by treave

Six strangers, in a strange place, being given strange orders. What purpose lies behind their abduction? It is an experiment whose true nature remains unknown... a test-run that may change the world.

Hello and Welcome
Minds Will Be Blown
At the End of the Ride
Alas, He Had to Go
To the Garden of Eden
The Price Has Been Paid
What Lies at the End

Hello and Welcome

Hello and Welcome

It begins with music. Edvard Grieg’s Morning Mood, the perfect piece to start a wonderful and productive day. One by one, the people in the room stir. They come to, being greeted by the peaceful fluting piped in through rusty speakers hanging from the corners of the concrete walls.

First there is confusion. “Where am I? What is going on? Who are you?” These are the questions that they ask.

Then, there is fear. “Where am I!? What is going on!? Who are you!?” When they get no concrete answers as to their predicament, and they find that the only doors leading out of the room are firmly shut, the questions are asked again, more stridently this time.

And later on, there will be the call for calm, and for proper, polite introductions. People are predictable this way.

“Hi. I’m… uh… Aaron. I’m 22, and, uh, yeah. I’m kinda, like, finding myself at the moment… so…”

“You can call me Benton. I’m an OG businessman, you dig?”

“Hi! Caitlyn here… I’m 23 and I’m doing a course on the philosophical art of humanistic gendered theology. It’s nice to meet you all!”

“I’m Donna. I’m a fitness trainer.”


“Hello, I’m Francesca, and I’m the proprietor of the Jesus Saves Fiber-Rich Vegan Au Naturel Food Grocer Mart. I’m not sure if anyone of you have heard of us, but we have a very thriving Facebook and Twitter presence, and are at the forefront of organic foods in town…”

“Jesus what? You shittin’ me? Alright, I know they just fucking with us, man. I ain’t gonna have none of this shit, sitting around here with you guys like we’re cool or anything.” Benton is the first to stand up and kick at the locked doors in his frustration. As always, in any group of people you have the ones who are impatient and quick to resort to physical force. Though – to be fair to Benton – this was not his kind of crowd at all. Indeed, he thought that they were a…

Bunch of dumb motherfuckers.

Everyone hears it. Benton knows it, too. That his thoughts are, somehow, being broadcasted to the others. They stare at him.

“What the fuck?” he mouths.

Yeah, the fuck is going on?

Oh, oh my.


Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit.

Everyone seems to have the same general opinion. Before they can proceed to panic, however, the music dies down, only to be replaced by Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers, a peaceful and calming orchestral waltz that – unfortunately – does absolutely nothing to soothe their emotions. Which is about what you would expect from such a selection of people.

“What’s with this shitty-ass music?” cries Benton.

“It is rather annoying,” Donna agrees solemnly. “I’d prefer something more uplifting, if they are going to force us to listen to music.”

“Wait, I recognize this song. It’s… it’s the Blue Danube waltz, isn’t it?” says Caitlyn brightly.

“Weaksauce…” mutters Aaron.

Buncha noobs. Heh.

“U-uh… no, I don’t mean anything by it, guys,” he splutters, as the glares are now directed towards him.

A large monitor on the wall lights up, drawing their attention.

Words appear on it, emblazoned on a cue card reminiscent of that seen in silent movies: black and white, and a whole lot of grain.

“It has not been very enjoyable thus far, no offense,” laughs Francesca awkwardly.

“Hey, fuck you, asshole!”

The cue cards are replaced with a timer. The number cards flip every second. 59:59. 59:58.

“H-hey, it’s not serious, is it?” asks Caitlyn.

“It does sound like a bad joke, doesn’t it?” Donna frowns, scratching his beard. “It’s probably some reality TV prank. Let’s not pay it too much attention.”

Francesca has knelt down and begun praying out loud. “Dear Heavenly Father…”

Deliver me from evil, hallowed by thy name…

Her prayer resounds both in their ears and in their minds.

Caitlyn makes a frown of disgust. “Heavenly father?” She snorts.


None of them are taking the message seriously. But as time passes, and as the numbers of the timer approach the deadline, their will begins to waver. And they begin to seriously consider picking someone. Just in case. After all, it is probably just a prank. What harm is there in picking someone?

Group Vote

Vote for:

A. Aaron.

B. Benton.

C. Caitlyn.

D. Donna.

E. Edgar.

F. Francesca.

G. No one.

Minds Will Be Blown

Minds Will Be Blown

“You want me dead, you momma-loving chickenhead?” Benton snarls angrily, his hands spread out wide and his chest puffed out, in the classic posture of male dominance. “You wanna make something of it, white boy? Come on, do it!”

“I… no, bro, I just…” Aaron backs away, shrinking back fearfully. Shit, man, niggers gonna nigger.

“What the fuck did you just say? That’s it, your ass is mine, bitch.”

“S-stop it!” yells Caitlyn, before Benton can close in and make good on his promise to Aaron. “Everyone, stop fighting! This is unproductive! I know we’re all feeling stressed, but-“

“Hey, you shut it, hoe! You want the old man dead, there’s no room for your skanky ass to talk. Shit, man, you some stone-cold bitch,” retorts Benton, jabbing his finger at Edgar. The homeless man hasn’t said a word so far, not even when Caitlyn’s thoughts were broadcasted to him. The only thing he is offering is an unwavering, silent stare, locked onto the girl.

“I… I didn’t…” Feeling stressed and uncomfortable, Caitlyn looks away guiltily.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I thought, bitch. Now where was I…” Benton turns back to Aaron, cracking his knuckles.

“Quit it!” roars Donna, stepping in between Benton and Aaron. He folds his strong arms and frowns. “This is not helping!”

“Well, you’re one to speak, you fag,” growls Benton, staring up at the muscular, bearded fitness trainer. “You thought about having that pasty-ass motherfucker dead, didn’t you? I'll do it for you.”

“Yeah, but I wouldn’t really want it to happen. I’m not playing this psycho game.”

Their arguments are interrupted by the sound of a striking harp. The timer has reached zero. The countdown is over. As the Devil’s chord from Camille Saint-Saen’s Danse Macabre begins to fill the room, the cue card returns.

A quick succession of mugshots flashes across the screen, repeating over and over. Aaron. Benton. Caitlyn. Donna. Edgar. Francesca.

The pictures slow down, and finally stop on one person. Donna.

Suddenly, confetti showers down from the high ceiling. The door swings open, revealing another room beyond.

“What… just what is going on here?” says Francesca, wide-eyed and confused.

“They’re just trying to mess with our heads,” says Donna. “Nothing’s gonna happen. Look, I know all of us here aren’t the best people around, but we are all in this together. Fear is what stops you, courage is what keeps you going. It’s not about how hard you can hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and still keep moving forward. We strive for progress, not perfection. It’s not who we are that holds us back, it’s who we think we are not. Clear your mind of can't. We know each other’s thoughts now, so if we can be honest with ourselves in mind, word and deed, we can get through this. Together.”

After a moment of silence, Caitlyn and Francesca begin to clap at Donna’s inspirational speech.

And then, Donna’s smiling face bulges outwards suddenly, as if there is a balloon being inflated rapidly within the skull, deforming it. The eyes pop out, dangling loosely from the nerves. Dark red blood and whitish-pink brain matter ooze from the nostrils and the ears. Twitching, Donna falls face forward onto the white tiles with a loud thud.

There are screams. There are a lot of screams. As one, they mindlessly rush for the open door. in fear for their lives. If someone had set a razor wire at the passage at knee-height, so that the first to get there would get their lower legs sliced badly, that would have been rather unfortunate. Luckily, such a sadistic trap is not in place. All five remaining survivors make it into the next room. Once the last of them – Aaron, slow on his feet – has passed through, the door slams shut again, separating them from Donna’s corpse.

Mental echoes of ‘what the fuck?’ continue to reverberate around the room, as they stand around in stunned silence.

Benton punches the wall. “Fuck. Fuck! The fuck was that shit?”

“This is really psyops stuff. CIA? Or is it foreign, KGB?” mutters Aaron. “Only the government could do something like this…”

“Are we… are we in hell?” asks Francesca fearfully.

“It must be some insane dream.” Caitlyn clutches her head, breathing heavily. “It’s not possible. It’s a dream.”

The monitor in the new room lights up. The sweet, soothing melody of Elgar’s Salut d’ Amour is played over the speakers, to calm their frightened spirits. Again, unfortunately, it does not seem to have any effect at all.


Aaron winces at the sudden, loud thought appearing in his head. The number – his number – is one. He looks at the others, who look just as confused as he is. Having heard the numbers in their heads as well, he knows that Benton is two, Caitlyn is three, Edgar is five and Francesca is six.

For the first time since they entered the room, the survivors look at their surroundings. On either side of the screen, there were indeed cages. Each one seems to be big enough to carry multiple people, and at the top of each cage a chain is attached.


Group Vote

The numbers available are 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.

The combination to form 9 should be:

A. 1, 3 and 5.

B. 1, 2 and 6.

C. 3 and 6.

For this choice, decisions will take priority over indecision: anyone who ends up being undecided will go along with the flow of the majority.

At the End of the Ride

At the End of the Ride

“What? I’m going with them? Why?” Plaintively, Aaron throws his hands out. His discomfort at having to get into the same cage as Benton and Edgar is palpable. It had been a decisive vote: he was the only person that thought differently. Because I’m different, yeah. All these dumbfucks just can’t recognize my intellect. Story of my life.

“Ain’t about being dumb or smart, fool,” smirks Benton. “Just that peeps recognize that the two of us need to have a… ah, conversation. Let it all out, you dig?”

“Sorry, but I feel safer if it’s just us two women,” apologizes Caitlyn. “I mean, you know, right? Schrodinger’s Rapist and all? Women need to be more cautious, it’s nothing personal, I don’t mean any of you are rapists, but the thing is, I don’t know either, and, well, I need my safe space!”

“Heh, that’s… that’s right…” chuckles Aaron. “Yeah, I mean, you don’t know if the thug or a hobo is going to rape you, right? I… I understand… I’m your ally. Not all men are like that. I mean, you and I… we think alike, we’re on the same side… we have an understanding, right?”

Caitlyn smiles awkwardly “Uh… right.” Ew. What a creep.


Aaron’s Choice:

A. You feel betrayed. How could she even think of you as a creep? She’s just like all the other women. Bitches. Damn bitches. All of them. You thought that this time it would be different, but alas, it is not to be.

B. You are upset, but not entirely disheartened. You just need to appeal to her more. Sure, she might not have come around to it yet, but she’ll soon realize that you are the only man in here that respects her. She will get it.


Benton bursts out laughing. “C’mon, girl. You think I’d want a skinny bitch like you? I prefer my women to have more meat. More cushion for the pumping, if you know what I mean. And how do you know that the Jesus vegan isn’t some lesbian rapist, huh? I seen it happen in the streets before. Nasty stuff, them two-handed dildos,” he leers.

“My… I never!” Francesca is quite offended, her hands firmly on her hips. “I may practice sexual healing, but only with my husband! That is wholesome stuff advocated in the Good Book! I do not rape!”

The cage rattles, metal clinking as the chains sway from side to side. The others turn to see that Edgar has already gotten onto the ascending cage without a word. Leaning against the metal bars of the cage, he stares at Caitlyn.

“Should… should we go?” Caitlyn asks, twisting her hair nervously.

Murmurs of yes are heard, and the group splits up. When the last of them enter the cage, the monitor comes to life again.


The cage rises, and rises, and rises, until it finally stops. Aaron, Benton and Edgar find themselves in a new area of the facility: the walls seem to be newer and cleaner, and the floor more polished, but it is equally as deserted as the level below.

“Looks like a maze, man. Shit. What the hell is this place?” Benton looks out at the darkened corridors in front of him, with no seeming end in sight. Still, there is nowhere to go but forward. Before that, however… he turns to look at Aaron, who has raised his hands defensively. He knows what’s coming.


Benton’s Choice:

A. It’s time to have that ‘talk’. With your fists. Asshole like him deserves a beatdown.

B. You’ll do more talking than hitting, you just want to scare the guy. But a few punches wouldn’t hurt.


Edgar watches. He scratches his scraggly beard.


Edgar’s Choice:

A. You try to stop whatever Benton is about to do. Fighting is… wrong. Fighting is only a last resort.

B. You run off on your own. Survival is paramount. You are not going to die here, and these two idiots will only drag you down.

C. You watch. That is all you do. You watch.



As the cage touches the bottom, Caitlyn and Francesca find themselves in the middle of a jungle. Halfway through the ride, the walls had fallen away to the sides, revealing a vast expanse of land. They had been surprised. And then astounded. As she steps out of the cage, Caitlyn looks up at the – Sky? Roof? – and squints. There is nothing but white up there, with a miniscule black hole where they had descended. An unknown light source is illuminating the place. She flaps her blouse. It feels like a real jungle. Hot and humid. Well, she would not actually know what a real jungle felt like, having never left the comforts of her upper middle-class lifestyle before, but this is what she imagined a real jungle would be like.

The illusion is shattered by the faint sounds of Handel’s Air, threading in between the rustle of the swaying trees.

Caitlyn grits her teeth. This is strange. This is just all too strange. There is a monitor nearby, hanging from a tree.

Those are the only words displayed.

They seem to be mocking her.


Caitlyn’s Choice:

A. The constant use of misogynistic, patriarchal classical music is triggering you. You loudly demand a change to a more egalitarian, gender-neutral style of music from whoever it is keeping you imprisoned here.

B. You bear with it. Although you fully recognize it is unhealthy to ‘suck it up’, you decide to be patient and suppress your rage, and to tolerate the continued use of old, white male music. You hope you do not get any more triggers, however. You do not know how much more you can take without ranting.


Francesca looks around at the jungle around her with a mix of wonder and fear. Is this… real? She bends down and touches the soil. It feels real enough. She handles a leaf. The veins and the texture are indistinguishable from the real thing. She knows very little about technology – most technologists are capitalistic heathens full of hubris against God, not to mention they participate in ecologically unfriendly practices – but she is doubtful whether it is possible to create such a place. At least… not without God’s help. She freezes. Could this all be a test of some sort? If so… she needs faith. She needs faith, more than ever.

Francesca glances at Caitlyn, who is glaring at the monitor and clenching her fists.


Francesca’s Choice:

A. You try to broach the question of whether or not Caitlyn believes in God. You believe that this is a test of faith, and the more believers that you can recruit, the more likely you are to succeed in it.

B. You attempt to calm Caitlyn down. She seems stressed. Perhaps talking about your God-designed natural ecologically-friendly initiatives will help take her mind off things.


Alas, He Had to Go

Alas, He Had to Go

“Hey, shit… man, I-I-I didn’t mean anything by it, I mean, I see that I shouldn’t have thought that…” Aaron stammers as he attempts to explain himself, but Benton isn’t having any of it.

“You gonna see what this nigga’s fist can do to your face. I’mma go Worldstar on your candy ass!”

The first punch lands with a jarring thud, right in the center of Aaron’s soft abdomen. He squeals in pain. Staggering back against the wall, still upright, Aaron cries out in anger. “You’ll regret this! You think just because I’m white and like fedoras you can push me around, like white people can’t fight? Huh? Our civilization has a legit history of fucking you people up in wars and shit! You actually think you guys can survive this place without me?” He takes up a strange fighting pose: his shoulders hunched over, his fists balled and by his side, and his legs spread apart. “I’m gonna make you eat your words, nigger, so you better watch out! Bankai! Yeaaaaaaargh-“

Benton’s next punch strikes Aaron square in the jaw, interrupting his yell. “I don’t do that Dragonball shit, yo. Hey, show me what else you got, white boy.”

Screaming an incomprehensible battle cry, Aaron rushes him with a wild flurry of punches. Benton is amused at first, fending off the attack like he would a child. “Is that all you got? Is that all you got?” Suddenly, Aaron ducks low. He steps on Benton’s toes, pinning him in one spot, and throws a punch that clips his ear. It hurts, just a little bit.

Fuck this shit.

Benton strikes back, full of anger. Grabbing Aaron by the collar, he unleashes a series of punches, hammering away at the other man’s head with no mercy. In between the hits he seems to hear Aaron crying for mercy both with his ears and in his mind, but there wasn’t going to be any mercy until the lesson was fully delivered. Finally, Benton's fist shoots out in a powerful hook that catches Aaron right in the temple. The impact twists and hurls him away. Aaron falls, hitting his head against the concrete wall on his way down with a painful crack. His neck turns awkwardly, and he slumps to the floor. Looking at his fallen opponent, Benton takes the opportunity to get a few more shots. He kicks Aaron’s forehead and stomps on his stomach, snarling in rage. “You like that, huh? You like that? Hit my face? That’s what you get when you mess with the best, bitch! Suck it down!” It takes a few minutes before he snaps out of it and takes a step back, breathing heavily.

He glances disgustedly at Aaron, who is convulsing slightly. “And stay down!” he shouts. Then, he turns to Edgar, who had been watching them fight without saying a word. “You got a problem with this?”

The homeless man does not respond. He looks at Aaron’s battered face instead. The fallen man is now utterly still. Kneeling down, Edgar makes two observations: that Aaron is not breathing any longer, and that there is blood trickling from his ears.

“Shit. What?” Benton realizes it too, and his heart skips a beat. “That ain’t right, man, I wasn’t hitting him to kill him. He can’t be that weak, can he?”

Edgar merely stands up and gestures at the body. See for yourself.

“Fuck. Shit. Fuck. The fuck is…” Benton had never had to cap a person before, though he’d known plenty of brothers who had done so. The feeling of watching a rapidly cooling body before his eyes, which ended up that way thanks to him… it is a strange feeling. But it's not his fault. He can't be expected to stand there and let a white boy punch him; they have taken enough from him already. “At least… at least no pigs are around. They can’t frame me for this. It was an accident. I didn't do nothing.... hey, no snitching, you hear? We're in this shit together,” he demands of Edgar. "Snitches get stitches, my momma used to tell me. So you should know what's good for you, dawg."

At that moment, a monitor that they had missed lights up.

“You know fuck-all, motherfucker!” Benton screams at the screen. The only response that he gets is that of the speakers crackling to life. The discordant notes of the second part of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring – The Sacrifice – begin to fill the corridors. “Fucking shitty-ass music again,” grumbles Benton, looking around him in bewilderment.

Edgar, on his part, is listening to something else: a faint scratching in the distance. Like the claws of a dog scraping on the tiles. Or perhaps something bigger. It seems to be coming closer, but he is unable to tell the exact direction of its approach. Not with the music playing.

“Hey, man. Come on, let’s go,” urges Benton. “Gotta find a way out of here. I'm not gonna stay around till that guy starts to rot.”


Group Choice (Benton & Edgar):

A. Head left, down the passage with the sign saying ‘Cafeteria’.

B. Go straight ahead, following the sign saying ‘Administration’.

C. Go right, down the corridor with the sign saying ‘Swimming Pool’.


Edgar’s Choice:

A. Can’t trust Benton. Even though he can read your mind. Gotta strike. Now. Disable him. Then leave him for whatever thing there is out there, to slow it down.

B. Need to survive. Not gonna die here, no way. Benton’s too violent and unpredictable to be around… you abandon him and run your own way.
1. Towards the Cafeteria.
2. Towards the Administration.
3. Towards the Swimming Pool.

C. You watch. For now, you just watch.



“Hey! Hey, can you hear me?” Caitlyn faces down the screen, snapping her fingers and waving her hands. “Can you stop this music? It is literally oppressing my identity! The sexist Classical music has long been a patriarchal tool used to exclude women from participating musical creativity on the grounds that they have a vagina! I cannot believe that you would keep playing this genre when there are far more gender-neutral, egalitarian, empowering songs to showcase, I literally cannot even!”

Her shout fades away, swallowed up by the humid jungle. It seems to take the classical strings together with it, as they dwindle into silence. A second later, a different music begins to play. A grin splits Caitlyn’s face, and she begins nodding her head along to the beat of Beyonce’s Flawless.

“That’s more like it. This song is much, much better both musically and in the meaning that it conveys! But it is clear from the very fact that I had to ask, that you don’t yet recognize your privilege.” Yes. She is flawless. She needs to own it. Girls rule. Caitlyn smiles to herself, feeling very empowered by the song. God damn!

“Caitlyn?” asks Francesca, approaching her.

“What is it?” Caitlyn can’t resist snapping a little: she already knows what Francesca is thinking. God-botherer.

“O-Oh, no, I don’t mean to bother you.” The older woman shakes her head. “But I was just wondering, what do you really think of this place? Do you still believe this is something man-made?”

“What, why wouldn’t it be?”

“This is beyond man’s capability. Creating life… it must be the work of God. The natural ecosystem created here is so… natural! This is a test of faith, Caitlyn-”

“Right, whatever,” shrugs Caitlyn, interrupting Francesca before she can finish. “I’m not very interested in talking about something I don’t believe, Francesca.”

“But why? God is real, as you can see from everything around you.”

“All of this can be done with science,” snaps Caitlyn. “Like… science like…” She realizes that she doesn’t really know a lot of about science, and falls back on, “Look, I read that it could be done, alright? It is a mark of your internalized misogyny that you are letting a patriarchal religion cloud your thinking, Francesca. Wake up.” You’re lucky I’m not in a bad mood, or I’d eat you up alive, she thinks bravely.

Francesca shakes her head again, frowning. “I... I see." She decides to back off for now. "Well, perhaps we should try to find a way out of here, then?"

On their way down, lowered from the cage, they had spotted a few strange structures in the jungle that could be worth looking at. Caitlyn has a rough idea of where they should be headed, but she wonders if they should really be going on any expeditions at the moment. Someone might arrive and rescue them. Perhaps it would be better to try and set up camp first.


Group Choice (Caitlyn & Francesca):

A. Head for the stepped pyramid.

B. Head towards the glass dome.

C. Head for the giant cross.

D. Try to find a suitable place to set up a base camp.

To the Garden of Eden

To the Garden of Eden

As she approaches the glittering dome – it looks like one of those modern, high-efficiency, low-maintenance greenhouses she has always wanted but never been able to afford – Francesca notices something that had been lingering at the back of her mind. Perhaps literally, she thinks. Ever since she had awoken, there had been this faint but strange sensation… the pulsation of different strings, each vibrating at different rates yet somehow joining together in harmony. In synchronization. When Donna died, Francesca thought she had felt one of the strings snap and fall silent. But she was not sure. In the chaotic aftermath, in that mad scramble for the door, she thought that she had imagined it. The vibrations had grown weaker when they descended in the cage – all but two – and now, when drawing closer to the dome, grown stronger once more.

Except this time, it has become clear that there is one less string than before the descent.

Francesca cannot help but feel uneasy. She looks at Caitlyn’s back, wondering if she has noticed it.

“Noticed what?” Caitlyn stops and asks, turning to look over her shoulder.

“The… vibrations,” Francesca says.

Caitlyn taps her head lightly. “I think I know what you mean. They aren’t content with just controlling our bodies, they want to control our minds too! Ignore it, Francesca. It has no power over you unless you let it.”

Francesca rather thinks it could be a manifestation of the Holy Spirit instead – communion is much easier if you take your daily supplement of nutritious organic lentil fiber pellets! – but seeing Caitlyn’s frown upon hearing those thoughts, leaves it unsaid. This is not going to be a very easy partnership.

Finally, thirsty and hungry and more than a little sweaty, they arrive at the dome. Up close, they find that the glass is thick and translucent; they are unable to make out anything within the dome. Caitlyn bravely walks up to the sturdy glass wall, running her hand over its smooth curvature. She raps it with her knuckles. “Leave it to men to objectify women by building a glass tit,” she complains. “There’s no escaping sexism, is there?”

There is the familiar crackle of the speakers, drawing the attention of the two women towards a glass door almost seamlessly set into the wall. A panel recesses, revealing yet another monitor. Music begins to play. It is Beyonce again, and this time, the song echoing around the jungle is: Run The World (Girls).

As if to cap off the monitor’s message, the bushes begin to rustle with movement.


Group Choice (Caitlyn & Francesca)

A. Girls

B. God

C. The patriarchy

D. The matriarchy

E. The kyriarchy

F. We

G. Big Business

H. America

I. Dinosaurs

J. Jews

K. The Illuminati

L. You

M. We don’t know

N. Something else besides these choices


Benton runs down the corridor, muttering “Fuck this” and “Fuck that” and “Fuck y’all” as he goes. He had parted ways with Edgar acrimoniously: first they had disagreed on where to go, with the homeless man grumbling something about food and pointing at the route to the cafeteria repeatedly, and then, when they failed to come to an agreement, Edgar had just run off by himself. He don’t trust me, do he? Well fuck him too! I don’t need him? I’mma survive on my own. Don’t need no old fuck to get in my way neither.

On his part, Benton had decided to make for the swimming pool. He is not entirely sure why himself, but perhaps Aaron’s blood, still staining his tee, plays a part. “Gotta wash it, right? Gonna set in, gonna be a bitch to get out,” he mutters. Then there was that matter of the scratching that he heard behind him…

As he rounds the corner, he finds himself in front of the swimming pool at last. It is a large pool, Olympic-sized, by Benton’s estimates. An acrid, sterile smell – chlorine – permeates the air. There is a row of black lockers lining the far wall, looking disturbingly like coffins from this distance. The tiles surrounding the pool are wet and slightly stained with the colour of rust. The water in the pool is a little cloudy. It is disgusting, but not as much as the thing floating at the center of the pool: a bloated, naked facsimile of a human, all pale and blubbery and swollen in all the wrong places, bobbing up and down, face up. “That’s nasty shit. That some downright fucked up nasty shit, man,” Benton shakes his head, revolted by the sight. He is not sure if it is a real corpse, but he does not want to find out.

Jump in and find out. Yo nigger gotta drooooooown~

Benton blinks. Did he just think that? Or…

The monitor’s message interrupts his thoughts.

Benton squints. He can barely make out a glinting, metal object poking out of the swollen, black tongue. It could be a key.


Benton’s Choice:

A. You get the pink and yellow duckie swim ring and jump in. It might be demeaning, and the ring looks a bit too small for you, but it is also the safest way.

B. You get the inflatable banana boat and paddle over to the center. It might not be all too stable, but it’s better than using a swim ring.

C. You don’t need no flotation device. You a strong nigga, even if you never dipped your toes in anything more than knee-deep water all your life. You try to swim over to the corpse without a float.


Edgar hunches over in the cafeteria, chewing on his ragged fingernails as he tries to ignore the faint scratching both outside the door and inside his head. It is not like any cafeteria he has ever seen. Nothing like this, no. Not even during the war. He looks at the message given to him, on the multiple monitors placed all over the cafeteria.

Edgar has seen the rings – there is a cardboard box full of them. They are large and adjustable, with inward-facing spikes. He has seen the vending machines too: they contain a variety of items from food to weapons to medicine, and there is a small, round hole where you would usually expect the money to go. The hole is roughly the size of a finger.


Edgar’s Choice:

A. Buy 0 items.

B. Buy 1 item.

C. Buy 2 items.

D. Buy 3 items.

E. Buy 4 items.

F. Buy 5 items.


Item List:

Vote for up to five items. The number of top voted items selected will depend on the previous option.

I. Military rations (3 packs).
II. Sandwiches (6 pieces).
III. Potatoes (1 sack).
IV. Filet mignon (1 piece).
V. Bottled water (6 bottles).
VI. Beer (6 pack).
VII. Vodka (1 bottle).
VIII. Cabernet Sauvignon (1 glass).
IX. First aid kit (1 box).
X. Cold medicine (1 bottle).
XI. Morphine (1 bottle).
XII. Baseball bat (1 bat)
XIII. Hunting knife (1 knife)
XIV. Machete (1 machete)
XV. Pistol (17 rounds)
XVI. Chainsaw (full tank)

The Price Has Been Paid

The Price Has Been Paid

“Fuck, alright, I’ll do it. I’ll do it. Yeah. Not gonna let that piece of plastic get a nigga down, I ain’t too proud to do it if I hafta.” Psyching himself up, Benton grabs the inflatable swim ring shaped like an extremely ugly duck. He squeezes himself into it – it is an uncomfortable fit, and try as he might, he is unable to pull it up around his waist. The hips are as far as it goes, and as a result, Benton looks like he is sporting a fat duck head around his crotch. “Alright. Let’s do this shit! A nigga finna swim!”

With a yell, Benton runs into the water and makes a big splash. His arms and legs flail about wildly and somehow, he manages to stay afloat. “Fuck! Fuck! I’m swimming! I’m swimming, bitches!” he laughs nervously. Thrashing through the brackish pool, Benton reaches the corpse. He is forced to cling to its rubbery, bloated skin to maintain his balance in the water. Parts of the flesh have turned a deep jet-black and seem to be disintegrating into the pool. The cloudy, yellowing eyes are bulging halfway out of their sockets. There is a tangible stench that assails his nostrils. Benton resists the urge to gag: he’s sniffed some gross stuff growing up, but this was a whole new level of grossness.

The key is in her mouth. Her slimy, cold, wet mouth. “Sheeeeeit. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit.” Muttering the word like a mantra, Benton reaches in. His fingers push her swollen tongue aside, touching her icy teeth. The key slips further in, lodging at the back of her throat. “Oh fuck.”

Something cold and wispy brushes past Benton’s kicking ankles.

Did he imagine it? He is not staying around to find out.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck…” In a hurry, he manages to get his fingers around the bow of the key. “Yes!” Holding up the key triumphantly, Benton pushes away from the dead woman and flees for the side of the pool. He clambers up, water streaming off of his body, and dances a little jig in victory. “Yeah! Yeah! Who’s drowning now, motherfucker?”

You’ll believe even a nigger can swim…

“Yeah, you dig? Even a nigga like me can swim… yeah?” Benton pauses, uncertain. That thought had not felt like his own, yet…

“That ain’t my name, nigga!” shouts Quack-Quack at the screen furiously, as Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf Op. 67: III – The Duck – begins to play. But the monitor has gone dark. Still stewing, Quack-Quack stomps off to the lockers. He tries the key on them, one by one, until he finds the right lock. The door of the metal locker creaks open slowly on squeaky hinges. Inside, he finds two things.

A battered fedora, and a key-card.

There is a note taped to the back of the locker. It reads:

“Is this shit real?” frowns Quack-Quack. “Hope it’s legit, man.” He picks up the card, inadvertently brushing against the back of the locker as he does so. It rattles. With a squeak, the panel leans slightly ajar, revealing an empty space behind the locker; a narrow passage of some sort. It is about big enough for a single person to squeeze through…


Quack-Quack’s Choice:

A. Exit the swimming pool and head for the Administration office.

B. Investigate the secret passage hidden behind the locker.


A. Take the fedora.

B. Don’t take the fedora.


One item.

One knife.

That is all he needs.

Edgar places the ring on his pinky. The inward-pointing spikes scratch his skin but do not draw blood – they are merely mildly uncomfortable. And he knows uncomfortable. Taking a deep breath, he inserts his finger into the hole. Nothing happens. He waits for a second. And then two. And on the third second, the machine whirs to life. There is a flash of red light from the hole.

Edgar lets out a stifled scream as pain pierces his finger. He can feel the spikes gouging in, boring into his flesh, digging until they touch bone. Then, the ring is pulled. It goes swiftly, drawn by a powerful mechanical force, vanishing into the depths of the machine as payment. Payment. That is what it meant. Edgar withdraws his trembling hand, beads of sweat rolling off his dirty brow. This is… He stares at his finger, amazed. Blood is spurting out of the wound profusely, though he knows it would clot soon enough. He had thought that the machine would have cut it off altogether, but what it had merely done was to strip the ring, and all the flesh of his pinky together with it. Exposed bone and ligaments are all that is left behind. That, and the pain coursing up his arm.

Edgar reaches towards the vending machine with his left hand and taps what he wants. A hunting knife. The machine makes some clunking noises, and some more whirring, and after a while, spits out his prize. He takes the knife, hefting it in his good hand. It is a well-balanced knife. Edgar stares at his reflection in the polished surface of the blade. Now… He looks at his finger again.


Edgar’s Choice:

A. Sacrifice another finger for a first-aid kit so that he can bandage the wounds properly.

B. Bite and break off the exposed bone with his teeth, and wrap the wound with cloth cut from his rags.


A. Head for the ‘Administration’.

B. Head for the ‘Swimming Pool’.


Caitlyn and Francesca stare at each other. They had been unable to come to an agreement on what answer to give. Who runs the world? They could not even each make up their own mind enough to admit that they did not know the answer. So that is all they can do: to stare at each other.

The bushes shake and rustle. Something steps out from the bushes. As one, they turn to look at the newcomer. It is a large teddy bear, one the size of a small child. It wobbles uncertainly with each step, toddling towards them.

“Oh, how cute!” coos Caitlyn.

Francesca, on the other hand, is frowning with suspicion. “Is it… a puppet?” She has seen this before. Toys possessed by the devil.

“All bears are toys!” says the teddy bear joyfully without opening its mouth.

“Awh!” goes Caitlyn.

There is more rustling, and more stuffed toys begin to step out of the forest. Bears, cats, dogs, and even the odd duck. “All bears are toys! All bears are toys!” they chant as one, hopping up and down.

“Oh, you’re so silly. Not all of you are bears!” laughs Caitlyn.

The thick door slides open. “Hey! It’s opening!” points Caitlyn. “They helped us open it! These little things are so nice!”

“All bears… are toys!” The high-pitched, childlike voice of the bear turns into a hissing growl. Its sewn mouth tears open to reveal a gaping maw full of sharp, needle-like teeth.

“I knew it! Oh, Jesus!” cries out Francesca. These toys are clearly of the devil, with their non-ecologically friendly construction in some Chinese sweatshop halfway across the world.

As all the other toys open their mouths to the chant of “All bears are toys! All bears are toys!” Caitlyn drops her previous liking for the stuffed toys quickly and begins sprinting for the door. Francesca, a split-second slower to react, follows on her heels. And behind them, the animals begin the hunt.

Caitlyn is first to the door, being younger and in better shape. She darts in, turns around, and looks at Francesca. She sees the look of horror on Francesca’s face as the door begins to close. “Quickly!” she shouts.

The bear pounces. It sinks its sharp teeth into Francesca’s calf. She stumbles the last few steps, managing to wedge her elbow into the door. The door’s progress is halted – temporarily – but Francesca is being gradually pulled back by the rabid bear. The other animals are closing in on the dome, chanting “All bears are toys!”

“Help… help me!” cries Francesca, screaming in pain as the bear digs into her leg.


Caitlyn’s Choice:

A. Take the emergency fire-axe nearby, wedge it against the door, and pull Francesca through at the risk of letting the other animals in.

B. Attempt to pull Francesca through without wedging the door open. She might not make it through in time before the door shuts, however.

C. Pry off Francesca’s arm, pushing her away. Getting close might let her grab you, however, putting the both of you in danger.

D. Take the axe and cut off Francesca’s arm. It has to be done. You can’t endanger your life to rescue her.


Francesca's Choice:

Pray for help.

B. Pray for help harder.

What Lies at the End

What Lies at The End

“Okay, okay! Grab hold of my hand! I’ll pull you out!” Caitlyn reaches out a helping hand to Francesca, hoping with all her heart that she will not regret this decision. The both of them scream, one pulling, one pushing. Slowly, they begin to budge. Francesca falls forward, but she does not quite manage to clear the door before it closes on her knee. Outside, the bear is still biting onto her leg with all the hunger of a starving vegan confronted with a shipping container packed with soya beans. Caitlyn falters, wondering if she should continue pulling Francesca out, try to push the door open so that more of her can squeeze in, or just run.

The decision is made for her a split second later. The combination of pressure from the door and the tugging of the bear pops Francesca’s knee loose. Then, there is a wet, ripping noise of meat being torn apart. Francesca drops to the ground, her eyes wide and her face pale. The door smoothly slides shut with a loud squish, mulching whatever connections were left between her thigh and calf. It takes a few seconds before the pain begins to register. She arches her back and begins rocking back and forth, clutching the ragged mess of flesh and bone and nerves that was once her leg. Blood streams from between her fingers ceaselessly, spurting forth in great gushes that paint the ground red.

On her part, Caitlyn can only stand there with a confused, fearful look on her face. What should I do? A tourniquet? But how do I make one? She was not Edgar, or even Quack-Quack. Caitlyn has not had the need to perform first aid on anyone in her life, not even once. It was something doctors, nurses and first-responders did. Not her.

This! This is how you do it! Quickly! Please!

Francesca’s sharp, hoarse thought cuts through the mental screaming that had been filling Caitlyn’s head. An instructional image appears in her mind. How to bind a tourniquet for the leg. It is hazy. Before Caitlyn can commit it to memory, it dissolves, washed away by Francesca’s anguished shrieks.

Caitlyn shakes her head, trying to clear it. She is not confident that she will do it correctly, but she will at least try…


Edgar brings his fleshless pinky up to his mouth. He bites it at the base of the joint, his rotted teeth sawing against the ligaments. Gripping firmly with his jaw, he jerks his head, hard. The finger bone snaps off easily enough, and Edgar spits it onto the floor. It clatters across the tiles. Then comes the task of bandaging: the knife helps with that, cutting some of his extraneous rags into small strips useful enough to bind the open wound. Once that is done, Edgar reaches over and picks up his disembodied finger. He stuffs it down his pants.

It is a part of him after all. Waste not, want not. There could be a use for it later.

Muttering to himself, Edgar leaves the cafeteria and heads for the swimming pool.

When he arrives, he sees a curious sight. The swimming pool is devoid of water, yet there are splashes of water all around and a wet trail leading off to the side. Someone had taken a swim recently. Was it Quack-Quack? Gripping the knife tightly, Edgar stalks the trail until he reaches the lockers. One of it is open, and from the marks, it seems that the person had left the pool and entered the locker. The trail ends there, however. Edgar kneels down, grumbling. There is water seeping through from the bottom of the back panel. Not a lot of it, but it is there. Something hidden in the back.

Perhaps a secret passage. Perhaps Quack-Quack is there.

He reaches out a hand to push the panel, but his fingers stop just short of it.

There is the sound of something scratching behind him. Claws tracing streaks across the tiles. The sound of heavy panting, from a large animal at least human in size.

So… it’s caught up…

Edgar’s eyes glitter. He can feel the old blood coming back. Rushing. Hot. Eager to battle. Eager to kill. With a grin, he whirls around…


Quack-Quack squeezes through the narrow corridor. It is barely wide enough for him to make it through, and low enough that he is perpetually hunched. The walls and floor are all made from cold metal. He sneezes. That little swim did not agree with him. As he walks, he notices that there is a slight incline. Quack-Quack is slowly and steadily progressing upwards.

What lies at the end of the corridor?

Better be some nice chow. Some bitches would be good too. Finding the motherfucker behind all this would be double-A best.

So he continues to walk, not knowing where he will end up…