He was running, running, running. The escape hatch was closing and everyone but him and Chad had escaped; the killer was beaten just seconds before and Nick could see Chad running just ahead of him. So close, so close—
A piece of broken pipe snagged his foot and he fell onto his arms with a yell. He tried to pick himself back up but he was shaking too hard, only managing to stumble back down.
He turned around right at the exit hatch, looking Nick straight in the eye.
“Chad, please, you can’t leave me!” Nick kept struggling to get up.
Chad looked between the hatch, Nick, and back again. Not a second after they could hear the sounds of the Giant coming for them. Then, the older boy crouched and crawled under the hatch door, leaving Nick behind. Nick screamed at him to come back, but it was too late. The hatch fell shut.
Nick turned and at the last second rolled away from the Giant’s fists pounding into the ground where he just was. The lights started going out. Nick took his chance and lifted himself up on shaky legs, hobbling away from the Giant until the final light in the library went out and crouched behind a bookcase.
He was getting better at this, hiding after the hatch closes. But he would get found eventually. Then he’ll be tortured until the killer deemed him worthy of death. He gritted his teeth at the thought of his friends leaving him behind yet again. They all knew too well what this was like.
He heard the Giant’s heavy breathing get closer, then far away. He stood completely still. He had no scrap, no weapons, nothing to protect himself from what was to come; he just had to stay hidden for as long as possible.
A few moments after he had been plunged in complete silence, he slowly let out his breath and started moving, one hand on the bookshelf and the other clutching his backpack strap for any semblance of comfort left. It didn’t help, especially since he still felt weak from that adrenaline rush.
The Giant roared, much closer than Nick expected, making him freeze. His hand brushed up against a book which was just barely hanging over the edge of the shelf; it fell to the ground with a large BANG!. Within seconds the Giant was on him, tearing at him like pulled pork. The pain was much more excruciating without his sight. He screamed until his vocal chords were torn out.
Nick held the pipe in his hands loosely, looking around the room at the start of the belltower they usually ended up in. As always, everyone ignored what happened last match and wielded their chosen items, searching for any scrap in the room before leaving. He took a deep breath and composed himself.
Back into the heat of it.
Chad, the only medic, stuck by him while he went to retrieve the objective. Nick wanted to think it was because he was feeling sorry for leaving him behind, but deep inside, he knew that it was only because he was the only assault.
Escaping from the belltower was a lot easier than the library this time around. That was good; meant no one was being tortured again. Nick ran behind his team down the hall and to the safe room.
The safe room was always at the very end of the hallway, door disappearing once they got inside, and it had food and water enough for all of them, as well as some choice items so they never truly got bored. It was big enough that everyone could have their own little corner if they needed to, and there was a lounging area in a dip in the ground. Nick went straight to the computer set up; there was never anything on it, but he still liked to write random shit and play around when he could. In the background he could hear Amber trying to teach Sam something with her bitchy attitude while Troy and Chad had gone straight to the foosball table. Nick went to open up a program, but the computer was completely empty this time. Great. He’d have to find something else to do.
He turned towards their mini library; a bookshelf filled with different genres of books. He wasn’t too much in a reading mood. He needed to do something, though. It’s been itching under his skin since the last match. His fingers twitched, leg bouncing just a little from where he sat. He turned and looked over the group. Seeing Chad made his blood run cold with unsettling rage.
He searched through his backpack for the switchblade he was given forever ago. He couldn’t think straight. All he knew was that Chad needed to die. He was going to be smart about it, though. Chad was much bigger and older than he was, and if he knew what was coming he’d definitely be able to stop Nick. No, he couldn’t run at him. He had to act friendly. Get close to him. Then, stab him in a vital area.
He hid the switchblade from sight, standing with a smile and approaching the two older boys now tussling over who won their foosball match.
“Hey Chad? Can I talk to you for a second?”
The blond jock stood up, tall and laughing and menacing. “Don’t think you won this; i’ll be back to kick your ass, Troy.”
Troy stood, equally laughing. “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see about that.”
Nick led Chad to the bookcase, a corner away from everyone. His breathing was even but his heart was racing.
“What’s up, man?” Was Chad nervous? Nick couldn’t tell.
He shrugged, fingers itching to dig the blade into him. “Nothing much. Just wanted to talk to you about the library match we had.”
“Oh, that? You know how it is. Shit happens, can’t save everyone all the time.”
Nick’s smile dropped for half a second before he picked it back up. “Yeah, I get it. No big deal. That just means you’ll have no problem with me not apologizing, right?”
Chad’s eyebrows furrowed just slightly. “Apologize? For what?”
Without a second to lose Nick drove the blade into Chad’s neck, blood spurting from a broken artery. His eyes went wide. He took a step back, hand clutching at the bleeding wound, unable to contain the blood that’s already left his body. He tripped back over Nick’s backpack and banged the back of his head against the computer’s desk.
Nick stared down at him. Internally, he was horrified at what he’s done, a sudden fear creeping up on him about being no better than the killers, but outwardly he stood calm.
“Chad, oh my god!” Amber shouted.
Nick sprung into action and dropped, stradling Chad, and tore the blade out and stabbed it into another area of the neck, then stabbed into his eye and tore it out, screaming at the top of his lungs in a deranged battle cry. There was blood on his hands and his clothes but he didn’t think to care in the moment.
He was torn away from Chad by Troy pulling him into a seperate corner and holding him down, arms on his back and face against the ground.
“What the hell, Nick?! What the fuck did you do?” Amber was already over with Sam, the two girls checking him over to see if he was alive, Sam trying to clean up the blood as well as she could but clearly looking queasy at the sight.
“What the hell did you do that for?” Troy looked conflicted and angry. He loved Nick like a little brother, but Chad was his best friend, and this betrayal hurt so much.
“Oh my god, Troy. Troy! Chad’s dead, he’s fucking dead, how could this fucking happen?! We’re in the safe room for christ’s sake!”
“Amber, it’s okay, he’ll come back-”
“I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you, you little creep!” Amber ran for Nick but Troy was quick to hop up and stop her.
“Nobody’s killing anybody, not again, okay? Let’s just stay calm and wait it out. Next match we’ll see him again. I’ll talk to Nick; Sam, can you talk to her, please?”
“O-okay. Come on, Amber, let’s sit down and have something to eat.”
“I don’t want to fucking eat,” Amber mumbled, but let herself be led away to the lounge area.
Troy turned to Nick, who was sitting against the wall, staring blankly at Chad’s body at the other end of the room. He sat next to the younger boy.
“Why’d you do it?”
Nick blinked, eyes watering from the dryness of the air. “I don’t know. I had to.”
“You had to?” Troy was scared; if Nick could turn on them, the one person who cared almost too much about everyone else, who would never leave anybody behind, even more so than Sam, then what the hell would one of them do? “Why did you have to?”
“He left me behind.” Nick’s voice was small. Looking over, Troy could see the prickle of tears on his face.
Ah, so that was it; kid wanted Chad to know what it felt like, or something. “That’s no reason to kill someone, Nick. Jesus.”
They sat in silence, waiting for the next match to begin, while Sam and Amber continued to eat and sit.
Chad wasn’t in the next match. Or the one after that. When they next escaped, Amber shrieked at the sight of Chad’s body still being there. Nick sat in the same spot and just stared. Everytime a match ended, they would see Chad’s body, and it felt like a worse punishment than dying.
Troy caught Nick mumbling to himself one time, about how the time loops were infinite, but if Chad was still there, dead, then there must be a limit to the safe room. That death was permanent here.
The stench of Chad’s body started to become apparent.
“Okay, I say we bring Chad’s body into the next match, see if that helps.”
“How the hell would that help anything?” Amber practically growled.
“Well, if Nick is right, and this is finite, but the matches are infinite, then maybe bringing a dead Chad into one will bring him back. We at least need to try.”
“Yeah, and- and the smell will go away,” Sam pointed out.
“Yes, that’s good, too. Get Chad back, get rid of the smell.”
“You got any better ideas?”
Amber bit her lip, looking away; no, she didn’t.
“Then it’s settled.”
“How will we bring him into a match?”
Troy blinked at Sam; he hadn’t thought that far ahead. Matches were random, they could never tell how long it would take until the next one. “I guess we hold onto him until we go in.”
“Ew, I am NOT going near a dead body!”
“Nobody said you had to, Amber. Look, I can do it-”
“I’ll do it.”
The group turned to Nick, who was standing from his spot and not meeting anyone’s eyes. “It’s only right. I took his life, I should bring it back.”
“There, it’s settled. Let the freak handle my boyfriend’s dead body. Genius.”
Troy ignored Amber; she said enough shit already. He nodded at the younger boy and Nick moved towards Chad’s body, sitting beside it and holding its hand.
In the match, Chad’s body came with them, and was gone when they escaped. Amber just about killed Nick herself at the realization that Chad wasn’t coming back. Troy and Sam managed to stop her.
“You fucking dick! This is all your fault! You should be dead, you little freak! I’ll kill you! I’ll fucking kill you!”
Nick just closed his eyes, covered his ears, and sat in the dorner, trying to get as far away from Amber as he could. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry!” He repeatedly apologized, but Amber wouldn’t hear it.
Next match she made sure to stop Nick from escaping, throwing a pipe bomb down and killing him at the hatch seconds before it closed.
“Good riddance,” she spat when Troy questioned her actions. “Freaks like him shouldn’t fucking exist. He belongs with the killers.”
Sam looked visibly uneasy the more angry Amber got, and Nick stopped participating in gathering the objectives altogether. Troy didn’t know how to keep the team going, but he tried his best to bring the mood up. Only Sam seemed to try to make an effort. He felt like he failed.
There was a match where Troy didn’t get to escape, and when he got into the next one, Amber didn’t even speak to him, and Sam couldn’t talk. There was no Nick. Troy’s blood ran cold at the realization. It was a miracle they escaped at all with how little they communicated throughout.
When they escaped, Troy was immediately greeted with Nick’s slumped over body in the corner.
“I’m not touching it,” Amber commented before picking up a random book and reading. Sam followed her and still didn’t speak, opting to sit next to Amber and stare into the distance.
Troy crouched by the body, examining it; looked like Amber had bashed his head against a wall until he was dead. Brutal. He didn’t know if Nick deserved it or if Amber went too far. It felt like everything went to shit too goddamn soon.
Next match, Troy made Sam a request. “Don’t escape. Okay? Amber and I need to have a talk, and I don’t want you in the middle of it.”
“Please, Sam? Just this once. Okay?”
Same agreed, though hesitant, and Amber didn’t question it when it was just the two of them in the safe room.
“You should really clean up Nick’s body.” She scrunched her nose in disgust. “Starting to smell in here.”
“Why’d you do it, huh? As if we didn’t have enough death on our hands as it is.” He paced around the couch that Amber was lounging on, eating from a bag of chips.
“Freak deserved it,” she said between mouthfuls. “He killed Chad, didn’t he? Don’t tell me you think what he did was right-”
“Of course not! It’s just, he’s a fucking kid, and was hurt when Chad left him behind. He regretted it. Christ, Amber, and did you see Sam?! She should not have witnessed that! What the hell even happened while I was gone?”
Amber shrugged nonchalantly. “Took care of it. Don’t worry.”
“What. The hell. Happened.”
“Jeez, alright, fine. You really want to know?” She sat up straight. “I’ll tell you. I grabbed Nick as soon as we got in and I killed him. Rammed him into the wall, the table, everywhere I could. And it worked! He’s dead! Long gone for sure! And yeah, he screamed bloody murder, but that was because he didn’t die soon enough.”
“Jesus christ.” Troy looked at her, horrified. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“If you have a problem with me, then fight me. Whoever gets out alive can decree whatever fucking rules they want! I don’t give a shit.” She stood and walked towards Troy. “I bet you’re just like Nick, couldn’t wait to get your hands around my boyfriend’s fucking throat, huh? Jealous Nick got to him before you did?”
Troy stared her down. “Amber, is this really what you’re going to live by, then fine. I’ll fight you.” He was shaking; but there was no other way to get through to her. He had to make sure nothing else bad happened. Not the last remaining humanity in them.
When the bodies were gone, Troy and Sam stuck to playing checker in between matches. It was lonely. Who knew having only two people out of their original five would suck so much?
“Do you think Nick was right?” Sam asked. “That there’s another alternate loop where we’re all alive? Maybe that’s where they all went.”
“Yeah, I hope so.” Troy stared at the board until Sam shook him.
“It’s your turn.”