that, they’d be as good as dead on their own. I think that we’ll have our full team working together and keeping their heads down for at least a week.

After that, I have no doubts that a few may leave for varying reasons or turn on the rest of the group.

For now, my only mission is to keep the team focused on not killing each other and getting out of this mess alive with as few casualties as possible.

As long as we can focus on the greater good, I believe we’ll all survive.

Multiple times throughout the day individuals wondered if we were trapped in the wilderness or if there was some kind of boundary keeping us from leaving.

We decided to wait to explore the surrounding lands until we could confirm the locations of the two other participants and had a better understanding of the land around us.

I don’t want people wandering too far away searching for a way out and then dying because they get lost and run out of fresh water. For now, the best, not to mention safest, thing we can do is wait.

“Adam, what makes you think that you can save all of us from Chaos?” Gabrielle asks me as all of us are sitting around a glowing fire.

Gabrielle looks as if she is of Hispanic descent. She has dirty blond hair, soft facial features, and an athletic build.

The wind is biting, and the air is frigid. We huddle close together for warmth.

“I don’t know, and I know I can’t. There’s nothing I can do to save all of us, we all have to work together and stay focused on keeping each other alive,” I reply as I look up at the sky.

There is not a single star hidden by artificial light. I can see the Milky Way stretched across the sky and a few other familiar constellations.

Another memory flashes in my mind. I am sitting on the grass with the two familiar silhouettes. The figures are pointing to the sky and describing all of the constellations and the stories behind them.

I cannot hear their voices, but I can understand what they’re saying. My vision ends with a third silhouette appearing behind us with a knife held firmly in its hand.

I can feel my heart pounding as my mind returns to the reality around me.

“And we’re supposed to believe Chaos? How do we know any of this is real?” Lukas asks. It seems I missed quite a bit of conversation.

His dark skin glows in the light of the fire and his bright blue eyes stand out from the rest of his subdued facial features.

“What kind of question is that? We were kidnapped and placed in puzzle rooms. Of course, Chaos means business!” Carter replies.

I could tell from the looks of the people around me and the tones of Carter and Lukas that things were getting heated. How much did I miss? Had they tried to talk to me as I was in my own head?

“Alright everyone, let’s calm ourselves down. The last thing we need to do is get mad at each other and give ourselves a reason to get violent.”

I hope that what I said had some sort of relevance. Judging by the expressions of Carter and Lukas, I had said the right thing; not necessarily what they wanted to hear, but the right thing.

“It’s about time our fearless leader piped up,” Quinn says as she brushes her dark brown hair away from her tanned face and out of her green eyes.

I must have been out a long time; long enough for them to notice anyway.

“Hey, he was just lost in thought, I’m sure,” says Carter. He continues to earn my trust. Right now, he is the only one I feel kind of comfortable around.

“Anyway, this conversation started about what our next moves should be, let’s try to get back to that.”

Everyone looks at me. It takes me a second to realize they want me to say something.

“A lot of you were concerned whether or not we are trapped in this area, I have urged that we stay close until we could figure out more. So, now that we’ve established our bearings, tomorrow, I suggest we start to explore,” I begin.

“I propose that we will craft little markers as Carter and I did to make a trail around our camp.

“What we will do is everyone grabs several markers and walks in different directions and every thirty steps or so they will place down the marker with a leaf or stick indicating the direction of the camp.

“This will create a circle shape around our camp allowing us to walk farther and farther away from our site without getting lost. After that, we can start exploring further grounds.

“Any objections?”

None. I almost can’t believe how quickly these people have taken to me as a leader. Not 24 hours ago they had no idea where or who they were, and now they have placed their lives in my hands.

For all they know I could have a malicious scheme to earn their trust and kill them when they eventually fall asleep. I have no intentions of doing so, but they don’t know that.

The other problem is that any of them could be planning the same thing. While I do trust Carter, and am beginning to trust the others, I can’t let my guard down or one of them could turn on me.

“Does anyone else see that?” Lukas asks. He is a tall, skinny, and bald black man. His glasses came in handy while starting the fire, but they now reflect it, making his eyes hard to see.

“See what?” Emily replies.

“A… figure… a shadowy figure. It looks like someone is standing there and I can only see their outline,” Lukas says. Sounds a lot like the silhouettes from my visions.

The group begins to frantically look around for the figure except for Carter and me.

We make eye contact, he seems totally calm, he seems to study my face for a moment, and then proceeds to look around as everybody else is.

“Where is it?” Riley asks. He’s a Hispanic looking man, short, buzz cut, and glasses. Lukas is trembling in fear and pointing behind one of the bed frames.

I follow his gaze, but I can’t see anything. Is he having a vision as well and is his just more vivid than mine?

“It’s…. its eyes are glowing, staring straight at me. It’s… it’s… it’s smiling, with pointed teeth and… go away!!! Leave me alone!!! Ahhhh!!!!!” Lukas takes off into the forest.

As he is running, we can hear his cries echoing through the forest. My heart is beating out my chest.

Is what he saw real? I can’t see it. It doesn’t seem that anyone else can see it. Was it Chaos playing a trick on us?

Everyone was quiet for a few heavy seconds.

“What was that?” Quinn whispers. I can barely hear her over Lukas’s screams.

“I-“ I didn’t realize how scared I really am. I have to clear my throat to make an audible sound.

“I have no idea what that was, and I’m sure we’re all scared to say the least, but we can’t run like Lukas did. If we all separate, we are so much more likely to descend to violence.

“Everyone stay in this circle, and keep your eyes peeled for any movement. For all we know, this is a trick and Chaos is trying to get us to scatter. We can’t fall into his trap.”

We talked in our circle for hours. No one was willing to move. Not to answer the call of nature, get something to eat, or to go find a weapon. Everyone stays stock still, waiting for sunlight.

Conversation was uneasy, but it was conversation nonetheless. Every once in a while, we hear Lukas yelling for help or calling someone’s name. It’s haunting.

Every time I close my eyes or look into a dark area of the forest, I anticipate the silhouette being there and seeing its glowing yellow eyes and ominous grin focusing in on me.

I know nothing is there, but every sense in my body wants me to find it and run as far away as I can get.

In our conversation, we split ourselves up into teams of two to set up our markers.

We were originally going to go as individuals, but since we don’t know where Evelyn or Lukas are, nobody wants to go out too far on their own.

We also theorized about where 12 could be. 12 was the name given to the one person no one has seen yet.

In the next few days, we plan to go to the twelfth trap room and see if it’s opened yet. I wish I had remembered to check room 12 the first morning when we were setting up camp.

I have this strange feeling that 12 is still desperately trying to escape their room and is unable to find any of the clues that are waiting for them.

The sun slowly rises in the sky. Not until we can all see clearly did anyone move a muscle.

We spend a good part of our morning relieving ourselves and eating whatever we had stored from the day before.

After the groups we made yesterday finished their duties and retrieved water, food, and firewood, we began to make and place the markers.

I had placed myself with Emily. Partly because she was the last person to be paired, and partly because she seemed levelheaded, and I wanted to get to know her better.

All of the other teams left before Emily and I headed out.

“What’s with this whole fearless leader persona?” Emily asks.

“Persona? What do you mean, persona?” I reply as I place a marker in the ground.

“Are you kidding me? Nobody is like you are all the time. Being the hero, trying to save everyone against all odds.

“None of us know who you are or what you are truly like, so you could have chosen to be whoever you wanted to be.

“I chose to stay quiet and see what everyone was like before making a move. You chose to be the hero. Why?”

“I don’t know. All I know is I don’t want to die, and I assume nobody else wants to either.

“I know to get people to listen to me I have to appeal to their desires and a common interest, both of which are staying alive.”

“So you chose your personality type to give you the best chances of staying alive.”

“You make me sound so selfish, but I guess you’re right. If nobody dies, then I don’t die either. Emily, why did you choose your personality?”

“When I first met the others, I had an overwhelming sense of anxiety. I felt like if I spoke everyone would instantly turn on me.

“I chose to stay quiet because I had no urge to speak or make myself known above my appearance. It wasn’t until after Lukas’s episode that I felt comfortable enough to speak.”

Emily bent over and pushed a marker into the ground. Her pale skin makes her green eyes seem so bright compared to the rest of her face.

Looking at her, I would never have realized she could be so calm and calculated.

There was silence for a while. Not uncomfortable silence, though, I felt no pressure to speak and neither did she.

“Do you think what happened to Lukas was Chaos’s doing?” Emily asks. ”Do you think Chaos is catching on to your game and is trying to change things up?”

“Maybe, but I don’t think so. I feel like Lukas genuinely saw something and had a panic attack.

“I don’t blame him; I can’t believe the same thing hasn’t happened to me yet. All I know is, we can’t let it divide us.”

“Of course, you would say that,” Emily says sarcastically. “I guess what I really meant to ask is, how do you know that Chaos won’t see what you’re doing and end it.

“You think he would have the power to do it and he said that anyone who didn’t participate would be terminated.”

“I had the same conversation with Carter. Is this not participating? We are trying to outlast each other, rather than out muscle each other. Chaos won’t kill us all at the same time because that will ruin his experiment.

“If we are doing something wrong, someone will drop dead without explanation, or we’ll be given a warning or something. I say, as long as we all stay alive, we have to stick together as much as we can.”

Emily sighed as she stuck a marker in the ground and stuck a second stick in the ground at a 45-degree angle pointing back at the campsite. Her brown ponytail bounced on her thin frame as she stood up.

Was she tired of my ‘save everyone’ shtick? Did she think it was all just an act and I was trying way too hard to make everyone think I was a good guy?

There’s no way to know, her sigh may have been out of tiredness and every thought that is going through my head is a waste of an idea. How I wish this never happened to me and I could be with whoever those silhouettes were.

“I just wish this never happened. Why did we have to get chosen? Why were we kidnapped and not the next person? Is there a reason for our capture?” I said.

I had just thought about it, why did I then have the urge to say it out loud? Do I really want Emily to know all of this?

“I’ve been thinking that since the moment I woke up in that trap room. I have no idea. I feel like there’s a method to Chaos’s madness.”

“I think you’re right. We all speak English, and we’re all approximately the same age as far as we can tell. There has to be something more to it. There has to be a reason.”

As I placed the marker down in the ground, another memory flashes in my mind. This time, it’s not as pleasant as the last few.

This memory involved me falling into a ravine and breaking my leg. Unable to walk, the only thing I could do was yell for help, but the silhouettes that I remember were nowhere to be found.

“Hey, Adam, what the heck is wrong with you?” Emily yells as she shakes my shoulder.

“What? What do you mean? I’m fine,” I reply.

“No you’re not, you bent down to place the marker in the ground and then froze for about a minute with glazed over eyes and gaping mouth. Do you not remember it at all?”

“I didn’t even notice I had frozen.”

What the hell is going on? Have I frozen every time a memory has come to me? Is Chaos giving me these memories? Are these memories even mine?

I do my best not to freak out too much in front of Emily. The calmer I am, the calmer she’ll be. At least I hope that’s how it works.

Before I can say anything, I hear a large crack from close by.

“What was that?” Emily whispers.

“I don't know, have your weapon ready.”

This forest is never quiet. For the past two days it has not been quiet. Now the only thing I can hear is Emily’s short and sharp breath and the sound of my heart in my ears.

“Don’t you dare move,” I think I hear. I couldn’t tell if it was someone whispering, or my mind playing tricks on me.

“He’ll see you,” the whisper said. “He’ll find you. He’ll get you. He’s watching you now, he knows who you are, and he’s coming for you.”

“Do you hear that?” I ask Emily.

“Yeah, somebody’s messing with us. Either this is a bad joke, or somebody doing a terrible job of trying to creep us out.”

Creepy, yes. Horrible? Not so much. I am sufficiently panic-stricken.

“There it is… sh….. it’ll see you,” the whisper says.

I know exactly where the voice is coming from. We’ve stumbled upon Lukas.

I scan the area around me again, nothing. I look up in the trees and I see Lukas clinging to a thick branch just above us. He’s staring straight at Emily.

“Sh… friend… it can hear you… don’t make a sound,” as Lukas spoke, he turned his head toward the tree as if he was talking to someone else, but I couldn’t see anyone.

“We need to get it before it gets us, buddy,” Lukas says.

Before I can even think of warning her, Lukas leaps down from the branch and lands directly on top of Emily and throws her weapon away. I shove Lukas off of Emily causing him to fall onto his back.

Emily manages to get to her feet, but Lukas spins his legs to knock her back to the ground. He flips back onto his feet.

I try to swing my weapon, but Lukas easily dodges it, grabs my arm, and throws me downward sending my weapon spinning off into the trees. With one leg, he pins me, and with the other, he has Emily.

“Don’t get in the way, Adam. You’re not who I’m after,” Lukas says.

He points to Emily. “I’m after this monster. This dark shape has been chasing me around all night. Now it’s my turn to chase it and kill it. Then it will never chase me again.”

“Lukas, you’re delusional. That’s Emily, not the shadow you saw yesterday. There’s nothing chasing you,” I say.

I can’t think of anything to calm this guy down. He’s completely delusional.

“No, this is the ghost. This is definitely the ghost and I finally have it,” Lukas wrestles a marker from Emily’s pocket.

I manage to pull a marker from my pocket and I use it as a shiv and stab Lukas in the thigh; he winces, but it seems as if he felt little more than a prick.

Lukas wrestles the markers from my hand and throws them away. He does the same to Emily.

I struggle to get free, and I can see Emily using all the force in her body to try to budge the leg of Lukas, but neither of us are having any success.

Both of us swing our arms wildly trying to connect anything, but all we do is hit his waist and thighs. I drive the marker further into my enemy’s leg.

He lets out a small cry of pain. He pulls the marker out and throws it with the others.

“Why are you doing this to me, Adam?” Lukas asks. “Why are you helping the shadow? Do you want it to find me? Do you want me to die?

“I thought you were trying to get us all out alive, but you are working with the monster to kill us all!”

Lukas then uses his left hand to restrain Emily’s arms and then drives the marker into her skull, killing her instantly.

“I did it!” Lukas laughs hysterically with me still pinned under his weight. Blood is dripping from his leg and pooling on my chest.

Pure horror fills my heart as I stare into the cold lifeless eyes of my companion. I vomit and tears uncontrollably stream from my eyes.

“What’s the matter Adam? I did it! I killed the monster!” Lukas smiled down at me. His eyes were bloodshot. Lukas looked down at Emily.

Suddenly his face turned from euphoria to pure terror.

“No, it, it can’t be her. I didn’t kill Emily. I killed the monster. The monster was dead, it was dead… unless…” Lukas trains his vision on a tree to his right.

In utter confusion, I do my best not to choke on my own vomit or pass out from hyperventilation.

“How are you… oh my god… it…. It’s still alive! The monster is still alive! Help! Help!!!”

Lukas leaps off and tears off into the forest, the stab wound in his left thigh not slowing him down one bit.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.

She’s dead. She’s been killed. Lukas killed her.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Jesus Christ, what do I do? What do I do?

In shock, I curl into a ball and bawl for what feels like hours. I lie there in fear that Lukas will return and take me as well.

I lie there in fear that everything that I wanted is now no longer possible.

Someone has died under my leadership, and there will be questions. Fights will break out and we’ll all start killing each other before you know it.

The only thing I can think of to do is to bring Emily’s body back to the camp and hope the group can figure out what to do from here. Oh god, why did Lukas have to kill her?

I can’t help myself but think of what Emily’s death means. Every time I think of it, I arrive at the same conclusion every time: We’re all doomed.

 

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