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BIT 23: WHISPER
Back on the first floor, I cocked a brow. Everything was back in its place. Everything except the Ouija Board. The tables and loveseats were all intact, none of the picture frames were missing—They were all straight and perfect, without slashes, rips, or Xs.
Orion’s eyes were narrowed as he looked up and around the room, posed to throw magical doom. Redemption reclined on one of the loveseats, his hands folded behind his head. He was whistling the same tune as the song that had played out by the cabins. And Pan stood against the wall rubbing his throat. When he lowered his hands, a red line rested below his Adam’s apple.
“Everyone is okay?” I asked.
“Indeed,” Pan said. “Everyone present is in decent shape.”
As grim relaxed, the Fire Bomb in his palm dissipated. “Well, that was entertaining, but we should figure out where to go.”
I shrugged. “The third floor door is either locked, or bugged. I punched a hole in it when I tried to hit the Poltergeist, and then the hole vanished, along with my minotaurian glove.”
Turning my bare hands over, I looked at my palms. Under my skin, I could see blue veins. With such intricate details, it was almost hard to believe we were in virtual reality. And the longer time passed, the more Dark Days felt like the real world. To forget the truth would be bad. Even at this point, could we all go back to everyday life after experiencing all that we had? PTSD was almost a guarantee, especially for those who had blood on their hands. Hell, I’d killed PKers and even that horrible truth didn’t feel real—I’d killed actual living people.
I bit my bottom lip. Was there any coming back from that?
“You are troubled,” Pan said.
Sighing, I said, “Tell me something I don’t know.”
I glanced at him and he smiled. It was warm and caring, out of character for someone like Pan. Usually his smiles were sarcastic or condescending.
“Should you survive Dark Days—Should any of us—You more so than other, will be all right.”
“What makes you say that?”
He placed his hand on my shoulder. “Because you are the most courageous of us all. You have seen friends die, yet you don’t give up. You have killed other players who were inexcusably evil, yet it doesn’t destroy you inside. You have even been tortured, but you still stand tall with your head lifted. I have seen you through every emotion, my friend, and I believe in you.”
My eyes watered, threatening to release tears, but not happy ones. “If we lose anyone else, I don’t think I’ll be able to keep moving forward.”
“That’s the thing that sets you apart from the rest. You will move forward. And be stronger for it. You will use it as fuel to find that nacho-munching, obese child. Z will rue the day he allowed you into Dark Days.”
I half-smiled, but it faded back into a frown. “Thanks.”
“That said, even if I do not agree with her words on Z, we must find Ms. Stryph. We won’t let the Charred Face have her.”
I nodded. “I appreciate your motivational speech.”
“It’s what I’m best at.”
Grim left the door and walked to join the rest of us at the center of the room. “So what’s the game plan?”
Redemption quit whistling and stood, rolling his shoulders. “I don’t care to stay in this dungeon any longer than we have to, so let’s move on?”
I nodded and walked around the table retrieving Supernova. “Yes. Let’s start from the first floor.”
“Lord Zombie, open the door by the fireplace.” Grim threw out his finger, pointing at where Charred Face had stood.
The muscular, yet rotting undead hobbled to the door and brought back his shield arm and slammed it forward. Wood splintered from the frame as the door shattered. Lord Zombie stood there, blocking our path, shifting from foot to foot.
“Well, he’s set to auto-attack,” Grim said. “Must not be any enemies in there.”
Pan cleared his throat. “No Charred Face, then?”
I clapped his shoulder as I stepped by him. “I guess not.”
Supernova at the ready, I squeezed past Lord Zombie and entered the next room. A sweet, sickening stench tickled my noise. This was the resorts kitchen. It was a long room, filled with steel tables covered in bowls, plates, and cookware. To left side were a row of four flat top stoves, each with pots and pans on them. One stove had typical gas burners. Something boiled and bubbled in the biggest pot. Opposite of the stoves were silver cabinets, and two large double door refrigerators. All the way past the tables, the room narrowed into a hallway with a door on each side and one at the very back.
“This looks normal enough.” I stepped to the tables and screwed up my face. The stench was stronger than near the door. Sitting on the tabletop was a large steel bowl. My gut told me not to look—Everything in me told me not to look. I shouldn’t look. But I did look, and really shouldn’t have. Lifting the lid, I peeked inside.
Floating in a pool of crimson blood was a human brain with a pair of eyeballs bobbing on either side. I gasped and dropped the steel pot lid. It clanged to the floor, sending a stabbing shock amongst the four of us.
“What was that?” Grim asked as Lord and Lady Zombie came in, flanking him.
Redemption entered and frowned. “It seems this room is grotesque to say the least.”