My friends and I have always been pranksters. Our four-man group is comprised of Ricky, Danny, Taika, and myself. This story is about the consequences of our actions.
Occasionally, we tend to go a little too far. A prank is a form of affection in our eyes. We never hold a grudge or do anything out of malice. At least that’s what I thought.
Ricky suggested that we kick our senior year off with something that had a chance to go viral on Halloween. Naturally, the rest of us didn’t need much convincing. All we needed was an idea. Now, we all have our preferences, so that wasn’t going to be an easy task.
Me, I’m all about the laughs. Probably because when I was little, I’d get called a clown because of my bright red hair, though I eventually embraced it. I thought it’d be hilarious to buy a bunch of blow-up dolls and place them selectively throughout our school. The reactions from teachers, students, and whoever else saw them would be gold. Plus, who knows how long it’d be before they were all found? Even now, thinking about it cracks a smile on my face.
Danny likes freaking people out. He has that edgelord vibe to him, which is exactly what he looks like. He wanted to fill the bathrooms with pests, and then make a ruckus and scare the living shit out of people. It would have been funny, but that doesn’t seem like something the school would look the other way on. I’m not looking to pay the janitorial fees for that either.
Taika likes to confuse people. He does the most random stuff. You’d never expect the tall, innocent-looking kid to be as bizarre as he is. One time he tricked a gym class into removing their shoes, only to hide all the left ones. Another time he wore a different costume to school every day for a month. In April. He never told anyone why. That’s the kind of guy he is.
Lastly, there is Ricky, the ringleader of our little group. His style is…unpredictable. He gives off smaller, more sadistic Logan Paul vibes. I’ve seen him write 150 love letters, one for every girl in our grade, and give out one per day for nearly the entire year just to make them smile. I’ve also seen him hotwire a car, steal it, and then hop out and crash it because it was blocking his driveway. He carried a flask in his jacket for the majority of the last year and a half, at school, for crying out loud. The guy is fucking crazy, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love him.
We all appreciate each other’s styles, but something this big couldn’t be a collaborative idea. So we did what any rational group of high school males would do—we let a homeless guy outside the liquor store choose. Who do you think he sided with?
“Guys, you’re going to love it. We are going to freak the fuck out of people. Someone might literally shit their pants. Then we can post all the best reactions online.”
Welp, that’s all I needed to hear. I knew Danny would be in too. I looked over at Taika, who nodded in approval.
Ricky explained the gist of it to us. He had found a group online called ScareLair. They set up the craziest haunted houses you could imagine. They only accepted online requests for them to come to your town. If you made a compelling enough case and sent in a deposit, they would come to town and deliver the scariest experience possible. They would do the setup and everything, and they guaranteed that whoever participated would have their lives changed forever. It was literally their tagline: “No one comes out the same.”
Instead of a regular haunted house, we were going to turn it into a game with a prize, à la Mr. Beast, and prank the living hell out of a few people. We scrounged together a few thousand dollars between the five of us and submitted our request. Days went by without a response.
Days turned to weeks, and as Halloween neared, we had begun to lose hope. The Monday before Halloween, we heard back. They reached out to Ricky and wanted to schedule a call to talk details. We scheduled it for that night. We were ecstatic.
I tried to look them up online, but it was hard to find anything on them. But Ricky was more resourceful and tech-savvy than I am, even with his piece-of-shit decade-old phone. So I didn’t think about it too much.
When 7:00 pm rolled around, all of us huddled together and waited. Ricky’s phone started vibrating. Oddly enough, it said he was receiving a call from me. Obviously, a glitch, because I was staring right at my cell, and I clearly wasn’t calling him. He answered and put it on speaker.
“Hey, guys, this is Matt from ScareLair. It sounded like you wanted to make some changes to the usual stuff we do. What did you have in mind?” he asked.
Taika leaned over to me and said, “Dude looks kinda sketch.”
“So we were thinking of turning it into a game with a prize. Haunted houses are cool and all, but if you’re not into that stuff, you’re not going to be talked into it, right? If we made it a game with a cash prize, then more people could be persuaded. Know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I hear you. Did you have certain people in mind? How many people were you thinking?”
We all looked at each other. “Well?” asked Danny.
“I’m thinking five people. One of us would take a spot to kind of help steer things along,” Ricky added.
“I don’t think you need to worry about it, but hey, if that’s what you want, that’s fine. Should we include your friend in the game, or mostly let him be?”
“Let him be… just to be safe,” I blurted out. If it ended up being me, I didn’t want to be the one soiling his pants and then having that go viral.
“Sounds good. We’ll have everything set up by Saturday. We’ll do some social media marketing to get some buzz. If you have particular people you want in it, text me the details,” Matt said. “Anything else?”
“So how do you guys make money?” Danny asked. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re over the moon you’re doing this for us, but $3,000 can’t go that far toward equipment.”
“We live stream all of our events and get tons of donations. To help with your game idea, we’ll actually put $1,000 of what you gave us as a cash prize. Anything else?”
I looked at Taika and shrugged. Danny looked to Ricky. “You guys are the experts, right? We’ll let you take care of the rest,” he said.
Matt said he’d text us the rest of the details the next day. Just like that, we were in business.
We decided that Danny would be the one to join the random people in the game. His antics would make for the most epic inclusion. Ricky told us he submitted a big list of potential people to include. He put out flyers that advertised winning $1,000 by surviving the scariest haunted house of all time. By Wednesday, the remaining four players had been decided and had accepted their invitations.
Those four were:
Allison Beckum: A girl Ricky once had a fling with. Picture Anna Kendrick if she wasn’t witty.
Kyle Conklin: Allison’s current boyfriend, and someone you’d expect to be extremely successful someday.
Anders Lucas: the quiet, nerdy type with messy dark hair.
Finally, Tana Schultz, who would be best described as a B-list popular girl, and not because of her personality.
As soon as I saw Allison and Kyle were in, I knew they were going to have a bad time. Ricky would make sure of that.
We met with Matt on Thursday to check out the venue and finalize everything. We drove up in my dad’s truck and arrived at a massive warehouse. Matt and a few others walked out to greet us. He looked kinder in person. I peered over at Taika, and I could tell he felt the same.
“Hey guys, come on in and check everything out. We want to know what you think,” Matt said. We all walked in, and upon seeing the layout, we all let out an audible gasp.
I don’t know what exactly we were expecting, but it wasn’t this. These guys were absolute professionals, and the place looked amazing. From floor to ceiling, the place was decked out to look like the creepiest graveyard of all time. Headstones casting long shadows, empty graves, demonic symbols flickered in eerie candlelight, even the grass appeared unsettling.
Matt led us to the right and unlocked some doors. Then we followed him up a staircase. He opened another door at the top. There were monitors everywhere showing dozens of different angles of the layout. Anything that happened down there, we’d be able to see from here.
“So a couple things,” Matt started. “We go all out. Do not go downstairs while the game is ongoing. It’s not safe. Stay here where you can watch and enjoy together. We’ll record everything on our servers and send you the files after about a week. Danny, you’ll want to wear a green shirt to let our guys know you’re in the clear. Make sure you tell each of our other guests playing not to wear green. Everyone will drop their phones in the box at the entrance, so nothing disturbs the experience. We’ll have a tech guy standing by. If you need him, just hit the yellow key over here. If you have any non-tech issues, you’ll want to hit the red key. That’ll start up a live chat with Jimmy. These events can get intense, and Jimmy deals with these all the time, so he’ll be able to help you out with anything you need. He’ll be on-site in another room.”
We thanked him for his help and went our separate ways.
Now all we had to do was wait. Ricky received a text the next day saying preparations were complete, and that on Saturday we should arrive an hour early. That way, we could get in and away from everything before anyone arrived. He also sent out the dress code instructions to everyone playing.
The next few days were agonizingly slow. All we could think about was Saturday.
Finally, the day arrived.
As requested, we showed up early and got ourselves situated. We all wore black, hanging by the entrance, except Danny, who was wearing orange.
“Weren’t you supposed to wear green?” Taika asked.
“Oh come on, Taika, live a little. Of anyone here, I’m the most likely to be into this kind of stuff. Besides, green doesn’t really fit the Halloween spirit.”
“I’m not sure that’s a great idea,” I started.
“Bro, it’s fine. I have a green hat in my bag just in case.”
Taika shrugged. Ricky rolled his eyes. We made our way up the stairs and stepped into the control room.
“This is going to be so sick,” Ricky said, pulling out his flask and taking a sip of vodka. We couldn’t wait to see what was going to go down. Minutes flew by, and one by one, the targets had arrived.
“Well, boys, I’ll see ya on the other side!” Danny said. He grabbed a walkie, left the control room, and headed downstairs.
“Best of luck, bitch!” Ricky yelled after him, laughing. One by one, the players arrived. They were ushered into a small room. Danny entered the room last. He snuck up behind Tana and tapped her, forcing her to jump up and let out a squeal. She flipped around and scowled.
“Oh great, you’re with us,” she said sarcastically.
“Nice to see you too, Tana,” Danny replied. “I see you were able to follow the dress code.” He motioned towards her maid costume.
“Like I’d be caught dead wearing green in public,” she responded, disgusted. She took a step closer to Allison and Kyle, who were dressed up as Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.
Allison shifted her body awkwardly towards Kyle. “Hey, Danny,” she said.
“Allison,” Danny replied. Kyle noticed Allison’s uncomfortable expression and placed his arm around her. Danny frowned.
“Wait, like who the fuck is that?” Tana asked, looking at the quiet boy in the oversized black t-shirt and sweatpants in the corner.
“I’m Anders.” Tana’s confused expression didn’t change.
“Tana, we’ve all been in class together since grade school. Come on,” Kyle said.
“I didn’t know!” she said, waving her arms. Allison gave her a disapproving scowl. Anders looked down and started rubbing his right arm.
“Well, I like your costume,” he said quietly.
“Yeah, thanks,” she responded coldly.
Suddenly the lights turned off, plunging the room into complete darkness. The two girls screamed.
“The game has begun.”
Dim, blood-red lighting cast an eerie glow, allowing the players to regain some of their vision, and a thick fog encompassed the area. The gate slowly creaked open. Everyone exchanged nervous glances and then walked to the graveyard that lay ahead.
Before them loomed three massive graves. The headstones, from left to right, read The Unknown, Demonic, and Slasher.
“Welcome, players. Please choose a path.”
“Hey, so how do we win the $1,000?” Allison asked.
“Survive,” the automated voice retaliated.
“Spooky,” Kyle laughed.
We watched as Allison, Kyle, and Tana walked to the middle grave. Anders and Danny both walked to the right.
The ground seemingly came alive as deformed hands sprouted from the earth beneath them. The group all jumped.
“Jesus Christ,” Tana cried out, her voice trembling.
“I’m sorry. That response is invalid. Each grave must be occupied.”
More hands started to pop up out of the ground. Their grotesque fingers brushed against the players’ ankles. Low, whooshing sounds began to play in the background.
“Can we make a decision, please?” Allison urged. “These things are so creepy.”
We signaled Danny that he should take the left door. “Fine, I’ll take the left,” he said.
“Great, we’re all settled. Let’s go,” Tana said, trying to sound brave.
“No, we’re not. Tana, go with Anders. We can’t make him go alone. Danny loves this stuff, so he’ll be fine, but Anders looks uncomfortable already,” Allison said.
“Forget that. You two just want to dump me off on him so you can find a place to have fun.” She looked over at Anders. “No offense.”
“Sure,” he replied. He twitched as another hand grazed his foot.
“Fine, I’ll do it,” Kyle said. “I got you, buddy. Let’s do this.”
Kyle extended his fist out to Anders. Anders studied him for a second before he reached out and bumped it with his own.
“Yay,” Allison said, rolling her eyes. “Thanks, Tana.”
With that, each group climbed down into their grave. A tunnel was beneath each of them, and they all headed forward. Danny entered The Unknown, Allison & Tana entered Demonic, and Kyle & Anders entered Slasher.
The tunnels were surprisingly long, and each one was unique. The Unknown was a pitch-black abyss except for Danny’s neon orange shirt. Inside Demonic was a cave, and the further it went along, the tighter it became. A rhythmic noise could be heard faintly.
Allison and Tana eventually had to crawl forward to be able to go ahead. “I’m getting serious claustrophobia here,” Tana said. Crawling through the rigid cave was scratching up her knees and elbows.
“You could’ve been with Anders right now if you hadn’t been so rude to him earlier,” Allison scoffed. The rhythmic sound was getting louder.
“I know, I know. That’s how I am. But I’m nice when it matters. Look, I’ll apologize to him when we meet back up. Promise.”
The Slasher tunnel was full of dirt that Kyle and Anders had to crawl through. Kyle’s white jersey had quickly been stained brown.
“Good thing I didn’t get the authentic jersey, huh, Anders?” Kyle laughed. Anders smiled.
“You can’t even tell with what I’m wearing,” he replied.
“The smartest one of us all, I see. Teach me your ways, sensei,” Kyle responded. “Hey, I think I see where this tunnel opens up!”
“Danny, do you copy?” Ricky said. We peered at his monitor and saw the silhouette of him raise the walkie. He held it close to his shirt so we could see and motioned that he couldn’t hear what we were saying.
“How about now?”
He shrugged and shook his head. “What a bummer. I was looking forward to the random stuff he was gonna do,” Taika said.
“You’re the random one, Taika. But not getting to see what messed up ideas Danny had is going to make this less fun.”
“Oh, we’ll still have plenty,” Ricky replied, grinning.
“I can’t believe how lucky we are that we got your ex, her current boy toy, and a brat like Tana all in one group,” I said.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it luck,” Ricky smirked.
“What do you mean?” Taika asked.
“Well, if you’re going to scare the shit out of people as a prank, you might as well choose who, right? And if you’re going to choose, why not make it people you want to see embarrassed?”
“Didn’t you give Matt a big list?”
“Nope, just these four.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I fucking hate them. Duh.”
I stood there for a moment, puzzled.
“I get Allison and Kyle. But the others?”
“Come on, Tana’s the biggest bitch in school. We all know if she wasn’t hot no one would put up with her shit,” Ricky replied.
“And Anders?” Taika asked.
“He’s always rubbed me the wrong way. I hate his style, his quiet demeanor, all of it.”
“Dude, what the fuck? He’s just shy. The others, fine, whatever, but Anders is a completely innocent kid,” I replied.
“Too late now,” Ricky shrugged.
We turned our attention back to the monitors. This had put a damper on the mood, but at this point, I still wanted to have fun.
“Hey, where did Danny go?” Taika asked. Ricky and I looked at his monitor, and it was pitch black.
“We can’t see or hear him? So much for him guiding things,” I whined.
“No, no, it’s fine, look!”
We saw Kyle and Anders crawl their way up through another hole above them to exit the tunnel. This led them to what looked like a floor of an abandoned hospital. On a separate monitor, two workers were making their way towards them. One looked like he was wearing something inspired by Leatherface, and the other wore a mask that was completely blank. They were closing in.
“Here we go, boys!”
Kyle and Anders were aimlessly walking down their corridor. Leaky faucets and old monitors could be heard in some of the abandoned patients’ rooms.
“They really went all out with this!” Kyle said as he passed by a shredded curtain.
“Yeah,” Anders replied. He turned the corner and jumped back. There was a corpse wearing a hospital gown. Kyle ran his fingers over the body, his curiosity getting the best of him.
“That feels crazy real,” Then he pinched his nose, “Smells that way too, holy shit that’s gross.”
Anders nodded, his eyes scanning the surroundings.
“I don’t like it.”
They navigated through the hallway. Shadows danced and flickered along the walls, projecting ominous shapes that seemed to taunt them. Each sound, innocuous or not, sent a jolt of adrenaline through their bodies, heightening their senses.
“Something isn’t right,” Anders confessed, his voice laced with apprehension. “We shouldn’t have signed up for this.”
Kyle gave him a reassuring smile. “We knew it would be scary, but remember why we’re here. The challenge, the adrenaline… It’s all part of the experience.”
Anders nodded, though his unease persisted. They continued down the corridor, their steps cautious and measured.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps rang down the hall. The hairs on the back of their necks stood on end as they turned to face the source. Emerging from the darkness were two figures.
One, wearing a leather mask, took a bow. The other donned a completely blank mask. The masked men moved with purpose, closing the distance to Kyle and Anders.
“This is getting intense,” Kyle muttered.
His heart raced. He exchanged a quick glance with Anders.
The blank masked man was steadily advancing towards them.
Anders glanced at Kyle, his eyes wide with fear. “We need to do something, Kyle. We can’t just stand here.”
“Our entrance did say Slasher…so let’s run.”
Without hesitation, he grabbed Anders’ arm and pulled him around the nearest corner. They sprinted through the narrow corridor, their hearts pounding in their chests.
Kyle glanced back and saw both of the masked men had increased their pace and were now sprinting towards them.
“They’re coming!” He yelled out.
The sound of footsteps behind them followed, growing louder and closer. They could feel the presence of the leather masked man trailing just a few steps behind.
The path twisted and turned, seeming to extend endlessly, but they pressed on.
Finally, they dipped into an empty room. Gasping for breath, they slowly peeked outside the room, expecting the masked men to be right behind them.
“That was actually pretty fun,” Anders said, breathing heavily.
“It was, wasn’t it?” Kyle replied, scanning their surroundings warily. “But let’s stay alert. They could be anywhere.”
With that, a door disguised as a wall shifted, and the blank masked man entered the room. Kyle and Anders picked themselves up, ready to exit, only to see the leather masked man before them with a machete.
“Alright, alright, you guys caught us,” Kyle laughed. “I guess you win. What happens now?”
“That blade looks real,” Anders whispered.
“Don’t be silly, they’d never let them use real weap…”
Before he could finish, the man in the leather mask plunged the blade deep into Kyle’s abdomen. He released a guttural wail, reflexively stumbling back, hands clutching his wound. Anders’ body was still as stone. It was as if he was completely mesmerized by what he was seeing.
The masked man lunged with the blade once again. Kyle looked at Anders, pale in the face, gazing into his hypnotized eyes, and motioned toward the exit. Anders snapped back to reality, immediately taking off as the other masked man gave chase.
We watched all of this from the control room, and we burst out laughing. “Holy shit, that was epic!” I cheered.
“I can’t believe how good they made that look,” Taika said. “That’s crazy.”
“And Anders booking it like that?” Ricky chimed in.
Watching Anders run like that was hilarious. He was legitimately terrified. What a pussy.
The man in the leather mask continued to slash at Kyle to the point where it was getting uncomfortable to watch. Kyle was playing this up like a champ. His screams were spine-tingling. But who was he screaming for? I guess this was the ScareLair experience, right?
The moment red spots started appearing on Kyle’s clothing, we came to a sickening realization. I know Kyle, and he wouldn’t go this far as to fake bleed to scare someone like Anders.
Kyle stumbled backward, collapsing to the ground, gasping for air. He looked up at his attacker with nothing short of pure terror in his eyes. The man in the mask wiped his blade clean and then walked away from Kyle. He peered down at him and paused. Then he left.
The control room had gone completely silent. That was real blood, and those were real screams. Crimson streaks were running down Kyle’s chin. He coughed, and a viscous red fluid exited. He was losing a lot of blood now. Was he dying?
My body was frozen with fear. I kept watching, hoping, praying for someone to jump out and say it was all fake, that we were the ones getting pranked.
“Ricky… where did you find these guys again?” Taika asked.
Ricky mumbled his response.
“Ricky!” I yelled.
“…the dark web,” he replied.
“WHAT?” We yelled in unison.
Suddenly, Anders snuck back into the frame, and he extended his hand to Kyle. Kyle smiled before shaking his head.
“Much appreciated, but I think I’m a goner at this point,” Kyle whispered. “Protect yourself, buddy. Do whatever you have to do to survive.”
Anders rubbed his wet eyes, now red and puffy. “I can’t leave you here,” he replied.
“I’ll only slow you down,” Kyle replied. “Get out of here. Both those guys are still out there.” Anders extended his fist, and Kyle bumped it.
With that, Anders took off.
Taika began smashing a key on the monitor hard. What was he… the key! I’d completely forgotten about the red key! Jimmy could help! A window popped up in the right corner of the screen, and Jimmy came into frame. “Hey, guys, how’s the spooktacular event going?”
“Jimmy! Something has gone terribly wrong! The people downstairs are really getting attacked! One of them is bleeding out. He might be dying!”
“Woah, slow your roll there, kids. That can’t be right. Let me take a look at what’s been happening.”
“We’re not kidding, dude. Something went wrong. I don’t feel safe here anymore. We didn’t know this was some dark web shit. Everyone down there is in danger. Oh, god. Danny! He’s down there too!”
“Your friend will be fine, don’t you worry. Not everything on the dark web is evil. We just like our privacy, that’s all. Okay, here we go. Oh… no, no, no. This isn’t good. Boys, use the deadbolt on your door right now.”
“What the fuck is going on, Jimmy?” Ricky asked as he slammed the deadbolt into place.
“That’s not part of the gig. You need to reach out to Danny immediately and get him out of there. He’s in real danger. You’re in real danger. I’ll reach out to tech to see if we can get the lights back on. We need to stop this now.”
Was this really happening? Was Jimmy in on this too or not? The communication with Danny was still down. We had no way to tell him if this was real.
“Okay, I think I’ve got ’em, boys,” Jimmy said.
The lights to the facility switched on. It took our eyes a moment to adjust to the blinding light, and our eyes scoured Danny’s path for him. It didn’t take long.
Taika immediately lost control of his stomach, thick fluid exiting his mouth. If not for the neon orange shirt, it would’ve been difficult to recognize Danny. He was a bloody mess, and his body was mangled. It looked as if someone or something had grabbed each of his arms and pulled until his torso ripped wide open.
Then the lights fell dim again.
“No, Jimmy, we need those back on!” Ricky shouted.
Before we could say anything else, Jimmy’s entire demeanor changed. It was obvious why; he was grasping his neck, where a blade had been plunged. Blood oozed through his hands from the wound, and his body collapsed. Now on screen, we were staring directly at someone wearing the most hideous mask I’d ever seen.
“Is he…wearing…Danny’s face?”
Hearing those words were enough for me to empty my stomach.
The killer reached down and retrieved his knife from Jimmy. He looked directly at us and waved the knife. Then the feed cut.
“Oh my fucking god. We’re gonna die,” I blurted out. Taika and Ricky stood there staring at each other. I looked around.
“That didn’t just happen. That didn’t just happen,” Taika started mumbling. “What the fuck Ricky. You’ve fucked us. You’ve fucking fucked us!”
“I didn’t…mean,” he started. The realization of what he had done was evident on his face. He buried his head into his hands.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I…I don’t know what else to say.”
They had no clue what was going on.
Allison and Tana had been cautiously venturing deeper into the darkened depths of their set. They had reached the end of their tunnel and opened a hatch, forcing them to descend further down, where they were greeted by a menacing sight. The walls were adorned with upside-down crosses and demonic carvings that encouraged them to delve deeper into the game.
“This set is totally insane,” Tana said, and a burst of fire shot out from a hole in front of them, causing both of them to scream. “Jesus, that’s hot.”
“What’s that?” Allison’s voice quivered as her gaze fixated on a distant figure standing atop an altar. Unseen figures materialized on each side of them, chanting a haunting hymn. The dim lights gradually increased in intensity, revealing the entirety of the man at the altar. He was covered in red and black robes, with three horns atop his head, and patches of fur clinging to the sides of his attire. He clutched a cross with razor-sharp edges.
“Yeah. No. I’m out,” Tana said in a panic. They began to turn around, but the figures that had been humming were now blocking their way. “Umm, excuse me, get the fuck out of the way, thank you,” Tana said, attempting to sound confident.
They didn’t budge. The demon at the altar hurled its cross at them, narrowly grazing Allison. A deep red gash appeared on her shoulder, and blood flowed freely from the wound.
“It’s not my style to sit here and wait things out,” Ricky declared.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said.
“No, he’s right,” Taika chimed in. He grabbed two walkies and handed one to Ricky. “You stay here. You tell us if something is coming. You’re our eye in the sky. Let’s hope these work down there. I assume we’re going for Allison and Tana?”
Ricky nodded. We tested the walkies, and they worked, at least up here. We quickly cleared the barricade, and they left. I slammed the door shut behind them.
It didn’t take long before they appeared on the screen. They bolted through the Demonic door, but our attempts at communication proved futile.
I looked back at Tana and Allison. They were surrounded. Allison’s wound bled profusely, and Tana tried to hold her up with one arm while using her other arm to violently swat away the hooded figures.
The Demon masked man had abandoned his altar and was drawing closer to the two girls. He held the bladed cross out in front, approaching them step by step.
I pressed the button on the walkie-talkie, my voice trembling. “Ricky, Taika, do you copy? The girls need you right now!” I pleaded, my words vanishing into the ether. There was no response, only static-filled silence.
My gaze shifted back to Tana and Allison, their situation becoming more dire by the second. The Demon, now mere feet away, raised the cross, and the hooded figures all turned their attention toward him. With one quick swipe, Allison’s flesh was deeply lacerated.
She let out a feral cry as blood shot from her body. The Demon lifted the cross again. He swung down once more, only for Tana to pull her down. Tana took the full brunt of the blow to her back. Tears streamed down her face, and the gash quickly stained the back of her costume with a dark red hue.
“Tana?” Allison’s voice quivered. Tana struggled to force a feeble smile.
“What kind of person would I be if I let you die?”
Relentlessly, he continued to hack away at Tana’s back, and she persisted in protecting Allison. After yet another savage strike, her legs gave way, and her body crumpled to the floor.
“Tana,” Allison cried out.
The Demon raised his cross high, going for the final blow. Then, a familiar voice filled the room.
Ricky and Taika stormed into the frame and tackled two of the hooded figures. Ricky quickly sprang to his feet and lunged at the man in the Demon mask. He evaded a wild swing of the cross and took the man off his feet. Taika grabbed the two girls and helped them up.
Tana’s bloodied figure staggered, her movements feeble and unsteady. “What are you… you know what… I don’t even care. Just get us out of here,” she said.
“Ricky…” Allison stammered as she eyed him squaring off with her assailant.
My eyes darted frantically between the labyrinth of monitors, tracking the chaos with growing dread. In the midst of this bedlam, a sudden blur caught my attention — a lifeline amidst the mayhem.
Anders! He had somehow eluded the clutches of the slashers and was crawling back through the dirt, clawing his way back to the graveyard.
My gaze flickered across the control panel, seeking anything that could aid my friends. Anders had reached the grave, clambering out with the tenacity of a wounded animal.
I had to act. And then, my frantic eyes fell upon a button, inconspicuous yet promising.
“Anders!” I roared, my voice a frantic plea, transmitted over the intercom system. He froze, his eyes darting around the room, seeking the source of my voice. “They need your help in Demonic! The girls are under attack, just like Kyle!”
Anders hesitated, torn between the headstone that read Demonic and the promise of escape beyond the exit. His internal struggle played out before my eyes. He glanced toward the exit, his breath a labored rasp, then pivoted back to the gaping grave. Then he sprinted out of the building.
I threw my hands up in frustration. I was angry but also in no position to judge. I swore beneath my breath, cursing the screens in front of me when a sudden, thunderous thud shattered the silence.
There it was again—a relentless, pounding thud. And again, it echoed through the room, drawing closer with each bone-chilling reverberation. Someone—or something—was trying to breach the control room.
Ricky swung at the man wearing the Demon mask, connecting with his face and again knocking him off his feet.
“Go!” Ricky screamed as Taika attempted to clear a path. Allison and Tana didn’t need another warning. Their bloodied figures staggered, movements feeble and unsteady, but they did what they could to create distance between themselves and the others. Their breaths came in ragged gasps as they fled through the dimly lit cavern.
It didn’t take long for the two men to sprint after the girls. “We gotta go!”
“How are we going to stop them from coming for us? We have to crawl through that tunnel to get away!”
“The fire,” Allison croaked, her trembling finger pointing towards the hole from earlier. Ricky yanked a torch from the wall and held it out in front of the gaping void. A few moments later, an inferno burst forth from the hole, devouring the cross in its ravenous embrace and bathing the cavern in a flickering light.
He cried out in pain as he couldn’t avoid burning himself in the process. Taika and Tana, their faces replicating Ricky’s frantic actions, brandished their own torches to conjure the flames.
The sound of footsteps reverberated from further down the cave, drawing nearer with each passing second. Ricky, eyes wide with desperation, seized his flask and emptied it onto the cold, unforgiving ground.
He tossed the cross atop the pool of spilled liquid and directed the others to do the same. The hooded figures were now within sight.
As the encroaching horrors drew ever closer, a colossal wall of fire erupted into being, a barrier forged between them. The immense flames roared and crackled, splitting the cave into two distinct realms: one bathed in the hellish glow of the inferno, and the other shrouded in inky blackness, concealing their tormentors in a veil of darkness.
The four of them backed away from the fire. “Allison, I’m so sorry,” Ricky gasped. He reached out, his fingers brushing against her soft cheek.
“It’s not your fault,” she whispered, her voice barely audible. She mustered a weak smile.
That smile quickly dissolved into a cold, gnawing look of fear as the hooded figures materialized through the wall of flames. The searing heat devoured many of their bodies, causing them to crumble and vanish within the inferno, but two of them emerged relatively unscathed. With ghostly hands, they reached for Allison’s ankles, their fingers scalding to the touch, and dragged her back through the raging fire.
Ricky’s gaze was locked upon the spectacle before him. Her screams were swallowed by the roar of the inferno, leaving behind a haunting silence.
In an instant, Ricky went after her, charging headfirst into the searing flames. Taika and Tana sat back, unable to speak.
Each passing moment felt like an eternity as they waited for their friends to return. The longer they waited, the more realization began to set in.
“Tana, we need to go,” Taika said softly. She nodded slowly. He threw her arm over his shoulder, and they stumbled back toward the entrance to the cave.
My predicament was only getting worse. As I hid under a desk, the door continued to give way, and the barricade wasn’t going to hold out much longer. As if on cue, the door shattered, and an arm appeared through the hole.
I held my breath. My eyes darted back and forth between the killer and the only monitor I was able to view from where I hid.
Taika and Tana had made it back to the graveyard. Taika exited first and reached down to pull Tana out. When Tana grabbed onto his outstretched arm, he tumbled back on top of her. She toppled backwards and winced as her bloodied back contacted the hard, unforgiving surface below.
She gasped for air as she struggled to move his unconscious body off of her. As she swung her arms around she brushed against a cold hard object protruding from the back of his skull. Her fingers closed around it. It was a knife.
Standing outside the grave, just beyond the edge, was the man in the leather mask, peering down at her.
She desperately increased her efforts to free herself. She squirmed and writhed to no avail. The masked man simply stood there watching. He tapped his wrist with his pointer finger and then shrugged.
“Oh, fuck you,” she spat. Finally, she managed to wriggle free from Taika’s lifeless body. Then she grabbed the knee that had been embedded in Taika’s skull. The masked man mockingly clapped and then backed off a few steps from the pit.
“I don’t even care anymore,’ she swore as she climbed free from the grave. The man beckoned for her to get closer and she lunged forward with the knife. He casually swatted her arm out of the way with one arm and began choking her with the other.
Her cheeks reddened as oxygen was forced from her lungs. A voice echoed behind them and alerted both Tana and her pursuer.
“Hey!” yelled Anders. The man in the leather mask turned his head to see the boy standing alone. With every ounce of energy she had left, Tana swiped towards the man with the blade. He dodged; the edge of the blade grazed his neck. He released Tana from his grasp and quickly examined the wound.
Tana collapsed to the ground, the blade falling a few feet from her.
“This is for Kyle!” Anders roared, charging forward. The two figures wrestled in a violent struggle, their bodies crashing against the cold, unforgiving ground. Tana’s heart pounded in her ears as she watched.
Anders reached out for the knife, but his grasp was met with resistance. The masked man launched his fist into Anders’ face, then crawled over him to grab the stray blade. The man slashed it across Anders’ chest. A loud wail followed.
He plunged the knife downwards. Anders’ only reaction was to block with his right hand, which the blade seamlessly pierced through. The force of the stab brought Anders’ hand down near his chest, penetrating his upper chest. He screamed in agony. The masked man gathered himself and stood on his feet, gazing at the victim below.
Anders struggled but managed to dislodge the blade from his chest, though it was still firmly impaled through his hand. He weakly turned his hand over, blade pointing up, as he examined his chest wound. The leather masked man lingered over him, seemingly enjoying the work he’d done to the frantic boy.
One leg in front of the other, he bent down slightly to wag his finger. Anders kicked the man’s front leg, which slid backward into the other, and he lost his balance. He fell forward and tried to catch himself, planting his hands into the ground.
Anders flinched and turned his head away. The masked man’s body tensed. The knife had gone directly through his eye into his skull. His arms lost function, causing his body to push down further, forcing the blade deeper into his brain.
It didn’t seem to register to Anders what had happened. He lay there in a trance, not even attempting to escape from the lifeless body covering him.
Muffled shouts came from a few feet away but weren’t enough to shake his beaming eyes from the corpse he had created.
“Anders!” Tana screamed again. She had crawled over to him and was using what little energy she had left to set him free. His eyes didn’t waver.
“Anders!” her hoarse voice roared again. This time it seemed to register, and he turned to face her. He managed to free himself and slowly brought himself to his feet. Tana tried to do the same but stumbled back to her knees.
“Looks like your costume is ruined,” Anders said, reaching out his arm.
Tana nodded, tears streaming down her face as she reached out, accepting his hand. She wiped the tears away with one hand, staring directly into Anders’ eyes.
“Listen up, Anders. If you get me out of here alive, I’ll let you do whatever you want with me. Got it?”
“Got it,” he replied.
“By the way, where’d you go? You came from the exit.”
“I called the police. My phone was in my car. They are on the way.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t leave.”
“I thought about it. But something inside me compelled me to come back.”
“You couldn’t have figured out your shit a little faster?” she whined.
“We were attacked too, you know. Kyle’s dead.”
“Those cops better hurry the hell up. We aren’t done.”
“What do you mean?” Anders asked. She pointed, leaning by the exit was the man in the blank mask.
“How long do you think you can hole yourself off in there?” came a voice from the other side of the barricaded door.
“As long as I need,” I replied. I peaked over the desk to the hole in the door. I saw eyes through the remains of Danny’s face looking back at me. I quickly moved behind another desk outside of his line of sight. Monitors displayed what was going on downstairs.
“Why are you doing this?” I shouted. “We don’t deserve this! I don’t deserve this!”
The man laughed. “You self-serving piece of shit. You and your friends set this entire thing up so you could go viral off the misery of others. You didn’t bat an eye at putting these people’s most vulnerable moments out there for millions to see, all for your own selfish entertainment. Well, guess what? We’re doing the same thing. We’re just better at it.”
Anders seemed to have a renewed sense of energy upon seeing the foe standing between them and the exit. He yanked the knife out of his hand and headed straight for Blank Mask. Dim red lights flickered as the two men prepared to end this.
The two men swung at each other with ferocity. It appeared to be a race to land a decisive first blow. It was Blank Mask who struck first, his knife finding its mark deep inside Anders’ shoulder.
Pain shot through him like a bolt of lightning, yet his face remained as expressionless as the mask of his foe.
He took a step back and yanked the blade out of his shoulder. He continued to struggle with his opponent, looking for openings to land a finishing blow.
With a knife in each hand, Anders brought the full force of the blades into the man’s skull, one from each direction. He unleashed a frenzied assault, the masked man’s body convulsing as a result. Blood sprayed in all directions, painting the surroundings in a thick red coating.
Tana, paralyzed with fear, could only watch as her companion tore his foe apart. With every slash, Anders became increasingly drenched in the masked man’s insides.
The masked man’s body had long ceased any semblance of movement. Anders, soaked from head to toe in crimson liquid, looked up and closed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths. Tana began to sob. He climbed off the masked man’s body and made his way over to Tana.
“Let’s get out of here,” Tana whimpered. Her sobbing quickly ceased, and her eyes grew wide. She looked down at the blade protruding out of her chest. Slowly, her gaze met that of her assailant. Anders simply smiled in return.
“Why?” she gasped. Her eyes didn’t leave his as her body collapsed, her legs no longer able to support her weight.
Anders’ pupils grew, and he bent down, leaning close to her face. Then he replied, “I never would have guessed it myself, Tana. In this place, we were forced to do some terrible things. Unforgivable things. As it turns out, now that I’ve tried those things…it seems I have a taste for them.
It sounds ridiculous, but I’m thankful for this. If this hadn’t happened, I probably would’ve lived out my life without ever experiencing a fraction of the pleasure I do now. For the first time in my life, I truly feel alive. Oh, and as for why? Well, of everyone here, you were the only one who treated me poorly. Do you think I would’ve done the same thing to them? You didn’t even apologize.
Besides, you said I could do whatever I wanted with you.”
The door is going to break down any moment now. I hear the faint sound of sirens in the distance, but I know they won’t make it in time. I’m not sure what’s worse: knowing I’m about to face the monster breaking down the door or playing a part in creating the monster downstairs.
My friends and I played a stupid game, and now we’re left with a stupid prize. They were right. No one comes out of ScareLair the same.
Credit: Sam Gallenberger
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