The voice over the loud speaker had been on repeat for what had to have been hours, accompanied by a repeating buzzer. I could swear my ears were bleeding from the irritation of the noise by now. The room around me was dark, damp and dripping, with multiple yellow beams from floor to ceiling. There was barely any light. Directly next to me was an opaque glass wall, with a pencil thin slit in it revealing the other half of the room. I had the distinct feeling I was several floors underground.
On the other side of the wall, I could see the vague outline of another person, in the exact same position as I was. So they must have been in the same predicament as me. I was standing with a metal collar locked around my neck. There was a chain attached to it, running up to the ceiling. There was little to no slack attached to it at all. Only enough so that my feet could touch the ground. I could not move about the room in any manner of speaking.
Oddly enough, I did not feel afraid. Prior to these circumstances, I was standing in line at my local coffee shop when a man in a black business suit and a matching classy looking black face mask got in line behind me. We exchanged pleasant greetings and paid no more attention to each other. As I completed my drink order and was about to pay, he stepped next to me, and insisted on covering the cost of my beverage. I was flattered and allowed it. We chatted, even flirting a little while we waited for our respective drinks to be completed, and when mine was ready, he even went to the trouble to hand it to me. Looking back now in this state, I have the heavy suspicion that he somehow slipped something in my drink to get me here, and I have a residual neutralized state. Because not only do I not feel afraid, I don’t really feel anything. A stranger drugged me, kidnapped me, and bound me to a ceiling, and all I am is numb.
“Remain still and calm. The escape will begin at the ready.” The voice continued to drone on this repeated announcement for at least a few more hours.
I was almost beginning to doze off when the announcement changed. “Discussion will commence. Pick who dies, then escape will proceed. There will be consequences if a conclusion is not reached.” And it repeated over and over again. The ear splitting buzzer continued to accompany it. The opaque glass wall between myself and the silhouetted person next to me slid open a few inches, and a light from above barely illuminated the space between us.
Now I am by no means vain or narcissistic. But as a twenty something blond, slightly taller than average, slightly skinnier than average, good at makeup, woman, with curves and fashion sense - I know I’m good looking. I’ll say that up front. So when I looked into the room adjacent to me, I was a little confused why I was up against a forty to fifty something year old man, in a wheelchair, who was at minimum four hundred pounds and honestly I don’t think he could stand up if he tried to.
At first we just blinked at each other for a few moments. Then as I was about to ask how we would proceed in coming to a fair decision about this, he took a deep breath, slowly sighing it out, and said, “I don’t wish to fight you on this. You win. I give up.”
I considered what he said for a moment. Then I asked, “Have you done this before?”
He nodded. “Yes. To this day I don’t know why they choose you to come here. But once you do there are only three ways to leave, and neither are good.”
“What are those ways?” I asked, suddenly feeling scared. They were making announcements of escape, but he was making it feel quite the contrary.
He chuckled. “The first way is simple. You reach a conclusion and are the agreed upon person to escape. That pretty much never happens, you see. The second way is if no agreement is reached, you win the challenge and complete the winner’s task. The final way is to willingly deny escape.”
I was heated. “What is the winner’s task? Why are you rewarded for denial?”
“The winner’s task, I will not tell you, child. You must learn it by winning - but you do not need to since I am denying to compete against you. And you are not rewarded for denial. Denying the chance to escape is greeted by death.” He said plainly.
“You are choosing death?” I was shocked.
“Yes.” he nodded.
“I don’t understand.” I almost backed away, and I started choking due to the restraint of my chain.
“I have won the challenge every time, and it has always pained me to do so. And then I am presented with the winner’s task and always have refused. So I do not get to leave.”
Our conversation was suddenly interrupted, as the announcement changed. “A decision has not been reached. We have made the decision for you. Be prepared for an escape challenge. Be prepared for an escape challenge.” The irritating buzzer grew louder. Yellow and red lights began to popflash back and forth. And a heavy smell a chemical gas began to fill the air. I began to feel light headed and slowly lost consciousness.
Eventually, I roused. I immediately noticed some distinctive changes in my surroundings. For one, Mr. Quitter could stand, to my dismay, and he was. Also, the wall between us was opened a bit wider, JUST wide enough that one of the two of us could fit though the opening. Alarmingly, in that open space, three very large floor to ceiling blades had been added. I don’t possibly know how we could bypass these in order to get through. And lastly… while still collared, we were now collared to each other instead of the ceiling.
The loud speaker began. The insanity inducing buzzer no longer sounded. “Your objective is simple. Pull your opponent through the center opening. This will cut them into three decisive pieces. Whoever pulls their opponent through the opening first is our escape artist of the day.” A ticker sound began.
I remembered Mr. Quitters words. He has never lost.
He was so much larger than me. I immediately started backing away from the opening, trying to get some sort of upper hand. There was a decent amount of resistance. Not because he was fighting me, but because he was so heavy and large compared to me.
“I wish you wouldn’t have fought me, honey. I was ready to die, but I didn’t wanna die this way. And you ain’t gunna like the winner’s task I told you I’ve never complete it - that’s why Im still here.”
He walked towards the opening willingly, so I took full advantage of this action and took more steps backwards away from it. He knelt down, and faced away from the blades. He began positioning himself so that his legs, arms, and head were lined up fairly equally between the blades, already touching them, even pushing against them some.
He was clearly hurting already a little bit. “Alright, I’m going to help you do this. When I say three, you pull with as much gusto as you’re pretty little arms can, and I’ll push. Try not to listen if I start hollerin’. You just think about getting out of here, okay? Just focus on that. Concentration is the key.”
“Okay. Thank you. What’s your name? Mine’s Amber.”
“That’s beautiful, honey. My name is Gordan.”
“Well thank you, Gordon. Let’s do this.”
“Alright Amber. One… Two… THREE!” I pulled as swiftly, expertly, and with as much strength as possible. And then gave some more. I could tell he had kind of slammed his whole body against the blades. His initial efforts had gotten the blades a large portion of the way through his body - they were very obviously sharp as hell, putting it mildly. I pulled and struggled a bit, but it did not take long for me to get him the rest of the way through the opening, thus effectively slicing an innocent man into three slices of meat.
He was very dead.
A buzzer sounded. “Amber, congratulations. You are today’s escape artist challenge winner. You must now complete the winner’s task in order to be released. You will begin shortly.”
A man walked in. He removed the collar from my neck and set down a very large cup of water in the center of the room. He also handed me a towel. I wiped a lot of the sweat from my face. He removed the collar from the remains of Gordon’s body and laid a smaller section of the body near the cup. I grabbed the cup and chugged a good portion of it, working to ignore Gordon’s presence.
The man chuckled. “You probably should have saved that.” He left the room.
The loud speaker began again. “For your winner’s task, you must consume the piece of your opponent left near the cup of water provided to you. You may not spit any out. You may not regurgitate any of it. You may begin.”
I was in shock. I slowly walked toward the remains of Gordon. I now understood why that man laughed when I was drinking the water. I knelt down, just staring, for a long time.
I understood why Gordon tried to make the decision he did. I did not want to end up like Gordon. With a deep breath and a heavy sigh, I picked up his remains, and bit in.