“Answer the question and it will stop,” the voice boomed.
“Okay, Okay,” Emma screamed. “Umm. Ed Gein. Uh, Silence of the Lambs! And, oh, Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” She couldn’t think of the third. The rats were climbing her legs now, scrambling over each other, taking bites faster than she could fling them off. “Shit, what is the third one?” she rasped between gasps. “Oh! Wait! I know, Norman Bates, I mean Psycho!”
A shrill whistle pierced the air. The rats stopped their attack and retreated, swarming back into the small opening in the door.
Emma collapsed to the floor and buried her head in her arms. Her feet stung and she was terrified. She wasn’t overly afraid of rats like some people, but that had been horrible. Those rats must have been starved to go after her like that. Now that they were gone and she could think again, she could hear more screams coming from other rooms. Some were quieter like they were further away, but others sounded like they were next door. They must be doing this to everyone, Emma thought. Oh my God, this can’t be legal, waiver or no.
“Question two. Which movie was inspired by real murders in Gainesville Florida, in 1990?” the tiny voice asked.
Emma thought for a moment. She thought she knew the answer, but she didn’t know if she should play along or not. She didn’t want the rats to come back, but this was insane.
“Ten seconds,” the voice reminded her.
Last time the rats had come in after the ten-second warning. Emma waited, watching the small panel. Just as it started to open, she jumped to her feet. “Scream, it was Scream!”
The panel slid shut again. She didn’t see what may have come out, luckily. From the sounds next door, someone was having a hard time answering the questions.
“Oh God, my friends!” Emma cried to the empty room. “They don’t know this stuff like I do. They will never be able to answer. Please don’t do this to them!”
“Question three. What is the name of the demon that possessed Regan in the Exorcist?”
Emma chewed on her lower lip. She couldn’t remember. She had heard it before, she was sure, but couldn’t remember right now. She started to panic.
“Ten seconds, answer the question.”
“I don’t know!” she screamed. “I don’t remember. And freaking rats won’t help me remember!”
Of course, there was no answer. The ten seconds passed, but the small door had not opened. Emma breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this was over. They would just let her out. Or ask a different question.
A loud whooshing sound filled the room. A split second later, flames erupted from the walls, shooting out several feet into the room from invisible nozzles on the floor and walls. Heat washed over Emma, scalding her bare skin. Within seconds she was sweating, green paint running in rivulets down her arms and legs.
“Are you kidding me?” she yelled. She moved to the dead center of the room, as far as she could get from the flames. Even there she could feel the heat pressing in on her. Smoke was slowly filling the room, making it hard to take a deep breath. “I’ll suffocate! You have to stop this!” she cried, coughing on the smoke.
“Answer the question. What is the name of the demon in the Exorcist.”
“I don’t know!” Emma screamed once more. The room was hazy now, and she was having trouble breathing. She tried to think, but she was close to hyper-ventilating. She laid flat on the floor, trying to avoid the smoke. She was trying to picture the movie and remember the demon’s name. Nothing was coming to her. She was breathing in short gasps now, and her skin felt like it was cracking and peeling off of her; it was so hot. Suddenly, she remembered a snippet from the book. She had read it in high school. Something with a P! Pizzazz or something like that. Forcing herself to sit up, she croaked out, “Pizzazz. Piazu. Pazazu!”
The flames died as abruptly as they had started. Little by little, the smoke cleared from the room. Emma lay on the floor, still gasping for breath, her green makeup nearly sweated off, or hidden under the soot.
“Question Four.” Emma heard, and she burst out sobbing once more. She didn’t know if she could keep going.
“Which villain was originally known as Captain Elliot Spencer?” The voice asked.
“Oh my god. Pinhead. I know this one, Pinhead,” Emma called out, half crying, half laughing. Hellraiser was one of her favorite movies.
At this point, the screams from the other room were now just background noise. Emma refused to think about what they meant. She only had one question left, and then she could leave this nightmare. She would find her friends and get the hell out of here.
“Question five. What horror movie was originally called The Babysitter Murders?”
Emma crawled to her feet. She wasn’t sure about this one either. She had probably heard it once upon a time, but she couldn’t think of anything. Her throat hurt, her eyes stung, and she was still bleeding from cuts on her feet.
“Answer the question and it will stop.”
“Please, I don’t know. I’m sorry, I don’t know.” Emma kept repeating that she didn’t know. Over and over. Even after she received the ten-second warning, she kept mumbling that she didn’t know. She kept repeating it until the door opened. It wasn’t just the small panel this time, but the whole door.
Emma started for it, until she realized that someone was entering through the doorway. Someone dressed in black, wearing a mask. And holding a knife.
The figure advanced towards her, knife lifted.
“Oh my God! You can’t do this!” Emma screamed, fleeing across the room. The figure advanced, swinging towards her. She ducked, crawling past him, then running across the room again. The figure swiveled and came after her again. She knew that she couldn’t keep this up for long. Again, she ducked, but not fast enough this time. His knife sliced her shoulder, and she let out a scream.
“Answer the question,” the voice demanded.
“I don’t know!” Emma’s shoulder throbbed and she could feel the blood pulsing through her fingers as she continued to play keep away with the knife-wielding psycho.
“Babysitters. What movie had babysitters? When a Stranger Calls?” Emma was talking out loud to herself now. She kept her eyes on the figure, backing away and ducking when he swung.
“Wait, babysitting. Laurie Strode was babysitting. Halloween! It’s Halloween!” Emma screamed, just as she tripped backward, falling to the floor with the masked figure over her. For a split second, Emma thought she had been wrong. The figure was above her, the knife just a foot from her face. She was frozen in terror, her arms outstretched.
Then the figure straightened. It walked back to the door and disappeared.
Emma sat up eventually. It was deadly silent now. Not even a sound from the other rooms.
“Congratulations. You have successfully answered your five questions,” the voice said. Then the door she had originally come through swung open. Emma crept towards it, still holding her bleeding shoulder. She peered out but saw nothing. Not even the robed man who had escorted her here. She walked out into the hallway and still saw no one. Walking tentatively, she moved down the hallway. When she reached the door that she thought her friends were behind, she opened it. There was no one there. She was fairly certain it was the same room, the table looked the same, but no one was in there. She left the room and kept moving down the hallway. She tried a few other doors, but none opened. She wanted to call out for her friends, but she was afraid to.
Finally, Emma reached the beginning of the hallway, and the stairs that they had come down. She limped up them, still hearing nothing. As she reached the very top and pushed open the door, the sounds of the party filtered out. Everyone was still up here, drinking and dancing, no idea what was happening below their feet. Emma started running now, as fast as she could on her bitten feet. As she reached the crowd she saw some eyes widen. Even among people in costumes, she knew she had to look horrible. Her green makeup had smudged off, there was soot everywhere, and her shoulder was drenched in blood. She was still partially sobbing.
“Help! Please help me !” Emma yelled. “Please, we need to call the police!”
Everyone stared at her for a beat, and then several of the partygoers started laughing.
“Hey, good job, you are really selling this,” one voice said.
“What? What are you talking about? I need help. I was just…attacked, and my friends are missing!” Emma yelled, sobbing again.
“Oh yeah, those friends?” One guy, dressed as a ghostbuster laughed, pointing at a mounted TV screen.
Emma looked up, and her heart dropped. On the screen was Lily, in an empty grimy room, similar to the one she had been in. There were snakes all around her, some striking while she screamed bloody murder. She looked terrified. Then the picture changed. It was one of the older guys. He was bleeding from a large gash on his head, screaming something she couldn’t hear. There must have been cameras in all of their rooms. The picture changed once more. This time it was Cassie. She was curled in a ball on the floor, not moving.
“Oh my god! We need to help her! Please! Don’t you see that!” Emma cried, grabbing at the person closest to her.
“OK, we get it, you are still in character. Calm down, it’s just a movie,” the ghostbuster said, turning away to talk to his friends.
“It’s…a what?” Emma stammered. Looking around she realized that they all thought it was just a movie and that she was an actress playing a character. The movie that they were filming in the asylum Emma realized, gasping. Her hand flying to her mouth, she remembered…
The ultimate prize for the contest had been a role in the movie.
About The Author
Katie is part science nerd, part world traveler, and full-time horror enthusiast.
In between teaching children and locking people in escape rooms, she sets off around the globe searching out creepy locales to be her next story setting.