01 Feb The 24 Hour Game 05:00-06:00
The morning sun was just coming up over the river, stretching out long beams of light against the small boat we found ourselves in.
Melissa was leaning against the railing watching the sun rise as we sailed toward the north shore. I sighed and stood beside her, trying to clear my head.
“What do you make of all this? Do you trust her?” I asked.
The young redhead looked at me and then scooted away. “I don’t even trust you. I don’t even know if your name is really Daniel!” she muttered.
“What? What’s gotten into you?”
“Just facing the facts. We’re in over our head. I didn’t expect this. I just wanted to…”
She started to bawl and shake her head before reaching into her pocket and taking out the burner phone.
“I don’t give a damn what happens anymore. I’m done!” she snapped as she tossed it into the water.
“Hey! What’s gotten into you?” I asked.
Her eyes are puffy and red as I stare at her and then a sudden realization hits me.
“Those people from the past group… you knew some of them?” I guessed.
“My dad… he joined the last group probably right alongside our savior, if that’s really what she is,” Melissa said bitterly.
“How long has he been gone?” I whispered.
“At least nine months. Maybe ten. I held out hope that maybe he was still alive somewhere, cause he didn’t come back after he lost. He told me he still wanted to play this stupid game,” she said.
I shook my head in confusion looking toward the water. It didn’t make sense Then Heather came out and muttered, “Which one of you tossed the burner?”
Melissa sheepishly looked up and then Heather showed me the new challenge that she’d been given.
VI. RETRIEVE THE PHONE.
“That’s crazy. These waters are ice cold this time of year. Plus it’s like 6 meters to the bottom, maybe twice that much!” I said.
“You think I don’t know that? But it’s what we have to do. If we don’t it’s game over. No cache. No further instructions. We lose everything,” Heather scowled.
Melissa looked toward the freezing water in surprise as Heather sighed.
“Well we have forty minutes, do we need to draw straws? Obviously I can’t,” she said waving her stubbed arm as though it were a battle trophy.
“I’ll do it,” a voice chimed in and I looked up to see her partner gesture for Heather to come take the wheel.
“Celeste you can’t. You’ll catch hypothermia if you’re in that water for any longer than like thirteen minutes,” Heather argued.
“Nineteen actually. And we came prepared for all kinds of situations I don’t see how this one is any different,” her partner said as she took off her turtleneck and stretched for a minute.
“It’s her fault, make her go!” Heather said pointing toward the younger woman.
“What… i… i…” Melissa stammered.
Wayne came out to hear what all the commotion was about.
After briefly explaining the situation he raised his hands up and said, “Hey don’t look at me. I can’t swim.”
“Move aside, watch the ship and I’ll be back in a jiffy,” Celeste said.
“Wait… maybe I should go?” I suggested.
“This debate is wasting time. You’ve still got fresh wounds that need to heal, freezing water will do more harm than good,” Celeste ordered as she got down to the bare minimum in clothing to keep from being too heavy.
Then Heather took the wheel and steered the boat as close to the spot where Melissa had dropped her phone before allowing her partner to jump over board.
I held my breath trying to see how long it might take for her to get back to the surface. Three seconds turned into thirty, then almost a minute had passed by.
“Do you see her?” Heather asked frantically.
“No… nothing,” Melissa answered.
“God damn it, come on Celeste,” I chimed in as I looked down into the murky water.
A moment later she popped back out on the port side of the ship and gasped for air. Five minutes and twenty seconds.
“Godspeed!” I said excitedly.
“Get down below and grab a warm blanket,” Heather ordered us.
Melissa was the one that obeyed and I offered Celeste my coat to keep the harsh morning air from causing her too much harm. She shivered and chattered her teeth as she touched her ice cold fingers and said, “See? N-n-nothing to it.”
“You’re so fucking stupid,” Heather said as Melissa returned alongside Wayne.
“What the hell happened?” he asked as he looked at Celeste.
“Long story. We’re all good now,” I told him.
“Did anyone else get the text then?” he asked.
I stopped what I was doing as he showed me the phone where another message had popped up.
VI.2. TOSS THE PHONE.
“What is this?” Melissa asked snatching it from him to read.
“Are you kidding me?? She just risked her life to get this god damn thing!” Melissa squeaked.
Heather marched down from the steering column, her eyes blazing with fury as she grabbed Wayne’s burner and read the message herself.
“None of you were fucking listening to me before back there, were you?” she says with a laugh as she moves over to her to her partner and snatches the dead phone that she had just retrieved.
“Don’t you get it by now? It’s their rules. We play by them and we get to live. We are the puppets here!!” Heather screams as she waves the wet phone in Melissa’s face.
“And this, This right here!! It’s just fucking reminding us who is in charge,” she muttered as she tossed it overboard again.
She stormed below deck to cool off as Celeste wrapped herself in the warm blanket and nodded in thanks toward all of us.
“I’ll be fine,” she stammers as she gets downstairs.
I nod and I look toward Melissa, her eyes just as red and as puffy as before the entire ordeal took place.
“We’re all going to die playing this game,” she mutters.
“Hey, hey look at me,” I said as I’m reminded of my own 6 year old son.
“We’re going to get through this. Do you hear me? We are.”
She nods weakly and smiles before adding, “I’m sorry about how I acted before. I hope you find your family.”
She rubs my arm and then stands up slowly on the railing.
“Hold on. What are you doing?” I asked.
“There’s nothing left for me to win anymore,” she says through gritted teeth.
But before she can make the jump a dart hits her in the back of the neck. I brace myself to catch her unconscious form as I looked toward the stairs and saw Heather standing there with the gun in her hand.
“No one is leaving,” she orders.
I slid Melissa over to rest beside the blanket Celeste left and feel a shudder run down my spine.
I’m suddenly not sure which is worse, playing the game; or the people I’m playing it with.