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3.

After a brief, terrible moment, as I stiffened in terror, they pulled me roughly and started dragging me to the blood-soaked stage. My thoughts were racing, confused and frantic. No, this was impossible. Couldn’t be happening. Here, now? Why?

No! Pointless to hope it was different. I ran the last moments through my mind again, now that I was thinking clearly. Pointless to shout either. No one was within hearing range. The exit was locked or closed-off. Fighting them? Six people, and all were armed in some way. I needed to get away from them. Time to think, away from their crappy masks and blood-soaked weapons.

I needed an opportunity.

There would only be one chance. They were watching me for any tells, and I knew they were watching. The first move was key. They didn’t know what I was going to do, how I would react. I had to surprise them, somehow. Although it was difficult, I forced my body to go limp, to not betray the furious, desperate energy boiling in the pit of my stomach. If they thought they could carry me to that blood soaked table - that sacrificial altar - like a lamb to the slaughter, I would not give them reason to think otherwise.

It was only when they were dragging me up the short stairs to the stage that I moved, suddenly throwing all my weight on one side. My feet were not as firm on the ground as I hoped. I was desperate and outnumbered. It might not have done anything, if not for the fact the one dragging me on my right had a limp. Still, I only moved a step.

However, when you are on the edge of the stage, a step is all you need. The man holding on to me fell off, and as he held on tightly to me, so did I. The ones on the other side, trying to prevent me from falling off, were pulled down instead. Like silly, murderous dominoes.

We all fell off the stage in a tangled heap. As I landed on the player with the limp, I heard a gruesome snap, followed by a howl of pain. No time to realize what had happened; this was my only chance. I jumped free, twisted out of the way of the fallen players and made it a few more steps before a firm hand grabbed my arm and pulled back, almost making me fall.

One of the players who had not fallen down. She had jumped over her fallen companions to grab me. She was not strong, but the others were recovering and I could not run while she held onto me. I was out of time.

In a lot of horror movies, especially recent ones, there’s a killer with a creepy mask killing the closest teenagers available. While masks were creepy, with the added bonus of making you harder to recognize, I’d like to note a serious disadvantage they have: in a grapple, they’re an easy target.

Desperate, I clawed at the mask of the player grabbing me, and the cheap mask went askew, covering her eyes. She had a hammer in one hand, which she flailed blindly, scoring a glancing blow at my shoulder before I managed to drive my elbow into her stomach. That forced her to release her grip, but the other players were already upright. All I could do was push the woman in front of the others, so I could turn and run as fast as I could to the other end of the theater.

You’ve never truly ran, until the moment you’ve ran with your life on the balance. I crossed the entire length of the auditorium before I even realized it, and hit into the wall and stumbled back, wide-eyed, my heart pumping with adrenaline as I readied for the next attack.

There was no one close to me. They had not chased. In fact they were all

close to the stage, surrounding one of the actors still on the ground. I could hear a steady stream of pained cursing coming from the one I had landed on. He wasn’t getting up.

It offended me, somehow, that they were not paying attention to me. Irrational, I know. The mind does strange things when threatened with death. But at that moment I felt genuinely aggrieved that they were not chasing after me. No, instead they were worrying over a fallen member of their murdergroup, fussing on him because he was hurt. How many people had died tonight? They were killing people, and they were going to kill me, and yet they could barely stand when one of their own got hurt?

“FUCK YOU!” I shouted at them, heart racing and hands trembling with emotion. “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKERS! FUCK! YOU!”

Not the wittiest of one-liners.

They all turned to face me, eyeless masks staring in my direction with nothing but fixed, plastic expressions. Then, as if in private agreement, they all moved silently in my direction. The rows and rows of seats separated us, so they split into two groups and each walked down an aisle as they approached, a group on each side, intent on surrounding me.

I stopped to catch my breath, looking desperately around me. Nothing. Nothing I could work with. There were no convenient items that could be used as weapons, no windows leading out. The actors approached me from each aisle, carefully, stalking their prey. Clothes and weapons splattered with blood. Silent and unyielding. My Girlfriend was among them.

My vision blurred, and I furiously wiped my eyes, panicked. For a moment I wondered what happened to my eyes, before I realized. Tears. I was crying without even noticing. I wiped my eyes furiously then looked from side to side, trying to keep all of them in my field of vision. I couldn’t afford to be blinded, not now. Not by involuntary, traitorous tears. Betraying my body. Ignoring my self-control.

There were rows and rows of seats acting as a barrier between me and the other side of the auditorium, with the stage at the end. The only path were two aisles on each side of the chairs, and the actors occupied both sides. Three on the right, two on the left. All armed. The chairs were too tall to easily jump. Progress would be too slow.

But there was no other way.

I waited until they approached me, coming from the different aisles and surrounding me, before I took a running start and then jumped onto the row of chairs. I did not land on the seat of the chairs, instead aiming for the top, where someone would rest their head. It was unstable footing, but I did not hesitate, jumping to the next row immediately. If I had tried to do this more carefully, or tried to stay balanced on the top of a chair, it would not have worked. The top was narrow and rounded, ill-suited to balance on.

The only thing allowing me to carry forward was pure momentum. The chairs were too tall to jump over easily, but jumping from one to the next? As long as I did not stop, I could cross the entire theater that way, quickly hopping and stumbling from one row of chairs to the next.

The actors were shouting in alarm and running back down the aisles, confusedly trying to prevent me from escaping but too far behind to make a difference. My heart pounded furiously as I laughed at my triumph. I did it! I escaped them! They were too stupid to follow me! Too slow and weak to match my desperation!

My victorious euphoria lasted until my feet slipped sideways on one of the seats and sent me tumbling down, my chin hit hitting another chair on the way. My vision swam with pain and adrenaline as I lay on the floor for what felt like minutes, until I forced myself upright. Stupid mistake. Stupid euphoria. Stupid plan.

The murderers were closing in. Learning from their mistake, they were spread out and approaching me from all sides, clearly attempting to prevent me from doing the same thing. One even had tried hopping from one chair to the next like I had. But then he stumbled and fell a few rows before me, yelling a brief - “Shit!” - Before breaking the fall with his face.

That’s when I realized these murderers were a bunch of clowns.

They were not stronger or more capable than the average person, at least two were very out of shape, in fact. The only reason they had killed so many people was because they outnumbered them, killing one by one, and they were all armed. They didn’t even know how to fight.

“Why the fuck are you doing this?” I gasped, hopping over one of the row of chairs in front of me. The only area not surrounded by the actors. My leg hurt with every movement, a numb pain that made my whole foot seize up in dull, throbbing agony. I must have hurt it when I fell.

“Why is this happening?” I whimpered, more to myself than anything. It was ridiculous, being hunted down and killed like an animal by a bunch of amateurs. For no reason. No explanation. No connection between a relaxing, even slightly boring, evening in the theater and the fear and pain I felt as I hopped over the rows, avoiding the use of my hurt foot.

“WHY?!” I screamed.

They did not respond as they carefully approached me.

I finally jumped over the last row and hopped my way to the stage, the only area unoccupied by the killers. There I could see up close the strangled corpse of Gonzalo, the thing that started all of this. He swung lightly in the noose, the rope disappearing into the rafters of the ceiling. Below him the table was slick with blood, to the point it dripped and stained the floorboards below. The handiwork of the masked people was just beside it, a mound of blood-soaked corpses. Their throats sporting bloody grins while their faces ashen in mute horror.

I had no time to catch my breath, the other actors were already rallying around the stage. I couldn’t even outrun them in my current state, which made my capture only a matter of time. Was there an escape or a weapon backstage I could use?

But all I saw were a few chairs, with costume pieces strung over them. There was an old cd player in a corner and many pipes and switches attached to the wall. Nothing I could use. There was an exit door on the far wall, but when I desperately tugged on the doorknob the door would not budge. Locked. Even if it wasn’t, I could not hope to outrun the masked killers while limping and hopping on one leg.

I was surrounded, hurt and running out of options. Was this the best I could do? Nothing but give them a bit of exercise before being killed? No, there had to be some way. It couldn’t end like this. There’s no way I could be gutted and added as another corpse to the pile.I couldn’t accept that. Not dying on stage as part of some demented play like the corpse hanging from the noose…

And the noose was tied to the loft rafters on the ceiling.

I looked up and saw that the noose was tied to a narrow walkway high up, amidst the rafters and the mechanism holding the curtains. There were two ladders on either side of the stage, hidden from the audience, leading to the rafters and the walkways. It wasn’t much as far as an escape route, but the masked killers were closing in. I was out of time.

So I threw myself at the narrow steel ladder and frantically climbed and pulled myself up its steps. My left leg was still tender and stiff, forcing me to use my arms more than normal, while my other good leg hopped from one rung to the next. This climb was exhausting on my arms, out of shape and straining in protest of such abuse. Despite my terrified drive, I felt myself slow down as I climbed higher.

That’s when my hurt leg exploded in pain. It was such that my entire body seized up, hands clinging to the rungs of the ladder as I convulsed. Again my body betrayed me, ignoring any semblance of control my mind tried to exert as tears welled in my eyes.

Looking down I saw one of the masked actresses staring back at me, a few rungs below. She had a hammer raised above her head, which she swung again. The hammer struck my leg for a second time, causing it to crack and flare with even more pain, enough to make me scream. I couldn’t even feel my leg anymore, amidst a haze of pain.

What I did next was more instinct than plan, as I let go of the rung I was holding on and caught the next ones below, while pushing hard with my one good leg. I fell on the woman as much as I kicked her, and with one hand holding the hammer, her grip on the ladder was weak. She shouted in alarm, as her hand left the ladder, then flailed for a handhold. All useless. She fell.

We were higher than I thought, I realized, as I looked at her flailing as she fell. When she hit the floor of the stage below, it was with enough force to break and crack the hardwood floor. Her body spurted blood like an overripe fruit being suddenly squeezed, and she did not move again. All was still for a moment.

I was forcing myself to climb the ladder again before I even realized I had killed someone.

My arms had been hurt by the sudden drop, my whole body felt tired and I was blubbering and sniffling, despite trying my best to hold it in. While pausing to catch my breath I looked down to see what the other actors were doing, and a chill ran through my body. There was another actor climbing the ladder on the other side. He was further below me, but steadily climbing towards the loft walkway just above me. I could not rest, even for a moment.

So I forced myself to climb the rest of the ladder, all my limbs aching and exhausted from the fight. When I finally pulled myself up to stand on the walkway, the other man was halfway there. He held a pair of large garden shears in his left hand, and I had no hope of fighting him while broken as I was. I needed to find some way to stop him; to prevent him from reaching me.

Ignoring my tired body, I looked around for anything I could use. The walkway was made of steel, scuffed and rusty from age and use. There were stage lights perched in periodic intervals pointing down, all of them turned off. One side of the walkway led to a sturdy-looking metal door that looked very old-fashioned and had a keyhole below the handle. Locked? I had no way to know.

I almost ran to that possible exit, when I noticed on the other side of the walkway, close to where the actor was climbing, were some old metal cans of… Something. Paint, or wax? I couldn’t tell in the dark, but my heart leaped when I noticed them. I had to hold onto the rails on either side of the walkway to keep myself steady as I hopped on one foot towards the cans at the other end of the walkway. The floor beneath me groaned and creaked, but I ignored it, sparing only a glance at the climbing murderer. He was almost finished climbing.

When I reached the cans, it was with the last sparks of my energy that I grabbed one of the cans, pulled it up and threw it down. The masked man had only a moment’s notice to look up before a heavy metal can hit him on the head, thrown full force in his face from a short distance. If he had been a few seconds early, he would have climbed up before I could reach him.

The can bounced off his face and fell onto the stage below with a deafening clatter. He barely let out a grunt, but his head lolled backwards and blood seeped from under the mask, pushed askew by the blow. He held onto the ladder, but barely; blinded and stunned by my attack. He couldn’t even dodge as I dragged another can, aimed and threw it down at him. He fell and struck the ground with a sickening splat. The can had completely crushed his skull, spilling its contents on the broken hardwood floor.

I had survived. Despite them chasing and trying to surround me, I had managed to survive, to strike back even. Killed two of them. And now I held a defensible position. Safe.

I commemorated by throwing up.

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Mike Spivak

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