Hello everyone and welcome to another Games created by me. These Games will not be apart of my main series and will take place in an entirely different universe then them. Before I continue though, I will address the elephant in the room. Yes, I know that my War of the Hunger Games has just recently begun and is still in the very early stages, but while lying awake at night, I thought of a great idea for a Games that I just couldn't wait to use. Now, with that out of the way, I shall explain these Games more thoroughly.


The White Games will be taking place in the modern-day world. The tributes competing will be 24 ordinary people from the regular world between the ages of 12-18. These teenagers have been kidnapped by unknown forces and deposited into an arena located in a mysterious and unknown location. Once there, they will be informed by a strange individual known only as "Mr. White" that they are now competing in his "games" (more on that below). These Games will be broadcast across the internet for all the world to see and enjoy.

The White Games

The rules for the White Games are relatively simple.

-There are 24 tributes, or as Mr. White calls them, Challengers. There will be twelve females and twelve males.

-Each of the Challengers will wake up in a different location on the island, with no idea on how they got there or what is happening. Luckily for them, Mr. White will soon explain.

-The Challengers will be forced to fight to the death until only one remains. It sounds relatively straightforward, but there is a catch that will be explained below.

-Each Challenger will be given a rank from 1 to 24, based on their skill, proactively, and favouritism with the fans watching the Games via the internet. These ranks are important as Challengers are only allowed to kill others who are ranked below them. For example: A Challenger ranked at #1 is capable of killing every other Challenger in the arena. However, a challenger ranked at #12 would only be capable of killing challengers ranked at #13, #14, #15, and all others with a lower ranking. In the same vein, the Challenger ranked #24 will not be capable of killing anyone else while everyone else will be able to kill them. Challengers are allowed to harm or otherwise defend themselves from others ranked higher than them, but if they attempt any sort of fatal blow they will be incapacitated by an electric shock from their datapad. If they persist in attempting to break the rules, then they will be killed via detonation of the bomb collar around their neck.

-While lower ranked challengers will be at a disadvantage, they will find some solace in the fact that Rankings change every day. At midnight every night the Rankings will go down and internet fans will be allowed to vote for their favourites as Mr. White takes into account of the Challengers activities. As Rankings are decided by a Challengers actions, kills, skills, and success as well as their popularity with the crowd, it is in their best interest to be proactive during the day to ensure a favourable Ranking.

-To make certain that the Challengers follow the rules and kill each other, each Challenger has been outfitted with a metal bomb collar. If a full day goes by without a single kill, Mr. White will randomly detonate one of the Challenger's collars to get things moving.

-Each Challenger will be outfitted with two pieces of equipment. The first is a metal datapad clamped onto their wrist. This device has a built-in touchscreen that shows both a Challengers current personal ranking and the rankings of all other Challengers. When a Challenger dies, his or her name will be blacked out and each datapad will give off a loud ringing noise to signify a death has occurred. The datapad will also show a map of the island, but majority of this is covered in the fog of war until a Challenger has explored the area themselves. However, the map is fully visible to the those ranked within the top five. The Challenger Ranked at #1 will have a further advantage, as once every hour the map on their datapad will show the location of every other Challenger.

-The second piece is a metal collar attached to each Challengers neck. These collars contain bombs and will explode if a Challenger attempts to remove it or otherwise break the rules. Each collar also has a pin located in the back of the collar that, once pulled, will prematurely detonate the collar after a timed delay.

-There is no cornucopia. Supplies and weapons will be hidden around the island in various places. Also, at random times air drops containing precious items will take place. Finally, internet fans themselves may choose to sponsor an airdrop, containing several items of their choosing. The sponsoring fan will choose the location of the drop, but a flare will be shot off, alerting every Challenger of its location. The drop will commence fifteen minutes after the shooting of the flare.


1: There will be twenty-four Tributes. Unlike my past Games, it will not be first come first serve. Instead, I will be implementing a draft that has everyone submitting tributes over a weeks period. At the end of the week I shall choose which twenty-four tributes get in. Because of this, there will be no reservations.

2: You have from today (August 31st) until September 7th to submit tributes. You may submit as many tributes as you want, but I will not take all of them.

3: I will not be putting any tributes in the table until September 7th. It does not matter if you submit your tribute first or last. I will be handpicking the tributes based on the ones submitted over the one week period. Make them interesting and ensure that they fit in with the modern world these Games take place in or they will not be picked.

4: Instead of reapings, the tributes have been kidnapped. Therefore, there is no volunteering. There won't be any reapings, training scores, interviews, etc. for this same reason.

5: I will not accept any Tributes that have been in my previous Games. Although these Games take part in a completely different universe then my main series, I still would rather write about all-new tributes then ones I've already written.

6: As these Games take place in the modern world with no Hunger Games, there are no Careers. You can still submit Careers, just don’t designate them as such.

7: These may not be updated as quickly as they'd usually be, as I will be writing and updating WoTHG simultaneously. Those, being apart of my main series, will always get first priority.

8: Advice will be included in these Games, though it will be slightly different than usual. Instead of having a mentor, tributes will receive advice from an internet sponsor (their creator). The twist on this is that tributes will not always follow advice to the letter. The tributes will treat the advice like suggestions an avid fan has sent them, but if it is too extreme or elaborate they may not trust it or entirely follow through with it.

9: Tribute Form:





Backstory: (Remember that these Games take place in modern times. There is no Panem, no Districts. Instead it's the current-day world. Make sure your backstory fits in with this theme.)








Gender Name Age Height Weapon User
Male Jotaro Kujo 18 6'5 Fist, Mace Skrillisdroppin
Male Nero Shock 15 5'8 Electricity, Knives SirEatsAlotisk
Male Sami Bitar 15 5'7 Hatchet, Knife Aerialchinook
Male Chris Barnard 18 6'5 Bow & Arrow TWITSHHB
Male Tristan Kaplan 18 6'2 Switchblade, Fists Mistymolla
Male Felix Leonard 17 6'2 Trident, Spear The Wayward Daughter
Male Umbreon Martell 16 5'10 Fists, Knife That1Girl
Male Nicolò Ambrosini 16 5'11 Knife, Brass Knuckles Zephyr the Exalted
Male Fausto Grandeur 17 6'0 Axe, Spear Kaeghan-is-a-tribute
Male Misha Castiel 16 5'6 Axe ClovelyMarvelous
Male Lucas Adin 18 5'10 Fists, Whip Striker12345
Male Ali Ajmal 17 5'9 Bow, Spear Utkar22
Female Bree Richmond 15 5'7 Bow & Arrows Athalia from District 2
Female Anne Bellhope 17 5'8 Throwing Knives The Targaryen of District 4
Female Alana Salazar 16 5'4 Blowgun Biel1458
Female Oreo Dutton 18 5'6 Knife CTOADUNRN
Female Killian Haberman 14 5'3 Katana, Dagger SwimmingLion
Female Justine Leonard 17 5'10 Throwing Knife, Dagger The Wayward Daughter
Female Victoria Sinclair 18 5'9 Tomahawk The Symphonic Taco
Female Clarice Barron 17 5'6 Mace Mistymolla
Female Nora Lemori 15 5'3 Knife PerniciousFabrication
Female Haviana Greyson 15 5'7 Knife HiCaterpillars!
Female Imogen Sykes 15 5'5 Spear ClovelyMarvelous
Female Johanna Cisse 16 5'7 Spear, Blowgun Aerialchinook


The arena is a tear shaped, medium-sized island secreted away in a remote part of the world, making it nigh impossible for any of the world's governments to find it.

The majority of the island is covered in thick forest that stretches from one side of the island to the other. The forest is of the rather average temperate sort and is often wreathed in a thick fog that consistently plagues the island. The forest is laced with many small streams and ponds, providing a safe source of water for the Challengers. There is also a large river that spans it's way across the island, stretching from the southern end to the northern. Many different types of animals make their home here.

At the thin, southern end of the island exists a small collection of houses. These homes are packed closely together and compare greatly to modern suburbia. The sinks inside the homes provide water and the cupboards may contain food to help sustain the Challengers.

To the extreme north of the island is high and rocky mountainous region, filled with deep gullies and treacherous terrain. The river also spills put into the ocean here, forming one of the two waterfalls that exist upon the island.

Most of the island is on raised ground and is thus inaccessible to the ocean. However, the western and eastern sides of the island are just at sea level, creating a pair of beaches that the Challengers may explore. The sea surrounding the eastern beach is a coastal shelf and one may venture out to explore a tiny, rocky island just off the coast. There is a small hut there that may contain some supplies.

In the southeast of the island, between the eastern beach and the forest, is a resort-like series of buildings. There's a visitor center, a lodge, tennis courts, and even a pool.

There is also a lighthouse situated in the northwest, just above the beach there. It may or may not provide helpful shelter and supplies.

And finally, the large river winds it's way throughout the island. Starting at the large volcanic-like mountain on the thin side of the tear. It then makes its way through the bulk of the island, crossing through the forest and even the resort. The river contains edible fish and may even conceal some other surprises...


Rank Challenger
#1 Clarice Barron
#2 Alana Salazar
#3 Sami Bitar
#4 Imogen Sykes
#5 Victoria Sinclair
#6 Chris Barnard
#7 Oreo Dutton
#8 Anne Bellhope

The Games

Day One/ Arrival

Misha Castiel (12:00 P.M)

When my eyes flicker open, I find myself staring up at the leafy branches of trees far above me. Thin bands of flickering yellow sunlight stream through gaps in the canopy, shining across the smooth bark of the slender trees that grow all around. Birdsong fills the air, giving off a cheery impression. But...

Where the hell am I?

My elbows scrape against hardpacked dirt as I prop myself up, fallen leaves scattering across the ground as they slide off my chest. I blink in confusion, my hazel eyes scanning the trees that surround me on all sides. The thin undergrowth that billows in the light wind, the small animals that scuttle around between their roots. Is this...a forest?

No. No, that wouldn't make sense. Why would I be in a forest? How could I be in a forest? I was just lying in my bed last night, slowly drifting off to sleep...How can this be?

My body aches and cracks as I lift myself off from the forest floor, stumbling forward almost the instant I'm on my feet. A sharp pain shoots through my head. It's so intense that I almost black out, falling forward and grabbing ahold of a nearby tree.

I can't remember anything about how I got here, or even where here is. I can't remember anything that happened after I fell asleep. Is this a dream? No. I've never had dreams like this feels too real.

I let go of the tree slump back to the ground, deep in thought. This doesn't make any sense. No sense at all. How the hell could I have gotten from my bedroom to this forest? I don't think there's even any forest within miles of my house!

So how'd I get here?

As I sit here on the forest floor, desperately trying to recall even the slightest memory of how I wound up here, I finally notice something clamped around my wrist. It's metallic and silver, a bracelet-type thing that seems to hold an opaque empty screen in the center of it. Looks kinda like a phones screen. Maybe it's some kind of hands-free device for phones. But...why is it on my arm? I don't own one of those. Instinctively I move my hand to tap the screen.

Before I can, the screen flickers on.

A man dressed entirely in white shows up on the screen, shocking my senses with the sudden appearance. The man himself is nothing special to look at; tall, thin, with an angular nose and skinny neck. His shiny black hair is oily and slicked-back, the only part of him that isn't completely white.

Everything was white. Suit. Pants. Shirt. Tie. Shoes. Socks. He even wears sunglasses tinted white, a bizarre fashion choice that I have never seen anywhere else before. What the hell is going on?

Suddenly the man speaks.

His voice is somehow simultaneously unnaturally loud, yet also smooth. Calm and collected, but eager and and excited. A small smile plays on his face as he throws his hands out towards the screen. "Welcome Challengers! Welcome to the White Games!" I stare blankly into the screen, wondering what in the world this man is blabbing about. Before I can collect my thoughts though, he continues.

"You all may be wondering just where you are and how you got. Both perfectly reasonable questions, I assure you. I'd be wondering the same thing!"

"Wait, a moment!" I find myself spluttering aloud as I stare at the small screen. "You know what's going on?" But the man doesn't answer, and I realize that this must just be a video as he goes on.

"Now, before I tell you exactly what is happening, I want to make something very clear." The man gazes into the screen solemnly, his tinted white sunglasses covering his eyes. "The twenty-four of you have no choice but to do exactly as I have said. I have taken all of you away from your homes and countries to play a little game. The White Games, to be exact."

A cood chill runs down my back. Did he...just say that he kidnapped me?! What the actual hell! Something inside me snaps as I scream at the screen, not even remembering that this is just a video until the loud call of a bird overhead startles me into silence. The mysterious man continues.

"I am Mr. White, I control this island that I have placed you all upon and I run the Games you will all be playing. I do not wish to delay this game with long speeches and overlong explanations, so I will make this introduction brief. If you wish to remain alive, it'd do you well to listen."

Stay alive? Stay alive!? I rip my gaze away from the screen as I glance at the forest around me, searching for any sort of sign that danger is lurking. What is even happening? My head hurts and this creep is blabbing dying.

"There are twenty-four of you "Challengers" spread throughout the island. Yes, you are upon an island. There is absolutely no way for you all to escape from this island, so do not bother attempting. There is only one way you may leave this place alive, and that is by winning the White Games."

"What is wrong with this man?" I should be much, much more worried or upset than I currently am. After all, a crazed maniac has supposedly kidnapped me and plopped me onto deserted island so that I can play his "games". But it's all too unrealistic to believe. Too...weird.

"Now, you may all be wondering just what these Games are," Mr. White is still talking, going on about his crazy scheme or whatever. "I will explain the rules very soon. But first, I'd like to let you all know that these Games are being broadcast live across the internet for all to see. In fact, your families may even tune in to watch you compete!"

Okay. Okay, now I officially believe that I'm going crazy, or maybe dreaming. There's no way this is real. What kind of maniac would be capable of broadcasting this on the internet?

On the small screen around my wrist, Mr. White smiles another one of those sinister smiles. "Now, the rules are very simple, really. The twenty-four of you trapped upon this island must fight one the death."

At first I think I misheard and slowly shake my head back and forth to try and clear my head. But, no. I did hear him correctly. And I have absolutely no idea what the hell he means. Fight to the death? With others trapped on this island? Is he freaking insane?! Unaware of my disbelief, Mr. White continues.

"It sounds relatively straightforward, but there is a catch that I will explain right now; Each of you Challengers will be given a rank from one to twenty-four, based on your skill, proactively, and favouritism with the lovely fans watching the Games via the internet. These ranks are important as Challengers are only allowed to kill others who are ranked below them." A gasp escapes me as Mr. White stops and grins into the screen with gleeful malice. "But don't worry your pretty little heads if you receive a low rank, because you Challengers are allowed to harm or otherwise defend yourselves from others ranked higher than you, but if you attempt any sort of fatal blow you will be incapacitated by an electric shock from your datapad. If you persist in attempting to break the rules, then they will be killed via detonation of the bomb collar around each of your necks."

For the very first time I become aware of the collar fitted around my throat. I had been too preoccupied with everything that had been going on before to notice it, but now my hands slide themselves over the cool, metal around my neck. According to Mr. White it's a...

Instantly my fingers wrap around the thin device, attempting to squeeze themselves between the collar and my neck in a desperate effort to rip the thing off. But it's rock solid and doesn't move a single bit.

Mr. White laughs as he continues to speak. "These collars contain bombs and will explode if a Challenger attempts to remove it or otherwise break the rules. Each collar also has a pin located in the back of the collar that, once pulled, will prematurely detonate the collar after a timed delay."

My fingers brush against the pin and instantly recoil, terrified at the prospect of pulling it. If a bomb went off just under my head...

"You're one sick bastard!" I scream into the air. The only response I receive is a trilling of a nearby bird.

"Now, then," Mr. White's voice emits from the datapd on my wrist, though I do not look at the screen. "As I was saying before, while lower ranked Challengers will be at a disadvantage, they will find some solace in the fact that Rankings change every day. They will be decided by me and the lovely people back home watching on the internet. As Rankings are decided by a Challengers actions, kills, skills, and success as well as their popularity with the crowd, it is in their best interest to be proactive during the day to ensure a favourable Ranking."

I'm barely listening to anything this psycho is saying. I'm too shocked. Too stunned. How the hell did I get here? Trapped on an island with a live bomb strapped to my head, fighting to the death with other "challengers" all the while people watch...

Why does this seem so familiar?

"Now, if anyone out there is thinking about refusing to fight or kill the other Challengers, keep this fact in mind; If a full day goes by without a single kill, I will randomly detonate one of the Challenger's collars to get things moving." Another wicked smile crosses Mr. White's face. "So it'd do you well to follow the rules and play the Games."

"Now, there are a few more rules and details I could speak about, but I feel as if this has gone on long enough. I will leave you here, with one last word of advice; as well as showing me when I wish to speak, your datapad also shows off the Rankings and a map. You would do well to check this out. Good luck."

The screen flickers off. I am left alone in the forest, the sounds of birds and small mammals echoing around me. I don't...can't...was everything he said true? I...

I drop down to the ground, pulling my legs close to me as I try and collect my thoughts. What the hell? What the actual hell?! Nothing--absolutely nothing--that Mr. White said made any sort of logical sense at all. Who else is on this island with me? And why...why does Mr. White want us to kill one another?

"What is going on...?" I murmur quietly to myself, trying to stop myself from panicking. But really, I think it would be perfectly reasonable for me to panic in this situation, given everything I've just learned. But I can't afford to panic, because if that was all true, then...

There's twenty-three people on this island who want to kill me.

That thought gets me to glance back at my datapad. The screen that once showed Mr. White now gleams blue, with several different tabs glowing at the top. One reads "Ranks", while another says "Map", and the third simply says "Rules". At a loss for thoughts, I tap the Ranks tab.

Instantly the screen changes to show a column of names and numbers, listed from 1 to 24 with a small picture headshot next to them. I recall what Mr. White said to me, that each "Challenger" has been assigned a number and are only capable of killing someone ranked below them.

Who the hell does he think he is? Making me play some sort of stupid, twisted game? Suppressing my steaming rage, I give the names a quick glance over.

At the very top, with a #1 floating beside their name, is Chris Barnard. I don't recognize the name, nor do I recognize the name under him, #2 Nicolò Ambrosini. Sounds a little foreign. But then again, so does my own name. Yet I'm not. Melting pot of the world, after all.

3 and #4 belong to people named Felix and Justine Leonard. Siblings? If so, I can't tell if that gives them an advantage in this "game" or if it's just gonna suck more when and if they die. Just after them, rounding out the top five, is a dude named Tristan Kaplan.

After this I skim through the names, looking for my own. None of the names I pass over are even the slightest bit familiar, giving me the impression that Mr. White didn't just kidnap a bunch of kids from my town. Too bad. They're all wusses and I'd have won easily if competing against them.

There I am!

13# Misha Castiel.

Thirteen? Really?! I swear under my breath as a birdcall goes up around me. If what Mr. White said was true--and I have no reason to think it isn't--then that means everyone ranked above me, all twelve of them, cannot be harmed by my hands. Crap. That's a lot of people, half the field. At least there's some people I can fight. The unlucky loser ranked #24, someone called Oreo Dutton, will be incapable of fighting anyone, while absolutely everyone will be able to harm them.

I tap the Map tab next, and am supremely disappointed to find that it's mostly blanked out, with the exception of a small clearing surrounded by forest with a tiny blue dot resting in it. I suppose that it's meant to represent me.

The Rules tab seems to just be a digital rulebook for the "White Games". I make a mental note to look it over more thoroughly later. I flick the screen off and stare into the forest, where my opponents await. I don't know if this is even real of if it's all some prank or a highly realistic dream, but I don't intend on losing this "game". Because as my parents always taught me...

Winning is the only option.

Clarice Barron (12:15 P.M)

As the screen flickers off and silence returns to the empty suburban street where I find myself, I slowly come to terms with what is happening around me. That twisted psycho Mr. White has trapped us all inside his "Games" and, whether I like it or not, we are all about to die.

There's absolutely no chance that we avoid harming one another, that all twenty-four of us take a vow of non-violence. I know from past life experience that all it takes is a little fear and desperation to turn any one person into a murderer; and I am not exempt from this possibility.

Killing another person is something I'm perfectly capable of doing to keep myself alive. Even without the knowledge that my head will explode if I refuse. And as it happens, I do have the knowledge that my head will explode if I don't.

So really, I have no choice at all.

I keep close to the perfectly white picket fence as I follow along the edge of the streets. Just fifteen minutes ago I woke up inside this strange house with no idea what happened or where I was. Hell, I still don't. But Mr. White at least gave me some directive.

Bright sunlight sings down from the intensely happy sun that hangs in the sky like a lamp. The houses that line the street--all with the same perfect look that these type of suburbs usually have--reflect the light back into the sky. It's such a cheerful, happy scene.

It makes me feel a little dead inside.

I walk the empty sidewalks, uncertain on where to go. Mr. White said that there are twenty-four other people on this island, and my datapad says the same. But then where are they? And how big is this island? I wouldn't even know it was an island if Mr. White hadn't said was: all I can see is a seemingly endless collection of houses.

And then, if I do find the others, how am I supposed to fight them? I have no weapons. Nothing at all beyond my clothes and body. How the hell does Mr. White expect us to kill one another? With our bare hands?

Unable to figure this out, and wanting a better plan then just walking, I slip into one of the houses yard and crouch in the meager shade offered by the picket fence. It's better to stop and think of a plan before just wandering around aimlessly.

Mr. White said that people were going to be watching these Games on the internet...I lift my head, looking around at the house that looms over me. I search for camera's or wires, anything that would show that Mr. White is recording this, but I don't see anything. Damn. That rules out any plan I may have made with that. Still...

No matter how hard I try to think of a plan, my mind keeps drifting away from the situation at hand. There's too many unanswered questions. Too many unknowns. How long have we been here, for one? It feels like just yesterday that I was anxiously counting down the days to my eighteenth birthday, waiting for the chance to get away from the foster home and gain my freedom. It was so close. I was so close to living like a normal person...So close.

But now I'm here. Kidnapped by a sociopath, trapped on an island, forced to play a game wher all the losers dies. Mr. White said that our families would be watching, that people would tearfully watch us all die. Well, that's not the case for me. I have no family. No one who cares about me. I could die and no one would bat an eye. I don't think anyone even realizes I'm gone. Why should they?

But despite this all, I still experience a bubbling rage when I think of Mr. White. He took my life away. It was the only thing I had, the only thing I wanted.

"Can you hear me, Mr. White?" I ask the empty air. Though I only get the whistling wind for a response, I know that he can hear me. He can hear everything. "I'm going to find you, Mr. White. And when I do--yes, when I do, for I will find you--I'm going to kill you. So be prepared, jackass."

An eerie silence befalls the island. Even the birds go quiet. There's absolutely no sound, then...

A door slams shut.

My heart leaps in my chest, pounding against my ribcage like an anvil as I throw myself to the ground, pressing my face against the soft grass as I roll myself closer to the fence. Through a crack in the pickets, I can see the house across the street, where a teenaged girl makes her way down the porch.

She's everything I'm not. Blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful, with a perfect figure that drives all the boys crazy. She walks down to the street and squints as she stares into the sky. I've only seen her for a few moments, but I already despise her. Not because she's gorgeous, no. I'm not a stupid, shallow, envious wench like a lot of other girls are. No. The reason I despise her is because of her rank.

The second I spotted her I checked my datapad, searching out her rank. As each name is accompanied with a basic headshot of the Challenger, it wasn't hard to find her. And find her I did. She's Anne Bellhope, #6.

A high rank, four spots higher than I am. And why is she ranked so high? It's not hard to guess. Physical appearance can get you far in life, even if you don't have any actual talent. It's the same with everyone else ranked in the top five; all of them appear athletic and beautiful. Perfect people who get through life perfectly. It makes me sick that such bias would extend even to a psycho's game.

I'd care a lot less about this if the ranks didn't give them such a huge advantage. But as it is, I can't touch a hair on their heads. But they certainly can touch me.

I'm very careful not to move as Anne begins walking down the street. The girl's clearly not comfortable, evidenced by the way she continually looks over her shoulders, but she's certainly in a better position then I am; for she wears an orange backpack.

I watch her as she heads down the street, slowly disappearing from sight. How many advantages can one girl have? I briefly consider trying to jump her and steal the pack, but I quickly brush this thought away. She might have some sort of weapon too, and I have no desire to face that just yet.

So instead I just watch her fade away from sight, leaving me lying on the grass. Afterwards, I pick myself up from the ground and uncomfortably stretch my legs. I originally had chosen to rest here in order to think of a plan, yet I never came up with one. What a waste.

But I realize that it wasn't quite a waste when I see the shovel leaning against the house. Grabbing the tool and giving it an experimental swing, I realize that I'm now armed with a weapon. Not an actual one, but a capable one all the same. Then another good idea pops into my head.

"The houses could have food..." I murmur to myself as I stare at the sameness of the buildings. When I first woke up, I never bothered to search for food or water or anything. But maybe the houses have these things--and more.

Throwing the shovel over my shoulder, I silently enter the first house; mind reeling with the first semblance of a plan.

Sami Bitar (12:22 P.M)

The grass is shaggy and waving, like rippling waves in the ocean. It whispers against my feet, sending tremors up my delicate spine with each step, separating and crunching under my booted feet. To my right lies a fast-moving river, almost completely enclosed by dense foliage on both sides. Quietly I continue on.

Each step I take makes an everlasting imprint, forming more trails for someone like myself to discover. The long winding track bends and straightens like a twisting road stretched out along the floor. I gaze in awe at the enormity of the oak trees that are watching over me, protecting me. Their lush brown arms and sharp green fingers are extended towards me, silently asking for a touch. The kindness of the trees astonishes me; its utter strength bemuses me as I hesitantly tap on its sturdy mahogany body. The tap tap of my knocks echoes throughout the beauty that surrounds me and I wonder if it was heard miles away.

If it was, someone is probably hurrying over here to kill me.

The facts of my situation contrast starkly with the appearance of my surroundings. There is nothing but beauty and wonderfulness in these woods, yet Mr. White and his heinous threats hang over my head. His collar digs into my neck. His datapad glistens on my wrist. But it's not myself whom I fear for.

Where are my parents? My siblings? We were on our way to Europe, fleeing the carnage that is ripping my home country apart. What did Mr. White do with them?

Flocks of multi-coloured birds whistle in the trees overhead, interrupting my thoughts as they proudly reciting their early afternoon song, alerting the other animals in the forest. A refreshing breeze meanders through the meadow, rustling the limbs of the trees and filling my ears with the symphony of the forest.

I shake my head, trying to focus. There's people out there trying to kill me! I can't stop to admire nature!'s too perfect to just ignore. "Stay focused, Sami," I mutter to myself as I walk parallel to the river.

But staying focused is hard. When I really stop to think about my current situation, I feel like rolling into a ball and crying. Only the fact that this wouldn't help me in the slightest prevents me from doing it. But what should I do? I don't know. Mr. White wants us all to fight, but...I know I'd never be able to do that. Sighing, I continue along through this mysterious forest.

Rays of sunlight playfully peak through the complex tangles of branches, casting a wonderful glow over the earth. As I cast my eyes down, my skin seems to glisten in the golden sunlight, before dulling again as I step out of the warming slither. Wild flowers of purple, yellow and white are sprinkled across the grass, creating a beautiful gradient across the expanse of the...

Someone steps out of the shadows.

I scream.

"No! Don't! Don't scream!" The figure steps closer and I slip over my own feet, hitting the grass at an odd angle. My hands go to shield my face when the person says something very odd. "I'm not going to kill you!"

"I...You're...not?" I look up in confusion, seeing the face of my would-be attacker for the first time. It's a girl my age, maybe younger, with dirty blonde hair and emerald green eyes. Freckles cover her face pretty thoroughly, bridging her nose and covering her forehead. Somehow, I don't feel very threatened.

"I promise I won't," She offers me her hand, and after a moment's hesitation, I take it. "You're one of the Challengers, aren't you?" She eyes me critically as she helps me up. Not that there's much to look at. I'm small, skinny, and look about as threatening as a twig.

"Yeah, I am. I mean, that's what Mr. White said I was," I feel awkward talking to this girl. Mr. White said that we had to kill the other Challengers, but did he say we always had to be fighting with them? I can't remember.

"I-I don't suppose you know where we are?" Her voice is shaky, laced with nerves. Her comforting green eyes slowly cast around the forest, taking everything in.

"We're in a forest," I say instantly, a smile on my face. It's a joke, but I don't think the girl gets it. She frowns.

"Yeah. Yeah, I realized that part. I meant; where is this forest? Who is Mr. White? Why'd he kidnap us? What does--"

"Woah!" I hold my hands up. "I know as much as you do. Or should I say as little?"

Her face looks crestfallen as she turns to look at me. "Right...sorry."

An awkward silence falls between us, broken only by the sound of birds. Feeling uneasy, I try to start up the conversation again. "I'm Sami," I tell her with a forced grin. "What's your name?"

"Huh?" She looks up from where she was studying her feet, obviously deep in thought. "Oh...I'm Bree."

"Nice to meet you, Bree." I greet her, but she's absorbed in her datapad, scrolling across the screen with a flicking finger.

"What did you say your name was, again? Sammy?" I tell her again and she nods, still watching the screen. By this time I've figured out what she's doing and am not surprised when she looks up and gives a curt nod. "You're #21," She tells me. "One spot below me."

"Yes. I'm the lowest ranked male," I've looked those rankings over only once, but that fact didn't escape me. I'm not too surprised, either.

"Your accent is funny," Bree speaks suddenly, her intense gaze studying my face. "Are you foreign?"

"Well...." I scratch my head, confused. I guess I am, to her. But what country are we even in? Or are we not even in a country? Mr. White said we were on an island, but I'm not certain where that island is. "I'm originally from Syria," I finally tell Bree. "But my family was fleeing when...when I--when all this--" I choke back a sob that threatened to burst out. Thoughts of my family has back to me, and my worry has increased tenfold.

"So none of us knows how we got here..." Bree murmurs to herself, turning away from me and looking into the river. I don't know what to do, so I just follow her gaze. She's staring up at some overhanging branches, were clusters of bright red berries grow. "You think we could eat those?" She asks.

I shake my head. "No."

"Why not? Those little animals are eating them." She waves a hand at some small furry creatures hopping around just over the river.

"No. We shouldn't eat any strange or unusual berries. Besides, I think I read somewhere that red berries are usually poisonous."

Bree shrugs, but I can tell that my explanation does little to sway her mind. At last she looks away from the berries. "What about that? Can we touch that backpack?"


Bree points a finger out and I see what she's talking about. A medium-sized black backpack hanging by its straps from a low tree branch. Carefully I approach it and, before grabbing it, I pick up a nearby stick and poke the bag, making sure it isn’t rigged to blow up like our collars or something. It doesn’t move or even tremble. That’s a good sign.

"Why are you poking it with a stick?" Bree crosses her arms as she watches me nervously poke away at the backpack.

"I dunno. Could have been a trap."

"And poking it with a stick would somehow have made the trap ineffective?"

Suddenly I laugh. The thought of the stick protecting me from an explosion is just too ridiculous not to crack up. Bree only manages a wry smile. "Right. Let's see what's inside."

I carefully slide the bag down and unzip it. Sticking my hands into the bag, the first thing I pull out is the most worrying. A large knife. It's the kind you'd imagine a survival man would carry along with him. Large, with a serrated blade ideal for sawing. It's exciting until you realize that this weapon is clearly meant for more than just surviving.

"You mean...Mr. White wants us to kill one another...with knives?" Bree's hushed voice carries over my shoulder, her face suddenly pale with fear.

"It's more personal this way," I mutter darkly. Of course Mr. White would want us to use melee weapons. Who'd want to see teenagers shoot each other to death when you can have them hack one another to pieces instead?

Placing the knife back inside the pouch it came in, I carefully clip the pouch to my belt. Funny. I don't remember wearing a belt before...

"What else do we have?" Bree reaches past me and pulls out a flashlight, which she turns off and on. I search the rest of the pack's contents and find some small useful items. A tube of some kinda medicine, crackers, a box of non-branded cookies. Nothing amazing, but food is always welcome. I'm stowing it all back inside the bag when the datapads on our wrists suddenly begin ringing.

"What is happening?!" Bree screams, springing backwards and staring at her arn like it's a wild animal.

"I don't know..." I lift the datapad up to my face and leap in alarm when the face of Mr. White suddenly appears.

"Congratulations to Sami Bitar and Bree Richmond! It appears that the two of you have found one of my supply packs!" His oily black hair seem to suck in all the light as he grins at the screen with a savage delight. "But you're not the first to do so; Haviana has already gotten herself a sickle, and Chris is arming himself as we speak!"

I share a dubious glance with Bree. So Mr. White is watching us all of us after all...

"But you are the first to form an alliance, which may just give you a hefty advantage. But perhaps not for long, as it appears Jotaro has just found himself a large club..." With one last wink, Mr. White disappears as quickly as he had come.

"Alliance?" Bree says aloud once the forest returns to silence.

"He knows that we're not going to kill one another," I tell her. Mr. White is more perceptive then I had thought. "And I think he's okay with that..."

"He's a psycho," Bree mutters. "Thinking we want to play his stupid game.." I agree, but I don't really have a choice. Mr. White holds all the cards. He wants us to play, so play we must.

Chris Barnard (12:58 P.M)

I crouch atop a large flat rock, looking down at the valley below me. Thanks to the completely visible map on my datapad, I'm exactly sure where I am; the high cliffs located on the northern end and one of the highest points of the island. I can see the entirety of island below me, rugged and craggy, rising sharply from the ocean. I can see everything.

The sloped forests are wreathed in thick fog, giving it a mysterious and threatening appearance. I would be frightened of what dangers this fog could conceal...if I wasn't ranked #1.

I'm the top of the class, the absolute best. No one can harm me. No one can touch me. I'm basically a god here, and everyone else is just a lowly mortal awaiting my judgment.

The hills on the northern end are much higher than anywhere else on the island, about a thousand feet above the ocean, if my rough estimates are correct. And they should be.

Self-consciously I check my datapad, something I've been doing for the past thirty minutes. Even since I first woke up I became aware of the map provided on my datapad...and the extra benefit I received for earning the number one rank. Every hour the map comes alive with blinking dots labelled with different numbers. I didn't know what any of this meant until I read the rules tab, wherein I learned that every hour my map would show me the positions of every other Challenger on the island.

And with this invaluable information, I can proceed ahead with my plan.

The clock suddenly shifts from 12:59 to 1:00. Almost immediately the tiny dots return to my screen, showing up all over the map of the island. The other Challengers are everywhere, from the beaches to the forests and even the collections of houses on the southern end. There's literally no where on the island without one of the blinking dots.

My gaze flies over them all, memorizing the key locations of the top five. #3 is hanging around the forest outside the resort, #4 is nearby, inside the tennis courts, and #5 is at the bottom of the cliffs, traveling in a circular motion around the forest. #2 is...just below me.

A broad smile breaks across my face and I immediately stand. My plan will go into motion almost right away, with very little delay. I grab my bow and sling it over my shoulders. I found this weapon--along with the quiver full of arrows I wear on my back--just lying on the ground not long after I initially woke up. It was very fortunate, seeing as how I've taken archery classes for years and have become quite an expert. Everything just comes up Chris.

I jog down the narrow path that winds down the hill. The early afternoon air is chilly and damp, and the further down I go the more the fog begins to thin, giving me a better look of the landscape.

The forests are obviously of a deciduous temperate variety, nothing special. But I notice that things begin to get more tropical looking the furthest south of the island. Just at the bottom of the cliffs, I can see some indistinct buildings nestled among plants. The resort, I think.

The locations of the other Challengers disappear from my datapad as I continue down the slope, but I don't need it anymore. The locations of the top five are burned into my mind and I doubt that they will get very far before I find them. Especially not #2.

I go only a few more paces down the hill before he cones into sight. Standing straight as he slowly and carelessly makes his way through the grouping of large gray rocks. A scowl plastered on his face as he nearly trips in the mild fog. His hands hold a knife, but that does nothing to worry me.

"Don't move!" I leap down from the path, landing hard atop a flat stone, bow already loaded with an arrow swiveling to face the boy.

The boy snarls in rage and immediately takes a step to the left, only for my arrow to slice past his head, mere inches away from skewering it. "Take another step and you're dead," I tell him.

His green eyes flash with fury, but he does as I command, going absolutely still. "I'm ranked #2," He growls, furious eyes never leaving my face. "You can't harm me."

I nearly burst out laughing. "Yes, I can. I'm #1. You didn't check your datapad very thoroughly, did you?" But I did. I spent a good amount of time studying the names and faces of the others, at least, those ranked in the top five. That's why I know his name, Nicolo Ambrosini.

"You're lying," Nic tells me, head raised high. Though it's stupid and wrong, I have to commend him for his sheer stubbornness.

"Really think so? Check your datapad then."

He does and then curses loudly as he recognizes my face as the one that belongs to #1. He's at my mercy. I allow myself a lazy smile. "So, you see, I have the ability to kill you. The only person on this island who can, actually."

The boy doesn't say anything. He's not too tall, being just under six feet and a half-foot shorter than me, but he's decently muscular and is definitely athletic. His #2 rank was no fluke.

"Don't think about it!" I tighten my grip on my bow as I notice his hand clench around the knife he holds. "I'd kill you before you even threw that knife."

"Why don't you just kill me now then?" He sneers the words with obvious distaste, but I can sense the uncertainty behind his tone. He knows that he's royally screwed. Unless, of course, I have a different plan.

"I'm not going to kill you," I tell him, lowering my bow. I enjoy the look of absolute bewilderment that crosses his face. "At least, not if you help me with something."

"What the hell are you babbling about?" Nic looks around as if he expects someone else to jump out and slay him as I lay my bow down upon the stone. He doesn't understand why I wouldn't just kill him in the spot. A helpful insight into how he thinks, certainly.

"I have a plan," I tell him. He only stares back blankly, confused. "You know that everyone can only kill Challengers ranked below them, don't you?"

"Of course I know that!" Nic snaps. "Everyone knows that!"

I continue, ignoring his hostile words. "Well, I came up with a plan that would ensure that us high-ranks would dominate the games."

The boy looks at me oddly for a moment before throwing his head back and laughing. "Oh? Did you now? I'm sure all that thinking must have been tough for you."

I bite my lip. This guy isn't much of a team player. He'll be quite the headache if my plan is to succeed, but he'd also help take the target off from me. Something that would prove most useful. "Are you listening or not?"

He shrugs. "Go on, finish your tale."

"Fine, I will." To show my annoyance, I pick my bow back up. Instantly his expression turns to one of slight discomfort. He doesn't like not being the one in charge. "Well, my plan is to find all of the other Challengers ranked within the top five and form a truce with them. We would all join together and hunt down the lower ranked Challengers. You see, they would be completely unable to kill us yet we would be able to kill them."

I don't mention the real reason I want this plan to work out; with all of the top killers on the island in my gang--and under my thumb--I will be simultaneously capable of being able to dictate who dies and who lives as well as keeping an eye on my biggest threats. Thus, I will be able to keep my highest rank. And as long as I'm ranked #1, no one can harm me. But I can harm them. Plus, I will be able to kill any of them at any time, useful if they grow too dangerous for their own good.

"Interesting," Nic, who has been silent throughout my speech, muses, patting the flat of his knife against his chin. "Very interesting. Except, you forgot the fact that all of us could already do this on our own. Thus, we have no need for this "truce" of yours."

I nod along. "Yes, but if we weren't together we'd be fighting one another as well, along with having a harder time tracking the others. You see, my map shows me the locations of every other Challenger..."

Nic looks up sharply. "What did you just say?" I repeat myself and he shakes his head in disbelief. "No frickin' way. They gave you that big of an advantage?"

I can't stop the smug smile that spreads along my face. "Yes. Yes they did." Conveniently I forget to mention the fact that it's only because of my #1 rank. Nic and the others may figure it out for themselves later, but for now it serves to let them think it's for some other reason.

"So," I incline my head at the smaller boy. "Are you in? Will you join me in my truce?"

Nic let's out a short laugh, throwing his arms out in the air. "Doesn't seem like I really have a choice, does it?"

I shrug. "Not really, no."

Eyes flashing with a curious light, he throws me a crooked smile. "Then I guess I'm in."

I return his smile with a wide grin. "Welcome to the team."

Umbreon Martell (1:35 P.M)

I sit with my back against the cliff wall that grows tall up at the corner of the beach, watching the water moving and receding as the tide changes. The scents of the beach reach my nose. I smell saltwater, I smell decomposing seaweed and other life forms. I smell the dead jellyfish that have washed up, the scent of the woods to my left brought on by the breeze wafting across my face, though it's not really a breeze so much as it is a pocket of disturbed air. I hug my knees as I stare out into the endless gray waves, only capable of thinking about one person.

Where are you, Espeon? Where have you gone, beloved sister?

I squeeze my eyes shut tight, trying to bring back memories of where I was before this dreadful beach. It's useless. I know it is. I've been trying and trying for the past hour and a half, trying desperately to reclaim some semblance of memories. Nothing comes back to me. Nothing alleviates the dark despair that I feel.

Mr. White's grinning face flashes across my mind. His ghoulish white sunglasses staring into my soul as he raves on about how he's kidnapped me and plans on having me killed by teenagers.

But I don't care much for that. I don't care what's happening to me. I'll find a way to survive, I always do. But what about Espeon? What has become of her? Mr. White didn't kidnap her as well, which means that he left her where she was. On the streets. Without me.

How will she survive?

My twin sister alone on the streets, with no idea where I've gone...How will she react? Will she be able to survive on her own? Where was she when I was taken? I can't remember. I can't remember...

My eyes blink open and I stare wearily at the ocean. Thick fog covers the waves, a recent addition to the scenery. Everything was bright and cheerful when I first woke up here. I was so confused, unable to think on how I would have gotten to a beach when we lived nowhere near one. Well, now I know. I wish I didn't. Then I could fool myself into thinking this was all a dream.

I shift my body further into the cleft of the cliffs, hugging my blanket close to me. I don't know why, but it was right next to me when I woke up. It, along with the clothes on my back and a small assortment of fruit I've found in the caves, are the only possessions I have. I'd feel good, if I knew that Espeon had some food and shelter. But I don't. I don't know anything about her.

Stifling a sob, I oll over onto my side and stare into the wall. "Espeon...I miss you..."

Lucas Adin (2:30 P.M)

The interior of the lighthouse is drafty and quiet. The bottom floor is a large, circular room filled with disorganized piles of packing crates. I've already cracked a few of these open with the help a knife I found just outside, but there's nothing inside but styrofoam and mothballs. Very peculiar.

It's very well that I found this lighthouse, for it will both protect me from the elements and has already given me access to a small amount of supplies. Along with my knife, I've found a slingshot, coil of rope, and a single flare. No food though. I'll need to find my own sustenance if I mean to survive for long.

I stiffen as a birdcall goes up outside. Eyes sliding over to the door. Is someone coming? No...The door remains shut. I rub my temples and sigh. This stupid "game" is making me more paranoid then I have ever been before. I'm worried about even the slightest of movement. It's understandable, of course. There's plenty of people out to kill me, if Mr. White is telling the truth.

I glance warily at the rickety metal spiral staircase that leads up to the lighthouses top floor. I want to check it out, but if someone were to come in here whilst I was climbing...There'd be no escape.

Not willing to take that chance, I grip a nearby crate by the edges and drag it over to the door, propping it right under the handle. Once I'm satisfied that it's securely blocked, I turn and head up to the top floor, taking two stairs at a time.

It's not long before I arrive at the top. Stepping inside the large circular rooom, I'm immediately drawn to the wide glass windows that encircle me on all sides. Bypassing the actual light producing portion of the lighthouse, I press myself against the window, gazing out on the island below.

It spreads out far below me. The golden sand of the westernmost beach is just nearby, waves crashing and receding along its shore. Green forest spreads alongside this, stretching far into the center of the island. Through the fog, I can just make out the vague form of a river winding its way through the trees, twisting and stunting as it reaches from one side of the island to the other. I make a mental note of its location. Water will be a very precious commodity in these Games.

To the north high cliffs covered in a thick fog jut out from the earth, towering even over the lighthouse. I suppose that a handful of Challengers will head up that way in hopes of avoiding the others, but for their sake I hope they have supplies. I very much doubt that they will find much in such a desolate and dreary locale.

Minutes pass as I survey the island grounds, jotting down notes and making plans. Water should be my first priority; I'll die shortly without any. And as I don't see any small ponds or streams in the forest--they're either concealed by the trees or nonexistent--and ocean water is not for drinking, my only course of action is to head for the river.

I'd rather not make such a perilous venture, especially not with a low rank like the one I currently possess, but I have no other recourse. I need water.

With a deep sigh I shake my head and stretch my legs. After I get the water I should return here. I have no idea how cold the nights will be and the fog that is gradually drifting down from the cliffs seems like it will make overall visibility degrade considerably. Something I do not want to experience first hand.

"Get some water, Lucas," I mutter to myself. "Get some water and return here. That's the plan." I suppose this is a test in how neatly plans go down in the White Games.

Imogen Sykes (3:43 P.M)

When I went to sleep yesterday, I never once thought that I'd spend the next afternoon aimlessly wandering an island forest with a girl named Oreo.

"I hate the wilderness," Oreo mutters as she pushes her way through the undergrowth that continually snags at our clothes.

"Uh-huh..." I murmur a response as I slowly follow behind her. The girl is pretty nice and rarely does anything to make me uncomfortable, but her appearance is...odd. Her hair is a bright pink, for one. And her eyes...for some unimaginable reason they're an intense shade of orange. When I first stumbled upon her, I'm not ashamed to admit that I thought she was a monster and screamed my head off.

Luckily, she didn't react too badly and we soon got around to talking. She explained that she was another Challenger, #24 to be exact, and asked if she could hang out with me. Well, I couldn't just say no. That would be wrong. Besides, I really wanted to have another person to wander around this strange island with. Being alone is the last thing I currently want.

So that's how we got to this point. I actually know very little about Oreo. But I do know that I can trust her because she's such a nice girl, and, well, she's so thin and fragile she doesn't look like she could harm a fly.

"Can we stop and rest?" Oreo stops and bends over, placing one hand against a tree as she pants. "I don't think I can continue at this pace for much longer."

I frown. We haven't been moving at a very fast pace, we've been walking slowly for the past two hours. But then again, we have been constantly moving for two hours. "Okay," I nod at her and plop myself down on the ground. "We can rest for a little while."

"Thank you!" Oreo flashes me a grateful smile and slowly, gracefully seats herself down, neatly tucking her legs underneath her.

It's slightly disconcerting how much she looks like a doll. Her head is round and thin, her nose is very small and only slightly pointed, and her neck is long and she's always holds her head high in the air, like she's challenging the world to comment on her appearance.

I scratch my neck in silence for a moment, wondering what I should say. "So..Oreo, huh? Like the cookie?"

"Huh?" Oreo looks up from where her orange eyes have been watching a beetle crawl up a nearby leaf.

"Oreo cookies," I say. "You know about them, right?"

"No...." Oreo's thin, almost non-existent eyebrows knit themselves together. "What are they?"

Huh. Doesn't know about Oreos...I'm surprised. You'd have thought that she would have been teased about her name for her entire life. I wonder if her parents even knew or if they just thought the name sounded good. "It doesn't matter," I say before Oreo can question me further.

"Oh. Okay."

We both fall silent again. The forest around us is alive with sounds, but they're all natural sounds I've heard a million times before while fishing with my father. If a person was nearby, I'd be able to tell by the way the wildlife would react.

Oreo isn't nearly as comfortable as I am though. She jumps at every little sound, even if the animal that made it is only a few feet away. And when the wind begins to pick up and shake the trees, she shrinks into the ground and stares into the sky with her wide eyes.

Obviously she's not used to nature, and its not helping that she's wearing a ridiculous multi-colored dress that matches absolutely nothing about her and that her shoes have high-heels.

Huh. Why is she dressed like that? "What were you doing?" I suddenly ask her. "Before....before all this?"

"Before...?" Oreo tilts her head to one side.

I gesture with my hands. "You know, before we woke up here? The last thing I remember was getting ready to sleep. I was going on a fishing trip with my dad in the morning and..." I trail off as thoughts of my parents come flooding back. Mr. White said that they would be watching on the internet...They must be worried sick about me. I flinch like a rusty nail has been driven through my chest.

"Oh!" Oreo nods. "Before we were kidnapped, you mean." She pauses, as if thinking. "I was at a dinner party. My parents were hosting it and just about everyone was there, so I had to come. I was watching the dancers, then..." Her eyes slide shut and small fingers stroke her head. "I can't remember. I know that something was happening, something important, but I can't remember!"

Her eyes shoot open and I see the distress reflected in her orange orbs. Despite feeling the exact same thing, my maternal instincts kick in. "It's okay," I say soothingly. "None of us remember. Mr. White did something to our heads, our memories. It's not your fault."

Oreo shakes her head. "I know, I know. But..." She bites her lip, staring off into the sky. "It just feels like there's something I should remember."

Well, I don't know what to make of that--if there's even anything to make of it--but I do know that we should get moving. There's twenty-two other Challengers on this island, and I unfortunately doubt they will all be as friendly as Oreo.

At my suggestion we both get up and head west. I feel like there should be something that way, as we've already spent a few good hours walking in that direction. This is an island, so we should eventually end up at the shore, right? Well, it'd be easier to get a grasp of what to do when we know the parameters of this island.

So west we go.

Oreo and I talk about our past lives as we walk. Apparently her parents are super rich and super lenient. They not only let her completely change her appearance, but they encouraged her as well.

She's also extremely creative, having always loved everything to do with art, including drawing, painting, photography, you name it. The girl is a serious artist. She even has a few of her own designs on her arms.

But the part of her life that most gets my attention is how socially withdrawn she is. She rarely speaks with anyone outside her mother and was often made fun of as a child. When I ask her why she's so friendly with me, she stops and gazes at me thoughtfully.

"You seem like a kindred spirit," She says. "I feel like you could understand what I do. Besides, you're nice and didn't kill me. That's always a good thing!"

I smile and thank her. She's right. I've felt the effects of being bullied, of being ostracized by others. Back in Boston I was always being bossed around and picked on. Even by someone I thought was my friend. Especially by him.

I don't understand. I've never been anything but kind to people. Why do they single me out? Why Oreo? Is there something wrong with us? Something we can't see? It can't be my personality or weight, but then--

"Imogen!" Oreo interrupts my thoughts, her small hands clinging around my shoulders and shaking me.

"What are you doing?!" I rip her hands off me and pull away. "Don't you think you should--"


My head snaps around. Making their way through the forest, not more than a dozen feet away, is another person. Small, thin and with strawberry blonde hair, I recognize the form of Nora as she grumbles and groans about the flies buzzing around her head. It doesn't seem as if she's noticed us yet.

"She's not a threat," I tell Oreo. "She's ranked #23. She can't harm me."

"She can harm me!" Oreo's hands clutch my arm so hard her fingernails dig into my skin. I can't possibly imagine why she'd be worried about Nora. The girl is younger and smaller than both of us, not to mention that she's also unarmed.

"She's not just--" Oreo doesn't allow me to take any time explaining. She leaps behind a large fallen tree and before I can protest, she's pulling me in beside her. "This is ridiculous!" I find myself furiously whispering as Oreo has us duck low behind the dying branches of the big tree. "She obviously isn't a threat!"

"You don't know that!" Oreo peeks through a gap in the branches, her wide eyes making look remarkably like a terrified owl.

As much as I've liked Oreo, I find her worry to be very much unnecessary here. Nora is probably the furthest thing from a threat that we have. In fact, I bet I could get her to team with us if I only asked. I try peddling the idea to Oreo and she gives me a dubious look.

"You could try," She says slowly. "But you'd have to speak to her on your own. I fully expect she'd attack me on sight. I'm the only one she's capable of killing, after all."

Ah. That explains her almost nonsensical fear then. Carefully I look up and watch Nora as she turns and begins to head back the way she came, grumbling all the while. She's still painfully unaware of our presence and I don't know if that makes our hiding ability good or her awareness very poor.

Either way, I have to be careful on how I approach herm I don't want to startle her and accidentally scare her off. That wouldn't work out for anyone. But before I can decide, Nora suddenly freezes. Her shoulders go rigid as her slowly turns to look up.

Then she screams.

The next instant a black figure drops from the trees, landing on Nora's shoulders and driving her to the ground. The girl's terrified screams echo around the forest as she scuffles around on the ground with her attacker.

"We have to help her!" I shoot to my feet, ready to jump to Nora's aid, when hands grab me from behind and roughly shove me back under the tree.

"Do you want to get yourself killed?!" Oreo hisses into my ear. Her hands are still wrapped firmly around my shoulders, determination flashing in her orange eyes.

"Get off me!" I try to throw her off, but when she stubbornly clings on I find that the girl has more strength then I had originally thought. "He might kill her!"

A particularly loud scream punctuates my words, and I'm about to fling Oreo off and leap out from hiding when Oreo's hand brushes a branch away and reveals a window to the attack.

Nora lies on the ground, arms pinned to the ground by her attackers knees. He's a boy, dressed entirely in black and with frizzy unkempt hair. In one hand he holds a stone the size of a baseball, the other clutches Nora's neck, holding her head in place. The trapped girl sees what he means to do and let's out one last scream.

"Help me! Oh, God! Someone help--"

The stone crashes down against her skull and she goes quiet. The boy cocks his head, as if curious to why she's stopped screaming. Then he raises the stone and smashes it down again, and again, and again. I feel bile rising in my throat and turn away from the scene to vomit.

"She's dead," Oreo's whisper sounds in my ears as I empty my stomach. "She's dead." The first fatality. Mr. White must be giddy with joy right now. How long did it take before we broke down and played his game? Three hours? Four? Not long enough. Not nearly long enough. I hold my eyes shut, try not to think about what I just saw. We're still in danger. If that boy finds us...We'd be the next to die.

Against my better wishes I turn back to observe the scene. The boy is now standing over Nora's corpse, staring down at it with a lopsided smile on his face. How could he smile after killing that poor girl? What is wrong with him?

The boy eventually turns away from the scene, making a small chortling noise. First I think that we've gotten off, that we'll be safe. Then something comes along to dash that thought.

Our datapads begin to ring.

It's loud and shrill, like a fire alarm. It comes from all our pads, even the boy's. On screen, a tiny red X flashes across Nora's face as she slips from 23rd place to 24th, bumping Oreo up one.

"Imogen...." Oreo tugs on my sleeve.


"Look." She points a finger at the boy, whose now standing with his head cocked to one side and staring right at us.

My throat goes dry and panic kicks in. "!"

Fausto Grandeur (4:05 P.M)

The alarm slowly fades away, the image of Nora Lemori ceasing to flash as it takes its new spot at the bottom of the rankings.

I stare at my armband for over three minutes, wondering what I should be feeling. According to the rules, this means that Nora is dead. Some girl has just been killed, been murdered, all for some stupid game. I should be mortified, horrified.

So why do I only feel relief?

Does this make me a terrible person? I don't know. Mr. White said that the only way for me to stay alive is for everyone else to die. So is it wrong when I'm glad to see the others die? Outside this island, I'd never--well, almost never--want to see anyone else die. But here...somehow I think being relieved at the girl's death is the proper feeling.

Messed up, huh?

I sit down on the edge of the large crate I've stumbled upon not more than twenty minutes ago. It was pretty lucky, considering that this thing was just sitting out in the open in the middle of a paradise-like beach. Can't believe no one else has found it.

I bite into an apple I've found inside the crate as I stare out into the waves, at the pounding surf and cascading waves, reflecting the light of the sun peeking through the clouds. Overhead, seagulls carelessly circle in the sky. My sockless feet touch against the golden sand, joyfully basking in the warmth of the day, even with the occasional cloud. Considering where I was before Mr. White "kidnapped" me, I'd say this situation was pretty swell.

If only I didn't have to worry about people trying to kill me.

I finish with the apple and chuck the core overhead, it lands on the sand behind me with a 'plunk' and rolls away. I don't care where it goes. Littering is perfectly acceptable on this island. Casually, I peek into the crate beside me. Along with the four remaining apples, I have a bag of salted pretzels, some kind of advanced night-vision goggles, and two different containers titled "Bromine" and "Chlorine". I feel like I could make something with those, but I'm not sure what.

Oh, and I also have this super wicked cool tent that I've already set up on the beach. Heh. Like I said, this is paradise.

Closing my eyes, I lean back on the crate and bask in the limited sun, just enjoying life. Mr. White probably would have made more money selling vacations to this place. He would have made a killing. Heh. Killing...It's kinda--

Screams fill the air, snapping me out of my daydreams. I'm on my feet, glancing around the beach, searching for something to defend myself. The undergrowth up on the forest is shaking, rapid movement sending birds flying into the air, screeching warnings.

No time. No time to run. I reach a hand into the crate and pull out the container of chlorine. It's better than nothing. I crouch beside the crate, adopting a defensive position. When they emerge, I'm going--

Two girls explode out onto the beach, screaming their heads off. They only get a few steps before the one in the back trips and smacks into the other, sending them both rolling forward and down a sand dune.

"What the hell is this...?" I'm not even worried anymore as I stand straight, watching the two girls comically roll down the sand dune right towards me like a scene from some bizarre movie.

They come to a halt just a few feet away from me. They lie flat on the ground, coughing and hacking as they slowly come to their senses. This gives me plenty of time to observe them, and I soon realize that they're both ranked lower than I am. They're also both very pretty, if a bit thin.

"Hello there!" I greet one of them, a blonde with shiny green eyes, as she slowly gets to her feet. "Nice to have you drop in."

She starts in surprise as her gaze slowly comes to focus on me, and I quickly hold a hand up. "Calm down, I'm not going to kill you." Not like I could, I don't even have a weapon.

She doesn't say anything, only blinking in gratitude before sitting back on the ground and staring off into space with a blank expression. Strange.

The other girl, a pink haired beauty wearing a fancy dress that's been ripped in several places, sits up and looks around with a narrowed gaze. "Imogen? Where...are we?" Her eyes, a curious orange, shift and find me. Immediately she squeaks in alarm and begins to crawl away.

"No! Wait!" The blonde leaps to her feet, running over and helping the other girl up. "He said he wouldn't harm us!"

"And you believed him?!" The girl turns on her friend with a glare. "After what we just saw? How can you trust anyone?!"

This is confusing and I don't like confusing. I raise both arms over my head in an effort to show my intentions. "I don't mean to harm you, you have my word."

The two of them share a glance. "You don't understand," The blond says.

"You didn't see what we did," The other agrees.

"Okay. What did you see?" It's a reasonable question, but the two girls blanch away like I asked them something insulting. Then, our datapads come to life. Naturally I pull it up to my face, where I spot Mr. White standing in his usual dark room, wearing his typical snarky smile.

"What did they see indeed. Do you really wish to know, Fausto?"

"What?" I'm taken back. He just spoke to me. Me. He used my name, responded to a question I just asked. I thought he was a pre-recorded message, but that's not the case evidently.

"Do you really wish to see?" Mr. White asks again, his gloved hands steepling together.

"Can you hear me?" I ask stupidly. He laughs.

"Of course I can. A one-way conversation would be inadequate, no?"

"But...aren't you speaking with everyone?" Doesn't the same message play across all the datapads? "Aren't the others seeing this?"

Mr. White smiles and wags a finger at the screen. "Of course not. I can project to individual datapads, if I so choose. I thought you'd grasp that fact. Apparently you're quite daft. Makes me think twice about my decision to free you from that unnatural cesspool I plucked you from."

Face reddening with a mix of embarrassment and shame, I open my mouth to snap off a retort when Mr. White cuts me off. "No, don't speak. It's not your turn just because I pause." He stops to adjust his suit, dusting it off with gloved hands. "Now, as I was saying, I can contact any single Challenger at any time and speak privately with them. Like thus."

My datapad suddenly goes blank and then I hear Mr. White's voice emitting from Oreo's wrist across from me. "See, Fausto? I am quite capable of this little feat." My datapad flickers back on and Mr. White is on my screen once more. "I did not expect I would need such a demonstration, but I had forgotten how stupid teenagers could be."

I don't say anything. He's purposely ticking me off, trying to make me lose my cool. Probably thinks it's good for ratings or something like that. "Oh? What's that? No snarky comeback? How quaint."

Still no reply. I'm not going to play his games.

"Very well. I will leave you with the video you had inquired about. Hopefully it will motivate you, because Nero is quite the little bugger."

The image of Mr. White shifts. Now my datapad shows something new, a video. A girl lies n the ground, screaming and thrashing. A boy sits atop of her, stone in hand as he proceeds to violently smash the girls face in.

My stomach churns. The video ends with the boy, Nero, standing victorious over the girl, her face smashed beyond recognition. He smiles just as the screen flickers off. "You saw this?" I ask the two girls across from me. I can't imagine how they felt. Watching that happen only a few feet away...

"It's terrible," The pink girl whimpers.

"He chased us," The blonde adds. "But we got away. I don't wanna think what could have happened if we didn't..." I don't either. That boy meant business, and his type of business isn't anything I want to experience.

"He won't find us here," I suddenly say.

"Us?" The girls look at me in surprise.

I nod. "I'm not going to let you out there on your own, not after seeing that." There's safety in numbers. And I can only hope that others don't make their own groups to combat our numbers.

Alana Salazar (5:47 P.M)

Dull waves of grey light presses slowly through the cold dark stone walls that forms my cave. I sit here in silence, looking out from one of the small cracks between the stone, scouting for potential Challengers approaching.

I see nothing, of course. I've seen nothing at all this day. Absolutely nothing. But that doesn't mean they're not out there, just because I can't see them. Someone could be out there right now, hiding behind one of the large black boulders or one of the sparsely laden pine trees.

I'm not sure where I currently am. I woke up not far from here, leaning against one of those pine trees. I looked around for a bit, wandered in a circle, then listened to Mr. White's message. After that, I stayed close to hiding positions as I fearfully kept an eye out for any humans.

So far I've seen none.

But my worry will not abate. I'm terrified by the prospect of being discovered by a high ranked Challenger, of being killed by their hand. I'm not silly enough to try and make myself think that I'm tougher than everyone else because I'm ranked fifteenth. I'm not strong or physical in any way. My best chance of survival is staying out of everyone's way.

So that's just what I'm going to do.

According to my datapad, a girl has already been killed. I didn't know her, but she seemed similar to me. Small, slight, quick. Maybe intelligent. Somehow, I think I would have gotten along with her. But now she's dead.

I spent a good amount of time studying the faces of the other Challengers, wondering which one of them killed her, which one was a murderer. It could have been anyone, Nora was #23, so everyone could kill her. Except for Oreo.

Outside, the wind begins to pick up and fog rolls in. Not too thick, but it's very presence unsettles me. It could conceal anything, in could help conceal me.

Should I risk going out? I need water. When I woke up, I did find a small packet lying nearby, but it didn't have any water. Just a blowgun, three darts, and a box of matches. Nothing that would help quench my thirst.

It wasn't bothersome at first, but now it has been hours since I've woke up, and who knows how long since I've last had a drink. I need water or I risk becoming dehydrated. And that would not do.

So I have to risk going outside.

I crouch down and begin to squeeze myself through the tiny gap that serves as the caves entrance. As uncomfortable as forcing myself through this gap every time I want to leave is, I know that this works to my advantage. If I, being as small and lithe as I am, have trouble fitting inside, I know that the larger people on this island will have no chance of ever getting inside.

After escaping the narrow tunnel, I emerge into the outside world. Fog is everywhere, clinging to the high cliff walls at my back and wreathing around the pine trees. I take a tentative step forward, half-expecting to be assailed by some unseen attacker. But of course, I don't.

"Hope a stream is nearby," I mutter as I head off towards the forest in the distance. I begin to walk in patterns, hiding behind rocks and stones and ledges, checking for any other humans every now and then. Near the horizon the sun is smouldering dimly, almost obscured by formless fog and vapors, giving off an impression of mass and density without outline or tangibility. It adds to the creepiness factor immensely.

I'm shivering from a slight chill when I hear a very welcome sound. Running water.

I push through the fog, hastily heading for the sound. The forest is still a bit in the distance, leading me to believe that this is a mountain stream leading from the cliffs to the north. I go only a few paces more before I stumble upon it.

Milky white water runs in a fast pace between the rock cleft, sparkling rocks shining from underneath the water. It would have been pretty had the sky not been so grey and the rocks around me not been so black and intimidating.

I crouch and slowly sneak towards the stream. Upon reaching it, I kneel and cup my hands into the water, allowing the icy cold water rush over them. I lift the water to my mouth and drink. It's hard to describe how it feels... When you're this thirsty, water feels like the sweetest of nectar running down your throat. I take another grateful gulp and then a few more.

By the time I get my fill, I'm thinking of ways I could make a container to try and store some of this water. It will not do to expose myself like this every time I need a simple drink. Perhaps I can think of something, but not now. My usually bright mind feels slow and sluggish. I need rest and some sleep. Then I can come up with something. I turn to head back to my cave.

He appears before I can react. Before I can yell out. He's just there. Wind billowing against frame. Big eyes peering over his large nose as he opens his mouth and reveals a missing front tooth. He takes a single step forward.

And I punch him in the face.

He cries out in pain and stumbles backwards, tripping over a loose stone and falling backwards into the river, where he splashes down with a shriek.

I turn and sprint away as he flails about wildly, yelling and gasping in the icy water. The fog whips against my face as I hurtle through the moor, desperately pumping my legs and jumping over fallen stones.

Is he chasing me? Does it matter? I hurtle over a large stone and land on my feet, only to promptly slip on a smooth stone. I let out an exclamation of sharp pain and push myself back up with violent effort, one hand shooting to my ankle. Everything seems faint and dizzy, I put out my free hand while reeling backwards, seeking support against the air. When I finally steadied myself I stepped forward, but reeled again and nearly fall. I grit my teeth and shake my head, forcing myself onwards.

My left ankle sears with tremendous pain as I limp forward, rushing for my cave. I don't want to think of what might happen if he catches me.

Soon my cave comes into sight and I throw myself on the ground, frantically squirming myself through the narrow gap. Panting and gasping the whole way.

It's not until I'm safely inside do I lie down and collect my thoughts. My ankle still hurts like hell, but I ostensibly check my datapad, searching for the face of the boy who surprised me at the river.

When I find him, I feel extremely stupid.

He's ranked lower than I am, much lower. He couldn't have hurt me. I ran away and hurt myself for no reason.

I'm such an idiot.

Justine Leonard (6:45 P.M)

I come upon the resort lodge just as the sun begins to sink behind the foggy clouds. The entire lodge is surrounded by a fence, with bars of inch thick steel. The fence is gracefully decorated and painted black to resemble wrought iron, but no cosmetic effect can hide the thickness of the metal or it's twelve-foot height.

It may be a resort, but it looks a lot like a fortress.

I drift along the edge of the fence, seeking a way inside. The bars are too close together to slip through, even for my lean frame. At first I don't think I'll find a way inside, and I begin to grimace at the thought of spending the night out in the forest, where any other Challenger could stumble upon me, when I spot the gate.

I sidle up to the gate and give it an experimental tug. It's unlocked. Good. I slip inside, the metal hinges of the gate, rusted from the constant fog, creak loudly as I shut it behind me. I wince. If anyone else was nearby, they could have heard that.

Hopefully no one else is nearby.

Beyond the fence, I come upon a swimming pool, which spills over with waterfalls and other rocky pools. Large ferns grew close around the waters edge, giving the place an overwhelming paradise-island like image.

Hah. Did Mr. White make all this himself? For some reason I don't think so. It would be far too much work for the smarmy guy. But...then who did? Does he have a crew working for him? Or was this all here before Mr. White found the island? It's a possibility, albeit an unlikely one.

Regardless of how this place came to be, I just need to find shelter.

Two buildings come into view as I walk past the bubbling pool. One is beige colored, with a low roof and spherical glass domes stretching dramatically above. The other is two stories high, entirely glass, and with exposed black anodized girders and support beams. It looks determinedly modern, yet extremely fragile. It seems that a single stone could send the entire building collapsing.

With this disturbing thought in mind, I choose to enter the first building.

Entering the lowly door, I find myself inside a great hall. A reception desk sits nearest the door, empty except for being covered with papers and a bust of Benjamin Franklin's head. Clusters of solid, simple furniture hug light hardwood floors. Vast tapestries hang on the walls, woven with strange markings and hieroglyphs. A stacked rock fireplace that climbed to the ceiling dominated the far wall and a roaring fire blazed inside.

I frown when I see this. Why is it on? Doesn't it require someone to light it? Suddenly very uneasy, I glance around at the adjacent hallways, all of them branching off with separate doora that most probably lead to bedrooms. This is a resort, after all.

The thought of the rooms gives me the unimaginably creepy image of someone hiding in a room, waiting for me to just let my guard down so they can jump out and get me... "Get ahold of yourself, Justine!" I slap my own head as I walk up to one of the tapestries. Like anyone would hiding here just waiting for me. They'd have better things to do then just wait for me. There's twenty-three others to kill, after all.

Mind put at some ease, I study the tapestry before me. It probably wasn't a good idea, as its actually pretty creepy. Engraved with images of strange monsters, like deer-headed men and a giant figure made out of what looks like blades. Then there's a tribe of hunters, and a pack of ferocious wolves. I'm vaguely reminded of Native American drawings and stuff like that. Did some ancient tribe once live here? Or were these imported?


Something heavy slams against the floor and I spin around, eyes bugging with fear. A person stands in the doorway of one of the halls, staring at me with an incredulous expression.

I let out a scream. Not of fear, no. My scream is of pure joy.

"Felix!" I cover the distance between us at a mad sprint, throwing my hands around my brothers neck and pulling him in for a hug as tears pour from my eyes. "It's you! Oh, God. It's really you!"

"I...Justine?" My twin brother's voice cracks with emotion as his own hands wrap around me in a hug. "How...why are you here?"

I'm sobbing too hard to answer. I thought he was dead. I thought I'd never see him again. Images of the last time I saw him flash through my mind. When he was taken.

I would never see Felix again.

Until now.

"H-how...were did you go?" I finally force out through my stammering lips.

"I don't really...It's long and hard to explain." Felix sounds utterly lost. His despair breaks my heart. "But why are you here? I didn't see your name on the rankings.

That stuns me. I remember checking my own list, and I could have sworn he wasn't there. Did..did Mr. White purposely hide us from each other? But that would--

"Oh, hello there."

A new voice splits through the air. Felix and I break apart and turn to see a trio of large, muscular boys standing in the entrance to the lodge. Two of them hold knives. The third holds a bow loaded with an arrow.

This he aims right at Felix's skull.

A sinister smile spreads across his face. "I think we should have a little chat."

Tristan Kaplan (6:59 P.M)

Chris smiles as he aims his bow at the tall, blue haired boy. His sister's face pales as she crowds around him, watching the three of us with wide eyes.

"A chat about what?" The boy--Felix Leonard, if the rankings are to be believed--retorts, eyes narrowing against the tip of Chris' arrow. I don't know how they were so hard to find. Even with them appearing on Chris' map every hour, they still somehow managed to elude us until now.

I feel bad for them. Especially since they have no idea what's going on. They don't know that Chris doesn't really plan on killing them, that Nic and I aren't just some hired goons. They don't know any of this. They're just terrified out of their minds, frightened that we're about to kill them.

In short, they're reacting just like I did when Chris and Nic cornered me in the forest and forced me to join their "alliance".

Chris smiles again. Really, he should stop with those. It just makes him look evil, or maybe constipated. Both. Constipated evil. "About you two joining our alliance."

"Group?" The girl, Justine, shifts her gaze from Chris to Nic to me and then back to Chris. "You guys are an alliance?"

I stifle a scornful laugh. What else would she think we were? A boy band? Chris merely cocks his head. "Yes, we are. And I am offering you a chance to join..."

And thus begins his proposition. I've heard it before, when he was offering me the chance to join him. It's not really a choice though, when your only options are "join me or die." Would anyone choose to die? Maybe a retard, but no sane person would.

So I chose to join them. Usually I'd never let someone control my actions like this, I hate being bossed around, but this is a special case. Chris made it very clear that my only chance at survival was at his side.

But herein lies a problem. I'm stuck at Chris' side. His plan is for us to hunt down the other Challengers as a group, to use our combined might and privileged ranks as security buffer between us and our victims. Sounds good, right? Well, not if dislike the thought of killing innocent kids as I do. Then this "alliance" is anything but good. Not that I let the others know that.

Chris continues his sales pitch and the Leonard siblings watch him with curious eyes. They like what they hear, but I don't know if it's because they relish the thought of running roughshod over the island or are just glad he's letting them live.

I glance sideways at Nic. The other member of our alliance, he had already been recruited by Chris before I met him. As such, I don't know how he reacted to the idea. What I do know, is that he harbours a very obvious grudge against Chris. Anytime the taller boy looms away, I catch him glaring ominously at him, or rolling his eyes at, and clenching his fists together whenever Chris asserts his authority.

But I don't think it's the implications of violence that upset him. Anytime fighting or killing is mentioned, I think I see a sinister light flicker on in his eyes. Nic reminds me of Dominic Frato, a guy I knew back in Detroit. Only, he seems like a competent Dominic. Which is a very frightening thing.

"That's a great idea!" Felix says once Chris finishes with his offer.

"Yeah!" His sister nods her head quickly. "Brilliant!"

Once again I don't know if they're just telling him what he wants to hear or if they actually mean it. I guess it doesn't really matter.

"Then welcome to the team!" Chris slings the bow across his back and smiles broadly. "Meet Nic and Tristan!"

There's brief introductions, if you really call them that. Nic isn't one for small talk and merely grunts at them. I don't want them to think me weak, so I tip my head coolly and say a few words. I can't help but notice how Felix's eyes narrow.

"Great group you got here," He says to Chris.

The tall boy shrugs. "Mr. White was really the one who chose them. I merely put them together." He can't hide the pride that swells in his voice. Uppity prick.

"So what now?" Justine eyes Nic and I cautiously, as if she doesn't quite trust us. The feelings mutual. I'm well aware that, despite being #5, I'm the lowest ranked Challenger present. I'm the only one everyone can kill.

My grip tightens around the dagger in my hand.

"Have you searched this building for supplies?" Chris asks the pair. "Or hiding Challengers?"

The two exchange a look then shake their heads. "No," Felix speaks for them. "We haven't."

"Then let's search."

Chris begins to order us all to split up, but it becomes obvious that Justine refuses to leave her brother's side. It takes some bargaining, but eventually Chris has them both go up to search the second floor. After they're up the staircase and out of earshot, he turns to us. "I'm going to stay in the lobby. Don't want those two ditching."

"You don't trust them?" I ask, surprised.

He turns and gives me a long, searching look. "No. No, I do not. They're siblings, meaning they're closer to one another then anything else." He pauses to scratch his chin. When he continues, it's more like he's mumbling to himself. "That bond makes them dangerous...might have to deal with them...sooner--" He suddenly notices that we're still here. "What are you waiting for? Get searching!"

Nic takes the east wing so I'm left with the west wing. As I enter the first room, a simple, beige colored place with rattan furniture and a unresponsive television, I think back to what Chris just said.

Deal with them sooner? Sooner than what? Has he been plotting to get rid of them? I don't know if that should come as too much of a surprise. Everyone has to kill everyone else for them to live. No wonder Chris has a plan to deal with threats. But...

That includes me, doesn't it? Does he already have a plot to deal with me too?

I grit ny teeth together as I look into the closet. There's nothing inside but stacks of lumber and an electrical conduit, so I move on to the next room. All the while worrying about Chris and the others. This is really a very tremulous alliance. If Chris ever wanted to kill one of us, he could do it without fear of repercussion. Without us being able to harm him. Even Nic has that advantage; only Chris poses a threat to him.

This alliance sucks.

The next few rooms I check are similarly outfitted. Furniture, bed, TV, but no supplies. Just a standard room. It's not until I reach the very end of the hall do I find a rustic survival box hidden under the bed. Inside is iodine, food, a compass, a toothbrush, matches, and simple bandages.

So Mr. White was telling the truth when he said there was supplies hidden around the island. Something tells me that there are more important items hidden in the wilderness then little survivor kits. Weapons? Transportation? Armor? Technology? Mr. White can't mean for us to kill one another with just simple hunting knives. More dangerous and advanced weaponry must be hidden elsewhere.

My assumption is proven correct when I return to the lobby and meet up with the others. Chris is swinging a sword around, laughing as it swishes through the air. Nic also returns with a wicked looking machete, and when the Leonard's return from the second floor, I see that Felix is holding a spear.

"Where did you find all those?" I ask, trying to sound only mildly curious. I don't like the fact that everyone ranked above me--and thus able to kill me--have such deadly weapons. The hunting knife I found embedded in a tree before Chris and Nic recruited me will do little against those.

"It was under the counter," Chris points his blade at the reception desk. "Who'd have thought they'd hide such an awesome weapon there?"

"What do you have there?" Nic eyes the box in my arms.

"See for yourself." I set it on the desk and everyone crowds around as Chris goes through the items inside. He takes great interest in the food, a canister of cold soup and wrapped jerky, but passes the rest off as junk.

"Why would we need this?" He holds the compass in one hand. "When we have a map on our datapads? Useless!" He tosses it over his shoulder and returns to oogling his sword. I slyly go retrieve the compass. Just because we have a map doesn't mean a compass is useless. I'd thought he'd understand that.

Soon we begin discussing our next move and Chris is all for going out into the now dark forest and hunting down Challengers. "Not a good idea," Felix says, not looking the taller boy in the eye as he shoots down his plan. "We'll have a lot of trouble finding anyone in this darkness, even with their location being broadcast on your datapad."

Chris eyes him coldly. "You scared of the dark?"

A spark of anger flares in Felix's eyes, and he begins to step forward when his sister grabs his arm. Slowly, he looks down, anger abating. "No. I'm not afraid. But I'm smart enough not to go running out into a dark forest, where we could twist an ankle or fall down a ravine. We don't have a movable light source, you see."

A scowl forms on Chris' face but he knows Felix is right. Rushing out into the darkness would be foolhardy at best, dangerous at worst. So he fakes a smile and tells Felix that he's right, that we'll stay here until it gets light out. "Get some rest."

Chris stalks off down the hall, out of sight. Immediately the two Leonard's crowd together, speaking to each other in low voices. Nic snorts and and crosses his arms, his green eyes flickering all over the room.

My stomach rumbles and I drift across the room, to where a glowing neon vending machine rests. I stop before the glass, staring longingly at the bags of chips and candy bars trapped inside. If only I had some money with me, then I could--


I yelp in fear, leaping away from the vending machine as the glass suddenly shatters into pieces.

"Oops" I turn and see Felix beside me, a lopsided smile on his face. Inside the machine, I see the sculpted bust of Benjamin Franklin that he used to smash the glass. "Didn't mean to scare you."

Felix grabs a handful of bags and candy, stuffing some in his pockets while bringing the rest over to Justine. I watch him walk away with a glare, not at all thrilled about how stupid he just made me look.

"Good. Some grub." I'm shoved out of the way as Nic comes up, snagging as much food as he can. When he's finished, he turns to me with his arms full. "Where's the drinks? Shouldn't there be another machine for them?"

I rub my shoulder ruefully. "I think I saw another machine out by the pool."

Nic nods and departs without so much as a thank you. "Asshole." I mutter under my breath, louder outburst only prevented by the knowledge that he could kill me. And for some reason, I think Nic is the kind of guy who would kill for even the slightest offense.

I collect my own food from the machine and retire to an empty corner of the room, sitting beside a plastic plant. The Leonard's are still talking amongst themselves. I don't like it. What if they decide to desert in the middle of the night? Kill me and leave? What if any of them decide to do that? They're all capable...

For this reason, I don't expect to get any sleep tonight.

Johanna Cisse (11:30 P.M)

I head east through the woods, going further south then I ever have before. I stay along the edge of the woods, keeping the outlines of houses just in sight. It's some kind of suburbs, but that doesn't make sense for an island. Why would it be here? No one lives here. What are the houses for?

Streetlights cover the asphalt road that winds between the houses with a glowing yellow light. They illuminate the streets, letting anyone who may be hiding in the houses know if someone is lurking outside.

It's what's keeping me away from the houses. Away from the possibility of supplies and shelter. I don't want to tangle with others, but those lights make it almost impossible to get close to a house without being seen.

I stop my movement when I reach the end of the houses. They cut off abruptly, just before the forest. I stare into the dark windows of the nearest house. Nothing moves. Just blackness. But when I look to the streets, I see something.

Sitting on the asphalt pavement, just in the middle of the street, with elbows propped up on the curb and a bottle of dark, sloshy liquid in hand, a girl reclines.

A streetlight hovers right over her, illuminating her every aspect. Pretty chocolate brown hair that's a mess on her head. Long, athletic legs spread out in front of her as she sits mindlessly on the streets, taking another swig of the bottle.

Who is she?

I check my datapad, and the girl sticks out from the others like a sore thumb. Victoria Sinclair, #9.

My hands ball into fists. I was hoping she'd be ranked lower than me, that I'd be able to rip that bottle from her hands and smash it over her head. I doubt she'd be able to stop me. She looks completely inebriated.

How did she receive such a highrank? And I such a low one? I've who succeeded at everything I've ever attempted, receives top grades, and never once made a mockery of myself? How did I get ranked so low?

These rankings are flawed, or perhaps biased. Of the ten lowest ranked Challengers, eight of them are female, with only two being male. And looking at their pictures, they seem to be middle-eastern.

Great. So Mr. White is sexist and racist.

I shake my head and slip further into the forest, leaving Victoria to her bottle. The night is alive with sounds, with chattering of insects and hooting of owls. I shiver as a cold wind blows through, bringing with it the first trace of fog.

When I first woke up, I was on some high hill, overlooking the island. Initially I refused to believe Mr. White. I was certain that this was all some trick or cruel joke--I'm still not certain it isn't some kind of elaborate prank. I don't know whose behind it though--and didn't really know what to do. After a few hours of being utterly alone in the woods, I began to search for a supply cache. Mr. White said there were many, so I thought they'd be a cinch to find.

I was wrong. I spent an entire afternoon combing the woods in a futile attempt to find anything. Once, while digging through a rotten stump, I heard someone approaching and was forced to hide inside a fallen log as a giant boy passed by, carrying a huge wooden club. He didn't notice me though, thank goodness. Judging by the look on his face, he didn't have good intentions.

I pass through a humid glen where a dark loch offers me the chance to get catch a drink, my first in several hours. Mud covers my legs. Bugs flit over the cold water. The earth feels good beneath my fingers as I bend to drink.

As I'm moving away from the loch, back into the woods, I see a bright red light shoot up into the western sky, not very far from my current location. It hangs in the sky, far above the treetops, for several moments. Red smoke billows up around it. It's odd. Almost like some sort of signal. Has the government found us? Did they send up a flare for us all to know where to go? My datapad rings before I can react, and Mr. White is back on screen.

He's in a darkened room, nothing but impenetrable blackness behind him and his white suit as he grins into the screen. "Hello, Challengers! Enjoying your first day in the Games? I know that the viewers are! Your actions are blowing up over social media! The world can't get enough of you!" I find little value in his words. Mindless boasting is just that; boasting for the mindless. "But the day is not quite over yet. Do you all see that flare up there?"

I glance back to the sky, where the flare still hangs in the balance. My heart drops. So Mr. White sent it up. I was hoping that I had been rescued...

"That, my dear Challengers, is the signal for a supply drop!" Mr. White swirls his fingers around, pointing to the sky. "When you see that flare and smoke, you know that an airdrop will soon commence. Fifteen minutes after the initial appearance of the flare, to be exact." He pauses, letting his words sink in. "After the fifteen minutes are up, a crate containing supplies will be dropped. Much like the caches I've hidden around the island, these will contain items that may help you during the course of the game. Only, thees typically hold much more valuable items..."

I bite my lip so hard it bleeds. Items? Food? My stomach feels it's eating itself. I want food. Need food. And if this airdrop can give me it...

"You'd best hurry," Mr. White says with a wicked grin. "Because others will surely want the same as you. You may get into a fight...Which would be the most appropriate nightcap to this day!" The screen flickers off and I'm left in the darkness of the forest.

I don't know what to do. I don't know if my enemies are lurking in the woods around me. I don't know if they're making alliances against me. I don't even know how the damn game is even played. But the others may feel the same. And if they don't know what to do, they will invariably do nothing.

So I must act.

I break into a sprint, watching the sky to gauge how close the flare is. The trees around me make it hard to see, but it's not far. I could reach it before others, if I'm fast enough.

And will the others try? It's late, almost midnight. Surely they should be asleep? And I'm on the very southern tip of the island. Unless they're nearby, I should get there before they do.

Unless I'm not fast enough.

I quit thinking and focus solely on running. It's hard, the forest floor is laced with hazardous rocks and broken twigs. I nearly fall twice, then trip over a small hole and nearly break my ankle as I skin my elbows falling across a packet of sticks.

I don't go so fast after that. I tune my mad sprint down to a careful jog, watching where I place my feet. The moonlight and the red glow of the flare help with this. The forest is quiet. Too quiet. Just the crunching of my feet and the rasping of my breath. I pray that the others aren't close by, listening.

The woods end quicker than I thought they would. I come upon an empty lowlands, where only a few scraggly bushes grow. There's a river to the right. A single, kilometer high hill overlooks the small plain where the smoke billows. The fading light of the flare hangs over head.

I made it! I smile triumphantly before bending over, gasping and catching my breath. Now that I'm here, I should be able to claim the prize. Unless...unless someone is hiding in the woods that encircle the plains.

As this thought strikes me, the crate appears overhead.

It drifts slowly downwards, a large white parachute attached keeps it from plummeting. It's high in the sky and seems to take forever to lower. Come on! I find myself silently urging the crate on. Anyone could wander up as it comes down! I don't have the time for this!

The crate takes a ponderously slow time in reaching the ground, where it settles right in the center of the plain. White parachute covers it up as the air disappears from underneath it. It's done. I can finally get some supplies...

Yet something is wrong.

There's several meters of open space between the crate and I. The river gurgles in the distance to the right. Forest to the left. Plains straight ahead. Mountain beyond the river. Wind rustles the long grass on the edge of the forest. An owl swoops down and then suddenly flares back up in alarm. I curse quietly.

Someone is hiding in the grass. Probably watching and waiting for someone else to make the first move. But is anyone else here other than me and them? Possibly. My chances of survival would be next to none in a melee. But I'm very hungry. And that makes me willing to take risks.

I watch the grass for several long moments before making up my mind. I'm going for it!

He acts before I can. Standing up straight, emerging from the long grass as he rushes for the crate. His long legs let him cross the open field quickly and he reaches the parachute in no time.

Damn. I hesitate for another second, wondering if I could take him. But then I see the moonlight glinting off the machete in his hand and I know that my hopes of getting this supply drop are finished.

I watch as the boy rips the parachute off of the crate and uses his machete like a crowbar to wedge the crate open. Then I can't take it anymore. I turn and speed away into the woods.

Stupid. Stupid! I am so stupid! I shouldn't have waited! Why didn't I act sooner? Then that crate could have been mine. Instead it now belongs to that boy. #13, I think. Not that it matters his rank. Only the fact that he got the supplies and I didn't. Stupid!

I'm unaware of where I'm stumbling until my feet splash into water. Confused, I look down and see that I've wandered into a frothing, churning stream of foamy water. A distant, dull thundering can be heard up ahead, and I recognize the sound immediately; it's a waterfall.

Instinctively I follow the river. I get out of the water, but stick close to it. My feet thud against warm rocks as I head along, the light of the moon guiding my path.

The waterfall towers into sight before long. A huge towering thing that rose high into the rocky cliffs. A tremendous sheet of white water rushes down into a pool basin at its foot, where the frothing bubbles boiled and stirred as they were swept by the current downstream.

A chilly mist hangs into the air, wetting my face as I stumble along the pool, glad for the roaring and pounding of the falls. No one will be able to hear me here.

Suddenly exhausted from my restless day, I look around for shelter. Downstream I see nothing but an empty grassy plain. Nowhere to hide there. Upstream led straight to the cliffs and...I see a small dirt path leading up towards the waterfall.

I take the path. It brings me much closer to the waterfall, and the roar picks up the intensity. The rocks become slippery, the path muddy. There's a constant hanging mist that makes me feel like I'm moving through a cloud. The path turns narrow and becomes difficult to navigate. Then it suddenly seems to veer straight into the waterfall.

Wait. No. It goes behind the waterfall.

I sidle along the path, hugging the wall. I don't fancy taking a swim in the water. The night is already chilly enough. Soon I'm completely behind the roaring funnel of water, unable to see out from the silver sheet. "No one will look here..."

I'm surprised when I turn around. There's a recess in the cliffs here, as I expected. But not as I expected, the recess is filled with machinery. Humming pumps fill the room, big filters attached to a large, complex looking machine. Pipes are everywhere, running in elaborate crisscross patterns along the walls and slipping through gaps in the ceiling.

"What is this place?" I can barely hear myself over the roar of the waterfall. Cautiously, I approach one of the machines, poking it with a tentative toe. Why is this here?

The place gives me the creeps. The air is still and cold, water drips from the ceiling at a constant plinking. I drift through the room, examining the machinery and pipes with genuine curiosity. It's not only surprising that they're here, it's also that they're all working. Don't they require maintenance and constant check up? How do--

I reach the back of the room and laugh.

A plain, nondescript metal door sits before me. Marked in simple black lettering are the words Maint 03.

"Here's the maintenance room," I shake my head. Hilarious.

Unfortunately, the door is firmly locked. I try it several times, but it doesn't budge. There's no keyhole either, so I'm left wondering how it works when I notice the small box to the left of the door. Flipping open the lid, I find a 9 numbered keypad. "Of course," I enter a random series of numbers and am greeted with an alarmingly loud buzzing. Incorrect. "It needs a code. Of course it does."

I shut the panel and return to my investigation of the room. While I find nothing else as interesting as the door, I do find a pair of items that hold far more value: A coil of hemp rope, and a net woven of thick, interlocking twine.

I'm studying the net when my datapad suddenly comes alive and the face of Mr. White is once again on my hand.

"Hello, Challengers! I would like to tell you that it is now officially twelve o'clock P.M. That means you all spent a total of twelve hours on my island. Congratulations!" He gives a slow, golf clap as a condescending grin spreads along his face. "Well, not all of you managed to survive. Poor Nora Lemori...Well, I'll let you see for yourself."

My screen flickers and changes to show another, very different image. It's a brutal, visceral murder. A boy savagely cracks a girls head apart with a single rock, smiling crazily and eyes twitching non-stop. Then the image is gone and Mr. White is back.

"Don't feel too bad for her," He says, voice deep and sonorous. "Because if she hadn't died, I would have been forced to randomly detonate one of your collars. And that would have been very unfortunate, no?"

I grit my teeth together, grinding them back and forth. Despite what I had previously thought, this is no trick. Mr. White is real. He's kidnapped us. He is killing us. He will kill all of us.

"Nora did not belong in these Games," Mr. White is still talking, still drawling on. "She was not what I sought. She accepted society's lies at face value, accepted the garbage they spew to keep themselves happy. She did not see through the lies. Did not even attempt to. She was what the world is; a placid, timid thing that shies away from discovering the truth."

What is he talking about? Nothing he is saying makes any sense. I begin to think that perhaps our captor isn't quite sane. But he's not done, still rambling on and on.

"Nora Lemori deserved nothing more than the death she received. She accepted the lies and falsehoods that rot the world to its core, and thus, she fell as the world will fall. But...what will become of the rest of you? Will you see the truth? Or will you buy into the same lies and shroud of untruths that Nora--and the world--did? Will you emerge from this island, victorious, whole, complete, and understanding of the truth? Or will you fall into the cloud of lies, never to emerge again?"

He pauses. Hands splaying to his side and a patient smile upon his face. "Your fate, dear Challengers, is to be decided by you and you alone. This is your game. Your chance to seek out what everyone else hides from. Your opportunity to show the world that watches you want they hide from. I am merely here to guide you."

Another pause. He turns his head, and suddenly, I feel like he is staring into my very essence. "It is your game, Challengers. And it will be your actions that decide your fate. Your choices will decide if you survive...or if you die."

He nods at the screen and turns around, only to spin back towards the screen a fraction of a second later. "Oh, I almost forgot. The Rankings are now going down. Our lovely viewers will vote for whom they like most and I will do a quick tabulation of your performances. When the Rankings return tomorrow at noon, you will notice that places have changed. Perhaps it will be to your liking, or perhaps not. I suppose we shall see." Mr. White flashes a grin, his perfect teeth gleaming in the darkness. "But until then...have a very peaceful night."

The screen flickers off, and I'm alone with my thoughts in the dark cavern. The roar of the waterfall is loud in my ears, but my mind is stuck on everything Mr. White just said. I don't understand it at all, but I fear that my chances of survival are very slim indeed.

Day 2/ The Game is Afoot

Tristan Kaplan (6:51 A.M)

The dawn's light shines through the windows of the lobby, cutting through the faint fog left over from last night. I still remember watching it roll in from the hills, completely dominating the landscape within minutes of its arrival. Nothing could be seen through the fog that was as thick as a cloud but twice as dark.

It's a good thing we didn't go hunting.

"Gah...Mornin' already?" Nic lets out a smothered growl as he rolls over on the floor. Sunlight shines through the window straight down onto his wild brown hair.

"Yes," I tell him. "It's morning." I don't mention that I've been awake for most of the night, terrified that if I ever slept I'd wake up with cold steel buried in my throat. This "game" is making me more paranoid than I've ever been before. And I've always been paranoid.

He scratches his armpit, ignoring me as he glances around the lobby. "Where's everyone else?"

"We were smart enough not to sleep on the floor," Justine, closely followed by Felix, come walking into the room through the right hand corridor. She stops in the doorway and shakes her head. "You two did realize that we're in a resort hotel, right? With beds?"

A strange exhilaration of air escapes Nic's lips as he sits up. "Damn right I knew that! Do you think I'm some kind of moron or somethin'?" By the way he glares at the twins, I know that he didn't actually know.

"We were on guard. Making sure no one snuck in to kill us," I say. It's not a lie. I was convinced that one of my allies would try to slit my throat while I slept. Surprised they didn't.

Felix, whose bright green eyes are clouded with sleep and has hair frizzed out wildly, frowns. "Who could kill us? We're the top five."

"Doesn't mean they couldn't harm us," Nic grunts, getting to his feet and stretching. "They could hamstring us while we slept, or tied us up for later use..." His eyes travel across the Leonard's faces and I grimace. I just know that Nic has something nefarious in mind. I just hope it's for the others and not his allies.

Actually, scratch that. I only hope he doesn't harm me.

"What's for breakfast?"

We all turn as Chris comes walking into the room. His bow is slung around his shoulder, and sword holstered at his waist, but other then for his weapons, he looks just like a guy who got out of bed far too early.

"Pancakes," Felix says before any of us can speak. "And waffles. With syrup. And eggs, bacon, sausage galore."

Chris blinks twice. "Woah. Really? Mr. White gave us all that?"

"No, you doofus! I was just joking!" Felix throws his head back and laughs, but everyone else has the sense not to join in. Felix eventually notices the silence and looks around, bemused. "Wasn't it funny?"

Chris watches him quietly. No threat is issued. His face does not twitch. Only a silent promise. Sometimes it's hard to remember that we're all capable of murder. Encouraged to do so.

It's only now that Felix seems to grasp the severity of his slight against Chris. He ducks his head slowly, smile fading. I notice that his sister clutches her knife so tight that her knuckles turn white. If this turns to blows...

Chris laughs, immediately defusing the situation. "Good one. Good one." Though his tone is friendly, his eyes give away the anger radiating inside him.

"What's our plan?" Nic asks with an exaggerated yawn. He is already warming up his swing with the machete. "Find some losers, I hope." It kinda pisses me off how eager he is to kill people. What is wrong with him?

Chris nods. "Yes. It's almost seven o'clock. Then my datapad will show us where the others are. I will be keeping an eye out for Nero. He is a very imposing opponent..."

I shift my feet uncomfortably. Nero is a large threat to me. But not in the way they think. He was the only one to kill someone yesterday, which will surely boost his ranking. And if he jumps into the top five...What happens to me?

If I fall out of the top five, which is a very real possibility, then will my "allies" turn on me? According to Chris, this alliance is for the top five. What will they do to me if I'm no longer in that group? Kill me? With how Chris and Nic act, I wouldn't doubt it.

The clocks strike seven. Immediately Chris checks his datapad, eyes moving at a rapid pace as he tries to remember the location of every Challenger. The rest of us watch in anticipation. Nic spits. Justine and Felix talk quietly. Who're we going after?

"Huh." Chris looks up from his screen, a faint smile forming on his face. "Looks like someone is hiding in the visitor center."

"Visitor center?" I crane my head to look out the window, where I can just barely see the steep building.

"Someone is that close?" Felix asks with a frown.

Chris shrugs his muscular shoulders. "That's what it says. Never been wrong before."

Not that he'd know if it had been. But that doesn't matter. Someone is hiding in that building, and Chris wants us to go and murder them.

He leads us out into the crisp morning air. A faint fog still hangs overhead. Faint rays of sunlight shine through the gaps, lighting our path around the bubbling pool. "Be very quiet," Chris tells us as he sidles up to the center's doors. They're large square things made from solid oak and engraved with the same strange symbols on the tapestries in the lobby. "We don't want him escaping."

"Who is it?" Justine asks. She takes a place on the other side of the door, Felix hovering over her shoulder.

"Does it matter?" Chris snorts as he carefully loads his bow with a pointed arrow. I think of it slicing into soft flesh and wince. That would be painful. I make a mental note to avoid all projectiles. "Nic, open the door."

"Why me?" The grungy boy glares at Chris.

"Why not you?"

"Because I don't want to."

It's such a pointless, petulant argument, but I know why Nic does it. He's showing his independence, proving that he's not beholden to Chris in any way. It's stupid and reckless, but I have to admire the boy for his strength of will and defiance.

Until Chris rolls his eyes and nods at me, that is. "Tristan, open the door."

"Why do I have to do it?" I'm not about to be pushed around. I'm sick and tired of being treated like a doormat. I'm my own man!

Chris turns the bow and points it at me. "I'm not in the mood for this. Tristan, open the damn door NOW!"

I relent and go to open the door. Better to be subservient then dead, I reason. I place myself a short distance from the doors, ready to kick it open. "You guys ready?" I ask.

Nic rolls his eyes. "Yes. We've been ready for ages, you moron!"

I eye him coldly. "Remember that you were the one too frightened to open a door."

I kick it open. The large wooden frames swing open, revealing the room inside. It's a small auditorium, most of the open space dominated by a central stage. Two large staircases flabk this stage, leading to the higher floors. A few other rooms branch off to the side, but I don't see any person.

Chris steps inside, bow swinging around as he searches for a target. Felix and Justine flank him, their weapons at the ready. Nic shoves his way past me.

"Watch your back five," He hisses into my ear.

I watch him follow Chris with dread. Great. I just made a enemy out of my own ally. I'm playing this game just splendidly.

"Dude, where's the Challenger?" Felix steps onto the stage, looking around the large room cautiously. "I don't see anyone."

"Neither do I," Justine pauses just at the foot of the stage. "You sure someone was here?"

"You think I'm stupid?" Chris gives her a fierce glare. "Or maybe you think I'm blind?"

Justine blanches. "No. I didn't say that. Just...where are they?"

I follow them into the room, glancing around warily. Is this some kind of trap? Is Chris setting us up? I wouldn't put it past him to try and kill us all off for his own benefit. But then again, maybe I'm just being overly suspicious. My eyes drift to the second floor. "Maybe they hid up there?" I say aloud.

Chris follows my gaze. "Maybe," He admits. "We should go check--"

A door slams shut. We all whip around to see a boy entering from the kitchen. His black hair is plastered to his copper skin, and his face is a mask of anger and hate. "You will all die!" He screams at the top of his lungs, waving a hatchet over his head like a madman. "Allah Akbar!"

He breaks into a sprint, running straight for us as he screams maniacally.


The boy screams as Chris' arrow slams into his shoulder. He stops in his tracks, flailing his good arm around wildly as he sinks to one knee. Chris slings his bow over his back and unsheathes his sword, stalking towards the boy with a vindictive sneer.

"Screw Allah!"

Chris plunges his sword through the boys chest. Blood gurgles from his mouth and streams from his nose as Chris rips the blade back out. The boy tips over sideways, landing with a dull thud.

"That's kill number one for me!" Chris crows triumphantly as all our datapads begin to ring at once. A quick glance shows me what I already knew. Ali Ajmal is dead.

As Chris heads back to us with a smirk, Justine nips forward and takes Ali's hatchet and backpack. "He won't be needing it," She says.

"What now?" I ask, trying to overlook the dead body lying in front of me. No one cares that he's dead. Not Chris. Not Nic. Not the Leonard's. Not Mr. White. Not even the world watching us cares.

So why should I?

"We continue hunting," Chris answers my question while wiping the blood on his sword off with a curtain. "And this time, our target is Nero Shock."

Imogen Sykes (11:48 A.M)

In the morning, I wake up inside a tent and think that I'm out camping with my family. A sigh of relief makes its way through my body, glad that my terrifying experience on that horrible island was only a dream.

Then I see Oreo, lying asleep beside me and I know it was no dream. Everything that happened was real. I'm stuck on an island, completely at the mercy of a deranged madman.

"You're awake," Oreo's eyes flicker open, and she sleepily turns to look at me, propping herself up on an elbow. "Good."

"Where's Fausto?" I remember that he didn't sleep inside the tent last night. It wasn't large enough to fit us all, and he said we deserved it more than he did. I'm not sure if that's true, but I was not going argue the point.

Oreo shrugs as she sits up. "I dunno. Outside somewhere?" She winces as she stretches. I feel bad for her. It couldn't have been easy, sleeping in that dress.

"Right." I glance at the flap that leads outside. I can see the faint shimmering of the sun reflecting off the sand outside. I'm debating whether I should go check on Fausto, but I find myself hesitant to leave this seemingly safe tent. "Did you sleep well?" I ask Oreo.


I wince. I didn't expect such a blunt answer, but it makes sense. Why would anyone have slept well?

"I kept having nightmares," She admits, pulling herself into a sitting position. "I...kept seeing her die."

Nora. She's talking about the girl we witnessed get murdered yesterday. We could have saved her. We might have, if only we had tried. But our fear crippled us. "It's not our fault," I say quietly. Am I trying to convince Oreo? Or myself? "There was nothing we could do."

Oreo shakes her head sadly. "I don't think that's true. If I hadn't held you back..."

"There was nothing we could do," I repeat more firmly this time. "Not without getting ourselves killed too." Nero would have gotten us. We couldn't have defeated him, even with our combined might. There was nothing we could do.

"Hey, girls!" Fausto's voice cuts through the tent, filled with a strange joy. "Come here!"

"C'mon," Oreo pushes past me, leaving the tent. I don't like the despairing look in her eyrs, but there's nothing more I can say. She'll have to convince herself that we did the right thing.

The beach is glittering with sunlight, water shimmering against the waves. The strange fog that had enveloped the island last night is gone and only warmth and light remain. Watching the crashing waves and pounding surf, I could believe that all our lives weren't in danger.

We find Fausto near a clump of rocks that border the cliffs where a lighthouse peers down on us. "Look what I found!" He twirls a long, silver item in his hands at a frightening pace. It looks like some sort of spear, but it has three tips instead of one. Looks familiar, but...

"What is it?" Oreo asks.

He wiggles his eyebrows at us, catching the item mid-twirl and slamming it into the sand between us. "It's a trident."

"What's a trident?" Oreo asks as a wave of memories flood over me.

"Oh!" I slap my forehead in realization. "It's the thing Poseidon and Neptune hold."

Fausto laughs as Oreo just looks perplexed. "Okay. But what does it do?"

"It's for fishing," Fausto says with a small smirk. He looks very familiar when he does that. "And with it, I can catch us some tasty fish." It's not just for fishing. Despite what Fausto tells us, I can tell from the sharpened tips that this is a weapon. One, that judging by Fausto's fluidity with it, can be used to cause maximum death and destruction in capable hands.

Oreo goes to say something else when our datapads begin to ring. My throat tightens in panic. Another Challenger has died! Someone else has been killed!

"Hellooo, Challengers!" Mr. White appears on screen, sitting in a white office chair, leaning back and rest his feet against something off-screen. He holds a white mug that wafts steam into the air. "Have a pleasant night? Or did you have terrible nightmares about death and the loss of everything you hold dear?"

I glance sideways at my friends. Fausto is glaring into his screen, prior anger with Mr. White not forgotten. Oreo merely look dejected; Mr. White's jab hits her hard.

Mr. White takes a long sip from his mug before continuing. "Well, regardless of whether you got any sleep--which Killian failed to, by the way--it is now noon. And you know what that means!"

"Rankings," Fausto mutters. Truthfully, I had forgotten all about those.

Mr. White grins. "That's right! Rankings!" He takes a gloved hand and swipes his left sleeve back, revealing a datapad identical to our own. "Let's see how you all fared!"

Carefully Mr. White begins to tap around on his own datapad, then a slow, methodical beeping emits from each of our own datapads. The screen switches over to the rankings tab, and immediately the places begin to change.

I breath out, unaware that I was even holding my breath. There I am! My name sits just outside the top ten, #11 Imogen Sykes.

"Yes!" Fausto pumps his fists into the air. "Number nine! Oh yeah!"

"I'm not last," Oreo's reaction is much more subdued. Her bright orange eyes look up from her datapad and blink at us. "I'm nineteenth."

"That's good!" I beam a smile at her, too excited about my own ranking to really be concerned with hers. I'm eleven! That's seven spots higher than my previous one! I'm dizzy with excitement. Only the top ten, the best of the best, are higher than I am.

"Why is Ali's face crossed out...?"

"Huh?" I glance at Oreo, whose staring intently at her screen. "What do you mean?"

"Ali, he's dead!"

Not believing her, I look at my own datpad, and sure enough, I find Ali's face at the very bottom. Ranked #23 and with a large red X marked over his face. That means one thing. He's dead.

"He must have been killed during the night," Fausto says quietly. "Or early in the morning. We were asleep, so we didn't hear the ringing."

There's a somber silence as we all stand on the beach, listening to the moaning wind around us. I didn't know Ali, but his death is still a shock to my senses. I saw what happened to Nora. It wasn't pretty. I don't think his death was any different.

Mr. White does not make a reappearance. Apparently he has said everything he needed to. Unsure on what to do next, Fausto lets us eat some food from his crate. It's not much, just some apples and a few handfuls of pretzels, but it's better than nothing.

"We need to restock our food supply," Fausto says when we finish. He stands, picking up his trident and twirling it around his head. He seems so natural with it, like it's just an extension of his body.

Oreo raises an eyebrow at him. "And how do you suppose we do that?"

He flashes her an irresistibly charming grin. "We fish, of course!"

"In the ocean?!" Oreo spins to face the calm blue waves, face a mask of horror. "How do you plan on not dying?"

"What's wrong with the ocean?" I ask. I have some experience fishing. Not in the ocean, but in lakes and rivers. I believe I could easily catch us more than enough fish, if I had the proper tools.

Oreo shrugs, gesturing helplessly at the sea. "It's just so...large. Large and unpredictable."

Fausto shakes his head with a patient smile. "Don't worry. I'm more than comfortable with this." Without waiting for a response, he wades out into the water. The waves wash gently across his legs as he marches forward calmly. I never noticed how strong he was before.

Eventually the water becomes too deep for him to stand, and he begins to paddle forward, head bobbing above the water. "He's going to drown!" Oreo whispers from beside me. I don't pay her a sideways glance, watching Fausto expertly make his way through the waves.

"He knows what he's doing," I tell her. When he's gone a fair distance away from the beach, he suddenly stands up. The water only reaches to his waist, at least when a wave wasn't sweeping by.

Oreo blinks, astonished. "What happened? The water had been above his head a minute ago!"

"Sandbar," I tell her patiently as Fausto suddenly goes very still, trident at the ready. He must be waiting for fish. "Wait here." I retreat back to the edge of the woods, ignoring Oreo's protest. I can't just sit here and wait for Fausto to provide for us. Not when I have skills I can put to use.

I find a particularly large and smooth stick near the shore, and quickly take it back to the rocks, where I pick up the sharpest one and begin to scrape it against a bigger rock, sharpening it further. "Go get me some vines, or moss, or something," I tell Oreo. She looks confused, but to her credit she does as I ask, returning a few minutes later with a thick vine.

"This is all I could find," She says.

"That's fine." The vine is thick and course, like a rope. Which is exactly what I need. A few minutes and a couple of knot tying mishaps later, I stand up with a presentable, if very rough, homemade spear. "How do I look?" I ask, posing heroically.

Oreo scratches her head. "Like a girl holding a stick tied to a rock."

I frown. That's not quite the image I was going for, but it's good enough. "I'm going to fish over by the rocks," I point towards the clump of slimy boulders beneath the lighthouse. They extend a certain distance into the ocean, and I know I'll find a few minnows swimming around them. "You go search the beach for some mussels or crabs."

"Eww." Oreo wrinkles her nose. "What do you want one of those for?"

I roll my eyes. "To eat? C'mon!"

"I don't want to eat those! Or even touch one!"

"Fine. Just...don't get hurt, okay?" I hurry away from the beach towards the rocks. A quick glance out to sea shows me that Fausto is still out there fishing. It's funny, but he looks very familiar. I don't know why, but he reminds me of someone I knew before. Actually, he looks almost identical to him.

I flinch at the memories. Some of them are good, but those were so long ago. Back when he was my friend. Before he turned. He was always so nice, but I soon learned that was all just an act.

I throw another glance out at Fausto as he skewers his trident into the water, weapon emerging with a wiggling fish on the end. Is he like that too? Is he only pretending to be our friend so he can turn on us later?

No...No, Fausto isn't like that. He's such a nice guy. There's no way he would ever betray us.

Feeling much better about myself, I clamber up the rocks and get ready to catch some fish.

Lucas Adin (12:35 P.M)

Through the glass windows at the top of the lighthouse, I observe three figures as they move about on the beach. One moves among the rocks at the base of my cliff, spearing tiny fish with a crudely made weapon. Another stands at least thirty yards into the house, walking along a shoal as he captures larger fish with a trident. The third walks along the beach, occasionally stopping to gaze out at the mysterious forest behind them.

"Future trouble," I grit my teeth together as I move away from the window. "That's what they'll be. Mark my words."

I'd approach them and ask for a truce, if I didn't have yesterday's incident fresh in mind. I tenderly touch the large purple bruise on my face, a mark left by Alana's fist.

The daft girl must have thought I was trying to attack her, or perhaps she just wanted me dead. Either way, she punched me in the face before I could even speak. A pity. I only wanted to ask her about the island, share information and corroborate what we knew. But did she stop to listen? No! She punched me into a freezing cold stream and ran away.

"Stupid girl," I drum a finger along the edge of the lighthouses control panel. I'm not quite certain on how it works yet, but another hour of tinkering and I will have it figured out.

That's about the only good thing that's happened on this island. After the incident at the stream, I didn't think things could get much worse. My clothes were soaking wet and had to be hung out to dry, leaving me in nothing but my underwear to sleep through the chilly night. I suppose I could have slept in my wet clothing, if I wanted to catch pneumonia, that is.

But that was not the end. In the morning, while collecting my clothes, I noticed the tent set up on the beach. It was too dark for me to spot it last night, but now I could see it clearly. I was hoping that it's inhabitants would pass on, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Those three are intent on staying.

That puts me in quite the pickle. I could up and move, leave the lighthouse and seek out another location. It would be dangerous to randomly move throughout the island, especially when I know so little about the island and the other Challengers. But is it more dangerous to stay here?

The beach is not that far from here. Yes, the trio would have to enter the forest and find the winding path that leads up the cliffs here, and while that is unlikely, it is in the realm of possibility.

"Decisions, decisions," I cup my chin, deep in thought. Viewers back home must be expecting a lot from me. I attend MIT, after all. Certainly none of the others can claim to possess the knowledge that I do. Yet they most assuredly have more survival knowledge tha I. Even my past in Turkey, which I try my hardest to forget, hasn't prepared me for this facet.

I stand, crossing back over to the window and observing the three once more. The guy out on the sandbar is swimming back now. The other two notice this and they all begin to gather at the center of the beach. I self-consciously rub the collar around my neck. I have a difficult decision to make.

And I just hope I make the right one.

Haviana Greyson (2:25 P.M)

The afternoon sun washes across the rough stones as I casually make my way down the gravel path, winding and twisting through the gullies and cliffs that surround me. I head south, away from the large mountain that rises in the north and into a surrounding valley with dwarf mountains and dramatic hills, scarred with gulches were mist clings.

I keep my sickle close as I examine the many rocks that surround the path. A few rise into the air like teeth, sharp and deadly. Others are as flat a kangaroos behind. None of them are very special.

It's been more than twenty-four hours since I woke up on this island. More than twenty-four hours since I last saw another person. Much too long. Reckon I'll be looking for someone today, whether to kill them or ally.

That's the name of the game. Kill or be killed. Ain't nothing special to it. I've been living that way for awhile. Back home, I can't count on two hands the amount of times animals have tried to kill me. It's not that different here. Only its that it's humans who want me dead. They better try hard though. I have no plans to kick the bucket.

The path I've been following ends in an aburpt drop-off. I peer over the edge at the jagged rocks at the bottom of the long drop. It'd be bloody stupid to try and worm my way down there. Better turn around.

I spin on the spot and head back down the path. I only get a few paces before there's a clattering noise and I turn to see a pair of small pebbles rolling down a cliff a little ways over my head.

I hold my sickle out to my side, wondering if they were just knocked down by the wind. It's possible, though unlikely. I cautiously look backwards, wondering if someone is setting a trap. If they are, then the tables are about to change. I'm now setting a trap for them.

I climb slowly, keeping one hand on my sickle. It's a question mark of a sword, sharpened and and shaped like a crescent moon. One well-timed slash and even the toughest of foes would go down, despite it's original use designed for harvest.

A lone scraggly tree grows atop the thin plateau I reach. It's leaves are dead, branches thin and ashen colored. I'm oogling this sight when I hear a low gasp and turn to see her.

She's as pale as a ghost with midnight black hair that falls past her face, cascading at her shoulders. Black lines ring a pair eyes the same luster and color of emeralds. These stare at me in silent shock.

"G'day, Mate!" I lower my sickle, offering the terrified girl a comforting smile. I don't like smiling at strangers, but I must show her that I mean no harm.

"Wh-who're you?" She presses her back up against the rocky cliff, eyes looking all around for an escape route.

"Name's Haviana Greyson," I offer a handshake.

The girl stares at it like it's some kind of explosive. "H-haviana? The girl ranked #12?"

"The very same." I eye the girl's petite frame, noticing how little muscle she has, how thin and bony she is. "You really need to eat, mate."

"Why do you speak so funny? And why haven't you killed me?"

I frown. That's not what I expected her reaction to me. Maybe she has some kangaroos loose in the top paddock. "Don't tell me you ain't ever heard of us Aussies?"

"Aussies?" The girl glances sideways, still searching for an escape. "You're from Austria?"

"Not Austria. Australia." Yep. Definitely got a few kangaroos loose.

"Oh..." The girl moves ever so slightly towards the left, heading for the cliff. What's her plan? Jump to her death?

"Your plan is bloody obvious, ya know?" I'm tired of this little game. I'm not going to hurt her, so she doesn't need to try and run. But when I tell her this, she just blinks in surprise.

"Why not? Are you stupid?" Despite the rather offensive statement, she stops edging towards the cliff. Rather, she turns those big emerald eyes up to me.

"Ya really shouldn't insult the girl with the sickle," I say, waving the weapon in a half-moon pattern. I rather enjoy the fear that shows in the girls face. "Lucky for you, I'm a forgiving gal."

Now this stops the girl in her tracks. She tilts her head to one side. "Is there a reason you don't want me dead?"

"Would you rather I kill you?" Boy, this girl sure likes to look a gift horse in the mouth. I like to think that if someone told me that they'd spare my life, I wouldn't keep on questioning that decision. But this girl is obviously different.

She turns her head down and stares at her shoes in silence. She doesn't answer my question.

"Don't tell me you want to cark it!"

"" The girl fidgets in place, looking up at the gray sky. "But does it matter? We're all going to die in these games. Who cares when or how?"

I actually don't know what to say. This girl has some serious baggage. But I'm not about to kill her, or just leave her. So I only have one option. "I care, that's who. And so should you!"

The girl shrugs. "I guess."

Well, then....Good enough for me. "What's your name, mate?"

The girl starts in surprise. "Don't you know? It's on our datapads..."

"I don't trust those things." Mr. White could put our names as anything he likes. Though he hasn't been wrong yet...

"K-killian. My name is Killian."

"Right. You wanna tag along with me, Killian?"

Maybe aligning with this obviously damaged girl is a bad idea, but why not? Having anyone on my side is better than having no one on my side. Heaps better. "Okay." Killian nods slowly, brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. "I'll join you."


And that's the start of our partnership. We have a quick comparison of items, which doesn't take long. All I have is my sickle, an awl, and a bit of rope. All which I found yesterday. Killian has a hunk of bread, a pack of crackers, and--most fortunately--a canteen.

"Thanks, mate," I say when Killian let's me have a swig. "My throat was as dry as a dead dingo's donger."

She gives me an odd look. I shrug. "Let's get moving."

We head back down the cliffs, taking extra effort not to fall. When we reach the bottom, I lead the way down a path that seems to go downwards. I tell Killian about my life as we go, hoping it will open the girl up a bit. I tell her about my parents, my six siblings, and the drought that was plaguing my family before I was kidnapped. "I'm as worried for them as they are for me," I tell Killian.

Her only response is to nod.

Further down the path we go. Time passes by, the sun beating down on our heads. We're halfway to what looks like a giant tower-like shape, when a large figure looms out of the mist. He's tall and thin, large arms clutching what looks to be a hefty club.

"What do we do?!" Killian cowers behind me, voicing quivering with fear. I stand calmly as the figure steps closer. When he sees that I am making no move to run, he frowns.

"You want to fight me?" His voice is higher than I thought it would be.

I smile playfully. "It wouldn't really be a fight, mate."

Uncertainty flickers in his brown eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Haven't you checked the Rankings? You're lower then I am."

"No!" The boy shakes his head. "I'm fourteen and you're fifteen."

I nearly laugh. He just stated yesterdays rankings. "You know that the Rankings change, right?"

Now there's genuine curiosity in the boy's eyes as he lifts his left arm and checks the rankings for himself. His eyes stretch wide in surprise when he sees that I am correct. "No way! Why'd I fall?"

He's open to attack. All I'd need to do is lash out with my sickle, slice his belly open. He'd fall to his knees, trying to keep his intestines from falling out and giving me the ample opportunity to slash his neck and end him. But...He'd be much more useful as an ally. He's big, powerful, and--let's be honest--pretty stuid. How would I ever find a more useful tool?

"Dumb viewers!" The boy is stomping his feet and muttering indignantly. He seems to have forgotten about Killian and I. "Dumb Mr. White."

"Jotaro," I speak the boy's name, hoping that the datapad is right. When he looks up, I know that it is. "How about you join with us?"

His eyes narrow suspiciously. "Why?"

I shrug. "You're strong." It's the truth. Better not lie, because he may not be very smart, but I think he seems very perceptive. The two aren't mutually exclusive as people think.

"Huh. You're right about that." He looks over my shoulder at Killian. "What is she good at?"

"Oh...loads of stuff." I haven't the faintest idea.

Jotaro shrugs his peaked shoulders. "Sure, why not? Nothing better to do."

And that's how I get my second ally. Few words are passed between us. Neither Killian nor Jotaro are the talkative type. Not that it matters. As long as they have skills they have a use.

Setting off across the rugged hillsides, we aim for the broken tower in the mist-shrouded highlands. Vapor clings to our hair, dripping off like pearls. We reach the shadow within the hour. It is a cavernous, barren tower that leans over a ravine like a drunken wizard. Lichen covers the thick gray stone. Mist wraps it's parapets and we make our first meal of the birds in the eaves of the single tower. Some escape and I hear their wings in the air as my newfound alliance gathers it's strength.

Anne Bellhope (3:15 P.M)

The gray clouds that have covered the sky for majority of the day has finally begun to dissipate as I edge along the backyard fence of one the houses. It's good and bad. Good, because I finally get to see some sunlight. Bad because more light makes it harder to sneak around.

I look up at the nearby house. It's wooden exterior has been painted blue, but the color has begun to fade with age. Some of the beams are cracked and misshapen, and the backdoor seems to barely stay up.

This house is different than the rest. That makes it interesting.

I cautiously approach the door, wondering if anyone else has had the same thought that I had. Certainly this building had been made different for a reason. The others are all sprightly and new, without the faintest hint of wear and tear. So why is this one different? There's only one logical reason: it holds something important.

Right beside the door I stop before entering. I slip the orange backpack over my shoulders, taking a quick inventory. I have plenty of food, for now. Several rolls of bread and some jerky should last me a few more days, if I can ration. It's a weird thought. I never really thought of something like that before. Rationing food isn't something I ever had to do, other then a brief time I was on the streets.

Other then my food, I have a blanket and some sort of paint. I also have a flashlight, which I used last night, and a coil of rope. Some would say that I was lucky for finding this backpack full of stuff so early into the my time on the island, but I know better. It wasn't luck. It was effort.

I put effort into combing the house I woke up in for supplies, and I found some. A little effort and anything you want can be done.

Monzaroc's death.

That's something I want. Either that or I want him brought to justice. But what are the odds of that happening? I'm trapped on this island. He's not. I have to fight my way through twenty other teenagers. He gets to watch me try. I'm stuck in a madmans clutches. Monzaroc must be happy, because it's just like when I was trapped in his.

I grip my knives so hard, my hands begin to hurt. Monzaroc will pay. He killed my best friend. He ruined my life. I will make him pay.

But first I have to kill some other people.

I have a few reservations about harming the other Challengers, I think as I slowly swing the door open and find myself in a kitchen. But it's a necessary evil. I want to live, and if for that to happen, others have to die.

So be it.

I check all the pantries, but they're empty. All they hold is some dishes, cups, and a bowl. I take one of these cups and fill it with water from the sink, drinking gratefully. Lack of water is one reason I've yet to move on from this neighbourhood. Here, I know where to find some. Out in the forest...not so much.

None of the other first floor rooms hold much. A stack of board games in the closet, a vase full of dead flowers in the dumbwaiter, and a strange card stuck in the crack between floorboards. I wiggle it out and frown. It seems to depict a chariot of sorts being pulled by two horses, one white and one black. It's interesting and all, but so very useless. I toss it over my shoulder and head up the stairs, each creaking under my footsteps.

I'll take a break after I check this floor, I decide. I've spent all day searching for Challengers and supplies, and I'm tired. A quick rest would be good.

I wander down the upstairs hallway and frown when I come to a room different then the others. The door is shut. All the others in the house have been open, so why isn't this one?

Uncertainty flickers in my chest. Something is off. Holding one of my knives up at the ready, I slowly turned the knob and stepped inside.

A girl spins to face me. I recognize her by the choppy black and red hair. Clarice Barron #8. One spot below me. Clarice's olive eyes shoot down to observe the shovel at her feet, hands twitching towards it.

I throw my knife.

It zips forward, slashing through the air and burying itself in Clarice's left arm. I missed. I was aiming to kill and I missed! But the scariest part is that Clarice doesn't even scream or shout with pain. She just comes barrelling forward, silent and deadly.

My hands fumble into my shirt pockets for my other two knives, but there's no time. Clarice is quickly and effortlessly closing the gap between us. I whip my hands up to meet the onslaught.

Then we're both on the ground, shrieking and writhing. Her hands grab at my throat. Mine grab the knife still buried in her arm and rip it out. She finally howls in pain as blood rushes from the wound, covering the floor where we battle.

I raise the knife, stabbing at my adversary. But Clarice is quick. With her one good arm, she slaps the knife away and sends it skittering across the floor and out of reach. I watch it slip away in despair when Clarice bunches her legs underneath her and kicks me in the gut.

Air escapes my lips as I fall back. Clarice scampers over me, heading for the knife. I can't let her have it. I grab her ankle just as she reaches for it. The skinny girl wasn't expecting her momentum to be pulled away like that and falls to the hardwood floor. Advantage regained, I heave myself up and onto the smaller girl.

She may be tough, but with her injured arm she's not strong enough to throw me off. I fix my hands around the girl's scrawny throat--just above the collar--and squeeze tightly.

The girl doesn't give in. She shrieks and squirms, nails gouging and clawing at my skin, knee slamming into my stomach. Blood trickles down my forearms, but I force myself to shut down the pain. I can't let go. She'll grab that knife and kill me if I do. So I hang on. Despite the raging pain in my arms. The throbbing of my chest. I hold fast to the girl's throat and wish that she would just die already...

Clarice goes still.

I sigh and close my eyes, grip loosening. I...that was...A shudder runs through my body. I never thought that killing someone would be so...brutal. So visceral. But why didn't I? Did I expect the girl to just die easily?

I blink my eyes open, staring at the girls face. She lies in a pool of blood, hers and my own. My clothes are stained with it. My arms drip the fluids. She put up a good fight, I give her that. She was no--

Clarice's head jerks around, teeth digging into my wrist as she bites down.

I scream at the sudden and intense pain, hands involuntarily flying up and releasing Clarice. She acts on this new freedom, darting forward and jabbing her fingers at my eyes.

I fall back onto the blood-stained floor, howling and screaming. Everything is blurry. My eyes throb. My vision fluctuates. Clarice rises from the ground, scoops up the knife, and rushes for the open window. With one last scream I grab at the girls ankles. I'm too slow.

The girl disappears out the window, taking my knife with her. Eyes still throbbing, arms aching with pain, I hobble across the blood-slick floor and stare out the window. Clarice has crashed to the ground, barely avoiding skewering herself on a fence. She climbs to her feet, slowly limping away. I'd throw another knife, but I'd miss. I can barely see straight.

Clarice gets away.

I let out a low moan and slide to the ground. The Rankings don't make you invincible. Clarice has done a lot of damage, despite being lower ranked. Blood slides down my arm, pooling in my hands. Everything is still blurry, just now beginning to fix itself. My arm is numb. I don't feel the pain.

"Damn girl..." I rest my head against the wall, shivering when the cold metal of my collar touches my skin. Wait...

Why didn't I pull the tab on the back of her collar? Set off her bomb? I could have let her escape, and then...Boom! Why didn't I think of that? I'm stupid. Opening my eyes, I force myself up. I need help. Bandages or something. I hobble out the door, praying that I don't run into anyone else as I seek the help I need.

Clarice Barron (4:28 P.M)

Damn that girl.

Damn my carelessness.

Damn Mr. White.

Damn that girl.

Damn everything.

I gasp with effort as I stumble down the streets, far from the house where I fought Anne. I had sprained my ankle with that daring leap, but things could be worse. I didn't break my ankle, and I managed to escape with both my life and a new knife.

I clutch this hard-won prize close to my chest. My left arm hangs limply at my side, courtesy of the knife I hold with my right. Anne was an expert with that throw, but if she had been only a smidgen better...I'd be dead.

I could be dead now, if I don't find cover. I'm weak and exposed. The other Challengers will see me as easy prey, and while I'd fight my hardest and certainly leave a few scars for them to remember me by, I very much doubt I'd get out of any battle alive.

So staying out of sight is a must.

I turn off the street, limping towards the nearest house. It's big and blue, with a steeped wooden roof and wide crystalline windows. It looks fancier then the last one I hid in. Hopefully that means I won't be discovered like that last time.

Climbing the stairs to the house, I try to keep as much weight off my foot as possible. Every step is agony, but I force myself on. I refuse to die here. I've faced worse then this.

The sky-blue door swings inwards, allowing me to shamble into the high-ceiling foyer. The overwhelming scent of oakwood touches my nose the moment I step inside. There's a grand staircase to the right, but I walk past this, heading through a low-arched door and stumbling into a kitchen.

I limp over to the table and slip, only catching the tables end keeps me upright. "Damn...Anne..." I pant, lying my head down against the striped tablecloth. If only I had noticed her sneaking into the house...then I could have set a trap and detained her. Not killed, no. Mr. White's stupid rule prevents me from killing her. But I could have trapped her, wounded her. I grab at my arm and wince. She is a tough opponent. I'll need to take her out eventually to win.

Several minutes pass. I find a dry cloth in a drawer and wet it with the sink, carefully cleaning my wounded arm. The cut is deep. I need help. An infection would be the very last thing I need. It could kill me quicker then another knife. I need medicine.

I ransack the house. Check the cupboards and drawers. The fridge. Wardrobes in the bedrooms. The house is large, holding many rooms. I go through them all, limping and muttering when I find things of little value. It's not until I check behind the mirror in the upstairs bathroom do I find what I seek.

Bottles of pills, rolls of bandages, and jars of ointment. Stacks of them. I laugh lightly and grab the closest one, seeing that it is anti-infection. I screw the cap open and stare at the clear liquid inside, a heavy anti-septic smell stings my nostrils. This is going to hurt.

I brace my wounded arm on the table and grit my teeth together as, with my one good arm, I pour the liquid onto it. I twitch from the sudden pain, like a dozen bee's stinging at once, and accidentally splash some of the precious medicine on the floor. I scoop the bottle back up and set it on the counter, grabbing a bandage roll and separating it with my teeth. Then I wrap the cottony roll around my forearm and relax.

It's dealt with. For now. I am certain I will have to change the dressing and reapply the medicine later, but for now I'm good to go. I breath a sigh of relief, resting on the cold tiles and lying my head against the edge of the tub.

There's a thudding pounding in my head. Like an alarm. It makes it hard to think. I concentrate on thoughts of killing Mr. White. It makes me feel better.

I am not sure how long I lay here, thinking of the various ways Mr. White could die. But eventually another thought pops into my head. I need a way to carry the medicine.

I climb to my feet and then collapse, completely forgetting about my ankle. I shriek a loud curse as my injured arm slams into the hard floor, sending a spasm of intense pain shuddering down my body.

I roll over with a groan, my good hand bracing against the sink as I pick myself back up, taking extra care not to put too much weight onto my ankle. Then I limp out of the room, resuming my search.

I don't find much. Just a few pieces of fruit, a hammer, and a belt that I fit around my waist. It has holsters that I place both my knife and hammer into. No way I'll be without a weapon.

In the largest bedroom, I find a small duffel bag lying on the bed. It's empty except for a few wads of cash tied together with a rubber band. I toss these aside. What use do I have for money here?

I fill the bag with the fruit--With a curse I remember that I left all my previous supplies in the room where Anne attacked me--and hobble back to the bathroom. There I dump all the medicine into my bag. Everything. Even the stuff I don't need, like sleep pills and eye drops. Someone else may take them if I don't, and that's not going to happen.

With the bag filled and the house empty, I head back down the staircase, sliding on my butt. My ankle isn't good enough to take it. When I'm on the bottom floor, I limp out the back door. The sky has changed since I was last out, it is now a deep orange color. The forest in the distance sways with the wind, but I don't head there. It's too risky. Instead, I hobble towards a shed, hoping that it will be a place where no one finds me.

Justine Leonard (5:47 P.M)

Chris calls for a break just as we arrive at a hill overlooking the forest. Felix grunts with satisfaction, flopping down onto the soft grass. "Thank you! My feet are killing me!"

I sit down next to him. Felix was missing from my life for several long years. I never want to part with him again...Though Mr. White's dangerous promise of their only being one survivor constantly rings in my ears. If he's right...No. Better not to think of it I should just be glad my brother is back, and not yet dead.

"Where is this Nero kid, huh?" Nic asks, spitting on the grass. He's been in a terrible mood all day. I think it's because Chris killed Ali, effectively ensuring he remains #1 for another day. Also, I doubt that wandering the island for several hours has done anything to improve his ood.

Chris scowls. "The map said he should be in the forest around here."

I look out into the glen before us, sequestered between two cliffs. According to my map, we're on the far end of the forest, very close to the cliffs that make up most of the northern point of the island. The lodge is only a click away to the west. Basically, we've gone in a gigantic circle.

"You've said that before!" Nic fixes Chris with savage glare. "Many, many times before."

It's obvious he holds no sympathy or respect for the tall boy. Neither do I, for that matter. I did not like the way he watched Felix after that joke about breakfast. It looked like he was about to kill him. And higher rank or not, I'd have slayed him where he stood if he ever attempted to harm my brother.

"And I was right all those times! That's what the map said!" Chris snarls at us and turns to gaze upon the glen with a harried look, obsessively plucking at his bowstring. That's another problem I have with Chris. He's too eager to catch Nero. We could have caught and killed dozens of the other Challengers by now if he didn't insist that we hunt Nero and Nero alone.

"He's nuts," Felix whispers to me. So I'm not the only one to notice.

I nod. "He's going to explode if we don't find Nero soon. Possibly kill Nic, if he keeps egging him on."

"Dude should be more like Tristan. He knows what's up."

I glance at the fifth member of our alliance as he flits silently on the edge of the hill. He looks like a flighty deer. Talks as much as one too. Ever since the new rankings came out, he hasn't said a word. Not that he ever really said much before that, either. He really only ever glared at everything and snorted. But now it seems like he's about to desert at any moment.

"I don't trust him," I say simply.

Felix shrugs. "So you really think he's not worried that Chris will kill him? Remember, this alliance was originally only for the top five."

"I don't think that's the case anymore. Otherwise we'd be chasing Nero to recruit him, not kill him."

My twin only shrugs again. "For now. But if Nero died, Tristan would be top five again, yeah?"

"I suppose."

"I'm figuring that's what Chris is thinking."

We lapse into silence. I eat a little of a leftover candy bar, watching my "allies" with a careful gaze. When I said I didn't trust Tristan, I was putting it mildly. I wouldn't let him--or anyone else for that matter--tie my shoes. They're all just in it for themselves and want to take the easy path to victory. That's the only reason any of us joined up with Chris.

"Everyone get up! Break time is over!" Chris calls us all together and we head off down the hill, into the glen. Trees quickly pop up around us, towering over the ground like castles of wood. At their bases, scurrying squirrels searched for food under bristles of wispy moss. My mind instantly let me know that these animals could provide us with food, if our current supply ever ran out.

We group into a tight cluster as the path we take through the trees becomes more narrow. Everyone is uneasy. Chris plays with his bowstring, eyes constantly flitting among the trees. Nic keeps touching the handle of his machete, as if reminding himself that it is still there. I unconsciously grip Felix's shoulder.

"It's okay," He pats my hand and gives a wide smile. "We're not going to be ambushed."

Somehow he's always known what I've been thinking. Despite what he says, I do think that this could be a trap. It would be the perfect spot to ambush us, when we're emerging from this narrow path. We're stuck in a single file line, and wouldn't have the chance to fight back. If Nero knows we're hunting him...


I jump in shock, slamming forward into Felix and nearly tripping Tristan who walks behind me. Chris and Nic wheel around in alarm, weapons drawn, only to relax when we see a hare scampering away into nut-brown forest, leaving behind a snapped twig.

"Stupid animal..." Nic shakes his head and mutters a swear.

We continue on.

Slowly the forest begins to widen. The trees become smaller and spaced further apart. More sunlight leaks through their open branches. I'm beginning to think that this isn't a trap.

Then we're out. We arrive at a wide glade, where the trees fall away, revealing the bespeckled sky. The sugary sweet scent of flowers waft around us as we step into the beautiful place, and then we see him. Dressed entirely in black and laughing wildly as he plays with butterflies that pirouetted in the air.

Nero Shock.


Chris' arrow misses his head by an inch. Nero spins to face us, wide blue eyes drawn back in shock. There's a long moment when no one moves, everyone too stunned by the others appearance to react.

Then Nic charges forward and Nero turns to run.

Two more arrows, each one just barely missing Nero. They're skewers of death, needles of despair. It only takes one well-placed shot and Nero is a goner. The boy seems to know this, as he begins to weave in and out, running in a crossword pattern. Still, Nic gains on him.

"We have him," Felix says emotionlessly. He doesn't care what happens to the boy. Neither do I. He has to die eventually, and as long as I'm not the one who does it...So what?

"I don't think so," Tristan stops at our shoulders, pointing at Nero who has just reached the opposite edge of the glade. The small boy flings himself at a skyscraper of a tree, scratching and clawing at its bark as he desperately pulls himself up.

"Come ON!" Chris howls back at us and then fires another arrow. This one slams into the bark next to Nero's hand, nearly skewering him to the tree. But it misses. And so Nero climbs higher and higher, until he disappears into the leafy boroughs that span out from the ancient branches.

"Damn that bastard!" Nic stops at the base and stabs his machete into the trunk. The rest of us, following Chris, stop beside him. We all gaze up the length of the might tree, completely unable to see Nero through the thick canopy.

"What now?" Felix asks.

Chris looks like he wants to punch him. "What now? What now?! What NOW!?" His face turns beet-red, eyes bulging in his sockets. I reach for the knife in my pocket when Chris sighs and runs a hand through his perfect blonde hair. "I need to calm down..."

"The hell you do..." Tristan mutters. I don't think Chris hears him.

I look around the tree, noticing that no others grow nearby. Only a rocky cliff wall, one that is several dozen feet taller then the tree, stands close. "Can anyone climb?" Nic seethes. He looks even angrier than Chris.

Tristan shakes his head. So do Felix and I. I'm lying, of course. I'm an excellent climber, perfectly capable of scaling that tree to the very top. But then what would I do? I'm ranked lower then Nero and can't hurt him. Climbing would get me nowhere.

Chris mutters something unintelligible and stalks away to collect his arrows. Nic grinds his teeth together furiously, circling around the tree like he expects Nero to fall out at any moment. Tristan gives a haughty sniff. "If they wanted him so bad they should have had better aim..."

"Or been faster," Felix adds with a playful grin. I pinch his arm.

"Ow! What was that for?"

"Do you want them to kill you?" I'm perfectly aware of the fact that rage makes people act unstable. And an unstable Chris or Nic is bad news.

Felix only rubs his arm, giving me a rueful glare. "You didn't need to pinch me," He finally mutters. I roll my eyes.

"We're staying here!"


Chris is back, his quiver refilled with his missing arrows. His blue eyes are narrowed as they watch the treetops. "You heard me. We're staying here until he comes down."

"But...why?" Felix doesn't understand. Neither do I. Why waste more time with this kid? We have a free tracking device that would let us find anyone...Why aren't we using it?

"Because I said so." Chris plants his feet like that's the only justification needed. And maybe it long as he's number one.

"There's nowhere for him to go," Nic licks his lips as he rejoins us. He looks hawkish as he gazes up at the tree. "No other tree to jump to. Nothing. He's stuck."

Well, I can't refute that point. There really is nowhere for him to go. Unless he were crazy enough to try and leap onto the cliff, that is. And without a refute, I can only go along with what my "superiors" say.

Even if I think it's stupid.

Bree Richmond (6:42 P.M)

The enchanted forest beckoned me into its pulsing heart. How could I resist such a lush Garden of Eden? The deep, haunting ballad of its ancient song called out to me. As old as Adam, the forest was still steeped in plushness and opulence.

With a light heart, I plunged into the over-arching vault of leaf and limb. It was not what I had expected. The exquisiteness of the dawn’s light had not yet lanced to the lush, green sward. Because of this, hoods of black shadow hung in the groves.

Coils of vaporous mist enwrapped the shaggy heads of the oak trees. They writhed around them like a conjuror’s milky smoke, sensuous and illusory. Sieves of mist caressed the lichen-encrusted bark. Adding its phantasmal gas to the damp breath of the forest, it glided with deadly intent. It deadened sound, haunted glades and poured into empty spaces.

A sepulchral silence overhung the hallowed ground where the trees dared not grow. Nothing stirred, nothing shone, nothing sang. A hollow echoing, like the hushed tones of a great, slabbed cathedral, entombed the wood.

Then a finger of supernal light poked through the misty mesh. It was followed by a whole loom of light, filtering down in seams of gold. Like the luminal glow of the gods, it chased the shadows, banished the gloom and spilled into spaces where the mist once stalked. The fluty piping of a songbird split the silence just as the forest became flooded with light. A fusillade of trilling and warbling detonated all around me as the primordial forest came alive with the troubadours of the trees. I darted between shafts of lustrous-gold light as I went, admiring the butterflies. They pirouetted in the air, their wings a-whirr like little ripples of silk.

The glory of the forest was revealed in the birthstone-bright light. Almond-brown trees stood serenely, awash with a tender glow. Their bark looked like riffled toast and gems of amber clasped their crusty exterior. The first blush of the morn gave the leafy bower a green-going-to-gold complexion.

Idling past suede-soft flowers, I caressed them softly, getting tingles in my fingers. My ears perked up at the metallic, tinkling sound of a stream. It flashed with a tinsel tint through the lace of leaves. When the trees parted, I could see it was sliding into an infinity-pool. The pool looked like a polished mirror of silver, with skeins of swirl-white twisting slowly on the surface. A shiny spillway led to a choppier pond. Boulders colonized the edges of the pond, buffed with pillows of moss. They caused a rocky gurgling as water met stone; a swish, a clunk, a swell and a clop. Sweet fragrances, alluvial and palliative, seemed to flit in and out of my awareness. Sight and smell vied for attention in this soul-enriching dream world.

I put my back against a knobbly boulder, leaning my head against the mossy pillow. I closed my eyes, let my stream of consciousness take hold, and drifted into infinity....

"Bree! Hey, Bree!"

A sharp tone grates against my eardrums. A high-pitched, excited tone that drawls against my head. I shift my body, curl my legs against my chest. I do not want to listen. I only wish to sleep. That forest...

"Bree! How long are you going to sleep?"

My eyes flit open.

His freckled face is only mere inches from my own. A wide, toothy grin crosses his mouth as a reflective light dances in his liquid brown eyes. Sami.

"Oh...Hello..." I push myself away, scooting across the downy-soft grass. Flitting images of my dream remain intact inside my thoughts, but they're slipping away with every passing moment. If only I could have stayed there...The current forest I find myself in is nothing like the splendourful paradise of my dreams. It is drab, dreary, and--worst of all--dreadfully real.

"You had a long nap," Sami comments cheerfully. He's chewing something, though I am unsure as to what. "I hope you had a pleasant dream."

If only he knew.

I press my hand against the ground, shifting myself into a sitting position. I can hear rushing water, a sure sign that we're still near the river. Orange light filters through gaps in the trees, telling me that it is dusk. My datapad shows me that no one else has perished.

"What's happened?" I ask Sami quietly. "And what are you eating?"

"Nothing's happened," He replies in the same cheery tone. "At least, nothing I've seen. Oh! And I'm eating nuts!" He holds out a handful of dusky brown nuts. "Want one?"

I shake my head politely. "No, thank you."

He shrugs and pops a few more in his mouth. "If you say so."

I sit in silence, watching him drift along the side of the river, occasionally checking the ground for more nuts. Sami is a nice boy, but he's not...not quite the ally I was hoping for. Yes, any ally is appreciated but...

I sigh. My dream is not to be. It never is, nor it ever will be.

I roll the flashlight between my hands. It's a large, industrial thing. It's beam is bright and inten$, capable of shining through the darkest of nights. Holding it close to me makes me feel safe. But I know that it will not be for long. The creatures of the night stalk the forest at Mr. White's behest. They will find Sami and I, and they will kill us. My dream will shatter. 'Tis not to be. I once had a dream I'd be free from both here and any restrictions.

But that was just what it was: a dream. I was not a girl beloved, nor a girl with a family who'd hold her close. I was not a princess, fair and secure. I was not a fairy, wanted and brave. I was just a girl, stuck in a world of a thousand dreams.

Once upon a dream, I dreamed of having a family. That was never to be true.

Once upon a dream, I dreamed of finally being brave. That was never to be true.

I was a weak, unloved girl, used in every meaning of the word. That, my friend, was true.

Johanna Cisse (8:28 P.M)

Throughout my second day on the island, I explored the area surrounding my waterfall, filling out the map on my datapad. The tannin-brown forest held little surprises. The floor is carpeted with leaves, the occasional nut scattered around and the rare wildcat slinking through the bushes. I actually saw two of those, more then I had expected.

I also had encountered the row of houses again. I went inside one, nabbed a bag of apples, a pair of energy bars, a handful of mini-chocolate bars, and took a few drinks from the sink. But I dared not venture further into the neighbourhood. Those houses are merely traps for frightened kids. And I prefer to set the traps; not get caught in them.

And setting traps is just what I'm doing now. It's dark, a deep indigo sky masking the horizon, the first few wisps of fog setting in. I'm back near my waterfall cave, on the east side of the river. I've already trapped the west side, placing a foot-snare that would yank anyone who activates it into the air and suspend them by their legs. Now I work on the east.

There's two reasons why setting traps in this location is beneficial. One; protecting my cave is a must. Two; people are guaranteed to try and attempt to drink from the river. And I've placed my traps on the clearest path to the water's edge. When I finish, both sides will be deadly. With my snare already complete, I work on a deadfall.

The simplest of deadfalls consisted of only a few sticks and a rock. Usually, they're small and are used to catch small mammals. A trap would be set, fixed with bait beside the trigger, and when the animal went to eat the bait, the stick would be moved and set off the trap, which would drop a rock upon the animal, killing it.

That's exactly what I mean to do now, only on a larger scale. Since I am in a forest, it is not at all difficult to find a few long, sturdy branches and a big enough rock. I find one rock, roughly the size of my head, beside the river. Then I lug it back towards my trap. Setting it up becomes quite tedious. I'm not exactly muscular, and lugging it up the tree with me is difficult. But somehow I manage. I get it up to the height I want, fitting it snugly between two long limbs. I use the longest of the sticks--the trigger--to prop it up. When I finish, I slide back down the tree and examine my work.

It's not perfect, much to my chagrin, and I don't have any bait that would work on a human, but it will do. Anyone wandering down this path is likely to set off the trigger, and then...

I grin, imagining the rock taking out the hapless Challenger. "They'll never see it coming!"

I was initially worried about accidentally catching someone ranked higher then I. It would be utterly horrendous to kill someone only to discover that it would cause my head to explode.

But I do not have to worry about that. I read the rules tab on my datapad--which I'm sure most of the idiotic Challengers ignored--and it stated that killing Challengers ranked higher then you through indirect methods, such as poison, traps, and giving an infectious wound, are perfectly acceptable. Thus, my trap is allowed to kill anyone on this island.


I leave my trap, heading back for the river and passing over the bubbling water via stepping stones. My rank does not reflect my position in these games. I know what I am doing. No one else does. I have a finely tuned strategy. Everyone else does whatever the hell they want. Who will win? I think that answer should be fairly obvious.

Crickets chirp and birds squawk as I enter the forest on the other side of the river. I stick low to the undergrowth, keeping an ear to the sky and an eye on the ground. I can hear a very faint sound. It's almost like...swaying.

My trap! Someone must have set off my trap!

I stick close to the ground and remain silent, but I pick up my pace. Soon I emerge onto the path where my snare was set, and I see that my trap did indeed catch someone.

Victoria hangs from her feet, gently swaying across the path. Her head is a full foot off the ground, but her long chocolate brown hair cascades past her head and tickles against the dirt. She looks utterly ridiculous.

"Going somewhere?" I ask with a smirk, stepping into her sight. Her stormy eyes turn to face me and she mumbles something unintelligible. I eye the fallen bottles beside her head and notice her reddened face. Intoxicated, I take it.

"Yous...gonna...let me down?" Victoria laughs at me, her words slurring incoherently. Definitely intoxicated.

"Depends," I eye her person, noticing the lack of pockets on her shorts and absence of backpack.

"On what?" Her voice is oddly flat and emotionless. I would expect a person to be upset at having been caught in a trap, even a drunk one. Instead, she's just...uncaring.

"On what you have to trade for your freedom." I calmly crouch down a safe distance from the girl. Something silver glints in her hands. A knife?

"And why--" She girls pauses to hiccup. "Should I give you anything?"

I shrug. "Do you want to be freed?" Yes, it's a knife in her hands. A nice, sharp one. I could do many things with a nice blade like that.

"What's it to you...?"

Honestly, it's nothing. I don't care in the slightest if she wants to get set free. I just want her knife. "This is my trap," I tell her casually, slowly and carefully scooting forward. I doubt she will part with her only weapon amicably. "And there is no way you can escape without my say so."

"Oh?" The girl's eyes narrow, an odd sight when she's upside down. "Well, hurray for you darling. It must be nice to be good at something."

I eye her coldly. "I'm good at many things, thank you very much."

"I'm sure you--" Another hiccup. "I'm sure you are. You look like an expert whore."

My hand shoots out and punches her in the face. She screams as her lip splits, blood spilling down her face as she sways back and forth. "You stupid little--!" She utters many curses, several the foulest in creation. I ignore her and leap for her right hand, where she holds the knife. But she's too quick and the blade nips past my wrist, leaving a small cut that drip crimson drops.

"Too slow, darling!" She laughs and spits blood.

Of all the most loathsome creatures! I pull back and pace about the tree lines. I'd never let her down--not that I was planning to--but I cannot kill her either. And not just because I'm weaponless. She's ranked higher then I am, for some unknowable reason.

"Just go on!" Victoria drawls from her hanging position. "I don't care if I hang here. So why should you waste your time? Just go."

I would like to go and leave this stupid little barbie. I would like that very much. But I cannot, not until I have that knife. "Do you value your life?" I ask the girl, hoping she's too drunk to remember the rankings. My hands curl around a nearby branch. A big hefty one.


Not the answer I was expecting, but fine. Have it her way.

I grip the branch and dart forward. The girl tries to swing herself away, but she's too slow. The thick branch slams into her gut, eliciting a pained grunt and sending her shirt flying over her head. Blinded and unable to see through the cloth, she slashes widely with the knife. I smack her second time, harder, and watch as she drops the knife.

In a flash I nip forward and snag it, pulling back to the treeline. "You're a foul cockroach," I tell her coldly.

Victoria laughs. "So are you."

I scowl. She, for one, certainly belongs in these games. Perhaps Mr. White isn't as despicable as he seems. I examine the knife in my hands, it's a quaint little weapon with a sharp blade. Perfect for many different tasks. "Thank you for the knife," I say, pocketing it. "But I now I must go. You understand, don't you?"

Her only response is to laugh.

"Very well. I'm sure you won't be alone for long. Another Challenger will stumble by soon...unless the animals finish you off first." I turn and stalk into the woods, leaving the wasted girl hanging as her emotionless laughter echoes throughout the woods.

Oreo Dutton (10:45 P.M)

Night has arrived on the island. The for once cloudless sky is clear, a deep darkness of comfort. Polar-white stars dot the sky, flickering and shimmering like scattered moondust. It is a truly beautiful sight.

The song of the sea soothes me as the dark waves ripple gently against the shore. I had initially found the ocean to be terrifying, with its hidden depths and pounding surf, but at this moment I believe I can find the beauty in it.

I stand shoeless on the shore, bare feet on the soft sand. It's a little chilly, but that doesn't matter. I walk along the edge of the water, watching the dancing waves out at sea when the broad beam of the lighthouse illuminates them.

"Oreo!" Imogen calls from where she sits with Fausto beside a crackling fire. It sends rippling shadows across our tent and the beach. Shapes of the trees loom up like terrifying monstrosities of a dream.

"Yes?" I take a glance back at the ocean, where a bird swoops down from the sky. I had thought they'd all be sleeping.

"You want to eat?" Fausto holds up a bit of fish. He caught plenty throughout the day, and we've cooked many with fires. Fish isn't my favourite food by any stretch, but these don't taste too bad.

"I suppose."

I drift back towards the warmth of the fire, a sudden wind ruffling my dress. It's rather unfair, I think. Everyone else is dressed in adaptable, comfortable clothes, Fausto is even wearing a tank top and shorts. Meanwhile I'm stuck in a frilly party dress. That gives me a disadvantage. No wonder I'm ranked so low.

"Here ya go!" Fausto hands me a slab of wood that we've been using as plate, laden with steaming, fried fish.

I smile, taking it. "Thank you."

"No problem!" He winks playfully and I giggle. He is quite handsome. With his charming smile, twinkling eyes, softly tanned skin and muscular arms...I see how he could be quite the heartthrob for the girls back home. Here too. I spare a glance at Imogen and see her watching him with a joyful expression, dreamy smile etched on her face.

"You feeling okay?" I ask, poking her in the shoulder playfully. "Things aren't too hot for you?"

"W-what?" She shakes her head like emerging from a stupor. She stares at me "No. I'm fine. Perfectly fine."

I smile. "I'm sure you are."

I focus on eating as my two allies begin to talk. I like them both. They're good people. leaves me feeling a little uncertain. If we aren't rescued, and with these bomb collars I'm quite certain we cannot be, everyone will die. Liking these people could be the worst thing that could possibly happen.

I could wind up watching them die, like Nora.

I feel a chill run through me, and the light from the fire seems to dim. Nora. I...Could we have saved her? It didn't seem likely, but the more I think about it, the more I remember...

Did I doom the girl to die?

I know that Imogen said that I was right, but...Still. Don't be so melodramatic A voice tells me. Everyone will die but one. How could you save them all? You shouldn't even try! The only way for me to live is for everyone else to die. That should make me feel better, but it actually does the opposite. Everyone will die. No matter how nice or kind they are. Death will get them all the same. Even I can't really see a way out of this predicament.

"You listening, Oreo?"

"Huh?" I look up to see both Imogen and Fausto staring at me. "What is it?"

"We were wondering about the lighthouse," Fausto points up the rocky cliffs at the orange-striped tower. "Do you think someone is up there?"

"I...umm." The lighthouse certainly looks like it would offer shelter. But would that be too obvious? I know that if I were searching for someone, that would be the first place I looked. "Maybe. Do you think they could see us?"

My question catches them off guard. Imogen squirms on her log. "W-will they attack?"

"We don't know if anyone is even up there," Fausto replies steadily. His firm eyes are fixed on the building, hands clutching his trident. "But if someone is, I doubt they'd attack a group."

"Unless they are a group too," I mutter. They both watch me curiously.

"I never thought about the possibility of other groups," Fausto admits.

"They could be stronger then us..." Imogen murmurs.

I hadn't even really thought of these implications until now. If the others are doing what we are, how do we hope to beat them? Fausto is strong, sure. But Imogen and I aren't really anything to fear. Neither of us are very large, or weapon savvy, or survival experts, or--

"I'm not worried!" Fausto sticks his trident into the sand, where it stays upright. "If they want us, then they can come get us!"

"Don't say that!" I look around in alarm, wondering if Mr. White will give our position away now. He does hear everything that happens...

"Calm down, Oreo," Imogen nods calmly, watching Fausto with clever eyes. She trusts the boy enough that if he's not afraid, she won't be either. I wonder if that's wise. "I doubt anyone is lurking in the woods watching us."

Great. Now I'm paranoid that something is hiding in the woods.

The night goes on. We talk about our lives back home for awhile, and I invite them both over to my parents home, just in case we ever get off this wicked island. Fausto doesn't say much. Never even speaks about his former life, or where he's from. All I know is that he lived near the ocean. Eventually I get tired and retire to the tent, where I lie flat on my back, dreading sleep. I just know that I will see Nora die again.

"You know, Fausto," Imogen's voice can be heard from outside the tent. "You look a lot like a kid I used to know."

"Eh? Really? Who was he?" Fausto doesn't sound very interested.

"He...Well, he was a friend." A short, awkward pause. The fire crackles loudly. "But, then...he left. He kinda...began bullying me."

"That's no good."

"Yeah...Well, I didn't really..." She trails off, obviously uncomfortable. "I don't know why Misha did that..."

"Wait. Misha?" Fausto's interest is suddenly piqued. "Did you say his name was Misha?"

"Y-yeah. Why?" Imogen doesn't understand, but I do.

"Was his name Misha Castiel, by any chance?"

"H-how did you know?"

"Check your datapad. Number ten."

I don't know how she didn't notice it earlier. How she overlooked his name. He's literally ranked right above her! He even has a picture! There's a soft gasp as Imogen finds him. "Misha!"

"That's him, huh?"

"Yes!" Imogen sounds mortified. I roll over onto my side, wondering why that would be. Didn't Misha bully her?

"Guess he got his comeuppance, huh?" Fausto chuckles quietly. "You might even be the one who gets to end him."

"Fausto!" Imogen is shocked and repulsed. "How could you say such a thing? Why would I want Misha to die? Because he bullied me? That's no reason at all!"

"He betrayed you too, you know. He was your friend, wasn't he?" Fausto is calm. Odd, for someone who was just advocating murder. "And he betrayed you. Why wouldn't he deserve death?"

"I...I don't even..." Imogen is at a lost for words. I don't know what to think. Fausto could be right...

"There are some people with whom I have an axe to grind ," Fausto says coldly. "And if they were on this island, you better believe that I would slice their damn faces off."

Misha Castiel (11:38 P.M)

I stalk through the misty, fog-laden forest, slicing through the undergrowth with my machete. Normally, I'd be asleep. But not here. Not on this island. Here, good things come to those who keep awake.

Like last night, for instance. There I was, stumbling through the woods just minding my own business, looking for suitable shelter, when Mr. White announces an air drop. And where does this drop take place? Right beside me of course!

I grin, slashing down a large fern that grew too close to my path. This excellent machete was among the prizes inside that crate. It was the most important thing, but it wasn't the only thing. There was also a heavy-duty flashlight, which I use to light my path now. Also, bread, nuts, some rope, a vial of strange fluid that smells awful, and a strange square emblem.

I actually have no idea what that last item is for. It's bronze, and inladen with what looks like pearls and engraved with the number '3'. Like I said, it's strange. I keep it in the backpack the air drop gave, along with my other stuff. I don't know what it's for, but it looks cool. Might as well keep it.

Currently, I'm just wandering the island. According to the "advice" I received from a "die hard fan" there was someone "in the place 'yer at" and that "He's ranked higher than 'ya." Naturally I cleared house, remembering to thank Jessica, the person who apparently sent me the letter. I'm actually a little disturbed that people are watching this and enjoying it instead of, oh, I don't know, freaking the hell out! Like, sheesh. I know they're trying to help, but maybe it'd be better to just ignore Mr. White. I mean, if no one watches he has no game, right?

Or maybe not. I don't know. I'm no great thinker.

The trees around me begin to thin out and soon I emerge into a small clearing, where a solitary tree stump rests. Frowning, I approach the stump and nearly laugh aloud. Embedded in the stump, as if someone slammed it down, is an axe.

"This is just too good to be true!" I stow my machete away, gripping the axe's handle and ripping it free. My parents own a lumber company. I've been around axes my entire life. What better weapon could there be?

I give the weapon a few test swings. Perfect. Just perfect. I'm a big threat now, possibly more of a threat then anyone else. I mean, what else could be more threatening then I am? No one!

Chuckling softly, I turn and see a small bag hanging from a tree, a small stake driven through the top. "Ha! Another item for me!" I reach out and grab the bag, pulling it away from the tree.

And fall back screaming as it reveals the face of a skeleton.

I scamper back on my hands and knees, scooting away from the terrifying sight. What the hell! Who died? I hit the stump and pull myself back up, shakily focusing my flashlights beam on the skeleton, giving me a better look.

I laugh.

The skeleton is fake. One of those cheap plastic things people place out in their yards during Halloween. It's not real. "Nice trick, Mr. White!" I say as I shove the stupid thing to the ground. "Real nice trick."

I can't believe how big of a fool I just made myself! Everyone watching must be laughing like crazy. I slam my axe into the stump. Stupid! What kind of idiot gets scared by such a cheap trick?

Grumbling all the while, I check the new bag I found. Inside is a pair of boots, kinda like the type soldiers wear in shows, and a slick rain jacket. Cool and all, but nothing game changing. Just extra benefits. "Wonder if it even rains here," I pull the jacket over my shoulders, glad to find that it fits. "It definitely fogs."

The misty gray fog has spread even further while I armed myself. Now the entire forest is cloaked, making it exceedingly difficult to see more then a few feet past my face, even with the flashlight.

Leaves crunch under my feet as I continue out of the clearing. It's too exposed to stay there for the night, plus...Well, that skeleton freaks me out, real or not. The fog envelopes the clearing a mere moment after I step away. I stumble on, slightly uneasy.

A soft, dull moaning reaches my ears. I spin around, flashlight scanning the trees, but I see nothing. What was that? It sounded like a person...

"Hello?" I call out cautiously. I'm aware that this could be deadly, but there's only nine people on this island who can kill me, and I doubt anyone would risk striking through this fog without knowing who they're attacking. "Anyone there?"

No answer.

A chill wind tickles my face and I shiver. I should have stayed at the clearing...Suddenly I panic. I blindly charge through some undergrowth and emerge on the other side to see someone hanging upside down.

I scream.

"Well, nice to see you too." A bored, lifeless voice greets me from behind chocolate hair. I step back, blinking twice as I re-evaluate the situation. She's alive, and she's a Challenger...

"Uh...Who're you?" I gawp stupidly at the ridiculous sight. A rope stretches high into the trees, tied around the girls feet. Her long legs extend downwards from there past her shorts, to where her head sits just a foot from the group. Every now and then her shirt keeps falling and covering her face. She continually brushes it aside, muttering. "And...why are this?"

"Because I think it's fun." I get the sense she's being sarcastic, though her voice has no tone behind it.

"You wandered into a trap!" I'm finally putting two and two together. I was a little thrown off, finding a beautiful girl hanging around in the middle of nowhere, but now my mind is coming back to me. "And now you're stuck."

"Bravo. You figured it out." She puts her slender hands together and gives me a slow golfclap. "You win the grand prize."

"And what's that?" I ask, staring at her long legs.

"Absolutely nothing. Isn't that just great?" She laughs wildly, and for the first time I notice the empty bottles lying beside her head.

"Have you been drinking?" There's a strong scent of alcohol coming off her, so strong, that I'm surprised I hadn't noticed it before.

She shrugs, or at least, the closest she can manage while being upside down. "Maaaybe. Nuthin' else to do, eh?" She laughs again. I frown and check my datapad, the faint light glowing through the fog that surrounds us. I'm not sure, but I think she's Victoria Sinclair, #14. She's ranked lower then I am...I could kill her, either axe her or slice her open with my machete...

My stomach flips unpleasantly at the thought. I...I don't think I want to kill her. Not...not with her tied up and defenceless...

"You going do something?" Victoria has noticed my heistance. "Or you just going to continue admiring my body?"

"What would you have me do?" I don't want to kill her. But I don't know if I should just let her go. What about the person who trapped her? Will they be upset?

"She's gone," It's almost like Victoria can read my thoughts. "The girl, that salty bitch, she left. Gone, gone, gone. Just like us."

"Oh." So her trapper isn't returning. Whoever it was must have been ranked lower then Victoria, or they would certainly have killed the girl. I wonder who it was. They were quite crafty to configure a trap like this. That makes them a big threat.

"You still there, handsome?" Victoria prods at my ankles with her hands. I jerk away, watching her tepidly. Her shirt once more conceals her face. "Or you gone off to la-la land?"

"I'm going to let you down," I say.

"Excuse me?"

"I said I'm going to let you down." I set my axe down against a tree, taking my machete as I reach for the rope that snares Victoria. I didn't think this idea through before I said it. But...I don't want to kill the girl, and I don't want to leave her for someone else to kill either.

"And why are you doing that?" Victoria sounds curious, the first emotion I've seen her show. "I'm the enemy, remember? Everyone is."

"Yeah, but..." I don't know what to say. Helping random people out isn't like me at all. Normally, I'd just laugh at someone in this predicament and move on, but I feel different now. I suppose it's because Victoria is stuck in the same position I am. Mr. White kidnapped us both without consent. It feels like he'd want me to kill her, and by refusing I can one-up him.

"Watch your head. I'm cutting you loose." My blade snips the rope and Victoria rolls free, landing on her back and laughing loudly.

"Ohh...That feels good. Blood no longer rushing to my head..." She splays her limbs out and begins making angels in the grass. I guess they're grass angels? I pocket the extra rope, storing it away as I watch Victoria warily.

"You frightened me with that moaning," I make small talk, unsure on what else to do. "But that's how I found you, following the noise."

She sits up abruptly, stormy gray eyes staring into my own. A sly smile stretches across her lips. "I wasn't making any noise."

"Huh? Yeah, you were. I followed it here..." I clearly remember the sounds when I left the clearing. It was a person. I'm sure it was.

"No. I never made a noise. Silent as mouse." The girl pulls herself up to her full height, and she's tall for a girl. Even taller then me. "But I don't doubt you heard something. There's things out there, terrible things."

I blink at her. What she said was so menacing, yet she spoke with such an uneven bored tone. Does she actually care about anything? "What do you mean, Victoria?"

She makes a small noise in the back of her throat. "Call me Tori."

"Uh. Okay, Tori." I watch her as she shifts from foot to foot, boredly staring out into the misty forest around us. "What do you mean?"

Tori stops moving. Her hands go back to her side, her eyes drifting over to meet my own. "Don't you know where we are?"

"No. Where are we?" An island. I know that much. But does she know something else? Does she know where the island is located? Could she possibly lead me to a way off the island? "Where are we, Tori?"


The word hangs in the air. The wind whips at our bodies, blowing the fog around our heads. I shake my head. "You're insane!"

"We're in Hell, Misha." Tori sounds dead certain of herself. I don't even know if it's the alcohol making her say this, it feels like she truly believes it. "Everyone gets what they deserve. And this is what we deserve."

"I...don't think that's true." I'm not a bad person. Never was. Never will be. I don't deserve this. If anyone thinks I do, then they're stupid and ignorant! They don't know the first thing about me! "I don't deserve this!" I say aloud, frightened by how shrill my voice is. "Mr. White is just a psycho who kidnapped us! We're not dead!"

Tori stares at me. "Yes, you're right....But that doesn't mean this isn't hell or that we don't deserve it."

A ringing fills the quiet, dead night. Our datapads flicker with life, revealing the ghasty face of Mr. White. He looks paler then before. "Hello, Challengers! It is now midnight, meaning that the Rankings will go down for our lovely fans to vote! They will return at noon, once more."

I grit my teeth and look up at Tori. She's watching her own datapad blankly. Surely she can't think we all deserve to be at the mercy of this psycho?

"Also, I would like to remind you that killing the others is the only way for this game to end," Mr. White is frowning now. "It appears that most of you aren't actively trying to accomplish this. In fact, only Anne and the top five seem eager. You've spent two days here on my island, and only two Challengers have died. Quite disappointing. You'll never be ready at this rate. Maybe you need more motivation." There's a flash of movement and a detonator suddenly appears in his hands.

"Perhaps I should blow one of you up? Hmm?" His fingers toy with a large black button. I self-consciously touch the collar around my neck, imagining if it were to suddenly go off, blowing my head to bloody chunks. Mr. White chuckles. "But, I think not. At least, not now. You see, Ali was killed today. This fact will prevent me from blowing your heads off, for now." He sets the detonator in his pocket and I find myself sighing with relief. I was actually worried for a second.

"But our viewers are getting bored!" Mr. White smiles oddly. "And so, I fully expect you all to perform much more eagerly on the morrow. If you don't..." He mimes an explosion with his hands. "One or more of you may find yourselves in pieces."

"Sick bastard!" I can't help but glare at the lunatic. What is wrong with him?

"Now, I'll leave you with Ali's death. Ta-ta for now!"

Footage of a middle-eastern boy charging a group of kids armed with shiny steel weapons suddenly plays. One boy uses a bow to incapacitate the kid and then drives a sword right through his chest. As the camera pans out, I see that they're in a building. Then the footage ends and we're back in the silence of the forest.

Huh. There's buildings on this island? I never would have suspected that.

Tori turns and walks for the forest.

"Wait! Where are you going?!" I step forward and grab her shoulder, stopping her right before she slips into the fog shrouded forest. She turns and narrows her eyes at me.

"Why do you care?"

I halt. Why do I care? I stare at the dark forest that surrounds me, covered in thick fog that hides even the trees. My flashlight beam wavers weakly. I...I suppose I don't want to be left in these woods. Alone. With people trying to kill me.

"I let you down," I say quietly.

"And? Do you expect a reward?" Her eyes flash dangerously as she steps forward. My heart skips a beat, suddenly worried that I made a terrible decision. Did I even check her for weapons?

"I...don't want anything!" I tell her quickly, backing up. The kids at school will so be mocking me mercilessly for this. What kind of guy backs down from a girl? "I am just wondering where you plan to go."

"So am I."

She turns and slips away into the darkness, immediately disappearing from sight. A strange mix of emotion washes over me. Disappointment, fear, and anticipation. Tori is gone, and I am once more left on my own.

I sigh and look to the sky, where even the moon and the stars have been masked by the shapeless, writhing fog.

Day 3/ A Little Rain Must Fall

Justine Leonard (11:15 A.M)

"Felix...wake up!" I gently nudge my brother's shoulder, keeping a close eye out for the others as they lie around the large tree, sleeping quietly. I've spent a good amount of time thinking on this--the entirety of last night actually--and have decided that it's time we upped and left this alliance. Apparently, our "fans" agreed. I received a letter from them telling me to do just that.

"Umm? What...what's happening?" My brother mutters as he rolls over onto his side, ignoring my gentle prodding. "Five...Five more minutes..."

"No!" I whisper a bit louder, shaking him now. "No more minutes! It's eleven 0'clock for Pete's sake! Why are you still sleeping?!" And how much longer will the others stay that way? I'm currently supposed to be on guard, ensuring Nero stays put in his tree, but who knows when the others will wake? I bet they already would have if the sun wasn't hidden behind a thick blanket of dark gray clouds.

"Don't wanna...wanna sleep..." Felix tries to roll away again, but this time I pinch his arms and his green eyes shoot open immediately. "Ouch! Justine! What are--"

My hands shoot out and cover his mouth. "Be quiet!" I snap at him, throwing a glance over my shoulder to make sure the others are still asleep. Nic scratches at himself and mumbles, but the others remain steady. I turn my frosty glare back to Felix. "Do you want us to get killed?"

He blinks sleepily. "I don't understand."

I sigh. "No, of course you don't."

I get to my feet, shivering slightly in the chill morning. The grass around us sparkles with dew, and the gray horizon brings the promise of rain. A risky proposition considering our lack of shelter. "Get your stuff," I tell Felix quietly.

"Umm...Why?" He yawns as he sits up, stretching much louder then necessary. I swear, sometimes my brother is a moron. "And what are you doing?"

I've begun creeping towards the sleeping forms of our "allies". Ditching them and taking just our own supplies wouldn't work. I mean, well, it would work, but why just take our own stuff when we can take theirs too?

I stop just in the center of the clearing, before the big tree. Which one should I rob? Nic, being the greedy pig that he is, has already eaten most of his food. Empty wrappers and discarded cans litter the grass around his head. So not him. Tristan is tempting, but he's lying asleep atop his bag, making it nigh impossible to take without waking him. Chris, meanwhile, has his own bag less than a foot away from himself, and he still has food.

So Chris it is.

"Seriously, Justine. What're you doing?" Felix's loud voice carries over from where he's begun collecting his stuff. I resist the urge to yell at him. Apparently this is too discreet for him to figure out, at least, this early in the morning.

"Just. Shut. Up." I tiptoe across the grass, bending over and looping my fingers around the straps of Chris' bag. Please don't wake up I find myself thinking as I tug it away from the sleeping boy. Please don't wake up.

It gets pulled away from his side and I smile as I throw it around my shoulder. Chris is going to be pissed when he wakes up!

I trot back to Felix, whose sitting on a rock grinding his spear tip into the dirt. "You gonna explain why we're ditching?" He asks as I join him.

"Ahh. So you figured it out!"

He raises an eyebrow. "I'm not stupid. Least, not when I'm not half-asleep."

I shrug. "Sometimes you make it hard to know what you know, if you know what I mean."

He shakes his head, laughing gently. "God, I've missed you Justine. You and your witty--" His eyes widen in sudden fear, muscles tensing in his powerful shoulders as he grips his spear. "Duck!"

I listen to my twin, throwing myself onto the ground so hard that I'll be picking dirt out of my teeth for weeks. Then Felix heaves his spear and there's a scream of pain as Nic drops to his knees with the polearm lodged in his left shoulder, blood spurting out between the steel.

"Run, Justine!"

Felix screams at me as the tranquil forest silence is broken. Nic howls with pain as he rolls around, roaring with anger as crimson bloods sprays from his wound. The others wake up instantaneously, weapons in hand. I just have enough wherewithal to notice Chris drawing his bow, notching an arrow as he turned to Felix.


My body reacts before my mind. I throw myself up, tackling Felix to the ground as an arrow whistles past, millimetres away from skewering my head.

We hit the ground hard. Then Felix is up, pulling me along into the woods as Chris unleashes another arrow. This one barely misses, clipping my ear and gushing blood. Chris must be beside himself with so many near hits.

"Go!" Felix shoves me and we're off into the forest that offers respite from the arrows, leaving our former allies behind.

Tristan Kaplan (11:21 P.M)

Felix and Justine disappear into the woods, taking several bags of supplies with them. Chris throws his bow to the ground, stomping and yelling his head off. But that's nothing compared to Nic, whose rolling around on the ground rattling off every swear known to man and a few I'm sure he invented.

"I'll kill them!" His scream is so loud, so visceral, that it shakes my eardrums. "I'll kill them for betraying us so early! There are still so many other people to kill!" He turns his blazing amber gaze on Chris, whose staring furiously off into the woods. "Why the frickin' hell did you put her on guard?"

"Everyone drew guard duty! You know that!"

I watch the two in a terrified silence. Felix and Justine--despite being slightly shifty---were the only ones in this alliance who wasn't a powderkeg waiting to go off. They were the only ones I didn't think would kill me. But now that they're gone...

"Don't just stand there, Tristan!" Chris draws his sword and points it at my chest. "Help Nic!"

"How am I suppose to do that?!"

"I don't know! Just DO IT!"

Sensing his terrifying anger, I scoop up Chris' jacket and cautiously approach Nic as he slumps to the ground, looking both furious and exhausted. "Let me help," I say, glancing at Chris and noticing that he's left to chase the Leonard's. Nic just nods, eyes ablaze with fury.

With my knife I slice a piece of the jacket off and wrap it around his wound, noticing that Nic has already ripped the spear back out. I don't know if that was wise. Blood soaks through the jacket immediately.

"I should never have formed an alliance," Nic growls angrily. "I should never have trusted those little trolls." I'm frightened by how furious he looks. He almost looks like he wants to snap my neck.

"I wish we had medicine," I mutter quietly. Or maybe not. Maybe a dead Nic is more useful to me. "But we'll just have to do without." I have Nic lie on his side, so that his shoulder wound is above his heart. Then I go to slice off another piece of jacket, replacing the old one around his shoulder. Luckily, this time it doesn't soak through.

We sit in silence, waiting for Chris to return. I move away from Nic, towards my bag and the large tree. Curious, I look up to see if I can spot Nero. Is the boy still up there? Or did he slip away in the chaos? I can't see him, but that tells me nothing.

Maybe I should slip away myself. Nothing good can come from hanging around this extremely volatile situation. But...I'm not certain I could get away without Chris noticing and coming after me. Unless I leave now, while he's gone...

Too late. Chris comes jogging back into the meadow, looking disshevled. "I lost them. They were too damn fast and--"

In one smooth movement, Nic lurches to his feet and lunges at Chris, arms outstretched. But before his hands could meet with Chris' throat, pain shoots through his body and he crashes unceremoniously to the ground. His tie has come undone and his wound has begun leaking blood once more. "This is all your fault!" He hisses.

"You're the idiot who got himself speared!" Chris snorts derisively, purposely stepping back out of the enraged boy's range.

Nic snarls angrily, snatching up the jacket and pressing it back to his wound. "You're a terrible leader. Why are you even ranked #1?"

Then there's a very long silence. Many minutes slip by, where we do nothing but stare at one another. This was about the worst case situation possible.

This is stupid. Why am I even still with these stupid morons? They can't do anything but bicker and kill! How could they ever help me? Taking careful stock of the situation, I begin to creep towards the forest. If I can just get there without Chris spotting me...

"You two. Hey, you two!"

A voice calls down from the tree, and we all look up to see Nero perched on a low branch staring down at us with wide eyes. Idiot. We had all but forgotten about him, but now he's back in the forefront of our minds. Chris snatches up his bow, notching an arrow.

"Wait!" Nero holds his hands up high. "Don't shoot! We can ally!"

"Ally with the tip of my arrow, jackass!"

Chris shoots. The steel arrow races through the air and strikes Nero right in the shoulder. The boy screams with pain and pitches backwards, where he slips from his branch and falls.

He crashes to the ground, hitting several more branches on his way down. When he lands on the grass, lying in an unsightly heap, Chris carefully notches another arrow. "Is the moron dead?" Nic asks, pulling himself up into a sitting position.

The answer is the ringing of our datapads.

"Idiot," Chris sets his arrow back in it's quiver, smirking. I feel my blood boil just a bit more. I really do not like Chris. He is too smug, too secure. One day he'll get knocked off his high horse and--

"Hello, Challengers!" A sinister yet familiar voice echoes on all our forearms. Confused, I bring mine up to my face and see Mr. White. "This is your third noon on the island, and that means your third rankings! Once again it appears that Chris remains #1! Hope you enjoy! Ta-Ta!"

The Rankings are shown, and the only thing I can register in my mind is that I have slipped yet another spot down the rankings. I'm inching further and further away from the top five and the safety it affords me. If I'm not careful, Nic and Chris could--

"He's not dead!"

Chris' shout takes my attention off my own plight and shoves it onto Nero's. The wounded boy is staggering to his feet, eyes wide and dazed from his fall. Shoulder wounded from the arrow. He stumbles twice and then crashes back to the ground.

Nic flings himself onto his feet, ignoring the pain he must be feeling. He hurtles across the clearing, throwing himself atop the injured boy. A flash of silver as he pulls out his dagger. A spurt of red as he slams it into Nero's throat, twisting and punching as he stabs it in several more times, taking his murderous fury out on the wounded boy. Chris and I watch in somber silence.

Then I turn and run.

As the trees flash by, whipping past my eyes like a green wave, I think that Nero was stupid. He should have remained in the tree, hidden and out of mind. But his death did allow me to escape, and that means with his death, the top five alliance takes it's last breath.

Killian Haberman (12:15 P.M)

When I think of the future, I can only think of my eventual death, the empty echo of black nothingness awaiting, listening in on our every conversation, searching for the right cue to strike out it’s effortless claws and grab us all. I am wide awake, in the grips of a panic attack, at that thought. I had begun to think that sleep was close, before my mind wandered to the thought, I am going to die. Even in the knowledge of it’s inescapabilty, I seamlessly manage to forget my mortality until some quiet moments in the night, where the truth sinks in. I reject it every time. In no time at all, my anxiety is gone. I am fine again.

The clock on my datapad reads 04:00 before I finally drift off into a different world.

I dream of flashing by tree lines and the night, lit up by stars and a bright moon. There’s always something lurking out of my sight, as I walk through fields of long grass and wet dirt. I never see it, but I know it's there. And at the same time the thing seems to know I am here. I could feel its empty eyes watching me through the gloom, and there was something in that vast, reaching forest that does not love me.

Then I wake up. Clocks read 05:23. I don't get back to sleep.

Dark gray storm clouds rise in the horizon as I sit on the edge of the tower's steep steps, watching the mass of green trees sway in the wind. It's now past noon, the full rankings of the day having revealed themselves. For the first time since waking up on this island, I'm not ranked #22. Now I'm #21. I can't bring myself to be happy about this fact. Haviana is happy though. She's moved up to #11.

"G'day mate! Have a pleasant night?" Haviana appears in the doorway of the tower, a confident smile on her face. Her pleasant hazel eyes stare down at me as the wind blows her long, back-length ponytail around. She would be very pretty if not for the long scar across her face.

"I..." Truthfully? No. The night was unpleasant. Painful, even. My dreams of being stalked through the forest is far too real. Too possible. But why tell Haviana? She couldn't help. No one can. "Yeah. I...slept well."

She nods, accepting my lie. "When Jotaro wakes, we'll go hunting."

"F-for food?" I ask, feeling a little frightened at the prospect. "Or..or Challengers?"

She shrugs. "Whichever we find first." She peers at me strangely. "You okay with that?"

"Uh...yeah. Fine." I don't care. It's just more dead kids in the world.


She walks off. I watch her go in silence, wondering what kind of person she'd end up being if she wasn't destined to die on this island. Probably a good one. She seems like she'd be a good person. Unlike I was...

Has my mom noticed my absence yet? Does she think I just ran away? Has she seen me on a screen? Is she hoping for my return? I want to say yes, but I've been such a burden ot her. Why should she care if I'm gone?

Jotaro wakes up. He and Haviana talk in low voices and then decide it's time to go hunting. I come along not because I want to, but because I'm terrified of being left alone.

The dark clouds loom ever closer as Haviana leads us down the winding cliffs and towards the forest in the distance. The fresh scent of salt blows in from the west, and I think we might be near the sea. When I tell the others, Jotaro laughs at me.

"We're always near the sea, stupid. We're on an island, remember?"

After that, I decide not to talk anymore.

But my nose and instincts turn out to be right. After clambering down a treacherous and unstable rock wall, we lower ourselves onto a lightly covered path leading up to a lighthouse. A beach lies beneath us, and the mighty ocean roars all around.

"That's a lotta drink!" Haviana says, stopping on the cliffs edge and gazing out at the ocean. "Never seen so much water before."

"You haven't?" I ask, genuinely curious.

"Never. Oceans are nowhere near the place I live." She sounds enthralled by the majesty of the roiling waves. Jotaro only grunts.

"I've seen bigger."

There's a long silence as we stare out at the ocean with wide eyes. I've barely seen the ocean myself. It's beautiful. One of the few things that still is. I just want to stare out at it forever, but I can't. Jotaro nudges Haviana and points at the lighthouse. "We should check that out," He says. "Someone may be hiding there."

Maybe he's not as dumb as I thought he was.

Haviana stands up and squints at the striped lighthouse. "Could be. We should..." She trails off, eyea flickering back to the beach. Mildly curious, I allow my own orbs to follow her gaze and spot the tent set up down on the beach. A burnt out campfire surrounds it, and even further onto the beach, a girl walks.

"Who is it?" I ask, leaning forward to try and get a better glimpse of the girl. "And why is her hair purple?"

"Doesn't matter," Jotaro grunts, giving that massive club of his a test swing. "She's ranked lower then us, and that means..."

Haviana nods, grey eyes glinting with a cold light. "That means we have to kill her."

Oreo Dutton (12:32 P.M)

The morning is cold and chilly. The sun is blocked out in the sky, masked by dark gray clouds that inch closer and closer with every passing minute. Soon rain will come.

I stand on the beach, along the dry patch of sand. Imogen hangs back near the tree line. Fausto has left to go scout out the immediate area. I know why they feel it's necessary, but I don't like it. We shouldn't be splitting up like this, especially not when he's ranked so much higher than us. What would happen if something happened while he was gone?

"See anything?" I ask Imogen has she passes by. Her homemade spear twirls in her hands as she paces alongside the trees. She's been keeping watch, for both Fausto and any would-be attackers.

She shakes her head. "No."

"You sound worried," I say, picking up an undercurrent of emotion hidden in her voice.

"It's just..." Her pretty face casts itself to the ground, studying the sand between her feet. "Nothing. It's nothing."

"Doesn't sound like nothing."

Her head snaps back up, intense blue eyes studying me. "We should go search for Misha."

"Excuse me?"

"I said that we should go search for Misha."

"Yeah, I know what you said, I just don't understand why you said it." Misha? The very same Misha who betrayed her and stopped being her friend? Why on Earth would we search for him?

"He could help us," She says lamely.

"Yeah. Help kill us, maybe." If someone betrayed you outside a game where you were forced to kill everyone else, why does she think for one second that he wouldn't betray her inside such a game?

Imogen just shakes her head. "He wouldn't...He's not like that."

"You're the one who told me that he was a no-good jerk!"

"I didn't--" She stops, suddenly catching what I said. "Wait. I never told you--I told Fausto, but--Were you listening?" She sounds flustered, almost embarrassed. I don't know why.

"I wasn't asleep when you were talking. I overheard--" Something catches me eye. Movement in the forest near the cliffs. I make a motion for Imogen to be quiet, but she doesn't catch on.

"Misha knows me. He wouldn't--"

I tune her out, focusing on the movement. At first I think it's Fausto, but then I see two more shapes flanking it. It's definitely people. And that can only be a bad thing.

"Imogen..." The mere tone of my voice is enough to get her to stop and turn. Then two shapes break out of the forest now, running full speed towards us.

I scream.

Imogen steps forward and heaves her homemade spear towards the tallest figure, a tall, lanky boy. It falls several feet short and the two people blow past it, heading right for us. Imogen's face pales.


She turns tail and sprints right for the trees, ducking her head as her legs pump fast. One of the Challengers veers off to chase her. The other--the tall one--charges me. I run

My heart rattles in my chest. Hyperventilating. Skin feels like it's on fire as my legs work faster then they ever have before. But I only get a few paces down the beach before the heel of my right shoe snaps and I tumble forward, face planting in the sand.

The first few drops of chilling rain begin to drop as I roll over and face my killer.

His face is pale and haggard as he stands over me, club in hand. His dark brown eyes hold no pity as they carefully regard me. Silent and deadly. Mr. White's perfect killer. Rain splashes off his shoulders, picking up the pace as he lifts his weapon to end me.

Something whistles through the air. Then there's a sickening sound of impact as a trident slashes through the air and takes the boy in the chest.

"Get up!" Fausto is at my side, eyes hard and cold as he rips his weapon back out from the boy's chest. He's not dead...He can't be dead. Fausto didn't just kill him...

Hands yank me to my feet when I don't comply willingly. "He was going to kill you, Oreo." Fausto eyes me carefully, hands toying with the trident in his hand. The rain has already washed the blood from the tips. "There was nothing else to do."

I stare down at the dead boy. His glassy eyes stare up at the sky, which now pours rain in jagged sheets, drenching my clothes and chilling me to the bone. I shiver uncontrollably. From cold or fear, I don't know.

I just witnessed another kid die...Two deaths in three days...

"Oreo, where's Imogen?" Fausto looks me in the eye as our datapads ring with the announcement of Jotaro's death.

"I...She ran into the woods. S-someone was chasing her..."

Fausto is off in an instant. I follow mindlessly. Shoeless. My feet are pale and freezing as they squelch into the wet sand of the beach, and then mud of the forest. The trees offer no respite from the downpour. The rain merely collects in the leaves, then drips down in one big drop. My hair is plastered to my scalp as we run.

I can't help but think of Jotaro and how easily Fausto dispatched him. I know that the tall boy was going to kill me, but I can't help feeling some pity for him. He was only doing what he had to. Mr. White would have killed him otherwise. Would I have done any different? Fausto certainly didn't.


I glance at him as I run alongside. His eyes are focused forward as he cuts through the misty fog like an ethereal phantom. He's certainly playing the game for keeps. That makes him dangerous. And untrustworthy? My mind buzzes with thoughts. Maybe. I don't know. It's so hard to know anything. I was never good at reading people, and now I have to do it or risking dying a horrific death.

The forest around us suddenly halts as a shape stumbles out of the forest ahead of us. Fausto pulls up his trident to kill the figure, but when it sees us it let's out a gasp of delight.

"Oreo! Fausto!"

Imogen runs for us, looking smaller and scrawnier then ever with her clothes soaking wet. "Where have you been?" I ask as she stops beside us.

"And what happened to your attacker?" Fausto demands. His eyes never leave the surrounding trees.

"I don't--I don't know. She, she, she left after the datapads rung--Oh!--I was so worried that one of you were dead--" Imogen is speaking to fast and erratically to even understand. Eventually she just gives up and falls to her knees, sobbing. "I've never been so terrified..."

"I know." I still remember how I felt as Jotaro closed in. The raw, primal fear. Is that what Mr. White wants?

"How many were there?" Fausto ignores her tears. "And what were their ranks? Could I take them? Are they nearby?"

Imogen shakes her head fiercely. "I don't know...I don't know."

Fausto accepts this answer. Then he tells us we should head back to the beach and collect the stuff we left behind, but we realize that we don't remember the way. So we wander the soaking wet woods for several long minutes before I remember the maps on our datapads. After this realization, it still takes us a few more moments before finding our way back to the beach.

And find it deserted.

The tent is gone. The crate is empty. The only thing left is Jotaro's corpse, but even his large club is gone. Someone must have looted the beach while we were gone. And now we have no supplies but what we carry with us. We may have killed Jotaro, but we lost our supplies.

Alana Salazar (1:27 P.M)

The rain rapidly descends upon the island as I hobble through the undergrowth, keeping low to both avoid getting wet and being seen. I doubt I will have to worry much about that though. Who in their right mind would be out in this weather?

I sigh heavily as a large plop of water lands directly on my head.

It certainly wasn't my intent to wander around during this storm. I just got caught. Early this morning I left my cave, willing to explore the island a bit more. My ankle's swelling had gone down and I am capable of walking with only a slight limp, so everything was good. But then this rain started, and...

And now everything just sucks.

A large tree juts out from the ground, it's reaching roots twisting through the trees as it goes. A small hollow fills out in the center, leaving just enough room for me to wiggle inside and rest. It's not comfortable, but it's dry. I'm leaning back, enjoying the respite, when I hear voices.

Immediately I sit up, poking my head back out into the rain and uneasily spotting the two shapes in the distance. A flat, rectangular veranda rests over their heads as they talk quietly to themselves, head bowed. Beside them, some sort of small maintenance shed rests.

My fingers grip and ungrip the blowgun in my hands. I was searching for some poisonous plants to coat my darts in before this rain came. That would have made my weapons exceedingly lethal. But as it is, I don't have any poison. Just three darts.

The figures don't move from their shelter as they speak, but now I recognize them as Bree and Sami. Both are ranked lower then I am. Both are bottom feeders in the poll. I'm allowed to harm them.

Carefully I lift the blowgun to my lips, sliding a dart inside. I may not have poison, but if I aimed well enough, I could hit the jugular or another precious point. But...

Is it right to kill them? Just because Mr. White told us to? What if he's lying about the bombs in our collars? What if we can be rescued? I think about what my family would think, watching me murder two kids just because I was told to. How could I live with their disappointment?

Uneasy, I let the blowgun down.

The rain continues. It's not the soft, sodden, swollen drops of spring I'm hearing; it is like ball-bearings are hitting down on the veranda roof with force. The two kid's voices are drowned out by the fierce noise. I wonder if they think like I do, or if they'd kill me on sight.

I'd hope they wouldn't be psychopathic murderers, but I actually have no idea. Where did Mr. White pluck these kids from? I know that one of the dead ones, Ali, looked like some kind of terrorist, but the others don't seem to be that abnormal. In fact, they seem perfectly normal.

Is there any specific reason why Mr. White chose the twenty-four of us? If there is, I can't think of what it could be...and how do we even know that the collars around our necks work? What if he's been lying to us all along, and we don't need to kill anyone.

What then?

Umbreon Martell (2:01 P.M)

The rain falls in jagged sheets, slicing through the thin fog that covers the beach and sloshing down on the sand, running in imperfect lines along the beach and into the ocean. I sit in my small alcove against the cliff wall, watching it all with a great neutrality. I don't care if it rains. I don't care if it doesn't. I only care if those other kids hurry up and kill one another. The quicker they all die, the quicker I can get out of here.

It's not cruel, it's practical.

Thunder rumbles in the distance. The sky over the ocean is dark and vengeful. Steaming shrouds of cloud coil and writhe. Then an unearthly caterwauling sound fills the air as the wind whips itself into a frenzy. This storm is sure to have the others holing up inside whatever cover they can find. Odds are that no more deaths will happen today.

I sigh, shifting my body weight as I try to make myself more comfortable. There's nothing to do here. Nothing to eat. I ran out of fruit this morning, and now I'm left with nothing but the blanket wrapped around my shoulders. Having nothing isn't a new feeling for me, but it's still not a pleasant one. What does everyone else have?

Just as I'm thinking this, someone comes bundling out from the forest. He's tall, muscular and holding a duffel bag in his arms. He slips on the slick sand and hits the ground hard, bouncing back onto his feet and yelping as he rubs his back indignantly.

Who is it? The rain makes it difficult to see, but I am quite certain he's ranked higher then I am. He's obviously much tougher and stronger, at any rate.

I press myself further back into the alcove has the boy ventures forth onto the beach. In one of his hands is a knife, and in the other he holds the duffel bag. So he has supplies...My mind goes to the idea of robbing him while he's not looking, but I quickly rule it out. What would I do if he caught me? He has a knife. I have my bare hands. It's not even at all.

The boy continues to walk closer and closer to the ocean. He seems to be gazing out at the horizon as he cups his hands over his head. What is he looking at? I follow his gaze and see it.

A small island, just off the shore and not more then thirty yards into the water. I actually remember spotting it earlier, when I was exploring along the cliffs. The water over there is shallow, enough so that I could wade through it. I wonder if that extends all the way to the island. Perhaps you could reach the island that way...

Apparently the boy is thinking the same. He splashes into the water, not caring in the slightest about the waves that slosh around his waist. And why should he? He's already soaking wet from the rain. What's a little more water?

As he tries his luck against the ocean, I squirm in my spot as the wind changes direction and suddenly forces the rain into my face. I, at least, was staying dry until this latest predicament.

Now I move myself around, attempting to secure a more favourable position. As I do so, I accidentally press against some fallen rocks and slip sideways. Mud snakes around me as I hurtle downwards, slipping down a sudden slope. My arms flail around wildly until one strikes itself against a sharp rock, then I have the mind to pull them in just before I come to a grinding halt.

I spit mud out my mouth as I sit up, shaking my head irritability. What happened? Did I fall in a hole? I look upwards and spot the steep incline that I've rolled down. A shaft of muted light shines from a opening above me.

"A cave...?" I rise to my feet, glancing around. Thick walls spring up around me, lined with moss and fungi. A strong scent of mold hangs in the air. Definitely a cave.

The outside wind is just barely audible as I climb to my feet and stare down the large opening at the very back of the cave. It's dark, oppressive, and smells like...a perfume of sorts. I don't know. It's an odd smell.

I walk towards it.

Okay, maybe it's a bit insane, but I don't really think there's anything to fear. The only thing trying to kill me on this island is the other Challengers, and they're all outside. What's the worst that could happen in here?

For a moment, there's nothing but darkness. Deep, impenetrable darkness. But then there's a light. A soft, muted yellow light. It seems to come from the cave walls, and when I follow it, I discover some type of modern light source. Like the things that light up the bottoms of pools. I don't know what they're called. I never owned a pool. Or swam in one. Well, that last part wasn't true. I just wasn't supposed to be swimming in it.

"Is someone down here...?" Because lights require people, right? They don't just grow in the wild. I head further into the winding cave.

The passage ends in another open cave. The ceiling is domed and several jagged columns hold it up. The cave is empty except for the very center, where an intricately designed pillar holds up a simple backpack illuminated by an overhead light.

Immediately it hits me. This is one of the hidden supply caches that Mr. White spoke about.

Carefully, I approach the pillar slipping between two columns as I do. What's inside? Something helpful? I quickly find out.

Inside the backpack I find a knife--a simple, single bladed thing--a pair of binoculars, an empty canteen--why does it have to be empty?--an autographed picture of Mr. White--which is so bizarre that I spend several minutes gawking at before just tucking it away into my pants--and a flashlight.

I click this on and a hearty beam of light shines it's way across the cave, illuminating the moss covered walls and--

Hang on.

On the single portion of the cave that isn't covered with moss, I find several drawings. Like cave drawings. They're all squiggly and remind me of the junk they always had the museums. I saw these a lot, especially since free museums always offered a chance of staying indoors for a change.

"Odd..." I run my hand across the wall, marvelling at its smoothness. "Very odd."

Some of the pictures are normal, like a man and woman holding a child, or men hunting deer. But a few others are kinda freaky. Like a yellow triangle engraved with an open eye, or a wizened old man hunched over what looks like a pot of incense. That wouldn't be so freaky by itself, but this drawing seems to be in panels, like the comic books I used to steal. And in the next panel, the old man lies on the floor, twisting and writhing as the incense floods over him.

"Don't do drugs, kids," I mutter to myself, half-amused and half-bemused. I don't like how the old dude's body contorts. It's...freaky. The third panel is worst, though. The old man lies flat on the ground, still, as a shape emerges from the incense. The fourth and final panel has the figure fully visible. It's large and deep gray as it stands over the old man, seemingly made entirely of metal and blades. Arms like swords. And there's four of them. It's large mouth is open, revealing multiple rows of sharp metal teeth. And it's eyes. They're painted a vivid red, and they seem to stare right off the cave wall.


I stare at it for several long moments before turning and heading back the way I came. There doesn't seem to be any other passage from this chamber and I don't need to spend any more time here. I already got the supplies. What else is there to do?

My return through the dark tunnel is much swifter with the aid of my flashlight. It's only a few moments before I'm stumbling back up the way I fell and emerging back onto the soaking wet beach. The rain continues to fall.

Where did the boy go? I scan the beach and see him nowhere, so I pull my binoculars up and scan the small island across from the beach. I'm not surprised when I see him there, pulling himself away from the ocean and staggering towards the small hut set up there. Interesting.

It's Tristan. I can identify him now that I have the binoculars. Good thing I didn't try to steal from him. He looks like he'd be a real threat. Powerful, yet agile. He'd kill me so fast...

Nervously I finger the blade of my knife. A dark, foreboding cave with freaky drawings did little to set me on edge, but just the thought of a human being makes me more nervous then I've ever been before.

I just hope making me nervous is all they do to me.

Anne Bellhope (2:32 P.M)

I grimace as I once again splash water across my wounded arms. Try as I might, I have failed to find any sort of medicine to sooth them. Nothing at all. Not even any simple painkillers. I can't fathom why that would be.

No, I'm being sarcastic. Of course there isn't any medicine on this God-forsaken island. Why would there be? Mr. White wants us to kill one another, not heal each other.

Turning the sink off, I walk across the kitchen and back over to the table where I've laid out my items, including the stuff Clarice left behind yesterday. I've plenty of food, enough to last me for a few more days at the very least. And my flashlight, rope, and camouflage paint should come in handy, should the need arise.

"And the rain will give me plenty of water," I mutter as I put everything back into the bag. Outside, the rain comes down in a deluge, flooding the streets with a torrent of water that sloshes down the streets and into the large gutters. I should go collect some water soon. Who knows how long the rain will last?

I'm entering the living room, decorated with old antiques and a small coffee table, when I hear their voices. Loud. Sharp. And nearby. Footsteps echo from outdoors, feet pounding against the water-slick floor. Then there's thumping as they head up the porch, and I'm out of options as I duck into the nearest room.

"Oh, thank God!" A feminine voice echoes throughout the house as the door swings open. I'm disappearing into the spare bedroom when they enter the house. "It's dry in here!"

Panic pinballs between my ribs. Who are they? Are they ranked higher then I am? I look down at my arms, at the long gashes that cover them. I'm in no shape to fight anyone right now. Let alone three people.

"My dress is covered with mud!" Another, higher voice speaks. "It stinks, too!"

"Just be glad we have shelter," A male voice speaks this time. "But don't think we're safe yet. Jotaro may be dead, but his allies may still be chasing us."

Jotaro? Wasn't he the asian kid who died today? Did these three have something to do with that? If they did, then that doesn't bode well for me. Only a handful of Challengers have managed to kill someone so far, and I just had my shelter invaded by a trio of them.

Just great.

"I'll check upstairs," The boy's commanding voice suddenly declares. "You two search the bottom floor."

My heart pounds against my chest as I hear footsteps spread across the house. Any moment now and they may enter this room and find me...Quickly I turn and search for a hiding spot. Closets invite me in, but I know they will search those. Finally my eyes come to a rest on the bed. It is only a simple mattress and frame, but it will have to do.

Behind me, the doorknob begins to turn.

I throw myself to the floor, squirming and wiggling my way underneath the constricting bed. I barely fit. Thank God I'm not claustrophobic.

The door creaks open. I hear them enter the room, see their feet as they cross the room, throwing the closest open. For some reason, one of them is barefoot. "I don't suppose there's clothes in there?" One girls asks.

"No. I'm sorry, Oreo."

Oreo! I recognize that name. Oreo Dutton, #18. She's ranked far below me and offers no threat. I could take her out easily. But...what about the other? I can't remember how many girl's were ranked higher than I am, and I can't check because the bed is too small for me to move my arms. So I'm stuck. No way will I attack without knowing who my opponent is. I learned that the hard way yesterday.

"Hey look, a bed!"

I nearly have a heart attack, then I hold my breath and remain very still, not making a sound. If I do, then it's all over. There's a loud creaking as one of the girl's throw themselves on the bed. For one terrible moment, I think that the bed will collapse. But, no. There's only a loud creaking as the girl stretches, her bones cracking with the effort.

I grimace.

"Come on, let's meet back up with Fausto."

The girl slides off the bed. Her bare feet are only inches from my face as she steps off, following the other girl out the room and leaving me lone with my thoughts.

This isn't good. Obviously. One person against three would never have fared well for me under normal circumstances, but now I know that Fausto is one of the three. And he's ranked #6. And he possibly had a hand in Jotaro's death. Meaning, they've already begun killing, putting any thoughts of joining up with them to bed. How could this be any worse? If they found and killed you...

Okay. Fine. Things could get a lot worse.

So I should escape while I still can.

I slide out from under the bed, take a quick glance around the deserted room, and slip out the door. The wooden floorboards are thankfully silent underneath my feet. An advantage for such a new house, I guess. I creep down the hall, towards the kitchen. Unfortunately the only two doors are both situated pass the living room, where I hear the intruders speaking.

"No one is inside this house," A male voice is speaking, so I can only assume it's Fausto . "So we should be fine for the rest of the day."

"We're staying?" This time it's the unknown girl who speaks. "Oh, good."

"I'm just glad there's running water," Oreo says. "Maybe I could even take a shower. I'm utterly covered in mud!"

I creep further down the hall as the other girl giggles. What a pair of fools. Who cares about showers or giggling at a time like this? People are dying. The only thing anyone should care about is staying alive.

With those thoughts, the collar around my neck begins to tingle. Mr. White promised to blow one uf up, and I'm certain he will eventually follow through with this threat. The question is just when...

Footsteps thud against the mahogany floors and I press myself against the wall, knives pulled up defensively. But no one rounds the corner into the hall, and I soon hear someone heading up the stairs. How many? And who? If it was Fausto, I could deal with the girls...

I stay out, straining my ears for more noise. The conversation has stopped, but I don't know what was last said, thanks to my zoning out. Worry gnaws at my chest. What if they heard me and are laying a trap? This thought lingers in the back of my head as I inch forward, carefully poking my head into the living room.


Only the old antiques and coffee table. Mud streaks mar the floor, but otherwise no sign of the others. Where did they go? I don't care. The backdoor lies just a few feet away, still open from when they trampled in. Rain patters against the wooden deck outside. Safety of the forest beckons to me. I wait in silence for seven agonizingly long minutes, unable to convince myself this isn't a trap. Then my mind yells at me to go and I have no choice.

I step into the room.

Nothing happens. No one leaps out, nobody screams. There's no sound except for my boots against the floor as I rush for the door.

Then she appears. Turning the corner from the kitchen, walking in with a smile that quickly turns to a gasp of horror. Imogen opens her mouth to scream.

I beam a knife across the room and she throws herself to the ground to avoid it, first stanza of her scream muffled with the thud. My knife slams into the wall, sticking in the crack between panels. I don't know whether to press the attack or flee, so I hover in place for a short moment.

Then Imogen pulls herself up and leaps at me. I don't have time to guard against the attack, and when her full body weight slams into me, we both fall backwards, overturning the coffee table and sending the antique vase skittering across the floor.

Her hands ball into fists and beat at my face, but my own hands grasp for her neck and the collar located there. If I pull that tab, her head goes boom. But she sees my tactic and pulls her head away, unbalancing herself in the process. I take advantage and shove her off.

"Fausto!" She flails onto her back and screams. "Faust--"

I slam my forearm into her windpipe, effectively silencing her. Unfortunately, it's too late. Fausto comes whipping around the corner, soaking wet shirt sticking tight to his chest and showing his muscular body as it takes aim with a trident.

I throw myself to the side just as he unloads. The three-pronged spear rips past my shoulder, only milliseconds away from turning me into a shishkabob. I roll across the hardwood floor and stand. Imogen has already regained her feet and is lurching for the backdoor, ostensibly to shut it and block off my escape.

Not on my watch, girly!

As Fausto lumbers towards me, brandishing his own powerful fists, I turn and kick my legs into the overturned table, leaping with all my might. I sail through the air and land directly on Imogen's back just as she reaches the door, propelling her forward and onto the wooden porch.

Chillingly cold rain drops drench my hair and skin as we wrestle on the porch, both desperately trying to get free from the other. Water splashes in my face and nose, disorienting me as I swing random fists. Then I see a shadow looming over us and roll away as Fausto's trident slams into the porch, splintering the wood.

"Get away from her!" He growls at me, eyes blazing with fury.

If I wasn't so furious and frightened for my life, I'd have told him that was exactly what I was trying to do. Instead, I kick him in the knee and throw myself over the porch railing.

Wet and stringy branches slap at my face as I fall into a bush, rolling through mulch that carries a strong scent of oak. Then I'm free from any entanglement and am rushing across the yard and to the forest, raining pouring in buckets upon my head. In my peripheral vision, I just catch a glimpse of Imogen doing the same.

"Imogen! Anne!" Fausto screams both our names, hopping off the porch and hobbling into the thunderous downpour. "Come back here!"

His words are barely audible over the unending smatter of rain against the grass, the trees, and the roofs. His words don't even reach Imogen, as she runs panicked into the western forest. Seeing this, I spin and change my direction to the east.

I'm gone before they even know it, and I leave behind a very disoriented and disappointed pair of murderous teenagers.

Misha Castiel (2:51 P.M)

The rain falls all around me, pittering and pattering, and flapping and snapping. Everything is either wet or huddled away in some small corner of the island, waiting the rain out while simultaneously hoping that Mr. White won't blow their heads off.

Well, everyone except for me.

I trapeze through the forest without a care in the world, protected from the rain by excellent jacket and hood, as well as protected from the mud slick ground by my heavy boots. Apparently that bag was well worth the effort I took in securing it.

"Everyone else must be absolutely miserable!" I chuckle to myself as I cut my way through some bracken. I didn't actually need to, I could have gone around. But what's the point of a machete if you're not going to use it? I smile to myself. It's good to have supplies...and something to think about that isn't both depressing and frightening.

Try as I might, I've been fully unable to keep my mind off what that girl Tori told me last night. Is this Hell? Are we being punished? I...I don't want to believe it. But it would certainly explain why I don't remember how I got here, or why the government hasn't found us, or why Mr. White never shows his eyes...

I stop in the middle of the forest. A shiver that has nothing to do with the cold runs down my back. That type of thinking is really...

"Oh, hey there..."

I whip around in fear has a voice hails me. My eyes swivel in their sockets as I try to find the speaker, but am unable to. I see nothing but rain, trees, grass, and more rain. "Who are you?" I challenge, hoping to sound much bolder than I feel. "And where are you?"

"Surprised you forgot me so easily. We met only last night."

As realization floods over me, Tori emerges from a hollowed log hidden amongst a clump of holly bushes. Her chocolate brown hair is dripping wet and her clothes are soaked completely. Though her voice is strong and even, she shivers uncontrollably.

"Tori..." I lower my machete. I had thought I'd never see the girl again. "You alright?"

"Aha. I see you remembered my name!" She glances to the sky and mutters under her breath as a large drop of rain splatters across her forehead. "Not many do."

"It's not hard to forget," I say. Nor is she, for that matter. I'm still surprised that a girl who is certifiably a supermodel in appearance would be on this island with us.

"No, I s-suppose not," She ducks her head and moves closer, searching for the place that offers the most protection from the rain. "But most people don't even try. Not anymore."

She sounds surprisingly bitter. And sober. I assume she ran out of alcohol. "You see anyone else today?" I ask.

She shakes her head, hands as pale as snow rubbing together. "N-not today. Only p-people I've seen on this island are you and the w-witch." That must be the girl who trapped her last night. I don't remember if I ever learned her name.

"Uhh...You need some shelter," I say, spotting how badly the elements are effecting her. "Otherwise you could catch pneumonia. The best way to avoid that would be getting indoors." I recall seeing that Ali was killed in a building. Where are they?

Tori shakes her head and laughs. "No, really? I-I thought the best way to avoid pneumonia w-was by stripping naked and p-prancing through the woods!"

"That's...probably not the best way to avoid--"

"I was being sarcastic."

"Oh." I feel stupid now. Look stupid too. I scratch my face as our conversation reaches a lull, silence impossible due to the endlessly dropping rain. "You...uh...know where a building is?"

She throws me such a scathing look that I feel the urge to defend myself. "Sorry. Of course you don't. I was just wondering if--"

"There's a whole neighbourhood not more than three dozen yards west."

I stop and stare. Her stormy grey eyes stare right back. "I...are you being sarcastic again?" I honestly can't tell with her.

"No. There's actually a neighbourhood j-just over there!"

She points through a thicket and tells me that the only reason she wasn't taking shelter in one of the houses was because she spotted a trio of Challengers entering not too long ago, and that she had no desire to face off with them. "B-but you're higher ranked then th-them," She stammers through chattering teeth. "They w-wouldn't attack you."

"I'd think not!" Who would want to fight me? I'm tough, strong, fast, smart and exceedingly capable at everything I do. Why would anyone want to face my wrath? But I do notice the odd hint of emotion coming from Tori. Last night she didn't really seem to care if she was left to die. But now she's seeking shelter. Guess no one ever really wants to die.

"Come on," I motion with with my machete as I wave her forward. "Let's go see those houses."

It is dark and cold in the garden behind the house. Rain still falling. A damp cutting wind is racing about the garden, howling and giving the trees no rest. I strain my eyes, but can see neither a person or a animal. Going to the spot where the house stood, I twice call out for someone. No answer followed. Evidently if anyone had sought shelter from the weather in the neighbourhood, they did not choose to do so in this house.

"Coast is clear," I tell Tori and am surprised by how quickly she carries herself across the yard and into the house. Guess she really was sick of being wet and cold. I follow more slowly, taking note of the mud streaked porch and the fact that the door is already open. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe someone was here.

Inside I find Tori huddled on a small cream couch, rubbing her hands together as she mumbles to herself. An overturned coffee table lies at her feet.

"Did you do that?" I ask, pointing at the table.

"No," She says sharply and then goes back to cradling her head, muttering something else. I frown and study the many streaks of mud all over the ground. Almost looks like there was an altercation...

I follow one of the tracks and come across the paneled wall, where a knife has been lodged neatly between the cracks. Carefully wedging it out, I turn and show it to Tori. She looks up and gives me a simple response.

"We're not the only ones in this house."

Oreo Dutton (3:13 P.M)

I stand under the faucet in the shower, letting the warm, pleasurable water flow through my hair. The layers of mud and patina of grime that has spread across my body throughout my time in the island is washed away, slowly dribbling down the drain.

If only my worries were so easily erased. If only I didn't have those fearful thoughts of death hovering in my mind, threatening to overcome me at any moment. The Game is all too real. People are willing to kill for it. Including my own friends.

But am I?

It's a question I can't answer, as I stare at the soapy bubbles disappearing between my toes. Am I willing to end another's life? I don't know. Any time I think of the issue, I see Nora getting her head cracked open, or Jotaro being hit with that trident. I don't think the sickening sound of impact will ever leave my mind.

And should it? Should I forget his death? Or Nora's? Neither of them wanted this fate. They didn't sign up for this. Mr. White took them against their will. And for what? What is it that he truly desires?

I don't think I have an answer to that.

I lie my head against the shower wall, enjoying the sensation of water against my head. I've been in here for a while now, avoiding the fears and terrors of the real world. But I have to get out soon, lest Imogen and Fausto think I somehow drowned.

I turn the water off and watch the last of it slip down the drain. A few droplets bead down my body as I take the soft white towel and dry myself off, wrapping it around my torso and stepping out into the bathroom.

A cold blast of air hits me as my bare feet touch the cold tiles. I don't evwn have my shoes anymore. I kicked them off while fleeing Jotaro's allies. They were heeled, so they weren't very effective for running. I suppose I could have broken them off, if I had the time.

I eye my muddy, filth stained dress in the corner of the room. I truly do not want to put that thing back on. Wandering around a forest with it was a nightmare, not to mention it is soaking wet and covered with that cold mud. But what choice do I have? None. It's just like how I'm forced to compete in this stupid, no-good, nightmare Mr. White calls a game.


I jump in the air as a loud noise vibrates from the floor beneath me. What the heck was that? "Imogen?" I call out for my friend, cautiously poking my head out the door and looking into the hall. It's empty. "Fausto? What happened down there?"

No answer.

Something in my head goes off like an alarm. Goosebumps tingle down my arms as I realize that maybe, just maybe, my allies weren't responsible for the noise. Maybe they're not even in the house.

Worried, I look down at my datapad and see that both of their faces are still there. Oddly enough, the screen survived both the rain and my shower. What is it made from? Doesn't matter. Not right now.

I pick up a flowerpot from the hallway and slowly head for the stairs, not liking the way it creaks under my feet at all. "Imogen?" I softly call down the stairs, hoping beyond hope that my friend will answer. If not...

Where could they have gone? And why? Why would they just up and leave without telling me? That doesn't make any sense. Even if--and I find this highly unlikely--even if they were betraying me, why would they have left me alive? That wouldn't--I mean, they couldn't...

I gasp as I reach the bottom of the stairs.

The living room is a nightmare. Marred with blotchy streaks of mud, table overturned, items strewn across the floor. Everything is off.

I lightly step onto the floor. There's no sign of anyone. No people. looks like there was a fight. The mud leads to the door where we first came in, sliding out like a trail. And it's open. The door is open as the blustery wind blows sheets of icy rain into the house, where it forms beads on the walls and puddles on the floor.

What happened?

"Well, well, well. Looks like I found our housemate!"

A drawling, female voice comes from my left and I slowly turn to see a girl standing in the kitchen entry. She's tall and slender, with long chocolate brown hair and deep grey eyes that stare at me with contempt. I know her name from my datapad. Haviana--wait, no--Victoria.

"How did you get in here?" I challenge, sticking my chin out boldly. I won't be cowed. Not here. Not by this girl. "And what did you do with my friends?"

"Oh? So there's more than one of you?" I feel as if I made a mistake as the girl clicks her tongue and produces a knife from her shorts pocket. I feel my stomach turn over as fear creeps it's way up my spine.

"I...No. There's no one else!" I backpedal across the room, bumping into the fallen table. If she doesn't know about Fausto and Imogen... "I'm here alone!"

"Good to know." The girl's eyes flicker to the door, and I tremble as I realize she knows that I mean to run through it. Am I faster then her? I don't think so. "But now that you're done with the questions, maybe you can answer some of mine."

"Wh-what are they?" She has a knife. I have a flowerpot. Which is more effective? I laugh at myself for asking such a question.

"Why are you in a towel?" She blinks in surprise. "Have a little too much vodka and lose your clothes?"

"None of your business!" I'm going to run for it. She won't be able to stop me. I can do it. I can so do it.

"What's going on here?"

We both turn to see a boy stepping into the room. I recognize his dusky hair, charming smile, twinkling eyes, and softly tanned skin. "Fausto!" It's him! I'd know his familiar shape anywhere. "Thank God you're here!"

"Huh?" The girl, Victoria, blinks twice looking back and forth between me and Fausto. "What are you talking about?"

Fausto frowns and turns to face me. That's when I see the wicked axe in his hands. "Who are you?" He asks me.

I gasp.

It's not Fausto. Of course it isn't. He's too short. Too slim. But he looks so much like my ally, that I could be excused for confusion them. Their eyes, hair, and skin tone are exactly the same. But he's not Fausto. He's Misha, the guy who betrayed Imogen.

"You!" I almost shout the word as he paces into the room. "You must have done something to them!"

"Huh? What's she taking about?" He glances at Victoria and the girl shrugs. "What are you talking about? Done what to who?"

"Imogen!" This time I screech. "You hid her somewhere, or beat her up, I don't know!" That's why they're not here. This kid, this maniac must have done something with them. But he didn't kill them. Why?

"You're insane!" Misha gives me a condescending glare. "You're crazy! I've never seen this Imogen! I don't even--" He stops and looks down. And I take my opportunity to escape. Leaping forward, I grip the flowerpot in two hands and bring the thing smashing down onto his head. Ceramic tiles break across his skull and shatter to the floor as he drops like a sack of stones.

"Misha!" Victoria shouts as the boy slips into an unsightly heap, blood trickling from his head as he thrashes about on the floor, screaming.

"Stop her! Stop her!"

I'm already running for the door. I'm out on the porch before Victoria even moves for me. I slip once on the slick wooden floor, but bounce right back to my feet. The rain is icy cold. It freezes me as I run onto the wet grass. It drenches my shoulders and my towel as I sprint for the woods, ducking to avoid the knife that Victoria sends whizzing over my head.

"You can't run!" She screams after me. "There's nowhere for you to go!"

I don't listen. I don't even stop running. The woods flash by me as I suddenly disappear from the neighbourhood and into the forest. Where's Imogen? Where's Fausto? And most importantly...Where am I even going?

I have no answer as I sprint away into the dark forest.

Felix Leonard (5:47 P.M)

I stand on the roof of the resort as a storm swirls around me. From my vantage point, I can see the ocean in the distance. The roiling black waves that crest almost a dozen feet high. The whipping wind brings the tangy scent of salt.

"The others won't find us here," Justine says from beside me. She watches the ocean too. She's like she's always claimed to be. Unflappable. A stone in the ocean. Wet, but impressed by all the chaos around her. "They wouldn't think we'd head back here."

Maybe that's true. I doubt Chris would lead his lackeys to the resort again, not after we've already thoroughly searched it over on the first day. But that also means there's nothing else for us to find.

"We should have went somewhere with supplies," I complain.

Justine shakes her head. "No. We needed to be somewhere we knew the layout."

I shrug and straighten my shoulders against the slowly dropping rain. The deluge has died off a bit since it reached its zenith. Now it's just a steady plopping of small water droplets that I shake from my hair. "How long do you suppose this game will last?" I ask my twin.

"Until everyone is dead."

"Yeah. I knew that part." Justine doesn't even bat an eye as she turns from the roofs edge and heads for the entrance. "I meant, how many days do you think it will last?"

"However many it takes until we're all dead."

I laugh, but I don't think she's joking. Oh well. It's still funny. "I meant," I run up and join her as she slips back inside the resort. Immediately the biting wind ceases and the rain drops stop. "How many days do you think it will take before that happens?"

This time my sister stops and actually looks like she's considering the question. "I don't know. A week, maybe? Possibly sooner."

"Wow. That quick? Don't you think it will take longer than that for twenty kids to die?" I would have said a month, at least.

"Mr. White won't let us go more than twenty-four hours without a death, remember?" Justine stops in the hallway, just outside the room we're using as our base of operations. "And judging by what he said last night, he wants more than one death per day."

"That's a lot of dead teenagers," I say, thinking the numbers over.

She nods. "It is."

We fall silent as we enter the room. Our bags of supplies, plus the one we stile from Chris, lie strewn across one of the two beds. Thanks to that theft, we have plenty of food. Just not very much weapons. I lost my spear after throwing it at Nic, something Justine chewed me out good for.

"What were you thinking?!" She hissed when I first complained about my missing spear. "You could have killed him!"

"What's wrong with that?" Yeah, it's immoral, but it's not like I had a choice. I wasn't sure why she was upset until she reminded me that Nic was ranked higher than I was and that killing him would have made my head explode. That thought sent a shiver down my spine.

I like my head. I don't think I could live without it.

"So what now?" I ask Justine, throwing myself down on my bed. It's soft and cushiony. One of the few comforts on this island. "We just wait out the day and hope everyone kills each other?

She looks up from where she was examining the tip of Ali's hatchet. "You have a better plan?"

I grin. "Nope. That's why I have you. To come up with the plans!"

She only gives me a look of pure exasperation. "Okay. Whatever, Felix." The faint hint of a smile twitches across her face. Despite how serious and dire our situation is, I know that she's glad for the levity I've brought. It's also true, though. Justine is always the one to think things through. Ever since I originally had us run away...

"Think that the rain will stop soon?" I ask, staring out the window at where the slow drops continue to fall against the trees. Justine shrugs.

"Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it doesn't change the fact that we're not getting off this island until everyone else is dead."

Imogen Sykes (6:21 P.M)

I'm cold. Wet. Miserable. Frightened. Cold. Terrified out of my wits. Running through a forest. Jumping over a log. Tripping over twisting tree roots and falling to the mud, where I curl myself into a ball and try to force back tears as I think of everything I have back home.

This is how he finds me.

"Imogen!" Fausto emerges from the undergrowth, water dripping from his head. He looks down at me with disdain. Or am I imagining it? "Do you have any idea what problems you've caused by running like that?"

Yes. Yes I'm very aware. I'm a coward. A fool. When things finally become serious, I break down into a blind panic and failed the people who stood with me. I thought I was stronger then that. I hoped I was.

"Imogen." Fausto says my name with a sigh, but the hard edge has faded from his voice as he kneels beside me, placing a hand on my back. "You need to think things through. You could--"

"I did think it through!" Anger explodes from inside me. I don't know it's source, but it's directed at Fausto. "I knew what I was doing! Anne was trying to kill me, Fausto! What did you expect I would do? Stay and die?!" I'm shaking. With cold from the rain and hot rage from deep inside me. I can barely think straight, yet I sit up and fix Fausto with a furious glare.

He grimaces. "So, what? You thought running away from your problems would fix them?"

"Shut up! Shut up!" I jerk away from him, covering my head against the cold rain. "You don't know me!"


The tears that I've long fought finally force their way out. They mix with the rain water as they slowly slide down my cheeks. "I'm scared," I admit. I look up at Fausto, eyes brimming with tears. "I'm scared of dying."

His eyebrows knit themselves into a glare. "Yeah? Well, so is everyone else in the world. Suck it up."

"I..." I don't have the words. What did he just say? Suck it up? Suck it up?! Does he even know what I've seen? I saw a girl get her head cracked open. Cracked open. She didn't even get to say anything. She was just there and--Poof!--she was killed. Fausto doesn't understand, and I can't tell him. The words don't come. I can't think. Fausto seems to take my silence as agreement with him.

"We lost Oreo, because of you," He says. "I had to run after you and leave her in the house."

"You didn't have to do anything," I say bitterly, the thought of Oreo left by herself taking the edge off my anger. Now I just feel terrible once more.

Fausto only sighs, slapping his forehead and turning to the wet forest with another grimace. "We should go back. Maybe she's still there."

"Wait! Back?" I scrabble to my feet, sending water and mud spraying everywhere. "To the neighbourhood? With the others?" I'm thinking of Anne. Of teenagers armed with swords and spears. Guns and ropes. What if they're waiting for us? "We can't! They'll kill us!"

"Who'll kill us?" Fausto turns back to me irritability, and the memory of Misha when he forsook our friendship comes to mind. "Anne? Victoria? Jotaro? Oh, wait. He can't! Because I killed him already!" There's a nasty edge to his words now. And I can see it in his eyes. What I'm feeling. Fear. Fear of the unknown.

"Fausto..." I try to speak, but he cuts me off with a glare.

"I'm not afraid of the others. Not like you. So come along or stay here, I don't care. I'm going back to look for Oreo." He turns and stalks into the trees, leaving me with the pittering rain.

He doesn't mean what he said. He does care. And he is afraid. He just doesn't want to admit it. He'd rather lool tough then be himself. In that way, he's like Misha in more than just looks. But he is right about one thing...

We need to find Oreo.

I hurry up through the woods, shoving my way through the soaking wet bracken to catch up with Fausto. When I do, he turns and looks at me but says nothing. I adopt a firm face and nod. "I'm coming with," I tell him.

He just turns and keeps walking.

The sky begins to darken as we go. Soon night will be upon us and finding Oreo will become thst much harder. I want to find Oreo. It's all my fault that she's on her own. Scared. Defenceless. I know she's alive thanks to the datapad, but if something were to happen to her...

How could I live with myself?

Soon we find the same track that we took the first time we encountered the neighbourhood. Only this time around the path is wet and slippery with mud. Tress press in on its side, and I keep imagining I see Challengers hiding behind trees with their weapons trained right on us, ready to kill.

Then again, if someone wanted us dead they'd just have to wait for pneumonia to set in and same themselves the effort.

Fausto walks ahead of me, his muscular dark skin showing through his soaking wet white tanktop. He leads the way down the path.

More mud. More trees. More imaginary Challengers with imaginary weapons.

I jump at the smallest of sounds. Like water dripping from the trees, or pebbles skittering across the ground as my feet bump against them. "Sorry!" I duck my head apologetically as Fausto turns to look as I give off another gasp. "I thought that it was something, but it was just...some rocks."

He turns back to the path, shaking his head. He must think I'm even more of a fool then I've already proven myself to be.

But we don't get back to the neighbourhood. The rain worsens, and soon everything gets so dark that I can barely see the path at my feet. Realizing the peril this represents, Fausto leads me off to a nearby oak whose large branches offer some semblance of protection from the rain.

"Let's hope she's somewhere nearby," Fausto mutters as he hunches over against the trunk. "And then we can find her in the morning."

Miserable and cold, I just nod and lie myself down, feeling empty and hollow.

Lucas Adin (11:37 P.M)

The rain continues outside, slower now, but still going steady. Everyone without shelter must be panicking right now, or maybe freezing. I chuckle to myself, patting the edge of the lighthouse window.

"I have all the shelter I need!"

I glance over my shoulder at the mess of supplies strewn across the table. The alliance on the beach used to have these items, but then they were attacked and fled into the woods, leaving their supplies unguarded. It was pure luck that I happened to be outside the lighthouse and in the forest. I was coming back from a water run, unaware of the rain that would soon give me more water then I would ever need. There, I happened to see the action and then took my own action.

I stole all the supplies, including the tent, which was only slightly cumbersome to take down and carry, and fled to the lighthouse. It's the only place in the island, that I know of, that provides shelter from the rain. Naturally, I suspect that others will eventually seek this place out too.

But I doubt that will transpire today. The only other Challengers nearby have been driven off, and this rain will make it unlikely that anyone else will be moving about. Plus, thst unsightly fog has returned. Thicker then ever and clinging to everything it can as it spreads across the island with its reaching tendrils.

There's something inherently creepy about that fog. I can't quite place my finger on it, but something about it just unnerves me. Possibly the fact that it obscures anything that may be hiding inside it.

I pass away from the window, conscious of the time. Soon Mr. White will be giving his end of the day address. I wonder what he has to say this time. More moping about the lack of violence, perhaps?

I sit on the edge of the table, knife twiddling in hand. I have nothing else to do but sit and wait for midnight. I could sleep, but--

A door creaks open.

I freeze. Fear and adrenaline course through my veins as I quietly, swiftly, move myself closer to the staircase. Someone is here. I knew that this moment would come. I had planned for it. I just didn't think it would happen right now.

Footsteps enter the bottom floor as the sound of falling rain slips through the open door. Then the door shuts and the only noise is heavy breathing. "It's warm in hefe," A feminine says. I can't place her, because I've never heard any of the other Challengers speak before.

"And safe," Another voice responds to her and the fear that I've been trying to repress grows. There's two of them. Two. And they just might be ranked higher then I am. And if they are...

I refirm my grip on the knife, scooting closer to the staircase, very, very quietly pressing myself up against the railing. What weapons do they have? How strong are they? My main strength is my mind, but it's useless when I don't know what I'm up against.

"What if they find us?" The first voice asks. She's young and sounds nervous. Still don't recognize her, though. "And kill us like they did Jotaro?"

Aha! Now that's information. Jotaro was the boy killed out on the beach. The asian one. Who was he allied with again? I check the datapad, comparing the faces to the ones in my memory. Killian #21 and Haviana #11, I think. A mixed bag. Killian is weak and young, but Haviana is higher then I am.

Not good.

"They won't find us," Haviana promises her ally. "And they won't kill us. If they somehow found us, I'd kill them."

Well, damn. That doesn't bode well for me, now does it? A wild girl eager for bloodshed? She'd attack me in a heartbeat. I mustn't be found.

Their conversation continues, mostly sorrow for Jotaro and plans for tomorrow. But I know they won't be occupied for long. Sooner or later they will notice the stairs and come up to explore. And where will I be? Trapped like a rat.

I gnash my teeth together, grinding them endlessly. I refuse to let ny death come here, trapped on a island run by a maniac. I am worth so much more then that. I have so much to offer the world. More then those two girls have.

Kill them before they can kill me. That's what I have to do. When they come up, I jump them from behind, drive a knife through the first's neck and shove the body into the other. Then I can run. I can--

My datapad begins to ring.

Horror spreads through me as I throw my hands over the device, trying to muffle the noise. They will hear! They will hear and come up with a suspicious mind and--

"Hello, Challengers!" Mr. White's slick voice stems from my datapad as I stumble backwards against the glass wall. Our captors voice echoes from where it emits from Killian and Haviana's own datapads. "I'd like to tell you all that while you have performed admirably today, making two kills, our audience is not quite as pleased. They desire even more bloodshed."

"He's hopping insane!" Haviana's outraged voice drifts up the stairwell. But is he? I know the world. I know of their stupid and naive nature. I would not be surprised one bit if they were actually watching this and wishing for more deaths.

"But, even with all their wishes, I do not think that I will blow your heads up today." Thanks for that. "Instead, I will tell you of how the current ranks reflect today's society."

He pauses, and I look up from the screen and back at the stairwell. Haviana and Killian are muttering something between themselves. "Just look at the rankings," Mr. White continues. "Chris and Nic consistently remain at the top, despite being ruthless thugs who have no empathy for anyone besides for themselves. They remain at the top of the food chain, precisely for that reason. It's kill or be killed, sink or swim, strong over the weak. They are at the top of this islands hierarchy, because people just like them remain at the top of the real worlds hierarchy."

No complaints here. People like that rule the world. They suppress others--like me--who'd obviously do a much better job running things. And the weak keep supporting them. They keep those fools in charge.

"On the opposite end of the spectrum," Mr. White drawls on. "We have people like Killian and Sami. One, a girl with mental issues who few wish to associate with, and the other, a small, frail boy who fled his home because men like Nic are tearing it apart."

"But do not cry or pout for things to change. After all, it is all of you whom made this so. Instead, you should rejoice. Because these rankings show the world as it should be. Chris deserves to be number one, because he has earned it. He does not hide his true nature, not here. He does not shy away from the violence all humans innately wish to inflict upon their enemies. They do not allow fake morals to inhibit their natural behaviour."

Mr. White smiles calmly, as if he's just a teacher imparting truth upon his students. I do not know how I feel about him. "That is why I chose all of you. You possess an anger and hatred for people you've encountered in your life. There's times you've thought about inflicting harm upon them, about killing them. But most of you did not. You were restrained by either your own foolish morals, or the world's idiotic laws. But a few of you did kill them. A few of you braved your way through the facade and allowed yourself to express the feelings inside you. These few have the advantage on this island, because they are not restrained by illogical barriers."

There's murderers on this island? People who've killed before being kidnapped? Who? And why?

"My Game is meant to show you all the way. Let you truly express yourself in the way you've been yearning to do. Violence is ingrained inside of us all. We all keep our rage and disappointment with the world's system pent up, but now...Now you have an outlet for this." Enthralled by Mr. Whites' ludicrous proposition, I watch as he carefully steeples his fingers. "Soon enough, the world will see that the old way is done. That there is no longer any need to hide. It's already happening. The ratings are through the roof. Soon the world will see the truth. But for now, the Game."

The screen flickers to the Rankings and I see them go down as they do every night. Once more the world will vote. I wonder if they will be influenced by Mr. White's speech. His smirking voice echoes from off-screen. "Good night, Challengers. I will see you and your new ranks at noon. That is, if you even survive the night."

The screen goes blank, and I'm left in the darkness of a lighthouse, just a floor above a pair of girls who want to murder me.

Day 4/ The End of Innocence

Haviana Greyson (5:36 A.M)

I wake myself up in the dead of night, blinking rapidly as I stare around at the absolute blackness that presses in on all sides. For a moment, I forget where I am. Then I remember. I remember the island, the way Jotaro died, and what I learned before drifting off to sleep.

Someone is in this lighthouse with us.

There's an odd moment when I feel nothing but a detached desire to go up there and slay that person, kill them for Jotaro. Then there's fear. And dread. Then both at once. Because I know that while there's currently three people inside this lighthouse, only two of us are coming out alive.

"Killian!" I whisper as I pull myself up, bones cracking from lying in an awkward position. The small girl is huddled in the corner of the lighthouse, behind several large crates. At first I think she's sleeping, but then her head turns towards me and her large green eyes blink open.

"Yes?" She asks. I'm taken back that she doesn't sound tired at all.

"Weren't you asleep?"

"No. I've been awake since Mr. White last spoke." My jaw drops in surprise. That long? The little biter last spoke was at midnight! Almost six hours ago!

"Do you ever sleep?" I'm amazed that Killian can still function, let alone hold a conversation.

"Yes..." Her eyes swivel away from mine, taking in the drafty circle that is the lighthouse's bottom floor. "Just not as much as other people. I have insomnia..." She sounds a little lifeless. No wonder.

"Well, get yourself hidden somewhere good," I tell her about the note I received from a viewer, and my own experience hearing movement over our heads. That was more then three hours ago, but I must have drifted off to sleep. Now, who knows what our target is doing. But they cannot have escaped, or Killian would have noticed. "We don't wanna come a gutser."

Killian blinks. "What does that even mean?"

"No time to explain. I wanna slay that fruit loop before the sun comes up." I pat the blade of my sickle. It should prove more then enough to deal with the Challenger. But my worries are with Killian. She's not as reliable as I am.

"Okay." Killian huddles herself into a ball, and presses against the back wall. "I'll just stay here then." There's an odd note to her voice, that's bloody sure. Ain't too sure what it is or why, though.

"Righto. I'll be back once it's done." I ensure that she's hidden behind the boxes and make my way to the spiral staircase. Each step is metal, and no matter how lightly I step, my steps give off a vibrating echo. They'll know I'm coming.

But how does that matter? There's nowhere for them to go, and I have the only door out of here tied shut. They have to fight me. And they can't kill me.

The stairs continue. Longer then I'd like. I near the bloody top, and see a bright light stemming from the large circular center. Someone turned the lighthouse on. Of course. Their eyes will have adjusted, but mine haven't. I don't have the time to stop myself before blundering out onto the top floor.

The intense beam of light shines into my face. Hotter and more intense then I would have thought. I raise my hand to block the shafts of light when a shape lunges from over the railing.

A sharp blade slices across my shoulder. I feel prickling pain as droplets of red blood fly from the wound.

Then something's trying to shove past me, running for the stairs. Panicked, I kick my legs out and connect with a shin. I hear my attackers grunt as he trips over it and hits the ground hard.

Lucas rises, wiping my blood away from his face. His right hand holds a knife--also stained with my blood. His green eyes--as dark as Killian's are bright--fume with a cold rage. "You don't know when to quit," He snarls and throws a kick aimed for my face, which I narrowly avoid.

"Ain't no running, you filthy mongrel!"

I heave myself up, swinging my sickle in an arc for his head. He steps inside the arc, slashing his shorter blade and once again connecting with my shoulder. I cry out in pain as he slams a foot down onto my toes.

"Get away!" He shoots out his hands and presses them against my shoulders, pushing me backwards and slamming me into the floor. He then turns and sprints down the flight of stairs behind him.

Pain lingers in my shoulder as I stand, but it's not nearly enough to incapacitate me. I can hear Lucas' footsteps below as he runs down the stairs. It gives me strength. Originally I only wanted him dead because it was necessary, but now it's personal.

I inch myself forward, and head down the staircase, taking two at a time. Lucas' footsteps have faded. Has he left? No. I tied the door shut. No way he escaped that quickly. I hop down the final few steps, walking into the circular room and--

Something beams me in the face. I fall, hitting my head on the ground as Lucas steps around the corner, hands grasping a small container. "You just don't know when to quit," He repeats as he stands over me. His eyes are wide with emotion. Fear? Anger? Hatred? I don't know. "You just couldn't leave me alone. Just like they couldn't. Now, now you have to pay for it." His hands begin to twist the containers cap open, and I catch the first scent of the chemical-like smell within. Whatever is inside isn't any good.

Lucas steps forward, holding up the container. "I'm sorry. But you left me no choice."


Everyone freezes as her voice echoes around the room, vibrating through the cement walls. Killian appears atop a crate, staring defiantly down at Lucas. "Leave her alone!"

The small girl heaves herself down, landing on his shoulders and sending them both splaying to the ground. The container slips from Lucas' grasp, spilling its contents across the floor as it hits the ground. I watch in quiet horror as Killian and Lucas grapple for position.

Then my mind kicks in.

I throw myself up, gripping the sickle tightly in hand as I cross over to the two teenagers. I want to slice down and kill Lucas, but he's to entangled with Killian for me to have a safe shot.

Then the fighting stops as Lucas wraps his hands around Killian's neck, pulling her up as he stands. "Stay back!" He screams at me as I take a step forward. His knife presses itself up against Killian's throat. "Stay back or I'll kill her!"

He's not bluffing. I can see it in his eyes. The same tortured, desperate need to survive that I see in the eyes of trapped animals who know they're about to die. I freeze, eyes flickering to the doorway. He follows my gaze.

"Open the door," He instructs.

"No." I will not allow this bludger to just walk away scot-free after all this. Not bloody likely.

"She'll die if you don't," Lucas backs away closer to the wall. His arms are shaking. "I'll slit her throat, or stab her in the neck."

Unable to speak because of the knife at her throat, I instead watch Killian's eyes. There is no fear. No dread. No begging me to let her live. She's resigned to her fate. Accepted her destiny. Didn't she about tell me as much the first time I met her? And last night, she said she was glad Jotaro was dead. Because he wouldn't have to face anymore horrors. Killian has already accepted that she'll die.

So that's why I can't let her.

"Open the door!" Lucas' voice is rough despite the fear in his eyes. "Open it or she dies!"

I keep my voice calm and steady as I stare him in the eye. "Then so would you."

He blinks twice, then licks his lips nervously. If he kills Killian, then he'd be trapped in here with me. And I'm ranked higher, with a better weapon. He'd never win. Not without the element of surprise he used last time. And without that, I'd kill him.

"We'll all die, then." The smile he flashes is fake, humorless. "Because if you don't open that door, I'll pull the tab on Killian's collar. That way she explodes and we all die."

Root it all. I'm right rooted. There's no way out of this. Not without carking it. He's played me right into a corner, and he knows it. Lucas is smarter then I could ever have thought.

He smiles as I cross for the door. "I knew you'd see reason," He says as I undo the tie and kick it open.

"Rack off!" I stare into his eyes with a burning hatred. He won't get away with this, this highway robbery.

"Toss me my bag!" He heads for the door, hands still wrapped around Killian's neck. His knife hovers just below her ear.

Glaring daggers, I grab the navy duffel bag and slide it to him. I plan to rush him and cut his damn head off as he bends over to pick it up, but he sees through this plan. "No, no, no. Hand it to me" He kicks it back and places one hand firmly around the tab at the back of Killian's collar. "And put down that sickle first, if you please."

I comply. What choice do I have? Either I do as he says, or he blows all three of us sky high. No chance of trying anything funny here.

Lucas calmly takes the bag with his right hand, not moving his left from where it rests. "Thank you," He says quietly.

"Don't think this is over!" I warn, backing off a pace. "We'll hunt you down, ratbag. And we'll make you pay."

He shrugs, stepping out into the cool night air. Thick fog wafts as high as our heads, and thicker then curdled milk. He doesn't let Killian go. "Not unexpected."

"Where are you going?" I ask as he steps into the mist, hands still clenched around Killian's neck. "I let you free, so let her go!"

His face flickers darkly in the pale moonlight. "I wish it were that simple but, Alas!" He stares me in the eyes, muscles tensing throughout his body. "For this game to be won, everyone must die. And that includes poor Killian."

In one quick instant, he pulls the tab on Killian's collar and shoves her forward. She stumbles, slipping on the slick grass and falling to her knees. The collar emits red lights, a shrill beeping fills the air, slpw at first, but quickly picking up the pace. Killian desperately turns to face me. Her terrified expression burns itself into my mind as Lucas turns and flees into the fog.

I take only a single step forward before Killian explodes.

The force of the blast sends me reeling backwards. Blood, hot and wet, splatters across my face. The early morning sky is alive with my own screams. I can taste the blood in my mouth.

Ears ringing, I press my hands against the grass, no longer slick with just water, but now blood too. I can feel the warm wetness in my hair, and I reach up to feel ragged hunks of Killian's flesh. Hot and wet, slick and entangled within my hair.

Bile rises up in my mouth and I add more to the sickness that smothers the grass. The horrendous, monstrous scent of burnt flesh and fresh blood stings my nostrils. Killian is gone. Absolutely gone.

I finish emptying my stomach and roll onto my back, gasping for air and crying tears that mix with the blood on my cheeks. As I stare into the brightening sky with blood on my face and hands, flesh in my hair, and clothes swathed in a new dye, I see it.

I see the crate full of supplies as it parachutes down from the sky.

Oreo Dutton (5:45 A.M)

The red flare shoots into the dark sky, illuminating the island in a deep crimson glow.

I watch from the forest just below it, shivering and shaking from the cold wind that seeps through the trees. I can barely feel my toes. The towel that I wear does very little to keep my body warm. I've been forced into constant movement to keep myself warm and stave off both pneumonia and hypothermia. I did not manage to get any sleep last night. I was too cold. Too terrified of being discovered by the others.

But now I have the chance of getting supplies.

The flare hangs in the air like a bright red orb. It's a signal for an air drop, and that means supplies. Warmth, food, shelter. Weapons. It could have any or all of those things. I really hope it has some clothes.

I stare down at my pale, muddy body. It can't stop shaking. The rain continued long into the night, ending only a little over an hour ago. I try wiggling my toes and am dismayed at how much effort it takes. If that drop doesn't contain something to warm me up, things could get very bad for me, very quickly.

Bitterly I realize that the viewers must be enjoying this, getting to watch a rich girl like me struggle in the forest with nothing more then a towel. What a change from my usual scene.

I sit down on a round stone, waiting for the crate to appear and slowly lower itself down to me. I don't think anyone else will come for it. It's too early; the sun hasn't even risen yet. Also, I can see the light from another flare in the distance, somewhere on the eastern side of the island. After four days of no air drops, there's now two at once. I'd laugh if I weren't so cold and hungry.

The biting wind nips at my sides and I pull my towel closer to me, even though it's pointless. It's still wet from the rain, and provides very little warmth. Still, very little is better then none.

A single tear rolls down my cheeks. I'm alone. More alone then I've ever been. Imogen and Fuauto...did they betray me? I know they're alive, and I know that Misha and Tori took over our house, possibly driving them off, but…

Would they really have left without warning me? Or even trying to? And if they did try to warn me, why haven't they came looking? Do they not care about me?

Be logical. You cannot count on anyone but yourself. A voice in my head tries to instill order, but I cannot really listen. This is an illogical situation. Emotions run rampant. Besides...people do care for me. My parents. They're out in the real world, watching me and hoping with every fiber of their being that I survive. Maybe they're even the ones who sent the air drop.

Yes…Yes, I shouldn't be so quick to give up. I need to be logical, make plans. There's no other way to survive.

I jump from my rock, shuddering as a large splotch of water drips off the furled branch overhead and splats against my bare shoulders. I forgot how stiff my body is. How pale. How cold. The shivering starts up again as I crane my head to the sky, looking through the fog and catching my first glimpse of the crate.

Where did that come from? Did I miss the plane drop it? Is there a plane? Does it matter? The crate is coming, and with it…supplies.

I get antsy. Shift from foot to foot until I step on a small stone and wince as it's sharpened edge digs into the sole of my feet. That's another problem with the lack of clothing. My feet and legs are covered in a multitude of scratches, all of them received from my frantic flight through the woods.

That was the worst part of last night. No, wait. The worst part was when I accidentally dropped my towel and had to flounder around in complete darkness for about ten minutes before finding it again. I think that happened between three and four o'clock, but I'm not certain. I was too cold to keep proper track of time.

But now I won't be. Now, I get whatever supplies that are inside that crate.

It seems to take its time coming down. Slowly inching its way lower and lower. I think it's taunting me. "Come on, you stupid crate!" I stand on my tippy toes in an effort to get closer to it. "Hurry up!"

I don't know what I'll do if someone else comes for the crate. Try and choke them with my towel? I don't have anything else, and there's no way I'm letting this slip from my grasp. I guess choking it is.

But it's unnecessary. The crate's parachute gets entangled in a nearby tree, but it's close enough to the ground for the crate to touch. Giddy with excitement, I hurriedly fling the lid open.

What I find inside makes me squeal with delight.

Clothes. A new, fresh pair of clothes. A simple white tanktop and thin navy jacket to cover my torso, and a pair of cargo pants and boots for my bottom half. It's such a simple thing, but it almost makes me cry with joy. You never realize how important clothes are until you go without them for a night in the forest.

I'm so preoccupied with the clothing that I don't even notice the other two objects until I'm reaching over them. One is a long blade with a carbon fibre handle. A weapon I recognize, a machete. The other is a string of small, round objects topped with a pin. While I recognize these as well, I gasp in shock. Because I never imagined Mr. White would let us have such a thing.


"I could literally cry right now," I wipe my face, actually crying despite what I said. Grenades. Three of them. Probably the most powerful weapon on this island, unless someone is running around with an Ak-47 or a RPG. Whoever sent this, I owe the deepest of gratitude. I lift my head to the sky, where the first rays of sunlight have begun to pierce through the fog. "Thank you."

I waste no time in getting dressed. Tossing the towel aside with a grin, I quickly dress myself in the new clothes. When I finish pulling the tanktop over my head, I wrap the jacket around my shoulders and pick up both the grenades and the machete.

Just because I got here first doesn't mean others aren't coming. I think this as I face the western woods, balancing a single grenade in my hand. Time to go. But first, I need to lead the others away.

Half-afraid that it might just go off immediately and blow my hands off, I pull the grenades' pin and chuck it to the west. It sails through the air and lands with a muted thud, casually rolling down the steep incline.

Then it explodes, sending a wave of dirt blasting into the air. Hopefully it will lure other Challengers here, and force them to fight one another. But they won't find me.

Because I'm already running in the opposite direction, laden with all the spoils from the air drop.

Umbreon Martell (7:15 A.M)

The early morning sunshine wakes me from my slumber. I emerge from the rocky cave, yawning and stretching my limbs as I watch the sun rise over the waves, casting a warm yellow shine on the water. It's beautiful, I think. Truly beautiful. Much more then the grimy city I lived in. I'd love to live here on this island forever.

If only Espeon was with me.

If only a psycho didn't run some twisted Games here.

If only I wasn't being hunted by almost two dozen murderous teenagers.

That's a lot of ifs.

I sit down in the rocky portion of the beach, head buzzing with the fogginess of sleep as I watch the waves crash along the shore. How long have I been here? Three days? More? It feels like weeks, but I know that's not true. I haven't been here that long.

A seagull cries overhead as it swoops down and lands on the sand, pecking away at nothing like the dumb bird it is. "Animals are stupid," I mutter. "But, sometimes, people are even more stupid."


The seagull gives a cry of alarm and shoots off into the air as I jump in surprise, tipping out of my seat and landing face first in the rain-wet sand. My datapad continues to ring as I slowly sit back up, wiping the sticky, wet sand off my face. It smears onto my hand.

"Are you awake, dear Challengers?" Mr. White's voice stems from my wrist and I turn it over to see hin sitting on a large red recliner, a can of soda sitting on the armrest as he holds what appears to be a video game controller. "Because I am!"

Another message from the maniac. What joy. I grit my teeth and try to pick all the sand particles out as he continues. "Well, technically I was never asleep. I was up all night exploring the Commonwealth." He holds up the controller and grins. Seeing his unusually pale features alight with so much joy makes my skin crawl. "Ahh. Video games sure are fun, aren't they?"

Is he taunting us? It seems like he's taunting us. Well, joke's on him. I've never played a video game before, so ha!

"But you're all playing a much funner game!" Mr. White sets the controller down and carefully steeples his fingers, which he then points at the cameras. "While most of you were asleep--which Misha still is, by the way--two lucky Challengers managed to secure two separate air drops! Oh, and Killian...well, let's just say she's gone to pieces over her failure to win the game."

Oh, God. Did another death happen? A quick flicking through the tabs on my datapads says yes. Killian has died. "Do you wish to see these occurrences?" Mr. White is still speaking, though he's not on my screen. "Very well. I shall show you."

Without my input, the screen flickers to an overhead shot of a crate slowly being lowered into the forest by a silver parachute. When it lands, a curvaceous purple-haired girl who seems to be wearing nothing but a towel carefully approaches it.

"This was the air drop secured by Oreo Dutton," Mr. White drones on in a monotonous voice. "If you sleepyheads had woken up earlier--I'm looking at you, Misha!--then perhaps you too could have claimed this bounty."

Oreo pulls what appears to clothing out from the crate and I'm surprised. Clothing? Why would I have needed that? I see why Oreo did though. When she tosses the towel aside to change, she's completely naked. Wonder how that happened. Not that I'm complaining or anything.

The screen shifts to black and Mr. White's voice speaks. "And now, I shall show you the airdrop secured by Haviana Greyson."

As pleasant as the first image was, this next one is equally horrendous. A girl crouches on the ground, staring up into the sky with wide, feral eyes. Her long brown hair is matted with blood, and hunks of stuff that looks like--I feel queasy as I identify the flesh hanging from her shoulders. Human flesh.

"It seems Haviana was carrying Killian on her shoulders throughout this game," Mr. White chortles and I nearly empty my stomach. What is wrong with this man? And what did that to Killian?

When the crate touches down, Haviana rifles through it like a deranged animal. Something has happened with that girl. Something bad.

"That is all I have to show you," As before, the screen fades away before we can see the important objects inside the crate. "Hopefully that has made you all realize you need to step up your game...Now, if you excuse me, I have a Commonwealth to explore..."

Mr. White leaves me with that. Nothing else. I squint my eyes shut. Just what kind of horrors are happening on this island? Things far beyond me, that's for sure. I open my eyes and go to get up when I see him.

Tristan. He stands a few feet from me, dripping with water and glistening brightly in the morning sun. His blonde hair shines like a light as he steps forward, brandishing a knife. "Umbreon Martell," He says, cold eyes focused on me. "I need your help."

Fausto Grandeur (7:37 A.M)

"Fausto, slow down!"

Imogen's painting voice calls from behind me as I run through the woods, avoiding slapping branches and dodging droplets of water that fall from the high trees. The sky is still cloudy, but the rain has mostly stopped. Other then a light drizzle a half hour ago, it's been relatively clear.

"Fausto!" Imogen is louder now. I throw a look over my shoulder and see her more then a dozen feet behind me.

"We don't have time for this!" I say, stopping for her to catch up. "Someone else may claim that airdrop!" The flare appeared overhead, in the vicinity of the neighbourhood, not more then thirty minutes ago. Chances are someone else has also seen it, and are moving in as we speak.

"What about Oreo?" Imogen finally catches up, bending over to pant. Her hair is frizzy and unkempt, her skin pallid and wet. Time on the island has not been kind to her. "We need to look for her!"

"We already know she's fine," I say impatiently. The flare has disappeared. Does that mean someone else has already claimed the crate? "Mr. White showed us her gathering an air drop, remember?" Lucky her. I totally thought that we'd never find her again, that she'd be killed by another Challenger. Apparently, that's not the case. At least, not yet.

"Yeah, but…" Imogen looks up, her blue eyes staring into mine, reflecting up back fear and my own face. "Shouldn't we still look for her? She has items now…"

I snort. "And if you didn't keep slowing us down, so would we!"

"I'm not--I mean, I don't want--" Imogen stammers over her words and I roll my eyes. Can't believe I thought she was capable, that she was strong. I even thought that she might be someone who'd understand that--

"We keep moving!" I interrupt myself and her as she begins another complaint. "We find out what's happened to this airdrop, the we go look for Oreo and hers. Okay?" It's not that I don't want to look for Oreo. I do. After all, it's partially my fault that I left her alone to chase after Imogen. She hasn't done anything wrong, and if the current situation keeps up, I may find myself wishing I was still with her instead.

Imogen nods slowly. "Okay," She mumbles into her arms as she crosses them over her chest. "If you say so."

We continue. I lead the way through the dripping wet woods, leaping over logs and stumps without a hitch. Imogen does too, but she's a lot more clumsy. Several times I have to stop and help her up, and that slows us down. I'm more convinced then ever that someone else will have claimed the drop. And then the neighbourhood comes into view.

I stop on the edge of the street, where the pavement runs into the grass. It's still such a strange sight to see a neighbourhood here, in the middle of an island forest. Who knows why it even exists?

"Now what Mish--I mean, Fausto." Imogen trips over her words and I find myself grinding my teeth together. This wasn't the first time she's mistaken me for her "friend" who just so happens to be stuck on this very island with us. How does that even happen? Did Mr. White purposely kidnap them both? And now that I think about it, how did he even kidnap us? I still cannot remember. The last thing I do remember, is sitting on the beach, staring out at the waves, and wishing that I could be anywhere but where I was. And then...

I wound up here. On this island. With Mr. White. Is it possible he saved me?

"Earth to Fausto!" I snap back to reality as Imogen waves a hand across my face. "You still here?"

"Stop that!" I swat her hand away, and she backs off, looking puzzled.

"What were you--"

"Follow me."

I head to the backyards, away from the main street. I don't rightly know where the drop happened, but it wouldn't do any good to wander the streets where just anyone could find us.

"Ooh, a swingset!" Imogen stares at the contraption as we head to the fence, where it appears a small hole has been cut into the wood.

"Someone's been here..." I look up into the sky and see the faint wisps of smoke still hanging around. From the flare? "Hey, Imogen. I think that the drop happened down this way."

She doesn't answer as I bend down and examine the cut more thoroughly. It looks like it was made with a blade, I think, as I run a hand across the edge. It's not a clean cut, and the edges are all jagged. A rush job? Possibly in preparation for the airdrop.

"Imogen..." I turn to find my ally, and find her a little ways away, speaking with a very much alive, very much deadly, girl. "Imogen!" I don't know what comes over me. Some sort of primal feeling. Danger. I see danger. And I need to act.

I swing my trident around until the point is facing my adversary, then I wind up to throw. Both girls have turned now, and their faces are masks of shock and dread. The one with Imogen is Clarice. I recognize her by the red and black hair. Soon she will die.

"Fausto, no!"

Imogen flings herself in front of the girl, spreading her arms wide to block every part of her. With a curse, I switch my target on the fly, and my weapon sails over both their heads, dropping harmlessly over the wooden fence.

"What the hell, Imogen?!" I explode with a mix of anger and confusion, stalking towards the two girls. "Why did you do that? I almost killed you!"

"Fausto, she's not a threat!" Imogen's face flashes with fear as I push past her, heading for the girl, Clarice. She's not very large, or muscular. Her olive eyes flash pitifully as she backs up and trips, gasping and reaching for her throbbing red ankle as she does.

Pity stays my hand.

"Who is she?" I ask Imogen, keeping my eyes glued on the girl. She doesn't move. Just sits there and watches with those eyes. "And what has she said?"

"Oh, umm…" Imogen seems more then a little surprised that I'm asking her questions. "She just...said that she was hurt, and that she barely fended off her attacker. I thought--I thought that we'd help her, and…"

"Did she see who took the airdrop?" I demand. I couldn't care less about what else has happened to her. I thought that, seeing as she's ranked #9, that Clarice Barron would be a threat. But now that I see her, she's really not anything. Just a scrawny girl with a swollen ankle.

Clarice answers before Imogen can. "It was Anne. Anne Bellhope, #10."

Anne. I mutter under my breath as Imogen gasps. "She attacked me! Yesterday, I mean."

She was the catalyst for Imogen running blindly into the woods, and us losing Oreo. That girl has been a thorn in our sides for the entirety of the Game so far. Now it appears she has just gotten stronger.

"I don't suppose you saw what was in the airdrop?" I ask Clarice.

She shakes her head. "No…sorry."

Well, that's just great. Now what? We came all this way for the supplies, and now they're gone. Maybe if we could find Anne, we could kill her and take the stuff, but seeing as we have no idea where she is...

"We should find Oreo," Imogen chimes in, sounding happier then she has in a long time. "With her and Clarice in our side, we'd be unstoppable!"

I glance at the blond girl. "We're not a charity," I tell her sternly. Does she want us to take along every straggler we meet? That would just slow us down, not to mention get dangerous if they ever got ranked higher then I am.

"Don't leave me!" Clarice tries to stand, but slips and falls back to the wet grass. I grimace. She is totally useless.

"We're not going to leave you," Imogen tells her gently. My hands fold into fists. Don't I get a say in this? Imogen bends down and helps the girl up as I hop the fence and recover my trident. By the time I return, the two of them are talking quietly.

"So, we're stuck with you?" I ask, irritated by how little my opinions seem to matter. Yes. I really should have stuck with Oreo instead.

Clarice stands up a little straighter. She really is a thin, tired-looking soul. I wonder how she's lasted so long while people like Jotaro and Nero have died. "I'm not useless," She says. Her voice is high and frail. Maybe a little too frail.

"I doubt you have anything we need," I say, then grimace as I realize how condescending that sounds. I'm not a bad person. Or I like to think I'm not.

"I could surprise you," She says with a smile.

"Maybe." I'm not gonna judge. That's for the viewers to do.

"You could show us some of your food," Imogen suggests with a sly look my way. "My Dad always said that the fastest way to a man's heart was through his stomach."

Well, he's not exactly wrong there. "If you have something, anything, I'd appreciate it. All we have left is a few apples." And I've grown tired of their taste.

"I have some fruit, but no apples," Clarice adds before I can groan. I suppose that is fine. Though, I'd have preferred something that wasn't fruity at all. Guess I can't get too picky at a time like this. Free food is free food.

"Ooh!" Imogen squeals in excitement, and gives a little clap of her hands. "We could have a fruit salad!"

"Right now?" I turn a doubtful gaze on the girl. Wasn't she the one who was all about finding Oreo?

"Mmm-hum." She nods happily, and as Clarice turns to pull her bag out, leans in to whisper to me. "It'll give us a chance to question Clarice. See if she really can be trusted."

Ah. So she hasn't just completely lost her mind. You really can't blame me for thinking she could have. It's not like she's been acting logically these pest few days. "Good idea," I tell her.

"What's a good idea?" Clarice glances back at us as she procures a small bag of fruit from her main bag.

"Imogen and I want to scout to make sure no one is watching," I say quickly. When Clrice looks surprised, I grab Imogen by the elbow and steer her towards the nearby house. "It won't take long. Prepare our food, yeah?"

The thin girl shrugs, as if she couldn't care less, and turns to slice the fruit up as I lead Imogen towards the backdoor. When we reach it, she frowns. "What's going on?"

"I want you to agree with something," I say, pretending to glance through the windows and into the empty house.

"And that 'something' is...?"

"If Clarice's story doesn't check out, or if she tries to betray us in any way...I'll kill her. I want your permission first."

"Wow." Is that a smirk that plays on her lips? "Since when did you need my permission to do anything?" Yes. Definitely a smirk.

"Since you became my only ally. Yeah, I could probably win this game alone. But it'd be--"

"You don't need to justify yourself," Imogen says with a small, knowing smile, as if she didn't just ask for a justification. "And of course you can kill her. Because if she's betraying us, then that means she's trying to kill us, right?"


Our conversation ends, and we pretend to search around the yard for a few more moments. Nothing really sticks out to me, but I see the orange airdrop crate when I peek over the fence. It's several houses down and completely empty, just like Clarice said. So that part of her story was true.

"Here's your portion," Clarice hands me a pile of sliced fruit on a napkin. "And yours." She hands a second, identical one to Imogen and then sits crossed-legged on the grass, popping a grape into her mouth.

"How long have you been in the neighbourhood, Clarice?" Imogen asks a question as I begin to eat my own fruit. The skinny girl pauses to wipe strawberry juice off her face before answering.

"The whole game. I've never left. I was going to, but then I hurt my ankle and..." She trails off, and I swallow another orange slice as I examine her ankle. Some sort of elastic bandages are wrapped around it.

"What day was that?" I ask, then pause to cough and clear my airway. "And how did it happen?"

"Day...two, I think." She pauses, her eyes looking me up and down, as if searching for something. "It happened while I was escaping Anne. What about you? How long have you been here?"

I try to reply, but the words catch in my throat. My cough becomes a terrible thin whistle as I strain to suck in air. Iron fingers tighten around my neck.

"Fausto?" Imogen turns to stare as I fall to my hands and knees, desperately attempting to breath in air. Black spots cloud my vision. I feel myself go limp as Imogen screams my name. There's nothing. I can't hear, breathe, anything.

My head slides and hits the ground. My final thought let's me know that at least I'm free.

Imogen Sykes (8:02 A.M)


The boy who've I spent nearly four days with falls forward, rasping for air as his hands clutch at his throat. Fear builds in his eyes as he tries to breath, but then it's replaced by a glazed over nothingness as he goes limp. I stifle my sob.

Fausto is dead.

I look up from his body, look up at Clarice. The thin, waifish girl offers me a placating smile. "He was a threat," She says simply.

"You..." I don't know what to say. Words catch in my throat. Tears sting my eyes. I just watched Fausto die. He died. And I don't even know how, or why. He's just dead. One moment he's alive, eating. The next, dead.

That's when it hits me.

"You poisoned him!" I whisper the words as I stare at Clarice. She's no longer the scared, timid girl she was. She's something different. A killer. "You poisoned him!"

"Yes. Yes, I did." She stands stiffly, reaching out and picking her knife up from the grass. "And I poisoned your food, too. Unfortunately, you didn't eat any."

I gasp and fling the fruit aside. It bounces as it hits the ground, innocently rolling away before coming to a halt. Fausto was killed…by poisonous fruit.

"You couldn't have killed him!" I shake my head. I'm in denial. "He's ranked higher then you!"

"Ranks don't matter," The girl tenses her body as she faces me. "Not when it comes to poison. You should read the rules."


Clarice strikes. One moment she's standing across from me, the next her knife is flying for my face. The blade catches just underneath my eye, and blood streams down my face as I slip and fall on the grass. Then Clarice is atop me, pushing the knife towards my face.

My hands grip her wrist, desperately attempting to wrest it from her grip. Fear, dark and pressing, pulses through me. "You're a murderer!"

"Didn't you hear Mr. White?" Clarice's breath is hot against my face as she struggles with my hands. "Everyone here is going to be a murderer if they want to survive!"

The knife draws nearer my face. I'm losing the fight. Cold anger builds inside me. "So you're Mr. White's sockpuppet now?"

Raw fury flashes across the girl's face. "I'm no one's puppet! Let alone that bastard Mr. White's! When I finish with the Challengers, I'm coming for him!"

My taunting fails me, as Clarice shakes off my hands and readies to plunge the knife into my heart. My fault. This is all my fault. If only I had let Fausto kill her, then this wouldn't be happening. He wouldn't be dead. I wouldn't be about to die. I'm sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry that I couldn't see you, one last time.


Our datapads suddenly go off. Clarice jerks away, rattled by the sudden noise. I see my opportunity. My hand shoots forward and I jab her in the trachea. She gasps and sputters, allowing me to shift my body and unseat her.

"You will pay!" I scream nonsensical words as I stand up, towering over the fallen girl. She hisses and slashes at my ankles with her knife. I step out of her range. "People like you don't belong in society!"

I raise my foot and stomp on the girl's ankle. The swollen one. I never imagined that I would take such vicious joy from a tortured, desperate scream, but now I do. The sound of this murderer in pain brings me comfort.

"Be glad I'm not you," I tell the girl as I bend down and rip the knife from her hands. She's in too much pain to stop me. "Otherwise I'd kill you like you tried to kill me!"

"Oh, please!" Somehow Clarice manages to speak through the muffled cries of pain. She clutches her leg, olive eyes burning with hatred as she glares at me. "Spare me the moral goodness! The only reason you're not killing me is because I'm ranked higher then you are!"

Her words stab at me like knives. Not because they're true, but because I fear they are true. If I was higher, would I kill her? Would I give in to Mr. White's temptations? As I stand here, staring down at the girl with justified fury, I don't think I could possibly say no.

And that frightens me.

I turn and run. Run down the street, run with my stolen knife and heavy heart. Clarice screams after me. "That's right! You're just like me! Just like all of us! We're all prospective murderers! Every single one of us!"

Her words cut into my head like a dull knife as I weep silent tears.

Sami Bitar (9:25 A.M)

I am awakened by a loud grinding sound, followed by a mechanical clanking. I open my eyes to see a box filled with hay rolling past me on a conveyor belt, up past the ceiling. Two more boxes follow it. Then the clanking stops as abruptly as it had begun, and the concrete building is silent again.

I yawn, stretch sleepily, wince in pain, and then sit up.

Soft yellow sunlight comes through the side windows. It's morning. I've slept through the entire net without being stabbed in my sleep! That's something I'm very grateful for. I check the time in my datapad. 9:25 A.M. Still almost three hours until the new rankings come in. I roll onto my back, groaning. Sleeping on the concrete floor wasn't very comfortable. My head throbs, and my entire body aches from lying on the hard ground. Around the corner, I can hear a rusty squeaking and Bree muttering.

Good. She's still here.

I slowly get to my feet and look around at the maintenance shed. Stacks of boxes stuffed with small metal parts litter the corner, and a few other mechanical devices sit beside the conveyor belt. A small metal box hangs on the wall, with the stenciled words Maintenance 02.

Interested, I approach the box and flip it open. Inside I find something that nearly makes me shout in joy. A phone.

My first thought is that I'll be able to call for help, find my family. They will come get me, free me from this island. Everything will be fine! I'm shaking with giddy excitement as I reach out and grab the phone, nervously placing it against my ear.

Nothing but static.

I shove the receiver back into the box and slump to the ground. Of course. Of course it doesn't work. That would be too easy. Too good. Nothing good ever happens to me. No matter how much I try, I can never get fortune on my side.

Unshed tears glisten in my eyes as I think about how my family probably doesn't even know I'm trapped on this island. We were refugees fleeing for our lives. Were would they have gotten the chance to watch this? Or even hear about it? They probably think I'm dead.

The tears slide down my face as I realize that may soon be the truth.

"Sami?" Bree's concerned voice comes from around the corner. "Are you awake?"

There's no point in pretending. "Yes," I call back. "I'm awake."

Bree comes around the corner a moment later. Her blonde hair is filthy and filled with twigs. Her hands stained black with dirt from the forest and floor. She halts when she notices my despondent nature. "You okay?"

No. Who would be? But I want to remain optimistic, so I force a smile. "Yeah. Fine."

"Oh. Okay." Bree sits herself down across from me. We both just sit there in silence for a long while. Sometimes I find it funny that the two of us, two of the perpetually lower ranked Challengers, have come together. And other times I just find it rather sad.

"I found a raft," Bree says after a few more moments of silence. I look up, wondering if I heard her correctly.


"Yes. A raft." A short pause. "It's behind the shed, on a dock that hangs close to the river."

That's something. Cool, but I don't know the practical uses. I guess we could travel along the river in it. "Neat," is all I say.

Bree nods. "Do you...wanna see it?"

"S'pose so."

Bree stands and leads the way out the shed. I blink in the sudden morning light. The sky is blue and only a few wispy clouds linger there. The air is cool and damp, white fog hangs low to the ground as we round the shed, passing under the veranda.

"I discovered it after the datapads woke me," Bree says as we near the river. It gurgles softly as it floods past.

"Did someone die?"

She nods. "Two people. Killian and Fausto."

Killian was one of the lower ranked Challengers, like us. Fausto was much higher. I don't know who killed him, but I guess if we survive until night Mr. White will tell us. Probably show us too, though I don't really want to see.

"Whoa!" I duck my head as two large dragonflies come buzzing past. They hover around our heads, and I watch then warily. Bree holds out her hand and one of them lands on it. "He's going to bite you," I warn her.

"I don't think so." She's shown to be right when it just flaps it red-veined, transparent wings and flies off. I watch it for a short moment and then head back towards the dock. It juts out over the water and has been painted green to blend in with the foliage. Bree paces ahead and unlatches the door.

Inside I spot a half-dozen orange life vests hanging on the wall, several rolls of wire-mesh fencing, some coils of rope, and two big rubber cubes sitting on the floor. The cubes are strapped flat with large belts.


"Good find," I tell Bree and she smiles. "This stuff could be useful."

"Wanna set it up?" Bree asks, a playful light twinkling in her eyes. "Just for fun?"

Fun. That's something I haven't had in awhile. "Sure, why not?" I could use some fun. It's been too long. Even before I arrived on this island.

We work together to lug the cube out onto the dock. It's surprisingly heavy, and at first we don't know what to do with it, until Bree undoes the straps and finds the inflation cylinder. With a loud hiss, the rubber begins to expand, and with a Hiss-Whap! It pops fully inflated across the dock.

Bree giggles loudly as she rubs the side of it. "This is so cool!"

I have to agree. I don't think I've ever quite seen something like that before. Bree pushes me suddenly and I flip over inside the raft. "Hey!" I look up and see her laughing, eyes sparkling with joy that has long been absent. "What was that for?"

"I wanted to see if it was soft."

"Well, was it?"

"You're not hurt, are you?"

I laugh and shake my head. We play around with the raft for a little while, splashing around in the water and looking at the items inside the shed. Bree finds a paintbrush and stares at it in silence.

"Something wrong?" I ask.

She shakes her head. "No…not exactly. It's just…this reminds me of home."

From the look in her eyes, I'm not certain if it's a good reminder. "Did you paint?" I ask cautiously.

"Yes." The joy and humor has faded from her voice. "And I designed things too. I'm very artistic."

"Do you not enjoy it?" I don't understand why she sounds so upset. Isn't that a good thing?

"I enjoyed it…just not being forced to do it."

I don't know what to say. I just watch the girl, someone who I really know nothing about, in total silence. Around us birds begin to chirp, and I look up to see a large crate attached to a white parachute floating down to us.

An air drop.

"It's for us!" I'm so excited, that my voice comes out in a squeal. "This air drop is for us!"

Bree looks up sharply, frowning when she spots the white parachute. There's a slight easterly wind that blows it away from the river, closer to the maintenance shed. "It could be for anyone," She says doubtfully.

"Yes. But it's heading for us!"

Nothing can erase the sheer excitement that pulses through my veins. This air drop was meant for us. I can just feel it. Someone out there cares enough about us to send us stuff. How could I be any less excited?

I round the edge of the maintenance shed and wait in the empty clearing before it. Luckily, the crate seems to be heading right for it. If it had gone a little ways in any other direction, then it would risk being caught in the trees.

Bree stops beside. Her face is still full of doubt. "This could bring unwanted attention," She says slowly.

I shaky my head, a big, stupid grin plastered on my face. "Doubt it. We'll just get some good stuff!"

Bree remains silent as the crate touches the ground, and I rush forward to rip the lid off. Inside, nestled amongst packing paper, I find three objects. The first, a long, thin stick-like item that I eventually recognize to be a blowgun. Another is a small leather pouch, inside of which I find six small darts.

"Strange choice of weapon," Bree mutters. I'm too busy of thinking of all the cool things I could do with them to mind the negativity. Then I pull the third object out and roll it over my palm. A box of matches. Helpful, for sure...

"Is that all?" Bree sticks her head inside the box as I pull back a little, storing my items away and wondering about what I could do with this stuff. Burn a building? Shoot a burning dart? Set something on fire from afar? Most of my thoughts tend to violence, and that's a little disconcerting. Isn't there enough violence in the world without me adding to it?

"Hey, Bree." I want some input from my friend. She's been helpful so far. "What do you think--"



Something slices through the air, followed by the meaty sound of impact. Curious, I turn around to see Bree staring into the distance with a blank look on her face. Green eyes wide open, nursing an odd bemusement.

"Bree…?" My question turns into a gasp of horror as I see the arrow embedded in her chest, the stain of crimson blood rapidly spreading across her shirt. Then I look up and see them. Emerging from the forest with smug smirks etched across their cruel faces.

Chris and Nic.

I remember something that my parents taught me back home in Syria. What I was to do if I ever thought that someone was firing upon me.

I throw myself to the ground, pulling myself up against the crate as the air fills with the whistling screams of Chris' arrows.

"You're gonna die, slug!" Nic's callous voice rings out into the clear morning air as Bree's body slumps to the ground beside me. Her face is frozen in place. Empty. Cold. Confused. She doesn't even know why she died, or how.

Tears build in my eyes as Nic continues to shout taunts. Bree didn't deserve this. She didn't--

Pull yourself together. Think clearly. I remember those terrible nights in Syria. When the night sky was alive with explosions, with ringing shots that richoeted every which way. I remember watching people die, just like Bree. But I couldn't stop and cry, not if I wanted to remain alive. I had to keep moving and think clearly.

"Better run, baby boy!" Nic's cruel, pointed words dig into my scalp as I peek around the edge of the crate and see him slowly approaching. He's hobbling forward, using his spear like a cane. At first I don't know why he's so slow, but then I notice the bloody makeshift bandage wrapped around his shoulder.

He's wounded. And that makes him weak.

But Chris is not. The tall, muscular boy is coming up behind Nic, his bow loaded with an arrow and aimed directly on my crate. If I try to move, go anywhere, he'll shoot and kill me. Or maybe incapacitate me. Then they can finish me off at their leisure…

The datapad's ring, and Bree's face is crossed out with a large, red "X". "Come on, baby boy!" Nic sneers in condescension. "Aren't you gonna run? Or do you wanna die like your little friend?"

Fury swells in my chest. These kids aren't just killing because Mr. White is forcing them to. They actually enjoy it. Monsters.

My fingers clech around the flashlight that has rolled out of Bree's hands, and I think of a plan. The raft. If I can just get to the raft…

I don't have much time. I don't know why Chris and Nic are going so slowly--maybe they think I have some sort of trap--but soon they will just blitz me. I need to act fast.

"Baby boy, don't you--"

I pop out from behind the crate and heave the flashlight at Nic. I see him recoil, but then I'm back against the ground, feeling the displaced air ruffle over my head as Chris' arrow misses.

My chance. My only chance.

I jump up and run. Nic gives an enraged shout and runs, but then he stumbles and falls with a curse. Chris shoots another arrow, only narrowly avoiding skewering my head like a tomato as I weave back and forth, making myself a harder target.

Then I'm around the maintenance shed and out of sight.

The raft is a dozen feet away. Resting on the dock, just a few feet from the water. I can make it. I must.

I hear the footsteps behind me as I commit my entire being to running. To escaping these inhuman monsters. I near the raft and throw my shoulder against the side, plopping it into the water. I throw myself onto it just as the current whips it downstream and Chris reaches the dock.

"Running won't save you!" His face is a angry red as he takes aim with his bow and fires. I duck my head and the projectile sails over me, splashing into the river harmlessly. "Nothing will! You hear me? Nothing!"

The current steers the raft away from the dock, pulling me north. Chris' second arrow shoots overhead, and I send a silent prayer of gratitude for the fact that he's not smart enough to shoot the raft itself. An arrow would pop it easily enough and…

The current pulls me out of his range, deeper down the dark river. A chill, cutting wind cuts against my skin as I escape from the hunters, leaving behind the corpse of my only friend.

I am alone.

Misha Castiel (9:43 A.M)

I sit up with a groan, my head throbbing like a rusty nail has just been driven through it. Pale, flickering sunlight filters through the window to my right, masking me in its gentle glow. Outside the open blinds, I can see the empty streets of suburbia.

"Almost forgot where I was," I grumble, sitting up slowly and carefully. The cuts and scrapes left from the vase have been taped up, courtesy of Tori. The living room is mostly bare; besides for the small coffee table that has been returned to it's standing position and the mantleplace that holds the shards of broken vase, there's absolutely nothing in the small room. "God, my head hurts like hell."

"You're awake."

I whip my head around and see Tori stepping down the staircase. Her chocolate brown hair is wet and shiny, spread behind her back as she gazes at me with her gray eyes. There's a strong scent of cinnamon around her. She pauses at the edge of my couch, as if waiting for my response.

I blink in surprise. "Did you wash your hair?"

She grunts and rolls her eyes as she crosses her arms. "Who cares if I did?"

"I…I don't know." It's still early in the morning, so I'm groggy. I don't know what's going on. But I find it odd that she washed her hair. I didn't think she cared enough to do that. When I first met her, she looked like a supermodel that got sucked into a tornado and spat out in the middle of the forest. Now she just looks like…a supermodel.

"You look ridiculous when you just sit there with your mouth open," Tori says as she crosses the room and enters the kitchen, rummaging through the cupboards.

I snap my mouth shut and glare after her. "You took me by surprise. My head still hurts from that stupid vase."

She doesn't turn around or even respond to me as she continues her search through the cupboards. I take that as a sign that I'm right, and stand up and stretch. The carpet beneath my feet is still stained with mud from our prior clash with Oreo. Stupid girl. I hope she ran into a tree and hurt her head as much as she hurt mine.

"You see the dead?" Tori asks, closing the cupboards and backing out of the room with a bottle. I eye it warily as she pops the cork.

"Is that more alcohol?" I ask. As much as I like Tori, I don't think I can deal with her drunkenness again. Or rather, I don't want her to have and deal with it.

She shakes her head, plopping herself down on the couch and resting her feet on the table. "It's grape juice." She takes a long swig of it, and I breath silent relief.

"You said something about the dead."

She barely even looks up from her drink. "Check your datapad, or whatever the hell Mr. White calls those damn things."

I cautiously turn the device on, wondering just what I'm about to see. Mr. White as been everything but predictable. Sometimes I'm truly terrified of what he might show me. But there's nothing. Just the same old faces on the rankings. Nothing's changed, because it's not noon yet.

"I don't see anything," I tell Tori as I gaze at Chris' smug face sitting at the #1 position.

"Scroll down, stupid."

Feeling a minor twinge of indignation, I slide the screen downwards and finally see what it is that Tori wanted me to see. At the bottom of the list, were the dead kids have their faces crossed out, three more have arrived. Bree Richmond, Killian Haberman, and Fausto Grandeur. That last one throws me for a loop, because Fausto looks almost exactly like me.

"How'd they die?" I find myself asking for the most morbid information. It'll make me look tougher to the viewers, that's sure.

"Killian blew up. Not sure about the others. Mr. White didn't show us." Tori leans back into the couch and looks up. "Wanna drink?" She waves the bottle at me.

"I, uh, don't have a glass," I point out, sounding considerably less tough then I did a moment ago.

"Why do you need one?" Tori eyes me critically, one side of her mouth twitching into a half-smile. "Afraid of your lips touching something mine did?"

"No! That's not it at all!"

Tori raises an eyebrow and smirks playfully. "Ooh. So you do want your lips to touch mine!"

My face hottens as it turns a brighter shade of red. "Stop teasing me," I mutter before realizing how stupid and childish that sounds. "I mean, don't--"

"You're so easy to upset, Misha!" Tori laughs and takes another drink of her grape juice. I stand there and take her abuse, feeling rather foolish. But somehow, I don't feel too embarrassed. Not like when people made fun of me, before I changed myself. Tori isn't cruel like they were. She's a...Well, not really a friend. Or is she? I can't tell with her.

"You seem to be in a much happier mood then yesterday," I tell her.

She shrugs. "I'm not freezing my butt off in the cold rain, am I?"

"Well, no." I suppose that this would be quite the step up from that situation. I don't even think it's raining anymore, and though the fog remains, it's not as thick as it was before. It's just a light little mist that hardly does anything to the sunlight.

Tori winks. "Exactly. Now, since you do not want any of my grape juice…" She throws her long neck back, drinking gracefully from the bottle, and finishing it off. She tosses it over her shoulder with a laugh. "No need to be tidy here."

The bottle hits the carpeted floor with a thud, and then the back door swings open.

Instantly I reach for my axe, only to realize that it's lying beside the window, out of my reach. Similarly, my machete is set atop the table, and by the time my lunging fingers clasp around the edge, the intruder is in the living room.

"Fausto!" The voice is high-pitched, filled with shock. I spin around, blade extended forward, when I see her.

Yesterday, Oreo mentioned someone named Imogen. She thought that Tori and I had done something to her, though we hadn't. I didn't know what she was talking about, but when I stopped to think, it hit me.

I'm talking about the answer, not the vase Oreo smashed over my head. Well, okay, that hit me too. But the information I remembered about Imogen was more important. When I looked at the names on the datapad, there was no mistaking it. It was her.

Imogen Sykes.

Three years ago, I knew of this girl. Okay, I was friends with this girl. We did everything together. But then, well, I…stopped being her friend. Everyone always picked on her, it was just the common thing to do. No one really liked her, and everyone associated with her weren't really cool or popular in any way. So I…

Why the hell is she here? On this island with me? There's no way that this was a coincidence. Mr. White planned this. He did this on purpose. The bastard. Who does he think he is? Does he think he can just do whatever he wants? Well, he can't!

"Fausto!" Imogen is different from when I last saw her three years ago. She's thinner, older. More...I don't know. Mature looking? Either way, despite the differences, this is absolutely her. "I saw you die! How did you--" She cuts off with a gasp as she gets a better look at me. Her already wide eyes stretch even wider as she backs off, pressing herself up against the counter.

Tori rises from the couch, stormy eyes narrowed on my old friend. "What are you waiting for? Kill her already!"

"I…" How can I explain this? How could I ever let her know that I've met this girl before? And that I don't want to kill her? As much as I've given up on being friends Imogen, I don't want to be the one to end her life.

"Wait…" Imogen stops moving as she stares into my eyes. "You're not Fausto, you're Misha…"

"Huh?" Tori glances at me and then back to Imogen. "Do you two know each other?"

"Well..." Truthfully, yes. Of course I do. But do I want Tori to know that? Do I even have a choice?

"Yes." It's Imogen who finally speaks. Her voice is low and hushed as she stares at me with shocked eyes. "I used to live in the same city as him, go to the same school, even. We were friends."

If Tori looked surprised before, it's nothing compared to how she looks now. Her mouth hangs open as she glances between me and Imogen, digesting what she has just heard. "So, you two…knew each other before being brought to this island?"

I nod. "Yes."

"And you're friends?"

"We used to be. Things are a bit…complicated now." Imogen flinches away from me. Did she think that we'd still be friends? After everything I said and did? Why would she even want to be?

"Do you think that means we can trust her?" Tori's enraged voice snaps me back to reality. The knife I pried from the wall yesterday is in her hands as she glares daggers at Imogen. "How do we know she's not just waiting for us to let our guard down so she can kill us?"

"We don't."

That stuns them both. Tori falls silent, blinking in shock. Imogen spins around, eyes filled with terror. "Misha!" She screams. "You can't kill me! We were friends!"

"I didn't say I was going to kill you," I say in annoyance. Reactions like this is what made her such an easy target for people to pick on. "All I'm saying is that we can't just trust you."

" know me!" Imogen steps forward, but is cowed back when Tori waves her knife.

"I knew you," I correct her. "I know nothing about what you've been doing these past years. What if you became a psycho killer?"

"If anyone is a pyscho, it's you!" Imogen has tears pouring from her eyes as she steps back, eyeing Tori's blade with great wariness. "I just saw a friend die! And you want to claim I'm a psycho?" A hint of embarrassment mixed with shame crawls down my back. Should I really be accusing her like this? Imogen was always kind, maybe a little too kind, I doubt that she's changed too much.

"Who was your friend?" Tori doesn't seem to mind the distress that Imogen is clearly going through. "Bree?"

Imogen wipes her sleeve across her face. "N-no! It was Fausto, and he was killed by Cla--"

"So you decided to befriend the boy who looked exactly like Misha?" Tori gives off a humorless laugh. "Creepy."

"It's not like--I didn't--"

"Stop whining, Imogen." I feel less conflicted than I did before. While I won't kill Imogen, I'm still not certain I can trust her. She just suddenly showed up without warning, and was previously allied with some of our biggest threats. I don't think I can just trust her, but I definitely won't kill her. "You're not going to die. Not by our hand."

The fear dissipates from her face, replaced with surprised joy. "Th-thank you!" The words stammer out from her lips as she sinks to the ground, cradling her knees close to her chest.

Tori watches her for a silent moment before sighing and pocketing her knife. "I guess we're not killing her then," She says with a ill disguised disappointment. "But we really should interrogate her. She might have some useful information."

"I'll tell you everything I know," Imogen says flatly. All the fight has left her.

I rub my hands together and nod. "Learn everything you can. I'm going to lie dowm and get some more rest. Because my head really hurts"

Alana Salazar (11:57 A.M)

The morning slowly approaches noon as I rest against the bark of a tree, looking down a small cliff at the river below. It springs over limestone rock, babbling and burbling as underneath its blue water, pebbles whisk about in the under wash like tiny pieces of glitter.

They're carefree and safe.

Unlike me.

Any thoughts I had about being safe from the death and desolation that has gripped this island disappeared this morning, when three separate kids met their deaths. Killian, Bree, Fausto. Less then a week ago they were all just normal kids living their lives. Now they're dead.

I can't help but think of Mr. White's promise that the rest of us will follow soon. How soon? I don't know. Too soon. Much too soon.

I sigh and shift my body. It hurts. I've been still for too long, and the air is damp and cold. The grass is still wet from the night's rain. I lasted it out by hiding in a hollow tree, and while it was dry, it was far from comfortable. Every part of my body is stiff and sore. Still, it's better then being dead.

I look around me at the forest that I inhabit. I can see wild basil growing freely on the clumpy, mossy mattress of the ground. The simpering wind carries a fragrance with it. It's rather refreshing to smell the mulchy mix of the forest’s perfume, instead of the death I've been imagining all morning. If I concentrate on these sights and sounds, I can almost forget about the game and--


My datapad comes to life with the grinning face of Mr. White staring back at me. His white sunglasses reflect back nothing as he brings a mug of liquid up to his lips and drinks. "Hello, Challengers!" He says once he's finished. "It is now noon, and that means..."

"Rankings." I mutter under my breath. I had almost forgotten that we were assigned these things.

"Yes, your rankings!" Mr. White nonchalantly taps at his own datapad, and then the Rankings on my own begin to change. I watch my face slide up several positions, coming tp a halt at #13. "There should be some considerable differences, considering all the death…"

Mr. White quietly disappears and leaves us with the new rankings. There's no change at the top, where Chris and Nic both remain #1 and #2 respectively. After them there's a few new faces, but mostly the exact same people stay near the top.

What the heck? Why don't these stupid viewers change up their voting a little? I mean, there's not even algorithm for this or anything. It's based purely on favouritism! And yet, and yet, I'm near the back. I'm only in front of four other people.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong.


It's like a current of energy runs through me, freezing my body in place. Below me, underneath the cliff that runs against the river, footsteps can be heard. And with the newest Rankings being so against me, odds are its someone who can end my life.

I scarcely even breath as a figure shambles out from the cliff's shadow and kneels beside the river. His clothes are filthy, encrusted with a dry red substance. His blonde hair is entangled with twigs and other debris. He looks completely different from when I saw him on the first day of the game.

Lucas cups his hands and drinks from the river.

This sight is disconcerting. Isn't this what happened on day one? Except I was the one drinking from the river, and he was the one watching from the shadows. He approached me afterwards, and I punched him in the face.

I thought that he was trying to attack me, but that was before I saw that he was ranked below me. So maybe he had some other goal. I don't know. But I'm not going to risk approaching him now. He's washing blood from his face. Blood. That is never a good sign.

Lucas scrubs his hands in the river after he finishes drinking, then he stands and stretches, muttering to himself. I watch carefully as he glances around, then darts off, heading west. I make a mental note of the direction.

This was only my third encounter with another Challenger, and while so far they have all been benign, I'm certain that they won't continue to be so.

Tristan Kaplan (1:39 P.M)

The early afternoon sun peeks out from behind wispy clouds as Umbreon and I work on our traps. The thin, nervous boy continually checks behind him as he sits on the sandy beach, using his knife to sharpen the tip of a wooden stick. I don't know what to make of the boy. He's suspicious, nervous, and untalkative. I've gotten very little out of him despite the fact that we've been working together for several long hours now.

He agreed to help me easily enough. Thought that setting traps up around the island, and making plots to slow down Chris was a good idea. Then again, he might have just been telling me what I wanted to hear. I could have killed him at any time, after all. But I don't want to kill him. He may not be particularly likeable, but he's useful. And that is a better quality for an ally to have, especially when I know I'll have to cut him loose eventually. Being likeable would only make that harder.

"How many of these do we need?" The boy speaks for the first time since we finished digging our hole. It's just outside the beachfront, hidden amongst the trees. The ground was soft and soggy from the rain, soft enough for us to dig.

So dig we did.

It was rough, back-breaking work. We had no tools and used only our hands, and occasionally our knives. The two of us operated in silence, the only sound being the natural wild noises around us and our panting breaths. Eventually, after many hours with a few breaks, the pit grew deeper, and when it was above my shoulders, I climbed out to begin the next phase of our plan.

Both Umbreon and I rest on the ground, sharpening sticks we gathered from nearby plants into stakes with a fine point. A pile of such sticks already rests beside me; a much smaller pile lies at Umbreon's feet.

"How many?" He repeats, adding the stick in his hand to the pile.

"How many do we have?" I ask gruffly. The overhead sun adds quite the heat, and I'm not in the best of moods. Chris could be coming at any time. I know from experience that he will want to catch both me and the Leonard's…and won't stop until he succeeds. We need to hurry up before he arrives.

"I don't know." The dark haired boy stops to count his pile, green eyes flashing over to mine and counting there as well. "Fifteen, I think?"

Fifteen? That should be more than enough. "Pick up your pile," I tell Umbreon as I scoop up the wooden stakes, and approach the unbroken front of snarled and ragged jungle that fringed the shore where our pit is hidden.

The boy follows slowly, stopping beside me when I reach the hole. There, I take the stakes and plant them in the bottom of the pit, with the points sticking straight up. "Death pit," Umbreon observes quietly.

"That's the plan," I say, with quick fingers I weave an awkward tapestry of weeds and branches, and with it I deftly cover the mouth of the pit.

"I thought that the plan was to wait for the hour mark?" Umbreon brings up what we've been doing for the past few hours. Every time a new hour rolls along, we stop what we're doing and with Umbreon as the bait, we lay a trap. I know that Chris sees the location of every other Challengers at the new hour, and that he will likely come for us. So, I have Umbreon be somewhere acting as a distraction, while I wait to spring out and attack Chris with my tweezers, hopefully blinding him.

"I don't think this plan will work," Umbreon first said when I brought up the plan.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because won't he die? From being stabbed in the eyes? Won't the bloodloss or shock kill him?"

I didn't have an answer for that. I haven't put any thought into what would happen afterwards, mostly because I'm not too convinced that the plan will work. I hope it will, but that doesn't mean that it will work. That's what my other traps are for, backup.

"We can't just count on that plan working," I finally address Umbreon as I finish setting the stakes in place. "We need to have secondary options available."

The guy shrugs. "Whatever you say, man. I have a few tricks of my own." The boy walks a little ways away from the pit, crossing over to what appears to be a small game trail of sorts. He glances around the area for a bit, then he catches ahold of a springy young sapling and he neatly attaches his knife to it, with a bit of wild grapevine he ties back the sapling, with the blade pointing down the trail. With a triumphant smirk, he steps back from his work.

"Where'd you learn that?" I ask, genuinely surprised.

The smirk fades as he scratches his collar. "Not sure, actually. A movie, I think. Or a library."

"Well, whatever it was, it seems very helpful." Anyone coming down that trail is certain to get a nasty surprise. Hopefully it's Chris. Or Nic. I can't forget that he's still with Chris, even though the rest of us have bailed. The two of them are by far the deadliest foe on this island, not counting Mr. White.

"What do we do now?" Umbreon asks me. I have to stop and think for a moment.

"It's nearly the next hour, so we should get ready for the ambush again."

The two of us get off to work, hopefully off to prove that we actually know what we're doing and aren't just pretending.

Sami Bitar (2:45 P.M)

The gentle splashing of water wakes me from my sleep. I rise, slowly shifting in place as I begin to wonder where I am. Then I remember. I remember that Bree is dead, that Chris killed her. I'm on the raft, going who knows where.

Sadness hangs over me like a dark cloud. The only chance that I had at winning this game was going unnoticed and having allies. Neither of those things seem possible now. My odds of winning are low.

The raft isn't moving very fast. The water around it seems lethargic and tranquil. I stare at it in despair, wondering if I am still being followed. Are those two boys that desperate to kill me? Would they go through all this trouble to track me? It has to be impossible though. No way they could have followed me. But that doesn't...doesn't help Bree.

I cannot believe she is dead. It was so fast. So sudden. One moment she was fine, the next she was dead. It's like back in Syria all over again. Everyone around me dies. Marauders run rampant, and there's chaos everywhere. Nowhere is safe.

Why haven't we been saved yet? I ponder this question as the river around me begins to narrow. If I wanted, I could reach out and grab the bushes. What is the rest of the world doing? Do they not care if we all die? If Mr. White slowly kills us all one by one? Or are they just incompetent?

I wish I could be more positive, I really do. But I can't see anything good in this situation. All that is left for me is death and desolation.

I sit up a little and decide to help the raft along, going hand over hand and grabbing nearby branches, pulling the raft along. The murky water itself is not moving it very fast, and I want to get out from this narrow chokepoint. It makes me uncomfortable. I doubt that the paddle on board with me will me of use. Still, I have Bree to thank for it being on the raft at all.

Cautiously I move forward. The river is enclosed within tall trees with thick branches, so little light gets through. A cold chill runs down my back as the river begins to pick up the pace. The river is still so narrow that it feels like being in a tunnel. The rubber gunwales scrape against the muddy riverbank as the current swiftly pulls me onwards.

Hastily I let go of the branches and just in time. The river suddenly widens slightly, and the raft is pulled ahead so violently that I slip and nearly tumble off into the water. I grip the sides tightly, fingers digging into the grip. It's going very fast.

Squinting, I lean forward. The river is still narrow and dark, but further ahead I can see that the trees end, with bright sunlight beyond, and a distant roaring sound. The river seems to end abruptly, in a peculiar flat line...

I grab for my paddle as it dawns on me.


The raft sweeps out from the overhanging darkness into the brilliant sunlight, and raves forward on the swift current towards the lip of the waterfall. The thunderous roar fills my world. I paddle as strongly as I can, but I only succeed in spinning my raft in circles as it heads along for the waterfall with frightening speed.

"Oh, God! I'm gonna die!"

I am on the edge within moments. All I can hear is the roar of the waterfall. It is everything. Trembling with terror, I jam the oar deep into water, and as it catches ahold, the raft comes to a shuddering halt.

Perspiration trickles down my brow as I strain with effort. Looking down over the sheer edge, I can see into the surging pool fifty feet below.

And standing at the edge of the pool, waiting for me, are Chris and Nic.

Suddenly I'm screaming. I'm screaming my head off as I lose grip of the paddle, watch it get swept away, and then the boat is spinning. The rear end drops away, spilling me out into open air and rushing water. I flail my arms about wildly, and suddenly the world slows.

I seem to fall for several long moments. I have enough time to observe the frothing white sheet of the waterfall, enough time to observe the bubbling pool of water as I slowly, silently fall towards it.

Then, with a stinging slap, I plunge into cold water, surrounded by boiling white bubbles. I tumble and spin, catching a rapid glimpse of a person's leg before I am swirled past it, swept down out of the pool and into the stream beyond.

I can't think as I pull myself from the water, grasp onto warm rocks and slip off before grabbing a branch and pulling myself free from the main current. Gasping for breath, I pull myself belly first across the rocks and turn around just in time to see my rubber raft tumble past. And at the pool, gazing into the water, Chris and Nic search for me.

Chris stands atop a pointed rock, scanning the pool as his bow swivels around in his hands. Nic fumbles around on the edge of the water, occasionally thrusting his spear into the water, trying to get lucky and spear me. But I'm not there, so he never will.

I roll onto my side and try to catch my breath. Adrenaline courses through my veins, but I'm still too exhausted to even stand. And I need to stand. I need to get out of here before those two boys notice me. Because when they realize I'm not in the pool, they'll look downstream and…

Aching with exhaustion, I pull myself towards the trees. I only get a few feet before my body gives out and I collapse amongst a clump of thin reeds. I can go no further.

"Where the hell did he go?" Chris' furious voice carries over the roar of the waterfall. "He was just here!"

"You're the one with the tracker!" Nic lashes back at him as he struggles away from the pool, leaning on his spear like a cane. "You tell me!"

Tracker? What tracker? I rack my mind for possibilities as my breathing slowly returns to normal. I can't think of anything.

"It only works at the hour mark, nitwit!" Chris hops off his rock and stalks back to the riverside. I freeze as his gaze flickers over my hiding place. "How many times do I have to repeat myself?"

The smaller boy glares at him, but doesn't say anything else as they both return to searching. I can't stop myself from shaking with fear. If they find me…

Nic slips when he tries to cross the water-slick rocks. With a loud curse he tries to stand, but only succeeds in knocking himself down again. Chris eventually comes over and hauls him to his feet. "If you're not careful infection is going to set in," The tall boy says.

Nic shakes him off. "Keep your prognosis to yourself, doc!"

Chris laughs and shoves Nic. The boy staggers backwards, but remains on his feet as he fixes Chris with a savage glare. "You should watch yourself!" He snarls at him. "Your precious little rank isn't always protecting you!"

Chris smirks. I hate that expression so much. "Oh, yeah? Last I checked, I've been untouchable the entire time!"

"Not always."

"What are you babbling about?" Their voices get fainter as they continue down the riverside, further away from both the waterfall and me.

"You're not always protected. There's times when even little Sammy-boy could kill you..." There's a nasty edge to Nic's voice. Something that tells me he is not someone to toy with, injured or not.

"What times? There are no such times!" Chris practically shouts as he fades from sight. "I'm invincible! I'm a God on this island!"

"We'll see…"

The two boy's disappear from both sight and hearing. I remain where I am, hidden amongst the reeds. I don't exactly understand their conversation, but I'm wise enough to pick up on the tension. The two of them don't exactly see eye-to-eye, and that could have explosive results. If they do come to blows, I hope Nic wins. Chris killed Bree. And that's unforgivable.

But right now, the only thing that matters is that I'm alive. Somehow. Despite going over a waterfall, being hunted, and having a friend die, I'm still alive. And as long as I'm alive, I have a chance to win this thing.

Justine Leonard (5:47 P.M)

"Pretty sure there's no weapons here," Felix plops himself down on a L-shaped couch as we reenter the lobby, returning from yet another failed attempt to secure arms. All day we've been searching the resort lodge, yet all we've managed to find is a few cans of beans, a packet of bobby pins, a security baton, and another flashlight. Everything else was just random abstract items you'd find in a typical resort. "Least we got loads of food!"

Felix rips open another bag of chips and shovels them inside his mouth. I roll my eyes as I sit down beside him. "We need weapons to defend ourselves with," I tell him.

He nods and picks up my knife. Waving it in the air, he points it at my hatchet. "What do you call these?"

"Tools. I want weapons. Real weapons." We had some before, back when we were with Chris. Felix had his spear, but then he did a very Felix-like thing and threw it at Nic. Then we lost it. Now all we have are these easy to obtain tools.

As Felix shrugs, I turn and study the lobby once more. The main area is empty, filled with the wires and strewn metal colliders. The cafeteria off to the right has already been cleared. We have lots of the food in our bags, while most of the rest is hidden under a bed in the resort's bedroom. To the left are the security rooms, where we found the baton, datachips, and flashlight. No real weapons.

"Wonder if these things have expiration dates," Felix mutters as he devours a pastry. I grimace.

"Is that really the most important thing to worry about?"

My brother offers me a stupid grin. "It's the thing effecting me the most right now, so yeah, it's the biggest thing to worry about."

Yeah. Yeah, sometimes Felix can be a real idiot. He's always been much more laid back and go-with-the-flow then I have, but he's usually never this careless about things. "Have you lost your mind?"

He glances at me. "Have you? Justine, for years I thought you were dead. Years. And now, you're back. We're back." He abruptly stands, grabbing my hands with his and holding them in place. "Justine, we're twins. When I thought you were gone, it felt as if apart of me was gone too. And now that you're back, I feel better then I have in a long time."

I can only offer him a sad smile. "But I may not be back for long. This Game…"

"Screw this game!" Felix pulls away, a wave of anger that I haven't seen in a long time rippling across his face. He stands by the large glass window, staring out into the island as he smashes his fist against the wall. "Screw Mr. White too! Just because he said there will only be one survivor doesn't mean anything! We can all survive! We--"

"Felix." There's something outside, in the sky. Something that seems to glimmer with hope. Felix is surprised by my tone, and turns to look.

"What is it?"

I point at the sky, where a gust of wind has just blow the white parachute over the treetops. "Air drop."

Everything that I was complaining about just a moment ago has suddenly become moot. Every and any type of supplies that we've been pining for could be inside that crate. Maybe even the weapons. No. Definitely some weapons. No way Mr. White would sanction a drop without including some tools of human slaughter.

Without thinking about it, I rush for the door.

Felix grabs my shoulder.

"Where do you think you're going?" He asks, knowing only too well where I'm headed.

"We need those weapons," I tell him, wresting myself free from his grip.

"We don't know it even has any," Felix follows me through the door, and we both step out into the very late afternoon. I hurry down the steps and speed across the tennis courts. Felix keeps at my side. "And it could be dangerous. What if someone else goes for it too?"

I have to stop myself from scoffing as we reach the cast-iron fence. Just outside the fence, I can see where the crate will drop. Right at our feet. Perfect.

"Who could harm us?" I wave my brother's worries off flippantly. "We're ranked higher than practically everyone." Why is he worrying so much? Usually I'm the one who has to do that.

"I don't know…Chris and Nic?" Felix watches me carefully as I open the iron-wrought fence and step out into an open meadow, with scattered rocky outcrops, and intermittent plumes of steam rising from the ground. It's late afternoon, and the sky is pink underneath the lowering gray clouds.

"Really think those two Neanderthals are looking for supplies when there are heads to be bashed in?" I wouldn't count on those two thinking their way out of a paper bag.

Felix shrugs as I head further into the meadow, positioning myself right under the crate. Everything will be fine once I have my hands on those items. We'll be armed and deadly. Ready to kill anyone.

Felix loiters by my side as the parachute slowly drifts towards us. He keeps glancing around like he expects ua tp get attacked at any moment, but I don't understand why. Chris and Nic are our only threats. And I doubt they're anywhere near here.

"You can calm down now," I tell him as the crate lands beside us with a Thump!. "No one is going to attack us. This air drop is ours."

Just as soon as I finish speaking, I hear a sharp grunting sound and then feel a short burst of pain as something sharp slices past my right ear. I bend over and shout, grabbing at the wound. Hot blood sticks against my palm.

"Justine!" Felix is beside me in a moment. His emerald eyes are bright with worry. "Are you okay?!"

"Duck, you moron!" I shove my hands against his chest and he topples over sideways as I turn and see the figure racing across the meadow. Blonde hair. Bright eyes. Perfect form. It's Anne Bellhope.

What Rank is she? I try to rack my brain for this information as I watch her rapid approach. Am I higher? Lower? I can't recall. And that is not good.

But I do know something. Anne wants the air drop. And I can't let her have that.

"Help me, Felix!" I shout for my brother as I step forward to meet Anne, raising my hatchet. She sees me coming, but doesn't stop moving or try dodge the blow. That tells me all I needed to know. She's ranked higher then I am.

I sidestep out of the way as Anne blows past. The displaced air whips across my face as the blonde girl picks up her fallen knife--the same one she threw at my ear--and slams it into the crate. With one sudden jerk, she rips the lid open.

Inside lie a trio of gleaming objects. I don't have time to study them all though, because Anne's slender hand wraps around a tied packet of knives and pulls them out, turning on the two of us. We all eye one another warily, uncertain as to who will make the first move.

"Justine, stay back!" Felix shouts a warning as Anne takes the time to slice the tie off with her free knife. Then the girl turns to face the both of us, lips pursed into a frown.

"You're outnumbered!" I tell her, ignoring Felix's warning shout. Why is he wasting time with speaking? He should cut her down already! "And Felix is immune to your attacks!"

The girl carefully nods her head. "That's true. He is immune." She pauses, looks down a the knives in her hands, realization slowly dawning on her. "But you're not."

There's no time to react. One second Anne is standing there, the next she's flinging a knife through the air. It flips through the air towards me, a windmill of death. I can see it coming, but am powerless to stop it.

I am about to die.

Then he's there. Inexplicably. Quickly. Felix slams his body against mine, tackling me to the ground. My body erupts with pain as we smash into the grass, but there is no sensation of cold steel digging into my flesh. No blood gushing from my side. Anne missed.

I'm still alive.

I raise my head up, freeing my feet from where they're entangled with Felix's, and watch as Anne snatches what's left in the crate. She shoves a clear vial into her pocket, and heaves what I can only imagine is a crossbow, over her shoulder before turning and running.

My teeth gnash together as I reach for Felix's knife. No way am I allowing her to escape with our items. She's going down. All the way down.

My hand clenches around the weapons hilt, and am surprised when I feel the blood.

Felix lies still beside me. His face is pale, haggard. His breathing is slow, and beneath him, the grass is stained red with blood. Felix is…

"No..." The word forces itself from my lips. My throat tightens as I watch my brother lie in a pool of blood, his life slowly draining from his--

"Justine, are you okay?" Felix's eyes blink open. I spring away, eliciting an involuntary scream of shock.

"Felix! You're not--The blood--You--" I stumble over my words. How is he alive? Everything indicates that he should be dead, or dying. The blood, and the knife, and...

Felix laughs, sitting up and shifting his body. Underneath his side, in the center of the blood-soaked grass, lies several empty ketchup packets. Felix follows my gaze and finds the packets.

"Damn. I must have fallen on them. They were my last ones too. Where am I--"

Felix breaks off with a shout as I slap him across the face. Hard.

"What the hell was that for?" He recoils, nursing a large red mark that now covers half his face. "I just saved your life! What kind of thank you was that?!"

I'm shaking too hard to give a response. I thought that he was dead. Dead. I don't even know what to say. Tears are still in my eyes as I stand up, brushing a droplet of blood away from my face. I just got Felix back, and I came so close to losing him again. I don't...I don't think I could handle that.

"You almost died!" I finally say. Felix looks aghast.

"I…I'm sorry. I didn't realize, I mean, I didn't think that you thought--" He stammers over his words as he stands. I swallow hard and force the tears away.

"It's fine. Just don't be stupid next time."

"I...alright." He looks down glumly as I gaze back at the meadow and the now empty crate. The white parachute lies around it, reminding me what we lost.

"Anne got the supplies," I say bitterly. This loss hurts even more because I know just what it is that she took from us. Those weapons would have been so useful, and now that our enemy has them. Damn. How could we have allowed this?

"Nothing we can do about it," Felix looks to the sky, where the sun has begun to fade. Soon it will be gone completely. "We should head back to the resort. We don't want to get caught out with the fog."

The fog that has been around since the beginning is returning once more, billowing in from the east. That plus darkness is a recipe for disaster. "You're right. Let's return. There's nothing left out here."

Not anymore.

Johanna Cisse (11:38 P.M)

I sit on a flat stone not far from the river. The constant pounding of the waterfall as it empties into the pond provides an endless thrumming of background noise as I watch the stream wind past.

This is my fourth night on the island. The fourth night of Mr. White's game. The death has not stopped yet, nor will it. Not until we're all dead. Or, at least, all but one of us.

I rub my hands together. The night is cold, and the air is damp from the near constant fog. This island is not a pleasant place to be, but it is the only place I can be. The night is dark, as per usual. The fog thicker than normal. I'm waiting here beside the river for the air drop that will soon commence. The flare that signalled its arrival appeared in the sky a little over fifteen minutes ago.

Soon I will get my items.

I don't know what they are, or if they were even meant for me, but I do know that I will claim them all the same. There will be no repeat from the first night. I will not sit idily by and let someone else claim it.

This airdrop is mine.

I get up and pace back and forth to keep myself active. Sitting around for too long will lead to complacency, and complacency breeds failure. My parents have taught me that lesson many times. Had to learn it the hard way sometimes as well. But learned it I did.

I keep glancing at the sky as I wait. When will that crate come? I check the time on my datapad to reaffirm my calculations. Yes, I'm right. It's now been eighteen minutes since that flare first appeared.

Where is the crate?

I peer into the foggy sky, eyes straining with effort to see in this dimly lit forest. The moon is mostly obscured by clouds and the light it gives off is very faint. Not nearly enough to see the sky clearly.

As I pace back towards the waterfall, my foot accidentally kicks a pebble into the stream. It disappears with a barely audible Splunk!

"I am very displeased," I say aloud as I stare at the waterfall as it thunders down into the pool like a gigantic water spout. I have begun to regret my decision to hang around here. I can't hear anything over this blasted fall. I'd be worried about someone sneaking up on me if I actually thought that anything happened at night. But the past days have shown that pretty much nothing dangerous takes place before midnight. All deaths happen earlier in the day, or well after Mr. White's address. None of it occurs around midnight.

When my pacing takes me back towards the waterfall, I look up. It's purely by chance do I see the faint white gleam of the parachute as it slowly descends towards the lip of the waterfall.

Right before it gets caught in the branch of a tree.

An audible gasp escapes my lips as the pure white parachute becomes entangled in the thick, stretching branch of the tree. The tree itself grows just on the edge of the river, massive trunk arching into the sky like a mighty spire. It's branches spread out over the river, just above the waterfalls drop. And that's where the parachute--and crate of items--is caught.

Above the waterfall. Above the dangerous river. Caught in a tree. Well out of anyone's--and most importantly--my reach.

I curse loudly and stomp my feet against the damp stones. The sound echoes mournfully in the forest around me. My items! Everything I had planned depended on me securing them! But now what? They're caught high above me, well out of reach.

If it had been caught in a normal tree, this would not have matttered. I could have scaled it and cut the crate loose. But in a tree above not only a river, but a waterfall? How in the l world am I supposed to get up there? And even if I did--a big if--how would I get the items? The crate would in all likelihood fall into the river and go down the falls. I'd lose both it and the precious items inside.

I'm stumped.

I want to just sit down and give up, but my pedigree stops me. I've been taught that adversity exists to strengthen you. The more you overcome, the better and stronger you become. I suppose that this experiment will make me become even stronger then I thought. At least I still have my net trap set up. That should--

"Hello, Challengers!" Mr. White's voice beams from my datapad, startling me into jumping. "The day is now over. Seems like its gone on forever, eh?"

I force my pounding heart to slow, and then gaze into the screen. Mr. White is spinning himself around on a office chair, smirking at the camera. Stupid man. What does he hope to gain from this game?

"I know that all of you are eager to see how your fellows died today, so I shall not delay this any longer. Here are their deaths."

The screen flickers to show me a montage of obscene, grisly deaths. Nowhere else have I ever seen such brutality and callous murder. Killian's head explodes into a cloud of red grist, covering the nearby Haviana with the gore. Then Fausto drops dead, seemingly choking to death. I'm not entirely certain what happened, but the two girls nearby him break into a fight before the screen turns to show Bree being shot dead with an arrow. Theb Mr. White i back on the screen, camera uncomfortably close to his face.

"Well now, that was exciting, wasn't it?" A grin slinks it's way across his face. "So much action. Such brutality. The audience loved it, you know." I'm sure they did. The audience he is targeting, at any rate. "They especially loved Killian's death. I'm thinking that we should have another like it."

What? How does he plan on having that? Killian had her collar's tab pulled. That's not something that...Oh my.

Mr. White's grin widens. "I see that some of you have caught on. Yes. Yes in an effort to keep yohr fans excited, I am planning what you're thinking." The camera zooms out as he stands up and stretches. He seems so lithe and agile. Like a cat. "Sometime tomorrow, between the time of noon and midnight, I will detonate a random Challenger's collar."

Silence. The forest around me is eerily quiet, even the insects seem to have stopped chattering. Detonate a collar? Randomly...? There's seventeen of us left, and if Mr. White does that...

I have a one in seventeen chance of having my head blown off.

"There are two types of people in this world," Mr. White continues on, as if unaware how big of a proclamation he just made. "Those who kill, and those who are killed. The strong and the weak. The do-ers and the victims. The world is filled with far too many of the latter. They clog it's street, ruin economies, beg for handouts. They are unneeded. It is the job of the strong to cleanse the world of those people..."

I can't focus on anything he's saying. Randomly detonate a collar? Someone will have their head blown off. Someone will die through no fault of their own. It could be me.

"Which group do you fall in, dear Challengers?" Mr. White offers the screen a placating smile. "The answer to that question, is invariably what will decide whether or not you will win my game." He pauses, as if done speaking, but then starts up again. "Do you like dogs?"

It's such a strange question, that I actually stop worrying about having my head blown off for a moment. Dogs? What do they have to do with anything?

"Well, I suppose you don't have to answer right away. I'll have your answers soon enough. Good night, dear Challenges. Good night."

The datapad flicks off and I am left in silence upon this cold, foggy island.

Day 5/ The Fog, Dogs, & Mr. White That Want To Kill You

Imogen Sykes (8:10 A.M)

I rub my eyes, bleary with fatigue, as I wake up from a fitful night of sleep. Fausto featured prominently in my dreams. Dying. Always dying. Calling for my help, desperately reaching out for me before he is torn apart or chokes to death. I'm always late. Too late. I can't help him. I failed him.

I sit up with a sigh, staring at the room around me. It's a bathroom. Misha and Victoria evidently decided that I was not to be trusted and had me spend the night inside the first floor bathroom. They allowed me take a blanket and some pillows from a spare bedroom to keep myself comfortable, but these amenities have done very little to comfort me.

I stand up and stretch, looking at myself in the mirror. I look horrible. Pale and thin. Blonde hair an absolute mess, and eyes wide and distraught. I look as I feel.


There's a bathtub in the corner, around the blue-tiled floor, but no windows. Misha and Victoria truly do not trust that I won't try to run away. I understand why Victoria doesn't, but why Misha? Have I ever done anything that would let him think of untrustworthy? You'd think he would be glad to have found someone that he knows on this island, but instead...

Instead it seems like he hates me.

Everyone does. Whether they're here on this island, or back home in Michigan. No one seems to like me, and I don't understand why. What's wrong with me? Am I not smart enough? Pretty enough? I once thought that I wasn't thin enough, but a bout of anorexia showed me that no one cared whether I was wasting away or not. No one cares in general.

I linger by the door, hand resting on the crystal knob. Why have Misha and Victoria kept me here? They don't like me--they've made that clear enough--but they don't want to me rid of me either. Do they have some sort of nefarious plan up their sleeves? Am I just a pawn in there game?

Well, if they do, they have more than they bargained for with this pawn.

I twist the knob and open the door, stepping into the hall. The dark honey-oak wood is clear and brilliant, like it's just been polished. The doors along the hall are pristine and well-painted. The paintings on the wall clean and beautiful. Did Mr. White have these cleaned? Or what?

I wander down the hall, towards the kitchen. Where are Misha and Victoria? Have they left me here? Dark thoughts swim in my head. What if they left, and are now leading someone else here to kill me? Would Misha do that? We were friends...

But now he couldn't care less about you… I'm well-aware of what he's been like since he stopped being my friend. Cold. Distant. Rude. It's almost as if he's a completely different person. Someone who would have no problem letting me get killed...

I pick up the pace, practically jogging into the kitchen. The room is empty. The large, wooden table is clear of anything, and all the oak cabinets are closed. Did they--

"Looking for something?"

I spin around in surprise. Victoria stands in the far corner, leaning against the wall with her arms folded neatly across her chest. Her chocolate brown hair is wet and cascades around her shoulders as he grey eyes regard me. They're filled with suspicion.

"I was just…" What to say? That I thought they'd abandoned me to the wolves?

"You thought that we'd left you," Victoria speaks my thoughts. Her voice is cold and emotionless as she leans forward. "You really are a blonde twit, you know that?"

I don't say anything. I've been called worse, and this statement might actually be accurate. "Where's Misha?" I ask, staring at the floor. The kitchen tiles are an alternating yellow and orange. It's pretty. Takes my mind off the situation before me.

"He doesn't like you," Victoria says softly. "So I don't get why you keep wanting to see him."

"He was my friend."

"Yeah, emphasis on the was. How long ago was that?" I'm forced to look up as Victoria uncrosses her arms and slowly steps across the kitchen, heading for the living room. "Two years? Three? Do you really expect that he even remembers anything about you?"

Her words cut me deep. Mostly because they're what I've been thinking myself. Have I oversold myself on our friendship? Misha certainly doesn't seem like he remembers me, let alone care about me. What if he never liked me?

"Your odds of survival aren't very high," Victoria continues as she stops beside the patio door and looks out. The sky is dark and dreary, covered with a thick blanket of fog. "So why bother yourself by concerning over Misha?"

"Why do you?"

"Excuse me?" She whirls around so fast that her hair looks like a dark tornado. Her piercing grey eyes stare out at me, glaring.

I shrug, trying not to get too riled up. "I just thought that you seem to be concerned as well." And your reaction proved that you are, I add silently.

The older girl huffs and tosses her hair back, turning towards the patio door once more. "I'm just trying to survive. Misha represents the best chance of that." She peers through the glass and seems to see something in the thick morning fog. "C'mon. Misha is signalling for us."

"He's outside?" Surprised, I approach the door, staring out into the backyard. The fog is as thick as it was last night, making it difficult to see very far, but Misha is clearly visible standing in the center of the yard, staring up at the sky. "Why?"

Victoria gives me a despairing look. "He's waiting for the airdrop, moron."

Well, excuse me princess! How was I suppose to know that? It's not like I wasn't just asleep, shut away inside a bathroom or anything. I glare at Victoria as she slides the door open and steps out into the yard to join Misha.

I don't like how condescending that girl is. Does she think she's better then me? She surely acts like it. Stifling a angry huff, I exit the house and join the two of them.

"How long ago did it appear?" I ask as I stop beside them, pulling my arms close and wrapping then around my chest. A chill wind cuts through the eerie fog, making things worse then they already were. At least it's not storming.

"Long enough," Victoria says stiffly. Misha glances sideways at me, his caramel eyes lighting up with surprise.

"You're awake," He says.

"I'm awake."

There's an awkward silence between us. What do I say? I haven't really spoken with him since we met up. He's just let Victoria do all the talking, and kept himself isolated. He said it was so he could rest his head, but I think he was just avoiding me.

"Well...Hello." Misha shifts his feet uncomfortably. I'm conscious of Victoria's disapproving gaze on me. Words come up in my mind but disappear before they reach my tongue.

"...Hi..." I avert my eyes, looking to the sky. Only now do I see the crate and parachute. They're very close to the ground, so close, that they have exited the thick canopy of fog that hangs in the air.

"About time!" Victoria stamps her feet on the grass and shivers. "Damn fog makes everything creepy. And cold." Finally, something we agree on.

Misha turns back to the sky as well, clearly pleased that there is something else to get his attention. Why doesn't he want to speak with me? Probably for the same reason I'm so awkward around him.

No one else speaks in the time it takes for the crate to land on the grass. Immediately Misha springs forward, ripping open the crates carbon-fibre lid and tossing it aside. Victoria joins him in rummaging through it, and I stand behind them, feeling uncomfortable once more.

"How do we know who's it for?" I ask meekly, considering the possibility--no matter bow far-fetched--that the crate was for me.

Misha pauses, looking up and seemingly considering the question. Victoria only snorts and holds up a white slip of paper she's pulled from the box. Small, black words of transcribed on the sheet. For Tori.

"It's not for you," She says before returning to her search. My face flushes red.

Stupid! I'm so stupid! Why did I ever think that someone would send me something? No one likes me. Didn't I just think about that earlier? Why would they waste their time and energy on me? I'm useless.

Inside the crate, Victoria pulls out a packet of medicine. The label on the outside says that it's meant for preventing infection, and I shake my head. From everything I've seen, that will be useless. People die too fast for it to be of any use. Nora did. Fausto did. Everyone Mr. White showed us did. We all die in the blink of an eye.

"Cool. A snack!" Misha takes another item out from the box, a box of what appears to treats? What?

"Do you know what those are?" Victoria asks, stopping with her hands still in the crate. Misha shakes his head, a grin plastered across his face.

"Nope. But they look good!"

"They're dog treats. You know, for dogs."

The grin slowly disappears. Misha looks down at the box in his hands, then quickly drops it to the ground, looking around sheepishly. "I knew that," He mutters, tugging at his collar. "Just wanted to see if you did."

I laugh. So does Victoria. And--this sounds crazy--but the laughter actually makes me feel better. Makes me feel like everything hasn't gone horribly wrong. That I wasn't kidnapped. Wasn't forced in a game where kids kill one another. I haven't felt like this since that night with Fausto and Oreo.

Oh, God! Oreo! I've completely forgotten about her!

My laughter cuts off, and look down, feeling aghast. Poor, poor Oreo. I remember what Mr. White showed us yesterday. She's managed to claim an airdrop. She's doing better now then she was with me. And why wouldn't she? I never helped her. I haven't thought about her at all since I've joined up with Misha and Tori. I deserve everyone's hate. I'm a terrible friend.

"Lookie, lookie!" Tori smiles brightly as she pulls a weapon from the crate. My face pales at the sight of the long, sharp, silver axe. Tori's hand grips the black carbon fibre handle, and it fits around it easily. Almost as if it was sculpted just for her.

"Do you know how to wield it?" Misha asks. His eyes seem to shine at the presence of the weapon. I feel sick, knowing what it's designed for.

"Of course! It's a tomahawk!" Tori stands up straight, tightening her grip on the weapon as she turns to face the house. I quickly scoot out of the way, frightened at accidentally being hit. She leans back, then with one sharp flick of her wrist, she sends the weapon careening through the air.

I start in surprise as the blade hits the house with a solid Thwock!, sending chips of wood and paint spraying everywhere. A smile forms on Tori's face. "Told you I could use it," She says with a smirk.

An icy chill runs down my back. I'm going to have to be very careful around Tori from now on. One wrong move, one offending sentence, and...

I shudder. Tori is the kind of person who wouldn't think twice about killing me.

"That's terrific, Tori!" Misha crowds around the girl with a wide grin plastered on his face yet again. Once more I'm reminded of how much he has changed. I remember a time when Misha would be terrified of the thought of someone being that proficient with weapon, now...

I'm left wondering how I'm ever supposed to survive this game.

Sami Bitar (11:17 A.M)

There's very little vegetation up here on the northern cliffs of the island. Very little life. The thick fog hides canyons and gullies, some of them over fifty feet deep. One wrong step, and you'd find yourself plummeting to a grisly death. No one would voluntarily come all the way up here unless they had a very good reason.

Staying alive is my reason. I hope it's a good one.

As a strong wind buffets my side, I aimlessly wander the cliffs, feeling empty and cold. Bree is dead. Despite it having happened yesterday, it still feels like it's still going on. Like I can still save her.

It's a pitiful, foolish thought. There was nothing that I could have done. Chris came up too quickly, too silently. I didn't even know he was there until it was too late. I couldn't have done anything.

So why do I feel so guilty?

The fog billows around my feet as I continue along the cliffs outcropping. Hollows, crevices, and nooks scored the rock. Some shadowed sections here still hid pools of water left over from the storm days ago.

Grass grows up on the ridge beside me. Bunches of moss sprout up like flowers amidst the green. The red and purple color stands out very much.

I would appreciate this small form of beauty much more if I wasn't both terrified and guilt-ridden. Why did I survive? It's always me. I'm always lucky, always missed. Even back in Syria this happened. Tons of people died around me, yet I always survived. Why is that?

Some people would be thankful that they were always spared, but when everyone you care about dies around you, you quickly realize that outliving them is a terrible, terrible thing.

Because of the fog, I hear the dull thudding of the ocean well before I see it. The veil of thick white mist dissipates just at the edge of the cliff, where, dozens of feet below me, azure waves crash against the jagged walls of the cliff.

Who knows what awaits down in that darkness? You can't see it, can't know it. Not until you step off the precipice and sally forth into that darkness. What comes after death? I'm not sure, but it has to be better than what awaits me here in life.

Maybe I should just find out.

I slowly stand up and pebbles, scattered by my sudden movement, roll off the side of the cliff. They disappear into the fog, into the waves. Lost to me. Lost forever.

My family. Are they even alive? It's not a sure thing. Their lives were in danger before I got to this island. What...what if they're all dead? What if I win, somehow, and discover that they've been killed by insurgents? What will be left for me in life?


Harsh wind cuts across my face as I hear movement behind me. I don't even need to turn to know that it's another Challenger. Probably here to kill me. They all are, after all. Except for Bree. But she was a special case.

"I'm not afraid of you," I speak slowly as I turn around. Despite my words, my arms are trembling. "I'm not afraid to die." I've seen death often enough. It doesn't frighten me anymore. Only life does.

A girl steps out from the fog. Her long brown hair is tied up behind her head, ponytail rippling in the wind. But even in that movement I can see the dried, crusting blood that makes a home there. The gore and viscera that inhabited that head only a day ago has not faded.

"I don't want you to be," The girl says carefully, taking a few more steps forward. Her heavy boots crunch against the rocky ground. It's not just her hair; her clothes and skin still bare stains and residual marks from the explosion of Killian's head.

"Then what do you want?" I eye the sickle in her right hand. It's deadly sharp steel. Much more dangerous than the measly darts I have to defend myself with. If she attacks, she will kill me. There wouldn't be anything I can do to stop it. My hands slowly pull the blowgun loose from its clasp. "A quick death?"

The girl laughs. A loud, emotionless, mocking thing. "You think that you could beat me?"

I slump my shoulders. "No. No, I know that is impossible. But I don't have any choice but to try and--"

The girl interrupts with a derisive snort. "Then it's a good thing that I don't want you dead."

"Excuse me?" Did I just hear her correctly? But why would she not want me... "Why not?"

"You almost sound disappointed." The girl's voice is flat and emotionless as she eyes me warily. Her unusual accent, a thing I've never before heard, makes it all the stranger. Where is she from? Not America, like Bree was.

"Well?" The girl's noticed that I haven't answered. I look up just as a blustery wind blows past. Her empty eyes stare right into my own. "Will you align with me or not? I don't have all day. I've already spent far too much time trying to find you."

Find me? Why in the world would she have been searching for me? And how does she expect me to trust her? And why does she wants another ally? Especially after what...what happened to Killian. I shudder at the memory of the girl's head exploding. It must have been so much worse for this girl, having to see it up close.

"You in in not?" The girl balances back on the balls of her feet, staring past my head and at the ocean behind me. "I need to get back before they arrive..."

Too much thoughts come running across my mind at once. Whether or not I can trust this girl--Haviana I think her name is--whether I should trust her, and a plan that has just begun to form in my mind. A plan that requires an ally.

"Yes. Yes, I will align with you." The words come out rather empty. The gears in my head turn too quickly. "But first we have to head for the river."

Haviana stares at me blankly. "Didn't you hear me? I have to get back to the lighthouse before Chris and Nic--"

"Don't worry." I cut her off before she can finish. "If my plan works, I may be able to deal with them." Even if what must happen is...unpleasant.

Havian wrinkles her face, like she's smelt something particularly awful. "Fine," She says when she realizes she has no choice. "But if we're not back before noon..."

"We will be," I promise. "We'll definitely be back before then." I really hope we are.

Clarice Barron (11:45 A.M)

From the highest floor of the house I sit in, I peer through a frosted glass window and stare out at the house not much more then two blocks away. Someone is inside that house. Three people, to be exact.

I saw them all outside when the airdrop commenced. All three of them came out from the house to wait for it, and that's when I discovered all the items and weapons they have. Also, I saw that Imogen was with them.

Imogen. The very same girl who was allied with Fausto when I poisoned him. The same girl who managed to escape me afterwards, the girl who stomped on my already injured ankle and caused me so much pain that I wanted to do nothing but hunt her down and get vengeance for hours afterwards.

But that is pointless and ridiculous. I realized that pretty quickly. I turn away from the window, looking back at the upstairs hallway. The thick carpet is an ugly cream color, the walls a brightly polished wood. A few doors hang off to the side, leading to extra bedrooms. I have no use for them, but if anyone were to come in searching for me, they would have to check each room to be certain they found me.

Not that they will get in. I think of my barricade as I limp down the staircase, wondering if those three Challengers will go anywhere today. If they were to start investigating every house, they'd eventually find me. Sure, my barricade would slow them down, but it's more for those dogs Mr. White mentioned then for human beings. And right now, I'm not in any condition to fight.

I glance down at my leg. The swelling has just barely subsided. At least the pain is gone, thanks to my painkillers. It was recovering before Imogen stomped on it, but now...Damn that girl. I find myself wishing that she and her two friends run into those dogs. Where does she keep getting these allies? What makes her so special?

I reach the bottom of the staircase and stumble into the kitchen. The front door is blocked off with a large bookcase, a sturdy wooden thing that I had to drag in from the living room. It hurt to do so. The pain was just more fuel for my fire. The other Challengers will be the ones who face my immediate wrath, but Mr. White is the endgame. He will pay for everything that happens to me.

Dappled shadows cross the wooden floor, cast by the faint sun light that shines through the thick fog outside. That is unfortunate. With such fog, everyone will be looking for shelter, and that increases the odds that someone tries to enter my house.

I find myself itching to shutter and lock all the windows, but resist. No other house in the neighbourhood has it's windows shut, and that would just make mine stand out like a sore thumb. Everyone would know someone is hiding here, or worse, think that Mr. White hid useful items inside. That would not do.

So I'm stuck with keeping those damn windows uncovered. I don't like it, but I have to stand it. "Just have to wait this day out," I mutter as I sit down at the kitchen table. "Just wait and recuperate...Then I can strike."

Chris Barnard (11:57 A.M)

"Keep up, Nic!" I shout over my shoulder as I lead the way up the old dirt path. In the near distance, the large orange-striped lighthouse towers from the rocky bluff. Our destination.

I haven't forgotten what Mr. White said last night, about dogs and his own plans to kill a Challenger. Not that I'm in any danger from the second category. Why would Mr. White choose me when I'm the best player? One of the few who think that this game is...well, fun.

Maybe that's not the right word. It's not as much fun as it is...liberating. At least here I don't have to hide my true self. Hide what I am. I'm not some fancy pants loser, sipping tea and hopping on airlines like my parents. No one can force me to be anything except for what I am. For the first time ever, I can just be myself without fear of my parents repercussion.

Nic struggles past me as I stop to consider what I just thought. The shorter boy is limping and leaning heavily on his spear, which he uses as a crutch. His shoulder is still bandaged, but I can smell the decay already. The wound is infected, and we don't have any way of healing it.

"Stupid moron," I mutter as he struggles past. Why did he have to let himself get speared? The ignoramus. He's too useful to die, yet I can't see a way to save him. If only he hadn't been so stupid.

"When are these dogs supposed to show?" Nic asks through gritted teeth. His feet stumble across the rocky ground, but he manages to stay upright.

I shrug. "Mr. White didn't say. But I don't doubt they will come soon. Possibly after the rankings." That'll happen in a few minutes. Along with the updating of my map. I glance down at my datapad screen, wishing that it showed where the other Challengers were all the time instead of every hour. It's been so long since the last reading. Who knows where those others have gone? I don't like not knowing.

Nic suddenly pulls himself short, staring up at the lighthouse with an apprehensive stare. "Think that will keep the dogs out?" He sounds uncertain. A first for him. The cocky bastard use to not care for anything, but with his injury...Well, now he's very uncertain of himself.

"It will be," I tell him. "How would they even get in?"

He scowls at me. "Whatever. When are those rankings coming?"

As if his words were some sort of signal, our datapads come alive with ringing. Unlike every other time the Rankings happened, Mr. White does not appear on our screen. Instead, it goes right for the rankings shift.

I watch the portrait of my face--my school photo, I absentmindly note--as it sits at #1. I don't anticipate any change there as the faces below me begin to rearrange themselves. I didn't do anything that would cause me to--

My portrait slides down the rankings, being jumped over by the face of Felix Leonard until he comes to a halt at #1. He is the top. Not me. He is. I am not.

"What...the hell?" My voice is a strangled whisper of disbelief. How could I not be ranked number one? I've done every that's been asked of me! I've made multiple kills, multiple! How many does Felix have? I wrack my brain for several furious seconds before realizing that he has none.

Zero. No kills. None whatsoever.

I gnash my teeth together as Nic spits and looks away in disgust. "I'm fourth!" He snarls, kicking a nearby pebble and sending it scattering off the cliff and into the ocean below. "Bloody fourth!"

If Nic is a a raging inferno of fury, I am a cold wave of icy hatred. I...did...everything needed of me. How...why, was I surpassed? "Felix will die!" I say quietly,picking my bow back up, and quickly checking the fletching before half-stringing it. I only gaze at the forest around me for a moment before letting it go slack. There is nothing to aim at. If there was, it'd be dead already. "We'll find him and kill him. I'll be #1 again, then."

But even as I speak I know that we won't accomplish this. Not today. Not with the dogs about. It's too risky. Besides, I don't have the radar anymore. Felix does. And he'll see us coming from a mile away...

"Head into the lighthouse," I tell Nic, trying to reign in my emotions. I'm still untouchable. Still higher than everyone else. Felix--and dogs--are the only ones that can touch me. Not even #3, Anne, could harm me.

Nic isn't so calm. "We need to find someone and rip their heads off!" He snarls and seems about to tramp back down the trail until I turn my frost glare towards him.

"You'll do as I say, Nic. Don't forget, I'm still ranked higher then you."

The boy turns and stares me in the eye. His eyes are furious slits, but they are nothing compared to the icy chunks of hostility that are mine. He lowers his head and spits. "Don't blame me if we drop even further by tomorrow..."

He stalks towards the lighthouse, with me following behind more slowly. Felix cannot possibly do that much today. I will get my spot back. I will prove that he cannot--

Just before we reach the lighthouse door, it flings itself open. Two people walk out, confident and unaware of our presence. I recognize the smaller figure easily. Sami. The boy we spent all day chasing yesterday. He's ducked behind the shoulder of another girl, Haviana.

"You!" Nic's eyes practically bulge out of his head as he points an accusing finger at the two Challengers.

Sami gives off an unintelligible scream and darts under Haviana's arm, circling around the corner of the lighthouse. I quickly string an arrow and send it flying after him, but he rounds the corner before it has time to skewer his head.

"Bugger me!" Haviana let's out a low curse as Nic turns towards her with a savage grin. She's ranked lower then we are, and she's trapped. She's ours now.

My own grin widens as I load another arrow. Nic steps forward with a pompous swing and--

Haviana's sickle rises up and I barely see the flash of red before Nic is falling to the ground, blood streaming from his throat and feet kicking out wildly beneath him. My breath catches. Haviana just...she...she's not supposed to do such a thing. It's against the rules!

She knows this. Fear pools in her eyes as she steps back, arms that hold the bloodstained sickle shaking uncontrollably. She looks at Nic, still thrashing about as his blood pours from the wide gash across his throat, then opens her mouth to scream.

My arrow takes her in the eye.

The girl let's loose a feral scream as she drops to her knees, hands pulling at the arrows shaft. Blood pours from the wound, streaming down her face like a cascade of crimson tears.

I quietly load another arrow as I watch the girl slowly die. Beside her, Nic gives one last kick before going still. Soon enough, Haviana's screaming fades and she slumps down, still body joining Nic's on the rocky ground. I lower my bow.

"Crap!" I mumble to myself as I sling my bow over my back, jogging to the edge of the cliff. Far below, fighting against the waves as he tries to swim for the beach, I can just make out the form of Sami. "Escaped again..."

That marks the second time the boy evaded me by jumping into a body of water. It's really getting annoying. But much more annoying is Nic...

I turn to my old allies body, where it lies prone on the ground. His blood mixes with Haviana's as he rests in death. His throat is torn open, sinew and bone protruding from the cavity. "Idiot!" I give his body a rough kick. "Moron! Why did you charge her?" He should have stayed back and let me handle the situation. He should have--

Ugh. No, no there was nothing that could have been done. Neither of us would ever have expected the girl to be so reckless and kill someone higher then her. We underestimated human beings will to live. When their life is threatened, they will do anything to survive. Even if what they do condemns them to death at a later date, they will do it, as long as they survive for a moment longer. I underestimated them.

I won't make that mistake again.

"Sorry, bro." I tell Nic's body as I begin the process of looting the corpes, taking anything and everything valuable. His life was the price for that underestimation. "But better you then me. Better you then me."

Justine Leonard (1:24 P.M)

"I don't think we should have left the resort," I speak up nervously as I follow Felix through the woods. Only hours ago it was a normal forest, perhaps covered in a thin layer of fog, but nothing too serious. But, the fog is everywhere. It clings in the air, obscuring my vision as though I am peering through a pond of gray murk. It mugs against my skin like a wet blanket, obscures the trees, and hides anything from sight. Even Felix, though he is only a few feet ahead of me, is difficult to spot.

"Someone was out here," Felix responds, his voice drifting through the air, cutting across the insurmountable fog. "We saw them on the map."

That we did. The two of us where just lounging in the resort when Felix had suddenly spotted them, and without warning, decided that it would be a good idea to try and catch them. I didn't object at the time, mostly because there was no fog, but now I'm really thinking that we should have stayed indoors.

"This just seems too..." I think of the right word as I watch my feet shuffling across the old rabbit trail. I can't even see my shoes, the fog is so thick. Tripping over a twisting tree root, or loose rock is a very real possibility. "Risky. I mean, anyone could be setting a trap for us out here and we wouldn't even know it!"

Felix laughs. The sound carries through the fog, echoing as it gets far enough. It seems oddly hollow. "I'm ranked #1 now, Justine. No one can harm me."

I was afraid of this. The moment I saw my brothers name atop the rankings, I knew that he would let it get to his head. That he would begin to think of himself as invincible. Honestly, sometimes he can be the biggest ignoramus on the planet.

"You can still be killed," I tersely remind him.

Only the back of his shoulders are visible to me now. The rest of him is shrouded in the fog as he stops, shuffling his feet. "Did you hear that?"

"Huh? No. What?" I stop, listening intently. The only sound that reaches my ears is the groaning of trees and howling of distant wind. "I don't hear anything."

"It's there, listen." If it wasn't for his voice, tight and nervous, I'd have thought he was joking around. But Felix wouldn't joke about something like this, not here.

I strain my ears in a vain effort to listen. But no matter how much I try, I don't hear anything out of the ordinary. "I don't think that--"

I hear it before I can finish. A sound that I cannot mistake. Something that bodes ill not only for us, but for every other Challenger that has yet to find shelter. It's a distant sound, faint and wavering, but I recognize it.

The baying of a pack of hounds.

My eyes widen in fright and I shuffle in place for several long moments before Felix grips the sleeve of my shirt and pulls me along. "Run!"

We run through the fog. Through the twisting, fog filled forest. I don't know where we're going, or how Felix isn't slamming into a tree with every step. My brother half-drags me behind him as we rush along the rabbit trail heading...Where? Where can we go to escape this pack? The resort, if we could find it again. But the odds of that are...

"Keep moving!" Felix almost shouts the words as we run. If I could see his face, I bet it would be contorted in the same primal terror that I feel. "The fog will mask our scent. They won't find us!"

I'm not so sure. Mr. White has sent these dogs, he said so himself. And he knows exactly where every Challenger is. So, if he wants those dogs to find us...Find us they will.

I don't know how long we run, but it's not long enough, we don't go far enough. The howling of the hounds draws closer and closer. Soon they will be upon us and...I shudder as I imagine teeth ripping into our flesh, tearing it apart as the hounds devour our--

"Sunlight!" Felix's sudden shout rips me free from my nightmare. Ahead of us, the fog thins as the trees widen, revealing a tantalizing glimpse of streaming sunlight. There must an open area ahead. I have an urge to check my datapad. I think we're near a beach...

Felix rushes for the trees when a sudden burst of barking has him turn around. Behind us, emerging from the fog, is half a dozen of the largest, ugliest, and most vicious looking dogs I have ever seen. As they howl and snarl, their green eyes glimmer back at us, expectant.

"They're leashed," Felix's whisper is hoarse. "Someone is holding them back. Otherwise they'd already be..."

The hounds come loose. Whatever was holding them back dissipates as they charge forward, jaws snapping and spit flying. Felix and I both turn to run, but before we get more than a few paces, Felix's foot trips an almost invisible tripwire.

A stringy sapling shoots forward, freed from where it has been tied back. I see a flash of silver right before the knife buries itself hilt deep into Felix's chest.

My brother falla just like that. One moment he's standing there, looking terrified. The next he's on the ground.

"No!" I scream and drop down beside his body. This can't be right. It couldn't be over this quickly. My hands touch the hilt, where blood has already begin to blossom around it, staining Felix's shirt.

It's a miracle that the dogs don't maul me as I stare at my brothers body, lying still in a hollow of the forest. Felix's dead eyes stare back at me.

I continue to kneel beside the body. I should get up and go, climb a tree or run. I can hear the dogs, so they must be nearby. But I'm numb and my mind isn't working. I just sit here, kneeling. I should feel anger, or fear. I should feel...something.

Instead there is only emptiness.

I stare at my brothers cold, dead body. Why couldn't I protect him? I remember his laugh, his innocence, his smile. He was always so positive, no matter what happened. Now he's dead.

The hounds howls get louder. They must smell blood. My brothers blood. I'm sorry, Felix. I rise to my feet, legs trembling. I'm so sorry. I should have been able to protect you.

I don't want to leave him for the dogs, but I have no choice. They'll hunt me down if I try to carry him with. I have to save myself. That's what he'd want.

I'm sorry.

Tears sting my eyes as I hurtle through the forest, ignoring the pain inside and outside me. The howls still call after me. They've got my scent. There's no escaping now.

In only a few steps, I come upon another trap. This one isn't as well-hidden as the other. The thick canopy of leaves scattered across the ground is far too obvious to miss. I stop right before the trap--some sort of hole, I guess--and throw a glance backwards. The dogs...

I skirt around the edge of the pit and dash out onto the beach. A beach? When did I get here? I blink in the sudden sunlight, and stumble back just as the first dog hurtles out from the undergrowth.

"Come on, you bastard..." I turn and run for the water. The dog let's loose a vicious howl and comes running after--

The howl changes to a frightened yelp, then there's one short howl of pain before everything goes silent. I don't need to look back to know it has fallen in the pit. Good riddance.

More howls fill the air as the rest of the pack arrives at the beach. I spin around, looking for somewhere to go. The small island on the coastal shelf hangs in the distance. I've never been there before, but I find myself making a beeline for it.

The hounds are gaining ground, and fast. I can hear their snarls just behind me. I crash into the water, waves lapping at my thighs as I struggle towards the island. That's my help. My only chance.

Waves crest over my head as I swim, not large, but not small either. A look back shows me that at least one of the dogs is attempting to follow, but when a particularly large wave reaches it, it disappears beneath and does not resurface. On shore, the rest of the pack howls as I pull myself onto the sand, panting and gasping before falling down with a thud.

As I watch, something strange happens with the dogs. They all freeze, their ears perking up as they stop and listen. Listen to something I don't hear. What is it? I think I'm imagining things until I remember those whistles that are too high-pitched--or is it low-potched?--for human ears. Someone must be calling them.

One by one the hounds disappear back into the forest. I watch them go wearily, remembering what Felix said. That someone was with the dogs.


"Don't worry, Felix," I whisper to myself. Behind me, I hear the door to the island hut swing open and the gasping of a boy. "I'll protect you. I'll bring you back home, Felix. I promise."

Oreo Dutton (2:35 P.M)

I watch the fog drift past below me as I rest on a tree's branch. The thick gray fog conceals most of the ground below me, so much so, that I cannot be sure if anyone is actually walking past. I hope not.

I shift my body around uncomfortably. I've been up here for hours now, since the first Challenger died today. Nic.

His death came as a huge shock to me. For the entirety of my time on the island, he's been glued to the #2 rank. He was perpetually one of the toughest challenges we'd have to face. Then suddenly and without warning, he was dead.

I don't know who killed him, but it had to be one of the top three, didn't it? Then again, our new #1 wound up dead as well. Felix Leonard. How'd he die? He was invincible to all us Challengers. The only thing I could think of, the only danger, is the same reason I'm hiding up in this tree.


I rotate my shoulder and a shudder runs down my body as I think of them. I haven't seen them, but I've heard them, howling and snarling as they chased some unseen prey. I know what kind of dogs they'll be. I've seen the type before. Big, vicious, snarling dogs. They hunt in packs and don't give up until they have their quarry. My fear of them has kept me rooted in this tree despite the aches in my joints. I will not become dog food. I will not.

Stretching out my back, where a tense knot of pain has been aching, I tentatively touch the string of grenades hidden under my jacket. I will not be eaten by dogs. No matter what. I'd rather be blown to pieces then be eaten.


Somewhere, an old, rotting stick snaps. The sound is muffled by the fog, but it still comes frighteningly close to my perch. My throat goes dry and I clench two hands around my machete. The blade quivers from my shaking arms.

They can't see me. The thought passes through my head. I'm too high, and it's too foggy. No matter who--or what--they are, they cannot possibly see me. Somehow, the thought doesn't bring me much comfort.

If it were possible, my ears would be perked as I listen carefully, slowly pivoting in my perch, trying to see on all sides. But nothing can be seen through the fog. The thick, impenetrable fog. It closes in on all sides, suffocating and oppressive. Someone could be right below my tree and I wouldn't see them.

The muscles in my legs and shoulders continue to ache with tension as I strain my eyes to see through this accursed fog. What's that? A flimsy, indistinct shape flits through the fog. Is it a person? Or is it--


The sound comes again, and this time something falls past my face. A branch. A broken branch. From above me.

Before I can move, there's a whirling sound, right before a sharp pain strikes me in the back of my head. Bright lights flash across my vision, everything narrows, and then I'm on the ground, rolling through the fog. I don't even remember falling.

My fingers grasp for my machete as an aching, throbbing pain richoets in my head. It feels like a parade is storming by, playing all their instruments at the highest level. I can't think. It hurts too much. Everything is wobbly and blurry.

"Terrible luck you have!" A distant voice reaches my ears, as if from the end of a tunnel. I cast my eyes around, but don't see anyone or anything at all.

"Who's there?" I croak out. My voice sounds like sandpaper.

Something catches in the ribs. I only have the shortest glimpse of a boot before I'm rolling over in pain, gasping for breath.

"Doesn't matter, does it? I'm just going to--Aw, crap." The voice cuts off and a loud curse follows. Despite the ringing in my head and the pain in my ribs, I manage to get to my hands and knees. There he stands, looking thoroughly disappointed.

Lucas Adin. I'd recognize his nose anywhere. The boy stomps his feet and mutters under his breath right before leaning down and yanking me to my feet. "You had to be ranked higher, didn't you?" He's so close, that I can see him even through the fog. His green eyes flash with annoyance. "Very unfortunate, that. Not for you, but for me."

Higher then him...? I stare back blankly until he twists me around and roughly pulls my arms back behind me. I yelp in protest as he begins tying my wrists together with what I can only assume is rope.

"Is there anyone with you?" He asks when he finishes. I'm barely able to hold back the tears. Why does this always happen to me?

"N-no!" I can feel them sliding down my cheeks now. Why am I always the damsel in distress?

"Good." He shoves me forward and I stumble forward, tripping over a nearby root and crashing hard to the ground. My head still rings with pain.

Without my hands, it's difficult to turn around and face him, but somehow I manage. He stands a few feet apart from me, his features obscured in the fog. "Wh-why aren't you killing me?" I try to make my question sound fierce, but I can only manage dispirited.

"You're ranked higher then me," He answers quickly. His voice is emotionless. Detached and analytical. "I couldn't possibly kill you."

Relief floods my body. He can't kill me! Giddiness overrides the terror, and I find myself giggling hysterically. I'm safe! Safe!

"What's so funny?" Lucas is suddenly kneeling beside me, a frown on his face and a knife in his hand.

My laughter stops as I eye the blades tip. "N-nothing. J-just that we could, you know, ally together."

His eyes stare back into mine like chips of green ice. "That was going to be my plan," He says after a moment's hesitation. "But..."

I don't like the hanging silence. "But what?"

His eyes narrow. "How could you trust me, after this? And if you don't trust me, how could I trust you?"

"I trust you!" The words come tumbling out of my mouth before I can stop them. "I don't mind! I'll help you do anything! I'll--"

Lucas holds up a hand to stop me. "Just stop, okay? You're just digging your hole even deeper."

The words die on my lips. That look in his eyes...

"You just proved that you're untrustworthy. What kind of person rushes to agree like that? Only two: a desperate one, or one whose planning on sticking a knife in your back. I'd prefer not to entangle myself with either of those."

"I...I..." I'm a fool. In my rush to save my own skin, all I did was bury any chance I had at gaining his trust. Odd, how I don't even think about whether I could trust him or not. I don't think I could.

In the distance, a dog howls.

My body tenses, then I rise to run. Lucas, however, remains where he kneels. Studying the edge of his knife, he doesn't even turn as I stumble into the fog. "It's far away, you know. Not anywhere near us."

I don't listen. Isn't he going to chase me? Why go through all that trouble of catching me only to let me loose? I glance back, but I don't even see the tree that was my hiding place. It has disappeared frighteningly fast into the fog.

Have I lost him that easily? What even...My head still hurts. Like a cymbal going off every few seconds. God, it hurts.

"Where do you think you're going, girl?"

Lucas appears in front of me so suddenly that I scream. A wry smile spreads across his face as I back up and hit another root, taking tumultuous hit to the hard-packed dirt below.

"What do you want with me?!" I scream at him as he grips me by the collar and hauls me to my feet.

"Shut up!" He slams me against a nearby tree and a fresh jolt of pain spirals through my head as it vibrates off the bark. "Do you want every other Challenger descending upon us?"

"If you're going to keep me prisoner, then maybe I do!" Imogen is still out there. I was supposed to look for her, but I haven't really managed it yet. But maybe she's searching for me. If I shout...

"I don't think you'd appreciate what a guy like Chris would do to someone like you," Lucas says, releasing my collar. Despite that, he still eyes me like he would a viper.

"Like what you did to Killian?" I saw what happened. Mr. White showed us Challengers everything, after all.

"That was different. I only did what I had to." He doesn't sound the least bit repentive. He actually sounds like he believes what he's saying. "Don't tell me you're afraid for my soul."

I hesitate. I...I hadn't actually thought about that aspect yet. But it's another thing to worry about. Another thing that makes it harder to play this "game". "Everyone back home sees everything we do," I say softly. He shoots me a glare.

"Oh, yeah?" He fingers his knife, watching my every movement. "Well, maybe if you don't scream again, they'll get to see you alive tomorrow."

Another spring of fear strikes me. What does he mean? I ask him, and he shrugs. "With a captive like you, I'll certainly go up in the rankings. You'll go down. Thus..." He weighs his hands like a scale. "Well, you know the rest."

"You're a monster!"

Hurt flashes in his eyes and he turns his back to me. "I do what I have to do," He repeats in a low voice.

"Oh? Is that the mantra you repeat to yourself every time you do something atrocious?" I don't know where I find the bravery to challenge him, not when I'm at his mercy. But somehow I do.

"You don't know anything about me," His voice remains low, but there's a sharp edge to it now. "So kindly remain silent before I rearrange my plans. I could very easily leave you for the hounds."

"Yeah, like that's so much worse then you yourself killing--"

"Hello, Challengers!"

Mr. White's chipper voice stems from our datapads. Lucas pulls his arm up and checks it, but thanks to my ties, I can't do the same. Trying to remain inconspicuous, I attempt wiggling my body up against a protruding branch. If I can get the ropes loose...

"Do you all remember what I told you last night?" Mr. White's voice sounds oddly detached when you can't see him on your screen. "I very much hope you did, because it is very important."

I find myself drawing a blank. The dogs? No, that can't be it. Everyone should have heard them by now, so it must be something else. But what? What else did he tell us? While I don't remember, Lucas clearly does. He's biting his lip so hard that I'm surprised it's not bleeding.

"That's right, Chris!" Mr. White seemingly answers another Challengers statement. "I had told you all that sometime today, between the time of noon and midnight, I'd detonate a random Challenger's collar."

Lucas draws in a breath, his hands clenched at his side. I remember now. I remember that the reason Mr. White decided to do this was because the fans liked what Lucas did to Killian so much.

"Inside this bag," Mr. White continues on as I pick up the pace of trying to loose myself. The rope is getting friction against the bark now. "Is the detonator for each of your collars. Whomever's detonator I pull out, will have their head blown off when I press the button."

My head. I imagine my head going off like Killian's. Suddenly I'm working faster.

"Drum roll, please!" A drum roll shortly begins, but I don't know how. I can't see the screen. Lucas is grinding his teeth, eyes ablaze with nervous impatience. Please don't pick me. Please don't pick me. "Now, I will select."

I can imagine Mr. White digging a white gloved hand into a soft velvet bag, digging around for a moment before grasping the desired detonator. Briefly I wonder if this is even random. Then I'm back to silently praying that it's not me.

"And the winner is..." A chuckle emits from our datapads. Mr. White must have chosen the detonator. His velvety purr continues on, still tinged with amusement. "My, my. This is quite ironic. Lucas Adin, it is your lucky day!"

Even through the fog, I can see the color drain from Lucas' face. His hands have already flown to the metal collar around his neck, desperately searching for some sort of clasp or latch that will let it loose. There is none. That I know.

"I know that you do not believe in the afterlife, Lucas," Mr. White is still speaking. Lucas has fallen to his knees, still trying to rip the collar off of him. I've given up on trying to loose my binds and am slowly backing off into the fog. I've seen what those collars do when they explode. I have no desire of being close. "Well, soon you will have first-hand knowledge of whether it exists or not. I wonder if Killian will be there to greet you."

I'm scrambling away into the fog when Lucas gives off one long, tortured scream. The roar I hear after is louder than anything I have ever heard in my life; a monstrous fist punches me in the back, knocking all the wind out of me even before I land, sprawled on my belly across the forest floor. For a moment I just lie here, trying to make my lungs work again, trying not to think how lucky I am that I got out of the blast radius, how fortunate that it didn't also set off the grenades in my jacket.

When I touch my face, I realize that my hands are free. I'm giddy with excitement until I remember what just happened, and feel the blood on my face. Lucas' blood.

Unsteady, I climb onto my feet and stumble forward, ears ringing from the explosion. I won't look back. I don't want to see what's left of Lucas. Don't need to see. No matter who he was, or what he did, he didn't deserve to die like that. None of us do.

A few steps further along I find my machete. It's just lying there in the fog, barely hidden by the thin wisps. I pick it up and continue along, not thinking. Thoughts can only harm me now. I should just be thankful that I'm so lucky. Or not. Perhaps the dead are the lucky ones. I don't know. Maybe I'll find out in a few more days.

Umbreon Martell (3:00 P.M)

We all sit in careful silence, gathered around the small fireplace set into the wall. My knees are pulled tight to my chest as I watch the fire dance across the flaming logs. From outside I can hear the waves lapping against the rocks. We're still inside the small hut on the off-shore island. Me, Tristan, and our new guest, Justine.

I eye the girl cautiously. She's leaning against the foot of a red armchair, her eyes half closed as she hugs her arms around her chest. Occasionally she'll mutter the name of her brother, but for the most part she's been silent since she told us her tale.

I had already known that she and Felix had left Chris and Nic--Tristan had told me that--but I didn't know what the two of them were up to until now. As it turned out, it was really nothing.

They just hid out in the resort most of the time, surviving on squirreled away foodstuffs and waiting out the deaths. Today, however, they went out hunting for a tribute they spotted on Felix's datapad map. Lost in the fog, they wandered until some dogs found them and...and then a trap--my trap--took out Felix while they were running.

When she had mentioned the traps, I was certain that she knew we were the ones who had set them. Tensing, I looked for Tristan to give the signal, but he only gave an inaudible shake of his head. She didn't know and we weren't going to attack.

"We should be safe here," Tristan suddenly speaks, eyeing both of us with fixed gazes. I feel empty. Doesn't he care that it was us who caused Justine this suffering? That I killed her brother. If Justine had killed Espeon, even if it was unintentional, I'd do anything and everything in my power to try and kill her, to make her pay. So shouldn't Justine feel the same? Shouldn't she want me dead? I can't blame her if she does. She'd just be doing the logical thing.

I shift my feet around, watching the girl carefully. If she were to find out...

"There is no safe!" Justine interrupts Tristan with a bitter stare. Her eyes still water with unshed tears. "Not here, not on this island. Not anywhere."

Not anywhere. That's absolutely true. I've lived through the difficulty of this life. Nowhere in the world can you ever consider yourself safe, not without life grabbing you by the face and slamming you into the ground.

"Think what you want," Tristan grunts, sounding thoroughly detached from this conversation. "But we're not in danger of dying right now, at least."

"What about Mr. White?" I ask, remembering something that he had said last night. "What if he blows one of our heads? We're in such close proximity that it would kill us all!"

Tristan fixes me with such exasperated a look that I feel utterly foolish. "Odds are that he's already blown someone's head, and if he hasn't, then he wouldn't choose us. Precisely for the reason that it would most likely kill us all. He wants one dead. Not three."

He makes sense. So much so that I don't know why I was worried about it. Of course he wouldn't want to kill three of his precious "Challengers" at once. Better to space their deaths out. More entertaining that way.

"He's already chosen," Justine says blandly. "Didn't you see when he popped up on the datapad? Lucas was the "lucky" one."

Tristan and I share a confused look. When did this happen? And how did we miss it? Tristan scratches his head and mutters under his breath. Suddenly, I'm feeling penned in.

"I'm going to get some fresh air," I decide abruptly. The others don't say anything as I head across the room, swinging the wooden door open and stepping out into the slightly chilly day.

The fog isn't so dense anymore. Well, it's still rather dense around the forest across the ocean, but this island and the beach are rather clear. Good. Less of a way for someone to sneak up on us.

Finding a relatively warm patch of sand, I unceremoniously sit myself down and stare out at the waves as they wash against the far shore. I killed someone...unintentionally and indirectly, yes. But still, he died because of my actions. For some reason that pains me, even though that was the exact thing I was planning when I made that trap. I guess I didn't think I'd be successful.

Or have to live with the repercussions. A voice tells me what I've been trying to avoid. I never thought I'd have to see what my actions have caused. But now I do. Now I do.

My thoughts go blank as I watch the waves, then I see something in the woods. A shape, vaguely familiar, shifting between the trees. Squinting, I lean forward and see more clearly. A Challenger. A dark-haired girl with relatively tan skin, but not anyone I recognize.

I stand up to get a better look, but then the Challenger must see me, for she freezes and then quickly darts back into the forest, disappearing from sight.

Immediately I'm on my feet and running back into the hut, shouting about the challenger outside. Tristan leaps to his feet, blade in hand, but when I explain more thoroughly, he sits back down.

"I doubt she'll bother us," He says, glancing at Justine. The red-head has pulled herself up and is looking out the window cautiously. "She was probably just looking for a safe area to shelter. She won't come back now that she's seen us."

"It's Alana."

"Huh?" We both turn to Justine in surprise as she speaks. "How do you know?"

"Your description matches her. Also, she was the one that Felix and I were following when the fog rolled in." She pauses, a deep frown across her face. "If we had caught her, Felix would never have..."

I turn away. I don't need to see her pain again. I don't need to see any ever again. But somehow, I think I will. No. I know I will. Mr. White has all but guaranteed it.

Anne Bellhope (5:47 P.M)

I've been wandering this island for longer than I'd care to admit. I didn't mean to, I wasn't trying to, but, somehow, I've managed to get myself lost.

I blame this damn fog. It's everywhere! It blocks my vision, hampers my speed. It wraps around the trees like ghost-grey tentacles of mist, strangling the life from the trunks. Is this natural? Or has Mr. White somehow found a way to manufacture fake fog? I'm sure there are ways to do so. I just don't know them.

The sound of running water is the first sign that I'm nearing a river. The second, and more obvious, is when my feet splash into the icy currents myself. With a hastily silenced yelp, I pull myself back from the edge. Unfortunately, the water has already drenched both my shoes and my pants, all the way up to my knees.

"Damn water."

The fog ghosts over the waters surface, not touching it, but coming close. I shake my legs out in annoyance as I follow the river upstream. Downstream will take me to the ocean, I'm sure, and I have no desire to be there right now.

Only minutes of walking transpires before the large rocky cliff appears before me. A cliff of black rocks, covered with vines and shaggy moss. A water thunders down from about halfway up; the pool frothing with bubbles. I quickly realize that I've just stumbled upon a waterfall. I spot a small dirt path leading up towards the waterfall, and head up it without hesitation. Is there a supply cache up there? Or anything else useful?

Soon the path turns muddy, the rocks slippery, and my footing grows treacherous. Nearing what appears to be a cave entrance, I turn and look back at the ground below me. The forest is gloomy, foggy and dire. The sky--which I can just see now that I'm above the fog-- hangs above me, dull and gray; the woods smells of rotting bark and musty leaves. Is that thunder roaring in the distance?

No. No, it's just the waterfall. God, it sure sounds like thunder this close!

Careful not to slip, I inch into the caves mouth, wrinkling my nose at the sudden stench of mildew that washes over me. But my distaste with the scent is lost when I see what's inside. Machines, many, many machines. They churn and chug, spin and thresh, that they make more noise then even the waterfall does!

I step into the center of the room and begin to examine one of the contraptions, when something catches my interest. It's movement, only very slight, but I catch it in the corner of my eye. Somebody steps out from the corner, hand reaching into their sleeve. For a weapon? Doesn't matter!

I spin around, two of my throwing knives already in my hands. A girl lurches out from the corner and I recognize her instantaneously--Johanna is the only black person on this island, after all--right before unleashing one of my knives.

The first misses her head by inches as she ducks below its arc. I'm readying my second for another throw and removing my third from my belt when she throws herself at me, slashing with her own knife.

Hef swings are erratic and miss me by several feet, but I quickly realize that harming me wasn't her true goal. During her swings, I had instinctively stepped back multiple times, and now the distance between us has been narrowed considerably.

I step forward, willing to put a stop to this, and she reaches out with one hand, gripping my wrist tightly as she shifts her bodyweight and sends me careening into the side of one of those big machines.

One of my knives clatters from my hands, the other slips back into its sheath upon my belt. Both are out of reach as Johanna picks up my dropped crossbow, aiming directly at my heart as I stand.

She has her back to the waterfall and I can see the fog through the thick shaft of thundering water. What a terrible thing to be my last sight. Too bad Monzaroc isn't dead Maybe then I could--

Johanna presses the crossbow's trigger.


It's then that I remember that I don't have any arrows for the thing, that it is pretty much useless. Johanna doesn't realize what is wrong as she jams the trigger several more times, and I see my opportunity.

I leap to my feet, snatching up my fallen knife, and in one fluid motion, I heave it across the room.

Johanna staggers as the blade sinks into her forehead. The crossbow drops from her hands, clattering against the stones below. She takes a few more steps back, then she tips over and falls into the thundering waves of the waterfall.

Is she...dead? The ringing on my forearm givrs me my answer. So. The girl is dead, and didn't even leave any lasting damage like Clarice did. Very well. The less pain for me, the better.

I dust myself off and check out the remainder of the small alcove, but I find nothing of use. Evidently, whatever items Johanna had with her must have fallen into the falls with her. Disappointing, but not unexpected. I can make do with all the items I still possess. After ensuring that there are no secret surprises hiding here, I sit myself against one of the machines and stare out into the falls.

One less Challenger. One step closer to killing Monzaroc.

Misha Castiel (11:45 P.M)

As darkness overtakes the arena and my sixth midnight on the island nears, I wonder if I'll ever be free from this horrid place.

I sit on a plush red armchair in the middle of the house's living room. A roaring fire blazes inside the large carved fireplace--something Tori managed to start with some wood I chopped with my axe--and the flames send shadows dancing across the room's dark-paneled walls, the only illumination present. We don't want to risk turning on the ligjts. That would just be a beacon to any other Challenger hunting through the night.

Imogen and Tori are both here, too. Imogen sits close to the fireplace, her knees tucked close to her chest as she gazes into the crackling flames. Tori lounges on the couch across from me. Chocolate brown hair descending in waves to her shoulders, long legs bare to the thighs as she watches me, her tongue slowly tracing her lips. God, she's gorgeous. Too bad she'll be dead within a few days. We all will.

"This reminds me of my first few nights on the island," Imogen says suddenly. She's still watching the fire, her face masked in shadow. She's pretty too. I always thought so, but no one else seemed to and I never felt like going against the majority. "When I was with Fausto and Oreo."

A large scoffing noise startles me out of my thoughts as Tori swings her legs across the couch, standing up so she can glare down at Imogen. "Is that all you tall about? Your stupid friends? Well, if you miss them so much, go search for them!"

Imogen gapes up at the tall girl, shirking away from her intense gaze. Usually, Tori looks like a goddess, but when she gets like this, her hair thrown over her shoulders, hands on her hips, grey eyes like a raging storm, she looks like...well, a goddess of destruction. One contemplating how best to kill everyone.

"I can't go out there by myself!" Imogen's words sound like a squeak. "I'll die! They'll kill me!"

Tori throws her head back and laughs, a haunting sound. "And why should I care about that? If you die, that's your prerogative!"

"Tori!" I surprise myself by jumping to Imogen's defense. These two have been going at it all day--and not having the faintest idea why--I've opted to stay out of it. When girl's are fighting, it's best to stay well out of it. So why did I jump in now?

Both of them turn to stare at me. Tori looking outraged and Imogen hopeful. A very strong sense of unease crawls along my skin. Why did I decide to speak?!

"Umm..." I fish for words as the long, awkward silence stretches on. Finally, I think of something. "We can't afford to be fighting one another. Like it or not, the three of us are in this together. Everyone else will target us, as we're probably the only alliance in these "games". We won't be able to defeat them if we're divided."

"Really, Misha? A big grand speech? Didn't think that was in your wheelhouse." Tori snorts derisively, but the anger fades from her face. "So what do you expect we should do?"

"Look for Oreo!" Imogen pipes in before I can answer the question. Tori throws her a nasty glare.

"Of course not! Why should we risk our own necks searching for a girl who'd probably try to kill is once we found her?"

"She wouldn't," Imogen sets her chin stubbornly. "She's a good person."

"We'd still be risking our necks looking for her." Once more I step into the conversation, this time on Tori's side. "And if she's such a good person, I doubt she'll last much longer anyways."

Imogen flinched at my words, further shirking into the darkness of the room. Truth hurts. But it's still the truth. I very much doubt that her friend will be able to survive the next day or two. The deaths have certainly picked up the pace since this morning.

"Greetings, dear Challengers."

Mr. White's sonorous voice bleeds through our datapads, filling the dark room with quiet dread. It's never pleasant when this man speaks. Immediately Imogen begins shivering, glancing around the room as of ahe thinks Mr. White is inside the house. Tori just rolls her eyes.

"Oh goody, that annoying killjoy is back. Hurray."

"I may be an annoying killjoy, but I do control everything that happens on this island..."

Tori starts in surprise and then looks embarrassed that she did so. I'm a little uneasy myself. I always forget that these datapads also allow Mr. White to hear us. "What do you want?" I ask, more than slightly irritated with this man. What does he want with us? What is the point of this "game"?

"Nothing much," He answers cheerfully. "Just the usual end of the day routine. Rankings go down, I show you everyone's deaths, then give you a hint of the future." As he's speaking, the screen on my datapad launches into a montage of video footage depicting the various deaths of our fellow Challengers.

Haviana slashes Nic's throat only to take an arrow to the eye from Chris. Felix is taken out by a preset trap, and Lucas is blown up by his bomb collar. Finally, Anne puts Johanna down by sending a knife into her skull.

By the time the screen flickers back to show Mr. White resting on his chair, I'm feeling sick. All those people...dead...

"What a fun day!" Mr. White cackles gleefully, slapping his knee. "I am very pleased that you have all taken to playing my game so wonderfully! I truly never expected such a good turnout. Half of you are dead already, and I cannot wait for more!"

"He's sick," Tori mutters. I nod in agreement.

"But, moving on..." Mr. White adjusts the glasses on his face, smirking into the camera. Where exactly is he? He has to be on this island...doesn't he? But if he is...

"They say that the natives of this island used a form of "magic mist" to connect with the spirits of old and see the future," Mr. White is off on some new tangent now. I don't know what it has to do with anything. "Only their priests knew how to control these "visions" though. Anyone else who inhaled the vapors would...well, it was really quite unpleasant."

"What does this have to do with us?" Imogen asks.

Mr. White sighs. "That's the problem with the youth of today. They don't have any respect for the past. Oh well, I can't make you change your mind. Nighty-night!"

Our datapads turn off, leaving us in the living room with our only light being the crackling flames of the fireplace. None of us say anything as we exchange nervous glances. What is our next move? Does it matter? Or are we all just doomed to die on this stupid island?

Day 6/ The Stuff of Nightmares

Tristan Kaplan (11:50 A.M)

Weak rays of sunlight shine through the window, scattering across the floor of the small cabin. It's more of a hut, really, but I like to think of it as a cabin. Despite it's size, it's still larger than several of the places I've spent the night before. Yes. This was a good place to spend the day.

But is it still?

Things are happening at a rapid pace on this island. Just last morning there were seventeen of us and now, not more than twenty-four hours later, there are only twelve. I have this horrible feeling that we need to be proactive if we are to survive. Keep the audience entertained and stay on Mr. White's good side. Odds are, we might not survive even if we do.

We. Why do I keep thinking as we? We cannot win. Only one person can win. If you consider not dying "winning", that is.

I glance at my temporary allies. Umbreon, the weaker of the two, is lying on the shaggy carpet that covers the floor just before the fireplace. His dark hair is an unkempt mess and his eyes, filled with suspicious fear, keep flickering over towards my other ally.

Justine. I've known this girl practically my entire time on this island, yet I still haven't the faintest idea what goes on inside her head. Originally, I thought that she was an intelligent and composed individual, but after she witnessed the death of her brother...she's been more than a little unhinged.

Now, I can't even be sure that she won't just kill me in my sleep.

After all, it was partially my fault her brother's dead. Mine and Umbreon's. That's why he keeps throwing Justine these looks, as if she'll somehow figure out he was responsible. I don't worry about that. She won't ever learn about it--how could she?--but that doesn't mean she won't still kill us. That's the only way to win, after all.

Which means that the both of them must die for me to win.

I'm still surprised by how much that thought hurts me. I barely know these people, their deaths should mean nothing to me. But...I've gradually come to the realization that...I actually like these people.

And that only makes their eventual deaths all that much harder.

"Hello, Challengers. Ready for the next day?" Mr. White's voice stems from our datapads as the clock chimes noon. Umbreon sits up, pulling the thing close to his face as Justine does the same. I keep my arm down. I don't need to see that prick's face. Hearing his stupid voice is good enough.

"You all know the drill by now: I come and blabber about something or other, then I show you the Rankings. Well, I'll cut the speech. Just enjoy your new positions!"

That's a pleasant surprise. I finally lift my arm up and take a quick glance through the new positions. My breath catches as I find myself at the #3 position. Just below Chris and Anne. Wait. Anne is #1 now? That's another surprise. I thought for sure that Chris would spend another day as the invulnerable number one.

That aside, I am very pleased with my current position. Anne is a wildcard, someone I've never actually seen, and Chris is a real threat, undoubtedly the biggest one left. If only those teo can kill me, I'm more than willing to accept that.

"That's not the only news of this day, however!" Mr. White's voice picks up a gleeful tone. That can only bode ill for us. "As you all know, a Challenger ranked at #1 is capable of killing every other Challenger in the arena. Similarly, the Challenger ranked at #12, Sami in this case, would be unable to kill anyone else."

"Yeah. We know that," Umbreon mutters from his spot beside the fire. "That's like the most basic rule of the game!"

"This rule has served me well for the first five days," Mr. White doesn't seem to have noticed the comment. "But I feel that it has come time for a change!"

Oh, no. No. No. He cannot just pull out new changes on us! He can't! That's not fair! But life isn't fair.

"For this day only,from now to midnight, the killing rules have been reversed. The Challenger ranked #1 will not be allowed to kill anyone. #12 can kill everyone. Challengers may only kill others who are ranked higher then they are. Enjoy this new, exciting development, for it will only last twelve hours..."

My head falls into my cupped hands. I breath slowly, trying to keep my temper in check and not scream out in rage. This game...this damn game. Just when I think I'm in a good position, that toad pulls the rug out from under my feet. Damn it!

Mr. White continues to drone on. "Before I bid you all goodbye, please enjoy some...Well, just experience this. It's a real kicker."


A blast of air shoots out from my datapad, streaming into the air beside my head. Coughs break out around me, and I look up to see both Umbreon and Justine coughing as a thin cloud of white mist clings around their heads.

"It came out from the datapad!" Umbreon coughs, swatting his hands at the mist as it quickly dissipates into the air.

"What the hell is this stuff?!" Justine withdraws to the far corner of the room, hacking and wheezing. The air is filled with an...odd scent. The mist?

I rise to my feet, wondering if we should evacuate the building. You can never be too careful with this kind of stuff, after all. But the mist is already completely gone from sight. Whatever it was, it doesn't last long.

"Are you okay?" I ask Umbreon as he drops to his knees. His eyes are red and watery as he pulls at his shirts collar.

"I'm...fine..." He punctuates his words with a cough, giving some real doubt to the validity of his words. But I don't know what I can do to help, beyond watch and wait. What fresh hell has Mr. White unleashed upon us?

A few nerve-wracking minutes pass of me waiting in terrified silence, but all that happens is Umbreon coughs a bit more as he crawls to the door, opening it slightly as he breathes in the fresh air. Good thing I was holding my datpad away from my body, otherwise I might be sharing their discomfort right now.

"That's a good idea," I say as a gust of wind blows the door open wider. Umbreon inhales deeply. "Get some cleaner air. Hey, Justine. You should get outside."

My redheaded ally is still sitting in the corner, her back to us. She seems to be breathing heavily. "Justine?"

No response. Maybe she didn't hear me?

"Yo, Justine!" I cross the room, stepping over a small leg stool. I reach a hand for her shoulder. "You should get some fresh--Oww!"

I pull my hand back, cradling it close as I see a large red cut opening across my knuckles. Justine turns to face me, a knife in hand. "What the hell, Justine? That hurt!"

"You'" The words are a mumble, barely distinguishable through the tremor of rage in her voice.

"Excuse me?" I frown at the girl. Something Her face is pallid and constantly twitching, her eyes red-rimmed, and her pupils are much too large. Her arms tremble, one holding the knife she used to nick my hand and the other gripping her hatchet. I watch her very, very carefully. "What...are you talking about?"

"Felix..." Her voice is hoarse, almost as if her vocal cords were rubbed against gravel for hours. "The monster...You...killed him..."

Alarm bells ring in my head. She knows! She knows that it was our trap! My hands move instinctively, reaching for the knife in my pocket. If she knows....

No. No, that doesn't make sense. How could she possibly know? When would she have learned? It doesn't add up. "Justine, you have to listen to me," I keep my voice calm and controlled, the opposite of how I feel. "You're not feeling well. Something is wrong, something...."

"Why is your face melting?!"

Justine's scream takes me totally by surprise, even more so then her following swing of her arms. I sidestep, the blade of her knife just barely avoiding the arteries of my neck.

"What the hell, Justine?!"

The girl--the maniac--flails her arms around in a torrent of rage, screaming, howling, about how the "walls have faces" and the "cockroaches oozing from the furniture. I narrowly dodge the blows, continually backing up. I knew this would happen, sooner or later. I knew that Felix's death would make her snap.

I just didn't know she'd snap so completely.

"You killed him!" Justine roars as she hurls her hatchet at me. It sails past my arm, hitting the wall so hard that several panels come loose and rattle to the floor. "You killed him! You killed him! You killed him!"

She throws herself upon me, arms and legs kicking out as she tries to bring the knife into my heart. Only my strength holds her at bay as we fall to the ground, wrestling for position.

She's deranged. Insane. A feral animal that needs to be put down. I pull my knife loose, slashing her forearm as I ready to plunge it into her chest. Then I remember.

Mr. White's rule change. You can only kill Challengers ranked higher then you. Justine is ranked lower then I am. If I killed her...

Justine takes advantage of my hesitation. She slaps the knife from my hands, her own clamping tightly around my throat. I struggle to breath as she lowers her face to mine. She bares her teeth in a snarl, spittle flying from her mouth.

"Why does your face keep melting, Tristan?"

I cannot throw her off. She's pinned me with some inhuman strength. A feral rage. Black dots swim in my vision, claw their way to cover my full sight. If I die here...

My whole life was a waste.

Justine's eyes widen. Her snarl drops into a slack-jawed gape, then her grip on my throat loosens and she falls to the side, stiff as a board. The hilt of a knife protrudes from the base of her neck.


My voice is a hoarse whisper as I sit up, noting the ringing of the datapads. My ally, no, my friend is standing over Justine's prone body with a blank look on his face.

"She was insane, Umbreon," I tell him, shaking away the fear that had gripped me in what I thought were my final moments. I had acted too slowly. If only I had noticed her insanity a little earlier... "You had to kill her. There was no other choice."

Umbreon looks up at me. His eyes are still red, but now a lopsided grin is plastered across his face as he plays with a tiny black object in his hands. I frown.

"Is something...wrong?"

He shakes his head. Then he speaks the oddest words I've ever heard. "I think, if life is a lemon..Lemonade electric! Lemon life! Angry! I do not want to deal with the lemons!"

My jaw drops as Umbreon hops about, batting at the air with his hands. What. The. Hell. Is. Going. On? Am I the only sane person left on this island? Has Mr. White somehow found a way to--

Mr. White.

Him and his mist. The mist. It blasted Umbreon and Justine in the face, but missed me. If it were some sort of, I don't know, drug, then it could be the cause...

"Umbreon?" I cautiously ask the boy. He freezes, mid-dance. His head swivel towards me. "You're...sick. But don't worry. I'll heal you. Once I figure out what to do..."

"What should we do?" Umbreon's face contorts in sudden anger as he stomps his feet. "It requires the manager! Make life regret. I thought that it could be me one day, lemon!"

Cold fear fills me. This type of insanity's even worse then Justine's murderous rage. At least that I could understand. But this? This is...alien.

"Don't worry, Umbreon. This will fade. I just need to think..."

What to do? How long will this insanity last? Can I bear to be around him as he goes through this? Will it ever fade? If it doesn't...Umbreon's rambling continues as I think. He steps closer to me, but I'm too absorbed in my thoughts to pay attention.

"I know who I am. I am the person walking into your house. Because lemon! I'm gonna burn your house!"

There's a sudden, stabbing pain in my abdomen. I look down to see the long, black hilt of a switchblade buried into my stomach. Umbreon's hand holds it.

Pain flashes through my body. Cold, shuddering pain. I fall to my knees, gasping for breath. "Why...?" The word just pops into my head.

Umbreon looks down with a blank grin. He savagely rips the blade free and I gasp as he stands over me, grinning. "Technology, my fire is a lemon!"

Imogen Sykes (12:02 P.M)

The white mist sprays into my face. It clogs my nostrils, stings my eyes, burns my throat. I spin around and cough, cough so hard that I drop to my knees, clutching my neck. Ahead of me, Misha and Tori turn to stare.

"Imogen?" Through my watery eyes, I see worry eteched on Misha's face as he comes to kneel beside me. "What happened?"

"Some sort of gas came out from the datapad and hit her in the face," Tori says, stumbling over. Her voice sounds raw and raspy. "Some hit me too. Only a little, but she got the full blast."


Misha pulls back, standing up and glancing around at the small houses that surround us. This morning we had decided--or Misha and Tori had decided, rather--that we should search the suburbia for other Challengers. We hadn't gotten very far, only down the nearest street, before Mr. White came. And now...

Pain hits my stomach and I turn aside to retch. The foul-smelling vomit hits the asphalt road with a splat. I wipe my mouth and look for my allies.

Misha stands only a few feet away, looking troubled. Tori is bent over, her hands rubbing furiously at her red-rimmed eyes. Even looking at them is difficult. Everything I see is blurry and indistinct, as if I'm viewing them through a film of water. My nose burns as if I had inhaled smoke.

"What do...that?" Misha speaks, but his words are far and echoing, like he's at the back of some long tunnel. I stare at the hard pavement beneath my hands. Is it...spinning? Why...?

"We...Misha...lookout!" Tori's voice screams through the fog in my mind. I pull myself up--ignoring the sickness that churns in my gut--and spin around to see a small black object come rolling down the street.

It skitters to a stop at Misha's feet then suddenly, inexplicably, it bursts open with a loud hiss. Thick, white smoke comes billowing, swallowing our small party within seconds. Someone shouts. "Run!"

Shadows flit through the smoke around me. Misha? I open my mouth to ask, but smoke pours in within seconds. I cut off, coughing and hacking as I stumble away from the smoke, pulling my shirt up over my mouth.

I burst out from the cloud of smoke and find myself standing in the middle of the woods.

I'm in an empty clearing, the grass brown and dead, and all the trees without leaves. And there are many trees. They surround me on all sides, reaching for the sky with claw-like branches. Everything is wrong.

Where am I? How did I get here?

I can't remember. Everything is so blurry. Where's my house? Why am I here? Where is here?

A strong gust of wind blows past, ruffling my shirt. I shiver. This's so cold and barren. I walk forward a few paces, entirely uncertain on what is happening. It's so hard to think. All my memories are...foggy. Why is that? Why can't I remember what was happening?

I keep on moving through the forest, searching for something different. Anything different. All the trees look exactly the same, all the bushes. The fog is everywhere, it's thick, smoky tendrils stretching out through the forest as far as I can see. Where is everyone?! I cry out for help, breaking out into a run. Why aren't they here? Why did they leave me?

As I run, I notice that the trees are staring at me like silent sentries. Wondering what I am doing in their sacred place. The musty air of the place is difficult to breathe. This forest is old and otherworldly, a place never meant for human feet. Crimson toadstools litter the ground as I run past. Poisonous cow-bane grows next to them, threatening to snag my feet as I run. An acrid odor hangs off of everything. It is an unnerving, teeth-gritting experience. I bite my tongue with nervousness and the metallic taste of blood fills my mouth.

My feet hit something and I trip, catapulting forward through the thick undergrowth that has sprung up from nowhere. When I get back to my feet, I see that I am in a new clearing. And something lies before me.

Across the clearing, on the far side, sat a crude, stone building made of poorly built, bulging stone. It is encrusted with lichen and a rotting roof lies upon it. From its interior comes the most piteous moans and stomach-souring thumps. A caterwauling sound, somewhere between a tortured whine and a despairing screech, echoes in the forest air.

I drop to my knees.

"Stop! Please, just stop!" My screams tear through the horrifying sounds, ripping through the quiet of the forest. All falls silent as I cup my hands around my face, tears streaming from my eyes. "End this nightmare! Please! I want to go home!"

"You can never go home..."

A distant voice fills my head. It is simultaneously inside me, yet at the same time far away. For all extents and purposes, this voice is me.

"No one wants you there. No one wants you anywhere....Why not just lie down? Why not accept it. No one wants you...No one needs you...You'd be better off dead..."

"No...No, that's not true! It's not!"

I get back onto my feet, turning and fleeing from that horrendous shack. I will not die! I refuse! There's still people left out there who care for me...I know there are!

I explode out from the forest and find myself in another clearing. No. Not another one. The same exact one. I see the shack again. A faint white light seems to be pulsating inside. The screams get louder.

You can't run...Not from this...

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO, NOOOO!"

I plunge back into the forest, sprinting harder than I've ever have before. But running is pointless. The voice is inside me. The voice is me. I can feel it in my mind, feeding gnawing on my fear and despair. Why can't I escape it?

Once more I emerge into the same clearing. The shack is still there, but now there's a shadowy shape standing in the doorway. It's colossal, easily more than seven feet tall. It steps forward.

"GO AWAY!" I shriek at it, wave my hands at it. Why won't everyone leave me alone? I just wnant to live in peace! "Why won't you leave me alone? Why?!"


The figure steps out from the shadows, pale moonlight rippling across its metallic body as it stands in the center of the clearing. The thing is a monstrosity. It has four arms, with the lower pair being slightly lower on the torso than the upper pair, and on each arm is a hand, tipped with scalpel-like fingerblades that flex menacingly.

"Leave me ALONE!" I scoop up a fallen tree branch and hurl it at the creature. The flimsy wooden bounces harmlessly off of it's steel carapace of a chest.


The creature advances towards me, weapon-like arms raised. I look up and see the eyes. Oh, God. The eyes! Its eyes are multi-faceted, like an insects, and they glow with a vivid red shine. These eyes never leave my face.

It will kill me.

Desperately I cast my gaze around for a weapon. Any type of weapon. I need to stop this creature. I need to kill it!

I spot what I need. Halfway across the clearing, between the creature and myself, an axe lies on the brown flattened grass. It's crescent shaped, with a wicked spike on its end and insanely sharp looking. More than enough to fell the beast.

Oddly, that's all I can think of. Destroying this creature. It pervades every facet of my mind. It must die. It must.

I dart forward, snatching up the axe as I close the distance. The creature watches me warily, coming to a halt. It slowly raises a hand.

"Die, you monstrosity!"

I swing the axe with all the force that I can muster. The crescent blade slams into the steel chest with a resounding thunk. The creature stumbles back, stunned. With a howl, I pull back and strike again. This time, the axe creates a large gap in the creatures chest as it tumbles to the ground, metal shrieking against metal.

This doesn't stop me. I strike again, and then strike it again and again. This creature cannot be allowed to live! It falls, shuddering and shaking as my axe smashes into its body. Finally, it stops moving. No longer a monster. Just a heap of scrap metal. With one last swing, I slam the axe into its head. The creatures vivid red eyes finally lose their glow as it's head is split open.

"The deed is done. The demon is dead."

I let go of the axes haft and stumble backwards. That's when I first become aware of the wet feeling on my hands. Curious, I look down to inspect what it could be. Then I scream.

My hands are drenched in blood. Hot, sticky blood. I hold my hands up, staring at the blood. Where did it come from? Why is there so much of it? My shoe slips on and I hit the ground, landing in a rapidly growing puddle of crimson blood.

"No...No!" The blood is everywhere. My hands, my legs, my shirt, pants, and when I touch my hair, I realize that there is blood there too. I eye the puddle, follow the trail of blood. It leads right to...

"No!" My world ends. It shatters like a glass window hit with a stone. Pieces scatter everywhere, crinkling under my feet as I stumble away from the sight. "I didn't do it! It wasn't me! It wasn't!"

I flee. I run from the truth. Run ad far away as I can. But I won't escape it. No matter how far or how long I run, I'll never escape this truth.


Victoria Sinclair (12:09 P.M)


Misha does as he shouts, careening for the woods as the cloud of smoke envelopes the still dazed Imogen. I stumble backwards, mind still foggy from that damn mist Mr. White sprayed me with. It's kinda like being drunk with how unstable and dizzy it makes me, but getting this way was nowhere near as fun it is to get drunk.

The ground lurches and I take a spill, crashing into the side of one of those pretty little white picket fences that surround every damn house. God, I feel terrible. Even forming thoughts is hard...I wonder how much worse off Imogen must be...

Speaking of that brat, where is she? The white smoke that came from that canister is dwindling down, revealing the empty street of this perfect little suburban hell, and Imogen is nowhere to be seen. In fact, Misha is missing too.

Where'd they go?

Something slushes around in my brain as I stand up, like water in your ear. That doesn't make sense. But then, very little has made sense in my life.

The empty streets remind me of that last night before my kidnapping. When I was wasting away in the streets after learning that Auren had successfully moved on with his life. I wonder if he's watching now, laughing at me. Laughing at that girl he use to know, and whose drunkenness has led her to this dark path.

The smoke has stopped pouring out from the canister. It just lies on the street, looking so fragile and innocent. Without a care in the world.

I hate it!

Why did I have to waste it all? My whole life. Gone, ruined. For what? A few drinks and cheap thrills? Why couldn't I recover from that downward spiral? I slump back against the picket fence, burying my face between my legs.

I never had a life. Never got to earn one. I threw it all away before I had the chance. And now...will anyone miss me? Do I even deserve the honor of that? I wish I could apologize to my parents. They didn't deserve a daughter like me. Better that they had someone else. Someone like--

"I thought you slowed down, Tori."

That voice...

I swing my head up, squint my bleary eyes towards the oh-so familiar figure as she comes pacing out of the shadows. She smiles when she sees me, stopping right before me.


My best friend. Perhaps my only friend. The last time I saw her was the night before all this began, before I drank myself into a stupor and woke up here. But why is she here?

"Did Mr. White capture you two..?" I ask groggily, trying to keep her pretty face in focus. It keeps wavering, like a character from a show you're watching on a bad stream.

She chuckles. "No. No, Tori, I wasn't a bad enough person to earn the privilege of playing this game."

I knew it. I knew that Shauna would never get lumped in with us undeserving people. She's better than us.

"You remember the last time we spoke?" Shauna continues, peering down at me with wide, all-knowing eyes.

I nod. "Yes...I...I pretty much told you that I didn't have anything left to live for and that...that I wanted to die." Hearing myself say these words, after leaving them bottled in for so long, it makes me feel...sad.

"Do you still feel that way?" Shauna's voice is soft and quiet. Not a challenge, just an honest question.

It makes me pause. What do I want...? It's been so long since I've cared. So long since anything was worth caring about. But then I ran into Misha, and somehow, someway, I do care. About one thing in particular.

"I want to fix things," I say, loud enough for everyone watching on the internet to hear. "I want to fix my life. Apologize to my parents, right my wrongs. I'm going to change, you'll see, Shauna. And...I'd like it if you could help me."

Shauna smile never changes. In fact, she doesn't move at all. Her eyes seem distant, glassy. Unease seeps into me. "Shauna? Is something wrong?" She still doesn't respond. My unease turns into worry. "Shauna? Talk to me. What's wrong?"

Finally, she moves. Her frozen features snap back into place as she smirks, hands suddenly holding a three-pronged spear. Where did she get that?

"Shauna...? Are you alright...?"

"This kill will bring me one step closer," The voice that rasps out from Shauna's move is definitely not her own. Her hands lift the odd weapon--a trident?--until it's perpendicular with my chest. "So I want you to die, you pretty little bitch!"

Shauna's face transforms, melting and bubbling as her features slowly disappear, replaced by the narrow, rough features of another girl. A girl I also recognize, though I've never seen her in person.

Clarice Barron.

I scream, thrashing out with my legs. One foot catches Clarice in the jaw, sending her splaying backwards. I scramble to my feet, mind whirling with shock and disbelief. Everything is coming back into focus.

Damn Mr. White and his mist!

Clarice is already back on the attack, stabbing at me with the trident. I throw myself sideways, hear the Thwock! as the three tips of the weapon dig into the side of the fence.

Clarice swears loudly, letting go of the trident and pulling a knife out from her sleeves. "You're not going to escape, not like the others!"

I'm afraid. For the first time in what feels like forever, I feel afraid. I just decided that I didn't want to die, that I had something to live for, and now I'm going to die.

It's not fair.

"Life's been more fair to you then it ever was to me!" I didn't realize I had spoken aloud until Clarice spits vitriol at me, slashing with the knife as I contort my body to avoid the blade. Where did I put my weapons? "You were born pretty and rich, without a care in the world! You had parents who loved you! Friends who cared about you! I never had any of that! I never had anything!"

A sharp pain throbs at my temples. Is this real? Or is it another one of those visions? I can't tell. I don't know what's real anymore.

Clarice's blade catches me on the side of the face. I scream as the steel cuts a gash down my cheek. Clarice growls. "I don't enjoy this. I don't. But it must be done. It must be done!"

As Clarice lunges for me, I spot my tomahawk. It's lying against the side of the fence, where Clarice's trident is embedded in. I must have set it down while speaking with Shauna.

As Clarice goes in to stab me, I strike out with both my hands. One grabs her wrist, wrestling for control of the knife. The second punches Clarice in the nose.

She howls in pain and rage, fumbling onto the grass. With a free moment, I snatch up my tomahawk, then turn and sprint down the street. I can't kill her, whether she's an illusion or not. Clarice is ranked lower, and because of that new stupid rule...

Something hits me in the shoulder and I face plant on the outskirts of the neighborhood. The pain is burning, and I can feel trickles of blood streaming down my shoulder as I tentatively reach for it with my non-injured arm. It closes around the hilt of a knife.

"Damn girl!"

I grind my teeth together as I rip the blade free. A paroxysm of pain sweeps through my body and I spasm on the ground. Hot blood squirts from the wound as I crawl to the trunk of a tree. Clarice is coming. She has regained her trident and is stalking towards me, her face a mask of anger and hatred.

I sigh with regret and frustration. So this is where it will end. So be it. I am ready. For a moment, I lay still against the tree trunk, and then, closing my eyes, I make an effort of will to overcome the pain as I stand up to face the oncoming girl.

"You think you're better than me because you've lived a rough life?" I say as she comes to a halt on the edge of the asphalt street. "That you are somehow better than us because of that? Well, screw you and your sucky life! Have fun crawling around on the streets after you win this!"

Her olive eyes widen in shock and rage. Her grip tightens on her weapon. Good. My only chance of victory is for her to blind herself with rage. Force her into making a mistake.

Clarice howls with fury and goes to hurl her weapon when she suddenly freezes. Her eyes dart up to the side, towards the portion of the street that ends in the forest. She looks...terrified.

"What are you-"

With a high-pitched squeak, Clarice turns tail and runs away.

When I turn myself around, I discover why.

Standing at the very edge of the road, shrouded in shadows, a metallic, ghost-gray figure stares back at me with glowing red eyes.

It's huge, at least eight and a half feet tall, and is almost completely covered in blades. Spikes that are over a foot long protrude from its shoulders, a horn-like blade juts from its forehead, and it's arms are practically swords.

And it has four of them.

Slowly, carefully, the creature advances towards me. I stumble back, pain in my shoulder long forgotten. This thing, it shouldn't exist! What the hell is it?

Oddly, for being so huge and cumbersome looking, the creature makes very little noise as it approaches, dagger fingers pointing at me as two of the four arms rise up. Have I seen this before?

No. Of course not. But I should flee. Before it reaches me.

The forest flashes by as I speed through it, shoulder burning with renewed pain. I ignore ir, gritting my teeth together as I race through the thickening woods. How far will that thing chase me? Will it chase me?

Is it even real?

I stumble to a halt, resting my uninjured arm against the trunk of a sourgum tree. Is anything I just experienced real? Or was it just my mind playing tricks on me?

The pain in my shoulder flares up again. Yes. That's definitely real. Does that mean the rest must be too? If it is--

That's when I spot something that makes me forget all about my encounters. All about everything I was just thinking about.

A still body lying in a pool of blood.

Nestled at the foot of a large tree, the blood rapidly spreading, a body lies on the ground, covered with gashes and tears that it is almost beyond recognition. Almost. The axe that had done the deed, the axe that had hacked this body into bloody chunks, is still here. Embedded in the center of the body's skull that has been split in two.

Misha's skull.

Tears slide down my cheeks as I drop to my knees, not minding the blood that soaks my legs. Misha...Dead.

This is him, I know. This was him. His caramel skin, turned to paste. His long limbs, hacked to pieces. His eyes...gone. His smile...gone. That axe...It's his axe. He had it the day I met him. Someone used his own weapon against him. How...who...?

This is my fault. If I had stayed with him, if I had only avoided that mist, then I would have been able to help him. I could have fended off his attacker. I could...

Sobs break through my stoic exterior as I cradle the bloody mess that once was the boy who unintentionally led me to caring again. He helped me out of my darkness, but I wasn't there to help him. I would say so many things. "I am sorry", "It's all my fault," "You didn't deserve it," and so many more. But I know it won't help. It won't do anything for him. I was just too late, and "sorry" could never make up for it.

Who did this? Not Clarice, she was with me. Couldn't have been Chris, Anne, or Tristan either. They'd have blown up if they did this. That leaves five possible candidates. Five people to kill. I'll get them all, if I don't figure out who did it. I'll kill them all.

A thought strikes me. A terrible one.

Who could have gotten this close to Misha? Who would have been able to get his guard down? Take his weapon? There's only one person who could. One person. God, I knew she wasn't to be trusted! She did this. She did this!


Alana Salazar (1:25 P.M)

For the last hour, I've been wandering in what feels like to be one giant circle. No matter where I go, which direction I take, I always find myself back at the same tree.

I sigh, stopping beside this tree. I know it's the same because I marked it the third time I stumbled past it. The smooth bark of the tree is smeared with some juice I found from berries. I've seen it too many times now.

"How is this happening...?" I've gone different ways every time. I know I have. But then why do I keep winding up back here? It doesn't make sense. Nothing on this island makes sense!

I haven't even given any thought as to why Mr. White kidnapped us all, and how he chose us twenty-four in particular. There's a reason, I know there is. But what is it?

I rub at my eyes as my vision goes all blurry again. It seems to have been happening a lot recently. Ever since...since what? I can't seem to remember. Something to do with noon...Mr. White's announcement? What was that again? I don't remember.

I head back to my walking, trying to find...what was it again? I don't recall. Something. I want to find something. What was it?

Shrugging my worries aside, I step out into a wide street. Massive buildings surround me on all sides. Directly behind me, a gigantic tower juts from the ground, extending towards the sky like a spear.

This is a big city. What is it? New York? Washington? Chicago? It's definitely not Los Angeles. But where is it?

"This doesn't make any--"

My words die in my throat as I round a corner onto a wide road, basking in sunlight reflected from the tall glass buildings around me. It was bright and warmly lit.

And bathed in blood.

Small bodies, diminished by being dismembered and strewn across the ground, are everywhere. A couple were seated in front of buildings, their throats slit and their blood staining the glass windows. One body was lacking any limbs, arms and legs having been brutally hacked off it's torso. It's the first girl to die, Nora. It's hard to tell, because her face has been sliced beyond recognition, but I recognize the hair. Oh, I wish I didn't, but I recognize her.

"God help me..."

I don't know what else to say. This level of carnage is unfathomable. Unthinkable. What kind of person would do this? There's so much blood...These people weren't still alive when this happened, where they?

A faint squelching has me jerking my head up, fingers flying for my blowgun, a flimsy excuse for a weapon. But it's only one of the bodies, slowly sliding back to the ground, leaving a trail of smeared blood across the window.

Don't look. Stop looking. Just keeping moving. Keep moving and don't look.

Easier said than done. The viscera smudges under my feet, turns my shoes red with the spilled blood. I tremble as I hear my foot squish down onto something soft and moist.

Don't think about it. Don't think about it!

One building sticks out the most. It sits smack dab in the middle of the street, it's wide, open doorways flanked by two more rotting corpses. Jotaro and Haviana. I try not to recognize them, but I do. Haviana has a pair of knives driven into her eye sockets.

I gag as I step pass the bodies and into the building.

Inside, it is terrible. Bloody, gore-filled carnage greets me. Once, this place would have been beautiful, with it's navy blue, embroidered carpets, and ornate gilded structures. A large fountain, statues shaped like dolphins and mermaids all around, sits in the center of the room. Yes, once this place would have been beautiful.

It's beautiful no longer.

Bodies are everywhere, littering the floor, hanging from the ceiling, and even clogging the fountain. Blood and viscera stain the carpet, giving it a darker, more menacing hue. The fountains water has turned crimson with blood, and bits of flesh float about at the surface. The stench in the air is so bad, I pull my shirt up to cover my face.

More familiar bodies fill this place. Nic lies not more than a few feet from the entrance, his body propped in a chair, sitting at a small, round table. His sightless eyes stare back at me.

I feel like screaming. Crying. Who did this? could have the cruelty and time to do this? Tears building in my eyes, I look up and see yet another horrifying sight.

Hanging from a large cross that dangles by rope from the crystal chandelier, Misha is crucified. Knives stick out from every point of his body, making him appear to be covered in spikes. An extra pair of arms are tied to his torso, and the tip of a spear protrudes from his forehead, giving the appearance of a horn.

"This....This is..."

There are no words to describe the horror. The devastation, destruction, and death. Nothing can sum up the sheer brutality on display here. Nothing.

I turn and sprint for the doorway, tripping over the body of Nero, but quickly recovering and rushing out the door into the sunny street outside.

Instead, I find myself in a fog-filled forest.


Wasn't I just in a city? How did I get here? Where did the bloodsoaked street go? I blink twice, whipping my head around to see what's around me. And the I see him.

Standing in the midst of the fog, thin fingers wrapped around a snaking knife as he stares at me with a look of pure shock.

Sami Bitar is as confused to see me as I am to see him. For a few long seconds, I just stare at him, wondering if he could possibly be the one who had killed all those poor kids. Then he's running at me, and I only have time to scream once before he tackles me the ground.

We hit the ground hard. A jolt of pain tingles up my arm as all our weight lands on it, then we're rolling. Sami is trying to strike me in the face with his knife, but I manage to grasp his wrists with my hands as our rolling comes to a stop at the base of a tree.

"Get off me!"

I knee Sami hard in the gut, then wrench him to the side. He falls off me, giving me the prime opportunity to get up and run.

I give a sharp intake of breath as Sami's knife clips my calf, then I'm sprinting through the woods, seeking shelter.

Typically, I'd have nothing to fear from Sami. But with that twist...

I hear him crashing through the woods behind me, gaining ground. I'm fast, but so is he. Panick pinballs in my ribcage as I take a sudden right turn, hoping to throw him off my trail. Surely he won't chase me too far?

I duck behind a tree after about three minutes of constant running. My breathing is hard and laborious. Will Sami hear it?

Seconds pass, then minutes. Is he coming? Briefly I entertain the notion of climbing the tree for a better vantage point, but then I quickly realize that this would just make me a much more visible target.

Wait. Just wait and see.

I feel blood on my leg and I touch the cut Sami gave me. It's superficial. It's not deep, and it barely hurts. Still, a wound is a wound. I should be careful with it.

A rustling noise draws my attention and my head snaps up as a boy comes lurching out of the darkness. He's tall and broad-shouldered, with short blonde hair and blue eyes. One of his muscular arms is draped across his stomach, holding in his--

God! He's been stabbed!

Fear takes ahold of me and I watch nervously as the boy inches through the woods, occasionally moaning with pain.

He's Tristan, the boy ranked #3. That was a good thing most days, but it's a bad thing today. But...he's so strong and is usually ranked higher. Maybe I could team with him? He could be an asset to me, with his strength and my cunning, we could be a deadly combination.

Of course, I'd need to find some way to fix that stab wound. Ir won't be easy, but we could--

Something moves in the thicket. Unbeknownst to Tristan, a shape emerges from the bushes. A small, lithe, familiar shape.


He kept up with me! Somehow, someway, he managed to stay with me! And now he has Tristan in is crosshairs. The tall boy is completely oblivious to the danger as he continues plodding onwards, feet dragging as he advances. Sami stalks him silently, shifting the knife in his hand so that the tip is facing forward.

Should I warn Tristan? He could potentially fend Sami off if I--

Sami strikes without warning.

He shoots forward, quickly closing the gap between the two, and slams his knife straight into the center of Tristan's back.

The boy yells out in pain as he falls, face thumping into the forest floor, then there's silence as Sami rips the blade back out, staring at the dead boy with haunted eyes.

I turn and run. As I do so, my datapad begins ringing. I don't pause to look at it. I don't slow down. Sami followed me this far, will he continue to do so? I don't know. There's so much I don't know.

Minutes of frantic running flies by, then I spot a tree with low-hanging branches and I hurl myself at it. I clawfor a grip as I haul myself up, searching a higher perch. I scale so high that I surpass the fog, reaching the very tip of the tree where beautiful, pure sunlight shines down onto my face.

Sami won't follow me here. He can't. He can't possibly find me. I'm safe here. Safe.

With this newfound feeling of safety, I take the time to check my datapad and see who has died so far today. Tristan's face is slotted in at the tenth slot, and his death makes it three on the day. Justine and Misha both have already fallen.

All three of them were ranked high. The lower Challengers are clearly taking advantage of the their brief advantage. Sami was living proof of that.

This could be very bad for me, however. With all the high-ranking Challengers dying, and the lower ones getting the kills...they will all move up tomorrow, and I will stay down at the bottom. Possibly the lowest ranking.

Yes, this day has gone very, very badly for me.

Oreo Dutton (2:30 P.M)

Everything is bright and cheerful, vibrant and shiny. The sun has a face. This face smiles at me, wishing me a good day as I frolic through the tulips and laugh along with the daisies.

What a wonderful place this is!

The forest is rife with wonderful smells, from the fresh wind of a meadow, to the baking bread of a far off window. I don't know where this bread is being made, but I do know that it is being made. And it tastes great.

Somehow I know that too.

Fruit grows everywhere as I skip down the old dirt road, between the rows of apple trees as they grow close together. Bright, shiny red apples glisten on the glistening green leaves, inviting me to come and take a bite.

But I don't need to take one of those, because I have some of them right here with me. Two bright red apples are clipped onto my belt, their sweet scents wafting up to me. My mouth waters as I unclip one, turning it over in my hand as I stroke it's side.

Slowly I raise it to my mouth to take a bite.

The world shatters.

Everything splits down the line, as if made from glass that has just been punched. Crackes stretch across my vision, thick black lines running from end to end. Throbbing pain strikes my head and I bend over, gasping for breath.

Everything changes. The meadow is gone, flowers non-existent. The sun is hidden behind clouds, out of sight. And the apple in my hand is not an apple.

It's a grenade.

Hastily, I shove the thing back into my belt, not wanting to think about what might have happened had I taken a bite out of it. A cold wind blows past as I finish this, and I look around at the forest, feeling queasy.

What just happened to me? Nothing good, that's for sure. Everything was so...unreal. Squeezing my eyes shut tight, I try to reorient myself. What was I doing? Where was I going? I don't even remember where I was before that bout of...ecstasy.


My datapad comes to life with a flurry of beeps and I look down to see Mr. White lounging against a desk. The crazed man is still dressed entirely in white, and his gloved hands wave mockingly at the screen.

"Hello, Challengers! Enjoying your day so far? Many of you have been dealing with the aftereffects of the native tribes magical mist, I know. Some of you probably saw what the tribe called the "Guardian". It's meant to protect this...realm...from those who are unworthy to access it."

What is he blabbing about? Realm? Guardian? I know what the mist is, but the rest is complete gobbledygook.

"If you're asking yourself, "What's the Guardian?", then you've obviously not seen the thing. So, congrats on that, my hearty fellows!" Mr. White goes still, his sunglasses perched high on his nose as he peers into the camera. He seems...lost in thought. "Which of...patterns...indeed..."

I barely catch that last part. His indistinct mutters are intelligible, even the parts I do understand. Suddenly, he looks up. Though I can't see his eyes, I get the impression that they are gleaming.

"Try to control your surroundings, dear Challengers. With the mist, not all you see is real. Even without it, you can control it. If you concentrate hard enough. I'm looking forward to it. Truly, I am.

"But before I get carried away, I'd like you all to turn your attention to the skies. As of right now, several airdrops are slowly making their descent. Claim one if you can. Your competition won't be addled by the fog forever."

The screen clicks off. Feeling utterly befuddled, I glance toward the sky and almost squeal with delight. For coming down right above is a pure white parachute.

How many did he say there were? Five? What are the odds that one comes down right upon me? And with everyone else so addled with the mist. This is a golden opportunity!

Giddy laughter takes me as I wait for the parachute to land, and when it does, I flip the trunk open to find a small backpack inside.

Excitement not diminished, I pick the thing up and fling it over my back. No time to open it. Another Challenger could already be headed this way. I'm not about to let someone take my prize from me.

With the drop secured, I sprint away from the crate, running through the mist. I never stop to think that, maybe, this isn't a good idea. I just know I need to be clear of this place before anyone else arrives.

Then a fence appears ahead of me, elaborately decorated and shrouded in fog. Behind it, a pair large buildings loom. I know what the place is from previous deaths shown on the datapad. The resort.

The place looks so creepy, shrouded in this fog. But I know that I need to enter. The possibility of shelter and supplies is too great to ignore.

I ignore the chill that creeps up my spine as I make my way into the resort, entering through a wrought-iron gate. I remember to check my prize and kneel down to do so now. The small backpack I've received turns out not to be anything contains a packet of dry crackers, a canteen to hold water, a flashlight, and an extra pair of socks.

Socks. Why would I need socks? You know what, never mind. I don't want to know.

For awhile, I just wander, allowing my feet to take me away as my mind drifts off from the horrors I've experienced these past few days. Has really only been a few days? It feels like months have passed...almost a year, even.

At one point my mind goes back to the fact that, earlier today, my datapad had came to life with several long rings, but I don't look down to check the casualties now. I just keep on walking, ignoring the protest of my tired limbs.

When I get to the edge of the resort, I am met with a tall iron fence. Obviously this is the end of the resort grounds. I walk along it for awhile, headed in the direction of the beach. As I round the corner of the building, I nearly trip over a body.

I give a short gasp and stumble backwards. It is the boy ranked #11--Umbreon. He's passed out on the ground, face pale and haggard. He looks really sick. Is it because of that fog and its aftereffects? I kneel beside him and give a light tap on his shoulder. "Hey..." I whisper. I don't fear that he will harm me. He's too sick for that.

He doesn't respond. I stand up, wondering if I should just leave him or not. I don't think there's anything I can do for him...

I decide to hang around and see if he will wake up. Imogen was a nice person, after all. Whose to say this boy isn't as well? However, after I spend several long minutes just sitting here with no change in his posture, I decide to just leave him be.

I enter the nearest building through a side door. The interior of the building is nearly empty, and quite desolate. I pass through until I find some sinks, which I try and am surprised to find out work. I quickly fill my canteen up and then tuck it back inside my backpack. I check all the pantries too, but they're empty. The fridge is almost completely bare as well, only holding a hunk of raw meat that I take. Figuring out how to cook it will have to come later.

Others must have already cleared these buildings out. I locate a staircase near the back of the building and ascend. I'm not too hopeful in finding anything else, but I have to look anyways.

Just as I reach the top of the staircase, I look out the window and see something that nearly makes my heart stop.

A trio of dogs--large, heavily muscled things with dark brown pelts--are making their way down the path I had just come. They trot forward with their ears perked and mouths hanging open. Each of them has a set of razor-sharp teeth.

I had forgotten all about these creatures. Mr. White's fog had erased them from my mind. But now they're back, and as dangerous as ever.

My first instinct is to hide, but then I remember Umbreon, passed out right outside the door. I bolt down the steps and burst outside. The footsteps of the hunters are drawing nearer. 

I grip Umbreon by his shirt and shake him roughly. "Wake up! Wake up!" I hiss desperately. "You have to get moving!"

Almost immediately his eyes snap open and he whips his head around, confused. "What's going on?" He asks groggily, not even affected by my presence as he reaches for his head.

"The dogs are coming." I whisper. Then, as he looks around in sudden fright, I turn and run away as fast as I can.

Umbreon Martell (2:45 P.M)

Oreo departs almost as soon as she arrived. Her warning words echo in my ears even as she disappears from sight, running as fast as her legs will take her. The dogs are coming. The words throb in my ears, filling me with panic as I pull myself up. The dogs are coming.

I break into a run just as the sound of excited barking comes from behind me. The dogs have rounded the corner and spotted me fleeing. I risk a look over my shoulder and see them sprinting after me, growling and hollering with ridiculously sharp teeth glistening in their mouths.

I pick up the pace.

I run blindly, as fast as my ill body will go. Dark spots flood my vision, making it difficult to see my surroundings. My head is pounding unbearably, my arms shaking uncontrollably. I feel like I'm about to pass out at any second. But the threat of death pumps adrenaline into my body and I run like I've never run before.

The fence, the entrance to the resort grounds, suddenly looms ahead. Deep despair grips my heart until I see that the gate is wide open. Oreo must have sped out this way.

As I blast by the gate, I swing a hand out and slam it shut behind me. It will slow them down. Not for long, but it will slow them down. Why did the gate have to open outwards?

I slip into the forest and nearly trip and fall over every root and twig. The world seems to be spinning, spinning like a carousel. Round and round and round. I stumble and only avoid falling by slamming into a tree. Then I'm back up and running again.

I break out onto the beach, and I'm suddenly aware of where I am. The small island on the coastal shelf hangs in the distance. A sense of familiarity and sadness washes over me. Why is that? I can't remember. What happened to Tristan and Justine? Why aren't they with me? I don't remember that either. I don't remember anything about this day.

I find myself making a beeline for the island.

My breaths come in short gasps, and my stomach feels like it's about to explode its contents all over. But I push on.

The dogs are gaining ground, and fast. I can hear their howls just behind me. I crash into the water, waves lapping at my thighs as I struggle towards the island. That's my help. My only chance.

Somehow, someway, I manage to reach the island. But so do they. I'm only a few steps on the sand when teeth slashe across my back. I scream with pain as I feel two gashes forming. I whip around, arms flailing. I'm not going to run. I'm going to fight.

But I have no chance.

I shove one of the dogs away just as the biggest one throws himself at me, easily knocking me down. The giant hound pins me to the ground, while I struggle futility, screaming my head off. Then it raises it's vicious head and with one swift, deft motion, sinks it's teeth into my throat.

Blood gurgles down my lips as I attempt to breath through my mangled throat. My eyes are wide and unseeing. My life seems to flash through my mind. I see everyone I've ever loved, all of them now lost to me. Espeon...I'm sorry... I can only think one thing as I close my eyes and let the hounds escort me to death.

Anne Bellhope (5:47 P.M)

I trudge through the forest, eyes half-shut from fear and exhaustion. All day I've seen nightmares. The worst things possible. Things dredged up from the very deep recesses of humanity, things I never wish to see again.

And Monzaroc.

So much Monzaroc.

I've watched him kill Alisent. Over and over and over again. Each time more brutal then the last. Each time laughing at me as I desperately sought to rescue my friend, to save her from that maniacs grasp.

I never did.

Eventually, I decided that since I couldn't save Alisent, I should just kill her and put her out of her misery before Monzaroc could harm her more. I did so. Many times..

I don't know how long these visions played out, but it's dusk now, and I started seeing Monzaroc around noon.

Almost six hours of torture. Of watching my best friends killer do the same thing over and over. Six hours of nightmares.

And I don't even know if it was real. Or if I'm just going insane.

It shouldn't have been real. There was no way it could have been real. But it felt real. Everything I did seemed real. And once, when I attempted to save Alisent from Monzaroc, he cut my arm with a razor.

That cut is still there. It burns my arm with pain, it stings when I touch it. All the evidence says that it is real.

Then if the cut is real, does that mean the rest was too?

No, A small voice speaks in the back of my head as I trapise through the forest, the ground beneath my feet sloping upwards. Don't be absurd. Alisent is dead. She's been dead for months. And Monzaroc is not here. He's more than a hundred miles from this place.

But if the things I saw weren't real--and they were not--then that means I imagined them all.

That means I'm insane.

The trees around me begin to thin as I walk between two solid oaks, emerging onto what appears to be an old dirt path that winds its way up a steep hill. Fog stifles the air around me, cloaking the trees in its grey tendrils. In the distance, a faint spinning light shines through the fog.

With a sigh, I drop to the dirt, rubbing calloused hands through my dirty, knotted hair. These last six hours have been worse then anything else I have experienced on this island. Fighting to the death with other teenagers was nothing compared to this. Then, I at least knew that I was sane.

But now I'm not. Now I'm no different than Mr. White.

"Is this what you wanted?" I whisper to him, staring at the palm of my hands. They're covered with dirt and blood. The blood is Alisent's. But if she wasn't real--and she was NOT--then I don't know whose it is. "Did you want us all to become as insane as you?"

He's succeeding. How many of us still hold onto our sanity? How many of us have avoided murdering another person just because some guy told us too? We're all murderers now. Mr. White's perfect little dolls.

I laugh. I sit here in the dirt and laugh. I laugh until my voice goes hoarse, then I laugh some more.

I thought that I was strong. When I killed Johanna, I thought that I was in prime position to win this game. I was wrong. No one will win this game. The game cannot be won.

How could I have been so stupid? I should have seen it before. Mr. White ensures that no one can win, because winning would require not becoming what he wants us to be. And we've already become that. We've already played right into his white hands.

"You can't tell me what to do!"

A voice rips through the desolate silence. It echoes through the fog, eerily loud and equally insane. It seems to be coming from further up the path.

I stand, taking two knives from my belt. I can't win, but that doesn't matter. I can still make sure that Monzaroc dies. Maybe if I survive this, Mr. White might even be able to help with that.

I stalk up the path, silent as a ghost. Shrouded in the fog. The voice continues to yell, to scream. It sounds insane. It's a guy, but I don't know who. Doesn't matter. He'll die.

The source of the flickering light becomes apparent as I step onto the plateau of the cliff. Surrounded on both sides by a cliff--the right extending down to the beach and the left presenting a sheer drop into the churning ocean below--a tall lighthouse ascends into the sky, it's circling light turned on.

"I had no choice! I had to kill you! I had to!"

The source of the screaming is also here. Chris kneels just outside the door of the lighthouse, large hands clutching his head as he spasms in place, his face contorted with fear and insanity. Weapons litter the ground all around him, a sword, an axe, a spear, even a bow. Where did he get so many weapons?

"Go away! Just go! You can't tell me what's right! I know what's right!" The boy points a finger forward, extending it towards a spot of empty air. "You had to die! Everyone had to! NO. I don't care about your name! Go away, Bree, go away!"

So. I'm not the only one going insane. Odd how that's a comforting thought. Regardless, he needs to die. I slowly raise one of my knives, charting the perfect course for Chris' skull.

"Stop telling me what to do! Why does everyone always tell me what to do? At home, here, everywhere! I just want to be myself. Go away, GO AWAY!"

The boy bolts to his feet, flinging a dagger forward. It slices through the air then sails over the edge of the cliff, splashing harmlessly into the ocean far below. "Please, go away! Leave me alone!"

Tears streak down his face as his hands cover his ears. He kneels on the ground, shaking his head and screaming. I hesitate with my throw. Is it right to kill him? Maybe. He clearly needs to be put out of his misery.

Before I can a move, however, Chris looks up and spots me. His blue eyes widen even further.

"You!" He screams the word, frantically climbing to his feet and picking up his bow. "I-I didn't kill you! I know I didn't! I didn't kill you, not like the others!"

The others? Has the people he's been screaming at been his victims?

"I didn't kill you! Why are you here? LEAVE ME ALONE!"

In a shocking display of clarity, he pulls an arrow from his quiver and knocks it to his bow. This he points at me. Or tries to. His hands tremble so much that the bow sways erratically.

"Why are you here? Go away!"

He'll miss. If he shoots, he'd never hit me with that much shaking. I pull my arm back for a good toss of the knife, then something hits me.

The rankings. I'm #1. But wasn't there a twist? What was the twist? I can't remember. What was the twist?

In my hesitation, Chris shoots.

His arrow starts off flying straight, but then it dips to the left.

And pierces my thigh.

I scream as the bloodstained arrowhead emerges from the other side of my thigh. My hands grasp at it as Chris throws his bow to the ground, still screaming his head off. "Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!"

Frantically he claws at his face with his hands then, in throwing himself back towards the lighthouse, he slams his head into the side of the building. With a loud Thud! he collapses to the ground like a sack of stones.

Chest heaving with pain, I snap the head of the arrow off and pull the shaft free from my thigh. Blood pools out from the gap it created in my pants. I blink my eyes shut twice, trying not to concentrate on the pain. It can be overcome. It must be overcome.

A few moments pass before I force myself to stand, gritting my teeth against the pain. Chris lies motionless on the ground. Dead or unconscious, I don't care. I can still take his stuff.

I take a few steps forward when something beneath my feet shifts and a cloud of dust and pebbles slides down the side of the cliff. Wobbling, I take one more step before I slide off after it.

I hit the side hard. Spinning, jostling, tumbling. Rocks and twigs scrape and claw at my skin as I slam against the steep hill. Everything is a blur. The cut on my arm widens, and I feel fresh blood pour from it. Am I about to die? Just as I have this thought, I hit the ground.


I lie on hard-packed sand, unable to breathe. My breath has been knocked out of me as I lie here, staring up at the cloudy sky. Everything hurts. But I'm alive.

With a groan I roll over on the sand and see that I'm a few feet away from the cliff, just narrowly avoiding the jagged rocks beneath it. So. I'm lucky, then. Odd. I don't feel lucky. I feel very unlucky.

If I had only been a bit more careful, then I wouldn't have slipped and all of Chris' supplies would have been mine. Stupid. What a stupid mistake.

My leg feels as stiff as a board as I rise, cautiously checking my wounds. The gash on my arn is clotted with dried blood and dirt. It looks bad, but it doesn't seem like it will be dangerous to be. Just a thorn in my side.

The spot where the arrow hit me is different. The wound is small, but it hurts like hell every time I move and severely hampers my speed. I won't be winning any foot races anytime soon.

Still, I should be thankful that I'm not dead. And that the nightmares have stopped. God. Those nightmares. I shudder as I stumble towards the woods, eager to be away from this beach and back to somewhere that makes sense.

Oreo Dutton (9:25 P.M)

Darkness presses in on me from all sides. The only light is straight ahead of me, a bright beam of light that cuts through the gloom and fog, revealing the path ahead of me. I follow it with shaky steps.

I've been on edge ever since my escape from the resort, always checking over my shoulder and jumping at the slightest sound. Danger lurks in these woods. You never know where it hides, but it can always find you.

An owl hoots overhead and I freeze. Stop doing that! I silently berate myself. It's just an owl! It won't hurt you!.

Unless it's some sort of monster owl.

I shiver at the thought. Just a week ago I'd have called the very idea ridiculous, but now I'm not so sure. Mr. White has done other things I'd never think to be real, why not monster owls?

The path ahead of me curves to the right and I follow it swiftly, jumping slightly as the end of my pants brush against some bushes that grow close. Every little noise frightens me. I remember a time when it didn't. I wish it still didn't.

What time is it? I scan the sky for a clue, but of course it's too dark to tell. Even if I could see it through the thick bank of fog, I wouldn't be able to tell. I'm not a survivalist. I'm use to the comforts of the city, where you never had to worry about getting lost or getting attacked by monster owls.

Of course, my datapad shows the time. But I refuse to check. I don't want to see his face again. Be reminded of my failure.

I had only been gone from the resort for a few minutes before the ringing announced another death. I saw his face. My warning was too late. I didn't help him. I let him die. Just like Nora. I left him to die so I could live.

I think of the poor boy, screaming in terror as the dogs closed in on him. Their teeth digging into his--


I won't think of it. I won't! Better not to. There's no point. No point. Better to continue on. Continue walking, don't stop. There's still the possibility that--

Ahead of me, a figure stumbles out from the forest and into my flashlights beam. Their head whips up to look at me, their eyes widen in fear. I open my mouth. Not to scream. But to shout a greeting.


I never thought that I'd see her again. I was terrified that she would die before I found her, or vice-versa. But now! Now we're together again!

I only take two steps forward before she throws her hands out, screaming. "Stay away! D-don't come any c-closer!"

I screech to a halt. What's wrong? I can't see her face in such low light, but she seems frazzled. "Imogen? What's wrong? It's me, Oreo!"

She blinks, speaking rapidly. "Th-that's what they all say! All the time! I-I've seen this happen too often!"

Understanding begins to dawn on me. She's been inflicted with the mist as well! "Imogen, it's okay," I speak softly, trying to reassure her. "You're confused. The mist has been messing with your mind. You haven't seen me today, until now."

The girl hesitates, then shakes her blonde head. "M-maybe it wasn't you, but it was an Oreo."

"She's gone now. It's gone. You're safe!" As safe as anyone can be on this island, at least. "You don't need to worry. You're fine."

Imogen seems to believe me, the tension fading from her body as she darts forward to wrap me in a shoulder-jerking hug. "I'm not fine! I-I k-killed Misha! I killed him!"

A flood of words come gushing out. She tells me about her alliance with Tori and Misha, mentions their uneasy peace. Talks about how Tori distrusted her. And how the mist effected her.

"I-I didn't know it was him! Nothing made sense!" Tears streaming down her face, she tells me how she saw the Guardian Mr. White mentioned. But when she hacked it to death with an axe, it wasn't the Guardian at all.

It was Misha.

This revelation leaves me feeling cold. This mist has done more than just lead people onto trippy dreams, it's killed someone. It made Imogen kill. Not just someone. Her friend.

"Tori will be torn apart!" Imogen's words are barely understandable through her sobbing. "She would never admit it, but she loved him. I could tell. And I killed him!"

"Shh. It's okay, it's okay." I stroke her hair as she cries into my shoulder. Every new bit of information makes me feel worse. Tori will come for us. If she learns what happened, she'll come for us.

"Mr. White will show it," Imogen sobs. "Tori will see it in detail. And she won't know it was an accident. She'll come to kill me!"

"Then she'll have to get through me."

I don't care what she's done. Imogen is my friend. She helped me when I was alone. I will not abandon her now. If someone wants her dead, they'll have to see me dead too.

"She will," Imogen pulls away from me, wiping her tears away with her sleeve. "She'll be able to kill us both."

"Not when I have these." I pull my belt loose, showing off the my remaining two grenades. Imogen's eyes widen at the sight of them and she asks where I got such a thing. "An airdrop. I got lucky."

Imogen points out that Tori will, in all probability, be ranked higher than both of us. That worries me, but I already have a solution. "I doubt grenades count as directly killing someone. I mean, it's not me physically killing them, right?"

"Right." Imogen still sounds doubtful, but her tears have begun to dry. That's all I can ask for.

We spend some time catching each other up with what transpired since the last time we met. It seems she's been having more encounters then I have. I suppose that's a good thing, but there's a reason why she's consistently ranked higher than I am. Sometimes it's odd to think that Misha and Tori had aligned with her. Those two had tried to kill me, back when I was in just a towel.

We walk as we talk, me leading the way with my flashlight. The fog isn't as thick as it was before. It seems to finally be fading. "Things lurk in the shadows," Imogen mutters as we walk. She's still not completely over the effects of the mist, apparently.

Hours pass. Eventually we decide that we will need to find somewhere to spend the night, but just as we begin to discuss this, a familiar sight appears out of the darkness. A house.

We're back at suburbia.

"No way!" Imogen shakes her head as I suggest that we bunker down in one of the houses. "I'm never returning to that place. Never!"

"Why not?" I try to hold back my annoyance as she tries to tug me away from the white picket fences. "There will be beds. And a roof over our heads. It will be comfortable." And warm. It's more than a little chilly in these woods, even fully clothed.

"No. I'm not going." Imogen is firm with her decision. I sigh. The streetlights along the streets shine with a welcoming glow, and one of the houses--I frown. Does that house have its lights on?

When I ask Imogen, she shrugs. "Someone could have left it on. Might have been the house that...that Tori and I were in this morning." She excludes Misha's name. I can understand why.

"Or it could be someone else hiding there," I say softly. If it is, perhaps it's wise not to venture into their territory.

"Maybe. Or it could be Tori, trying to draw me--"

The ringing of our datapads interrupt the conversation. There's a whistling sound as Imogen has a sharp intake of breath. "Misha. He's going to show Misha!" Once again she buries her face in my shoulder as the screen transitions to show Justine being stabbed in the back by Umbreon as she strangles Tristan. So the boy had killed someone. But it was in defence of his friend.

I try not to think about how I failed him as the screen goes to show Tristan wandering the woods moments before Sami leaps out and puts a blade between his shoulders. Then it's time for Misha. Imogen is silently sobbing as the screen flickers on.

I hold onto hope that she was wrong, that the creature wasn't Misha. That it was something else.

It's not.

It's Misha.

From an overhead angle, I watch as Imogen takes an axe to him. Misha shouts at first, begs for Imogen to stop. But she doesn't. Her axe continues to land against him, until finally his shouting fades. Transforms into moans as each swing of the axe makes him closer to being nothing more than a bloody chunk of clothing.

Then, without warning, the screen transitions to show Umbreon as a pack of dogs take him down.

A sob rises in my throat as I take my turn to hide my face in Imogen's shoulder. Umbreon...I didn't know him, but I tried to save him. And failed. His death is my fault. My fault.

He was just like Nora.

I don't know how long we sit here, sobbing in the darkness, but eventually Mr. White's voice grabs my attention. I look up, wiping my eyes, and see the man as he reclines in a crimson armchair, eyes concealed by those sunglasses as he smiles at us.

"I hope you all enjoyed the lower ranked Challengers being on top, for that has now ended. Starting tomorrow, when the Rankings return, everything will return to normal."

There goes any semblance of power that I had.

"Also, and listen carefully because this is important, tomorrow there will be four spots on the island that contain a passageway into the underground tunnels that crisscross under this island. On your datapads there will be a tracker that will show you how close to one of the passageways you are. It will be your job to use this knowledge to locate said passageways."

"What is he talking about?" Imogen sniffs, finally raising her head to look. I don't respond. What is he talking about?

"But I should warn you," Mr. White leans forward with a particularly ghoulish grin. "These passageways can only be opened when there are two Challengers present. Just finding the passageway will be ineffective. You need someone with you--an ally, perhaps--to be with you for the doors to open. Otherwise, you will not be able to enter."

Imogen squeezes my elbow. "There's two of us," She whispers. "We can open it!"

I nod slowly. Yes, we can. But why do we want to?

"The tracker goes live at noon, along with the new rankings," Mr. White continues on. "You will have exactly twelve hours to locate another Challenger, find a passageway and descend into the tunnels. If any Challenger has not descended by midnight, then I will detonate their collar."

A cold breeze ruffles my face. A strand of hair blows across my nose. Detonation...I was with Lucas when he died. When he...

"We need to find a passageway," Imogen breathes nervously. "We need to!"

I nod. If we don't...Better not to think about it. There's two of us. All we need to do is find the doors. It should be easy. We have a tracker, after all. Easy.

Then why do I feel so worried?

"Get a good nights rest, dear Challengers," Mr. White says with a smirk. "Because tomorrow may be your most important day yet."

Day 7/ Six Feet Under

Clarice Barron (6:02 A.M)

The island is still bathed in darkness when I wake up. There is no natural light. The sun has not yet risen, but the moon has disappeared. The only light at all comes from the lighthouse on the cliff above me, the lighthouse that serves as beacon for all.

I need to find someone to become my ally. I don't really have anything else that needs to be done. I need an ally. And perhaps I can take someone else's ally away at the same time.

The tracker goes live at noon. Noon is still a long way off. But I can still get an ally before. I need to get an ally before then.

I freeze as a bright red light flares up into the sky over the forest. An airdrop. Well, that shows the location of someone. Possibly multiple someone's. I'll go check that out, but I have something else that needs doing first.

I slip my night-vision goggles over my head, the darkness instantly evaporating as everything takes on a sickly green glow. I can see. I doubt anyone else can. That's my advantage.

The forest is dead silent as I head into it, searching for the path that will take me up the cliff. Twigs crackle under my feet as I walk. My breath fills my ears. So silent. Are there any animals on this island? I can't recall if I ever saw any before. I think I did. But thoughts can be deceiving.

I remember what Mr. White spoke about last night. Or more of what he showed me. That white mist had effected many of the other Challengers, but not me. I was never hit with the blast. That was an advantage I had yesterday, but I hope it's an advantage that carries over for today.

It takes some time, but I do manage to find the old, dirt path that runs up the side of the cliff along the winding path. Instead of taking the path itself, I stick to the shadows just off the side of it. No one will see me approaching unless they're really searching.

A little more than an hour passes by the time I actually reach the lighthouse. By then the sun has finally risen, the first tendrils of light reaching through the cloudy sky and basking the island in an orangeish glow.

My vision begins to fragment and I take off my goggles with a soft curse. Stupid sun should have stayed down longer. No matter. The lighthouse is right here.

I run my fingers along the side of my trident, wondering if I should sneak in or wait for someone to come out. I know that someone is inside. That's obvious. Well, guess I should take the obvious route.

I approach the doors, taking very little effort to hide myself as I do so. My hand reaches for the door, testing the knob.

It's locked.

"Damn." I mutter under my breath, sizing up the large door. Could I break it down? Possibly. But it would not only alert whoever is inside, but it would take me a lot of time. Time I don't have.

With a low curse, I realize that I have to think of a new plan.

"Wh-who's out there?" A voice calls out from behind the door. It's deep and masculine. Chris. "What do you want?"

"An alliance!" I react quickly. Thoughts race in my head a mile a minute. How to spin this to my advantage? "Everyone needs one to live." I wait, running my hands nervously over my trident. If I can't convince him...I wait for an answer.


Then a response.

"Maybe...Put your weapon down. Then you can enter." There's an uneasy tremor in his voice, as if he's not certain about anything that he's actually doing. I suppose he must have been effected by that mist from yesterday.

"Okay. I'm doing as you asked." I don't know if he can see me, but I don't want to take the chance that he can. I spin the trident around in my hands and slam the pointed end into the dirt. Chris can't hurt me, can he? The rankings are down right now. No one can kill...I think? How does this work? I really have no idea.

"I'm unlocking the door," Chris' voice sounds raw and hoarse, almost as if he's been shouting for a long time. He'll be shouting again soon.

I hear the latch click as it unlocks, then the door slowly opens. A beam of brighter light shines through the cracks, then Chris pokes his head in. "I didn't kill you," He says simply.

"No. You haven't." What? What is he even talking about? Of course he didn't kill me! "Are you going to let me in?"

"Maybe. That depends."

"On what?"

"On what I decide." His blue eyes regard me with a frosty glare. I resist the urge to poke them with my fingers. "I'm in charge around here."

I grind my teeth together. I do not like his attitude. Not one bit. "You need an ally," I say slowly. "And so do I. We're both here. See the sense?"

He nods. "Yes, but I can get anyone as an ally."

He can? "How? And why?" A frown crosses my face as I try to understand his reasoning--and seriously consider just forcing my way inside--about why he'd have his pick of allies.

"Because," He glances over his shoulder at something I can't see. "I'm pretty certain that one of the passageways is located here."

Well, now. That was a surprise I didn't see coming. Who'd have seen it? But my plan doesn't change. It's still a go.

"Then let me in, and we should be able to enter the tunnels before the tracker even goes live!"

The door opens. I honestly hadn't expected it to. Chris didn't seem like the trusting type. The large boy grimaces at me as I step inside, giving the boxes strewn across the room a suspicious stare. "Where's this supposed entrance?"

Chris points across the small round room, at a square gray box attached to the wall. "Inside that thing there's some sort of number pad."

I peer forward, scanning the inside of the box as I flip the lid open. There's a set of nine numbers, plus a small screen with enough room to show two numbers, if pushed. "Have you tried pressing one?"

Chris nods, carefully closing the door behind him. "No. I'm worried about what might happen if I put the wrong ones."

Probably a justified worry, considering what that asshole Mr. White likes to do. "So how do we suppose we open this?" I back away from the box, noticing for the first time all the weapons lying around the place. A spear, an axe, plus a quiver of arrows on Chris' back. Not to mention the machete hanging from a sheath at his side, and the sword in his hands. The guy is loaded with weaponry.

None of it will stop my plan.

"I was hoping that Mr. White will give some clues at noon," Chris says, lolling back against the side of the wall. "When the tracker goes live, I mean."

I don't respond. Slowly, I drift across the room towards the spiral staircase that leads up to the control room. I arch an eyebrow at Chris. "You turned the light on?"

He squints his eyes shut, then opens them. A quizzical look forms on his face. "I...don't remember. I-I can't really remember much from yesterday..." He pinches his nose, seemingly deep in thought.

I take this opportunity to strike.

I lunge towards the taller boy, grabbing the spear from the ground and whipping the side towards his head.

He ducks. The swing goes over his head, smacking into the side of the wall. The shock of the blow vibrates through my arms, and I drop the spear with a cry of surprise.

Chris shoots forward, his hand grabbing me around the throat and lifting me into the air. God! He's so strong! With a furious grunt, he slams me back into the wall. I feel my skull crack against the plaster and everything blurs.

"You think I didn't expect this?!" Chris is furious. He roars with anger, his voice echoing throughout the enclosed room like thunder. "Everyone has tried to kill me! The people I killed! Anne! Everyone! You think I didn't know?"

His fingers tighten around my throat. I suck the air in desperately, even as Chris' grip strangles me. Nothing had ever hurt so much.

As my vision unblurs, I stare into eyes of blazing ice. Chris' voice seems to coming from a distance as he continues to rave. "You fool. I'll keep you alive long enough to open the passageway, but then you're dead. You detestable fool!"

I can't die. Not here, not even later on. Mr. White still draws breath. No one else will kill him. I must. I need to.

Chris still shouts, screaming about how no one can control him. Black dots fuzz along the edge of my vision. Thoughts are hard to form. Mind fading. In a last ditch effort, I kick out with my legs.

Chris squeals in pained shock as my foot lands between his legs. In an instant, his grip is gone. Air returns to my lungs. I slump against the wall, sucking in the fresh, life giving air as Chris rolls on the ground in sheer pain. Idiot.

Regaining my feet, I snatch up the spear once more and as Chris hauls himself to his knees, I swing the thing like a staff.

The center connects with his head and he falls, eyes rolling up in his head from the force of the blow.

"Idiot!" I hiss the words, rubbing at my bruised throat. He had squeezed me hard. I'll kill him just for that. Though, I had planned to kill him anyways, if my plan worked perfectly. But now I'll be certain to kill him. Once I no longer need him, that is.

I fish around Chris' supplies and find a coil of rope, which I promptly use to tie the unconscious boy up like a trussed chicken. This done, I take a moment to catch my breath and think.

If Chris is correct, then there is a passageway here. I could just wait for noon and hope for instructions, or I could continue on with the rest of my original plan. Find another Challenger, return to the passageway, then just kill Chris so that there is no longer an even amount left. That way, another death is guaranteed.

Of course I'll choose the one giving me a better chance to win.

I take Chris' machete, planning to use it for myself. I leave the rest. I already have a trident, and I don't have any need to further encumber myself. Then I try to drag Chris along, but that doesn't work as planned.

"He's too damn heavy!" I swear loudly as I drop the limp boy to the ground, having gone only a few steps dragging him before my muscles gave out. Unconscious as he is, he's pretty much just dead weight. Dead weight that I really cannot afford to drag around the island with me.

I roll the boy into the corner of the room, quickly thinking up a new plan. I'll search for another Challenger by myself. If I find one, great, I'll bring them back here then kill Chris after opening the passageway. If I don't find one...Well, I'll return here and use Chris to open the passageway with me.

Then I'll kill him.

"There's no situation where you come out alive," I tell the unconscious boy as I exit the lighthouse, shutting the door behind me. The island spans before me, morning light spilling through the overcast sky. "Not a single frickin' one."

Oreo Dutton (11:35 A.M)

Even though I've been awake for hours, I'm still lying in the same place where I woke up. Imogen sits a few feet away from me, leaning back against a tree as she mutters to herself. It's almost noon. Soon the day will begin in earnest.

"You okay, Imogen?" I ask my friend as I rise up, stretching out my arms. I swear that no matter how much I moved about last night, a rock always managed to dig into my back.

She turns to stare at me with red eyes, but doesn't otherwise respond.

I bite my lip. I didn't think she'd just get over it in one night, not really, but I had hoped she'd recover somewhat. Though, she did kill someone she's known for years...I don't know how I'd react if that happened to me. I don't want to know how I'd react.

"Oreo?" I look up as Imogen says my name. She's taken to her feet, watching the sky with a tentative gaze.


"One of us is going to win this game. No one else. They can't win. Only me or you can win." Her face is set in a determined cast. No more sadness in her eyes. No more pity. Only sheer determination.

"Right." I wish I sounded more certain then I am. As certain as she seems. But I can't be. There's six others out there, six killers. They're all stronger than I am, smarter than I am. What chance do I have at besting them? Especially when "besting" means "killing".

"It wasn't my fault," Imogen continues, eyes still glued to the sky. "I didn't kill Misha. Mr. White did."

That's one way of looking at it. I guess, technically, Mr. White has killed all of the dead. But he also hasn't really killed any of us. I mean, if we had all agreed not to play his game from the very beginning, what would he have done? Blown all our heads off? He couldn't have done that. He wouldn't have had a game.

We gave him his game.

"The moment that trackers goes live," Imogen looks back at me, that determination still in her eyes. "We're going to find that passageway right away. We need to!"

"Yeah. Yeah, we do." We can't afford to wander around for extensive periods of time. The longer it takes to find a passage, the more chances of running into the others. Or of Tori finding us.

"One of us wins, Oreo." Imogen steps towards me, holding out a hand. "No one else. One of us. Promise me, Oreo. Promise me."

"I promise." The words sound hollow to me. Even if one of us wins, the other still dies. Why would I want that? Because I have no choice. None of us do. As long as one us plays the game, we all have to play.

Imogen grasps my hand and we shake on it. I feel cold as we both turn to the sky, which has finally been freed from the fog. Warm sunlight basks down onto our heads as we stare into the blueness overhead. Tori is still out there. She's probably already looking for us. I hope we find the passage before she finds us.

Ding! Ding!

The datapads begin to ring. The breath catches in my throat as Mr. White appears on the screen, sitting in his usual chair. Unusual however, is the fact that he looks oddly...disappointed?

"Hello, Challengers." He sounds less chipper then usual too. "Trying to find those passageways, I see. Well, soon you will have your chance to find them, but first...rankings."

"This could be our defining moment," Imogen says from my side. I nod, angling my arm away from my face, just in case Mr. White decides to use that mist again.

It doesn't come back, only the Rankings do. And I find myself near the very bottom, ranked #7 out of eight. I frown.

"This isn't very good," I say quietly.

"But I'm #3!" Imogen's expression has completely changed. Gone is the sad terror, now she is aglow with joy and hope. Well, maybe not so much joy and hope. Those are too strong of words. But she's not all depressed anymore, at least. "I'm safe from Tori! She can't harm me!" The girl does some sort of capering dance. She must have truly been worried about Tori.

"But Clarice and Anne can." I don't mean to be such a killjoy, but it's hard to be excited when you're ranked lower than pretty much everyone else. Oh. And you're trapped on an island where mostly everyone will die.

Before Imogen can get too upset, Mr. White speaks again. His pallid face stares right into the camera. "And as I promised you last night, the tracker will now go live. Use it well, and I will see you again. Fail to use it and, well, I shall never see you again. Goodbye, Challengers. Until you find the passageways..."

The screen clicks off.

Imogen turns to me. "How does the tracker work? And where is it? How are we supposed to--"

Our datapads buzz as the screen returns to life, this time showing a new image. There's a large green bar on the bottom, and above it sits a number and a percent sign. Right now, it's at 85%.

"What does it mean?" I find myself asking aloud. Is it some type of puzzle?

"I think..." Imogen trails off, then takes a few steps backwards, away from the suburbs. "Yes! It's the tracker! The numbers change when you move!"

"Huh." I follow my friend, backing away from the neighborhood. I'm forced to go at least twenty feet before my screen changes, only to flip from 85% to 84%. "Interesting."

That starts our chain of investigation. First off, we quickly realize that to find the passageways, we'll need to fill out the bar to 100%. At least, we think we do. It'd be strange if we had to take it down to zero, but then again, it would be just the kind of thing Mr. White would do.

Then we figure that with four different passageways, that there will be overlapped over each other. Meaning that while we get closer to one, it may also be taking us further from another. That could possibly mess with the numbers, and make finding the passages harder.

Thirdly, we learn that the closer we get to the neighborhood, the higher our numbers go.

"There's a passageway there," I say as my screen flickers to a 87%. I'm about twenty meters away from the nearest house. "Inside the neighbourhood."

Imogen pales.

"Not there! Anywhere but there!"

I don't share her fear. But of course, there's no reason I should. "It'll be fine," I tell her, trying to keep excitement out of my voice. The passageway is there! So close! If we could get inside this early in the day... "It wasn't the neighbourhoods fault."

"No, you're right. It was my fault."

I cringe. That was a poor choice of words. But still...

"The passageway is in there, Imogen." I force myself to remain still. I want to run out there and search for it. What if someone else is already inside? They could be searching right now... "We need to go find it. We can't afford to search for another." That could take us all over the island, not to mention waste time we don't have. If we aren't in a tunnel by midnight...

"No. No." Imogen shakes her head. "I was wrong. I was right earlier, but just now I was wrong. It wasn't my fault. It never was. It's not my fault."

"That's right." I don't remember what she said earlier, but it doesn't matter now. "Are we going to search?"

My friend hesitates for a brief second. Then she nods.

"Yes. Let's get searching."


I read off my datapads's screen as we head down the widest street in the neighborhood. We walk in the center, completely in the open. I wanted to sneak about to stay out of sight, but Imogen refused.

"I don't care if anyone sees us," She told me with a determined look. "I'm #3. Only two others can harm me. And if they want to take the both of us on..."

She let the words hang with the implications.

"Here. I think it's here." Imogen comes to a stop beside me, staring up at the statue that rests in the middle of this street's intersection. It's a large marble thing, made to resemble...something. It's really abstract and confusing. I think it's supposed to be post-modern.

"Have you seen this before?" I ask, glancing back down at my datapad. The thing reads 100%, but I don't see anything that could pass as a passageway. Is it faulty?

"No. At least, I don't think so..." Imogen slowly approaches the statue, running her hands along its edges. I've been in the neighborhood before, but not this part of it. I stroke the two grenades at my waist. Imogen has my machete, because she's ranked higher, but grenades aren't direct, and so I can use them. I think.

"It says that we're in the right place," I say doubtfully. The clouds that have hidden the sun for most of the last week are gone. The sun shines down onto our backs stronger than ever before. "But I don't see anything. Maybe it is supposed to be zero."

"No...No, I don't think so." Imogen stops along the side of the statue, peering at something I can't see. "This is definitely the place."

"How do you know?"

"I don't. It just...feels right." Her lithe fingers brush against something that glints in the sun, and a soft gasp escapes her.

"What?" I hurry over, already worried. Has another Challenger found us? If they try to fight us over the passageway...

Imogen crouches down beside a steel box just below the metallic item she was examining. The lid has been flipped open to reveal a set of numbered buttons. "It's a code. A code is needed for the passageway."

I frown. "But we don't have a code."

"I know, but...something's not right." She suddenly sits up straight, nearly smacking my head with the machete as she rounds the statue. I follow, bemused.

"What are you doing?" Everything we've seen points to this being the right spot, but...Mr. White said nothing about a code. How are we supposed to find it?

"There's another clamp here," Imogen says, sliding a finger along yet another metallic device. "I think our datapads fit in them."


"Our datapads," She tucks a loose strand of hair back behind her ear as she leans forward to further examine the thing. "They fit in these clamps."

"And that will help because...?" I consider myself a smart person. I'm good at puzzles. Simple ones. But I don't understand what Imogen is doing. Or what Mr. White expects from us, or--


Our datapads have changed. The tab where the tracker was is gone, replaced by white words on a black background. A riddle?

To open the way and save the day, you must each use your wrists and combine your numbers

Imogen peers over my shoulder, her blue eyes quickly scanning the words. "Is this supposed to be some mind of riddle?" She asks with what sounds like a scoff. "Because it's not very hard."

"I don't think it's supposed to be hard," I say, walking up to one of the metallic devices and angling my hand so that the datapad fits into it. It immediately snaps shut around my wrist. My eyes bulge with fear. "I'm trapped!"

But I'm not. When I pull back in fear, I slip on the concrete and land awkwardly on my back, hand freed from the contraption. Imogen helps me back to my feet. "Let's do that in unison. Then..." She trails off, staring at the numbered keypad. "Combine our numbers."

"Our ranks!" The idea hits me like a wave. "We need to combine our ranks! Add them together, I mean!" It's a logical assumption. And one I really hope is correct.

Imogen shrugs. "Can't hurt to try."

We both take up positions on opposite sides of the statue. Imogen is beside the keypad. She glances over at me. "Ready?"

I nod. Then we both set our datapads into the locks. Imogen's fingers move to input the numbers, but she freezes. "Do I put a ten, because you're #7 and I'm #3, or do I put 37? Or 73?"

That really gives me pause. I didn't actually think that there was more than one possibility. But am I suppose to know which of the three it is? And what if we're wrong? I have this horrible mental image of the device slicing my hand off at the wrist.

I shudder.

"I'm putting ten," Imogen's voice is shaky as she hits the buttons. There is a beep with each press. "And we're going to hope for the best."

There's a rapid beeping as she finishes. I watch my hand carefully, fearing what may happen at any second. If the combination is wrong...

There's a grating sound as the statue begins to vibrate. I pull back instinctively and the latch allows me to. I dart away from the vibrating statue, Imogen joining me as it slowly begins to slide backwards, its marble base grinding against the asphalt street.

"What's happening?" I whisper.

Imogen merely shakes her head.

The statue continues to pull back, slowly revealing something that had been hidden underneath it. Something that fills me with sheer unadulterated joy.

A staircase.

"The passageway!"

Imogen starts for it immediately, clambering down the rectangular steps without even checking to see if there's anything dangerous about it. I follow after her much more hesitantly. Doesn't she know anything about Mr. White? I wouldn't put it past him to have a trap waiting down there for us.

I stare down at the dusty, steel staircase. It was glossy, but broken and cracked; it looks like someone could easily slip on such a thing. I take a few cautious steps down, watching as Imogen disappears into the darkness ahead of me. I can't see the bottom. It's too dark. "Don't go too fast!" I call to Imogen. How far does this go?

"I'm at the bottom!" Imogen's voice answers me within a few seconds. I take a deep breath and hurtle down the last few remaining stairs, emerging into a square room. Imogen stands in the center.

The room is unexpectedly large. Big enough to fit all of the remaining Challengers and their supplies, if needed. A small steel table is set up in the middle of the room, as well as a bench at each wall and a pair of stools around the table.

"What now?" I ask, cautiously eyeing the walls. Most of their surface is flat, unadorned plaster, but the western wall is completely covered in what looks like some sort of television screen. Across from the staircase is a pair of giant, metallic doors. It doesn't appear to have a handle.

"I...don't know." Imogen stares around the room, looking as lost as I feel. This is the passageway, undoubtedly. But what do we do now?

A loud grating noise abruptly starts up behind us. We spin around, staring up the staircase as the beam of light that shines down begins to fade away as the light is blocked.

"The entrance is closing!" Imogen cries out in fear as she wildly starts up the staircase. Too late. With a rumbling thud, the statue slides shut above us. We're trapped.

"There has to be another way out," I say as fluorescent lights turn on above us. They give off a pale, sickly glow. "Mr. White wouldn't just trap us in here." He wouldn't, would he?

The television screen turns on. Imogen yelps in fear as we both spin to stare at the now all too familiar sight.

Mr. White sits on a black velvet armchair, decked out in his trademarked all-white. Even his tie is white. He sits with his legs crossed at the knee, fingers laced together with elbows resting on the chair. He smiles.

"Hello, Challengers. If you're seeing this video, that means you have managed to gain entrance to one of the tunnel passageways. Congratulations!"

Something is different this time. I think it's a prerecorded message, and not Mr. White taunting us live as usual. I shift my feet uneasily. What does that mean?

"However, since these tunnels will play host to these Game's finale, I believe it to be unfair to allow anyone the advantage of exploring it before everyone arrives. Thus, you will not be permitted to leave this room until midnight, when every other Challenger has either arrived or died."

I quickly check the time on my datapad. Right now it's 1:25. We have almost eleven hours of waiting before us. I hope we brought enough water.

"I don't wish to talk your ears off, but I would like to thank you for playing the game so well. You've managed to reach the finale, and thus, should be proud. Now, take this time you have to try and manipulate your surroundings. One of you will succeed this time. I know it. Farewell."

The screen goes blank.

"I don't understand that last part," Imogen says as the heavy oppression of silence presses down upon us. "What did he mean?"

I shrug. Why does Mr. White do anything? He's crazy. I sit down on one of the benches seated against the wall. Just as I do so, music starts up, filtering into our waiting room.

Elevator music.

Imogen grimaces, sitting on the bench across from me. "He could have put better music..."

I'm glad Imogen is recovering from her terror. But still, I see some kind of dangerous light in her eyes. It frightens me.

"What do we do now?" She asks.

"We do the only thing we can. We wait."

Alana Salazar (2:12 P.M)

I sit against the trunk of a tree, playing with two serrated knives as I wait for something to happen. I received these knives--along with the first-aid kit in my belt and the vial of poison beside it--from an airdrop that took place early this morning. It was still dark when that happened; I don't know if anyone else saw it.

I had originally thought that it would lure someone else to me, another Challenger seeking the items inside. But no one arrived. I guess that everyone else must have been asleep...Yet, I know that I saw a second flare after mine went off. Someone else received an airdrop as well.

When noon arrived, I tried to find one of those passageways, but I really didn't get anywhere. The trackers number kept shifting on me, from high to low and back again. So I stopped here for a rest break, hoping that something will change as I try to think what to do next.

As is usual when I'm not actively doing something, my head fills thoughts of my family. My older sister Deanna, my abuélos, and of course, my parents. I miss all of them terribly. So much, that it physically hurts sometimes. Do they know what has happened to me? Mr. White has said that these Games are shown on the internet, but if that was the case then why--


A branch cracks in a nearby thicket. I'm already on my feet, swiveling towards the noise. It could be a Challenger searching for an ally. Or it could be a pair of them searching for a passageway. Or the hounds.

My heart thuds wildly as someone emerges from the undergrowth.

"You're frickin' hard to find, you know?"

A girl stands before me, her thin, muscular arms holding a type of spear with three wicked looking tips. A trident.

My mouth goes dry. Trying to see how I could defeat her...Not possible. Not with just a few knives. I ready my feet to run.

"Do you have an ally yet?" The girl asks, glancing around the small forest path. The ground is thick with fallen pine nettles. "I doubt it, seeing that the nearest Challenger is half a mile away."

"Wh-what?" How would she know that? Is she lying? And who is she? I stop and examine her for the first time. She's two inches taller than I am, but is surprisingly skinny. It doesn't look like she's been eating well. Her choppy black hair hangs just over her shoulders, and some of it has been dyed red.

"What, what?" The girl, Clarice Barron, narrows her olive eyes at me. Despite her threatening appearance, she has yet to try and kill me. But I don't understand her question.


"Oh, no you don't! Don't start playing that game!" Clarice hisses, face contorting with anger. I jump back and surprise replaces the anger. "No! Don't be scared! I mean--Damn. I'm not good at this."

The girl curses softly and twists her trident around, slamming its tips into the dirt. For some reason, I don't think she means me any harm. I don't know why, but I know it. "You need an ally," I say, voice soft with realization. If I hadn't been so afraid, I'd have figured that out much earlier.

"Yeah, duh." The girl rolls her eyes, stepping forward and offering me a hand. "So you in or what?"

I eye that hand skeptically. This girl is certainly...unique. "Just like that? You sneak up on me, alarm me with a weapon, and expect me to just accept your offer?" Perhaps it is unwise to challenge the girl--she could kill me at any moment, after all--but I'm not about to jump when she says jump, just because she's offering the one thing that I need.

"Don't be such a tool!" Clarice snaps at me, eyes flashing. "I could get anyone on this island as an ally, so if you don't want me..."

"Anyone?" I say in disbelief. Yeah, she may be number one right now, but others have certainly formed their own alliances, and she can't just find everyone like--

"The map on my datapad shows me every Challengers location every hour. Every single one. If you don't want this alliance, then I can just find someone who does."

Oh. So that's how she found me. A shiver runs down my back as I think about how Chris has had this ability for most of the past week. Is that how he's killed so many?

"I'm not a patient person. Decide quickly." I'm startled out of my thoughts by Clarice's voice. She's watching me with narrowed eyes. I don't think she's joking about finding someone else.

"I'm going to help you!" I say quietly. I never really considered not helping her. For one, she'd just kill me. Secondly, I need an ally. And I don't have a map to help me find the others.

"Good. Good." She seems distracted. She glances around the forest and then looks at her datapad.

"Is someone else nearby?" I ask nervously. I've managed to avoid most people so far, but how long will that last?

"What? No." She turns back to me examining me thoroughly. I squirm a little under her penetrating gaze. It's...unnerving. "No one is near us." She says after a a moment's silence.

"What, then?"

"Nothing. I was just double-checking that our way back to the lighthouse was clear." Lighthouse? Why'd we be going there? Before I can ask, though, she just rolls on. "Tori might get in our way, but Anne was on the other side of the island and Sami..."

There's long pause. "Is something wrong?" I ask when the silence stretches on for too long.

"No. It's just...I don't remember seeing Oreo or Imogen on the map last time." She stares up in the sky, looking thoughtful. I don't know what she's thinking about. "They might have already entered the passageways. We need to hurry."

Without a second of warning, she darts off into the forest. I stand in stunned silence for a moment, then hurry after her. I'm forced to move at a brisk jog to catch up. "What's the hurry?" I ask as I pull aside her. We're jogging along what must have once been a game trail. "We have until midnight, after all."

"I want to get in the tunnels before the others. Could be an advantage." A short answer. Very short.

"Does it matter?" Being last seems like it could have it's own advantage. No one would be looking for you, and the others could already be fighting.

"To me it does. Especially if we get back quick enough, we can kill Chris. That'll take out two birds with one stone."

I pull to a halt.

"You want to kill someone?" I shouldn't be surprised. Everyone has been doing it. Everyone needs to, or we'll all die. But...I don't want to kill anyone. Or even be accomplice to it. It's just so...wrong.

Clarice has noticed that I've stopped and heads back, eyes narrowed once more. "You have a problem with that? That's what this whole game is about, you know."

"I know...but..." I don't know how to voice my doubts. I couldn't kill someone. It's not right. It's evil.

"Kill or be killed," Clarice says softly. The anger has left her voice. Her face still has those hard edges, but she seems softer somehow. "Those are the rules of life. No one else will help you. You must help yourself."

"I..." It sounds logical. But still morally wrong.

"You probably don't want your family seeing you kill someone," Clarice grunts. She sounds...sad, almost. Does she miss her family? "But they'd want you to do everything you could to survive, they'd--"

"They're not watching us."

"Excuse me?" Clarice fixes me with another one of those narrowed eyes gazes. "Why not? Do they not have--"

"No one is watching us. Not our families, not our friends, not even strangers. Only Mr. White."

"I...I don't understand. I don't understand what you're saying. Mr. White said--"

"I know what Mr. White said. But he's lying." It's something I have been thinking about since these began. But only now do I realize the truth. "If these "games" are being streamed on the internet, then where are the cameras?"

Clarices pauses to look around for something that she won't find. There are no cameras. I've spent hours searching in vain. Mr. White is not streaming this. He never was. "But the letters from fans..."

"Faked. He could easily do that." He's been lying to us for so long. But why? What purpose does that serve? I can't think of one. Did he want us to struggle with the idea of our families watching us die?

"That bastard..." Clarice grips her trident so hard her knuckles turn white. Has anything Mr. White ever told us been true? Or is everything just a fake?

My family...

Do they have any idea what happened to me? I wish that they did. It would have been less painful, knowing that they know what happened to me. But I just disappeared. Without a trace. Gone.

I find myself shaking. Trembling. My fingers feel numb. My mind blurry. They don't know...I inexplicably find myself wishing for some hot chocolate. My mother would always make me some when I was sad or upset. She'd always use the same blue mug, the one with an orange "S" on it. I made it in pottery class when I was ten. The "S" stood for Salazar. Steam would come off the hot chocolate as she handed me the mug. I'd always inhale the sweet scent, enjoying the warmth of the mug against my hands...

I feel something tingling in my hands. I look down and the breath catches in my throat. My heart pounds, beating itself like a drum. It can't be. It isn't possible. It doesn't make any sense!

In my hand, I hold a blue mug filled with hot chocolate.

I scream, flinging the mug to the ground. It shatters against the rocks, sending a spray of hot chocolate cascading across my legs and a multitude of glasss shards into the air.

Clarice stares at the sudden mess in bewilderment. "Wh-where did you get that?"

"It's my mug! I don't know how! Or why! It doesn't make sense--" A stream of garbled, barely intelligible words pour from my mouth. That was my mug. The one I made in pottery class. How--why--It doesn't make any sense!.

Clarice eventually calms me down enough for me to explain. Coherently. Her eyes widen in surprise as I tell my story. That surprise changes to utter shock when I reach down into the mess, hand brushing against the still warm hot chocolate, and pull out a shard from the mug.

The shard with the orange "S".

"Oh, God. You were telling the truth." Clarice squints her eyes shut, then opens them again. She does this several times. "Are you...are you certain that you didn't have this mug before?" Despite the shock she has just displayed, she now wounds doubtful.

"Yes! I haven't seen it since my kidnapping!"

"Then how...No." She shakes her head, then turns her back on the broken mug. "It doesn't matter. Not now. The only thing that matters is reaching the lighthouse and that passageway."


"It doesn't matter." She comes close to shouting these words. Her eyes are focused straight ahead. "I'm going to the lighthouse. Come with me if you want. Or stay here. I don't care. But I'm heading for that lighthouse."

She trots off, not even sparing a glance behind her. I feel hollow. The initial shock has worn off and has become a deep dullness. That mug...

This event lingers in my mind as I turn around and follow Clarice into the forest.

Anne Bellhope (2:25 P.M)

I hate this stupid tracker.

It doesn't make any sense. Every time I seem to be making any progress towards a passageway, the numbers will change and I'm suddenly headed in the wrong situation. Why? Who knows. Mr. White is a dick, that's why.

The forest around me is, for once, sunny and devoid of any fog. That doesn't make it any easier for me to navigate it, though. Thickets grow unruly around the trunks of large trees, often blocking my path and forcing me to take the long way around. I'll never find a passageway at this rate.

And what am I even going to do when I find a passageway? Thanks to Mr. White's newest stupid rule I need an ally to gain entrance. And that will be difficult. I'm not a people person.

Some people I don't even have a chance of aligning with. Chris, that bastard, would never go with me after what happened yesterday. And I'd never go with him. Because he's insane. Also, because he's the reason I'm traveling at a snail's pace.

As if called upon by my thoughts, the pain in my thigh flares up. That stupid arrow! I grit my teeth and try to overcome the pain. I only get a few more feet before I'm forced to halt.

A bird calls overhead and I stop to wipe sweat from my brow. Where am I? I check the map on my datapad, searching my location. I'm just outside the neighborhood. Great. Another location where I've fought with other Challengers. I think back to those days, when I got into a bloody scrap with Clarice and when I escaped from Oreo, Imogen, and Fausto.

Damn. Two of those kids are still alive. And probably not eager to help me out. Damn, again.

Who is willing to help me? I scroll across my datapad, searching the faces. Alana is one. I don't think I've ever seen the girl. Not even on Mr. White's daily highlights. Then there's Sami. I didn't think he was much of a threat until yesterday, when he killed Tristan. Sure, someone else had probably wounded the boy, but it was Sami who finished him off. He's a dangerous kid.

That leaves Victoria. It seems like I should have some thoughts about the girl but my mind is drawing a blank. Have I seen her? I'm pretty sure I haven't, but I can't remember if she's been seen on Mr. Whites daily recaps. She hasn't killed anyone yet...

Maybe I should try to find her. She sounds better than my other options.

I set off once more, wishing that I actually knew where I was going. This time, I decide that I won't mess around with the tracker. I'll just go straight ahead, not even looking at the thing until I reach a landmark of some sort.

With my injured leg, it's slow-going. I keep to the the heavily wooded parts of the forest, despite the fact that it further exasperats my slow pace. I don't want to be jumped by a couple of Challengers, not in my current state.

Eventually the trees begin to thin out. They turn from pine to oak, and I see something peeking out from the fringes of my vision. A house? I curse softly. I'm back at the neighborhood. Seems as if I'm always winding up back here.

I approach the tree-line, crouching beside a leatherleaf tree as I squint out at the plaster houses and their pretty little picket fences. Each one is basically identical. Gross.

No movement. There's nothing to be seen. I toy with one of my knives, thinking. Could a passageway be in there? Or another Challenger? I've decided that Victoria would be the best ally, but I really have no way of finding her. Or finding anyone, for that matter. I wish I was still #1. Then I'd be able to see everyone, just like yesterday.

Monzaroc's face flashes in my eyes as I think about yesterday. He was everywhere, stalking me. Watching me. My breath quickens, my heart beats faster. Just the thought of him drives me into a panic now.

Was he really here?


A branch cracks in a tree above, about ten paces back from me. It falls to the ground, rolling and creaking as it slowly comes to a halt. In an instant, I wind my arm back, aiming my knife for the spot where it broke.

Monzaroc is following me!

No. What am I thinking? Monzaroc is not here. He was never here. I imagined everything. I'm insane, or at least suffering from unbearable levels of stress. He's not here.

I let my arm drop back to my side, feeling foolish. What has happened to me? Monzaroc has completely warped me. He didn't kill me, not like Alisent, but he's changed me nonetheless. I will kill him for that.

Still...I watch where the branch fell from. It's too high up and covered with leaves to really see anything, but something must have been up there. A squirrel, maybe? Stupid squirrel. I'll make sure to catch and eat it if I see it again.

That's when I first notice the datapad. Since I've last checked the tracker has gone up exponentially. It now sits at 89%.

"A passageway!" The words escape my lips in a bubble of excitement. I've found it! Now it won't matter if I can't find an ally. They'll find me. They'll have to, if I'm at the passageway already.

With a cackle of glee, I begin to follow the numbers on my screen. They lead me straight towards what appears to be a statue of some sort. It's an odd thing, something that Monzaroc would have called Po-Mo. Post-Modern. I'll kill Monzaroc for having me remember that.

I limp up to the statue, running my hands across it. Where is the latch? Or lock? How does it open? I fiddle around the thing for several long minutes before I find the keypad on it's side.

Then I scream in frustration.

The little screen on the keypad is covered with green words that rip my hope away. Entry closed. Challengers already inside.

I lose my control. I yell, I scream, throw things around. I beat my arms against the statue and swear at it. But nothing changes. I can't enter, because someone else already has. I was too late.

I sit down on the asphalt ground, ignoring the heat that burns against my legs. Its so frustrating! I came so very close! I breathe in deeply. Control. That's what I need. I need to be in control.

I need a new plan. The tracker sucks. It can still lead me to used passageways, wasting my precious time. If I don't find a place by midnight...

No. I refuse to consider the possibility. I will find a passageway. I will win. And I will kill Monzaroc.

Chris Barnard (2:40 P.M)

My eyes blink open. Pain flares in my wrists, which are tied back behind my back. Shoulders sore with tension. I sit back up slowly, blinking in the darkness. My mouth is warm with blood.

Eventually my eyes adjust and I recognize were I am. The lighthouse. My head still hurts from when Clarice hit it, though, that was hours ago. Where has she gone? Did she enter the passageway without me?

I peer through the darkness, towards the small box that has to be key to opening the passage. It looks untouched, though, it's hard to tell in this darkness. Damn girl. Did she have to knock me out and turn out the lights?

I roll onto my side, accidentally kicking over a crate as I try to position myself better. Damn. She tied those knots tight! The rope digs into my skin, sending a constant throbbing down my side. I'll kill her for this!

Wait. No. I remember those faces, those screams...Bree. Jotaro. Haviana. I remember their constant haunting. They stare at me now, watch me from beyond the grave. If I concentrate hard enough, I can hear them even now.

"Shut up!" I scream in agony, their whispering voices filling my ears. "Just shut the hell up!" I thrash about, hoping my movement will loosen the knots. They never stop! Only when I sleep. Or when someone else is nearby. Then they go away. Why won't they go away?

Clarice. She left me tied up for them. Damn her. I'll kill her. I don't care if she haunts me. I'll have the last laugh when she's dead. She can rot in hell. Stupid girl.

Sometimes thumps. Loud. I shrink back into the darkness, wondering if I've angered the the dead, when I realize that the sound was the door. Someone is opening it!

With effort, I get myself into a sitting position, scooting forward so that I'm not concealed by boxes. The door opens, letting in a beam of sunlight silhouetted against a person. Clarice? So she's come back after all. I jerk my hands, feeling the bonds loosen slightly. Won't she be surprised when I choke the life out of her...I was going to help her, originally. She was the only person not trying to kill me. But then she betrayed me. And for that she must die.

The figure steps forward, then fumbles around in the darkness for a few moments, muttering a curse. I freeze. That doesn't sound like Clarice.

The lights flick on, illuminating the room and revealing the figure before me. It's not Clarice, but I don't know who she is. What I do know is that she’s quite easy to look at, with never-ending legs, toned arms, curling brown hair, and stormy gray eyes that seem to shine with a vengeance.

"Are angel?" I ask, not feeling very coherent. Whoever she is, she's saved me from Clarice.

The girl looks down at me, not looking surprised in the least to find me tied up. "And you are?" She asks with the hint of a sneer. Yes, her eyes hold a storm in them, alright.

"Chris. You know, the guy ranked #1 for pretty much the whole game?" I don't know where she's ranked. Nor do I care. She won't kill me. She needs me.

"Right." She narrows her eyes, skirting around the edges of the room until she's on the opposite side of the door. "And why are you tied up?"

The question seems to be designed to keep me busy as she looks around the room, searching for...something. Might as well play along. "Clarice. Damn girl acted like an ally, but then betrayed me."

"Clarice?" The girl whips her head around, dark hair falling across her face. Her face of fury. She hates the girl, that I can tell.

"Yeah. She knocked me out, and when I came to, she was gone and I was like this." I decided to sleep, then. To kill time and to keep the voices away.

"Was anyone with her?" The girl seems very eager. I wonder why? "A blonde, perhaps? Named Imogen?"

Imogen? She's another Challenger, but I don't know anything else about her. Whys the little pretty chasing after her? "No. I haven't seen anyone today other then Clarice. I saw Anne last night, though." I refuse to think of that incident. I wasn't very lucid during it.

"Pity. I'd have liked to kill them both at once."

Ooh. The little pretty sure has a sadistic side, doesn't she? I like it. People who are too nice are basically just begging for someone to take advantage of them. Only strong people survive hardship.

The girl strolls around the room, very casually looking around. I know exactly what she is searching for. "I can help you find it, if you untie me."

Her eyes flash as they spin to focus on me. "So Clarice didn't enter the passage, I take it?"

I shake my head. "No. I don't know why. Maybe she's retarded." I don't mention the possibility that she did so while I was knocked out or sleeping. The little pretty probably would just leave me tied up if I did.

"Very well." The girl slides a machete out from a homemade sheath along her thigh. "You'll have to do."

She sticks the blade behind me and I feel the tension dissipate as the blade cuts through rope. "Thanks," I rise, shaking out my wrists. They're red and sore. Stupid Clarice. She'll pay for that. "And for the passageway..."

I tell her everything I know. About the keypad and the two datapad holsters needed to operate it. I never told Clarice about those. Good thing I didn't. The girl introduces herself as Tori and tells me that she will see Imogen dead. And that's it for her introduction.

As for me, I don't bother with anything else other than my name. The girl has probably seen everything I've done, so why repeat it?

Neither of us pay much attention to each other as we try setting our datapads against the netal clamps. They work instantly and a grin crosses my face. "A winner is us!"

Tori rolls her eyes, tapping a few buttons on the keypad. I don't know what she's doing, but after a few seconds I hear a sliding sound and turn to see several floor tiles moving out of place, revealing a staircase below.

I grin. "I always find a way back to the top!"

Tori peers down the staircase, into the darkness that gathers there. Her features seem to be made from stone, they give so little expression. What happened to her? "You going down?" I ask, gathering up my weapons which have been strewn across the floor. I can't seem to find my machete. Damn Clarice must have taken it.

"I need to know if Imogen is down there," Tori says, looking over towards the open doorway. I can hear birds chirping through it. "I need to be the one who kills her."

I shrug. "She'll find her way down here eventually," I begin as I take the first few steps down into the darkness. "Everyone will." I don't hear her reply as I descend into the the passageways. Whatever is coming, I'll beat it.

I always do.

Clarice Barron (2:55 P.M)

We exit the forest and find ourselves on the path that leads towards the lighthouse. I take point, stalking forward with my trident in one hand and stolen machete in the other. Too much time has passed. I should already be in the passageways. It shouldn't have taken me so long to find Alana.

I glance back at the sneaky girl. Her black hair is a disheveled mess, her face pallid and scratched from running through thickets, eyes perpetually cast downwards. She was difficult to find. Especially before I got the Challenger tracker granted from being ranked #1.

I try not to think of those early hours. Combing the woods for any sight of the girl, searching high and low to no avail. It was pretty sucky.

"H-how much further?" Alana surprises me by speaking. It's the first thing she's said since that mug incident. I don't know what to think of it. Originally I thought that she was telling the truth, but that wouldn't make any sense. It wouldn't be possible.

"Not much longer now," I glance upwards as the path beneath our feet begins to slope. A few more minutes and we'll be there. "The lighthouse will be in view once we pass that bend."

Alana falls silent. What to make of that mug? Was she lying about not having it? She must have been. It's the only thing that makes sense.

I don't think about how the chocolate was warm.

"Oh! I see it!" We take the bend and suddenly the lighthouse looms into view. Its tall orange and white striped figure points into the sky like a beacon. Though it's sunny out now, I think I still see the light on.

"Told you." The mug doesn't matter. Only Mr. White does. But...Alana's other revelation, the fact that only Mr. White is really watching us, it...discomforts me. I don't know why. It shouldn't. I shouldn't care. But I do. What else has that bastard been hiding? I'll kill him to find out.

Unless he's not even on the island.

That could be a problem. If he's not even here, how do any of us escape? We can only win his game and hope that he provides us with an exit. And knowing him, I fully expect that he'll just leave us stranded here.

"Clarice?" Alana has approached the lighthouse, passing me by in my thoughts. She stands by the open door, peering inside.

A thought strikes me. " said there's no cameras, right?"

"Clarice, I really think that you should--"

"Answer the question!" Something is bugging me. Something else that doesn't make any sense. Why?

"I...fine." She drags her vision away from the room, turning to me with obvious reluctance. "What was your question?"

I repeat myself and she nods. "Yes. I mean, have you seen any? I sure haven't. He couldn't have hidden them all." Yes. Yes, that makes sense. But it doesn't mesh with something else I know.

"So how does he watch us? If there's no cameras?"


"I..." Alana trails off, looking troubled. If there are no cameras, it should not be possible for Mr. White to see anything that we do. But he clearly does. Why? "I don't know, Clarice. But I know for a fact that I've never seen a camera on this island."

"And the replays," My mind is working too fast. I'm thinking about everything we've seen that contradicts itself. "He always shows us the deaths. How? If he has no cameras?"

Alana pauses, looking around at everything nearby. The lighthouse, the cliffs, the roaring ocean. Finally she shrugs. "I guess he does have cameras...My theory must have been wrong."

But we still haven't seen any. The thought burns itself across my mind. There is literally no way that he could have hidden them all. Yes, I wasn't exactly looking for during my time here, but after Alana brought it up, I spent the whole trip back searching for some.

And found nothing.

"Look, this doesn't matter right now," Alana says, doing her best impersonation of my usual response. "Because remember Chris? The guy you said would be here? Well, he's gone."


I shove my way past her, stumbling into the lighthouse. The small circular room looks like how I left it, but with a few differences. The crates have been pressed aside, changed in different positions. The spot in the corner where I left Chris tied up is empty, only a few scuff marks on the tiled floor. A discarded rope lies in the center of the room, frayed in the middle. He got free.

"The...The keypad..." Alana points at the entry point for the passageway. It's been flipped open and blinking green words scroll across the small screen. Entry closed. Challengers already inside.

I open my mouth to scream...then deflate. I sag against the wall, shoulder pressed against the side. My machete clatters to the ground. "He...I..." What happened? Someone found this place, obviously. They came while I was gone, found Chris, and used him to gain entry to the tunnels.

Damn! I should have seen this coming! The tracker would have lead everyone right here! And I had gift wrapped a Challenger for them! How did I miss that? My hands tighten into fists and it takes all my willpower not to scream. This plan was flawless.

And it failed.

"Clarice...?" Alana looks terrified, huddled in the corner watching me with wide eyes. Stupid girl. If she hadn't been so hard to find, I'd have been in the tunnels already. Maybe I should just kill her. My fingers twitch along my trident.


I'm not about to become the very thing Mr. White wants. I'm not going to kill her for my mistakes. Besides, I still need her. I can't enter the tunnels without--


The hour mark. My map! I pull the datapad close, taking this opportunity to scan my map of the island and its occupants. As I expected, Chris is nowhere to be found. Neither is the #6 that represents Tori. So. That blasted girl found him, did she? Huh. Perfect. Damn duo is a match made in hell. Hope they're happy together.

But my terror returns as I realize that there is now only four people on the island, myself and Alana included. The numbers that represent Anne and Sami are both headed towards the resort. Anne is just ahead of Sami.

"They've found the passageway," I say softly. "And they're heading for it right now."

It's a few minutes to four o'clock when we finally arrive at the resort. Our flight through the forest was frantic, both of us desperate not to be the last pair left. I refuse to be. I deny that possibility.

I pull to a halt, stopping beside a large fern plant and ducking behind its fronds. Alana stumbles to a stop behind me. The smaller girl is panting from all that sprinting. "That...was...the furthest I've a long time..." she says between pants.

I don't pay her any attention. My focus is on the resort. The entire thing is surrounded by a fence, with bars of thick black steel. It looks like something from a brochure, some mythical place that I'd never get to visit, but always be forced to see. I despise it.

"It's pretty," Alana says, apparently recovered from her exhaustion.

"Be quiet!" I snap at her, trying to think. Have Anne and Sami already entered? If they have, then we've lost. There's no point hanging around, as they've probably found the passageway. But if they haven't...I could take this opportunity to eliminate the both of them.

Alana shrugs, then shifts over to peer through the fronds at the fence. "Is there a reason why we stopped?"

"We're looking for the others, stupid!" The girl doesn't even flinch. I suppose she must be used to being called names? "And we need to kill them. No, wait. I need to kill them."

Surprisingly, she has nothing to say about this. She had some misplaced sense of justice snd righteousness about killing before, but now she just furrows her brow in thought. What is she thinking about?

"I don't see why we need to," She begins after a moment and I automatically tune her out. There's that morality argument I was expecting. Stupid girl. How does she expect to win this game without killing? You either kill or you die. Simple.

"Just shut up and cover me!" I dart out from the bushes, running for the gate and swinging it open. Inside, I spy the large swimming pool. There's a few waterfalls feeding into the thing, and what appears to be a hot tub area springs up on its left. Several small umbrella covered tables and chairs surround both.

"I don't think they're here," Alana says, appearing at my shoulder. Idiot girl. Didn't I tell her to cover me? "Maybe we arrived before them."

I don't answer, instead surveying one of the two nearby buildings. The beige one with with a low roof and spherical glass domes jutting out like mushroom caps. Are they inside? I bend to check my datapad, but there's still seven minutes before the hour mark. Drat.

"We need to check that out," I say, pointing with my machete at the building. I hold my trident in my other hand. "They could be hiding, or still searching." The tracker is at 90%. So we're close, but not right on top of it.

Alana nods and begins to head for it, but I grab her shoulder and hold her back. "On second thought...they could both kill you, but not me. So I'll enter the building, you circle around it and see if you can spot them. Look through windows and stuff." God, I hate plans. I'm not a planner. I just act in the heat of the moment.

Alana heads off. I watch her disappear around the bend of the building. Good. Now I just need to find the others and finish them off. I turn to go enter the building myself.

And pull to a stop as Anne enters through the fence.

She's looking backwards at something and hasn't seen me yet. My instincts are to hide, but I force that feeling away. I will not run. I'm no coward. I stand my ground as she finally turns her head around and spots me.

She freezes.

I raise my trident.

She reaches for her knives.

We both act at once. While I'm fast, she's faster. She hurls the knife forward underhanded, the blade cartwheeling through the air towards me. I twist my body around to dodge the blow, and the blade rips into the back of my jacket, slicing across my skin beneath.

I hiss in pain, feeling blood pour from the new gash. But I can't focus on the pain. I heave my trident towards Anne but the blonde girl has already dodged, rolling to the side and getting back onto her feet on the other side of the pool. I growl in annoyance.

She has two more knives. I have a machete. I need to close the distance between us, cut down the advantage of range that she holds.

I dart forward.

Anne sends a knife spiralling for me. It's higher than the last and as I spin out of the way, a misty red cloud sprays across my vision as the blade scores against my face. A hand shoots to the wound and I feel a large cut on my upper cheek. A few inches higher and it would have taken my eye.

Something plows into me. Anne. The force of her impact knocks me from my feet and we both fall to the concrete. Hard. We gasp for air, then I heave Anne off of me. The girl rolls for a distance then regains her feet, face a mask of determination that matches what I feel inside.

I climb to my own feet and then Anne is charging me again. I raise my machete and aim to run her through with it. The blonde girl twists out of the way, avoiding the blade as she slashes at me with her knife. I slap it away with my own weapon, but Anne sends a follow-up strike at lightning speed. This time I'm too slow. A neat gash appears on my arm as her knife hits home.

I unleash a screech of fury, actually causing Anne to flinch away. I take the opportunity to stab forward with my machete. The blade slices through the side of her shirt and finds some purchase there. Anne screams and pulls back, a bloody wound in her side.

I smirk. Then Anne's fist collides with the side of my head.

I reel backwards, head pounding, ears ringing. I let out another furious shriek but I can't even hear it through my ringing head. I send another stabbing blow towards Anne, but she deftly dodges. God. My head hurts. Everything is spinning. I feel like falling over. But I can't. Everything will be over if I do. Trying to focus, I see Anne circling me, one hand clutched to her bleeding side, the other holding her knife. I fling myself on her.

We tumble into the pool.

Bubbles gush around me, Anne's dark shape just above me. I reach for her ankle and receive a kick in the face for my trouble. Everything blurs. Water pours into my mouth as I open it to scream. I can't see Anne anymore. Can hardly see anything.

Dark red snakes squiggling too close alarm me until I realize I’m batting away my own blood. My head punches the surface, and I heave myself onto the surrounding stone, then collapse across it, teeth wildly clattering.

Anne? Where is Anne? I pull my head up and look around. I spot the girl as she pushes through the fence, limping away as fast as she can manage. I feel too exhausted to be disappointed at her escape.


Alana's voice fills my now functioning properly ears, and I spin to see her racing across the clearing towards me. Her face is pale, and she looks worried.

"We did it," I say softly as she kneels beside me. "We got here before Anne did."

"I know." She kneels beside me, taking out some kind of container from her belt. "I saw the end of the fight." So she saw me get my butt kicked. Great. I just can't beat Anne. Two battles. Two sound beatings. Sure, I dealt as much damage as I received, but the only result that gives me the win would be a dead Anne.

I sit in silence as Alana tends to my injuries. Apparently that container is a first-aid kit. I'm surprised that the girl has some considerable skill in applying the medicine. She tells me her grandparents taught her.

"Must be great to have family," I grunt as she bandages my arm. She doesn't respond. Good.

After a few moments, she returns the supplies and stands up. I try to do the same, remarkably surprised that I feel so good. In fact, I don't feel any pain at all. What gives?

"Your grandparents methods work wonders," I say, feeling at the gash on my cheek. Except...

"They really know their stuff," Alana agrees, checking the tracker. I don't respond. The gash...I don't feel it. I don't feel anything, except for smooth skin. Is that right? "I wonder where Sami was?" Alana continues to ponder to herself as I cross to the building, stopping beside one of the windows. I examine my face, searching for the wound. I freeze.

It's gone.

It's not just scabbed over, it's not hidden under some healing balm. It's gone. As if it was never there.

I look down at my bandaged arm. Shouldn't there be some blood? The only blood that remains is smeared across my body from the fight with Anne. It's old, not fresh. With a trembling hand, I slowly remove the bandage. Nothing. The wound is gone.

I don't understand. What...happened? I glance back at Alana. She's opening the door to the lodge, not paying me any attention. I wrap my bandage back up. Does she know what she just did? Or is even she unaware? Did she do this? I don't know. There's so much I don't know.

And it doesn't matter.

"It's in here!" Alana shouts excitedly from inside the lodge. "The passageway is in here!"

I collect my weapons, pushing all extraneous thoughts aside. I'll win this game. Nothing else matters. Nothing.

Anne Bellhope (10:37 P.M)

I've finally found the place where I will die.

My feet give out as I approach the river, landing roughly on hard stones near its bank. I breathe rapidly, feeling at the blood that stains my side. It's long stopped bleeding, thankfully, but the dried blood is still there. As well as the pain.

I've been searching for a passageway since my fight with Clarice, which was almost seven hours ago. In that time I found a third passageway at the lighthouse. It was already used. After that, I had to try and focus on finding the very last passageway. I already knew where the other three were, so it should have been easy.

It's not.

Despite my best effort, I've come up empty. I could only move so fast, with my wounded leg and side. It wasn't fast enough.

The tracker was useless. Is useless. Any time I get a high number on it, the stupid thing leads me to one of the three already discovered passageways. It currently reads 75%, but I'm too exhausted to keep moving. Too tired to think.

The passageways are all spread across the island so, logically, the fourth should be somewhere different from the first three. At a landmark of some sort. Only, I can't think of one right now. I can barely think at all. The pain at my side is great. With a long sigh I lean my head back against the cool rock and stare at the sky.

The night is black as coal, the canopy of the trees makes it even darker. No light penetrates, even from the stars or the moon. All around me I can hear the noises that during the day I didn't even notice, but by night seem to have been magnified by the thousands. Croaking and chirping frogs, deep ones and the kinds that make that whirring whizzing sound that gets louder before suddenly stopping and leaving a sudden silence.

Chirping crickets, many different kinds, come at me from all sides and seem to be closing in, I hear them everywhere I turn. I think I even hear a howling somewhere in the distance. Mr. White's dog pack, no doubt. What else is out here in on this blasted island?

I can hear the river behind me, gurgling gently as it streams it's way along the forest. It's sounds are beautiful in the night. Perhaps this wouldn't be such a bad place to die, if only my death didn't mean Monzaroc's victory.

I win yet again, Anne. Your soul is mine!

His face burns itself into my head, his eyes a blazing crimson as he opens his too-perfect of a mouth into a melodious laugh. He's won. He always knew that he would, but now it's finally official.

"NO!" I force myself to my feet, ignoring the burning pain in my side, begging me to stop. He can't win! He can't!

"Uh, hello?"

A voice penetrates the darkness. I stop, but in doing so I lose my concentration and sink back to the ground as the pain burns. Someone else there? I grip my last remaining throwing knife tightly as I survey the shadows around me. Where?


A boy steps out of the darkness. He's a small, frail-looking thing. He's black hair is close-cropped to his skull and his brown eyes seem too big for his head. It takes me awhile to place him, but I eventually recognize him as Sami. He must be the only Challenger left on this island with me.

He peers down at me with those big eyes, apparently unconcerned that I'm pointing a knife at him. He holds a sword in his hands. "Hi...? I'm glad I found you!"

He sounds so timid. And naive. How did he ever get this far? I could kill him right now. Throw the knife and--No. What am I thinking? I need him as an ally. At least long enough for me to open the passageway.

"Hey." I hope none of the pain I feel is inflected onto the word.

The boy nods, moving forward and squatting down beside me. He seems happy with my response. "So you, uh, need an ally?"

What a stupid question. If I didn't, would I be here? And wouldn't I have killed him already? No wonder he's the last one left with me. But still...didn't he kill someone? I'm having trouble remembering, but I'm certain someone is dead by his hand.

I just don't remember who.

"Yes." I stuff my knife into my pocket. He's not going to hurt me. He couldn't if he wanted to anyway.

"Great! Now we just need to find--Hold on." I just notice that he has an accent. I don't know what kind. He rummages through a backpack for a bit and comes back with some wrapped food. "You can have this. I have more than enough."

Great. But I'm not worried about food right now, like, at all. "We need to find a passageway." I check the time. 10:45. Not much longer before midnight. If we're too late...No. I'll slit my own wrists before letting Mr. White kill me.

"We should follow the river," He says lightly. Does he take nothing seriously? "I saw a waterfall up ahead."

Sounds better than anything I've thought of. "Good. You lead." I press a flashlight into his hands. He looks at it in silence for a moment then grins.

"Right. Okay. This way!"

He leads the way upriver. I watch him intently as he shines a path forward for us with my flashlight. It was Tristan, I think. He killed Tristan. But the boy was wounded. By Sami? I don't know. Maybe he's just a scavenger, picking off the weak and wounded.

Like me.

A chill runs down my spine that has nothing to do with the cool breeze. What if he's leading me into a trap? What if he--Stop being foolish!. He can't kill me. And he needs me for him not to die. Why would he lead me into a trap?

He wouldn't. I'm just being paranoid. The kid obviously means me no harm. Not like Monzaroc. Once more I see him in the shadows, laughing at my pitiful attempts to stay alive. Why do I always get in these positions? Why can't I beat him?

Sami continues to lead the way along the river. I give it a wide berth. The last thing I want is to slip and fall into it. I'd be dragged under by the swift current, dashed against the rocks that occasionally jut out of its dark depths. I shudder.

"The plan is working," He says after a moment. He still sounds far too cheerful. Does he not know that death looms over us? "The tracker says we're going the right way."

"It says that lot," I say idily. It's gotten my hopes up so many times, I've lost count.

He doesn't mind my pessimism as we continue on. The tracker does seem to be getting higher. We're at 85% now. Why? Where is it leading us? I don't believe we're close to any of the passages I've found before...

I glance at the path ahead of us and that's when I see it. It's a rock, roughly the size of my head. It rests precariously between two limbs of a tree that hang over the pathway, connected to the ground by long, thin stick.

Something about that seems off to me, but I can't quite place what. Why'd a rock be in a tree? Let alone one that size? And the stick...

Sami is quickly approaching the area. He doesn't see the stick.

"Sami!" I lunge forward, shoving Sami just as his foot steps onto the stick. It snaps. Immediately the rock begins to fall, heaving forward towards Sami. My shove saves his head from the rock, but not all of him.

The heavy rock connects with a blow to the boy's shoulder. A howl of pain rips from his lips as he staggers to the ground, gasping in shock. Feeling a sudden, intense wave of panic, I kneel beside him. "Are you alright?"

"I'm...ow!" He cuts off as he tries to move his arm. It drops back to the ground. I see the problem. His shoulder is deformed, ever so slightly, and a bump seems to jut from the front of his shoulder.

"I think you dislocated it," I say, surveying the problem. I've had it happen to me before. It wasn't pleasant, but it's probably better than getting that rock to the skull. "I should be able to pop it back into place."

"What? No!"

"I have to. It's gonna get more swollen and painful by the minute, so the sooner I do this the better."

He concedes, but I see the fear in his eyes. True to my word, I swiftly reposition his arm. He yelps in pain as I do so. "It still hurts," He says when I am done. Some of his fear is gone, despite his complaint.

"Putting it back in place doesn't make all the pain disappear," I tell him. Some people have that misconception. "It should feel better then it did before, though."

"I suppose it does..." He sits in silence for a moment, cradling his arm. "Thanks for saving me, by the way."

I only did it because I had to. "You're welcome," I grunt.

He smiles, carefully getting back to his feet and picking up his fallen sword. I notice that it was his off-hand that was injured. Too bad. It'd have been even easier displacing him otherwise.

I take this opportunity to check the time. My eyes nearly bulge as I do so. An entire hour has passed since I first met Sami. That means we have only half an hour before midnight. Before our heads explode.

"We need to get moving," I grab Sami by his collar and jerk him forward. "We don't have much time."

I try sprinting and tumble almost immediately, my leg and thigh screaming in protest. I hit the ground with a gasp, feeling at my side and feeling blood. The wound has reopened. Damn.

Sami helps me to my feet and together we run along the river. If the tracker is misleading us...No. Can't think about that. We'll make it.

A dull roars fills my ears. At first I think I've hurt them somehow and that they're malfunctioning, but then I see the waterfall. A hole in the thick canopy above allows a shaft of moonlight to shine down upon the water, sparkling and dancing across the pounding falls.

Sami eyes it warily. "I've fallen down one of those before."

I raise an eyebrow but say nothing. When did that happen? Doesn't matter. I gaze up and down the waterfall, searching for...something. The tracker seems to indicate that the passageway is here, but here where?

"There's, there's a path up there," Sami says, pointing at a narrow, mud-slick path that twists it's way up towards the waterfall. I grimace at the sight of it. It's the same waterfall--and cave--where I fought and killed Johanna.

"We have to climb in there?"

"I suppose so."

The small boy heads right up the slope, arm still cradled against his chest. I follow behind him, leg limping behind me and hand draped against my newly bleeding side. Everything hurts. Going up hill just makes it worse. But I can't stop. If I'm even slightly late in entering the passageway...

The ground is slick and muddy. Every step is a challenge, though, if I was at full health it'd be ridiculously easy. But as it is, I stagger upwards slowly, gasping for breath. Sami looks back at me, but makes no effort to help. Good. I'd probably punch him if he tried. I can do this without him!

As the path veers behind the waterfall, I place both hands against the rock wall, carefully placing my feet before me. I don't want to fall to my death. Not now, of all times.

Sami slinks into a recess between the rocks. I stumble in behind him and find myself in the familiar small room filled with machinery. Pipes are everywhere, running in elaborate patterns along the walls and slipping through gaps in the ceiling toward areas unknown.

This has to be the passageway. And...

The door. I hobble up to the door, placing a hand flat against it. "This is it," I say not even needing to check the tracker. I just know that it's the right place. "This is the entrance."

Sami sidles up behind me, staring intently at the small box beside the door. "This must be the key to accessing it," He says, flipping it open. White words flash on the screen inside.

"Its a puzzle..." He absently taps buttons, a frown on his face. "Seems pretty simple."

Excitement fills me. This could be it! We could be gaining entry! Finally! I sag against the wall, smiling slightly. Sami gives another frown and notices the holsters on the wall. A few minutes later, agonizingly slow minutes, we discover what these are for. Within seconds of this discovery, we've opened the passage.

The door swings open, revealing a set of steep, narrow stairs disappearing down into the darkness.

"What time is it?" I whisper, taking the very first step down.

"Five minutes to midnight," Sami answers softly. So we've made it just in time. How lucky for us.

I hurry down the steps as fast as I can go with my injuries, which isn't really that fast. I nearly trip twice, grasping the slick walls to prevent tumbling down the stone stairs. Such a tumble would probably kill me.

The descent down takes much longer than I'd have thought it would. When I reach the bottom, I emerge into a strange room. Couches line each wall, except for one that holds a giant...television screen? I really don't know what else to call it. I feel at my blood side once more.

As I'm staring at this, panting with exhaustion, Sami stomps down the stairs behind me. He stops and frowns at the double-wide doors across from us. I can practically see the longing in his eyes. He wants to be gone as soon as possible.

Because I can kill him now...

I stagger and fall back down onto the couch. I'm too tired to kill anyone right now. I don't have the strength left. So much blood...

Just as I think this, the television turns on. I'm not surprised to see Mr. White. This time he's casually pacing across the room with a thoughtful expression upon his face. He stops and stares at the camera for a moment.

"Well, well, well. It appears that all eight of you have actually managed to find your way into the tunnels. Interesting. Though, I suppose you all forgot what would happen if no one died within a twenty-four hour span?"

Sami swears under his breath, looking around wildly. I don't remember what would happen. It's getting hard to think clearly.

"Yes, now I'll have to set off one of your collars, though, I suppose that it doesn't have to happen right away, does it?" I freeze. Panic that has abated now returns in full force. He could kill us. With the bomb collars. Just like before we got down here. "Yes. Yes, I think that I will wait."

Sami is attempting to pry the two doors open. I don't know if he is even listening. Mr. White continues.

"But now that you all have managed to make it doen here, let us speak of the finale, yes?" He stops beside a small armchair and slowly lowers himself into it. "I once asked you if you could see the truth, if you could see through the world's lies. That question stil stands. If you accept your power, you may very well do so."

What? I don't…understand. Why is everything getting so blurry? My head feels like lead. I just wanna...close my eyes and rest.

"Inside these tunnels will be the finale. If you win, you will be awarded beyond measure. If you all fail…Well, let us hope that one of you wins. For all our sakes." Mr. White is just an indistinct shape on the screen. His words just above a buzzing. "Inside the tunnels will be four rooms. Inside each of these rooms is a single case. Inside these cases are an item that will help your quest for absolution greatly. Included inside one such case is a detonator."

"When you press the button, a random Challengers collar will be detonated. Let us say that this detonation is for the lack of deaths today…And worry not for the Rankings. I will assign them myself, yet they will not matter. They have outlived their usefulness. Everyone can kill anyone."

My hands are slick with blood. Is it mine? I really don't remember. All I can remember is Monzaroc and his smug smile. Stupid, stupid Monzaroc. Why won't he die?

"One of you has already accepted her gift. If the rest of you don't hurry up and do the same, you will die the final death. So rise above your three-dimensional minds. Accept it. Find the richness of infinite possibilities, and not one but all potential meanings. And these meanings are fluent and ever-changing, so it cannot be specifically this or that, for it ever moves and yet is ever the same."

Am I imagining these words? I can't quite...figure it out. Everything is darkening. I think I will take a nap. Yes. That sounds...pleasant.

"So go, dear Challengers. Partake in communion, finish this game. Truth awaits you."

The doors slowly rumble open. I hear the scraping as they slide across the smooth ground. Is that Sami darting through them and into the darkness beyond? I don't know. I'm too...sleepy.

I lie back on the sofa, hands soaked with my own blood, and close my eyes as I drift off to peaceful sleep.

The Challengers (Midnight)

Clarice climbs off the sofa, her jaw set in determination. I don't think she cared the least bit about anything Mr. White had to say. She just wants to win. At any cost.

We stand side by side as we gaze out the newly opened doors. A dank tunnel is before us. Fluorescent lights hang in lanterns on the roof far above, but they illuminate little and shadows lurk all about. I grip my blowgun tightly, breathing heavily.

It's not the tunnel that frightens me. It's what I can do. That mug. Clarice's wounds. I did things, made things, changed things, with nothing more than my mind. And I don't know how I did it.

That scares me beyond belief.

"You ready, Alana?" Clarice's gaze is firmly fixed forward. Her olive eyes are practically shining with determination.

I nod slowly. During our hours long wait for the doors to open, Clarice had pitched me the idea of us two staying together. I don't know why she did. She doesn't seem like a people person. I assume it was just so she could keep me close and not need to hunt me down at the end.

But I don't care if she plans on betraying me. Everyone else would be thinking the same thing. Better to stick with someone I know. Harder for me to be killed that way.

"I'll be killing people," Clarice says, walking forward. I match her step-for-step. "You should be prepared. I won't spare anyone else because of stupid morals."

"I know." It hurts me deeply, but that is the only way.

The only way.

Tori rises from where she's been lying on the couch, stretching out her arms as she stands. "I thought that blabbermouth would go on forever," She mutters.

I don't say anything as I recollect my weapons and double-check them. Mr. White scared me. It's a stupid, foolish thing, but it's true. What the hell was he even talking about? He never was the most normal guy in town, but he was never bat-crap crazy either. At least, he wasn't before today.

Tori heads for the now opened doorway and I move to follow her. She turns around and fixes me with a glare. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"

"Uh...with you?" Aren't we an alliance now? I thought that was the point of accessing the passageway together?

"No, you're not." She turns back towards the tunnel. This time, when I follow, she spins around and points the tip of her machete against my throat.

"I'm only refraining from killing you because you helped me," She practically snarls the words, beautiful face twisted into something hideous. "But if you keep following me, I'll be forced to revise that plan."

What a bitch! I help her stay alive and she just deserts me? I eye the machete with as much disdain I can muster while a blade presses itself against my neck. "You'll never win without me," I speak softly, careful not to press in on the blade.

"We'll see."

She turns and disappears down the tunnel, moving at a brisk trot. I watch her go, feeling surprisingly melancholy. Why is that? I barely knew the girl. But as soon as I take my own step forward I freeze as someone calls out for help.

The voices have returned.

"This is it," I say, helping Imogen to her feet. "The final chapter. The end of this story. The finale."

So much death. Destruction. Devastation. I don't know why Mr. White went through with all this or what he wants, but it doesn't matter at this point. Only surviving does.

Imogen cocks her head, staring out at the dark tunnel that stretches on before us. She has slowly returned to herself during our twelve hour stay in this room. She seems to have accepted that Misha's death wasn't her fault. At least on the outside. I have no idea how she's feeling internally.

"Stay with me, Oreo." She's shaking. Her eyes wide with fear. She knows what I know. That six other people--seven, if you count Mr. White--want us dead. That they will stop at nothing to see it done. "Please?"

"Of course!" I'm not planning on going anywhere. I've been alone on this island for too long. I will stick with my friend. For better or worst.

"We're going to stick together to the end," Imogen says quietly, reaching her hand out for mine. I watch it, contemplating my life up until this point. I might not have realized it at the time, but it was great. Worth every last second. I wish I could tell my parents that I love them, one last time.

I reach out and clasp Imogen's hand.

"We'll see this to the end. Together."

Day 8/ Howl of Fate

Clarice Barron (12:25 A.M)

We step out into the tunnels, our footsteps slapping eerily against the floor. Fluorescent lights line the wall, offering some illumination as we head down the narrow confines. But it's never enough to fully reveal what lies ahead of us. Impenetrable blackness is all I can see.

Alana walks at my side, not making a sound. She unsettles me now. The things she has's not normal, not right. What is she? Mr. White has blabbed about some nonsense for quite awhile, but I never really knew what he meant. Until now...

Alana is...something. I don't know what. Special, certainly. Even powerful. She completely healed my wounds...with nothing more than her mind. How? I need to know.

"Alana..." I think of how to best start this conversation.

"Mmm...?" She grips one of her knives tightly between her fingers, not looking away from the long, narrow tunnel that stretches before us.

"How did you...heal me? You didn't use medicine. My wounds are completely gone."

There's a long pause. Alana stops in her tracks, staring at the stone walls around us with a forlorn expression.

"Alana?" I stop a few paces ahead of her. She's still staring at the wall. "I need to know. It could possibly save my life. Maybe even let me win." I'm already imagining what I could do with such power...the way Mr. White has been speaking, it seems clear that this isn't only Alana's power. That I can get it too.

"I don't know." Her whisper is soft and faint, barely audible. "I don't know anything. I don't even know what I'm doing!"

"You must know something." That power. With it I could wipe out the other Challengers, destroy Mr. White, and even get revenge on the people who always abandon me. The world doesn't care about me. It never has. But with Alana's power...

I could make the world care.

"No!" Alana's hands grip her head, rocking back and forth as she stands in place. I expected her scream to echo back to us, but there's nothing. Nothing but the repressive silence.

"Think!" I grab her by the shoulders and shake her. "The answer is with you! It has to be!"

"Get off me!" I'm surprised by her strength as she shoves me away. My back brushes against the wall as she glares daggers at me. "I don't want to be your tool!"

"You won't have to be, if only you told me how you did it!" I'm shouting. Why am I shouting? That's probably not the best way to get her to open up, but her hesitancy is making me impatient. I stop and take a deep breath to calm myself. That power...

"I already told you I don't know!" Alana forces her way past me, staring into the blackness ahead. Tears fill her eyes. "I just want to go home!"

"With that power, you just might." I find that the lie comes quite easily. She won't get home. I need to be the winner, which means she needs to die. Not right now, certainly not. But later, when the numbers have dwindled and I've learned to do what she can...

I won't feel bad about it. It's just what has to be done.

"Forget about this," Alana continues forward now, and I'm forced to walk to keep up with her. "We need to find one of those rooms."

Silence retakes us as we walk down the long hallway. There's no turns, no twists. Nothing but a straight line. Why? Where is it leading us? I'd probably think longer on this if I wasn't obsessed with questioning Alana.

I ask her everything I can think of as we walk. About her experiences on the island, what she saw in the fog, what she thinks about lies, whether she believes Mr. White when he rants about society.

She tells me practically nothing. She says she's barely seen anything on the island worth noting. Deflects my question about the fog by asking me what I saw. When I tell her that I saw nothing because the mist didn't spray me, she says that it missed her too. I think she's lying.

She doesn't understand the lie question or, at least, pretends not to. When I get to the Mr. White question, she falls silent.

"Do you think he's right?" She asks after a moment of silence when the only sound is that of our footsteps slapping against the ground.

I take a moment to think. While I despise Mr. White with a burning passion, I don't really think that anything he's said has been wrong. The world does hide the ugly truths behind lies. The weak do hold back the strong. Why do we insist on trying to make sure that everyone is equal? And why does that only apply to pretty, rich people? No one cares about people like me. Why should I care about people like them?

"He's not wrong," I grunt, keeping my eyes forward. "But that won't stop me from killing him."

"Clarice..." I flinch at the sadness in Alana's voice. The pity. She's one of them. One of those people who've always had a happy, fortunate life and has never known true hardship. They always want to keep that to themselves. It's not Alana's fault--she tries her best to be a "good" person--but she's one of them, and she can't ever change that. She's...

"We should stop speaking of such unfortunate things," Alana says quietly. I don't respond. What's not unfortunate these days? "What about your life before these Games? Where did you live?"

"I thought you said you didn't want to talk about unfortunate things," I mutter sourly. Alana flinches. She should have expected that my life wasn't ever sunshine and rainbows. But I decide to answer anyway. Maybe she'll tell me more about the power. "I lived in Los Angeles. Capital of decay and filled with pretty little rich people who have no cares in the world for people like me."

"I lived in Los Angeles too!" Alana seems a little too cheerful. I think she's faking it. "Maybe we saw each other before and didn't notice?"

"Unlikely. Unless you were really slumming it up back there." And of course she wasn't. She probably had nice home filled with loving family. She actually has things waiting for her back there. I don't. The only thing I have is the future and what I make of it.

Alana doesn't understand. She never will. People like her just can't grasp what I've been through. They refuse to learn, they're always keeping everything good to themselves. They...

A bell goes off in my head.

Alana won't tell me about the power, because she doesn't want me to have it. She wants it all for herself. My hands tighten into fists. I should have known. Why would anyone want to share such power? Alana is a representative of the lies that run this world.

And I see through her.

I don't say anything as we continue walking. She's nice and kind and all that crap, but she's still keeping her power from me. I don't blame her, exactly. If I had the power, I'd never tell anyone else how to access it. But she can't keep it from me anymore. I can feel it buzzing in the back of my head, gnawing at my mind, grabbing at my soul. The could be mine, if I only knew how to draw it in...

Something draws me in. I can't explain what it is, only that I need to grasp it. Need to take hold of it. Then I begin to thrash as I sink into what seems an impossibility. Colorful glowing lights on all sides. I can't see anything beyond them, only feel myself descending through this churning, suffocating, clattering mass.

The buzzing intensifies until it seems to vibrate through my very skull. Where? What? How?

"Clarice?" A voice cuts through the buzzing. What is it? I blink slowly, feeling dizzy. Everything seems blurry and I gasp for air, like I was submerged in water and just now coming out. "Clarice! Are you okay?"

Alana. I blink twice, staring at her face. Her brown eyes are filled with fear. But I don't feel afraid, or even tired. I feel...a glowing. Like a warm, tingling sensation running down my body. I shiver with joy, a smile forming on my face.

"Clarice? Are you...alright?" Alana sounds terrified. And she should be. Everyone should be. For I now have the one thing I crave most. Oh, yes. I have the ability. I can sense it, deep within me. It's mine.

"I feel fine," I brush her away, grinning like a maniac. I haven't felt this happy since...ever. "In fact, I feel better than ever before. I feel like a new person."

Alana says nothing. She still looks terrified. I flex my hands, imagining that I can feel power coursing through them. This game. This God-awful game. It will be over very soon.

Because I've just won it.

Sami Bitar (12:43 A.M)

I've been running for too long. I stop in the middle of an intersection, placing a hand against the solid cement wall as I try to catch my breath.

How long have I been running? Since the passage opened? I turn and look the way I came, only, I don't know which way that was. Four different passages stretch out from my location, each one shrouded in the same darkness that has plagued every tunnel I've traveled down.

I don't think Anne is chasing me. I fled as soon as the doors opened, terrified that she would take the opportunity to try and end me. I knew she would. In my short time with her, I learned that she was a cruel, hardened killer. She'd end me the moment she could.

A memory flashes across my mind. One of me sticking a knife into a boy's neck. The blood. The hot, pulsing, sticky blood. It was everywhere, coating my hands and face. It covered me with evidence of murder.

No. No! It wasn't murder, it was only what had to be done. People do worse things every day. They kill without cause, without reason. Back in my home country, Syria, people kill each other every hour.

I look at the knife that did the deed. I hold it in my hands, turning it over and frowning. I hope I won't have to use it again, but I know that I will.

I tuck the blade into my boot. If I'm ever cornered, I'll pull it out and...I don't know. Use it, somehow. I try not to think about how, if I'm in a position where I need to use the knife, I'd probably be killed before I could grab it.

With that done, I pick up my sword and stare at the four different passages. Which one to take? I don't want to find anyone else. They'd probably kill me easily--everyone else is probably still allied--and I don't think I could get the drop on them. Not in these cramped quarters.

But those rooms. The ones Mr. White said held items. If I could find one of those, then wait out a few deaths, I'd be in prime position.

But which way to go?

I finally select a passage at random--the one on my right--and start meandering down its narrow path. I notice side passages branching off to the left and right, their destinations unknown. All of these side paths appear the same as the main tunnel: murky and foreboding, as endless in their black expanse as the one I'm on.

How am I supposed to find anything in this labyrinthine place? Despite my best efforts, I find no rooms. And all the tunnels look exactly alike. Occasionally I'll bump into a wooden crate, or stumble over a coil of misplaced wire, but most of the time the tunnels are as empty as a retirement home in Syria.

So, what’s to tempt me to stray from the main tunnel and explore one of the many branches? At least here I know that I'm not going in a circle. If I took one of the side passages, I could very well end up back where I started. Better to chance my luck, skill and desire against the main tunnel.

Besides, with the number of side tunnels I’ve passed so far, I figure I’ll have plenty of time to wander down one or more, later.

Soon I find that I can't continue on with this strategy. The main tunnel comes to a halt, ending at a flat, unadorned concrete wall. I sigh and turn back the way I came, taking the first side passage on the left.

This too ends in a wall.

A sense of panic begins to well up within me. Do they all end in walls? Am I trapped in here with Anne? With a tremendous force of will, I quell that sensation. There’s nothing to do about these dead-ends, and Mr. White wouldn't have sent us to a place without an exit. I need to concentrate on what’s ahead. The shot of panic helps, it forces me to pay more attention to everything around me.

I return to the main tunnel and search for another path. Soon another side passage looms just ahead. Nothing stands out about this tunnel to differentiate it from the rest, but something, maybe instinct, tells me it could be the passage that I need.

I take a few tentative steps down this passage and feel the ever present sense of unease fade. The lights seem brighter here, or at least I imagine they do. That's a good sign, right?

The further down this tunnel I travel, the easier it is for me to move forward. Maybe it’s that I’m getting used to the uneven path. Or perhaps my eyes are more accustomed to the darkness. It does seem as though I can see more detail ahead of me. That's probably just my mind playing tricks on me.

No, it really is getting easier to see! I can see further and further ahead. The crates and coils of wire on the floor can be seen slightly ahead of my feet, enough that I don’t bump into them anymore. I can even make out more detail down the side tunnels.

Slowly, like a new dawn, a soft light sets the end of the tunnel aglow. At first, I think I’m seeing things, that my eyes are playing tricks with my mind. But the glow remains and slowly and steadily, the glow intensifies.

The glow seems so welcoming, but I can't help but think that it might be deadly too. What if the other Challengers are brought here by the same thing? Honestly, a battle is the last thing I want.

But if there's a room ahead...

Gritting my teeth together, I push forward. I move at a brisk jog, watching my feet to avoid tripping over anything. The danger of that has decreased since the light came. I can see the ground before me quite clearly.

The tunnel comes to an abrupt end and I pitch forward into a huge, cavernous room. The light is in the center of the room, suspended in the air above the floor. The ceiling is so high; it’s hidden from view by a darkness and distance that the light can’t seem to penetrate. Looking around the room, I see dozens of tunnels opening into the room and realize that it's very, very possible that this is the center of the tunnels, the place Mr. White wants us to go.

I look back to the light. I don't know what it is, but it's bright and hurts my eyes to stare at. It seems to be held up by a golden chain. A chandelier, of sorts?

I walk around the room, careful to avoid the outskirts and the other tunnels. Another Challenger could be hiding in its depths, waiting for the right moment to strike. I won't give them an easy opportunity to take me out.

The room is circular and practically empty, save for the chandelier that hangs above and a small area just below it. A richly embroidered purple carpet covers the ground, and a wooden desk and table rest on it. Atop the table sits a little oaken box.

I approach this table warily, sword held at the ready. Who knows what kind of trap Mr. White has set? The little box doesn't seem like anything special, but a white sheet of paper is stuck to its lid. I carefully pry this off and read the words inscribed on it.

One of the four "special" items. Use with care. -Mr. White

I grin. So, I managed to find one of the items, have I? I wonder what it is. I flip the lid open and find a small, straight black item lying on red velvet. I pick it up, moving it around to get a good look at it.

It's as long as my hand and smooth to the touch. There's a small flap at the very top, and when I open this, I discover a tiny red button.

The detonator.

The breath catches in my throat and I hastily shut the flap. Pressing that button will blow the head off of one of the remaining eight Challengers. But which one? My fingers itch to press it and find out, but my mind tells me to be careful. It's possible that it could be the detonator for my own collar.

I glance around the large, dark room. There's no sound. Everything is eerily quiet and I can't help but feel like someone could be watching me from the safety of the darkness. I stumble away from the table, towards the wall, and I inadvertently discover something.

Looming out of the darkness before me is a pair of the largest doors I've ever seen. Completely white, they are sheer, metallic, and inexplicably carved with animals and creatures of various types. Gemstones sparkle from the sides of the door, lighting my face with a colorful sparkle. Golden gilding runs up their sides, twisting into the shape of a face at the very top. There doesn't appear to be any handles.

"The doors to Mr. White..." I murmur to myself, running a hand along the door. What else could it be? This is clearly the entrance to his abode, finally answering the question of whether he is on this island with us.

But how to enter?

I don't know if I'm supposed to, but these doors exist for a reason. I'm certain that, sooner or later, these doors will open and reveal the path to our tormentor. The only question--will I survive long enough to see it happen?

Oreo Dutton (1:17 A.M)

I don't like the silence that presses in on us as we walk. It weighs almost a ton, squeezing down against my shoulders as I follow Imogen into the endless blackness before us.

I find myself constantly running a hand over my grenades. These are the only things that really give me any chance of defeating the others. All of them, even Sami, would best me in a hand-to-hand fight. My only chance would be to blow them up before it gets to that.

Especially since Imogen is still holding my machete. I can use it now that the rankings don't matter--new ones have silently shown up on our datapads--but I still feel that Imogen has a better chance fighting successfully with it then I do.

"I hate this silence," Imogen mutters quietly as we take another left turn. To navigate this labyrinthine of a tunnel, we've taken to soley following the left wall. I once heard that was a way to escape a maze, and Imogen apparently has heard the same.

It hasn't helped so far, though.

Imogen is right. The silence is oppressive. Sure, it probably beats screaming and yelling, but my mind keeps imagining different types of monstrositys hiding out in the darkness, waiting and watching for us to drop our guard. It's almost too much.

"Have you ever thought of your future?" I ask when the silence becomes too much to bear. Though I speak quietly, my voice still carries down the tunnel, returning with a slight echo. "Like, your career after school and everything?"

", not really." Imogen shrugs, sounding embarrassed. "I mean, I still have a few years of highschool left, right? Why worry now? I'm only fifteen."


Imogen spins around in shock, machete flying over her head as she searches for what has alarmed me so. But there's nothing to see. Because what shocked me so much was what she said.

"You're only fifteen?" I'm astounded. This whole time I had thought that she was my age, or maybe a little older, but never once did I think she could be fifteen!

She blinks twice. "Yeah. Is that a surprise? Aren't you around the same age?"

"I'm eighteen!"

"No way!" This time it's her turn to broadcast shock. "You're eighteen? Three years older than I am!"

I nod. "I had my birthday last spring."

Imogen stops in the middle of the tunnel, touching her forehead with a finger. " I never knew you were so much older than I am!"

"I'm not that old." The way she's going on, you'd think that she thought I was like thirty or something. I'm not self-conscious about aging or anything, but I don't appreciate being called old. Especially when I'm not even twenty yet!

"Yes, you're not." Imogen looks up, a bright smile on her face. Looking at her, I still can't believe she's younger than me. I mean, yeah, she looks like she could weigh less than I do, but she's still about two inches shorter. And her mannerisms. I never would have guessed her age. "It's just...I always thought of you as a sister. A younger sister."

"And I thought you were like an older sister!"

We both giggle, falling into hysterics over this absurd misunderstanding. It makes sense that we'd rely so much on assumption. With so much going happening on this island, who'd have thought to ask someone for their age? Especially when you thought you knew it already.

Still laughing, we continue along our way through the tunnel. We take several more left turns before Imogen wipes the mirth from her face and turns to me. "What about you? Have you ever thought about what to do with your life?"

"I...yeah, kinda." I hadn't chosen a university yet, but I knew what I'd like to do with my life. "I wanted to be a artist. Or maybe a photographer. Or both. I don't know. There's lots of things I'd have liked to be."

We fall silent. Our path ahead seems lighter, somehow. Why?

"Wanted? Past tense?" Imogen speaks softly. "Don't you still want to do that stuff?"

"I..." Pain grips my chest. Not the physical kind, the type that hurts more. I close my eyes and hold them shut. "I don't know if I'll ever escape this island."

"Of course you will. You're going to win, Oreo. And you're going to live."

"That may not be enough." I mumble the words, opening my eyes and seeing the tunnel before us. It's definitely getting lighter. When was the last turn?

"What do you mean?" Imogen sounds genuinely curious. I wonder how she doesn't know what I mean. She's seen more than I have.

"I have nightmares every night, Imogen." I find myself trembling, my voice shaking. I haven't told anyone this before. "I see them all. Nora. Fausto. I see their deaths over and over and over. Not to mention Nero. I see him watching me all the time, judging me for not helping Nora. He killed her, but even he knows that her death is my fault for not letting you save her.

"And Lucas. He threatens me every night, and his head explodes every time. The worst part is that I was happy he's dead. I wanted him to die. But now I wish he didn't. He was going to kill me, yet I feel bad that he's dead. Why? Why do I feel bad for everyone who dies? Even the people I don't know?"

Tears stream down my face, streaking through the dirt that stains my cheeks. I didn't notice that I started crying. Imogen has stopped in front of me, watching silently. I turn to look her in the eyes.

"It's not just in my dreams, Imogen. I see them when I close my eyes. They're always there, just waiting for me. So, you see, it doesn't matter if I win this game and live. If I get back to New York. It won't matter, because I'll never escape this island. Not in the way it matters."


For the first time I notice that there's a door ahead of us. It's old and wooden and full of splintering cracks. It's hard to see it through all my tears.

"You've never killed anyone, Oreo." Imogen is quiet, her voice soft. "No death was your fault. You can't blame yourself for what has happened. Not even Nora. We couldn't have saved her."

Not true. We could have. I know we could have. But for some reason, I can't form the words to say so.

"You're not responsible for anyone's death. Not Lucas', not Fausto's, not Jotaro's. And the reason you feel bad? Why you wish no one had died? It's because you're a good person, Oreo. A better person then I could ever be."

How can she be so strong? After all we've been through, how can she just brush it all aside and say that it won't crush her spirit? Why can't I be more like her?

"I wish I could care for everyone," Imogen whispers, her voice seemingly far away. "But I find myself caring only for one. One who never deserved my affection."


"No, Oreo. I killed Misha. You can't say it wasn't my fault. It was. I won't run from the truth. I've done that enough."

"Well, well, well. Finally admitting it, eh?"

We both spin in terror at the sound of a new voice. A figure emerges from the hallway we've just traveled.


"You're a murderer, you admit that now?" Tori strolls forward leisurely. She holds a machete in one hand, the other holds a wicked axe-like weapon. "Good. Admittance is the first step."

Nature was cruel to make her so terribly beautiful. Full lips, legs as long as a models, skin as smooth as a river stone, and with dark, chocolate hair that would make Rapunzel envious.

She stops several paces away from us, focusing solely on Imogen. "I could have killed the both of you while you were blabbing, but I wanted you to know it was me who killed you."

"Is this vengeance for Misha?" Imogen asks.

"Kind of. Mostly it's closure for me. You murdered him in cold-blood, so now you will face the same. Poetic justice and all." She sounds so...detached. As if she truly doesn't care that she's talking about killing someone.

What kind of person is she?

I reach for the grenades at my side. Imogen grabs my hand. "No. I need to face this myself, Oreo. You escape through the door."

"What? No! That's insane! Imogen--"

"She's too close. The explosion would be ineffective, or worse, kill us all. You go. I need to handle this myself."

I don't understand. Not in the slightest. Why does she need to go alone? "At least let me help!" I throw a glance at Tori. She's just watching us silently, her stony face impassive. Why isn't she attacking?

"No. Oreo, leave. This is my fight."

"No! I refuse! I--"

"Oreo. Only one person wins this game." Imogen hoists her machete and takes a step towards Tori. "You fight your fight and I'll fight mine."

There's no talking her out of this. She's made her mind--and her grave. I swallow my cries, turning and ripping the door open. The hinges creak in protest, then it opens at once. I take one last look at Imogen as she steps forward to face Tori. I know why she fights. But that doesn't mean I understand.

"Goodbye, sister. May we see each other again."

Then I step through the door and sprint away like a coward, tears stinging my eyes the entire way.

Chris Barnard (1:45 A.M)

The tunnels whisper to me.

Sometimes it's the voices of the dead, but more often than not its some voice I don't recognize. I try my best to ignore them, but it's almost impossible. They're always there, clawing at me, gnawing their way into my skull.

They never leave me alone.

My current path suddenly diverges into two. I stop at the intersection, staring at the identical paths in confusion. Which one to take? Does it matter? What does one path have that the other doesn't?

“Truth, perhaps, or maybe the measure of yourself,” A whisper sighs.

I freeze. A chill runs up my spine, glueing me to the spot. That sounds almost...familiar. I don't know why, but the words resonate in my mind. I look back and forth between the passages for several long moments before making a snap decision and plunging into the right hand tunnel.

As I pass by the numerous side passages, I begin to hear sounds, not words, but more of a feeling. It’s like the hint of a summer storm when there’s not a cloud in the sky. Almost like a shiver that suddenly runs down your back, with no rhyme or reason for it.

With trepidation, I sense a possible danger, yet at the same time, relief. The sense of danger comes from the unknown ahead of me, while the relief comes from an inner sense that I’m not really alone.

The further down the tunnel I walk, the more distinct the sound becomes. A low voice whispers from the dark, caressing my body like a breeze within this airless realm. I strain to make out the words but there’s nothing more to hear.

Reaching the opening of another branch, I hear a distant whisper, like the sound of a leaf falling from a tree, calling to me from the dark depths of the side tunnel.

I raise my bow up, quickly stringing it and half knocking an arrow. I only gaze down the the tunnel for a moment before feeling foolish. There is nothing to aim at.

I let my bow go slack, returning the arrow to my quiver. I stand on my toes and try to peer past the darkness, attempting to discern what exactly is down this path. I can't see anything.

Taking a deep, shuddering breath, I plunge into the tunnel and move at a brisk trot. The whispers from the side tunnels intensify, trying to coerce me. The insistence of the whispering grows and grows the further I go. Some of the whispers begin to threaten, others to cajole and yet others to plead and whine. The sound of the whispers becomes a cacophony of noise surrounding me.

Shut up! Just please shut up! My own voice screams inside my head, begging for the others to go away. Why won't they leave me alone? Why?

The whispers from the side passages seem to take on ethereal bodies and a vocal strength I’d not encountered thus far. I can almost feel the cold, clammy grasp of wispy fingers grabbing at my clothes and arms as I pass each opening.

I have to force away the urge to bat at them. There is nothing here. I'm imagining things again. My mind is playing tricks. Dangerous tricks, but still just tricks. If I only stopped paying attention to them...

Blinking rapidly, I spin around in a circle as I come upon an intersection.

And I see two figures walking don an adjacent tunnel.

One of them is Clarice. I'd recognize that girl anywhere after what she did to me. She leads the way forward, a cocky grin plastered on her face as she grips a trident in her hands.

The other girl is harder to place. She has dark hair and tan skin, so she must be...Alana? Was that the name? No matter. She's an enemy all the same.

Neither of them has spotted me yet. I knock an arrow to my bow and smile as I take aim. I won't miss. I've been trained in archery since I was a kid, and if there's one thing I'm great at, it's hitting a target. This will be simple fare.

I release.

I don't rest on my laurels as the arrow launches through the tunnel. In the instant that it's flying I take the time to knock and fire two more arrows at a rapid pace. The string of my bow slaps against my self-made vambrace, echoing in the tunnel as pinpricks of death fly towards my adversaries.

They see both me and my arrows at the same time. Alana screams in panic and launches herself down a side passage, disappearing into the blackness. Clarice simply stands in place, watching the arrows approach.

The arrows close in. They're only a few seconds away from striking, from turning that damn girl into a porcupine and--

The arrows stop in midair.

They just float there, mere feet away from Clarice's skull. They hang in the empty space above the floor, unmoving.

This doesn't...How? It's the only question that can pump itself through my brain. How could this be possible? I stare at the three arrows as they sit suspended in the air. Impossible. Illogical. This shouldn't happen.

Yet it has.

Clarice looks up at their steel tips and smiles. Then she looks back at me. She points.

The arrows begin to shift. They spin in the air, turning themselves around so that their tips no longer aim at Clarice. They aim at me.

Clarices makes a fist with her hand and the arrows zoom forward.

My eyes bulge as the arrrows--my arrows--come hurtling towards me. I just barely manage to step back into the intersection before the three weapons whip past me, mere inches away from piercing my neck.

"I'm so glad you could join me, Chris!" Clarice's voice sounds warped. It's deeper, louder than it was before. It seems to vibrate through the walls. "You escaped me before, but now you can't. The whole world is my playground!"

She's insane. Possibly more so than I am. Because those arrows certainly didn't actually just reverse themselves and fly at me, I just imagined that they did. Obviously.

Clarice continues to shout about something or other. I can hear her footsteps approaching as she moves down the corridor. What to do? Attack? Flee? Clarice is no threat to me normally, but with my current sanity...can I even trust what I see?

I turn and run back down another passage. I can't think straight. I'm imagining things. I'm--

The wall beside me explodes into a cloud of dust. The force of explosion sends me flying, shockwaves vibrating through my body. I thump against a wall and pain tingles up my back as I slump to the ground.

My skeleton creaks like a tree as I try to stand. I stumble up only to fall back down as another wall explodes, this time further up the tunnel. I shake my head, ears ringing. I think I can hear Clarice screaming, even through the ringing.

Hard to think. Pain in my skull. Nose dripping blood. Ears trickling with it. My eyeballs throb from the explosion. My vision is watery. I get onto my knees, wedging a shoulder against an intact wall to help me stand. The feeling of needles tickle my fingers.

"Chris! Come out! Come out! You cannot run; you cannot hide! This is our domain! We are legion! You are powerless against us! Give up! Give up!"

A voice calls after me. Or, more accurately, several voices. They all speak in different, distinct tones and are unnaturally loud. Or am I just imagining that? Hard to tell. I reach around for my weapons. My bow is gone, probably destroyed in the blast. My sword is nearby. I reach down and pick it up only to gasp as my fingers touch the steel.

Or what should be steel. Instead, the blade is soft to the touch. Shaking, hands still numb from shock, I place two fingers between the blade and squeeze. The blade squished. It spreads out along my fingers, like putty or cake batter.

"Doesn't...make...any...sense..." I drop the blade and back up down the tunnel, pulling out my axe. That, at least, is still steel.

I hobble only a few feet, avoiding falling chunks of brick and plaster, before stumbling upon my spear. I pick that up. Also still steel. Good. I turn to head back the way I came when Clarice appears at the end of the tunnel.

Within seconds the spear has left my hands, hurtling across the tunnel towards her. It snaps in midair, two pieces clattering uselessly to the ground. I gape. Clarice smirks.

"I can't lose, Chris," She stalks forward, eyes narrowing as she gazes at me like one would watch an insect. Annoying and unwanted, but easily crushed underfoot. "I am the only winner this game will know."

I don't know what to say. What does one say to such a thing? She stops a few feet away from me, a quizzical look on her face.

"I use to hate you, Chris. But now I don't."

I leap forward with my axe, hoping to smash it into her brain. She easily sidesteps and I go colliding with a wall. The axe slips from my grip, sliding across the ground. Clarice watches me in amusement.

"One cannot hate a cockroach, Chris. You merely depose of them when necessary."

She raises her trident and I don't even scream as she thrusts it into my stomach. I take a shuddering breath, slumping against the wall and sliding to the ground as the cold steel meets my hot blood. I gasp for air.

I always thought, that when I died, I'd be heading to meet a deity of some sort. But now I know that I was wrong. I've already seen a god.

And her name is Clarice Barron.

Imogen Sykes (1:50 A.M)

Tori's machete comes streaming towards my face. I slap the blade away with my own machete, the force of the blow vibrating through the steel and coursing down my arm. I can't keep this up forever. She's just too strong.

"What do you hope to accomplish by killing me?" I ask, jumping backwards as Tori takes another swing. The long-limbed girl is forcing me back down the tunnel, constricting my movement and forcing me towards the door where Oreo fled.

I don't regret sending her away. She doesn't need to be apart of this fight--Tori isn't after her. She can fight on and try to win this game. I need to settle this myself. And, with my victory, she'll be that much closer to winning.

"Killing you brings me one step closer to victory!" Tori swings the axe-like weapon--a tomahawk--and I throw myself against the wall to avoid being eviscerated. My machete isn't strong enough to deflect a blow from that weapon.

"And?" Keep her talking. She can't focus on the battle that way and maybe, just maybe, she'll slip up and make a mistake. Probably not. But I need some hope to cling to.

When I originally began this fight, I had not expected her to be so strong. Oh, I knew that she was dangerous and would likely kill me--that's why I sent Oreo away--but I hadn't expected the absolute ferocity of her attacks. She fights with brute force, harsh chopping blows and quick stabs. It's taken all I have just to last this long.

I won't last much longer.

The sounds of our battle is the only noise in this dreadful place. The thrum of solid metal as our blades meet. The sound of our footsteps against the concrete floor. My gasp of pain when her blade catches my lower cheek.

"And you deserve to die!" Tori snarls the words as I flounder backwards, droplets of red sliding down my chin. "Misha was killed by your hand. It's only fair that you die by mine."

"I suppose that it is." I've never wanted to die. Has anyone? Even people who sing glorious songs about the afterlife don't want to die. They just don't mind when it happens. I've never understood that way of thinking. Not until these games.

Tori aims another thrust at me. I'm almost backed up into the door now, and I don't have much more room to keep dodging. Soon I will need another strategy.

As I think this, Tori surprises me by swinging her tomahawk horizontally. I throw myself backwards before realizing that the door is just behind me. I crash into it with a thud. The door swings open inwards and I hit the ground, rolling across the dusty floor until my body comes up against a small box.

Tori steps through the doorway, face a mask of destruction and weapons held high.

Instinctively I grab the box and hurl it across the room. Tori's eyes widen in surprise as the box slams into her. She falls in a tangle of limbs, her weapons dropping from her hands and clattering across the floor.

Seeing my opportunity, I throw myself to my feet and dart across the room. Tori tries to do the same, but I'm quicker. By the time she's standing I've crossed the room. I kick a foot out and her tomahawk goes sliding out the doorway and down the hall, disappearing into the darkness there.

"That won't save you," Tori says. She sounds remarkably calm, despite our situation. You'd be excused for not knowing that she's been attempting to kill me for the last ten minutes. "I'm not going to stop until you're dead."

"But why?" There's a lull in the battle. Both of us stand there, staring at one another, breathing heavily. My cheek is still bleeding. "Misha? I didn't want to kill him. It was the mist. But I know you won't care about that."

"You're right. I don't."

"You barely knew him. I knew him for years, I was friends with him, and then he betrayed me. Despite all that, I still loved him. And I killed him." How could anything this girl have been though be worse than that?

"I..." Tori shakes her head, long brown hair falling free from the mess it was in. "You're the living embodiment of everything I never was. You're the perfect girl-next-door. Everyone loves you. You're not great at anything, but good with everything. You don't...You didn't throw away everything in your life over a stupid boy! You didn't lose yourself to alcohol! You didn't...You didn't do anything wrong."

She's rambling, ranting. She hardly sounds coherent anymore, yet I feel sorrow for her. I don't even know why. I'm none of the things she said. No one likes me, save Oreo. I'm not good at anything that matters. I didn't throw away everything I had, sure, but I remember my bout with anorexia over the stupid thoughts of why no one liked me.

"When I kill you," Tori bends down and picks up her machete. "I slay my own personal demons. I can go back home, make amends. I can live my life again."

"You're wrong."

"Excuse me?" She narrows her eyes at me, pointing with the machete. "What did you just say?"

"You're not going home. Neither of us are."

I reach up and touch my neck as Tori snarls in rage and lunges forward. Her blade comes too quickly. My hands fumble slowly--too slowly--and her weapon plunges into my chest.

The pain is hot, so hot that the blood squirting out onto my hands feels cold by comparison. I fall. My knees hit the concrete ground and I stare up at Tori, blood seeping from my lips and dribbling down my chin.

"I won." Tori says it flatly, without emotion. The angst she had displayed has evaporated, replaced by her usual monotone self. "I won, and you lost."

"No..." Somehow, I force the words out through my lips. So much blood on my hands. "You...didn'"

That brings her to focus, and she finally hears what she should have heard seconds ago. A rapid beeping.

Panic. Her eyes widen in sudden fear as her hands grasp her neck, feeling at the collar there and the pin that activates the explosive. She finds it still in place, then confusion crosses her face as she turns to stare at me.

I hold out a bloody hand. There, lying on my palm, is the pin to my own collar.

"You don't win, Tori. Neither do I."

The explosion takes us both.

Oreo Dutton (2:00 A.M)

The datapad on my arm rings three times and I try my best not look at it. I know what I will find. It won't be pretty, or fun, or even tolerable. It'll be what I fear most. What I know is waiting for me.

I can't resist any longer and look at the screen.

Three people are dead. Chris, Tori...and Imogen.

I break. Sitting down in the tunnel, staring at my hands and the knife they hold. I found it in the room right after Imogen sent me away. The room was one of the special rooms. This knife is special. According to the note attached, it's a ballistic knife, which can send the blade flying forward with the press of a button.

But that won't bring Imogen back to life.

I feel something deep in my chest. A hollow, cold ache. Like blackness has opened a pit in my soul even as my body coils around grief. It feels like a huge weight is pressing me down. My shoulders slump. Chest compresses.

Why didn't I stay with her? She told me to flee, but I did not need to listen to her. I left on my own accord. I left her to die. Imogen told me that none of these deaths were my fault, but how is that still true?

Slowly I pull myself together. I climb to my feet and lurch away into the darkness of the tunnel ahead. Some light bleeds from far ahead to just barely light my path. An explosion rattles the walls around me.

Those started a few moments ago, shortly before Imogen died. I do not know what causes them. I can't begin to care.

Imogen is dead. The last person that I cared for on this island, the one person who cared for me. And I could have helped her. But I didn't.

Tears blur my vision as I straggle forward. Imogen knew that she would die, it's why she sent me away. But if I hadn't listened, if I had stayed, the outcome might have been different.

Tori is dead too. Her death just makes me feel even more hollow. I couldn't even try to kill her for vengeance, if such a thing mattered to me. Imogen and her killer are both dead, and now all I can do is struggle on and hope that I can avoid the same fate.

I hug the knife close to my chest. It is my only weapon, save for the grenades. I doubt any of them will help me win at this point. There are too many Challengers with better equipment. The grenades are too unwieldy. I see that now.

The tunnel ahead of me begins to widen. The walls slowly arc away, leading me into a large, cavernous room. A huge chandelier hangs from the ceiling and a giant light shines from it, illuminating the center of the room.

Fear spreads through my chest and I fail to push it away. I approach the table in the center. A box, just like the one that held the ballistic knife, rests atop it. I flip the lid open but find nothing inside. Someone else has already been here.

I can't stop myself from feeling at the collar on my neck. What if someone has found the detonator? They could kill me with the press of a button. And that explosion. What if that was the detonator?

The ground shakes just as I think this, a distant boom resounding through the tunnel and emptying into the chamber. I stare into the blackness, thinking. Those explosions have been going on for a good five minutes now. What is happening?

A shudder runs down my body as I realize I am about to find out.

Clarice Barron (2:02 A.M)

The wall before me explodes into dust.

I walk through the newly created gap, smiling with joy as I emerge into a new tunnel. Behind me lies a trail of devastation. After deposing of Chris, I've been hunting down the other Challengers. None can stand before me, so it is only a matter of time before I win.

The power is within me. I feel it in my veins, coursing through me like a tempest. It's a storm, a raging, uncontrollable storm. I desire to unleash it upon anything and everything, demanding that I feed it.

Another wall explodes.

It's almost too much, really. So much power. So hard to control. I need to focus and focus intently to get it to work. Otherwise I make mistakes. And I can't afford any mistakes.

I step over the pile of rubble that was once a wall and emerge into a new hallway. The lights hanging on the ceiling shudder and sway as I destroy another wall. I could probably just make them disappear, but what fun would that be? Better to see the results of my power, I think.

"Where are you?" I call out into the darkness, scanning for any signs of movement. "Why are you all hiding!"

No answer. So. They wish to make me hunt them down? Very well. I can oblige.

With a wave of my hand I destroy the hallway behind me. The walls implode, sending a smattering of shattered bricks and mortar crashing into one another, creating a tornado of dust and debris. Shards of glass rain down from the lights above.

"Come out! Stop hiding!"

A sharp jolt of pain runs through my head. I gasp, falling to my knees and clutching my temples. Blood streams from my nostrils. I wipe it away and stand back up, ignoring the pain that throbs at the base of my skull.

That happens every now and then, mostly when I use my...abilities too extensively. No matter. I will not let that slow me down. I will win this game. I must.


A too-familiar voice speaks my name. Alana steps through the gap in the wall that I created. Her face is filled with concern. The terror in her makes no sense. Concerned yet terrified? What?

"You shouldn't have came here, Alana." I turn to face her, hands clenched at my side. I would have preferred to not have been the one to kill her. She tries to be a good person, even though she fails more often than not. But she tries. That's more than I can say for majority of people.

"I needed to come," Though her words are shaky, she doesn't sound nearly as scared as I'd have thought. She had this power first. She knows better than anyone what I am capable of now. Yet she still thinks it wise to confront me. "You're...You're losing yourself, Clarice."

Words. Hollow words. They buzz at my head like gnats around a dragon. "On the contrary, I've never known myself better."

"You're a good person, Clarice. You've just let yourself become obsessed with power."

"Is that why you wouldn't share it with me?" How dare she speak of obsessive! She was the one who withheld it! Not me! She was the one who wouldn't share it with her ally!

"I didn't know how I did it!" She sounds close to tears. "I would have told you if I did, I would have!"

"Sure, sure." She might be telling the truth. Maybe. But the storm within me...I feel the howling winds, the roaring tempest. It yearns to be free. I should unleash it. Let the world burn.

No...No? Why am I hesitant? Another jolt of pain strikes my head. I slump, gritting my teeth together.

"I don't know what it is that we can do," Alana doesn't seem to notice my pain, as she continues on. Need to end it. Soon. Before she can use her power against me. "But we shouldn't use it. It's...wrong."

"I really don't care about right and wrong at this point," I tell her, the pain throbbing in my skull. "It's all just semantics now."

I lash out as I finish speaking. My power heads for Alana but is stopped by...something. A shuddering force makes its way down my body, as if I've ran full speed into a wall. Something pushes back against my power. Alana's?

Sweat begins to build on my head as I strain against the force. It's so strong!

"Just stop!" Alana shouts, but her words sound distant. Hollow. I continue to press against the force, exerting all of my strength. Pain tickles it's way up my elbows, across my shoulders. It feels like a thousand needles are pressing in against my skin. "You're using too much strength!"

I don't listen. I tune her out. I just found something that would help me fix the world, and now it's already failing me. No! No! I need to win! I need to! I feed more of my strength into my attack. I will not fail. My head pounds with raging fury. Why won't she fall? I should be stronger. I should--


Alana Salazar (2:12 A.M)

I breathe in with a gasp as the air returns to normal. Clarice drops like a doll made of strips of cloth. She hits the ground with her eyes still open, and a little bit of blood dribbles from the corner of her mouth.

She's dead. The thought runs through my head before I'm even certain. Sweat pours down my face in waves. My breathing is short and ragged. She tried...I don't know what she was trying, but I was barely able to hold her assault off. My own power was nothing compared to hers.

But she is dead. I don't know how. She used too much power, perhaps. I slump to my knees and suck in air, trying not to look at the body of my friend. For she was still that, even though she went...over the edge.

I crawl across the cold, cement ground, pulling myself up against Clarice's body and searching for a pulse. There is none. So it's official then.

I lean back against the wall, surprised to find myself crying. I didn't know I cared that much for her. But then, she was the only person on this island who I got to know. The only one I got to personally feel the sorrow for when she died.


A belated ring comes to my datapad. I bleakly turn to check and see if she is dead. Yes. It's her. She now joins Chris, Imogen, and Tori as people who've died in the last two hours alone. Only four left.

"Is this what you want?" I find myself whispering, staring at my hands. "For all of us to die? To tear one another apart?" Mr. White hasn't spoken to us since the tunnels opened. What is he doing? What does he want? What purpose does this game serve?

And my power...

No. I vow not to use it again, whatever it is. I don't need it. Not if its from him. Mr. White can go to hell!

I rise to my feet, blindly lurching away into the darkness. I feel sick. Like a stomach flu has swept through me. Body aches run down my side and nausea churns in my stomach, threatening to spill over. I don't stop, though. I can't. Not until this is over.

But what then?

Mr. White won't let us go free, I don't believe that. Why would he? He's a psychopath! But...No. Don't think of it. Not until you get there.

The path I'm on twists and churns throughout the tunnels, silently taking me...somewhere. Eventually I stumble upon a doorway and I pry it open to discover a medium-sized, unopened box. Inside I discover a tan vest that I find vaguely familiar. A Kevlar vest?

To be certain, I take a knife from my pocket and lift it to stab into the vest. I stop at the last moment. This is silly. I'd ruin my knife, possibly damage the vest. Better to wear it and hope it's what I think it is.

As I put it on, I realize that it doesn't matter if it works or not, because I'm not going to be putting myself in a position to test it out anyway. Or at least I hope not.

With my new vest--ostensibly one of Mr. White's "special" items--I stagger back out into the hall and continue down my path. It's not long before it widens into a large, circular room illuminated by a giant light.

There, standing in the center of the room, is another Challenger. I take a deep breath, sending out a silent prayer. This is it. This is the final showdown. Mustering all of my remaining courage, I stride forward into the room.

Oreo Dutton (2:22 A.M)

Alana walks into the room.

She holds two knives, one in each hand. A large tan vest is wrapped around her slender torso, looking mighty impressive. Is it bulletproof? I almost laugh at the thought. What does it matter if it is? I have no bullets, only grenades.

I feel sick at the thought of having to use them.

Alana stops right before the desk in the center of the room. She lifts her head to stare at me. "Of all twenty-four Challengers, I didn't think you and I would be in the final four."

"I didn't think so either." I had honestly expected my death to have happened days ago. Only sheer luck has prevented it from being so. And this girl, this small, frightened looking girl. I hadn't thought that she'd be one of the few left. I'd have thought the final four would be people like Chris and Nic, Fausto and Anne. Instead, it's us weaklings.

Alana allows a small smile. Then her head whips around to stare at a shadowed section of the room, where a dark figure emerges. Surprise lights her face. "I hadn't expected to see you here, Sami."

The lithe boy licks his lips nervously. "I wanted everyone to know what would happen next," He says in an accented voice.

"What do you mean?" Though he said it plainly, I can't help but attach ominous meaning to those words.

"One of us will die. And it will be randomized." He holds up his hand and Alana gasps. In his hand, clutched tightly between his fingers, is a small, black detonator. The cold steel of my collar tingles against my skin. If that button is pressed...

"It could blow up one of the dead kid's collars," I say with fake bluster. I feel sick at the thought of Imogen's corpse exploding, but that thought hurts alot less then my head exploding would.

"It could," Sami concedes with a shrug. "But I don't think it will."

"It could blow your own head off," Alana is very quiet, her dark eyes trained on the detonator. I notice the muscles in her arms twitching. Is she planning to throw one of her knives?

"I'm willing to take that risk." Sami sounds dead-serious. And why wouldn't he be? It's a one in four odds that it's his own head, and while that would be terrible...would it really be worse then any of the other ways he could die?

"Why did you tell us you have it?" I want to keep him talking. Maybe I can think my way out of this situation. My grenades. If I threw one...but no. Sami would just press that button the second the grenade hit the ground. There's no way that button goes without being pressed.

The collar feels like it's burning against my neck. I itch to grab at it, to rip it off. The stupid thing is the root of all our problems! If I only took it off, then none of us would have to kill one another.

Alana seems to be thinking the same thing. Her hands feel at the collar, her eyes shut tight in concentration. Sami frowns at her, finger hovering over the button.

"Why did no one tell me about this meeting?"

All our heads swivel like owls as a newcomer emerges from one of the tunnels. Anne Bellhope, walking with a limp, one hand pressed against her side, smiles as she faces us.

Her usually beautiful blonde hair is a tangled mess, her skin cut and marked with bruises, blood runs down her side, staining her clothes. But her eyes. Her eyes stare ahead with vicious jubilation. Those aren't the eyes of a girl at death's door, those are the eyes of a victor.

"You all came here to talk and congratulate one another, and no one thought to invite me?" She throws her head back and laughs. Cruel and mocking, her laughter resounds throughout the room. It's not a pretty sound.

"I have the detonator," Sami says, waving the thing about like a flare. "And I'll press the button if you--"

"Oh, shut up!" Anne pulls something up and aims it squarely at Sami. We all gasp. For what she holds is a weapon like no other. It's a black, metallic, handgun.

"He didn't..." I can't even form the whole sentence. Mr. White supplied such a weapon? Why? He had to know whoever got their hands on the weapon would come away as the winner...Tears streak across my face. It's over.

Unconsciously I pull a grenade out, running my fingers along its length. I'll blow Anne up before she shoots me. I can't die here. I owe it to Imogen to try and live for both of us. I need to survive.

"Still feeling brave, Sammy boy?" Anne lets out another harsh laugh as she cocks the gun. "Let's find out just how brave you are!"

The breath catches in my throat as Anne goes to pull the trigger. Sami flinches, prepared to fall back, to have his body ravaged by a speeding bullet of death. I close my eyes, fingers ready to pull the pin on my grenade when I hear the gunshot go off.


I open my eyes. Sami is still standing upright, looking confused as to why he's not yet dead. My gaze swivels to Anne, and I see her furiously pulling the guns trigger repeatedly.

There's only a faint clicking sound.

"No ammo?" Anne stares at the gun, dumbfounded. I feel a grin spreading across my face. It's not loaded! "Damn you, Mr. White!"

"My turn." I spin around at the sound of Sami's voice and watch as he holds out his detonator. With one quick, deft movement, he presses the button.

The chamber is immediately filled with the sound of rapid beeping.

Instantly my hands fly to my collar, but I quickly realize that it's not my collar that's been activated. I look back at Sami, but he's just smiling confidently. It's not him, either. Then it must be...

"Damn, damn, damn!" Anne slams her gun to the ground, the weapon bouncing and skittering across the smooth floor. "Damn you all!"

Her collar is glowing red, the beeping originating from there. She shakes her head, then does something inexplicable. She begins to run towards us.

At first I have no idea what she's doing, but then it hits me like a ton of bricks. She's trying to kill us with the explosion! If she gets close enough, she'll be able to take us all out in one fell swoop!

I fumble for my ballistic knife, trying to get it up in time to stop her. Too late do I realize that I should probably just run. She's already halfway to the center of the room. If she gets here...

Anne goes down with a scream. Alana's knife sticks out from her shoulder, buried to the hilt. Anne raises her head and gives off one last scream.

Then her head explodes in a shower of red.

Sami Bitar (2:37 A.M)

The explosion knocks me flat and winds me. Had I been blown up? My ears ring as I roll against the wall, taking inventory of my arms and legs on the way. The sword--my primary weapon--has come loose from my grip and blasted across the room somewhere.

I rise up shakily, hands and knees soaked in Anne's blood. Everything seems to be shaking and my vision is watery. Where are the others?

There! On the opposite side of the room, Alana is slowly getting to her feet. Her face is coated in blood and viscera that was once Anne, but there's a steely determination in her eyes as she casts them about the chamber.

Oreo is behind the desk, cowering from the explosion. It appears that she has been spared from majority of the blast. Probably because she was the furthest from Anne. I slip my blowgun out with shaky fingers. Which one should I shoot?

Alana has two serrated knives in hand as she crosses the chamber, heading towards the desk. I suck in some air, then take aim. My first dart strikes her in the thigh.

She yelps as the tip punches into her skin. She teeters in place and nearly falls as I send a second dart at her. This time it takes her in the shoulder, and she falls to the ground with a scream.

I take this opportunity to race across the chamber towards my sword. It's in the far corner, past a chunk of bloody something that I don't take any time to examine. Something whizzes over my head. I slide across the floor, losing traction on a puddle of slick blood. Another object flies past me, this time so close to my ear that I feel the wind zip past.

I lose my footing. I hit the ground with a thud, landing roughly on my previously dislocated shoulder. Pain, sharp and clear, spasms throughout my arm. I grit my teeth, rolling over and casting my eyes in search of my attacker.

Alana is back on her feet, hands clutching her own blowgun. How many darts does she have? Are they poisoned? These thoughts race through my mind in the instant it takes me to get back on my feet and hurdle towards my sword.

I pick it up without slowing down. Doing a 360 spin, I reorient myself so that I am facing the center of the room. Alana is standing beside the desk, pulling the blowgun towards her mouth as she readies to fire another dart--

Sometimes zooms towards me. I throw myself out of the way at the last moment, stumbling across the floor. My blood-slick shoes get little traction here. When I get my balance back, I see that Alana has cast her blowgun aside and is holding both her knives, watching me with wary eyes.

She must be out of darts. I take a deep breath, wondering how I should approach this. My sword is the superior weapon, but I have absolutely no experience with it. It's big and heavy and requires foresight on how to swing it. Alana's knives, on the other hand, are swift and precise. You don't need any expertise to use those effectively.

I think of my family as I charge the girl, prepared to die just to live. "For hearth and home!"

Alana dives out of the way. My initial swing slams into the desk, sending chips of wood splaying into the air. I rip it out of the wood and turn, but I do it too slowly. Alana steps in and slashes one of her knives across my non-injured shoulder. I feel skin tear and see the blood spray, but I oddly don't experience any pain. Adrenaline has kicked in.

I swing my sword in a spinning arc, hoping to catch Alana with a glancing blow. Unfortunately she dives backwards, just barely escaping the tip of the blade as she does so.

She's fast. Possibly too fast. How am I supposed to hit her? I don't know. But I can't give up.

What follows is almost a dance, of sorts. I take big, lumbering swings, whilst Alana dips and dodges around me, occasionally darting in to try and land a blow with her knives. Every time she does this, I'm forced to step back, giving her more room to perform her combos. Soon, she's worn me down.

My swings become more and more lethargic. My dodges slower. My chest heaves with every breath, and my arms groan in protest with every swing of the sword. I can't hold it for much longer. It's too much!

Alana sees this and takes her opportunity. She darts forward, knives spinning in a flash of steel. I quickly make a decision and drop my sword. Her eyes widen in shock, then I duck under her swing and come up behind her.

She's too slow to stop me as I grip her by the back of the hair and slam her to the ground.

She hits with a thud. Her breath escapes in a moaning gasp, and her knives clatter out of her hands. A sense of pity mixed with horror overtakes me as I bend down to pick one of them up. This girl doesn't deserve to die. But I don't pick who lives or who dies. I just do what I have to.

Something lands on the ground beside my feet, slowly rolling towards Alana. I frown. It's a round, brown ball of some sort. I bend to pick it up when something tickles my head. I know what this is. The word flashes in my mind


I turn and throw myself away as the thing explodes. I feel the searing heat of the blast as I'm propelled forward across the room. I hit the ground at a roll and scrape my elbow as I lose my sense of bearings.

Stereocilia screams in my ears. My shoulders throb with intense pain. Eye sight watery once more. I feel the cold of the ground beneath my hands as I push myself up. Flames flicker just on the edge of my vision.

The desk, the one in the center of the room, is a shattered mess. Chunks of it have been blown apart and wooden chips are spread everywhere. The carpet it sat on is torn and bloody. It's also on fire, being the source of the flames.

I groan at the sight. I was so close to being killed. Only pure luck saved me. I approach the wreckage as my hearing slowly begins to return. A low moaning comes from somewhere nearby.

I nudge at a pile of charred wood with my foot and unearth a devastating sight. Alana lies buried underneath, her skin burnt and half her face torn away. One eye blinks at me, recognition lighting in it. The other one is pale and sightless

"You poor, poor girl..." I crouch beside her, kicking off some more of the wood. That's when I discover something even worse. Her legs are completely gone past her thighs. Destroyed by the blast, blood gushes from the stumps, pouring out onto the--

The blood stops pouring before my very eyes. Impossibly, the wound seems to be closing itself. Sinew ties itself back together, bones mend themselves, flesh reforms and regrows, covering the raw, charred skin.

Then, going completely against all laws of physics, Alana's leg begins to grow back. It's literally growing. Starting at her thigh, the flesh begins to extend outwards, bone and flesh knitting itself into...

"What the hell are you...?" There's a knife lying nearby. One of Alana's. I pick it up with shaky fingers. This...I...don't even know what is happening anymore.

Her leg has almost entirely grown back. What the hell did I just think? Legs don't grow back! That's not possible! My body trembles as I sit here, watching the impossible. Then I reach over and slam the knife into Alana's heart.

Her chest shudders with an effort to breathe, blood pulsing out around the blade, coating my hand. She opens her mouth, but only blood bubbles out. Then her head falls back to the ground and everything halts. Her leg is no longer regrowing.

I pull the knife back out and wander away, mind numb. I don't even know what to think. No words form in my head. Everything is automatic as I stagger away from the burnt wreckage and dead corpse. What did I just see?

Ding! Ding!

The datapad confirms Alana's death. And with that, there are now only two Challengers left. Two teenagers out of twenty-four. One more death before I can go home. Oreo Dutton is the only other survivor.

I find myself laughing. I don't want to kill her, but I must. She must die so that I can live. She would just be the third person I've killed. Anne doesn't count. Mr. White picked her collar. But Tristan and Alana are already dead by my hand, so why should killing Oreo feel any different?

It will though. It shouldn't, but it will.

That's when I notice that the door is open. The giant, white door that I previously thought led to Mr. White's quarters. It's open now, revealing a wide passage way behind it. The path leads far into the darkness, beyond sight.

It leads to the final battle.

Oreo Dutton (2:45 A.M)

I scurry away in the darkness, dread forming a icicle in my heart. I killed someone. I threw that grenade intending to kill both Sami and Alana, to end this game and ensure my victory. Imogen had told me that none of these deaths were my fault, but I just went and made sure that was false.

I killed someone.

I don't cry. I can't even force any tears out. I just run through the darkness, run forward towards the end of this hall, wherever that is. I just saw the door open and ran through it, hoping that it would take me somewhere I could escape the awful things that have transpired on this island.

But I won't escape. I can't escape.

The hallway around me is wide and open. The walls are spaced so far apart that I first thought it was a chamber and not a hall. But it only goes forward. Straight forward. I pass by gigantic marble columns, huge things that reach up into the eternal blackness of the ceiling.

Eventually I stop to catch my breath. It's short and ragged. Pain burns at my sides. Alana is dead. I didn't even know the girl, yet I killed her. How can I ever face my family again, knowing I did that?

I don't know how Sami escaped the grenade, but his face hasn't shown up on my datapad, so he must have found some way to survive.

But now, I'll have to kill him again.

I don't want to--I can't say in words how much I don't--but I truly have no choice. Either I die, or he does. Unless...unless I could find a way to kill Mr. White...

He's on this island somewhere, he has to be. And probably in these tunnels. Odds are that he's nearby. Those pure white doors were a heavy hint. He's close. And if I could kill him...

Maybe Sami and I could both live.

My hands shake as I get ahold of myself and force my feet forward. I have a goal, now. I need to see it done. I need to ensure that this game doesn't just end in the death of everyone. I need to.

The longer I walk, the more that the walls begin to close in. Soon they're pressed right against me, but now their walls aren't plain. They're decorated in murals of some sort. I stop beside one and lean in to get a better look.

I gasp.

The mural on the wall, painted in vibrant hues of red and green, is Nora.

She lies on the ground of the forest, her skull cracked open. Her blood pours out onto the forest floor, mixing with the dirt. I clamp a hand over my mouth to prevent myself from screaming.

Who drew this? And why? It's horrible! I rip my gaze away, turning around so that I won't have to see it. But the wall on the opposite side isn't any better. It's another mural, this time depicting Ali as he sits on his knees, an arrow driven through his shoulder and Chris ready to plunge a sword into him.

Horrified, I examine the rest of the walls. Every single Challengers death is here. From Nero getting a knife slammed into his throat, to Umbreon being torn apart by a pack of vicious dogs. All of it is painted in bloody, visceral detail. It almost looks real.

My stomach is doing somersaults as I follow the walls, unable to pull my gaze from the horrendous sights. Beneath my feet, the ground turns into steps and before I know it, I'm heading up a steep staircase.

Soon I near the end of the murals, where the Challengers who made it into the tunnels are shown. Chris is pinned to the wall, a trident struck through his chest. A life-like painting of Clarice sneers down at him.

Imogen and Tori are...I can't hold back the tears anymore. They freely pour down my face, streaming down my cheeks and dripping over my chin. Imogen is shown sitting on the floor, gaze locked with Tori's as the collar around her neck lights up.

Now I know. I know how she met her end. I just wish that it had brought me some sort of peace. Instead, I just feel enveloping darkness.

Something snaps inside of me. I grow cold; then that coldness vanishes, and I can feel nothing. No emotion. No anger. Not even sadness.

At that moment I grew aware of a strange force. It is like a reservoir of water, boiling and churning just beyond my view. I reach toward it with my mind. And I find myself filled with an alien power. Something I've never felt before.

It startles me. It's so strong, so intoxicating. I feel as if I could win the game with this, destroy Mr. White and exact vengeance for the fallen. But, no. The vastness, the unknowable strength, it is...frightening.

I let the power slip from my mind, wondering if my grief is making me insane.

I skip over the last few murals, focusing on my feet as I slowly climb the steps. I have no desire to see Anne die again. To see how I blew Alana to pieces. It already hurts enough.

"There you are."

I freeze. That voice...I turn around, fearing what I will see even though I already know what it will be.

Sami stands at the bottom of the staircase, staring up at me with determined eyes. I had forgotten how skinny he was. He hardly looks like a threat. Guilt flashes through me as I think about how I actually have a chance to beat him in a fight.

"Here I am," I agree sadly. I have my ballistic knife in hand, and my grenade is in a position where I could easily grab it. I could try and blow him up, but what about my plan to kill Mr. White? Should I tell Sami?

"One of us has to die," Sami says, walking up the steps one at a time. He's holding a knife in his hand. I watch it warily. "And I really, really don't want to die."

"You'll kill me, so you can live."

"Are you saying you wouldn't do the same?" He halts halfway up, staring at me with arched eyebrows. "Because that would be a lie. You threw that grenade, you tried to kill me and Alana!"

"That was before I thought of another way!" I made my mind. I need to convince him to go with my plan. Together, the two of us could kill Mr. White. If only he'll listen...

"There is no other way!"

"Yes there is. We can kill Mr. White."

There's a long pause. Sami stares up at me with incredulous eyes. For a moment, I think that he will agree with my plan. But then he begins to laugh. "You have to be kidding," He says, chest heaving with laughter. "That won't possibly work!"

"Why not?" I challenge him. Mr. White is the only reason why we're on this island, the only reason we've played this game. "If we kill him, then there's no one to force us to kill!"

"Except that he'll kill us the moment we try!" Sami surprises me by shouting. His face is pulled back into an irritated snarl. "The very second I agree to this plot, he'll blow our heads off!"

"I..." I hadn't thought of that. Mr. White is watching our every move. That means he heard what I just suggested, that he knows what I am planning. I feel at the collar around my neck. What if he decides to take me out for that?

"There's only one way to survive," Sami takes the last few steps, joining me at the top of the landing. "Only one way to get back home. And that is by following Mr. White's rules, by playing his game."

Sadly, I must agree with that statement. There is no other way to end this game. To get home. Imogen paid with her life so that I had a chance to live. I can't let that sacrifice be in vain. I can kill this boy so that it won't be.

That other force calls to me, sings to me, tempts me. So much power, so much divine wonder. But it terrifies me. I don't dare touch it again. Not even to kill Sami quick and painlessly.

My hand cups around the grenade hidden beneath my jacket. "You're right," I say softly. "I wish you weren't, but you are. This game can only end one way."

I pull the pin. Drop the grenade. I hear it hit the ground, rolling once. Sami whips his head around to stare at it in horror as I throw myself backwards, counting the seconds. I hit the ground, slide across the floor, turn to watch as Sami kicks the grenade down the staircase.

Then it explodes.

Sami is thrown back by the blast. His body hits the muralled walls, then he slides to the ground in a heap. I duck my face to the ground, covering my head with my hands. I feel chips of plaster ripping past me as I do.

Then everything is silent. Eerily so. I slowly raise my head, looking around nervously. Sami isn't dead. He's carefully climbing to his feet, checking his body for any injuries. Or maybe searching for his knife. He appears to have lost it in the explosion.

No. No! I didn't want it to come to this! I didn't want to kill him with my own hand! Doing it by proxy was bad, but this will be ten times worse. Arms shaking, body flooded with guilt, I aim my ballistic knife at Sami as he rises. He turns to stare at me.

I don't want to. I don't want to. There's nothing in the world that I want to do less than this, but I have no choice. I must do it. I need to live. For my parents. For Fausto. For Imogen.

Feeling like my soul is ripping apart, I press the button.

The blade launches from the hilt, zipping through the air like a dart. Sami gasps as he sees it coming for him, then cries out in pain as it buries itself in the flesh between his shoulder and chest.

He falls to one knee, gasping for air. So many tears are pouring down my face that I can barely see as I walk forward to end him. "I didn't want this to happen," I say, placing a hand on the blade still embedded in him. I'll need to pull it out and stab him in the neck to end this. "I'm sorry for doing this."

"So am I."

Sami reaches down into his boot. For a moment I think I see the flash of steel as he draws a knife, but it only lasts a second before he's stretching forward. I move to pull back.

Too late.

The knife slams into my throat.

Sami Bitar (3:00 A.M)

I thrust my blade into Oreo's neck.

Her hands shoot up to her throat as the blood begins to gush, her eyes wide with shock and pain. A moment later she falls to her knees, then hits the ground. Her hands clawing at the knife still deeply embedded in her neck. Blood swiftly forms a crimson puddle around her head.

I step back from the grisly sight, feeling numb. This kill, it doesn't seem like the others. Yes, it is arguably the most justified of them all--she was trying to kill me!--but it just makes me feel...

Sick. I turn away from the body, from the ever-growing puddle that has drenched her clothes and soiled her hair. I hurtle away from the sight, blinking rapidly to erase it from my memory.

I snuck up and killed Tristan from behind, but I was under the effects of the mist. I barely knew what was real and what wasn't. Alana, she was a mercy kill. I think. Only now do I remember her healing.

Can Oreo do that too? For one panicked moment I'm afraid that Oreo will come back from the dead and leap at me from behind. Then my datapad rings and squashes that fear. She is dead. Dead and gone.

Oreo didn't deserve her fate, but none of us did. You have to play with the cards that life deals you, and life has dealt us very poor cards indeed. At least I'll be able to see my family soon.

I suddenly remember the knife in my side and grimace. At first it hurt so badly, but now the area has gone numb. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not willing to look at it, terrified of what I'll find. But that doesn't matter. I just won this game. Where is Mr. White?

I press on. The hallway at the top of the staircase isn't very long and I'm soon confronted by a simple wooden door. I stare at it in silence for a moment, then I push it open and step inside.

I'm in a room. As my eyes slowly adjust to the dim lights, I realize there is a small fireplace burning on one side of the room, surrounded by a huge, brown couch and a rocking chair. To my left there is a large dining table, with several chairs around it, a small closet with lots of dishes and glasses inside, and several mirrors on the sides of the sort-of-seperate room.

Where am I? What is this? I walk forward slowly, confused by everything that I am seeing. I venture into the middle of the living room and see three large, red sofas forming a 'U' with a rather low table in front of them, with nothing but a chessboard set atop it. Taking a closer look, I notice that the white side is one move away from check mate.

Finally, I take note of the huge, red leather armchair set in the corner of the room. It's nothing special, but it looks very grand with a large, black desk in front of it, and an advanced-looking computer on that.

Familiarity washes over me as I recognize that chair as the one Mr. White uses to make his broadcasts. I'm in his chambers!

"Very good, Sami. Very good indeed."

Speak of the devil. Mr. White himself enters the room through the same doorway I just used, clapping his gloved hands together slowly. Dressed in an impeccable, entirely white three-piece suit, he walks forward with bravado. His usual grin is absent, however; instead, he is sporting a suitably grim expression.

"You bastard!" I urge to attack him. To throw myself across the room and beat him to a pulp. This is the man who kidnapped me, who placed me on an island with no food or water, who forced me to play a game that required killing people. He'd deserve the beating I'd give him. But instead of vaulting across the room, I fall back onto one of the couches, fatigue washing over me.

"It appears that you have won the game," Mr. White sounds bored as he paces in front of the fireplace, the flames sending his shadow across the room. "Unfortunately, I did not get the result that I desired."

"Excuse me?" He dares say that? After all the death he has caused! I long to shout at him, to berate him for his actions, but I cannot. Tiredness of the like I've never felt before floods my body, making me unable to even stand.

Something dribbles down my shirt. I go to wipe it away when I feel the blood spreading down from my chest. The knife, the one Oreo struck me with, is still there. I take a coughing breath and pain wracks my body.

"It appears that you have all failed. Again. How many times must it take? When will one of you finally Awaken?" Mr. White sounds...exasperated? Frustrated? It's an odd tone that he has, and the words he says make little sense to me. "I thought that this time would be it, when Clarice awakened. But, alas, she did not know how to control her Gift. As I said before, unfortunate."

"I thought...that you wanted us to see through society's lies?" I try remembering the things this madman has sprouted before. It's hard. My mind is fuzzy and I can barely think straight. Adrenaline from the fight has begun to wear off, and I can only feel numbness. Numbness from my toes to my head.

Mr. White stops his pacing. He turns and looks at me, the light from the fireplace glinting off his white sunglasses. "Yes. Yes, that is our goal. Some things that I said were merely to play a part, but not that. We truly wish to stop the world's delusions."

My eyelids flutter. I'm forced to focus in an effort to keep them open. "I...don't understand."

"No, I suppose you would not." Mr. White sits down on the couch across from me, reaching a hand into his jacket and pulling out a small box. This he sets down on the table beside the chessboard. "You were merely a control subject, after all."

"I go home...You...promised that I would be able to, if I won."

He sighs, leaning back against the cushions. "Yes. I did imply that, didn't I? Very well. You can end the game."

"How?" It's a war to keep conscious. Darkness swims at the edge of my vision, constantly threatening to pull me in. If I don't fight it off, I'm afraid that I'll never see home again. My family...

"Open the box. Press the button. The game will end, as it always does."

I reach out with trembling hands and flip the lid. Inside, set on soft, red velvet, is a glossy black button. It doesn't appear to be attached to anything. "Why...would that work?"

"Because that is how this world works." Mr. White stands, dusting off his pants. He turns and walks off to the side and disappears, where shadows swim in my vision.

"That doesn't make sense!"

"Not everything needs to."

And then he is gone. I don't know how I knew, but it was true. Mr. White was gone. He had left this island. I draw in a shaky breath, then place a hand over the button. I really hope that this takes me home. I'd like to apologize to my parents before I die.

I press the button.

The darkness closes in on me instantaneously. There is no sound. No sight. No smell. No feeling. There is only nothingness. I cannot hear my own breathing, nor can I feel my body. In fact, I don't know if I even still have a body.

The nothingness swims around me, it churns ceaselessly through itself, wrapping its tendrils across the fabric of reality. Then there is a small red glow.

It's distant, at first. Then it begins to draw nearer. The glow intensifies, illuminating the nothingness. In a moment, it is right before me. Thick, bold words hover before my sight, burning themselves into my vision. I read them many times over, yet my understanding of them does not increase. The words are everything and anything. I stare at them, at first, in anguish. Then I begin to laugh.



Mr. White sighed, leaning back in his chair and staring at the bank of monitors before him. He was so close! His plans had nearly come to fruition, the Challengers had come so very close to accepting their gifts!

He supposed that he would just have to run the simulation again. It would be the twenty-seventh time. He steepled his fingers as he gazed at the monitors. They fuzzed black and white, showing nothing but static. He didn't turn them off. He found white noise to be very conductive to thinking.

And he would need to do so much thinking. The simulation was flawed, somehow. That was the only explanation. How else to explain so much failure? He'd need to speak with the Priestess about her simulations. Perhaps she'd have the answer.

The others were growing antsy with his constant failures, but what did they expect? They gave him the Warpers, and they were by far the hardest to awaken. Stress and fear were always the surest ways to Awaken someone, but it wasn't working this time. Or, as he'd been thinking, the simulation was flawed.

Some thought that the simulations weren't necessary, that they could get results just as easily in the real world. Well, Mr. White thought that was a waste of life. Any initiates who died during the process would be lost. That was a problem. Not many had the gift. You had to be careful not to lose someone who might yet Awaken. Hence, the simulation.

Beside that point, the simulation was quite necessary for Warpers. Trying to Awaken them in the real world could have...catastrophic consequences.

"I must figure this puzzle out..." Mr. White murmured to himself, dusting off his impeccable suit as he stood. The small room was littered with cables and wires as he crossed it, heading for the door. Electricity crackled overhead. By-products of the simulation. You had to be careful, exerting too much control over the simulation could overload it and end the whole thing prematurely.

Mr. White left the room, entering into the sterile white one next door. The floor was polished until it shone, reflecting his body as he strode across it, headed straight for the line of glass tubes at the end.

He paused as he reached one in the middle of the line. The fluid inside the tube was mixed with red. Clarice had drawn on her gift too deeply during the last simulation and destroyed her mind. Her death would be final.

Mr. White sighed. It appeared that the next simulation would only have twenty-three Challengers. A pity. He preferred to have things be symmetrical. Though, he supposed that he could always cut Nora out. That girl always died within the first "day" of the simulation. A waste of resources is what she was. Then again, having a known factoid in the simulation was always nice.

Mr. White continued down the line, inspecting each of the Challengers inside. Some showed more promise then others. Alana in particular was improving quite nicely. Soon she might be ready for indoctrination. Though…

Mr. White would never admit this to anyone, but the subjects made him uneasy. The strength of their Gift was almost absurd. The moment they Awakened, they'd be stronger than most in his organization. Perhaps that was why there were so little of them. It had taken years to locate these twenty-four, and just above half of those were merely control subjects. Not to mention that some of the others may not even possess the ability to accept their Gift.

"We need not keep all of you," Mr. White spoke aloud, gazing at the tube that housed Chris. "Not at all." Despite his orders, Mr. White would only wait for one, perhaps two, to Awaken before disposing of the rest. So much of them active at once could have decidedly deadly repercussions. Best to be safe.

"Ingress, prepare to restart the simulation," Mr. White turned and began to walk back down the same corridor he arrived from. "Same parameters and rules as last time. We seemed to be getting close."

"Yes, sir." The robotic voice of his A.I responded as he re-entered his office. He sat himself back onto his armchair, thinking intently on how best to address the situation. "Rebooting the simulation."

If the simulation was flawed, then Mr. White supposed that this wouldn't work. Still, he didn't have any other ideas. Perhaps another go would reveal what exactly went wrong.

"Commencing simulation. Rebuilding world...Embiggening creatures...Restoring all twenty-two subjects...Randomizing placements..."

Mr. White began to write out a message on his datapad when those final words finally hit him. Twenty-two...? He sat upright, rifling through the mess on his desk for the simulation controls. "Ingress! Why is there only twenty-two subjects?"

"There are twenty-three subjects in their tubes, sir." The too-polite voice responded.

"Yes, yes I know. Clarice has died. But there should still be twenty-three!"

"Subject Clarice in Tube #20 is deceased. The other twenty-two tubes are filled. Tube #16 is empty."

Mr. White paled, leaning back in his chair and staring at the bank of monitors before him. He was so close. Yet so far. Somehow, someway, a subject had escaped him. A Warper, of all things.

"Ingress, run a full security diagnosis. Scan for any and all anomalies. Search for any sign of exit. Scan for residual…" He gave the orders, but he knew they were pointless. He'd find nothing. They had escaped.

This would not end well. Not at all.

Death Chart

Place Challenger Day Killed Killed By Killed From
24th Nora Lemori 1 Nero Shock Cracked Skull
23rd Ali Ajmal 2 Chris Barnard Sword in chest
22nd Nero Shock 3 Nic Ambrosini Knife in throat
21st Jotaro Kujo 3 Fausto Grandeur Trident in chest
20th Killian Haberman 4 Lucas Adin Blown Up
19th Fausto Grandeur 4 Clarice Barron Poisoned
18th Bree Richmond 4 Chris Barnard Arrow in chest
17th Nic Ambrosini 5 Haviana Greyson Slashed Throat
16th Haviana Greyson 5 Chris Barnard Arrow in eye
15th Felix Leonard 5 Umbreon Martell Knife in chest
14th Lucas Adin 5 Mr. White Blown Up
13th Johanna Cisse 5 Anne Bellhope Knife in skull
12th Justine Leonard 6 Umbreon Martell Knife in neck
11th Misha Castiel 6 Imogen Sykes Axe in skull
10th Tristan Kaplan 6 Sami Bitar Knife in back
9th Umbreon Martell 6 Dogs Teeth in neck
8th Chris Barnard 8 Clarice Barron Trident in abdomen
7th Imogen Sykes 8 Imogen Sykes Blown Up
6th Victoria Sinclair 8 Imogen Sykes Blown Up
5th Clarice Barron 8 Herself Mind Snapped
4th Anne Bellhope 8 Sami Bitar Blown Up
3rd Alana Salazar 8 Sami Bitar Knife in heart
2nd Oreo Dutton 8 Sami Bitar Knife in throat
1st Sami Bitar --- --- ---

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.