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Episode Sixteen: The Choice

Your footsteps crunch through the cracked concrete floor while you aimlessly try to navigate the maze of corridors and rooms, searching for the source of the girl’s cries. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins, barely masking fatigue as you turn every corner, hoping that your search will be successful. The cries and the sound of taunting laughter seem to be coming from all directions.

“Come on, Agent! Just rest for a moment. She’s not going anywhere.”

“Let’s have a talk.”

“I don’t think that’s the way! You’re just walking in circles now.”

You try to ignore the voices and move forward, down another long corridor. You can feel the hair on your arms stand up, sensing a change in the air. You slow your pace and let the lighter go out, forcing your eyes to adjust. After a moment you notice light toward the end of the hall, creeping out from under a door at the dead end.

“Help me! Please!” The girl screams out in that panicked tone, but now from much closer. Your heart leaps and you race to the door, the clarity of her voice a punch to the gut as a new surge of adrenaline rushes through you.

You call out as you run, letting her know you’ve found her, that help has come. You try the handle, but the door doesn’t budge. Pounding and kicking against thick steel you call out again, asking for help from the other side. If you work together, you can both get out of here.

“Help! Please! I’m here!” She calls out, just on the other side.

She must be in shock. There’s no way she’d be able to follow any directions. Kneeling down you inspect the lock and pull out the lockpick. It’s a similar lock to the one on your cell, but it’s going to take some time. You insert the first metal tool into the lock and feel for the tumblers, doing your best to act quickly. You grit your teeth and concentrate, unaware of the shadows closing in behind you.

“Hey there, Nosey Nelly. Think you’re gonna save her? Why don’t you quit and come play with us already?” Charming Bear’s sinister voice squeals as the three shadows approach slowly. You jump, startled, and at the same time hear the lock click open. You stare at the lock, unbelieving of the good fortune at this late hour of the game.

“Please! Help me!” Her scream jerks you back to the present and you burst through the door, slamming it shut behind you and locking it back, trying to buy some time. You squint in the light, though dim it’s still brighter than your eyes are used to. You find a shape on the floor, curled up in the fetal position on a small mat. The girl!

Rushing to her, you speak softly, encouragingly. You put your hand on her shoulder to comfort her, let her know that everything will be alright. At your touch, she rolls over onto her back, arms flailing limply, her eyes open and blank. Her face is pale and lifeless. You’re too late.

Overcome with grief, kneeling by her side, you place your head in your hands and cry. Your tears pool onto the floor while you hunch over the body, sobbing through gritted teeth.

“HELP ME!” The girl’s voice rings out somewhere in the room and you snap your head up. The body is still on the floor, unmoving. Confused, you look around and spot a speaker mounted on the ceiling. You hear a click behind you and you spin around to see Charming Bear with Lowell and Kline behind him. Your head hangs again as you see the cassette recorder in Charming Bear’s hand, realizing that you’ve been at the center of this twisted group’s game and the girl has probably been dead from the start.

The grin on his face explains it all. The moment he’s been waiting for is clear. He triumphantly rewinds it again and plays it out for you once more, watching your horror, disbelief, and sadness continue to build. He’s won. They’ve all won and now you’re left with nothing. You collapse to the floor, completely spent, and the crazed man finally stops replaying the audio clip.

“Well done, little Fishy!” Charming Bear claps for you as the others step around him to flank you.

Kline, or Raven, or whoever she is, in typical confidence takes the cassette recorder from Charming Bear. She pulls a tape from her jacket pocket and swaps it into the device. “Listen carefully, Agent. It’s time for you to choose.”

Earlier Event: May 20