01 Feb The 24 Hour Game 12:00 – 13:00
EDIT: these events crossed over the last hour as well. But I didn’t feel the ability to be able to post them properly until we saw it through to the end.
Celeste moved over toward where Wayne was still cursing to the sky and motioned for me to help.
As much as I didn’t want to given his sudden betrayal, I went ahead and moved to his side and lifted Wayne up.
Melissa was still staring at the fire, probably thinking of how she wanted to leave this whole mess when Heather called out to her. “Hey, Little redhead girl. Let’s go!”
As we moved further up the mountain a gentle rain began to hit us. Wayne moaned and complained the whole way as we struggled to find a place to hide.
“There’s got to be a damn cave around here somewhere,” he muttered.
“Man up,” I said to him bitterly.
Another ten minutes and we did find something.
It wasn’t a cave though.
Heather was the one to make the discovery as we reached another daunting rock face.
I was half expecting we would be forced to climb the expanse but instead she was able to uncover what appeared to be the door to a bunker.
It had a strange carving on the door that registered in the back of my mind. I had seen it before.
“Let’s get inside,” she said as she pried the metallic door open.
“You’re pretty strong for a one armed chick,” I complimented her as the aged rusty door creaked open.
“Careful. She might start to think that you’re friends,” Celeste quipped as we all got inside.
The bunker went down into the mountain, a long steel staircase that made resounding noise every step of the way. Finally we found ourselves in what was likely some sort of locker room and I placed Wayne down next to the wall.
Celeste went to catch her breath while Heather knelt down to talk to the traitor amongst us.
“Tell me who you are,” she asked softly.
Wayne just went and spat into her face.
Heather calmly wiped it away as the soldier whispered, “Why are we pretending anymore? I think we’re well past that stage. You know what Challenge we’re at now don’t you?”
I felt my heart race a little faster.
“What is he talking about?” I asked.
“Tell him Heather. Tell him about this damn challenge. The one I’m wearing a damn football jersey for,” Wayne remarked.
I look at both of them. Then Melissa speaks the question that I can’t seem to conjure up.
“Wait… you two know each other?” she asked.
“No…. never met. Not before today,” Heather said trying not to sound scared out of her wits.
Wayne just reared his head back and laughed.
“Man. If Lionel were here… the look on his face would be priceless,” he said.
“Heather… what is going on…” I muttered. Then as the clock switched over to 13:00 hours our mysterious contact chirped to life on the phone again.
“The 13th Challenge… it’s always the same. I’ve played the 24 Hour Game three times now and it’s the one that I almost lost last time,” she said as she stood up gravely, gesturing toward her lost arm and then turned about and gave me her burner.
“Go ahead and read it. I can explain everything after we finish the task,” she said softly.
I felt my hands tremble as I took the phone and saw what the message had to say.
“But… but that doesn’t make sense,” Celeste said.
“I thought the Game was engineered to force people to keep going,” I added.
“I thought so too. The six of us that were still alive last time, we debated for almost a god damn thirty seven minutes what the hell that message meant,” Heather stopped and looked toward Wayne.
“Four of us made it out to the other side to see the next challenge. Not that I lasted much longer after what happened…” she stuttered.
“Your arm… you thought that the message was telling you to interpret it differently. To lose something vital,” I said as I looked toward Wayne.
“Lionel cut her arm off…” I realized.
“Didn’t have much choice did he? He told me everything. How you already figured out by that point that the game considered a team task to be won if all the members cooperated fully. So you drew straws. Decided who would get the short straw would be the one to lose,” Wayne replied with a sneer.
“And you drew the shortest straw,” I said looking back toward Heather.
“There’s no way forward if we don’t take something away,” she explained and then glanced at the clock. “We’ve got only about half an hour to decide. How are we going to play this out?” she asked.
I looked toward Melissa and Celeste for answers. But they were just as baffled as me.
“Why your whole arm? Why not a pinky or a toe?” Melissa asked.
It sounds like a dumb question.
Wayne laughed again. “Actually… we tried that myself on my first run. God damn it I remember hearing Charlie scream. We tried it and no dice… the Game wanted more. Pushed us to our mother fucking limits,” Wayne said as he spat on the ground.
“I had a family…just like you Daniel. I didn’t care what it took to make it to the other side. Bet you don’t even remember me back then do ya?” He added as he spit at her.
“Wait… it was you, you were the one that tried to stop me…” Heather said as she looked at the man and muttered, “Matthew… I thought you were dead…”
“Might as well be after what you did to Charlie. Got some plastic surgery done though, fooled you all huh? Thanks to what you did last time might I add!” He spat as he looked toward me.
“I tried to talk her out of it Daniel… but… Well you’ve been with her for half a day already you see how stubborn she is!” Wayne said maniacally.
“So you made the call… Charlie took the cost. And then all of you paid the price when you failed later on?” I guessed.
“In more ways than one,” Heather said.
I swallowed hard and looked toward the others trying to figure out how we could do this.
“What happens next? Maybe it will give us an edge to expect…” I said.
“The challenges that we made it through after this weren’t the same the two times I went. I failed round 14 in 2016 cause no one wanted to go on. Because of Charlie… And in 2017 I lost last too much blood,” she stammered.
“We need to pass this round. All these damned questions can wait!” she said in exasperation.
I stared at the clock, then toward the rest of them.
Melissa is the first to offer a suggestion.
“What if… what if we do nothing?” she asked.
Heather shakes her head.
“That’s not an option,” she said.
“Have you ever tried?” I argued.
“The Game doesn’t work that way!!” Heather said.
It was her partner that spoke up.
“Or maybe it does,” Celeste said. “It’s more than just physical challenges. We’ve all seen that by now. It’s a mind game too just as much. Maybe… we really are supposed to lose this round.”
Heather shakes her head furiously, looking toward the clock. Only thirteen minutes were left.
“You’re wrong. You’re wrong and if we lose…. we lose everything!!” she screamed. Celeste moved toward her and grabbed her shaking her for a minute.
“Look at me!” she insisted.
I don’t say a word as I watch our leader burst into tears.
“We are going to get her back!! Do you hear me?” Celeste said in barely a whisper.
“What if you’re wrong… what if this is killing her?” Heather mumbled.
“It’s not. You have to trust me,” her partner said. The clock ticked down. Ten minutes. Nine. Heather grabbed a gun and was about to shoot herself in the only arm she has when Matthew stopped her.
“Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. You know that,” he said.
The soft words are enough for her to calm her nerves for the rest of the hour.
Then finally all the way down to one minute left.
We stared at the phone waiting for some announcement of our failure to complete the task.
Then as the clock moved to the next hour all we heard was the familiar congratulatory chirp.
Heather could only burst into tears.