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Say Cheese!

The prompt:

“You remember scheduling the appointment to have your wisdom teeth removed. You remember the mask being lowered over your nose and mouth. You remember the world slowly turning black.

You’ve just regained consciousness. You’re on a train. There’s a briefcase handcuffed to your wrist. Searching your pockets, you find a note.”

When being kidnapped via train, one would always assume that it would be on some sort of jank freight train with no other people but captives and kidnappers. But no. Not me. Whoever got me on this train put me on a passenger train. I’m not sure what city I’m in, but there are plenty of people around me. Chicago? New York City? Hmmm..probably Chicago.

I open the note. It says “Find yourself until we find you.” What the hell does that even mean? Whatever, I’m not scared. I probably had whatever this is coming for a while. I got off at the next stop. Walking up the stairs to the city-level, people laugh and stare like I’m some sort of exhibit. Is a briefcase handcuffed to me really that noteworthy? Aren’t a lot of people bound to their briefcases in one way or another? Finally reaching ground level, I figure out that this is definitely Chicago. I wish this was New York; this probably happens more often there.

They didn’t actually take out my wisdom teeth and I’m hungry so I decide to hit up all of the major food landmarks. After all, I do love food and the note did say to find myself. I head to Portillo’s and get Chicago style Hot Dog. After that, I go to Al’s to get a beef sandwich. And finally, the holy grail of pizza: Lou Malnatti’s deep dish pizza. I’m in heaven. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this peaceful, but alas, I must continue in this journey. I finished my pizza and return outside. As soon as my foot hits the ground outside the restaurant, I’m swept away by a man. He’s not wearing black or anything, and he looks normal but he handcuffs himself to the briefcase too. I have no choice but to follow him. He tells me not to raise alarm and I don’t. Probably not worth it.

We walk and walk and walk and finally reach a skyscraper. This is it? Really? Somewhere so obvious? I always figured these evil schemes would occur in the middle of nowhere but I guess I’m special. We walk in and no one in the lobby raises alarm or even looks at us. They’re all in on this. We take the elevator up to the top floor. We walk in to a room surrounded by windows. I’m not the only one.

There are four of us, all under 20 it seems and all remaining calm. Now the real game begins. This feels like that movie with the guy with the mask. The capturers announce that the four of us are young people that have the potential to make a huge difference in this world and that big differences can lead to big money problems for the top 1%. They want to kill us. They tell us to open our briefcases. Each briefcase has a different blade. The guy next to me has a machete. The other girl has a chainsaw. I have a chef’s knife ( a nice one too), and the other guy has meat cleaver. Not one of these instruments are distinctly used as weapons. Something is up here.

Each one of us gets a turn: in our turn, we can choose to kill one of the others and survive to the next round or we can kill ourselves and obviously be defeated.

The guy with the machete is up first. What a painful death this might become. He announces that he wants to kill himself. He gets ready to do it, crying, and as soon as he’s ready to make the plunge they stop him. They tell him to sit down. The girl with the chainsaw is up next. After seeing that the other guy got to live by wanting to kill himself, she announces that she’ll do the same. Before she can get in a stance through which she could actually do it, they shoot her. I forgot that there are no rules in games like this.

The guy with the meat cleaver goes before me too. He chooses to kill one of us. I guess I must be cute because he goes for the other guy. This time, the capturers let him follow through. He has blood on his hands now. I’m up. I choose to kill myself with my knife. They stop me.

They put me in an adjacent room and I can see what is happening in the other room through a window. They hand cuff me to the table in my room and place a phone next to me and they call 911 and leave the line open. The capturers leave and trap the other guy in the room next to me. He’s freaking out. The police show up and immediately assume that the other guy murdered the other 2 people and trapped me in this room with similar intentions. He tries to fight the cops, knowing that if he is convicted he will never see the light of day again. As he tries fighting, they shoot him. Rookie mistake in this day of age.

The capturers did this on purpose. They couldn’t have killed all of us off. That would be too obvious. But they definitely had one survivor in mind from the beginning of this experiment. Me. What did I do to deserve this? Was this supposed to be some sort of gift? As if witnessing all of that and making my break in the world through being a victim of the wrong man’s crimes would be an advantage? This is wrong. I don’t want to make a difference anymore. I’ve had enough. But at the same time, if I don’t do it, who will? The others are dead.

In the emergency room, I begin to lose it. I can’t hold it together. I see a doctor with a surgical mask walking toward me and I tell him everything that happened from beginning to end. I can see his eyes smile a distinct smile. The same smile I saw one of the capturers bear when watching the game go on. Does this game ever end?


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