By Sofie Chan
I had 15 minutes. 15 minutes till the Phantom came. I was given 24 hours to do whatever I wanted. Now my time is up. It was going to kill me. I paced up and down the house. If you could call it a house. Its walls were an unnatural purplish gray color. The floorboards were coming undone, and creaked with every footfall. The windows were boarded up, leaving a single bulb to light up the room. The light cast shadows across the house, making everything look eerie and sinister. Wisps of smoke seeped out of a corner where the bulb couldn’t reach, and curled around my feet. I jumped back, and from the darkness, the tendrils of smoke shaped itself into the familiar form of a little boy.
“Y- You’re not supposed to be here yet. I still have 15 minutes.” I said, stumbling backward, collapsing on my back. The hard wooden floor hit my back, and a solitary nail stabbed me in my back. I cried out in pain.
“Calm down,” it replied casually as if nothing had happened. As if it wasn’t going to kill me. “I only came here to invite you.”
“Invite me?” I asked, still not willing to trust it. “To what?” A smile crept across its face,
“Do you want to play a game?”
“The game is simple,” the figure said as it walked across the room, hovering over the floor. For some reason, whenever it was in a form other than the creature it normally was, his body seemed to drizzle black mist onto the floor. And when I mean drip, I mean literally. The fog was like water and flooded the darkroom, giving me the chills. “All you have to do is survive. You’ll have to complete a challenge with other people who have been sentenced to death like you. All you ha-”
“What’s the reward?” I asked. I was genuinely curious about this. It didn’t seem likely that there would be one, but what was the problem with asking?
“Excuse me?” it asked, glaring at me. Okay, so there was a problem with asking.
“What’s the reward if I win?” I said, this time with a hint of fear in my voice. It obviously didn’t like me asking questions, but I wanted to know. Would I be able to live? But doing what? The phantom obviously loved making me kill other people to survive. I had killed countless people that way. Willingly or not, I still did it.
“Your reward is becoming a Phantom.” I stared at him.
“What kind of disgusting person would want to become like you?” I knew I had killed people, but to become like this… actually, that wasn’t a bad idea. I could use my “powers” for good instead of doing the things this one is doing. What had it done? It had tortured me beyond anything humanly possible to survive. It had hurt me, psychologically and physically. The Phantom turned. Its eyes were glowing slightly, and its face was no longer human. Smoke seemed to ooze out of its face, and curl around him. It was holding something in his hand that wasn’t there before. A whip. A glowing, crackling, red whip. I stepped back as a tiny spark of lightning lashed out towards me.
“As I was saying, all you have to do is to be the last one alive. The tournament will last one month, at which time, you will be put in multiple games, each testing a certain part of you. The winners will become Phantoms. The losers die.” The Phantom turned back to look at me. “Do you accept my invitation?” I thought about it.
“What happens if I decline?” I asked.
“Well, you would then be killed.”
“Not much of a choice then is there.”
“Nope,” it replied cheerfully. “So what’ll it be? Certain death, or a chance to become a Phantom?”
I looked down and replied with the only answer I could. “Fine. I accept your invitation.” I had no choice.
The boy smiled. The world disappeared. A feeling of weightlessness overtook me as the world disappeared from underneath me. Irrational fear clouded my thoughts but immediately vanished as my surroundings returned. I was in a stadium. That was for sure. It wasn’t a normal stadium though. It was massive, for one thing, it was larger than anything I’ve ever seen. The seats rose up, casting a shadow across the field. Actually, field isn’t the correct word, dirt would be more accurate. Not a single speck of green could be seen on the floor. Suddenly, drums sounded, a steady banging, increasingly getting louder and louder, when the drums reached a crescendo, it ended with one final note, letting it ring out.
“You have all been gathered here because you want to become a Phantom.” A voice said, echoing from nowhere and everywhere. “You knew the risks, and yet, you came.” w
“Because we had no choice,” Someone called out from the crowd. Some laughs echoed, but not any because they were all afraid. I was in the afraid group, because 2 seconds later, those laughs turned into horrified screams, as a boy was lifted from the ground, his hands at his neck, and he popped. Literally popped, exploded. Blood, bones, intestines, and muscle spilling everywhere, which sparked more terrified screams from the crowd.
“Any other comments?” The voice asked. Not a single word was spoken. “Good.” It continued, “Now, back to business, Your first test is to reach the end of the course. The course is 100 miles long and you must reach the end without dying. You may work together and use any items that you find. You may-” The voice was drowned out as the ground erupted in a spray of trees and saplings and bushes, I stumbled back as a berry bush sprang up from beneath my feet. Others were not as lucky, they flew into the sky, launched by the trees, and screamed as they landed on the floor, and in some particularly unlucky cases, in trees. The crack of the bones could be heard through the field with cries of pain and fear. “Let the games begin.”
At first, I just stood there. Stood in the middle of a small clearing, the trees of a jungle in front of me. Stood while the birds sang, the crickets chirped, and children screamed. Stood there, trying to understand what I had just seen. Once the gears started turning, I screamed. A loud, terrifying blood-curdling scream. A boy just exploded. He just blew up. I backed up, frantic. “What the hell have I gotten myself into. What the hell did I get myself into.” I kept repeating the words, backing up, slowly at first, then pulling into a full-on run, rushing into the depths of the forest, as if I could hide from the Phantoms. The Phantoms, there must have been hundreds of them, crowding the air and the stands. Watching over us. Watching over me. For their enjoyment. And this was probably very entertaining to them. I stopped screaming. I stopped running. Deep breaths, I told myself, deep breaths. I have to go on. I couldn’t let them enjoy this. I looked around, realizing that I had lost my direction. I turned around in a circle, looking for something. The voice had said something about using anything in the jungle right? Maybe there was a compass lying around here. Nothing. I guess the voice meant anything you could find in a jungle.
The jungle was thick with greenery. There were tree’s of all types in here, and some that I was pretty sure weren’t supposed to be in a jungle. I could see occasional multicolored dots in the sea of green, which I assumed to be birds.
The sunlight caught off of something. I swiveled around to look for it. A small dagger was hovering over the ground, a yellow trail of small bubbles circling around it. It emitted a yellowish glow, and as I reached towards it to pick it up, the glow became brighter until a flash of yellow lit up the jungle as my fingertips touched it, disappearing half a second later. I looked at it. It was a normal dagger. I shrugged and tucked it in my pocket.
I wandered forward, hoping it was the right direction and where I was supposed to go. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. As I started walking, a red flashing light appeared before my eyes, like what happens when you go the wrong direction in a racing game. The light persisted as I turned around and walked the other way. “Huh,” I said to myself, continuously turning until the light finally vanished. I walked in that direction and glanced at the thick foliage ahead of me, trying to see what was ahead. Pulling out my dagger I inspected it. I doubted it would be able to cut through the leaves. “A machete would be a lot more helpful,” I muttered to myself, “Would be easier to get across the jungle.” To my surprise, the weapon grew from a small dagger to a machete, the blade shimmering gold with the yellow trails on it again. “Woah…” I murmured, in awe of the beautiful blade. I swiped it across a leaf. The leaves fell and turned into yellow particles, which quickly disappeared. “Cool,” I said, cutting off more leaves.
Suddenly, an arrow whizzed past my face and I stumbled back. “What the-” A girl stepped out from behind a tree and aimed a glowing green bow at me.
“Give me the dagger,” she demanded, “Or I’ll kill you.” I stared at her bow, there was no arrow in it, but she had it pulled back like there actually was one.
“There’s no arrow in that,” I commented. “You probably need an arrow to kill me.” She sighed and turned her bow into a nearby tree and let go. An arrow materialized onto the tree, but I didn’t look at the tree. I lunged forward trying to wrestle the bow away. She was ready for me and turned the bow back on me before I could even get within a few feet of her. I halted, and she repeated,
“Give me the dagger.”
“How do you know it’s a dagger?” I asked. The dagger was still disguised as a machete.
“Don’t ask any questions and just give me the dagger.” I threw it on the ground and then winced. I should’ve thrown it at her. No wait, I didn’t want to kill anyone, all I wanted to do was to survive. I shook my head. This wasn’t me, something was influencing my thoughts. The girl bent down and picked up the dagger and aimed the bow straight back at me. “Alright, time to kill you,” My heart lurched.
“What?” I said, confused. “But I gave you the dagger.”
“I want to become a Phantom, and I’m not going to let you become one.”
“But we could work together, we could both survive?” She shook her head. And fixed me with a determined stare.
“Don’t you know? Only 15 people can become Phantoms. And I’m going to be one of them. Killing you means less competition.” She let go of the bow and an arrow materialized and flew towards me.