Monster of Monsters
Text Copyright © 2017 by Kristie Lynn Higgins
Cover Art Copyright © 2017
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Start One Of These Series
by Kristie Lynn Higgins
The Trials And Joys Of Life
A young girl wearing a school uniform sat by herself under the shelter and shield of a great oak tree. The sounds of other children could be heard in the distance, but they nor she could see one another behind her woody fort. She ignored their laughter that bid her to join them on the playground, and she also ignored their conversations that talked of worlds she could never belong to. The girl had found peace that was very rare to her, and she was enjoying the few minutes she had left before she would have to join the other children and learn.
She sat alone on a small blanket next to a spiderweb that she could easily touch if she stretched out her hand, and she watched as the wind gently rocked the web. The morning dew that clung to its glistening threads, fell off as sparkling droplets to the grass with each soft gust that blew their way. A brown spider the size of a quarter made its home there, and it didn’t seem bothered by the wind or her presence.
“Would you like some cheese?” she offered the spider after she broke off a small piece of her breakfast.
It stared at her for a few seconds as if curious of her as much as the young girl was curious of it, and then it shook its head.
“What about a cracker?” the young girl questioned as she broke off a piece, and the spider shook its head again. “What would you like to eat? I’m not sure I know what you eat. We haven’t learned about your kind yet.”
The young girl spent as much time as she could alone. The other children could be cruel, and she found that she was happier alone. The young girl also found that if she looked hard enough she could find little wonders of the created world. They were hidden, but all around her.
The young girl held the cracker out as if expecting the spider to answer her, and then she pulled back the piece of cracker and cheese and ate them herself. She started to ask the spider another question when the spider turned its attention to four older girls as they walked by on a path that had a clear view of her shelter and shield. The young girl noticed them and leaned up against the tree, so not to be noticed by the older girls.
“I heard Karen will be devoured next,” one of them said.
“Karen..? Which clan is claiming her?” the oldest girl who was eight questioned.
“The White Crane Clan wishes to devour her and claim her as one of their own,” the first girl replied. “Her birth clan will most likely allow the White Crane to claim her, and Karen will be adopted.”
“The White Crane is a strong clan,” the oldest girl stated. “Karen is blessed.”
“Yes, she’s blessed,” the other three girls repeated.
The first girl noticed the girl sitting under the oak who was trying to hide from them, so she motioned from the path and asked, “Who is that?”
“Never mind her,” the oldest girl replied.
“Who is she?” the first girl repeated. “I would really like to know.”
The oldest girl became angry and replied, “I will not speak her name.”
The second oldest girl sighed, and then she said, “Her name is Kein.”
The fourth member of their group inquired, “What’s the big deal? Just who is Kein?” She asked the oldest girl, “Is she a rival of yours?”
“That toddler!” the oldest girl yelled. “She’s worse than a rival. She’s a nobody at our school. She is ruining the purity of our people.” The oldest girl turned and motioned for the others as she said, “Come on, I don’t want to waste any more time talking about her.”
The second oldest girl glanced at Kein once more before joining the other three girls who had started back across the path, and Kein breathed a sigh of relief as she turned to the spider and said, “It’s okay. They’re gone. We can go back to our picnic.”
Kein picked up a small round fruit and offered it to the creature, “Ms. Spider, would you like a grape?”
She looked at Kein with her eight eyes and then shook her head.
“I wish I knew what you ate,” Kein spoke, but before she could say anything else, a voice above her called out.
“What are you doing down there?”
Kein looked up into the oak tree and saw a boy who was six and slightly older than her, hanging upside down from a branch.
He smiled at her, then released the branch with his legs, flipped, and landed on his feet.
“I am of the Brown Bear Clan, and I am Bruno,” he introduced himself, and then he said, “I heard you talking…” The boy questioned, “Who were you talking to?”
She looked around as if she couldn’t believe the boy, who was a year older than herself, was talking to her.
“Did you hear me?” the boy questioned.
“I’m only playing,” Kein replied, not sure what else to say.
“Is that how you are supposed to speak to someone who is older than you?” a second boy, who was eight, questioned her as he walked up to them.
Kein blushed, then she turned to the first boy, and repeated, “I am playing, Senior Bruno.”
“And they say you couldn’t learn anything, but I see that they were mistaken,” the second boy spoke, then cleared his throat, and said, “I am of the Gray Wolf Clan, and I am Friedrich.”
She nodded her head to him in greeting.
“What is your name?” Bruno asked her.
“My name is…” Kein started.
“You are supposed to start out by telling me your clan’s name,” Bruno interrupted. “You must have heard the headmistress tell us she is from the Fire Bird Clan. It is the first lesson we learn when we come to this school.”
“She can’t do that,” Friedrich told him. “No clan or house wants her. They say that she’s cursed,” he stated, and then he explained, “They say that a monster killed her sire and dame, and they also say that that monster cursed her and left her alive to curse any clan or house that would claim her, so none have.”
“Is that why you are over here playing by yourself?” Bruno questioned her. He walked around the blanket she sat on, then he noticed the web, and said, “I see who you were talking to or more like what. You were playing with this spider.”
“Isn’t she pretty?” Kein stated. “I find that I really like their kind.”
“Nasty thing,” Friedrich spoke up. “We should get rid of it.”
“Don’t hurt her,” Kein begged.
He ignored her and told Bruno, “Doesn’t it remind you of a Kumovon?”
“It does,” Friedrich answered. “We should kill it.”
“No, don’t hurt her,” Kein begged.
Bruno picked up a stick as he said, “I’ll smash it.”
Kein quickly got to her feet, cupped her hands around the spider, and gently took her off the web.
“She’s touching it! She’s touching the nasty thing!” Friedrich yelled. “Make her put it down!”
“Let go of it!” Bruno yelled. “Let go of it!”
“No,” Kein said. “You’re not hurting her.”
She tried to run away, but the eight-year-old tackled her to the ground. Kein held on to the spider and didn’t let go of her, and she hit the ground hard, knocking the wind from her.
“Get the spider!” Friedrich yelled.
“Let me have the spider,” Bruno demanded.
Kein managed to say, “No!”
“Let me have the spider or you’ll get hurt.”
Bruno glanced at the stick he held, dropped it, then went over to the girl, and stomped on her hands as he yelled, “Let go of it or I’ll smash your hands.”
She didn’t say anything but held on to the spider. Bruno kept stomping on her hands until he grew tired. He was about to start on her again when the other boy moved.
Friedrich stood up as he heard the school clock chiming and said, “Come on. We’ll be late for class, and you know what happens if we’re late.”
Bruno stomped on her hand one last time and then ran after Friedrich who hurried for his class.
“Don’t worry…” Kein spoke a few seconds later as she sat up. She peered at her cupped hands that were starting to show the abuse Bruno inflicted on them, and she said, “You’re safe now. They’re gone. You can go back to your web and…”
She opened her hands and found that the spider was dead. She had been unable to save her, and the spider’s blood was all over her hands. Kein wanted to cry, but she held it in, crying never did her any good.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Spider,” she spoke in a whisper. “I’m sorry I sat next to your web. I’m sorry I was talking to you. I’m sorry that no one likes me.”
Kein took her hand and dug a hole for her, and then gently set the spider in her grave. She piled the dirt on top of her friend, picked a nearby flower, placed it on top, then Kein grabbed her lunch box, stood, and ran into the woods that surrounded the school. She ran and ran as the school bell’s chime fell silent in the distance. Kein kept running till she couldn’t run anymore, then slowed down, and walked. The woods were dense and little light filtered through the leaves of the oaks and maples. She continued walking until she came upon a very old structure that had long ago fallen into pieces, and she climbed on top of one of its marble pillars that laid stretched out like a log. Kein balanced herself, walked across it, then dropped down to the ground, and took a step to return to the school, but the ground beneath her gave way. She fell a few feet and rolled down a hill into a sandy cave. The area was dark, but she was still able to see in the area very well. Kein stood, brushed the sand off her skirt and shirt of her school uniform, and noticed she had tumbled down into some sort of structure. She glanced behind herself and saw that she could climb back up the hill if she wanted to get out, but Kein decided to explore. She walked around the area and then entered the tiny structure. Spiderwebs small and great covered the walls, and Kein was about to leave when one of the larger webs parted as if by magic, revealing a small tunnel. She entered the tunnel and followed it till it emptied into a large cavern where she found a huge platform the size of a football arena. Kein walked up to it and started to explore the area when she noticed movement in its center. Someone was there with her, and whoever they were, they were lying among some rubble as if they were hurt. Kein’s heart pounded in her chest, and she thought about leaving, but she felt that that person needed her help, so instead of running away, she took a couple of steps towards the rubble that was about fifteen feet from her.
“So a little morsel has stumbled across my lair,” a lady said as if she was very weak.
Kein paused when she was spoken to, and then she took two more steps towards the lady.
“That is it, little morsel, come closer,” the lady spoke.
Kein paused when a large spider the size of her hand ran across her shoe, and then she looked all around and saw that the cavern was full of spiders. The rest of them were still, and they all seemed to be looking at her.
The lady in the darkness moved and grunted as if she was in pain, and then she said, “Come here so I can…”
“Are you hurt?” Kein questioned as she took three more steps towards the lady.
“That is a good little morsel. Now stay right there and do not run,” the lady spoke as she tried to stand up.
“You are hurt,” Kein said. “Is there a way that I can help you?”
The lady laughed and said, “You..? I think not.”
Kein continued toward her as the lady in the shadow again tried to raise to her legs.
The lady breathed heavily as she spoke, “You are either a brave little morsel or a foolish one or maybe a blind and deaf little morsel.”
“I can hear and see fine,” Kein stated. “I just can’t see you yet. You’re still hidden by all that rubble. Did it fall on you?”
“No, I was injured in another way. I am here because I find it more comfortable to lie on these large rocks than the floor,” the lady replied, and then she asked, “Is anyone with you?”
“No,” Kein replied. “I am alone. I am very alone.”
“Good, come closer…” the lady started as she waved her on. “I am too weak to come to you.”
“Are you really hurt?” Kein questioned again.
“I am badly hurt,” the lady answered.
“How did you get hurt?”
“You could say there was someone who wanted to punish me, so they banished me here, but not before making sure I was unable to leave,” the lady answered, then looked her over, and said, “I believe you are big enough.”
“Big enough for what?”
“I believe you are large enough to fulfill my requirements so that I can finally leave this place,” the lady replied, and then she said, “Now come to me, little morsel.”
Kein continued less afraid until she stood before the lady, then the lady managed to stand on her legs, and Kein looked up at her, and her expression turned to one of petrified wonder as she started, “You’re…”
“I know,” the lady interrupted with a small grin on her face, and she nearly fell down because of her weakened condition, but she managed to stay standing. “You should be terrified by my mere presence.”
“You’re…” Kein repeated as her heart pounded in her chest again, and her mouth widened in what appeared to be the preview of a shrill-filled scream.
The lady said, “You must be very surprised to see one as myself here. You must also be very frightened.”
Kein didn’t know what to do first. She wanted to run, but she also wanted to express the awe and shock of the unexpected enchantment she discovered in the darkness and uttered again, “You’re…”
“I know,” the lady stated as she placed a hand on her own chest as if the girl had given her a compliment. “This must be your first time seeing one such as me, so you must want to scream. You can… No one will hear you down here, so go ahead.” The lady slightly bent and urged her on by waving to her as if patting her head, “Scream… It will make you feel better.” The lady straightened and then added, “There is nothing that I hate more than a stiff morsel.”
“You’re… You’re so pretty,” Kein finally managed to exclaim with a smile on her face in which no scream followed except for a small one that was more of a shriek of pure happiness. The shrill-filled preview the lady had witnessed before was only of her delight and amazement. Kein immediately moved, unable to stand still any longer and ran around the injured lady as if seeing a majestic beast for the first time up close. She wanted to reach out and touch her, but Kein knew the lady was no animal. The lady was more like a great queen.
Kein slowed her running to a concerned walk as she got a better view of the lady’s form, and then she said, “I see now. Your leg’s hurt.”
“Are you right in the head?” the lady questioned her. “Do you know what I am?”
“I don’t, but you are pretty,” Kein replied, and then she said, “You remind me of…”
“I do not care,” the lady interrupted. “You see what I am. Are you not going to run away?”
“Why would I run? You’re hurt, and you need my help even if you say I can’t do anything for you.” Kein insisted, “I might be small, but I can help you.” She remembered her lunch box, so she moved a few feet away, placed it on a rock, and opened it as she said, “You must be hungry. Do you want the rest of my breakfast?” Kein removed the purple fruit and stated, “I still have grapes.” She walked back to the lady, lifted the grapes, and said, “They’re good.”
“Do you not know that I am going to devour you?”
Kein’s expression changed to one of confusion as she said, “I don’t think I understand.”
“I will cause you pain,” the lady said. “Do you understand that?”
Kein frowned as she lowered the grapes and said, “Oh… I thought we could be friends.”
“Are you not afraid of me?” the lady questioned.
“No,” Kein replied. “I just thought we could be friends and that we could help each other.”
The lady started to seize the little girl when the large spider returned and crawled up the little girl’s leg. The lady waited for the little girl to shriek, but instead, she bent and picked up the spider.
“Is he your friend?” Kein asked. “He seems to like you a lot.”
“And yet he crawled up your leg,” the lady spoke, then glanced around the area at the rest of the spiders that made their home there, and then the lady said, “The spiders do seem to have an unusual reaction to you. I have never seen them this still before.”
“I like spiders,” Kein spoke. “But they don’t seem to like cheese or crackers.”
The lady looked her over, and then she said, “You are not as big as I thought you were. Here… Give me those things you call grapes.”
She lifted them up, the lady took them from her, and then she tried one of the grapes.
“Not what I am used to eating, but I guess I could eat these instead of you.”
“I’ll bring more food the next time I come,” Kein stated.
“Why would you return? I might not devour you now, but you will get bigger.”
Kein stared at her again as if she wasn’t sure what the lady was talking about, but then this idea entered her young mind, and she nodded, agreeing with the lady, “I will get bigger, and I’ll keep coming till I am bigger, then you can devour me.” She thought about it some more and then added, “Maybe I can bring you other things to eat.”
“There is something wrong with you,” the lady spoke, and then she asked, “If you bring me food, what do you want from me?”
“Someone to talk to,” Kein replied. “I’ve had friends before like this little one,” she said as she lifted the spider. “But they don’t speak to me. I want someone who can talk to me. I can come once a day, and you can talk to me.”
“I know of the school that is beyond these woods. Will you not be missed?”
“My teachers don’t like me, and I don’t think the ones that I have before lunch will care if I show up or not, so I can come of a morning.”
“What about school? You will miss out on learning. I might devour you later, but you will taste better if you are a little smarter.”
“Maybe you can teach me,” Kein said. “I can bring you other things that you need besides food, and you can teach me.”
“It will take me some time to heal, and I cannot leave this cavern until I am healed so… I guess I can endure having to talk with my food before I devour you,” the lady stated, and then she added, “But you cannot tell anyone that I am here.”
“I know. They won’t like that you’re here, so I promise never to tell anyone.”
“I guess I can only trust you on this. Come then… Come tomorrow with more grapes, and we will begin your lessons.”
“What’s your name?” she questioned. “My name’s Kein.”
“That is German, but it is not a name,” the lady told her.
“It’s what they call me,” she said. “It has to be my name. Can you please tell me your name?”
“I do not think I will ever tell you my name,” the lady replied.
“Why is that?”
“This will be your very first lesson,” the lady stated. “My people only reveal their names to friends and family, and right now you are neither. Remember you are a little morsel and that is what I will call you.”
“I don’t think I understand.”
The lady explained, “My people see our names as a part of us like an arm or a leg, but it goes even deeper than that. Our names are our very being, so we just do not tell anyone our given name. You have to be someone important to us or someone cherished, and little morsel, you are neither of these things to me, so if I should give you my name now I would be breaking a sacred tradition, and I would be insulting my own pride.”
Kein thought about it, and then she said, “I think I understand. I’ll learn your name once we’re friends.” She clapped her hands together and peered up at the lady’s face as she said, “I can’t wait… I bet it won’t be that long, and I bet it’s a very pretty name like something that has to do with your beautiful eyes. You can tell me your name, and then you can devour me.” She started to run back the way she came, then set the spider down, and started running again for the exit as she shouted to all the small eight-legged creatures, “Goodbye!”
“I believe there is something not right with that one,” the lady told the spiders around her. “I have never seen food so excited to be devoured that they would promise to return.”
Kein paused once she was some great distance away and yelled, “Goodbye, lady. See you tomorrow.”
The lady said nothing to her only shook her head as she watched the young girl run out of her prison, and then the lady spoke to all the spiders around her, “She is too small right now, so I will have to be patient. The food that she will bring me will nourish me until the day she will be enough for me to heal myself and leave this dreadful prison.” The spiders started moving around at their normal pace as the lady said, “My kind lives a very long time, so I can wait… and then I can enjoy my sweet sweet morsel.” The lady frowned as she added, “I will only have to put up with her until then.” The lady lifted her voice and ordered, “None of you are to hurt her. She is mine. She is mine alone.”
The next day…
The school had a special morning assembly, and it was mandatory that everyone attend, so Kein went with all her fellow students and sat with the other children in her grade. They all gathered in the gym where a huge red carpet had been rolled out over the basketball court, and chairs were set up for all the children, facing a stage, and a microphone on a podium was set up on the stage. The faculty sat in their chairs behind the podium and awaited the arrival of the headmistress. She arrived and walked out on stage as the children and faculty quieted without being told.
“What is that on the headmistress’ head?” a girl to Kein’s left asked the girl to her left.
“It’s a veil. I heard the headmistress wears it everywhere she goes. She even wears it while she’s in her office.”
“Why is she wearing it?”
“I heard it said that her husband died long ago and that she’s still in mourning over him. I heard it said that she’ll never remove the veil until she either finds a suitable husband or she feels she has mourned her dead husband long enough.”
The headmistress took her place at the podium and began to speak, “For the few transfer students that just arrived today, my name is Headmistress Blindheart. You may call me headmistress or you may call me Headmistress Blindheart; both are acceptable. I want to welcome you one and all to another semester and to remind all of you to work hard. Many of you will be our future leaders, so sharpen your minds and hone your bodies and always strive to better yourselves. This world wants to devour us and destroy what we stand for, but do not fear such a death. Hold solace that your clans or houses have already devoured you. Your clans or houses have eaten you from the inside out, and they own all of you. They are your family. Hold pride in that,” she spoke, then glanced over the crowd, and seemed to look right at Kein as she added, “And for those few of you who have yet to be devoured, do not give up hope… A clan or house may come along and see the potential that is in you and devour you, inducting you into their family, so work hard for your future family. I was not born into the Fire Bird Clan. I was devoured into it, and I take pride that such a clan wanted me. Be it the clan or house you are born into or one that devours you, always put them before yourself. There is no self, there is only family.”
Head Mistress Blindheart paused, and then she said, “Remember children, it is all about purity of the race. The strong and/or smart succeed. The frail and mediocre fail, and their line will not be carried on. Entice a clan or house to devour you. Show them you can bring strength and prestige to their name. We are only as strong as our weakest member.”
The morning assembly went on for another thirty minutes, then the students were dismissed to their classes, and Kein hurried into the woods. She brought the lady grapes as promised, and she also brought her crackers and cheese. The lady found that she didn’t care for either the crackers or cheese, but she did eat the grapes, and she ate all of them.
“What shall I teach you today?”
“There is something I would like to learn about,” Kein replied. “What is important about a clan or house?”
“Clan or house? Is it not what you call your families?”
“It is,” Kein replied. “What is their purpose?”
“These are questions your mother or father would be better suited to answer,” the lady stated. “You should not bother me with such things. You should ask them.”
“My mom and dad died long ago,” Kein stated. “I’m not even sure what their purpose is supposed to be.”
“What do you mean you do not understand their purpose?” the lady inquired of her.
The spiders of the cavern moved closer, but they kept their distance of the unusual girl except for the large brown spider Kein had picked up the day before. He crawled into Kein’s outstretch hand when she offered to pick him up. She petted his fuzzy body.
“A mother or a father raise you,” the lady said. “They take care of you.”
“The school takes care of me, so would the school be this family you speak of?” Kein asked.
The lady answered, “I guess they could be. They just need to love you and help you grow up strong.”
“No one at the school loves me, no one at the school even likes me,” Kein stated, and then she bowed her head as she said, “They say that I’m cursed.”
“Why do they say you are cursed?”
“I’m not really sure, but they say that someone killed my parents and put some sort of mark on me.”
The lady had been lying down, but she stood to her legs and walked around and noticed her injured leg didn’t hurt as much, and then she asked, “Do you know where this mark is?”
“I think I saw it once,” Kein replied, and then she motioned and said, “It’s on the back of my neck.”
“Let me see.”
Kein walked over to her, lifted her long hair, and turned, so she could see the nape of her neck. The lady looked closely and saw what appeared to be a small tattoo in the shape of a circle with markings inside.
“Curious,” the lady said. “It does appear you have been marked, but I am not sure of the purpose of this particular mark.”
The lady put a hand on the young girl’s shoulder and thought about sinking her fangs into the little morsel’s neck, but if she did that, she would ruin any chance that she had of escaping her prison in the future. The lady was very tired and weak, and she would have given up long ago of ever leaving except for the revenge that fuels her desire to go on. The lady needed to get back into play.
“Let us talk a little more about the school that is taking care of you,” the lady spoke as she removed her hand from her shoulder. “You said that they do not like you, but that they do take care of you.”
“That’s right,” Kein answered as she turned and faced the lady. “I overheard one of the teachers say they wanted to use me for something when I get older, so they must bear the burden of taking care of me until some other school takes over my care or a clan or house does decide to take me.” Kein paused, and then she asked, “Can you tell me the purpose of a family in greater detail?”
“I will try,” the lady replied. “A family consists of a mother, father, and siblings.”
“What are siblings?”
“Siblings are a brother and/or sister. They are people somewhat like you who must grow up and learn.”
“From the mother and the father?” Kein questioned.
“That is correct. A family is two or more of those members living in a unit. It is how one learns so that they know how to survive through life,” the lady replied, chuckled to herself, and muttered, “You would have been better off if someone had been guiding you, little morsel, then you would not be here with me.”
“I like being here with you, but I do need a family,” Kein said. “I need to find me a family.” She then muttered to herself, “Two or more…”
“I do not think you can just go out and find you a family,” the lady said as she lay back down on the pile of rubble.
“I would really like to have a family,” Kein said. “They sound important.”
“I know you would, little morsel, but it is just not in your thread.”
“Oh… I guess I will have to make friends then. You can be my friend one day, you can tell me your name, and then we can be friends, or better than that… you can devour me.”
“You are the most peculiar girl I have ever come across,” the lady told her, and then she said, “As for your statement… One day might just happen. Now… What else should I teach you today?”
One week later…
The lady was lying down as Kein came into the cavern housing the arena size platform, and all the spiders seemed to let out a joyous squeal as she entered. Kein spread out her blanket, and she sat on it as she enjoyed her breakfast. She also started bringing her lunch and sharing it.
“I learned about your people today,” Kein told the lady as she gave her her grapes and had her try liver.
“What did they teach you?” the lady inquired.
“They didn’t actually teach me. I overheard. Your people come from a place that is a giant island, and they say the sun sees it first.”
“Yes, that is where my people are from.”
“Do you miss your family?” Kein asked her.
“I do. It has been many many years since I have seen them.”
“I hear on that island you have your own language that’s different than ours.”
“We do,” the lady replied. “Maybe one day I will teach you my language.”
The lady tried the liver and found that she did enjoy eating it almost as much as the grapes. She looked down at the girl and said, “You are looking thinner. You need to eat more if you are to fatten up for me.”
“I don’t know if I can,” Kein told her. “I’ve been sharing my meals with you.”
“I see,” the lady said. “And we cannot have that anymore. You will have to start taking more food for yourself so that you can share with me without taking away from what you need to grow up big.”
“I will try,” Kein told her.
“You said earlier that you brought something new with you,” the lady stated.
“I did,” Kein said. “I brought a comb. Kids are making fun of me because they say my hair’s all messed up. Can you teach me how to comb my hair?”
The lady sighed, having to do something so tedious, then she held out her hand, and Kein gave her the comb. She took the plain blue plastic comb.
“Turn around and hold still,” the lady spoke, then she took the comb and ran it through the girl’s tangles, trying to force the teeth through the knots.
Kein’s head jerked back as the lady continued to assault her strands.
The lady said, “Your hair is a real mess. It would be better if we shaved it off and let your hair grow back in. Turn and face me. Good… Now… Listen to me. I need you to go retrieve a pair of scissors and…” The lady paused as she noticed something out of the ordinary, and then she inquired, “What are those running down your face? Are you crying? You are… Why are you crying? Is it because I told you, you had to cut your hair?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cry,” Kein told her. “It’s just that… it hurts when you run the comb through my hair, so I couldn’t help but cry.”
“Why did you not say something? You should have told me I was hurting you.”
“I don’t know why I didn’t say anything,” Kein replied, and then she added, “I guess I thought it was supposed to hurt.”
The lady sighed again, but this time, the lady was aggravated with herself, not the child. She said, “No, I did not mean to hurt you, little morsel. I was careless and in a hurry, but I promise I will be gentler and take my time this time. Turn around. I will comb your hair again and do so as I should.”
Kein turned, and as promised, the lady took her time and removed the knots from her hair, and Kein didn’t cry anymore. She actually enjoyed having the lady comb her hair.
A few days later…
Kein sat on a rock as she flipped through a magazine she found in the trash.
“Look,” she said as she lifted it, so the lady could see. “These people have families and don’t they look happy?”
The lady ate her grapes as she glanced at the picture, not interested at all in what the little morsel was saying to her.
Kein pulled the magazine back down and continued looking at the images as she said, “I think I should find me a family.”
“A family is not something you can find,” the lady told her. “We talked about this already, but if you want to waste your time looking for one, who am I to say you cannot?”
“I need to know more then,” Kein told her. “Please tell me more about a mother and a father.”
“A father is someone who… A father is a male who teaches you things like… what is right and what is wrong… He teaches you how to take care of yourself, he gives you wisdom, and he… he…”
“You said something about love,” Kein interrupted.
“Yes, a father is supposed to love you,” the lady explained. “He is supposed to care more about you than he cares about himself, that is a father. A mother is a female who basically does the same thing.”
“They sound like they would be nice to have.”
“If you say so…” the lady spoke, and then she said, “Hand me your comb. It is time to comb your hair.”
A few weeks later…
“What are you doing?” the lady asked as she looked over Kein’s shoulder.
“I’m trying to write my name. I saw that the others can write words down on paper and can talk to people that way, but I have yet to learn to spell my name.”
“You cannot write? Your teachers must be very frustrated with you if you have not learned to write from them.”
Kein bowed her head and stated, “They do say that I’m slow and that it would be a waste of their time to instruct me more than once, so I haven’t learned yet. They also said something about me not needing to learn. They also said that the new school they’ll be sending me to… that I’ll have no need of knowledge there.”
“You cannot go through life not knowing how to read,” the lady scolded her. “I guess I will have to teach you. How else will you be able to get me some of the things that I need if you cannot read? Write out your A, B, Cs. We will start with that.”
One month later…
The lady was able to walk the length of the platform twice before her leg started to hurt. Many of the spiders gathered on the platform when Kein came, but they never approached her as instructed. Everyone had a routine. Kein would arrive. She would play with the one large brown spider as the other spiders watched and made excited noises. Kein and the lady would eat breakfast. The lady would instruct Kein on some daily lesson, and then they would work on her spelling and writing. They would then have lunch. Kein would play with the large spider again. There would be a second daily lesson, and then the lady would comb Kein’s hair before she left for the day.
“I brought you something!” Kein yelled as she ran up to the lady.
“What is it?” the lady inquired as she walked over to where the little morsel stood.
Kein handed her a piece of paper that had been folded up twice.
“What is this?”
“Read it,” Kein urged her.
The lady looked over the crude writing and saw that Kein still needed to work on a few of her letters.
“Can you?” Kein asked her.
“Can I what?”
“Read it out loud. I asked you a question.”
The lady spoke, “You are invited to Kein’s birthday party.”
“Can you come?” Kein repeated.
“You want me to go out there to some party?”
“No, silly,” Kein replied. “We can have the party here. I can bring us a cupcake a piece, and we can sing songs, and maybe play a game.”
“Why would I want to go to some stupid party? I am not a child.”
“Oh…” Kein said as her joyous expression left her face to be replaced by deep disappointment. “I thought you might want to celebrate as I turn six.”
“No thank you. Celebrate with your friends.”
The lady noticed there was also a drawing on the invitation. It was of herself and Kein smiling as they wore birthday hats.
The lady let out one of her long sighs, and then she mumbled, “I guess it is true what they say. Starve a child, and they will eat anywhere.”
“What does that mean?” Kein asked.
“Maybe one day I will tell you,” the lady replied. “Will there be grapes at this party?”
“Lots of grapes,” Kein replied.
“I guess I can come,” the lady stated as if agreeing to be tortured.
A week later, Kein’s birthday…
“I made you something special,” Kein spoke as she spread out her blanket.
She had made each of them a birthday hat, and the lady reluctantly wore hers. Kein even made a hat for the large brown spider, and he wore it by spraying his webbing all over it and putting it on his head.
“Are you not the one who is supposed to receive gifts?” the lady questioned.
“I am, but I wanted to make you something special, so I made the cupcakes, and I made them with lots of raisins.”
“What are raisins?”
“Dried grapes, so I think you’ll really like your cupcake,” Kein replied. “Before we eat, I just need to light my candle. I’m supposed to have one for each year that I am, but I was only able to get one.” She removed a candy cane striped candle and placed it in one of the cupcakes, and then she removed a box of matches with a leaping tiger on it with the name Tiger Strike. Kein handed the matchbook to her and asked, “Could you light the candle? I’m not supposed to play with matches.”
The lady took the matchbook, struck a match, and lit the candy cane striped candle. Kein closed her eyes, then she opened them a few seconds later, and blew out the candle.
“Why did you do that?” the lady questioned her as she handed back the match box.
“I made a wish,” Kein told her as she took the Tiger Strike and placed it back in her school bag. “One I hope comes true very soon.”
The two of them started to eat their cupcakes and drink the juice boxes Kein brought with her.
The lady saw what little morsel referred to as raisins and wasn’t sure she wanted to try them, but she went ahead and did try the cupcake and said, “This is good.”
“I thought you’d like it,” Kein told her as a giant smile beamed from her face. “Raisins are just cute wrinkly grapes.”
The lady smiled at her remark, and then she asked, “Would you like to have the gift I made you?”
“Yes, please,” Kein replied.
Kein did, and the lady placed a necklace over her head.
“You made this?” Kein asked as she looked down at the necklace and turned back around.
The lady nodded.
Kein touched the silk-like necklace of braided material, and then she said, “I thought it would be sticky, but it’s very smooth. Thank you. It’s very pretty. Does it have any meaning with it?”
“I do not think I understand your question,” the lady spoke.
“Your people’s cultural holds value and meaning with many of the things that you do or say. Does this necklace have any meaning?”
“You want some sort of meaning with the necklace? It is made with threads of white, so it means I am very excited about devouring you,” the lady explained.
“Threads of white are spider webs.”
“They are,” the lady told her. “Someday I will tell you a little more about the threads of white, but for now we should enjoy your celebration.”
“I’ll show my friend what you gave me,” Kein told the lady, then ran over to where the large brown spider hung on the web, and showed him her precious gift.
“To think she would believe something that one such as I so easily made up,” the lady whispered to the spiders around her. “And she does seem to enjoy the gift I made her. Look how happy my little morsel is. I only made the gift a few hours ago and did not put much thought into it, but it is like she sees it as bottled sunshine because I made it for her. I guess it is true about what they say. When those around you turn their hearts from you, even the darkness is inviting.” The lady watched Kein as she considered something, and then she questioned, “But if I made it up, why did I mention the threads of white?”
Kein returned, holding the large brown spider as she said, “We should celebrate your birthday when it comes.”
“My people do not celebrate our birth. Our way of life is different than yours. We believe everyday should be a celebration.”
“If that is the case, we will celebrate your birthday today. Happy birthday!” Kein then shouted with a child-like glee, “Happy everyday should be a celebration day!”
Several months later…
Kein leaned against one of the lady’s uninjured legs as she read to the lady from a book.
“That is enough reading for today,” the lady told her. “There is something special I would like for you to get me.”
“What is that?” Kein asked.
“Tea,” the lady replied. “I have not had green tea in ages, but I would settle for black if you cannot find green.”
“It might be hard for me to get,” Kein replied. “They don’t serve it in the cafeteria, and I’m not permitted to go to town.”
“See what you can do,” the lady said. “I know you will try your best.”
Three weeks later…
“Can you teach me some of your language and about the tea ceremony you spoke of last week?” Kein asked as she leaned her head against the lady.
“I guess I can,” the lady replied. “Today, I will teach you about the tea ceremony. It would have been better if you were able to acquire some tea for me, but I guess we will have to pretend.” The lady drew pictures in the sand with her finger as she spoke, “This particular tea ceremony is to bring about peace and understanding between two individuals. It is done by each participant sharing a written secret with the other.”
“A secret? Why a secret?” Kein asked.
“If done properly, the secret will create a bond between the two which is intended to bring a deeper understanding,” the lady explained.
“Oh…” Kein said. “Tell me some more…”
A few months later…
“Can you tell me your name?” Kein asked.
“Do you think we are friends now?” the lady inquired.
She nodded her head.
“We are not yet,” the lady spoke. “We are far from being friends yet, little morsel.”
“Should we perform the tea ceremony?” Kein questioned. “We can tell each other a secret.”
“I do not think you have a secret strong enough to bring to such an occasion,” the lady told her.
“When will we be friends?” Kein questioned her. “I thought we would have been friends a long time ago or I thought you would have devoured me by now.”
“I cannot get around how peculiar a child you are,” the lady stated, and then she replied, “And I cannot give you an answer to those two questions yet.”
“I need to call you something,” Kein said. “You call me little morsel, so can I pick out a name for you?”
“I do not see why you cannot,” the lady replied with a smile. “Do you have one in mind?”
“Not yet,” Kein answered. “I want to pick something from your language. I want it to be special, so I’ll take my time and pick out something.”
“My people select names that have great meaning,” the lady spoke.
“Tell me more,” Kein said.
“When we name our children, we select a name that tells of the relationship they will have with us, or others of our kind, or with the world around them.”
“I think I understand,” Kein said. “I will pick a name that talks about the relationship you have with me.”
“I look forward to hearing just what that name will be,” the lady told her.
A week later…
Kein spread her blanket over a raised section of the platform so that the lady could peer down and see what she was looking at.
“I think I know what name I want to call you,” Kein said with excitement.
“What would that be?”
“I need to go translate it first,” Kein said. “I want it to be in your language, and I want it to be a surprise, so I will find the translation on my own. I’ll tell you tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a special day.”
After their time was over for the day, Kein ran out, and the lady watched as she left.
“Tomorrow will be a special day,” the lady told all the spiders around her. “I am strong enough now that I can leave this dreadful place. We can go, and I can finally have my revenge on the ones who put me here. All I need is a little morsel to give me the energy I need to journey home.”
The large brown spider whimpered at hearing what his mistress had in mind.
The next day…
Kein came running in, yelling, “I’ve found the name! I’ve found the perfect name!”
The large brown spider ran out to her, and Kein picked him up as she asked him, “What’s a matter? You seem upset.”
“Do not worry about him,” the lady told her. “He is just very excited about today. You would not believe how long I have been waiting for this day,” the lady told her with a devious grin.
“So you’re also excited about the name I picked out for you. I hope you like it. I hope you really like it. It’s perfect.”
“What name did you pick out for me?”
“Before I tell you,” Kein began. “It wasn’t that easy figuring it out. I translated it wrong the first time, but I believe I have it correct now.”
“I’m so proud of you, my little morsel,” the lady said as she moved up behind Kein who had turned her back to her.
Kein put the large brown spider down on a rock, and then she set down her school bag beside him.
The lady had plenty of time to plan how she would kill the child, and she even picked out the perfect way to do so, the perfect instrument. She readied the instrument of her death as she asked, “What name did you select for me?”
“Okasan,” Kein answered as she turned around with this big beaming smile on her face and asked, “Do you like it?”
A wave of emotions flooded over the lady, and the ones that were the strongest were outrage and anger.
“What name did you call me?” the lady questioned her as she forgot about the instrument of her death.
“Okasan,” Kein answered again as she asked, “Isn’t it pretty? I really like it, and I think it suits you.”
“Do not call me that,” the lady spoke angrily. “Do not ever call me that.”
“You don’t like it?” Kein inquired as her joy fled. “I thought it was pretty, and it suits who you are to me.”
“Do not call me that!” the lady screamed.
“I… I didn’t mean to upset you,” Kein spoke, and for the first time, she was a little afraid of the lady. “I thought…”
“Do not ever call me that!” the lady yelled as she grabbed her shoulders and shook Kein. “Do you understand?”
The girl nodded near tears.
“Now leave!” the lady ordered her as she pointed to the exit.
“You’re mad. I didn’t mean to make you mad. I’m sorry. I’ll…”
The lady screamed all the more, “Leave now! I do not want to see you! Leave and never come back!” The lady started to pace the room as she ranted, “This was a mistake. This was all a mistake.” She turned to Kein as rage saturated her face, and she screamed all the more at her, “Who do you think you are? Who do you think you are to me? You are a little morsel. You are something to devour. I do not care about you. Leave! Leave and never come back! You are a curse! You are a curse to anyone you come across!”
“I’m a curse…” Kein repeated as the world around her collapsed like a spiderweb that a rock had been thrown through. Tears streamed down her face as she questioned, “You see me as a curse? I thought you wanted to devour me. I thought you…”
The lady screamed with all her might as if she was this great monster, and Kein jumped back out of fright, then turned, and ran out as fear found a place in her heart.
The next day…
“I’m back,” Kein called out before she could be seen. “I’m sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m sorry… Please don’t be mad with me anymore.”
She hadn’t seen one spider the whole way through the tunnel.
“I’m sorry,” Kein spoke as she slowly walked in, carrying a tray that rattled with china and seemed a little too heavy for her. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I promise I won’t ever call you by that name again.” She paused before the great platform and asked, “Are you there? Please come out. I’m sorry. Please don’t be mad with me.”
The lady didn’t answer her as if she had already left the cave and Kein behind.
“I found you some tea,” Kein spoke hopeful it would coax the lady out. “The headmistress had some in her office along with this tea set. I looked up how to make it, and it tastes good.” She paused, waiting on a voice who usually greeted her by then, and when the quiet was the only thing that replied, Kein pleaded, “Please come out. Please come out and tell me you’re not mad at me anymore.”
She walked up to the platform and saw that there were no signs of the lady or any of the spiders, not even a fresh web.
“Please come out. I’m sorry. I don’t understand why you’re mad at me, but I’m sorry.”
The cavern seemed to fill with silence like a giant beast breathing in sorrow. Kein set the tray down on a boulder and looked all around for the one who had packed brightness into her darkness. She searched for the lady who had brought joy to her hurting. Kein peered into the blackness of the cavern, and for the first time since entering the lair over seven months ago, she felt alone, and it frightened her, not with fear but with despair. Alone was a very familiar term to her, and it was the kind of alone she had been used to, but she never realized the loneliness of it until she had something to compare it to. Companionship… Friendship… Love… She thought she had all of these with the lady, and Kein had ruined it with one simple word.
The cavern seemed to enlarge as if she was inside a giant beast who had taken another deep breath, filling itself with more sorrow. The silence had given Kein her answer, and her little heart ached over something she had lost. The lady had given her something beyond the terms she understood, something Kein didn’t have a name for. The lady had brought her something she had been lacking in her life, and now with the lady and that something gone, her soul trembled as devastation laid waste to her happiness. Her mind couldn’t understand what sort of crime she committed to drive the one person who had been there every day to nurture and care for her. Kein had no way to express the sheer solitude and loneliness brought on by the vacuum created in the wake of the lady’s absence, so the only recourse she had was to lift her hands to her face and weep. Kein had always forced herself not to cry; it did her no good and it still did her no good, but there was nothing else she could do. She had lost so much with one simple word, a word she thought would bring a joyous smile to the lady’s face, but instead, it only brought her the lady’s anger and rage. Kein understood she had done something wrong, she just didn’t understand what that something was. Something lost and something wrong, that was what she was left with.
“Please don’t leave me,” she sobbed as she lifted her voice and cried out. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry! Don’t leave me alone. I want you to devour me. I want you to devour me so much that… it hurts…” She motioned to her chest and said, “It hurts right here. I don’t want it to hurt right here. Please come back. Please… don’t leave me.”
Kein cried for a while, and then she finished and said, “Please come out. I don’t want you to be mad with me. Tell me what I should do, so that you’re not mad with me.”
No one answered her pleas.
“I went back and picked out a different name for you. Please come out. Please don’t leave me,” she started crying again. “I picked out sensei. Is that better? Do you like that name better?”
She listened again, but no one answered her. Kein waited a few hours, then poured the now warm tea into one of the teacups, set it on the platform, and then left. She walked out of the cavern and through the tunnel, bawling the whole way. The lady appeared from the shadows a few minutes later, walked over to the teacup, and picked it up.
“You should not have called me that,” the lady told the image of the child in her mind. “Things would have been a lot simpler if you had not of called me that.” The lady lifted her voice and spoke to the horde of spiders who crawled out of their hiding spots, “We are leaving. We are all leaving. I am through with this dreadful place. Let us return.”
The large brown spider crawled up her leg, and the lady picked it up and said, “You though… You cannot come. You have been infected by that child. She does carry a curse with her, and she does curse anyone she comes across.”
She set the large brown spider down, and it crawled after the child. The lady peered down at the teacup she held, and then she took a sip of the green tea.
“This is good. I should have told her this is good,” the lady said, and then she screamed out in anger. “What am I doing?” the lady questioned herself. “I was supposed to kill the little morsel and devour her, but instead I let her go. She should not have called me that. She should have never called me okasan… What a terrible name to call me? Okasan…” The lady yelled as if screaming at the child, “I am not your mother! I never wanted to be your mother!” She held the teacup tenderly in her hands as if embracing the child, “I never intended to be your mother.”
Let’s Play The Metrom
Twenty-eight years later…
In one of the busy cities of the U.S….
“Welcome to the Knecht Ruprecht Corporation. If everyone will follow me,” a woman dressed in a business suit, called out to a large group of people ranging from ages twenty-one to thirty-six who stood outside on a sidewalk. “My name is Mrs. Peacock, and I and the others inside will be guiding you through the steps you need to complete to join our contest the Metrom. Everyone, please move into the building. We need to make room for all the contestants and backup contestants who are standing out on the street.”
The group of forty plus people followed her into the large corporate building and into a large lobby where she had them form five lines with eight people in each, and there was also a sixth line with four people standing in it. There were three men and one other woman with the same Knecht Ruprecht Corporation ID badge who helped arrange the forty plus people into smaller groups.
“I’ll tell you a little history of our great corporation,” Mrs. Peacock began as a few people were still coming in. “The Knecht Ruprecht were companions to Saint Nicholas who assisted in his work. The charity they helped bring about is one of the goals of the Knecht Ruprecht Corporation and is also one of the reasons we hold this contest a few times a year.” She paused as she received a text message, and then Mrs. Peacock said, “Stay in your lines and please follow us into the next room.”
The forty people were led to a reception area where student desks had been set up with paper and pens. The forty people were instructed to sit and look through the papers.
“After you have filled out your paperwork, you will be assigned a locker in the men’s or women’s area,” Mrs. Peacock told them. “Go there and store any personal items that you have on you for none will be permitted in the contest area, and then you are to change into your contestant colors. These jumpsuits will mark which of the five color teams you will belong to.”
The contestants did as instructed and soon about half the group was in their designated locker rooms changing.
One of the male contestants stood up and stated, “I left my license in my car in your parking garage across the street. I’ll be right back.”
Mrs. Peacock nodded, and the male contestant rushed to the front and out, running into a person who was not part of the group.
“Watch out there, buddy,” the male contestant shouted over his shoulder as he continued out.
The Brown Deliveries worker paused, then continued into the building, pulling a truck cart dolly, and went into the lobby and stopped. The worker held an old fashion clipboard and tucked it under their arm as they removed a piece a paper, read it over, put the paper back in their pants’ back pocket, and then walked over to the unmanned receptionist desk. The worker wore a brown cap, jacket, gloves, and pants, along with a white t-shirt, and the jacket and cap bore the insignia of Brown Deliveries which was an image of a truck cart dolly. The worker also had a brown single strap backpack over their shoulder. They parked the dolly beside the desk and waited.
Mrs. Peacock noticed the new person who had their back to her, so she walked over to them and said, “You’re late. You will need to hurry and join the other contestants over…”
“I’m actually here to make a delivery.”
Mrs. Peacock noticed the Brown Deliveries insignia when the person turned and faced her, and she also noticed a small dolly that had been hidden from view behind the tall receptionist desk. The dolly had five boxes on it.
Mrs. Peacock read their embroidered name on their jacket, held out her hand, and said, “Terry, we don’t normally receive deliveries on contest day. Please let me see the delivery slip.”
Terry handed her the clipboard just as the male contestant returned with his license and went back over to his desk.
Mrs. Peacock looked over the invoice and then arched an eyebrow as she said, “Please wait here.”
Terry nodded as Mrs. Peacock made her way to the security desk and made a call.
“Ah yes, I wanted to ask about… Oh, sorry, I thought I was talking to Controller. Sir, I have this person here from Brown Deliveries with five packages for Basement Level. One of the packages has to be signed for. I can have them wait and go down after the contest is over.” Mrs. Peacock listened to the person on the other end, and then she said, “Understood. Good-bye.”
By the reception desk, Terry glanced around at all the people sitting at desks in the next area, and after a few minutes, Mrs. Peacock returned.
“Wear this around your neck,” Mrs. Peacock instructed. “The ID badge will allow you to work the elevator, so don’t lose it. It will only allow you to go up and down once, so make sure you have everything before you go to make your deliveries. I don’t need to be bothered by you again.” Mrs. Peacock motioned to a single elevator as she said, “Use the one elevator that is over there. Press the B button, and the rooms you are looking for will all be on that level. Do hurry… I would like you out of the building before our contest begins.”
“Are you running some sort of game show?” Terry asked.
“You could say that,” Mrs. Peacock replied.
“Is it like the Price Is Right?”
“No, I would say it is more like Survivor,” Mrs. Peacock replied with a grin. “Remember to hurry and stick to the instructions written on the delivery slip.”
Terry took the lanyard, put it on, and headed for the elevator with the dolly in tow. Mrs. Peacock watched till Terry reached the elevator, and then Ms. Peacock turned and went back to the two people who remained of her group that were still working on their paperwork.
In another section of the building, a control center was set up and a controller prepared to start the next contest. Five feeds on a wall in front of him showed video of five unknown locations, and at each location, a mysterious person was represented only by their hands, an object, and a code name. Their faces never appeared on the feeds only their hands and the object. The first person, male, held a sword with a metal purple rose decorating its hilt. The second person, female, held a silver ink pen with a blue wolf imprinted on it. The third person, also female, had a bone china cup with a red phoenix on it. The fourth person, male, held a large clear marble with a yellow dragon on it. The fifth and final person, male, held a cane with a green serpent head and on his hand was a ring with a family crest. Each of these people sponsored one of the color teams, and they had selected these people from all over the country and brought them together for this contest. The Draft as they called it, happened a month earlier.
Controller, who was a man in his early fifties with salt and pepper hair and blue, kind of icy eyes, spoke to the people on the feeds, “Make your wagers. The Opening will begin in about an hour.”
Purple Rose spoke first, and he said, “I wager Team Purple will outlast Team Yellow in Overall by ten minutes.”
“I’ll take that bet,” Yellow Dragon spoke, and then he said, “I wager Team Yellow will have more points in the first minute than Team Red.”
“I will take that bet,” Red Phoenix replied. “I wager Team Red will have fewer freeze ups than any other team.
“I’ll take that bet,” Green Serpent said. “I bet none of the teams will have a winner,” he spoke, and then he waited, and when no one else said anything, he questioned, “No one wants to take the wager?”
“There has not been a contestant to win Opening in the last five years,” Purple Rose stated.
“There might be if we were allowed to select a few of the elite from the Berlin Authority,” Blue Wolf stated.
“It would make for better wagering, but–” Green Serpent said, “–I for one don’t wish to catch the eye of the Berlin Authority. If they catch wind of what we’ve been doing here, they will shut us down and…”
“The Mortem would be over,” Controller interrupted.
There were a few moments of silence as everyone considered the consequences, and then Green Serpent asked, “Will anyone take my wager?”
Red Phoenix stated, “If you sweeten the deal, I might just take the wager this time. What are you willing to pay?”
“Ten to one.”
“Not sweet enough,” Red Phoenix said. “Make it fifty to one, and I will take the wager that there will be a winner for Opening.”
“Deal,” Green Serpent replied.
“Any wagers from you, Blue Wolf?” Controller questioned.
“None besides my standard wagers,” she replied. “But Red Phoenix does have a point about no one winning Opening. Maybe we should consider changing some of the rules of the Mortem so that more contestants make it through Opening.”
“No, I believe that will never happen,” Controller told her. “The five of you only need to select better contestants during the Draft. Some of you have done well in the past. I believe you have just hit a run of bad luck.”
“Five years worth,” Green Serpent replied. “I believe it is high time that we have a winner for Opening just not this go around. I do want to win my wager.”
“I am confused about one thing,” Yellow Dragon spoke up. “Why do you tell the contestants that the game is called the Metrom and not the Mortem?”
Controller replied, “If you were them and the game was called the Mortem, wouldn’t you want more information about it than the tidbits that we give them? It’ is best to keep them in the dark until there is no escaping the darkness.”
There were other video feeds within Controller’s room, and they currently showed footage of the Basement Level. Nearly all the areas of Basement Level were under surveillance. Some time passed, and Controller flipped a switch on his intercom system as he looked to video feed of the lobby.
“Mrs. Peacock, are the teams ready to move out?”
“They are,” she replied. “We had no need to substitute any players this go around, so I already sent the four backups home.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Peacock,” he told her, then turned his attention back to the Coaches, and said, “We are nearly ready to begin.” Controller flipped a different switch so that he spoke to the contestants, and then he stated, “Purple, Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow teams prepare to move to your designated elevators. It is almost time to go to the Basement Level. You have twenty minutes remaining, so take that time to prepare for a game like no other.”
Earlier and elsewhere…
The elevator Terry traveled in came to a stop on the Basement Level, and the cab doors open. Terry walked out and looked around. The Basement Level was dark and only lit by torches that lined the walls every thirty feet. The walls and floor were made out of dark brown hardwood and the place smelled old, but not musty. The elevator opened to a hallway with only one way to go, so Terry followed it for about three hundred feet till it came upon a door at the corner. There was a black arrow above the door frame, and it pointed down at the door. Terry checked the delivery slip to see if the symbol matched any of the ones on the instructions and found that the symbol didn’t. The hallway made a left turn, and there was no other direction to go, so Terry followed it. The hallway was long and had no intersecting hallways that Terry could see. This stretch of the hallway was also different than the one that led to the elevator. Terry had excellent vision and had no problems seeing in dark places, but this hallway… it was almost like a darkness was in the distance, and the darkness even devoured the flame of the torches, so that they weren’t visible until Terry was about ten feet away from them. The fires should light up the entire hallway, but darkness prevailed in small patches between the torches. Terry walked the hallway and came across a second door, and it was on the left side. A small pyramid was above the doorframe. The pyramid was three dimensional and symbol matched one of the ones on the delivery slip, so Terry grabbed the corresponding package and set it on the floor in front of the door, knocked, and left as the instructions stated. The third door Terry came across was on the right-hand side and had a bat above the doorframe, and the instructions again stated to leave the package at the door, knock, and immediately leave. Terry did so and continued on and came to a fourth door, and it was on the left side with a fish above the doorframe. The symbol was like a stick figure fish a child would draw. Terry left a package, knocked, and continued on. Terry came to a fifth door on the right with a beaker above the doorframe, set down the corresponding package, knocked, and left. Terry came to a sixth door on the left with nothing above the doorframe and continued on to a door on the right at another corner. The hallway ended at the corner, and a connecting hallway split in two directions, but Terry couldn’t see anything in this third hallway in either direction, not even the next torch if one existed. Terry turned to the door at the corner of the second hallway, and a spider decorated the area above the doorframe, and Terry smiled at seeing it. The instructions for this door were different, so Terry grabbed the last package, knocked on the door, and entered, leaving the dolly in the hallway.
The area on the inside was different than the hallway; it was as if one had stepped into an old castle or maybe the dungeon of an old castle would be a better description. Terry expected to see old dried bones chained up to the walls along with all kinds of medieval torture devices, but there was neither bones nor chains nor torture devices. Gray stones covered the walls and floor. Terry couldn’t see if the gray stones also covered the ceiling for it was so high up and covered in white webbing that Terry couldn’t see it. The dungeon castle area was huge, larger than the room should have been, considering how big the corporation building was on the outside and how far Terry had walked through the hallways. Terry imagined it was how the Companions felt when they walked into the Doctor’s TARDIS which was bigger on the inside than the out. The TARDIS was bigger on the inside, but that was science fiction and this was reality. It was cold in the room or dungeon castle area, and a breeze swept in, blowing the white cobwebs of all different sizes. Terry carried the package a few steps in and then noticed a white borderline on the floor ten feet from the door. The line stretched across the floor from one wall to the other and stood in front of Terry like a finish line of a race. The instructions had said to call out and keep walking till the resident was found, but at seeing the white borderline which appeared to be made out of webbing, Terry decided to stay behind it.
“Hello!” Terry called out. “I have a delivery for you, and I need for you to sign for it.”
Terry paused and listened and heard no one, so Terry started again, but louder, “Hello! I have…”
A thunderous sound filled the dungeon castle area as if a herd of buffalo was charging for the door. Terry thought about running for the entrance, but then a signal figure appeared in the distance, and the figure was running. Whatever the thing was, it was huge about twenty feet tall and about thirty feet wide, and it had multiple legs, eight in all. The creature continued running for Terry and then stopped about five feet shy of the white borderline. The momentum the creature created from running, kicked up a gust of wind, and the windy wake filled with dust blew past and knocked Terry’s brown cap to the floor.
The huge creature before Terry spoke, “At first I thought you were a man, but now I see that you are a woman.”
Terry said nothing to the large creature’s comments, she didn’t even pick up the brown cap that had been blown off her head. Terry stared at the wondrously terrifying creature before her as if she was caught in a dream; it was the kind of dream one was afraid of but didn’t want to leave. A giant red spider with black markings stood before her, but this spider was different than most. A woman’s torso stuck out of the back of the red spider’s head. The woman’s torso was of a normal size if she had been human, and she wore a black kimono with red and gold flowers. The woman part of the creature looked like a beautiful Japanese woman with long black silky hair pulled up and kept in place with a flower hair pin. The torso part of her looked human except for her beautiful eight pitch-black eyes that were arranged on her face in a complimenting pattern. There was one small one on each side of her nose right on her cheekbones about the size of a pea, four larger ones along the line that human’s eyes normally occupied about the size of a quarter, and two more in the center of her forehead that were about the size of cucumber slices. These eyes had human characteristics in that they could blink and that they expressed the spiderwoman’s emotions.
“You do not look like one of the contestants,” the spiderwoman spoke as she looked around the room as if searching for something.
“You’re…” Terry started to speak as her eyes opened so wide her brown eyes could clearly be seen as thousands of thoughts filled her head.
“There should be at least seven more of you,” the spiderwoman interrupted her. “Where is the rest of your team?”
“You’re…” Terry repeated as she tried to form a sentence from the jumbled thoughts and emotions that filled her head and heart. She was terrified by what seeing this being meant to the world as she knew it. If this wasn’t a dream, her world was about to change drastically.
“You do not seem as frightened by my presence as you should,” the spiderwoman interrupted again. “Are you in shock?” The spiderwoman folded her arms as she peered angrily down at the one who intruded on her domain, and then she said, “You should be terrified by my mere presence. I believe you are in shock. I do not have patience for such things. You need to answer my questions, and you need to answer them now.”
“You’re…” Terry repeated for a third time as she shook her head from the sheer dreadfully incredible surprise of seeing a being that shouldn’t exist in her world. She thought this creature would be furious with her intrusion, but the spiderwoman almost seemed… she seemed irritated, and Terry also sensed she was somewhat disheartened over some duty she must perform.
“I can only imagine what is going through your mind,” the spiderwoman told her. “They never prepare you contestants for what you will meet down here. I almost feel sorry for you humans.” The spiderwoman saw that the woman only carried a box, and she said, “They also usually give you contestants a weapon. Have you hidden yours? Has your team come up with some sort of sneak attack?”
“You’re just like her,” Terry finally uttered, but she didn’t say it with panic seething out of her lips; she said it as if she was very happy to see this creature that should only exist in people’s nightmares. “For the longest time I thought I only dreamt about her or had made her up like an imaginary friend, but here you are.” Her heart joyously raced as shear unerasable enthusiasm filled her entire being as she stated, “If you exist, she must exist, and if she exists, I can still find her.”
“I have no idea who or what you are babbling about,” the spiderwoman spoke. “Why do you not step over that line, so we can begin the Opening?” The spiderwoman noticed the embroidered name on the woman’s brown uniform, and she said, “Draw near, Terry. Let us begin.”
“Umm… My name’s not Terry. I just borrowed this uniform, and I’m not one of these contestants you keep talking about. I’m actually a delivery girl… er… woman. I have a package for you.”
“A package for me?” the spiderwoman repeated. “I thought no one knew I was trapped here… unless… it is the person who put me in this prison or one of the other Residents. Who is the package from?”
The delivery woman glanced at the invoice and said, “It says it’s from Noone.”
“I know no Noone,” the spiderwoman replied.
“Wait…” the delivery woman spoke in a laugh. “I think I get it. The package’s not from Noone, but from no one.”
“I do not see how that is funny,” the spiderwoman spoke. “Give me the package.”
The delivery woman walked up to the white borderline, but she didn’t cross it as she said, “I need for you to sign for it first.”
She lifted a clipboard, the old kind that had a wooden base and a metal clip that held the paper in place, and an ink pen was attached to it by a string. The spiderwoman started to walk over to her, but she stopped, wary this was still a trick.
“What is this place?” the delivery woman questioned as she continued to look around the area. “You said you’re trapped here and that you’re a prisoner.”
“We are on the Basement Level,” the spiderwoman replied. “And I might have misspoken before. I am not really a prisoner though I do feel like one.” She peered at the human curiously, and then she said, “You act as if you have seen my kind before. Are you sure you are not a contestant or perhaps a being I know nothing of?”
“I’m human, but I’m not a contestant. I have encountered your kind before,” the delivery woman replied. “I met her a long long time ago.”
“I am surprised you survived your encounter and was not devoured or was this other who was like me dead?”
“No, she wasn’t dead, but she was injured,” the delivery woman replied, and then she mumbled, “The lady didn’t devour me because I wasn’t big enough.” The delivery woman questioned, “What sort of contests go on here, and who are the other Residents you mentioned?”
Controller’s voice came over the intercom, and he said, “Residents of Basement Level, a new contest will begin in five minutes.”
“It would seem that you have told me the truth about not being one of the contestants,” the spiderwoman said. “Contestants are not allowed on Basement Level until the Opening has begone, and if you are not a contestant, you need to leave. Quickly draw over here to this rock, so that you can climb up and hand me the clipboard.”
The delivery woman started to go to her, but then she stopped before crossing the white borderline, and said, “Give me permission to come into your lair, and I’ll come to you, otherwise, you’ll have to come to me.”
“It would seem that someone taught you about Kumo’sakai.”
“She did,” the delivery woman said. “We were good friends, so she taught me many things, including that a Kumo’sakai is a white borderline made of very sensitive webbing, and the one who created it knows when something crosses the Kumo’sakai even though it’s not physically attached. Sakai means boundary. Your kind developed the Kumo’sakai because…”
“Friends,” the spiderwoman scoffed, ignoring the rest of what the human had told her. “If she was your friend, tell me her name.”
The delivery woman frowned as she bowed her head as the painful memories of her childhood still afflicted her.
“I thought so, our kind would never be friends with your kind. We only take pleasure in eating your kind,” the spiderwoman stated as she walked over to the human, the spider body bowed low to the ground, then the spiderwoman held out her hand, and said, “Let me have that clipboard.”
The delivery woman held up the clipboard, then lifted on her tip toes, and the spiderwoman took the clipboard. The spiderwoman read over the delivery slip but found no other clues as to who sent the package. She glanced at the human a couple times while she read, wary she might attack her while she was searching for clues.
“You have been smiling at me with this stupid grin since we met. I prefer when humans scream.”
“Sorry, it’s just that you remind me so much of her, even the way you want to eat me.”
“Now I do know that something is wrong with you,” the spiderwoman told her as she handed back the clipboard after she signed it, and the human took it.
The delivery woman glanced back at the door as she questioned, “What is going on here? What is this place?” She faced the spiderwoman as she continued questioning, “Why are you down here, and why do you keep talking about a contest? It sounds to me like you’re being forced to do something that you don’t want to.”
“I still cannot figure you out,” the spiderwoman said. “Are you part of the contest? You seem all innocent, but for some reason, I get this feeling that your… your… I almost laugh when I think about it, but I do believe you are dangerous.”
“I’m only here to deliver packages,” she replied. “But I do find it weird that…”
“Why are you still here?” the spiderwoman demanded as the sensation of fear intensified within her being. The other part of her, the giant spider, didn’t seem to mind that this human was there, but she was becoming very wary of the human, and so she declared, “You should be running away by now, but here you are speaking to me as if we are equals. I prefer when humans run, and you could also do me the favor of screaming as you do so, if you are not going to cross the Kumo’sakai.”
“I would like to talk to you a little longer. I’m just so excited to meet one of your kind again. I still can’t believe I found another like her. What are the odds? Maybe you know her.”
“If you cannot tell me her name, I cannot help you,” the spiderwoman told her as the sensation of danger intensified.
“I forgot about that,” the delivery woman spoke. “I guess I’ll never find her,” she stated with a deep seeded sadness that seemed to resonate throughout her entire body, but then the despair quickly turned into joy again as she said, “At least I now know that I didn’t dream about her.”
“If you are so keen in knowing names, why not tell me yours?” the spiderwoman said as she needed to know the reason why she felt this way towards a seemingly normal human.
“I have a designation, but it’s not really a name. It’s more of… How should I put it? It’s more of what I am.”
“Spit it out human, there is not much time left before the Opening begins.”
“I am Kein.”
The spiderwoman laughed a little bit, and then she started laughing harder as she said, “You did not lie. If that is your name, I might as well call you baka.”
“Baka? That word means fool. Kein means more of… Kein is…”
“No… No…” the spiderwoman interrupted as she continued to laugh. “From this time forth and until the day you die, to me, you will be baka.”
Kein sighed as she received another name that belittled her, and then she asked, “What should I call you? And before you say anything, I’m not asking what your name is, I’m only asking what I should call you when I address you. I could call you Kumovon, but I don’t think you want me to refer to you just by your people’s name. It would be like you calling me human all the time.”
“For you, you can call me Shukujo, not that you will have much of an occasion to use it. If you are not a contestant, you will not be here long.”
“Shukujo… I like it. It suits you,” Kein said.
“Do you know what it means?” Shukujo questioned.
“I do. It means lady of refinement, and you are definitely a lady,” Kein replied. “I can tell these things, and you’re so pretty. You must be a Kumo’kozoku.”
“You are definitely an odd human,” Shukujo spoke. “But I am amused that you think of me as royalty.”
“I would like to ask you a few more questions if I might,” Kein said, and then she asked, “Can you leave?”
“What are you asking me?”
“Are you a prisoner here? You said you was, and then you said you wasn’t.”
“All the Residents are, but most of us are volunteer prisoners,” Shukujo replied, and then for the first time she spoke with concern for the human as if a memory forced her worry to the surface from a place she long ago buried it away, and she said, “You really should be leaving now. The Opening is about to begin, and I do not believe you will want to see what comes next. You appear to be a kind soul, not that I am sold on the mask you are wearing, but there is something about you that is somewhat familiar, so for the sake of that familiarity I will tell you that you should leave before you see something that you cannot unsee.”
“I would like to speak to you just a little longer,” Kein told her, not sure what the Kumovon was implying. “I haven’t seen one of you in such a long time, and it feels nice to be able to talk to one of your race again.”
Before Shukujo could reply, Controller came back on the intercom and stated, “Opening will begin in five, four, three, two, one…”
Soon groups of people could be heard shouting to one another outside in the hallway as they ran in all different directions across the wooden floor. About ten seconds later, Kein turned as the door burst open, and eight people rushed in. They were armed with either a sword, spear, or battle ax, and they rushed at the Kumovon, crossing the white borderline and attacking the twenty foot creature. Kein started to go after the people to stop them from hurting her, but she paused before crossing the white borderline. She watched as the eight people attacked the Kumovon and then blood splattered her own face. It wasn’t the Kumovon’s blood, it was the eight people’s. The humans never stood a chance against a creature such as she, and Kein stood there in shock as she watched the Kumovon tear apart the people as if they were paper dolls. The battle was over in less than a minute.
She stared up at the one who was like her teacher as the humans’ blood ran down Shukujo’s entire body. Kein never imagined the terror and the horror she visited day after day the seven months she knew the other Kumovon, the one she knew as the lady. Fear awoke in her and stirred, wanting to be released. The fear started at the middle of her spine and slowly burned up her back.
“Don’t be afraid…” Kein spoke softly to herself. “Don’t be afraid. Everything will be fine. Everything will be…”
Shukujo turned to her and saw a different expression on the human’s face than what had been there minutes earlier. They had talked as if they had known each other for years, and the experience brought back pleasant memories, but now Kein stared at her as if she didn’t recognize her as if she was terrified of her, and that sight brought back terrible unpleasant memories.
“That is the look I was waiting on,” Shukujo told her. “I will score quite a few points for that very expression. Now draw to me. Draw to me and cross the Kumo’sakai. Allow me to rip you apart as I ripped apart the others of your treacherous kind.”
“Don’t be afraid,” Kein spoke louder as she edged her way towards the door behind her as flight or fight kicked in. “There is nothing to fear. Everything will be fine. Don’t be afraid.”
“Do you not see me standing here?” Shukujo questioned her. “There is a lot to be afraid of. I can deliver a wide range of deaths upon you, so do draw near and let me indulge in the pain I can deliver.”
Fear swelled in her and grew so rapidly that she couldn’t control it, so Kein turned, bolted out of the room, and entered the hallway as she heard more people screaming. She ran to the door with the beaker on it and flung it open, hoping to find a way out, but instead, she came across a haze of purple smoke that made her a little dizzy. She saw a man in a white lab coat wearing a gas mask, and he was dragging one of his eight victims across the floor to the back of the room. Kein realized if she stayed in that room any longer either the gas or fear would be the end of her, so she fled the room and went to the next. She ran to the door with the fish on it, flung it open, ran in, and found she was standing at the edge of a dock. The dock was up high and looked over other docks of different levels that were mostly hidden from view by a thick white fog. Kein saw who she thought was a human man, so she climbed down a ladder to the next dock which wasn’t covered in fog and approached him.
“Are you all right?” she called out to the man with his back to her.
“Stay back!” he screamed as he turned around and faced her. He was armed with a sword, and he shook it at her as if it was only a walking stick as he yelled again, “Stay back!”
“I won’t hurt you,” Kein told him. “And I’ll stay right in this spot. Are you all right?”
“The others…. They’re all gone,” he spoke. “The water,” he started as he turned and faced the swamp. “The water took them, and now they’re all gone.”
Kein glanced at the murky waters as a different type of fear afflicted her, and she edged back a few steps as she said, “Why don’t we leave? Come with me, and we’ll leave.”
They both could hear people screaming in the distance, and the man turned to her and asked, “What kind of contest is this? What kind of contest kills off its contestants?”
“I don’t know,” Kein replied. “I think we should leave.” She waved him over to her as she said, “Please, come with me.”
He took a step to go to her when a hand reached up out of the fog, snatched his leg, and pulled him over. The man managed to grab the edge of the dock as he screamed for her help, so Kein ran for him across the dock and dove for his outstretched hand, but she missed him, and he was dragged into the fog. She thought about climbing down to the next dock, but the sound of something large splashing into the water incited fear to return, and the burning fear residing on her back intensified, so she forsook the man and fled the room.
“Don’t be afraid… Don’t be afraid…” she kept repeating to herself as she ran into the hallway. “I’ll find a way out. There has to be a way out!”
All the screams had died down by the time she reached the room with the bat. Kein opened its door, rushed in and found a man lounging on a scarlet velvet couch in what appeared to be a parlor of an old Victorian mansion. There seemed to be a mist about the room, not like the purple smoke or the white fog of the other two room, but a red mist for hiding things. Kein wasn’t frightened by the alluring man who had very attractive shoulder length black wavy hair that fell over his face and over the face of a woman he was embracing. Kein slowly drew to him as if she needed to be with him… as if she needed to stay by his side forever. She noticed he was kissing the woman on the couch with him as if she was seeing the woman for the first time, and she felt herself flush. Kein realized what she had walked in on and started for the door to give them some privacy at a time she should be worried about her own safety, but then the man lifted his head, and his hair fell back into place. He turned to her and saw her, but Kein was no longer embarrassed to have disturbed them, she was afraid, very afraid. His eyes… they were all red as if they were full of blood, and she realized he wasn’t kissing the woman, but drinking of her. The shock reset her senses, the mist of the room lifted, and Kein saw that seven bodies laid scattered about the room and that they were all dead, drained of their blood. She turned her attention back to the vampire who once more took of the blood of his female victim, and the victim… she was still alive. The woman stretched out her hand for Kein to help her, but the burning fear that had been with her since Opening, warned her… it warned Kein she needed to run, so she ran. She abandoned the woman to her horrible fate, and she ran to the door with the pyramid on it, and then she opened it to find a desert land and some sort of Egyptian tomb. She didn’t go in this time but stood at the threshold to see if this door would lead to an exit or only lead to more horrors that would be seared into her memory like some brand of terror. A small sand storm encompassed the large room or maybe desert plain would be a better word for it, but Kein could still make out a tall mummy about seven feet tall covered in aged linen wrappings, but he was also donned in gold and other precious stones and gems as if he was once a great Egyptian Pharaoh. The mummy held a man by his throat as blue scarab beetles by the dozens came out of a hole in the mummy’s other outstretched hand, and the scarab beetles attacked the man. The man screamed as the carnivorous beetles started to eat him alive, and all Kein could do because of her fear was shut the door. She couldn’t save anyone. Everyone was dead or dying. She wanted so badly to help all those people, but her fear wouldn’t let her, her fear still pushed her to escape, so she started for the elevator. Kein wanted to run, but she was barely able to walk towards the elevator as all the horrible images of carnage, torture, and death bombarded her mind. She passed the last door with the black arrow symbol on it and didn’t bother to open it. Kein turned the corner and walked about ten feet from the last door, paused, and started to cry when she heard this howl. She turned and faced the way she had come and heard what sounded like something running on all fours towards her across the wooden floor. Her heart thundered in her chest as she turned and sprinted for the elevator that was three hundred feet away as the unknown creature drew close to the corner. She sprinted as fear made her run all the faster, then she entered the cab, and quickly pressed the lobby button, but nothing happened. The creature howled again before he turned the corner and ran towards her. Kein punched the Lobby button with her finger several more times, then she hit the Door Close button as the hairy creature with sharp teeth neared. The fear seemed to split her back open along her spine as death on all fours approached, and Kein stepped back from the buttons to the very back of the cab. The brown hairy creature leapt just as the doors slowly closed, and the elevator shook as the creature hit. Kein collapsed to the floor as she heard the creature claw at the doors on the outside. She wrapped her arms around herself and sobbed. She was safe for now, so all she had to do was control her fear. Kein rocked back and forth, trying to console herself as she pushed back her fear.
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered. “Don’t be afraid… Everything’s fine. There’s nothing to be afraid of here. Don’t be afraid.”
Kein knew she didn’t have time to cry, so she crawled forward a few feet, then leaned and put her ear to one of the doors, and she heard the creature on the outside trying to claw its way in, but eventually, he gave up and walked away across the wooden floor. Kein grabbed one of the railings and managed to stand and move back to the buttons. The fear that burned down her spine lessened and seemed to seal itself back up inside her, so she stared at the elevator control panel, and with her mind at a calmer state, Kein realized why the elevator refused to obey her command to go up. She removed her ID badge and started to swipe it across the scanner when…
In Controller’s room…
“I officially call the Opening done,” Controller spoke. “Coaches, you may now satisfy all wagers.”
The Coaches did so, but then…
“Actually…” Red Phoenix spoke up. “I have won our bet, Green Serpent. There is a winner for Opening.”
“Are you talking about a survivor?” Green Serpent spoke up. “And are you referring to the delivery woman?”
“I am,” Red Phoenix replied. “She is still alive.”
“She isn’t a contestant and all the contestants are dead, so there was no survivor, and I win our wager.”
“Controller, can we have a ruling on this,” Red Phoenix requested. “Who won the wager?”
“Let me see… The rules state that anyone who is on a level when the contest begins becomes a contestant, so this delivery woman is now a contestant. Red Phoenix wins the wager. We have our first survivor in five years to make it past Opening.”
Green Serpent grumbled, and then he said, “You will have your money within the hour.”
Controller spoke, “Now that we have someone to survive Opening, we should talk about the next wagers.”
Yellow Dragon stated, “This was my first Opening, so I’m still quite new to all of this. Can you explain the next step in the Mortem? Does this contestant become a Resident?”
“I almost forgot,” Controller said. “You took over the coaching position of Yellow Fox after his untimely demise, so I should explain things in depth.” Controller cleared his throat and then said, “The contestant doesn’t become a Resident right away. The contestant must survive seven days with the other Residents, and then they become a Resident or they could kill one of the Residents, and then they automatically become one of the Residents.” Controller paused, and then he said, “You see as Coaches, you each have one of the Residents as your player. You inherited Yellow Fox’s Resident, and now it is your job to guide them through the Mortem. You can even give them gifts and equipment as you see fit, all so that your Resident may ascend to the next level, and by doing so, you are also taken to the next level.”
“And each level we attain, we gain one of our wishes,” Yellow Dragon spoke.
“Correct,” Controller replied. “One of your minor wishes will be fulfilled, but you have to win the Mortem to gain your ultimate wish.”
Purple Rose questioned, “How was a human not part of the Opening allowed onto the Basement Level to begin with?”
“I am still looking into that,” Controller replied. “She was delivering packages, and Mrs. Peacock called the high-ups and gained permission to send the delivery woman through.”
“The high-ups? You mean one of the Mortem Masters gave her permission to send the delivery woman through. Now that is interesting,” Purple Rose spoke.
Blue Wolf added, “If one or all the Mortem Masters allowed the delivery woman to go on through, they must be up to something. I believe I’m a little more interested in this delivery woman now.”
“Back to what you were telling me about the wishes,” Yellow Dragon stated.
“I am not allowed to divulge wishes of Coaches, but I can tell you the first three wishes of Yellow Fox since he is no longer with us. His first wish was that he would have sole ownership of his family’s company. His second wish was that we could find a way for him to marry his mistress without losing half his fortune to his current wife. His third wish was that we could find a way to create a male offspring. Yellow Fox was sterile, so I believe we were thinking of cloning him if he ever made it to the third level.”
Blue Wolf spoke up, “I believe that was more information than any of us needed to know.”
“My other question is,” Yellow Dragon began. “If this contestant becomes a Resident without killing one of the other Residents, who will be her Coach? Will you bring in a sixth Coach?”
“Only five Coaches are permitted for the Basement Level,” Controller replied. “One of you will acquire her and have two Residents, doubling your chances of making it to the next level.”
“It also increases our chances at losing money,” Green Serpent spoke up.
“He is correct. Any failure by a Resident costs their Coach,” Controller stated. “We can decide on a way to determine which Coach she will belong to if and when this Kein… I believe she said her name was, survives. There are seven days… I doubt she will make it past two, and speaking of which, let us make dead pool wagers.”
“Before we get into that,” Red Phoenix interrupted. “I would like to get to know our contestant since she was not part of the Draft. I would like to ask her a few questions.”
Green Serpent spoke up, “I think we all would like to ask her a few questions since she wasn’t part of the Draft.”
“None of you are permitted to speak to a contestant,” Controller told them.
“I might have an idea to get around that rule,” Red Phoenix said. “We can all ask her questions through you.”
Basement Level, lobby’s elevator…
Kein removed her ID badge and started to swipe it across the scanner when Controller spoke over the intercom.
“I should tell you that if you leave now, you will not be able to return.”
“Why would I want to return?” Kein questioned him. “This is a horrible place.”
“You can make a lot of money playing the Mortem.”
“I’m not interested in money,” she told him. “I can’t be here. I want to leave.”
“Do you understand the position you are in?” Controller questioned her. “I’m not sure how you stumbled across the Mortem, but you are here now, and I can’t let you leave. I should also add that you can’t threaten us with people finding out that you are here. You’re far below ground on a level that isn’t in the building’s blueprints and all video recordings of you on the premises have already been wiped. No one will find you here.”
“I can’t be here,” Kein repeated. “You have to let me go. I can’t be here.”
“As I said before, I can’t let you go unless…”
“Unless what?” Kein questioned.
“Unless you win. If you win the Mortem, I’ll allow you to leave.”
“Whoever created this contest is mad,” she stated.
“I know,” Controller replied. “This place is madness, but the only way you are going to escape is if you win.”
“How do I win?” she asked, not wanting to know, but buying her some time to think.
“It is simple–” Controller began, “–to keep going you have to survive seven days, but I should warn you, no one has ever won the Mortem.”
“I understand why… It’s impossible. I can’t survive down here with all those creatures for seven days. I can’t unless I kill them, and…”
“Now you are getting the idea,” he spoke.
“No… I won’t kill. I won’t pick up a weapon. There has to be another way. I can’t stay down here seven days. Those creatures… fear will…” She tried to calm herself, but her anxiety made all her words flow incoherently as she said, “The monster will want to destroy… I’m afraid… and…”
“So is the nature of monsters,” Controller stated. “They want to kill and destroy, and that is why this Mortem is so much fun. Who can predict what anyone will do? Everyone, the Coaches, the Residents, even myself, we all have our own agendas, and we have to survive to make them come true.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, and I can’t be here,” Kein insisted. “It’s not safe… You have to let me go.”
“Now I am the one who is afraid. I am afraid I can’t let you go,” Controller replied. “Think of it as you have no other choice but to survive, and it will make everything more… What is the word I am looking for?”
“Clearer?” Kein said as she moved to the center of the cab to see if she could spot a camera, but she didn’t see one.
“No, fun was the word I was looking for or maybe entertaining. Now you can either survive or die, that is up to you.”
“And the creatures,” Kein mumbled. “How do I stay down here and not..?”
“Die?” Controller interrupted. “You will have to use whatever skills you possess. Now… enough chit-chat. You need to run if you are going to survive.”
“Correct, run,” Controller spoke. “I am opening the elevator, and our guard dog is waiting outside. He hasn’t been fed in a few days, and he’s very upset he wasn’t able to snag a contestant for himself.”
The cab doors opened before Kein could object, and the creature that had chased her turned at the sound. The creature was slightly smaller than her and completely covered in brown fur. He looked at her as he licked his chops.
“If you haven’t figured it out yet,” Controller said. “That is a werewolf pup. He is much smaller than an adult but still strong, and he is very very hungry.”
or go to
Monster of Monsters #1 Part One: Mortem's Opening Light and darkness... All Kein wanted was to be devoured. As an orphan, she had been told since joining her school that it was very important that a house or clan devour her, so when she met a creature promising to devour her, she was confused at first, but then she was consoled that someone wanted her. A world of monsters and a world of humans... Loneliness can be a very strong emotion, but it can also be a very strong motivator, so even when a creature of the darkness invited her to come to her, innocence heeded the call. Kein began an adventure of heartache and joy as she walked the paths of shadow and light. She would discover what it was to be devoured as a dangerous game drew her into a deadly realm of wishes, revenge, hope, desires, love, and horror.