Hide & Seek··Novl duration 11 mins
Hide & Seek
"Lets play ‘Hide and Seek..." said the creepy little girl
“But we are four.” barely mumbled a timid boy. “That number is considered an unlucky number in Chinese because it is nearly homophonous to the word "death".”
“Quit being a scaredy-cat!” exclaimed the bully of our class. “What do you say, four eyes?” he asked shooting a hopeful sideways glance at me. “Wouldn’t it be fun?”
I fixed my glasses for a thousandth time that day and struggled to express myself, as if I knew what was coming.
“It definitely would.”
That’s how it all started. That’s how our nightmare began.
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
I think we all had our reasons to enter The Game. We just didn’t know the consequences. There we stood, near the entrance of the ruins of an abandoned old city. It was said, the children who play this game disappear, believed to be spirited away by demons. At least that was what the older kids in the playground told us when we tried to snick into the narrow alleys. I did not believe them of course, I am a grown man after all. I am turning nine next month.
Suddenly, I was abruptly torn from my thoughts by the bully who shoved in my hands an old Guy Fawkes mask.
"Put it on. It’s almost midnight” he said with a smirk
"You know, entering an unfamiliar and abandoned place at night is dangerous on its own but putting on these scary masks is even more frightening.” says the timid boy with a scared look as the bully hands him another mask
“Well, you don’t have to wear it but don't complain if your head will be found a couple of yards away from your body. Don’t forget that the demons of the city attack only those without a mask."
The little boy gasped and hurriedly put the mask on his face.
The girl smirked. “My grandma used to say that the easiest way to repel a demon is to help it fulfill its purpose, but as we do not even know how these demons look like, let alone their names, we generally have to have an amulet and place it on the demon’s forehead to banish it.” Turning quickly and looking creepily at the timid boy she continued. “But if you are scared, you may also attach it to a house's entrance door to prevent the demon from entering.”
I was confused. How could they believe in these childish fairytales? I had to ask.
"Do you really believe in the existence of these supernatural creatures?
“Of course I do” answered the bully with pride
“Who are they?" I insisted
The boy froze. He was silent for a while with his face pale as a sheet. Was it some kind of an act or was he remembering something?
"Come on tell us! If you are so brave." demanded the girl putting on her own mask.
The boy sighs "Alright...but this a warning to all who dare to play “Hide and Seek” at night cause the demons will come and take you away"
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a page from an old and dusty newspaper. You could barely see the letters as most of them were fading.
Pointing at the page he said: “Fifty years ago, a group of kids entered the abandoned streets of this city. They were looking for a place to explore and have an adventure. They quickly decided to play hide and seek. It is a city after all and the hiding places are limitless. It was really fun until… they heard voices. Voices they should never have heard. Scared, the children sought to find the exit but they never did. They never came out. The next day the news were bursting with a story about some kids that were brutally murdered in the abandoned city. The only one that survived was a little girl wearing a mask. The demons must have spared her for a reason.”
"You're crazy!" I exclaimed
“Why? I am not imagining stuff. I read it.”
“And after reading all these you still believe that it was demons who killed the children?”
I was about to answer when the girl stopped me.
“One minute till midnight. We should hurry and enter through the gate.”
We approached the stone gate and looked through it. A long and quite dark alley was forming after it and then… the city.
"I hope they are not real... " murmured the timid boy.
I did not have to look at him to understand that he was terrified. He was shaking all over and his fingers were numb as he gripped his mask. The city looked scarier on these parts and he definitely wasn’t the only one who wanted to run away. But there was no turning back now. The bully was determined to play The Game and we would get lost without him if we tried to go back. Not to mention that my curiosity was winning over my fear and this time, more than ever, I hated being a nerd. I should have stayed in the playground...but I didn't.
I push my glasses in place and tried to reassure him as best I could "Yeah, me too”
The watch on my hand struck twelve and that meant the game was starting.
"Come on, scaredy-cats! I'll prove to you that it’s all just a game!"
I wore my mask and as soon as we run to the end of the alley, all of us spread out in different direction.
Back at the gate the lights started blinking on and off. Without us noticing, four shadows started moving towards us slowly while one of them whispered: "Lets play our game."
---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----
"And you can't give me any further information?" the chubby inspector asked.
"I told you already everything I know. I have never set eyes on that girl in my life! I'm not that sort of man!" answered desperately the old master of the house.
"That's all right then. Shouldn't blame you, you know. Man of the world. Still, if you say so. The question remains though, what was she doing in the southern neighborhood? She doesn't come from these parts, that's quite certain. She dresses like she is from the northern neighborhood."
“Aha! I found it! It seems to me this girl must have come down from the northern neighborhood," said the inspector happily.
The assistant only narrowed his eyes.
"That whole thing's a nightmare," fumed the angry old man.
" So far,it all seems clear enough, sir," the inspector’s assistant was concluding. "Your wife sat in the living room after dinner and went to bed just before twelve. She turned out the lights when she left the room, and presumably no one entered the room afterward. The servants went to bed at half past eleven, and you, after putting the drinks in the hall, went to bed at a quarter to eleven. Nobody heard anything out of the usual, except the third housemaid, and she heard too much! Groans, screeching and a bloodcurdling yell and sinister footsteps and I don't know what. The second housemaid, who shares a room with her, says the other girl slept all night through without a sound. It's those ones that make up things that cause us all the trouble."
"What about the forced window?" asks the inspector
"Amateur job” the assistant clarifies “done with her own fist, ordinary pattern. It wouldn't have made much noise if she used her hair pins. It would have taken her just a couple of minutes.”
"... or maybe she did not have that time luxury." thought the assistant
"You are quite sure that nothing is missing from your house and she'd never been seen before at the southern neighborhood?" the inspector looks at the old man hopefully
"The servants are positive of both your questions. Quite indignant about it. They'd have remembered if they'd ever seen her about in our neighborhood, they say. And she most certainly did not take something from the house."
"I expect they would say that," said the inspector. "People like her stick out a mile round here.” He turns to his assistant and pats his shoulder. “Don't believe there will be any local leads. In that case, I suppose, we should do well to call in our superiors. It's a case for them, not for us."
"Something must have brought her down here, though."
At that moment the doctor entered the kitchen. “I have finished examining the body.”
They all went silently expecting the doctor to continue but he never did.
“And?” urged the inspector
“And she is dead.” Answered the doctor bluntly
The assistant smiled cunningly at the doctor "Oh my dear sir, it must have been such a tiring procedure to come to this conclusion. News gets about very rapidly in a place like this but, to know if a person is dead or alive is a job of an expert. Now we understand that only with your benevolent help we could determine if she was pushing up daisies."
Without catching any of the sarcasm, the doctor blushed. "It was indeed quite tiring. Probably one of the most difficult cases I ever encountered.”
“Enough!” barked the old man. “I demand to know why I woke up this morning to find my wife’s amulet in pieces with its beads all over the floor, a little girl’s body in my house leaning against the front door and her head on the fireplace.”
"Rather odd I should say." whispers the doctor while taking a sip of his tea
A few minutes passed and the assistant let’s his opinion be known. "I think I got an idea of why the amulet was used. You see, the rumor has it that in the northern neighborhoods they believe that an amulet is alleged to have the magical power to protect either in general or to protect them from some specific thing.”
“What specific thing?” questions the inspector
“Spirits, demons, ghosts, you name it”
"Don’t say after all these years at work my hardheaded assistant believes in ghosts?"
"Your tone suggests that you do not, my friend. No, I wouldn’t say I actually ’believe in ghosts’--to put it crudely. But I have known curious phenomena in the case of sudden or violent death. You remember, right? Like the ones you told me. The mysterious case files from 50 years ago.
"But I don’t suppose many people remember those nowadays."
"I do, and I am quite sure we can find some similarities of those cases with this one. This story may have originated in the abandoned city."
“Si-similarities?” the inspector stammered
"More than you would think. Of course, I don’t suppose you have many murders here, so it’s hard to judge." the assistant had smiled as he spoke, his eyes resting with seeming carelessness on the person in front of him. But the doctor seemed quite unperturbed and smiled in return.
"No, I don’t think we’ve had a murder for--oh, very many years--certainly not in my time!"
"No, this is a peaceful spot. Not conducive to foul play.” said the old man
The assistant laughed. Again the doctor’s smile came in answer--a natural smile full of boyish amusement. "A lot of people would have been willing to put that girl over their knee for trying to steal from an honest household," he said, "but I don’t think anyone actually would get to the point of chopping off her head."
“Please, dear inspector, I am old and I am tired of this nonsense. Explain or take your brigade of men and leave. You have been pestering me with questions all day and it’s nearly dark outside.”
The chubby inspector stood from his chair and said “We will do our best to find a solution to this mystery. Isn’t that right, my boy?”
“Quite sure, sir. Though I really think the answer lies under our noses. As nothing went missing, the girl definitely did not enter the house to steal. She probably saw your wife’s amulet through the living room’s window and tried to get access to it in hope that it will protect her. She must have been very frightened or even desperate in order to believe that something like that would provide her with any protection. There is a possibility that she even tried to hang it from the door knot of your front door as this would supposedly prevent the one who was chasing after her to enter the house. Of course, nothing worked as she planned as here she lies on the floor beheaded.”
“Nonsense! Absolute nonsense. How could–” the doctor tried to ask but was immediately interrupted
"Not to mention that if she did come from the northern part she most definitely past from the old city. It is the shortest way on foot and as we still did not get a missing person alert from up there, she must have been in the city last night.”
“Impossible! Just impossible! Why would a child be there of all places?” shouted the old man
The assistant smiled once again. “Well, it is quiet, no parents yelling to come home and finish homework, no cars for their balls to get stuck under, no annoying neighbors that come and ask you all those silly questions that you would rather avoid as you are currently playing.”
“But it is dangerous!”
“Even more intriguing if you are a child.”
“Then we really consider the possibility of her not being alone in the first place. The abandoned city is huge and I do not think she would go there to play alone.”
“Precisely!”exclaimed the assistant. “There must have been someone else in the city. Someone who fled when the whole business was over. But where was he all the time and where did he go to? The neighbors are absolutely certain that, apart from the girl, no one got in or out of the narrow alleys that lead to the entrance of the old city. But in that case-" He stopped.
The inspector said: "In that case-" He sighed. He shook his head. He sat back down on his chair. "But in that case," he said, "who killed her?"
No one had the answer to that question. They said to the press that the girl was a burglar and the case was soon forgotten. Several days after her burial in an unnamed grave, a woman, no more than sixty years old, approached it and placed a flower on the ground. She stood there for a bit, and hesitantly asked:
“Are you still playing… our game.”