A week ago when Terrah had signed up as an attendee for this field trip she didn’t expect to have three of her classmates turn up missing, not to mention her teacher and some stranger she met hours ago. The night was hastening by and she felt they’d be trapped in here until graduation. If they ever make it to graduation that is. On her shoulder was Ally, a huge mess. Tear stained eyes, rumpled hair, and a pale face, presumably the one you make when seeing your only “friend” disappear right in front of you.
“This is all my fault…I made her go away,” she said to herself and those around her.
“It’s not your fault Ally,” Jess pronounced, attempting to comfort her emotional friend.
“Yeah it’s just the crazy sociopath that’s out to kill us,” Max said calmly, if there ever was a way to express that calmly.
“Five down, Seven left to go,” Terrah repeated silently, “what do you think it means?”
“Well since five people in our party have gone missing and there are seven of us left it most logically means that whoever has been taking the others is keeping track,” Jess assumed, which sounded scarily accurate, even for her. Although Terrah was used to her friend’s peculiar ability to practically guess everything right off the spot, like some psychic.
“So now what?” Jaxon challenged, “We just wait here until this psycho killer kidnaps each of us just like the others.”
“Don’t be so naive Jaxon,” Terrah seethed, “we have to figure out why everyone’s been disappearing, what did they all have in common, what’s the motive. Seriously have you never watched any true crime movies?”
Before Jaxon had time to reply Jess had already begun calculating their data,
“Well Scott left because he was excited to get some help, Mrs. Hathorne because she was mad at him for taking so long, Carl was confused, and Olive was upset over Carl, but Samantha had been upset with Ally,” she said effortlessly. Ally shrunk at the mention of her name. I suppose she was still feeling guilty for blowing up on her, Terrah speculated.
“So before they all left, everyone was honed in on some sort of emotion, excitement, confusion, sadness, or anger,” Nate added.
“But which one of us now is emotionally feeling something?” Jaxon interrogated. Slowly her classmates heads all turned and stared towards Ally, she hiccuped staring back,
“What?” She asked solemnly.
“Ally’s emotionally vulnerable right now, she could be bait,” Nate suggested out of nowhere.
“Nate!” Jess screamed, “We can’t, she’s too fragile!”
“No.” Ally declared standing up.
“I’m not fragile and I’m not somebody’s sidekick, I’ll be the bait,” she affirmed. Terrah was astonished at her friend, Ally’s eyes were filled with determination, determined to save our friends.
“Are you sure,” Jess said uncomfortably, “we don’t even know if they’re safe, wherever they are.”
“I’m sure,” Ally said with certainty, “I’ll find them and tell them what we know, the note, the blackouts, everything.” The plan was set, Ally would wait inside one of the rooms alone, and when the blackout occurred the rest of the kids would stick together ensuring that whoever is behind this targets Ally instead. They waited, and waited, minutes cruised by ticking by the seconds. By now Greg had returned from his adventure to find food for the group, thankfully the objective was accomplished. He managed to find a hidden compartment in the kitchen filled with some leftover snacks Scott had presumably placed there and forgotten to eat. At the time the clock read 11:56 and tensions were high.
“Normally grandfather clocks are built to ring every hour, and each time someone goes missing we hear the clock ring three times,” Jess whispered.
“So what your saying is,” Jaxon spoke, “that we basically have 4 more minutes until the clock rings and we all end up in the big light in the sky.”
“Nobody’s dying Jaxon,” Terrah frowned.
“You don’t know that,” he hassled, “for all we know the rest have already kicked the bucket.”
“Both of you stop it,” Jess hissed.
“Guys look,” Max interrupted, stopping the dispute, “It’s 11:59.” Everyone glimpsed towards Ally, who looked strangely relaxed, like a single mother on her day off. She gradually stood up giving the group one last goodbye before entering the room previously chosen. The entire night had felt strikingly like a dream, a memory of sorts. All Terrah knew was this place, this manor, it felt familiar in ways she could not understand. Anxiously, she meddled with her pendant one last time, yearning to go back home and experience her family’s comforting glow.
“Dong…” the clock struck its first chord, sending chills down her back. If all went well Terrah would see her friends again and surely find a way out of here. If not, well, she’d believe this tour would probably be the last one ever held, if people weren’t too terrified to return. Deliberately, Terrah intertwined her arms with Jess, who continued the trend with Max. And on and on, until finally, Jaxon looped his arm around Terrah’s shoulder protectively, completing the circle. Normally she would start quarreling with him over mere eye contact, but his gesture was too darn sweet to get upset over. Terrah huddled closer to him grabbing Jess alongside her, she wasn’t letting any of them go. They were in this together, whether they made it out alive or not.
“Dong…” The second chime tolled, providing the cover of darkness shortly after. Teeth had no idea how Ally felt right now, alone in the empty room with only the sound of the clock for comfort. Was she scared, strong-willed, or already gone.
“Dong…” The last chord battered against her eardrums, and the lights rapidly turned on again.
“I guess we should go check if it worked,” Max said, mutely standing up, breaking the circle the group had formed. And even if they didn’t want it to happen, the room was empty with no trace of Ally anywhere. Terrah knew that second if they tried searching for her they would fall into this endless game of cat and mouse with whoever was controlling them, making herself go crazy in the process.
“What now,” Jaxon said unconsciously.
“Well we just have to hope that she made it to wherever the others are safely, and hopefully they can escape from whoever is doing this,” Jess said staring towards the floor unconvincingly. It was uncommon for Jess to look so uninspired, generally, she’s always filled with booming energy, even at the worst of times. But if Terrah had to compare today to her other least favorite days, she’d definitely place this one at the top of the list. Although there was something different about today than the others, that dang clock.
“You guys know what this means right,” she asked skeptically.
“What do you mean Terrah?” Jess queried.
“That you were right,” she stated, “that the clock somehow connected with everyone’s disappearances, the blackouts happened each time the clock struck twice, and by the third one someone was gone.”
“That was weird,” Jaxon countered.
“Right!” Terrah exclaimed, “We should figure out what it means.”
“What can we do, we only have 50 more minutes until 1:00, we can’t waste it on some rigged up grandfather clock,” Jess argued.
“But maybe if we find out why the clock and everyone going missing are associated then maybe we can find everyone and get the heck out of here,” Nate implanted.
“We should probably research or something, I think I saw a library somewhere on the tour,” Max added. Collectively the children followed Max downstairs towards their destination, well almost all of the children. Jaxon stood alone in the hallway, shaking his head to himself,
“This is turning too much into some Scooby-Doo episode,” he chuckled, before looking up and realizing he’d been abandoned.
“Guys wait for me!” Jaxon pleaded running after the group.