Their keys, phones and personal possessions are all gone. They only have each other.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
An ear-splitting, blaring noise that sounds like a wailing ambulance siren blasts from the computer screen. The loud noise causes an intense headache for Rosa, the elderly woman, whose features contort as if she's in pain.
Five minutes is up.
Everyone's eyes are glued to the screen. Their names are scrolling through speedily, similarly to a machine slot in an arcade. The name generator slows down and it lands on 'Mackenzie', a twenty-year-old white female, whose dirt-brown eyes widen in anticipation. A question pops up on the screen, which is clearly created to form controversy.
'Mackenzie, would you rather save a transgender person or a normal man's life?'
The timer begins. She has a minute to answer.
"What the fuck? Is this a sick joke?" Ethan, the only transgender person in the room, questions in bewilderment. His midnight-blue eyes are burning in hatred at the screen, resenting whoever is behind this.
"That question is so stupid!" Kat exclaims, outraged. "I find it insulting how this question clearly doesn't think transgender people are normal humans."
Barely ten seconds has gone and Mackenzie immediately gives her answer with little to no hesitation. "Well, I mean, I'd obviously save a normal guy, to be honest," she says, shrugging carelessly.
Hurt flashes across Ethan's eyes. There is a frantic ticking noise coming from him, sounding eerily similar to a rapidly beeping heart monitor. Bright fiery light erupts like an angry volcano, followed by a loud cataclysmic sound. The impact is like a popped balloon - only the individual is physically affected, whereas everyone else is safe. Then silence. A cloud of dust rises from the ground, where he is supposed to be standing, and his broken limbs and blood are scattered all over the place from the small yet deadly explosion.
Horror. Terror. Fear. Dumbstruck. Disbelief. All these emotions that are pulsing through people's veins. The little girls, Daisy and Elsa, are crying and shrieking in tears. Liam, the boy in the wheelchair, who has been so close to the scenery, is wrapping his arms around himself tightly. He rocks his body back and forth, hoping to comfort himself. Color has drained from people's faces and they are staring into space in complete shock.
Then realization kicks in and accusing eyes turn to look at Mackenzie.
"You did this," Kat says coldly, pointing a judging finger at the still girl.
"I- I... I didn't know that would happen," Mackenzie says, her mind buzzing as she feels light-headed. She exchanges a glance with her little sister, Madison, who is aware that Mackenzie is transphobic. Madison shakes her head slowly because she knows that her older sister doesn't regret her decision at all.
"Guys, look," a voice says, directing everyone's attention to the large screen. The name generator has landed on 'Thomas'. As if there's a robotic hand clawing out of the screen, the impressive metal hook has a large gardening shear dangling from it. A questions pops up that makes a lot of mouths drop, despite the devastating explosion that was witnessed seconds ago.
'Thomas, would you rather have sex with Taniya or cut off your penis?'
The timer ticks away.
"This game is so fucked up!" Kat spits out in disgust. Her cool-blue eyes land on the Indian girl across the room. The girl has long, silky, black hair with a honey skin tone and rosy lips. Her chocolate-brown eyes are staring fearfully at the screen, while her petite figure is backed away in a corner, shaking and whimpering in absolute terror. Taniya.
"Dude, you're so lucky! That girl is the hottest here. Plus, she's got a nice ass too," Ashton blurts out, as he pats Thomas on the back. "Go take her."
Taniya's expression grows more horrified, while Kat screeches in fury.
"Take her?" Kat shrills, mocking him venomously. "She's not a freaking sexual object that you can exploit, you freaking douchebag."
"Yeah, but you're a dumbass bitch if you think he's passing up her. No dude in the right mind would cut off his dick," Ashton fires back. He pushes Thomas towards the petrified girl. "Go on, hurry up!"
"I... I can't. I'm... gay," Thomas says, hesitating. Ashton pulls a face, before he backs away from Thomas, eyeing him like he's infected with a contagious disease.
"What will happen if you don't choose to do anything?" Seiko questions, quickening the pace of Thomas' heart rate while the widgets in his mind spin frantically. There is a bitter taste in the back of his mouth that he can't seem to remove. He doesn't know what to do and he can barely think over the rising tide of cold fear.
Thirty seconds left. Thomas doesn't want to find out the consequences. His heart is hammering against his chest like a caged bird beating itself to death, as he walks over to Taniya, who is shaking her head furiously. Visions are blurry, breathings are short, thoughts are muddled, while Thomas clumsily takes off Taniya's pants. The girl shrieks as she keeps pushing him away with brute force. Time is ticking.
"No! Stop! This is rape!" Kat persists through a strained voice. "You'll scar her for life if you do this!"
"Shurrup," Ashton growls at her. "He has no choice, or else he'll lose his dick and that'll physically scar him."
The adults are watching, still as a statue, like monuments frozen for eternity. Should they intervene? These are children, after all. Yet they are not as young as Daisy or Elsa or even Liam, and they are old enough to make their own decisions like adults. Still, they need protecting because they are vulnerable. The teenage phase is possibly the most awkward and confusing stage of life. The adults should protect them, but they can only stand back in complete shock within that minute.
Then - BAM!
Thomas wasn't quick nor forceful enough.
Taniya stands there, her mouth slightly open, completely frozen, with the boy's blood splattered all over her face. Her eyes are misty and unimaginable dread washes over her when she realizes that he died because of her reluctance. She collapses to the floor and begins shivering like she's drowning in the Arctic ocean, her chest squeezing her with immense guilt. Kat walks over to the trembling girl, a solemn expression on her face, and she pulls her in for a comforting embrace. In that moment, nobody else matters except the two girls, who are lost into each other's company.
"How the heck are people exploding? Are we standing on mines or what?" Ashton demands icily, his green eyes burning through the ground. He looks up, wondering if there is a chance they can cling to the ceiling for protection. However, it is just a smooth metallic surface, offering no support.
"Guys, if there's a way in, there's gotta be a way out. Look around at every little spot, nook and corner. There has to be a clue or a secret trap door or something!" Matthew commands, attempting to seize control of the bizarre and surreal situation.
Meanwhile, the name generator is still spinning. It lands on the forty-year-old black man.
'Timothy, would you rather everyone else dies, apart from you, or would you rather only you die?'
"That's a horrible one," a voice murmurs in pity.
"Daddy, no!" His daughter, Elsa pleads, as silver threads of tears fall down her face like snowflakes. She holds onto him tightly, her only source of comfort and protection among these strangers in this scary place. She doesn't want to be left behind nor does she want to watch his life pass away so cruelly, but she knows that her father has already made up his mind.
"Angel, you know daddy has to do this," Timothy says, bending down to place a soft kiss on his daughter's forehead. She is the only reason he is sacrificing himself. "Come on, I don't wanna see no tears. Chin up, my little butterfly," he says, tenderly tilting her head up.
Elsa's bottom lip trembles, as her eyes are glistening like morning frost. Her breathing is frantic, and she's snuffling quietly, while she tries to suppress her tears. Her father picks himself up and he moves back, his dark sorrowful eyes still focusing on his miserable daughter.
"Please take care of her," he says, his voice is hollow and his words are not really addressing anyone in particular. Ayesha, the Muslim woman, steps forward and she places her hands gently on the tearful girl's shoulder.
The time is ticking. There's a few more seconds left. The father's eyes refuse to leave his daughter. He wants to ensure that his attention is fully devoted to his little girl, and that his last sight and thoughts revolve only around her.
"I love you," he says hoarsely, his eyes welling up and threatening to bleed in pain.
"I l-love you too..." The tiny voice replies.
Elsa closes her eyes. Another destructive explosion goes off. Her head is ringing from the constant explosions but, this time, it feels like her own heart has exploded and shattered into thousands of pieces. Her father's body parts are flying everywhere and his broken arm whacks Elsa's cheek, painting her face in his blood. A sudden burst of coldness chills her to the bones, when she sees her father's annihilated, blood-covered leg resting on the floor, directly in front of her. In that moment, she can only hear her heart pounding in her ears, while her muscles are screaming at her to run away, but she remains frozen.
The game has only just begun.
Butterfly: Your comment made me laugh because you know me well. Hope you enjoyed this! Thanks for reading.
Jamie: I'm a huge Hunger Games fan! So it's no surprise that I'm greatly influenced by that, as well as the Maze Runner. Such brilliant works. I'm glad you appreciate the diversity because that's exactly what I want to explore in this story. Thanks for reading!
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