In the dark of the night, little children often feel as if they see demons in their closet, and as if someone is watching them. The inky blackness of the night changes their familiar bedrooms once the watchful sun sets below the horizon. For most children, a blanket over the head cures the fears of the night and allows for a peaceful rest, but not for a select few. These few, unbeknownst to them, feel something much more real. These are the children who you hear about going missing, or running away from home. There are never signs of entry, of course, I am very good at what I do. Often, they don’t even notice me in time to scream. A second later, their window is open, and the wind is gently moving the curtains carelessly around the empty room.
This is my favorite part, because what comes next isn’t nearly as dangerous. I already have them safely back to my little happiness dungeon where they certainly will not be discovered. Occasionally, just for a little extra fun, I leave them in the dungeon away from my watchful eyes for an hour or two, opening the window just above their reach, for how can we feel true despair without hope. Not this time, however, for today I have a special mission. I wish to entertain a little… social experiment, if you will.
I watch from the darkest corner of the room as the little boy awakens, trying, as they all do, to worm his way out of the restraints keeping him to the cold, impersonal hospital bed. He sees the motionless children around him, and fear overtakes his innocent little body. They are not dead, however, simply resting peacefully. He tries to scream, and quickly discovers he cannot. His vocal chords rest in a jar of preserving liquid in my sleeping chambers.
I turn on the fluorescent lights above the peacefully sleeping children. The five test subjects awaken, confused and afraid, to my little slice of heaven. They all follow the steps of the first to awaken, trying to get free followed by trying to cry for help. One little girl cries silently, unable to make a sound. I step out of my hiding place and around the tables. They cannot see me, of course, only the shadow. My shadow causes fear in the pits of their souls, as their bodies understand what their minds cannot; there is no hope. I loosen the restraints on their beds, and exit the heavy, windowless door. I lock all five installed locks on the door, always wanting to ensure there will be no escape. For tonight, they interact silently, and receive no food. Tomorrow, the games begin.
I was, from the moment I read it, enthralled by “The Hunger Games”. The idea that children, chosen at random, fight to the death for freedom and riches. I must’ve read the books at least fifty times, each time less entranced by the fiction and more captivated by the idea. I have all the children I need now, twenty-four. I decided to keep this number as a homage to the series. I keep five in every prepared room, except the one room that holds only four. Among those four are my own children. How can I fully enjoy the experience without fear, after all?
I keep them all locked in rooms separate from each other, and the children are not allowed to have contact with different rooms. In order for some extra fun, I gave one room a flaw; a hindrance to their chance of victory. The room which the last child was just entered into is not allowed to speak, they are muted. This room should produce… interesting results. They will have a hard time surviving. Practice for the others, you might say. The room with my own children has no flaws; the room where the luckiest of my captured stay.
Today, I begin to get the children to lose their awful sense of morality. Can’t have them refuse to fight, can we? I place a pig in each of the rooms, and throw in a knife also. You eat what you kill, isn’t that the saying? The children seem to have an easier time killing than I had anticipated, but I suppose it wouldn't be very hard. After all, it’s just some dumb animal. The subjects who have been in my captivity the longest are the quickest to abandon their love for the creature in place of the insatiable hunger that not being fed for days places in a person. In their rush, they slaughter the pig and ruin the best bits of meat for themselves. They must learn to control their impulses. The freshest captured, the silent ones, do not kill the pig at all. They try to stand on it to reach the window. I applaud them for their thinking, but it will get them nowhere. The freedom offered by the window is but an illusion. Soon, they will find there is a second window pane, which they will be unable to break. I take their pig, and along with it their food for the day.
I take all the dead pigs out of the other subjects’ rooms, and reward them with tasteless meat from the hospital cafeteria. They do not try to stop me, either from a paralyzing fear or acceptance of fate. I find it so ironic that they are trapped below the building where people are healed from their ailments. I’m not stupid enough to put them below an active hospital, so of course they are in a long abandoned clinic. No one should read too deeply into it, I have paid off the proper authorities. The children eat their gruel gladly, except for the room where the escape was attempted. They sit together, starving. It’s their own fault.
At noon, my next test begins. I must see if they will be willing to fight for survival. I gently place a newborn baby in each of the rooms, along with the same bloody knives from the pigs. They must learn that all life is the same… meaningless. For this, they will get only gruel, teaching them that reward will never come. They cannot please me, only entertain me for long enough to live. The winner of this shall be my protege, to be taught my ways and to enjoy the fun that I now enjoy.
The children are reluctant to proceed. One child vomits, unappreciative of the gift I have given him. The room with the children longest in captivity, the room which had slaughtered the pig first, is also the first to accept this new challenge. In one of those children, I see the beginning of the true light in her eyes, the fostering of the joy which I feel in my entertainment. She takes the bloody knife in her hand and slides it oh-so-beautifully into the tormented babe’s chest. It will never be one of those empty people that populates the planet today. It, instead, will die in glory at the hand of the girl who has accepted her fate gladly. Their room is rewarded with gruel from the cafeteria. I do not choose favorites.
The other rooms eventually come around, quickly killing the unlucky babe in order to not cause it more pain then it has already felt. The new children without the vocal cords are far too new to take pleasure in the experience, but they are too hungry to think about the act they are committing. I give them their cafeteria gruel, like all the other rooms. They eat it with such vigor, like all the others I had withheld food from. All subjects are the same, regardless of age or morals. It makes me happy to convert the subjects to my way of thinking.
For the final test of the day, I use the intercom connected to all their rooms. I do this to feel less personal, and more as if it was the world itself turning on them. I speak softly, and in an uncaring way, much like a scientist working on a petri dish of single celled organisms, far beneath myself.
“You shall each elect one of your own in your room to be released from here. Vote wisely.”
The children are shocked. The first reaction, as I expected, was to vote for themselves. Who wouldn’t want to be free? The hard part comes next. They must choose one among them. Only one can be free, as I told them. The rest damn themselves to certain doom. Who shall be chosen? The richest? The kindest? The smartest?
The newly-mute room of children are the first to pick one. The child who I had added to my little experiment only the night before is chosen, as he is the only one who still has the will to live. I open the door to his room and allow him outside into the dark, cool hallway. I am clothed in my doctor’s scrubs and surgical mask. I cannot afford to look like a person to him. He must see me as a figure, a monster to come and recollect him any night of his life. Of course, I will not let him go. He is placed into a slightly larger room along with the other chosen. The five selected enter the room together, and sit in silence. Where is the freedom they were promised?
I roll in an old TV, which I have connected to small surveillance cameras in every other room with my honorary guests. As they watch, I release a starved, ravenous dog in each room. They watch in horror as their peers are torn to bloody shreds by my pets. Who needs the hunger games, anyway? I have something much more… personal in mind. The five remaining are as followed: My son, Tyson. He is innocent, never exposed to his daddy’s fun at night. He believes I am a police officer, and that is why I often leave late at night or at random hours of the day. It brought me great entertainment to hear him tell the other children how his dad will come and save him. The girl who reveled in the slayings, Julia, is also among the few chosen, along with a large boy who hasn’t talked much at all, James. A small, wiry girl called Leela is also one of the chosen, a fact I find surprising, but amusing. Finally, the newest boy to the experiment who cannot speak, Kayden, is among the chosen. I take care to learn their names before I take them from their comfortable lives and into my little games, in order to keep record of those who survived longer than the others, for the history books.
The little room where I have placed the remaining five is comprised of five small beds along a wall and a large circular table with five small chairs. There is an old TV on wheels in the corner, where I leave the tape of their friends being consumed by my dogs on repeat. There is a small window at the top of the wall where the beds are lined, allowing for a small amount of light to enter the room. The door is large, metal and windowless; cold and impersonal. This is my favorite room in the building, and they are quite lucky to be allowed to see it.
Save for Kayden, they begin to speak to each other. The monstrous girl, Julia, sits by herself in the corner silently. Such a beautiful girl, it is almost a shame she has been entered into my games. Almost. I decide to leave them alone for the night, but not before placing some good food on their table. Steak and eggs. Far better than their grueling cafeteria food.
Soon, the children begin to turn on the girl, Julia. She sits apart from them, not participating in their discussion, and watches them all with a cool, sharp gaze; not interested in idle chat or weakly plotted escape plans. My son, Tyson, seems to think he is in charge, because his daddy is the big shot police officer. He leads the children in their interrogation of the girl, asking her if she is in on the whole experiment. She does not answer them, only continue her cold gaze. Tyson fosters the fear into hysteria, and soon the children will kill the girl. I cannot allow them to kill each other prior to my experiments, so I decide to intervene. I show a new video on the surveillance. I show them the movie “Toy Story”. I was always intrigued by the idea that a boy could care so much about his toys, so I had this movie lying around. It seems to distract the dumb children from their rage. By the end of the film, they are prepared for their sleep. I always find it amusing how quickly young children recover from horrific events and return to their normal habits. They drift off to sleep silently. Tomorrow, more fun awaits them.
They awaken to a picture on the TV screen of Woody, from the movie Toy Story, smiling a toothy grin covered in blood. The image stays still, as its only purpose is to rattle their little minds. They awaken with fear, a fitting emotion to begin the new day. I enter the room and place a box of store brand breakfast cereal, five plastic spoons and five empty bowls on the table in the center of the room. The large, quiet boy, James, attempts to rush me while I place the cereal, but he makes a lot of sound while jumping up from his bed and running to me. I pull out my taser gun and shoot volts of electricity through his body. He falls on his face, the idiot child, and gives himself a bloody nose. He shall enjoy that for the rest of the day, although it sickens me that he has ruined his body before my tests began. As I am about to leave the room, I remember. How could I forget? I throw a bucket in the room for their little kid shit. I leave the room and swing the door shut behind me, returning to my surveillance room to view their actions.
The girl Julia gets out of bed and steps over the unconscious form of James and pours herself a bowl of cereal. She takes it into her corner where she sat the night before and eats it readily. The other children push themselves out of bed and slowly approach James’s body. They poke at him and try to get him to wake up, but he is out cold. Children are not meant to feel such electric volts. Tyson pours a bowl of cereal for him and that other girl Leela. He seems to be trying to win over her affections. I find it laughable that he is more concerned with her than with the events transpiring around him. Kayden has trouble eating, feeling the intense pain from where his vocal chords were before the removal surgery. I almost feel bad for the kid, he has been such a willing subject.
James awakens around 11 in the morning, and sees the other children are enjoying a stupid children's show I have placed on their television. He stands up slowly and pours himself a bowl of cereal. He eats it quietly in a different corner than Julia, facing the wall. He seems to have isolated himself from the others. This is unfortunate, as I wanted the experience to be as… uncontaminated as possible. Nothing to be done, I suppose.
I decide that someone will die today. The child who is chosen shall be completely random. I place one piece of candy on five paper plates, and place a drop of deadly poison on one of the candies. I grab the intercom and speak a message into it for the survivors.
“I have decided to reward you with candy. Each of you are to take one piece.” I open the door and place the plates on the table, taking care that I remember which one is poisoned. I leave the room and close the door behind me gently, in order to keep their guard down. I return to my room to watch the surveillance cameras and see what events transpire.
The children run to their candy, except Julia. She stays back and approaches more slowly. Each kid eats one of the candies, leaving the last one, the poisoned one, for Julia. Before she reaches her candy, however, Tyson grabs it.
“Why should YOU get any candy, you monster! Na na na na na…”
Tyson teases her and hold the candy out of her reach. She pushes at him and, right before she tries to bite him, he places it in his mouth and swallows. After a second of smiling, his eyes roll into his head and he falls onto the concrete. I enter the room and drag his lifeless corpse outside. There goes my son. He was unwanted anyway, his mother left us after living with the snotty infant for a month. I only raised him because it would make me stick out in the eyes of the law, and I need them to overlook me when investigating the disappearances.
When I finish disposing his body correctly, I return to my little enclave to view the children. They all seem to be in a frenzy, omitting the girl Julia of course. The voiceless boy Kayden is crying from his pain, and I consider giving him anesthetics. I decide against it, he will live. The boy James seems to be affected the most by Tyson’s death, breaking his attitude of stoicness and weeping openly. Leela doesn’t seem to care, as she was always having to shove off Tyson’s unwanted affections. Julia simply doesn’t care. And then there were four.
The next day, the fun continues. They weren’t fed again the day before, and it has left them with a nice appetite. I start off the day by leaving three sandwiches on their table. They have learned to not acknowledge me when I enter the room from James’s little incident with the taser. I return to my post to watch their progress.
Leela seems to have developed quite an appetite, as she quickly takes a plate and runs. I had assumed Julia would not be eating, as she has a less competitive nature than the other subjects, but she immediately leapt up from her corner and grabbed a plate. James grabs the last plate, leaving Kayden the one who does not eat. He is in too much pain to eat anyway, I suppose. The children enjoy their meal, as I expected. Everything seems to taste better, in a way, when it could be the last thing you ever eat. Kayden has stopped weeping from his pain, and began to slip out of reality. I can’t have that, so I decide to give him anesthetics. I slightly push the door ajar and toss a bottle of pills to Kayden. He heartily swallows pills, and I snatch the bottle from him. I can’t have him killing himself, now, can I?
I return to my room, and watch them for the rest of the day. Nothing much happens, the children all await their death silently on their own. I grow bored of their silence, and I decide they need some encouragement. I place my mouth an inch away from the intercom, and speak.
“One of you is plotting to kill the others.”
This statement really opens up pandora’s box. Leela screams at James, James yells at Kayden, Kayden points threateningly at Julia. Julia simply stares ahead coolly. I don’t think she believes me, or simply doesn’t care. I am beginning to worry that her not caring isn’t intelligence, but instead the sign of a broken soul. If it is, I would be very disappointed. I have high hopes for her, she seems like a good candidate to be my protege.
Leela rushes at James, and he, seemingly abandoning his introverted demeanor, picks her up and throws her against the wall. She is then the target of a relentless attack, releasing all the pent up anger and fear James has held so closely through the past days. James kicks and beats her until she stops breathing, and a bit after that. Eventually, he stumbles back, staring in horror at what he just did. Even Julia seems to have a reaction to this, her eyes widening and her hand gripping tightly the plastic spoon from the cereal breakfast.
I enter the room and take out Leela’s body. The children follow me with their eyes as I enter and exit, quietly watching. I dispose of Leela’s corpse, and return to my post. This was an outcome that I had not predicted, not from James. I had imagined Julia would break and attack someone, but I was wrong. This is one of those times in my experiments where I delight in the surprise events that occur, as it is what keeps me entertained. I catch myself smiling as I recall the event, while observing the subjects quietly sit by themselves once again. I can see the look in Kayden’s eyes, he is planning to get rid of James before James can make a move on him. I can’t get much of Julia’s thoughts from her watchful eyes and uncaring demeanor. I decide that this is enough for the day, and prepare for the final day of testing.
And then there were three.
Day Four - The Final Day
The next morning, I bring them no food. They sit in silence, accepting the lack of food as they have experienced through the past days. At noon, I bring them three candies, none poisoned. I presume they will think one is, and I enjoy the first few moments where they are reluctant to eat the candy. I am surprised when the boy Kayden grabs all three candies and swallows them. I guess he wants to die. At one PM, I decide to kill off one of the golden three. I can only have one protege, after all. I enter the room with a revolver in my hand. The children look up as I enter, and James jumps up to his feet when he sees the gun. Kayden and Julia look down at their feet, no longer caring for life. I point my gun at James. James immediately freezes, 20 feet away from me, and stares down the barrel of my gun.
“Pick who dies.”
James stares at my gun and begins to sob to himself, once again breaking his stoic attitude and showing the emotion underneath. He looks at me with tears in his eyes and asks, “Why?”
I look at him like one would regard a dog who barks too much and too loudly, and repeat myself, with an added threat. “Pick who dies, or it will be you.” James sobs openly and points a shaky finger at me. I chuckle. He certainly knows how to think outside of the box. Oh well. I fire a bullet into his skull and end his life.
I drag James’s corpse outside and dispose of it. Returning to my computer console, I discover that Julia and Kayden have embraced each other for comfort. So disappointing, I had liked them as they were; silent and aloof, distant from each other. No matter; one will die, and one will become my protege. The final 2 out of 24 original participants in my experiment. I spend some time thinking about the way I will eliminate one of them and have a winner, and end up with such a simple solution; I shall play the game those children are so fond of.
I enter the room with my revolver once again. The subjects look up at me, tears staining the corners of their eyes. They are only children, after all. “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo. Catch a tiger by its toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eenie Meenie Miney Mo.” Bang.
Julia’s body hits the floor. Kayden stares at me in shock and horror, seeing that he is the only one left.
“Well, Kayden, looks like you’re our big winner. What do you have to say for yourself?” I laugh to myself. “I now present you with a choice; be my protege and help me with future experiments, or die and join your friends.”
He stares blankly at me, either uncomprehending of my words or not knowing how to respond. I wait patiently for him to show a reaction in any way. After a short while, he raises his fingers to his temple and makes a motion of a gun firing. I nod, not trying to conceal my disappointment at this outcome, and point the gun at his head. Looks like I’m not getting a helper after all.