We had been ignored to freeze in a metallic hell.  There were four of us in the container.  Me, two girls and another boy.  The two girls were speaking in hushed whispers, while the boy was huddled up in a corner.  Through air holes, his grimy face was illuminated by the moonlight.  I was exploring our cage.  My fingers were slowly marching over the ribbed metalwork.  We were all complete strangers.  Within the night, we had been stolen from our dreams and transported here.  Using the distorted surface to guide me, I walked to what I hoped was the front of the container. I carried on moving, until I felt pain partying across my fingertips.  I groaned and withdrew my hand.  A hurricane of warm air stormed down from my mouth to the edge of my fingers.  One of the girls took notice of me.

“What have you done?” She asked. It sounded, as if she were addressing a four year old, who had just banged his head.

“I think I’ve just scraped my fingerprints off.” I said, gesturing to the wall.

The girl sighed.  “It can’t be that serious.  Let’s take a look,” for a few seconds she squinted in the darkness, “I can’t see anything in this light.  Come over to the air holes.” Carefully me and the girl walked over to the miniature portholes, while the other girl anxiously looked on and the other boy was still crouching in the corner.

“Let’s see,” the girl prompted, and I extended my hand, “what’s your name?” She asked, more out of awkwardness than anything.

“Andrew Stone.”

“I’m Isabella Hamilton.” The girl replied.

“I’ll offer to shake your hand, but you’re already holding it.”

The other boy suddenly stood up, which drew my attention away from the girl.  As the boy was no longer hunched over, I could see how tall he really was.

“There’s someone outside.  It sounds like they’re unlocking the door.” The boy replied, in a surprisingly deep and coarse voice.  Up until now, he had remained quiet and introverted.  However, in a second he had transformed into a confident leader.  What had motivated this transition remained a mystery to me.  Even though, the door was not visible in the darkness, we trusted our ears and walked in the direction of the sound of keys being throttled in a lock.  As the door opened, we expected to take sight of our captor.  Instead, we were met with open air.  Without hesitation, the other boy stepped out of our cage.  He almost disappeared from sight, as the whole area exploded in an ocean of glare.

****

As we adapted to the blinding light, we saw a lorry resting with its open eyes shooting out dazzling electricity.   Standing dominantly in front of the vehicle was a bald man.

“Who do you think he is?” The other boy asked to Isabella.

“Benjamin Lockhaven! Don’t be rude. Address any questions you have to me.”

Nervously, I turned around and noticed that the other girl was hanging back inside the container.

“More importantly, how do you know my name?”

“My name is Gatiss and I am part of an organisation, which has had dealings with all of your parents.”

“That’s an American accent.  Where are we?” I remarked.  I was getting a little jealous that Benjamin had taken control.

“We’re in Chicago.  Take a look round.”

We slowly walked away from the container and examined our surroundings.  Looking up, I noticed that we were in a ruined building, where the roof had been replaced with a giant hole.  The other girl looked down at her feet and she noticed that we were standing in a sea of shingle.  Benjamin took a few steps to the left, when he came to a riverside.  Isabella walked forward and within the light, I could see her racing blue eyes.  She was trying to control them, in an attempt to mask her fear.

“Why are we here?” She asked.  Gatiss walked towards the teenagers.  As he talked I could see that his front teeth were cracked.

“All of your parents have cheated us.  We’e going to punish them.” He paused.  For a few seconds, the only sound we heard was the wind running over the skin of the Chicago river.

“We have created an elaborate simulation of the city of Chicago.  In all due time, all four of you shall be distributed throughout the city.  We’re hoping that your parents will pay up, when they see their little babies killing each other.” The American continued.

“What are you talking about?” The other girl squeaked up.  She had a very quiet and mouse like voice.

“I was just getting to that, Audrienna.  Hopefully, it won’t come to that level.  We also have safety protocols in place.  You won’t be in any danger.  What’s going to happen is all four of you will be taken to a corner of the simulation.  I will be waiting in the middle of the city.  Whoever finds me first wins.”

“Wins what?” Isabella probed.  The wind gently blew through her brunette locks.

“Your freedom.  If you’re the first one to find me, then you and your parents will be released and we’ll forget about any outstanding debts.”

“What about the losers?” Audrienna asked.

“Can I call you Audrey? You don’t need to worry about the losers.  You just have to concentrate on finding me.”

I turned around despairingly and faced the riverside.  Across the surface of the water, I could see lights twinkling on skyscraper upon skyscraper.  The whole city was illuminated, like a bizarre Christmas tree made out of sand and stone.

“This simulation is massive.  It could take weeks to find you.”

“Don’t be so pessimistic, Andrew.  Throughout the simulation we’ve placed helpful hints.  The whole city is wired up with CCTV, as well, so your parents can watch over you.”

Benjamin decisively stepped forward.  “Why should we do anything you want?”

“We’re holding your parents hostage and they’ll be punished if you disobey us.  Capisce?”

“It doesn’t look like we have a choice.” Benjamin replied, resignedly.

“That’s a good boy.  You’ll be taken to your starting positions, now.  Let the race begin.”

****

Audrey had been dropped in the Northwest corner of the simulation.  During the journey, Gatiss had told her that she would be completely alone.  She had to make it to the centre of the city by herself.  Audrey had been left in the decayed area of the simulation.  Shattered blades of glass littered the floor like broken teeth.  The moonlight desaturated the area.  The girl carefully stepped through the ruined architecture.  Gatiss had given all four teenagers: maps of the simulation, torches and first aid kits.  Something ran past behind Audrey.  The wind from…whatever it was…rattled the flaking shards of metal.  The girl nervously turned around.

“Who’s there? Andrew? Ben?”

Silence answered her.

Audrey’s hand snapped down to her belt and withdrew a seven inch hunting knife, Gatiss had given her for protection.  The moon reflected off the serrated blade.  The girl was struggling to remain calm.  She knew that she was being followed.  She couldn’t hear what it was, but she knew it was there.  A splashing of water brought the thirteen year old out of her thoughts.  Looking down, she saw that her leather boot had sunk into a puddle.  Examining the area in front of her, she noticed that the paving stones were cracked and covered in slime, which grotesquely glistened in the moonlight.  Something slammed behind her.  Audrey started to run, as fear sprinted throughout her veins.  The moonlight projected two moving shadows.  One of them was the running teenager, but what was the other? The shadow jumped in front of the girl, but it was still shrouded in darkness.

“What are you?” She asked.

It jumped again.  Audrey guessed that Gatiss had set traps within the simulation.  Something dropped out of the sky.  The girl’s attacker was prowling across the ruined structures of the rotting buildings.  Audrey decided to carry on walking.  If she could only reach Gatiss, then she might be able to escape.  The American had taken her mobile phone, which completely isolated her.  Audrey had been so lost in thought, that she hadn’t noticed how silent her environment had become.  Out of panic, the girl lashed out behind her, whipping the knife around.  The only thing she wounded was the quiet air.  There was a heavy thudding, as two heavy footsteps crashed down behind the girl.  Before the adolescent could react, something grabbed onto her legs and pulled her over.  The knife slipped out of her hands.  As Audrey was dragged away, her fingernails broke.

****

I thought I heard somebody screaming, but I couldn’t be sure.  Examining the map, I was positive that I was getting closer to Gatiss.  The American had told me, that there were other people within the simulation, but we were not allowed to have any contact with them.  Whirring up above me was a security camera.  I didn’t like the idea of being watched, so I scavenged for a heavy rock and with a well aimed throw, I obliterated the camera.  Just like the others, I had been given a knife and I was gripping it tightly in one hand.  Out of nowhere a Rottweiler charged up to me and clamped down on my leg.  Thinking quickly and rashly, with all of my strength I rammed the knife down onto the dog’s head. The blade was brought down with such force, that it snapped within the animal’s skull.  As the dog whimpered and dropped to the ground, I told myself that this was only self-defence.  I took out my first-aid kit and dabbed the wound with some disinfectant.  I gritted my teeth through the burning.  Afterwards, I carefully bandaged the wound. I sighed, as I realised that I had been left without a weapon.  Hopefully this wouldn’t matter.  I opened the map again and determined that the fastest way to reach Gatiss was to walk around the perimeter of the simulation, to the Northwest corner where Audrey had been left.   I folded the map away and dodging a drop of stagnant water, I started to limp.

****

Something shone in the night.  I moved towards the reflecting object and realised it was a knife.  Could this have been Audrey’s? I hobbled around the area, but the thirteen year old wasn’t in sight.  I decided to claim the knife as my own.  Finders-keepers.  There didn’t seem to be any cameras around either, so why did it feel like something was watching me?

“Andrew!” Something called out behind me.  I tried to ignore it.  If I started panicking, then I would make mistakes.  Perhaps this was what happened to Audrey.  I couldn’t worry about her.  I had to protect myself.  A stone gently rocked behind me.

“Andrew!” Something whispered in front of me.  As the wind rocketed broken windows, a shard of glass free-fell through the air and shattered, as it hit the ground.

“Andrew Stone!” A shadow howled my name from the left of me.  Cautiously, I took hold of my knife.

“Andrew Stone!” The voice shouted my name, down from the glittering sky.  Unwittingly, I had walked out of the Northwest corner of the simulation, but something was still following me.

“Mr. Stone.” The voice had become stereo.  I could no longer tell where it was coming from.

****

Abandoning my common sense, I began to limp away.  As my speed increased, the voice started to accelerate.  It felt like I was being circled.  I knew that I was panicking and I brought myself to a stop.  The voice kept screaming though.  It was getting louder and louder, penetrating my skull.  Something broke through the whirring noise and tapped my shoulder.  Within my blind paranoia, I whipped around and plunged my knife into the person behind me.  Blood slowly trickled out of Isabella Hamilton’s mouth.  I lowered the seventeen year old to the ground and stood over her.  I briefly wondered, why my parents hadn’t given in.  Paid up! Got me the hell out of here.  Before I left the girl, I closed her eyes, knowing that it wouldn’t be long before she opened them again.

****

Gatiss smiled, as he watched Andrew’s actions.  “Two down.  Two to go.”

****

Benjamin had been left in the greener area of the city.  His parents owed the least money, so he was placed the closest to Gatiss.  This was fortunate for the blond seventeen year old.  The batteries in his torch were dying and he couldn’t read the map.  If he wanted to reach Gatiss then all he had to do was stay on the right road.  At the end of the street, Benjamin thought he could see the American standing by a lorry.  He inhaled and started to walk.  The breath came out as a gasp, as Benjamin was pulled to one side.

“Andrew! How did you get here? What happened to your leg?” The seventeen year old asked.

“I only made it here, through luck.” I replied.  As soon as I saw the boy, I pulled him into a side alleyway.

“Do you know where the girls are?”

“I haven’t seen Isabella and I’m not sure what happened to Audrey.  I found her knife.” I held up the blade, as evidence.

Benjamin’s green eyes widened.  “Why is there blood on it?”

“Gatiss has set us up to fail.  There’s something here in this simulation.  It could’ve taken Audrey.”

Benjamin nervously scratched his ear.  “I did hear a girl screaming earlier.  What do we do?”

“We force Gatiss to end this simulation and free our parents.”

“Can we do that?”

“You heard Gatiss.  Only one of us gets out of here.  Who knows what’ll happen to the other?”

Benjamin nodded.  “You’re right.  Let’s move.”

I smiled to myself.  I was glad that the boy’s leadership qualities had taken over.  He was walking with his back to me, assuming I was following him.  He was moving quickly and I half ran, half hobbled to catch up with him.  I was careful to remain behind him, though.  As the bald American with the broken teeth came into sight, I plunged my knife between Benjamin’s shoulder blades.  Without hesitation, I carried on walking towards Gatiss.  He smiled, as I approached him.

“Andrew Stone.  You’re the first one here.” He announced, for no particular reason.

“Where are the girls?”

“Audrey has been taken and you disposed of Isabella yourself.”

I gritted my teeth.  “That was an accident.”

“Unlike poor Benjamin.  You stabbed him in the back.  Quite literally.”

I shook my head.  “It doesn’t matter.  He’ll survive.”

Gatiss melodramatically raised his hand to his mouth.  “Oh, did I say you weren’t in any danger? I lied.  There never were any safety protocols.”

As Gatiss revealed this information, I knew that he was vulnerable.  In an act of young naivety, I attempted to punch him.  He was expecting it.  In one swift movement, he pushed my arm halfway up my back.

“Let’s not do anything rash. You’ve won this.  You’re free to leave.” He released my arm and I stepped back a few paces, rubbing my elbow.

“Why didn’t my parents give in and get me out of here?”

“They did, long ago, but we thought it would be more entertaining to leave the simulation running.”

I spat out my hateful emotion.  I had nothing left to say.

“There’s no need to be so depressed, Andrew.  You survived.  You’ve beaten the simulation.  You’ve won.  Capisce?”

****

Gatiss smiled, as he saw Andrew and his family, as well as the other parents, being escorted away from the city.  All of them had paid up in the end.  He briefly wondered what Andrew’s parents would make of their murderous son, but this was none of his concern.  The simulation had been an unqualified success.  The American walked through the streets of his creation.  He knelt besides Benjamin’s body and withdrew the knife.  Andrew’s knife.  Audrey’s knife.  Gatiss’ knife.  Finders-keepers.

*Author’s Notes*

This was written for a prompt of a Hunger Gamesesque scenario where a bunch of characters are in a simulation and have to kill each other.  Not the best thing I’ve written but I still like it.

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