“Don’t look at me like that.”
The skull continued to grin at him, almost leering, its empty sockets staring.
Darren picked up the skull and threw it as hard as it could, it disappeared into the darkness before landing somewhere with a clatter. He winced and listened, waiting for the skittering, but it never came. He relaxed his shoulders, it didn’t hear. That was a stupid mistake. He took a deep breath, he was going crazy. He needed to keep himself relaxed, that was the only way he could get through this. The others had started getting jumpy and look what happened to them. Gone. All of them. He pushed the thoughts of the others out of his mind, he couldn’t get caught up in thinking about them.
“It’s ok.” His voice, though only a whisper, seemed to echo around the room. “You’re ok. Just take a breath.” Slowly Darren started to walk, his feet padding gently on the ground. He walked away from the skull and its judgemental stare, he didn’t want that thing near him. He moved slowly, he could see but just barely. The shadows were deep and clung to everything, even his torch couldn’t penetrate them. If anything it seemed to make them deeper. Somewhere in the distance there was a scream. Who was that? He shook his head, it didn’t matter, he would either find out or he wouldn’t.
It was his own fault he was in this mess, all because he was bored and decided to head out for a bit of fun and adventure, but how could he know it would be anything like this? Who recruits for this stuff online? Who believes that this stuff is even real? He had expected to turn up, explore a spooky old castle with a few people then go home. Any treasure that was found would of course be made of plastic or chocolate and divided amongst everyone else or used for next time. He should have know something was off when everyone was looking at him strangely when he had arrived. He was wearing just jeans and a t-shirt, they all seemed to be in skin tight stuff, with gadgets hanging from belts and bags full of weird gear. A few of them even had swords. Of course he had dismissed it, cosplayers, that was all and who was he to judge? Especially after coming out here himself. All he had brought with him was some money and a small bag, the contents of which were a roll, a bottle of water and a torch. Someone should have told him it was all real before they went inside. Everyone was talking like it was, but then why wouldn’t they? He even joined in in the discussions, trying to sound like he knew stuff. It wasn’t until Charlotte went missing that he knew it wasn’t a game.
There was nothing to indicate anything had happened, one moment she was there and the next she was gone. Darren had assumed it too was part of the game, they’d be quietly tapped on the shoulder by Tom, the guy outside who was running it, and then they’d go outside and have some snacks while they were ‘dead’. Everyone seemed to be freaked out, but it was just part of the game, at least he thought that until they found a bloody top, the same one she had been wearing. One of the other guys, Darren thought his name was Joe, had cursed a few times then punched the wall. Darren had tried to convince himself that they were all just playing along, even if it seemed a little hammy, but the atmosphere had changed. There was caution before, but it was still a good time, people talked, if quietly, and made a joke here or there. Now the chatting had stopped. Everyone crept along. Then the next one vanished, then the next. There was no indication of what happened to the others. Then Darren was separated from the main group. He had been following behind Andrea, she had been right there, then there was a noise behind him, Darren jumped and looked, but there was nothing there. When he turned back the others were gone. He had heard one or two shouts since then, some calling out names, others just screaming. What ever was happening in this place was real, and he was woefully unprepared.
Darren shook his head, he needed to focus. Either find a way out or complete the mission. The guy outside had said something about an energy source that needed to be destroyed. That was what he needed to do, he had wandered through the building but it was a maze, he had yet to come across any way outside. He knew the building was strange, it had to be, after all from the outside it only looked like it was about one hundred feet long and about fifty feet wide. He had been wandering for what felt like at least two hours and he had gone through multiple rooms, most of which were empty. There was another scream, this one sounded closer, Darren considered it for a moment, then started moving quickly. The screams seemed to be getting closer, if he kept moving he could stay ahead of it and maybe find his way out.
Tom waited outside, he couldn’t go in, he’d only get himself killed. So far only one person had made it back outside, Derek had stumbled out about half an hour ago, bleeding heavily from a cut just above his eye, he didn’t know what had happened to the others. He shouldn’t have let the new guy go in there, but it was supposed to be easy, they had faced much worse and come out without a hitch, why was this so difficult? at worst there should be a soul stealer or two in there, maybe a zombie and they were all easy to deal with. Derek hadn’t seen what attacked him, so that was no help. Tom looked at his phone again, still no signal. They had been inside for about four hours now, they should have been in and out in less than one, and that was with exploring the place thoroughly.
Tom was getting ready to go when Darren stumble outside, he was covered in blood and made it only a few feet before collapsing. Tom and Derek rushed over and dragged him further from the door, they quickly scanned him for injuries but found none, the blood wasn’t his. He woke a few minutes later, confused and disorientated, it took another ten before he started making sense.
“What happened to you?”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“What attacked you? The others are still in there, we might still be able to save them.”
“No. You won’t. They’re all dead. I…I saw them all. It saw me, it” He shuddered, “it told me to run. It told me he was coming and it was scared.” A long, shrieking wail came from the castle, they scrambled to their feet and got into their cars, as they drove off the castle started to shake, a low rumbling filling the air.