Jaylin looked over at Peter. “Are you sure about this?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said “It’s not like we have an option,” he said, “We can’t go back.”
Jaylin looked over her shoulder at the door they had come through. It was locked, they had tried the knob. “Okay, I guess,” she said.
Peter attempted to smile and jumped down the hole in front of him
Jaylin shrugged and followed “Oof,”
The drop was nearly five feet, but Jaylin landed safely. “Let’s head on down,” she said, pointing down the hallway.
The hall itself was interesting, with gilded gold sidles and dark wood accents.
Peter took the lead, holding his pocket knife out in front of him. They reached the end of the hall and looked at each other. A sort of floating ball spun around and around. A dark blue button was next to it.
Jaylin shrugged and pushed the button. “What can it hurt?” she asked.
A glowing bar appeared above Peter’s head.
“Woa, what?” Peter reached out and poked something above Jaylin’s head “You’ve got a glowing bar!”
“So do you,” Jaylin said.
“Welcome to the game,” a voice boomed “If you have arrived at this point you are ready to begin the true game. You will notice a glowing bar above your head. It is your status. You also have one hundred coins each in your pockets.”
“So we’re in a video game?” Peter asked.
“Please continue on through the door,” the voice said.
Jaylin glanced to the right, where the edges of a door glowed in the wall. She took a deep breath and cautiously pushed it open, revealing a small room.
Peter stepped in first, protectively keeping Jaylin behind him. He walked up to the counter on the other side.
“Hello!” An old man popped up from behind the counter and smiled “I expect you need to buy some food.”
Peter exchanged a look with Jaylin. “I suppose so.”
“You look like first-timers. If you are then you want bananas and bread.”
“Sure, one coin for each bunch. A loaf of bread is two coins. Do you have friends following?”
“Yes. Well, cousins.”
“Then you’ll be on the same team. You’ll want to buy a bunch of bananas for each of them too. They can pay you back. What’s your name?”
Jaylin whispered to Peter “Let’s go along with this. I don’t know what’s happening.”
“Okay,” Peter whispered back. “My name is Peter, and this is Jaylin. We’ll have six of each, please.”
“How do we carry all this?” Jaylin asked as the old man stacked up bananas and bread.
“Your backpacks, of course. You are new. Your backpack can carry anything.”
Peter nodded. “Just like a video game,” he slapped down eighteen coins.
“You could say that,” the old man smiled and pushed the stack of food at the pair.
“Thanks,” Jaylin said and started stuffing the bananas and bread in her backpack.
“Oh no, don’t say that. If you say that then people will feel as if you owe them something.”
“Oh. Okay.” Jaylin shrugged at Peter and they walked through the next door into a large room with four openings.
“Let’s wait for everyone else,” Peter said.
They only had to wait a few minutes before Ember, their sister, Logan and Martin, their cousins, all came into the room and looked around.
“Ember! Logan! Martin! Over here!” Jaylin called.
“Apparently we are part of your team, whatever that means,” Martin said.
A red and blue spot appeared next to each of their glowing status bars.
“Those probably mean that we are a team,” Logan said confidently.
“What’s happening?” Ember asked, “I want to go home.”
“You can’t,” Jaylin said “There’s no going back. What’s our game plan?”
“We have to figure out this game. We’eve all played video games, but this one is a little different. I don’t want to know what happens if we die.” Jaylin said.
Martin nodded “I’m guessing, from the style of the walls and everything, that this is a war type game. We have to watch out for the top players. They won’t think twice about taking our belongings.”
Logan nodded “Let’s stick together,” he said.
“Agreed,” Peter turned in a circle “First we should probably get out of this room. Standing here labels us as beginners.”
“This way,” Martin said, pointing at an open door.
They followed him through the door. On the other side was a similar room that had openings to different rooms.
“We have to get somewhere without multiple doors, so we can figure out what to do. We’ve been stuck in an endless circle of games like this for two days.” Peter glanced at Jaylin “And the last game didn’t go so well.”
Jaylin shuddered, remembering the way the other game players had treated her. Her character had been a slave in the last game, and she had not had a good time.
“This one’s good!” Logan said.
Ember raced into the room and sat down on the small couch.
“Hey!” Peter frowned at her “I wanted to sit down too.”
“Guys,” Jaylin said, rolling her eyes “Now is not the time.”
“Shh!” Martin froze in his tracks, staring out the door.
A man wearing a skin-tight black suit with tubes wrapping around his back and waist stood just outside the door, talking to someone. He had two holsters with pistols and a hat with a wide brim.
“Who’s that?” Ember hissed.
“Be quiet!” Martin whispered.
Everyone backed up to the other side of the room.
“I assume you captured lots of slaves with your last job?” A second man, this one with a suit, said.
“Sure I did, Boss,” the first man said.
Jaylin muffled a gasp and squished in between the couch and wall, trying to hide. Her heart was in her throat, and she felt the fear overwhelming her.
“I want you to find every single player who used to be a slave and bring them to me,” the boss said, “I expect you to catch them all, Briggs.”
Briggs pulled out a pistol and spun it “Sure thing, Boss.”
“Don’t show off,” the boss said and stepped back into the shadows.
Briggs rolled his eyes.
Jaylin crawled across the room and climbed up the shelves onto a small ledge that lined the left side of the room. She squished into the corner, pulling her feet away from the small window.
Briggs stuck his pistol back in the holder and walked down the hall.
No one dared to move, all of them holding their breath and pressing their backs against the wall.
Jaylin was shaking. The small window next to her showed some grass, and she practiced breathing in and out as she stared at it.
Brigg’s face popped in front of the window.
Jaylin stifled a scream.
Briggs winked and smiled kindly. He disappeared.
“M- M- Martin!” Jaylin squeaked “Peter!”
Briggs poked his head through the doorway “You look like a nice group,” he said.
Jaylin pushed herself farther into the wall, pleading for Briggs to stay away.
“What do you want?” Martin asked.
“I have a cat,” Briggs said “A black cat. She’s two years old and loves to play.” he pulled out a cat carrier from behind his back “Would you take care of her for me while I do some work for the boss?”
Peter and Martin shared a glance. Did they even have a choice?”
“Of course we will,” Peter said, reaching out to take the carrier. He loved cats and was soon petting her.
“Her name is Phoebe. Watching this cat will keep your whole group safe, and anyone who joins your team.” Briggs looked directly up at Jaylin “Even the ones who previously used to be slaves.”
Okay, so I wrote this off of a dream I had. In the dream, Peter and Ember are actually my siblings, Catherine and Hunter. Martin and Logan are actually my cousins, with their names changed. I had to make up names for Briggs and his cat, Phoebe. I woke up right after where I stopped, so you may never know what happens to the group, but at least Jaylin is safe!