The instructions had been clear. Arrive at the hall at ten and grab a drink. The new manager will be running late but there will be other fundraisers to chat to in the meantime.
Jo had been pounding the streets on behalf of cats and dogs for a couple of years now. She could care less about the animals themselves. Like any salesperson she did it for the chase. She instinctively read body language and knew within seconds if someone would sign over five of their hard earned pounds to help little Tiddles come to terms with feline obesity or Max recover from a nasty encounter with a badger. She had a number of routines to turn to, ranging from “I’m so sorry to trouble you” to outright flirtation, and could quickly gauge the best.
She pulled into the gravelly car park, the first to arrive. She knocked on the door and then pushed it open. The room was empty except for a small table with refreshments and a large blue banner hung above the kitchen at the back.
It read “Be all that you can be…and more”.
“Oh god, one of those types of training” she thought to herself.
She poured a nasty smelling coffee and looked around. Strange that no-one else was here yet as she had been cutting it fine. In fact the whole arrangement had been a bit odd. Usually the bi-annual training was held in the swanky HQ in London, not some dusty building out in the countryside.
She went to see if anyone else had turned up but found that the door had been locked behind her. All of a sudden a voice boomed out from behind the banner.
“Hello Joanne, welcome to your re-training,” followed by a piercing laugh she couldn’t mistake.
Terror poured into every vein in her body and she sank slowly to the ground in disbelief, curling herself into a tight ball.
Jake saw the console abandoned on a park bench. Nobody else was around apart from his mum. Grasping it in his hands he heard her call from behind but his excitement muffled the words. He switched it on, fingers instinctively knowing which buttons to hold. The screen lit up and suddenly the world grew dark. He could not see the park or his family. The console was all he could focus on, the words “Your game is about to begin” scrolled in front of his eyes.
A familiar picture appeared on the screen. It was the park. A pixelated version of the bandstand marked the exit, just as it did in reality. Jake could not understand why the screen was the only thing he could now see. A countdown appeared in the top corner
99, 98, 97…
and the words “You must escape the park” began flashing. Scared, he wanted to put down the device but his hands would not let go,
He tried to run but his feet would not work.
Panicking, he pressed his thumb down and instantly he was moving.
Somehow Jake could control himself with the buttons.
Using his fingers he spun around, searching for his mum but she was no longer there.
He tried to head for the exit but with every step he took the park changed shape.
The closer he thought he was the further away he became.
Desperate he tried to make himself jump over the fence but could not find the right button.
Jake fumbled for the off switch but there wasn’t one.
The only thing that was left was to run, but it was too late.
The words “Game Over” were the last he ever saw.
Thanks to DH for the excellent guest contribution – TL
The blade pierced the skin deep into his pale flesh.
It was the larger of the tormentors wielding the knife but the smaller one was laughing with demented glee and shouting instructions.
Another slash came, and then another, ripping into his body. Then the torturers began cutting away the meat, one chunk at a time, and tossing it aside. The pain was excruciating but he was too paralyzed with fear to resist.
He tried to recall how he had ended up in front of these maniacal butchers. The last thing he remembered was drifting off to sleep surrounded by his family. They had spent the evening star gazing and telling stories from the long summer days of their childhoods. Then he woke in this hellish room, staring into these sadistic visages.
The hacking went on for some time. He could feel the life force ebbing away from his once plump and proud body. Occasionally there would be momentary respite as the torturers broke but they would soon be back at their grim task.
At one point he could sense they were slicing into his skull but by that point he had lost all feeling.
Finally it was over. The instrument of terror was downed beside him and his persecutors left, congratulating each other. He sighed but was too weak to do anything else for the time being. At least now, he thought, I can be left to find some peace and respite in my final hours. But his relief was short-lived for moments later they returned in possession of a flame that immediately began to blister and blacken him.
Too numb to care about pain any longer his thoughts turned back to his family outside and he prayed that they weren’t next on the table.