01 Feb My friends and I decided to spend my birthday at an Escape Room. We’re still here
When my mom dropped me off at a quarter til six last night I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about the building.
It was smack in the middle of two other equally gray brick storefronts, and in the low light of evening it looked larger than it could be.
Under one of the flickering street lights I spotted two of my friends waiting for me.
Adam Demarco was wearing a ball cap, relaxed v-neck shirt and leather jacket that his dad had bought him. He smiled as he caught sight of me.
Megan Graham wore her typical long sleeved pull over hoodie and tight distressed jeans with some black pumps to make her look a few inches taller.
I pulled my jacket tight around myself and walked over to them. It was cold but the way Meg looked at me made me feel even colder. It’s been a while since we’ve actually had a chance to talk, and I figured this weekend would be a chance for us to reconnect.
“Can’t we just go to the club or something?” she asked. I had to admit the suggestion wasn’t a bad one since I knew the bar down the street didn’t bother asking for ID.
But I had already made three promises that evening and broken one of them.
While we waited for the final member of our foursome, I checked out the exterior of the place.
It was formerly a run down warehouse on the downtown strip that nobody paid attention to. And even up close it didn’t look that impressive. There were no windows to peer inside and no distinguishing signs to mark the location.
In fact the only proof there was anything there at all was the lettering on the front door:
THE MIND PALACE OPEN UNTIL YOU GET OUT
“Can’t we go inside and wait for Jared?” Megan whined. “He should be here soon,” I told her.
Jared was actually the one who had picked the escape room as the hot spot for my birthday a few weeks back in home ec.
When you live in a dead end town like this one, you don’t care what you have to do to get a thrill. And the escape room sounded like it would be just the type of fun that I enjoyed.
According to an online review, the place had six different scenarios that guests could pick from; and Jared said that he wanted it to be a surprise so of course he didn’t tell me which one he picked.
Frankly I didn’t care either, as long as we got to be together. That hope of seeing my boyfriend was dashed to pieces though a few seconds later when another face appeared across the street and I frowned in confusion.
Cole Redfern, one of Jared’s closest friends ran across the street to where we stood and gave me an apologetic grin.
“Hey Kelly… uh… Jared is really sorry but…”
He didn’t even have to finish the sentence for me to know what had happened. “Bullshit,” I snapped as I checked my phone for any messages.
How the hell could he do this, give me the cold shoulder and expect me to be okay with it?
He had been the one who insisted my 16th birthday was going to extraordinary. He had been the one to book the damn thing.
Cole fumbled around a lame explanation about why Jared couldn’t be there, but honestly I don’t remember what it was.
When we went inside I was surprised to find that the interior looked a little better than what we had seen on the outside.
The carpet was fresh. It had a soft teal texture and a smell like that of Gain laundry detergent. The wallpaper was shiny and bright, inviting us to step forward toward the front desk.
There was a soft jazzy music playing in the air that sounded half way familiar to me as we walked up and looked about to see if we could catch sight of the owners.
Meg tapped the bell on the side of the counter and looked about expecting some kind of gimmicky introduction but no one came out.
“Must be their lunch break,” I muttered to myself as I walked toward one of the doors and took a peek down the halls toward the red doors that went to different scenarios.
Adam decided to look around and see if he could find anyone. I followed him toward the hallways, noting they were a bit different in design, a bit more ordinary. I wasn’t really seeing anything that would make me believe this place was that fantastic.
I hadn’t spent a dime and I was already feeling a bit cheated out of my money. We even tried some of the doors, disappointed to find that none of them were opening for us.
“This is bogus,” Adam said as we walked back to the front.
But when we got back toward the desk, I saw a ledger sitting on the counter next to the bell.
“Was that there before…?” I asked in confusion staring at the book.
I walked over to it and saw a small placard next to the book that said: PLEASE SIGN IN TO GO INSIDE.
“Huh? I don’t know,” Meg said as she stayed glued to her phone.
“I guess they like playing games with their guests from the get-go,” Adsm said as I took out the pen and signed our names in. There was a small booklet that offered to explain the rules and regulations of the escape room and I slipped it into my back pocket as I checked to see what times were available for reservation.
There were no other names in the book.
“This is cheesy,” Meg complained. I had to admit that I actually agreed with her for once.
But I didn’t want to make it look like I was not going to have a good time.
“Maybe this will be a little fun,” Adam suggested with a laugh as he took the key next to the book and walked back to the hallway, trying it on different doors until he found the right one.
The room was probably about the average size of one’s bedroom. The walls were a cream color and on every one of them there was the same bland picture of a young couple holding a puppy. Cole took a look at it for a moment, but didn’t pay it any further thought.
In the center of the room was a table with five chairs and a notebook opened up with a page torn clearly torn out. There were other pages from other books scattered across the floor. Some written in languages we didn’t understand.
There was a small wooden box next to the book that looked like something you might find at a jewel store. The ceiling fan shimmied and shook a tad, like it was about to fall. And a few stray roaches scurried across the floor.
And then of course there was the bloodstain on the floor. I think that was the first thing any of us really noticed when we got here.
Cole covered his mouth in disgust as Adam leaned over to examine it.
Immediately Megan was the one who got scared. “Maybe this was a stupid idea,” she told me. I frowned up at her and crinkled my nose.
Adam examined the box as Cole closed the door. I heard a soft click and I realized the timer for the event had begun.
“All righty folks, looks like Jared threw us a doozy with this one didn’t he? Anyone speak Swahili?” Adam joked as he sorted through the papers as best as he could.
“What scenario did he pick anyway?” Megan asked. I realized as usual she had been the one to not pay attention. But it also reminded me of how upset I was that she was here, so I did my best to ignore her.
“It’s a surprise, duh,” I told her, though if I had to guess I thought it was horror.
She didn’t say anything else as Adam and Cole tried to put the notes in the right order. It had to have been almost fifteen minutes since we got here.
I bent over and picked up the box, opening it up to see a small glass figurine inside. It surprised me, but I didn’t see anything significant at first.
I looked at it for a moment before taking out my phone to text my mom and whine about not getting a few extra dollars for an after party. I clicked to send the message and slipped it in my back pocket, only to hear a soft beep on my phone a second later.
MESSAGE FAILED TO SEND.
“You got any cell service?” I asked Adam. He was so engrossed in deciphering whatever the notes said he didn’t even answer. He just slid me his phone and went back to reading.
I tried again, this time calling. But all I got was static.
“Must scramble the signal or something?” Meg suggested as she got up and added, “You can try mine outside. I need to go pee anyway.”
She walked over to the door and tried to open it. I rolled my eyes at her.
“What the actual fuck?” she asked.
“It’s part of the rules, idiot,” I told her as I took them out of my pocket and passed them to her.
“Maybe if you weren’t so busy spreading your legs you could learn something,” I sneered.
Meg snatched it from my hand and I walked around the room.
That was when I noticed the cameras. Four of them, on each corner of the room. It was clear from the blinking red light that they were working and I realized that the proprietors were likely monitoring everything we said and did. It was a little unsettling. Twenty minutes had passed by.
“Hey… did you actually read any of these?” Meg asked.
I sighed and rolled my eyes.
“Why don’t you read them to me?” I asked.
“Okay,” she said as she sat back down. Something had changed in her voice.
“Welcome to the Mind Palace, Kelly Alcaster. It will be a pleasure getting inside your head,” she began.
“Here at the Mind Palace we have a few simple rules that we expect everyone to follow, and if you’re smart; you’ll follow them too.”
“Rule number one: the game is not over until we say it is. This is the most important of all rules. If you want to fully enjoy your experience here at the Mind Palace, always remember this rule.”
“Rule number two: there is no leaving the game. We pride ourselves with a unique experience that will be diminished if at any time you leave, that’s why we don’t allow it.”
“Rule number three: do not trust the people you are here with,” she paused.
Adam and Cole paused in what they were doing now.
“I see I got your attention with that one,” she said with a smile. “Just finish,” I said rolling my eyes.
“During the game, everything you know to be true will prove to be a lie. And everything that you thought you could hide from will be brought to light.”
Something about that sounded very strange.
“Is that it?” I asked. Meg passed me the brochure. “I didn’t want to read the last part…”
I took it from her, trying to ignore her cowardice for a second as I glanced at the bottom of the page.
“Confess your sins,” I read aloud.
I frowned. What did that mean?
“Who wrote that anyway?” Adam asked. I shrugged trying not to look nervous.
Megan looked a little worried. “Lighten up. Nothing in here can hurt us anyway,” I told her.
I wanted to believe that’s what the message meant, that the proprietors were messing with our heads.
But it did bother me a little that it felt like someone was playing an elaborate joke on us.
Thirty minutes had gone by. We were still just sitting there.
“I guess we better try and see if we can win, hate to disappoint you,” Adam said as he read over the books again and winked at me.
I walked around the room and examined the paintings. Trying to see if there was anything different about any of them.
Cole was drinking a beer and flirting with Megan. Forty minutes had passed.
I hated to admit it but I was ready to go by that point. Something inside my heart was beginning to tell me that we needed to find a way to leave.
“I think… I think I figured it out,” Adam said. “Finally. Okay, solved! Get us out of here!” Megan said with a nervous laugh.
“Okay, so at first I thought all these pages needed to go in chronological order, ya know? That way they could make a cohesive narrative. But after looking at them I realized none of them come from the same book,” Adam explained.
“But… the numbers on the page, that’s when I realized it reminded me of how I used to write my own diary. It’s like a cryptogram,” he said.
“Get to the point,” I told him.
“Okay, right. Sorry. So, I checked and matched the numbers on these pages with letters of the alphabet, see like for example this says page 1 but it obviously can’t be page 1 so that must be the letter A, got it?” He explained.
“Yeah that does make a certain amount of sense I guess,” I told him.
“B would be page 2, C page 3 and so on and so on. So these pages here…” he paused and slid the ones that all seemed written in English.
“These pages here all seemed to be just a bunch of nonsense at first. But I think if we can like, rearrange them maybe we can spell out a message,” Adam said.
I hated to admit it, but the whole concept was very well thought out and since we only had ten minutes to spare I toyed around with it for a while, trying a variety of combinations.
Then a soft chime went off above us and I realized the hour was up.
“Well, that was an experience…” Meg said as she got up and added, “Now can we go to the club like I first suggested?”
She grabbed the handle and then started to try and turn it, only to find that it would not budge.
“Ummm… guys,” she said, as she tried again.
“Give the doochbag a few seconds. Probably taking a pee break,” I told her as I glanced up at the repetitive beeping light on the cameras.
I sat back down and worked with the pages a few more times, trying to get an idea as to what the message might be. Finally I realized it seemed pointless. Cryptograms were never my forte. Ten minutes had passed and Meg tried the door again. Still nothing.
“Jesus, what if the dude went home thinking we could just get out on our own?” Adam realized. “We’d be stuck here until morning,” Cole realized.
“Well, maybe not necessarily…” I paused as I looked through the papers.
“If we win; then it should be some way to get the door open. Some way to end the game, I’ve seen it work before on tv. Like some key code you can press or whatever,” I explained. I passed them all sheets as they sat down again.
“So.. you’re saying that we gotta solve this stupid puzzle or be stuck in here all night?” Meg asked. “Seems to be the best thing to do to pass the time anyway,” Adam said.
For the next hour we sat there, studying the pattern of the pages, swapping them around to try and get a solution. Nothing was fitting into place. And the others were starting to get a bit irritated.
“I bet we could break down this door if we wanted to,” Adam said as he looked at it. Then abruptly he started kicking it. He kicked it again and again for about five minutes straight.
“Give it a break!!” Cole shouted. I rubbed my head, realizing that my mom was probably wondering where I was at by now.
The plan had been the guys would drop me off after the party. Of course she had also said since it was my sweet 16 I could have a birthday bash.
It wasn’t exactly turning out the way I wanted it to.
“My phone is gonna die soon, did anyone bring a charger?” Meg asked.
“Do you see any wall outlets?” I countered.
“What a shitty place,” she remarked. “I have a portable charger,” Cole said and tossed it to her. “It’s not like we can call out for help anyway,” I said.
“Maybe you can’t, but I’ve got a little service thanks to my internet hotspot,” she said. The others stopped what they were doing as she typed out a message and sent it to 911.
She was wearing this smug smile like she thought she was a fucking hero.
“There. We should be rescued in no time,” she said triumphantly. None of us bothered to work on the puzzle as we waited.
One hour became two. Two became four.
“It’s almost midnight where are they?” Cole asked.
“Maybe they thought it was like a prank?” I suggested. Meg checked her phone again. The message showed that it sent. But still we were sitting here.
“This is bull shit, I really need to pee,” she snapped.
“Just go in the corner,” Cole told her. I went back to the puzzle.
Meg was about to pee in the box when I stopped her and snatched it from the floor. “Great you want me to piss on the carpet??” she asked in shock.
“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I told her as I opened it.
Adam was focused on the code he had apparently unlocked.
A. L. L.
He kept going until he finished the message.
“What are you doing?” Meg asked as she zipped her pants up. He had found what the message said.
“All are guilty?” Cole asked as he read it aloud. “What does that mean?” I wondered.
“How did you solve that?” Meg asked. I stood up and waved toward the camera.
“We solves your damn puzzle. Game time is over now!” I shouted. Then I walked toward the door and tried to manhandle the knob.
“You keep doing that and you’re gonna rip it off,” Cole said.
“Come on! I know that you hear me! Let’s go!!” I shouted in desperation.
Adam pulled me away from the door finally and I kicked the papers to the ground.
The three of them were waiting for some kind of explanation.
“So… un… yeah,” Cole said as he crossed his arms. Meg had the guts to just say it, “Care to share with the rest of the class?” Adam didn’t say anything. It was clear he was beginning to grow frightened of the situation we were in.
“It’s getting late. Let’s just get some sleep,” I told them all. I used a tone that made it clear that it was pointless for them to poke and prod the subject.
The two guys seemed amiable to the idea and slumped over near the left wall away from the blood stain while Meg and I took the right.
The floor was uncomfortable and cold, and it felt like the AC unit had kicked on. I waited for all of them to go to sleep. Meg was the last one to do so, I think it was around 3am when she finally collapsed.
I reached for her phone and I’ve spent the last few hours trying to type this out and send a message asking for help.
It’s Monday morning, a little after 830am central standard time. We’re here in downtown Longview Texas, I don’t remember the address but it should be easy to spot.
Please send help. I don’t know how long this phone battery will last.