Alea Ludo Chapter 10: Progress Through Death!

Four days. Four days had passed since we were brought to secret facility of Serendipity. On the third day, I had accomplished my task in earning enough money to save my bar from foreclosure. I was in third place. If the games were to end on that day, I would leave the facility with eight hundred thousand dollars.

I racked my brain about what I would even possibly do with such a large amount of money. Obviously, three hundred and twenty-five dollars would go to saving the bar. That took priority over anything else. The rest would probably be put away in a bank somewhere just in case of emergencies.

My thoughts of leaving the facility shattered once reality kicked in for me. It would be impossible to leave just because I achieved my goal. There were ten people in the facility that had their goals and ambitions. As far as I was concerned, they hadn’t come close to achieving their goals. That was evident by the fact that four people voted to continue playing the games.

Who were these four people? I had no clue. I couldn’t trust anyone in the facility. I was certain they had their agendas for participating in the games, as did I. Any one of them could’ve been the traitors.

Because of them, everyone would be stuck there for an unknown amount of time until everyone’s greedy desires were met. The chances of that were slim. There were numerous scenarios to consider through our time in the facility. Like Melanie’s promise to continue voting to play if she was no longer in the lead. That single declaration would prove to be a problem in the future if nothing was done about her.

Could she be talked down with reason and logic? No.

Could she be bribed with the promise of money? Most likely. But would anyone be willing to surrender some of their money to her? No.

The same could be said for the traitors. Like everyone else in the facility, their goal was to win large sums of money as soon as possible. They wouldn’t let anything get in their way. I couldn’t blame them. I was the same.

From what I could assume, the traitors were people that hadn’t yet had a chance to experience the dangers of the games personally. Those people were Wyatt, Nicholas, Iris, Henrika, Salomon, and Leona. There was a huge possibility that the traitors were among them.

It made sense after all. What would be the point in coming all the way there to just run away with nothing? It would be a waste of time.

Another thing to consider was the fact that the number of people voting to continue playing decreased after each game. At first, five people voted to continue playing. That number dropped down to four after Melanie reached first place in the rankings. The number would drop down to three should I vote to leave the facility.

But I was conflicted on making that choice. People had no doubt noticed the pattern about the drop-in votes. If I voted to leave the facility, the others would be able to piece together that either Elena or I were one of the traitors. It would be safe to assume that everyone would look to me judging by Elena’s personality. Regrettably, I had no other choice but to vote to continue playing the game to avoid suspicion.

I would have to wait until the next day to vote to leave. And even then, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. That would still leave three other people that would vote to keep playing.

It was infuriating. But that was my only option until I could find a way to find the traitors and convince them to leave the facility. Time was of the essence. I had ten days left to save my bar. Sure, it seemed like more than enough time. But the faster I left the place, the better.

Nearly losing my life yesterday made me open my eyes to the dangers of the games. The first two games paled in comparison to mine. But what about the future games? How dangerous were they going to be compared to mine? Would someone die? If so, then who?

If I were lucky, then some of the traitors would be the ones to die in the next few games. Either that or the fear of death would be enough to scare them into voting to leave. Death had its mysterious way of changing people. That fact was certain.

“Starving…” I placed my hand on my growling stomach. My gaze fell onto the clock hanging up on the wall. It was 9 A.M., which often meant that it was about time for Iris to come knocking on my door to tell me about breakfast. I decided to beat her to the punch.

I got out from the bed, cleaned myself up, then left my room. Almost immediately, I encountered Leona after she left from her room as well. We made eye contact then greeted each other.

“Good morning, Ambrose.” She greeted me first.

“Morning,” I responded.

“Your treatment must have gone well since you are up on your feet without much difficulty.” Her gaze lowered to my legs.

“My eyes are up here.” I gestured to my eyes. She cracked a smile while raising her head to look at me.

“Forgive me. That was rude.” She apologized. “I was just curious to know how you manage to walk around so easily despite having been shot yesterday.”

Typical of a detective. Always observant. That talent of hers was dangerous. If I weren’t careful around her, then my identity as one of the traitors would’ve been revealed.

“The bullets simply grazed my legs. No permanent damage. I’m fine.” I walked past her then continued down the hallway, hoping the conversation concerning my health status would finish there.

“I can see that.” Leona followed next to me. I was uncomfortable around that woman. It was my first time interacting with her alone. So, it was a little awkward.

She was a detective. Her skills of observation were above average when compared to ordinary people. The fact that she only asked me once about my legs already unnerved me. Did she know? Was my answer not satisfactory to her?

“This may be rude of me to ask. But how goes the investigation?”

“It’s going well. My list of suspects will decrease after today’s voting.”

“You sound confident.”

“I’m good at my job.”

The two of us eventually reached the cafeteria. We were greeted with a familiar scene of Wyatt and Melanie having a little dispute with each other. They were standing face to face, glaring at one another.

Iris and Nicholas were standing nearby, trying to convince them to stop arguing. But their words fell on deaf ears. Darius was standing with Elena, ensuring that she remained safe in case things got physical. Guess he was trying to man up to impress her.

Klara and Salomon were indifferent as always. The girl kept her attention on her book while the old man smoked his cigar.

“What’s going on here?” A voice came from behind us. Then, a pair of hands moved Leona and I aside. The owner of the voice stepped out from behind us then approached Wyatt and Melanie. It was Henrika.

“This bitch is seriously trying my patience!” Wyatt angrily responded, his furious gaze never leaving Melanie.

“You need to calm down, Wyatt. Have you forgotten that she is only doing this to rile you up?” Nicholas told him.

“Arguing like this is no good! No good at all! You two need to stop before something bad happens!” Iris added.

“Don’t get in the way.” A smug expression appeared on Melanie’s face. “If Doc wants to get physical, then I say, let him. It’ll be his life on the line. Not mine.”

“That’s quite enough! Both of you!!” Leona yelled, drawing everyone’s attention to us. “It’s too early for any of you to be starting pointless drama!”

Melanie turned her head to look at Leona. Her expression never changing. “Nothing wrong with a little drama here and there. It keeps people on their toes. Don’t wanna get too comfortable being in this place, y’know?”

That was some unique logic she used there. I knew that she was just using that as an excuse to cause trouble though.

“So badmouthing my wife is your way of keeping me on my toes?” Wyatt continued to glare at Melanie.

“Sure, why not.” She shrugged her shoulders, infuriating the Doctor even more with her vague answer.

“I’ve had just about enough of you! Since day one you’ve done nothing but demean and ridicule everyone in this facility! Mocking us as we struggle to survive each day that passes!”

“Struggle to survive? Are you kidding me, Doc?” She seemed insulted by his words. But that was a hoax. Her Cheshire smile never vanished from her face. “All you’ve done so far is bitch and moan about your wife and how you wanna leave the facility as soon as possible. Can hardly call that struggling to survive. You haven’t played a single game yet. From my perspective, you’re nothing more than a bystander.”

“Why you…”

“Didn’t you two hear Leona? She said that’s enough!” Henrika raised her voice. Everyone’s attention was on her. “Quit causing trouble! We have enough problems to deal with, and we don’t need you two adding any more!”

“I’m not the one causing the problems.” Said Wyatt, pointing over to Melanie with a look of disdain. “Your words should be directed towards her. This girl strives on causing nothing but chaos.”

“If you realize that, then why are you allowing her to anger you, Wyatt?” Leona called out to him. “You’re a grown man. You shouldn’t allow the taunts of a child to mess with your head.”

“That’s what we’ve been trying to tell him! But our warnings have just been going through one ear and out the other!” mentioned Iris, folding her arms across her chest with an annoyed expression.

“Keeping watch over him is beginning to grow more difficult as the day’s pass,” Nicholas added, heaving a sigh of annoyance before taking a seat at one of the nearby tables.

“Wyatt, I can understand your frustrations. I want to leave this facility just as much as you do. But allowing your frustrations to cloud your better judgment won’t get you out of here any faster.” Leona stated, keeping her sharp, cold glare on the Doctor.

“Listen to the Detective, Doc. You don’t wanna…”

“And you need to keep your mouth shut.” Leona sharply turned to face Melanie, giving the young girl the same cold expression. “You want to create chaos among the group? Go ahead and try. I won’t bother trying to stop you. However, your actions will certainly have consequences. Continue acting the way you are now, and you’ll eventually come to regret the decisions you’ve made in this competition.”

Everyone was speechless after hearing Leona’s words. It was surprising seeing her act like that. She was never as confrontational before. Something must’ve happened for her to act that way.

“Now that’s a threat if I’ve ever heard one. You should be careful when threatening me. I don’t take too kindly to threats.” Leona’s threat didn’t deter Melanie. If anything, she seemed ecstatic. She engaged Leona in a brief staring contest. Neither of them showed any signs of backing down.

“Okay, okay, that’s enough.” Henrika stepped in between the two of them. “We should be ashamed of ourselves. Fighting among ourselves like this causes nothing but trouble. Now it’s no secret that some of us don’t like each other. That’s fine. But we should put that aside and work together to survive.”

“Yeah, I’m with Henrika on this one. Fighting doesn’t solve anything. Only through cooperation can we prosper.” Darius jumped into the conversation.

One by one others stepped up and sided with Henrika and Leona in choosing to stick together, sans Klara and Melanie. However, the situation felt oddly familiar. In that moment, I was reminded of the first round of voting, when the others “revealed” their individual votes. It didn’t matter what anyone said.

I certainly didn’t take anything they said to face value. The fact of the matter was that there were three people that would vote to continue playing the games until they earned enough money to satisfy their greed. No matter how much the others wished to work together. It was impossible.

Everyone had to of known this. If so, then it made the scene even more pathetic as they tried to grasp onto a false sense of comradery. Or rather, a select few of them tried to aim for that point. Either way, it didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to be the one to point that out to anyone.

Unfortunately, the one to do that was none other than the bitch herself, Melanie.

“In case everyone has forgotten, working together is impossible. There are still four people in this group that are gonna vote to continue playing today.” She announced to everyone, breaking the “happy” mood of the room. “You can all go ahead and pretend to work together all you want; it makes no difference to me. But deep down you all know the truth of the situation. Not a single person in this facility can be trusted until the traitors are revealed.”

Her words hit everyone like a ton of bricks. No one spoke out to protest. It was clear that she was right.

Her expression grew more sinister as she continued to speak, “What a horrible thing to do, Detective. Getting everyone’s hopes up like that. Is this some kinda cruel and unusual punishment?” Her wicked eyes were on Leona. “Don’t get me wrong; I love it. Torturing someone is always fun. If you enjoy it that is.”

“What…what are you talking about?” asked Elena, taking shelter behind the backs of Darius and Iris.

“Shut up, Funbags! I’m not talking to you!” Melanie snapped at her before returning her gaze to Leona. “Back to the topic at hand…pretendin’ to form “peaceful” relationships with the other players sounds fun and all, but it’s pointless. Everyone should know this. So why are you wasting precious time lying to them about working together to survive?”

“I’m not lying. Working together can increase our chances of survival.” Leona answered.

“Oh really?” Melanie tilted her head back, looking at Leona suspiciously. “Because from my perspective, working with people that will betray usual ends up with you getting killed. For a detective, you’re really stupid.”

“That’s enough, Melanie! We…”

“Shut the fuck up, Dumbass! The grown-ups are talking!” Melanie snapped at Darius as well. She then returned her gaze to Leona. Only that time, her eyes were no longer wicked. They were burning with rage. “I know what you’re doing. This is your own sick and twisted way of finding the traitors. Giving people false hope, gauging their reactions, making your conclusions as to who they could be.”

Leona didn’t respond. Neither confirming or denying the accusations coming from Melanie.

Despite that, the little bitch continued to speak, “Your silence is all I need for confirmation. Like I said, I like what you’re doing. But I hate the fact that you’re not enjoying it. When you toy with the hopes and emotions of others, you should at least enjoy it. Otherwise, there’s no point. It’s no fun.”

“What are you going on about? You’re not making any sense.” Wyatt said.

“I’m making perfect sense, Doc. You’re the one that’s just too stupid to figure out what’s happening right in front of you.”

“Melanie is accusing Leona of toying with us to find out which of us are the traitors,” Nicholas explained.

“How can she be toying with us? Working together is the best possible outcome.” Iris assumed.

“Are you sure about that?” Melanie called her out. “Sure, it may sound like the best outcome. But for who exactly? If we were all to work together, no doubt we’d find knives in our backs sooner or later. The only ones that would benefit from “working together,” would be the traitors.”

“Since you seem to be so against working together, then what do you suggest we do?” inquired Darius, showing an unpleasant expression while looking at Melanie.

“Not work together?” She responded with a shrug of her shoulders as if the answer should’ve been obvious.

“Why in the world should we even bother listening to her? She’s only trying to cause another commotion.” Wyatt turned his back to us then headed towards the exit. “I don’t know about any of you. But I refuse to listen to any more of her nonsense.”

“Go ahead and call it whatever you want, Doc. We’ll see which one of us is left standing by the end of this game.” She spoke menacingly. Wyatt stopped in his tracks. His shoulders raised, his hands clenched into fists. “Placing your trust in strangers is a good way to get you killed. Only by trusting yourself can your chances of survival increase.”

“What’s with you today?” I stepped forward, staring blankly at the teenage girl. It was odd hearing her speak so much. She was insistent on keeping the others separated. “Why are you so adamant about this topic?”

She cracked her usual smile in response to my question. “Isn’t it obvious? I wanna create more drama and tension. No one knows the identities of the traitors, and yet most of you are continuing to go through the days like they don’t exist. It’s boring as hell to watch.”

“So…this is just another game to you?” Wyatt slowly turned around, glaring daggers at Melanie.

“Of course.” She happily answered without a care in the world. “But this time, it’s my game. You have two choices. One, trust the other players and work together. Or two, don’t trust them and continue throughout the remaining games by yourself.”

“Those choices are a bit…” Elena trailed off.

“However you choose to play this game doesn’t matter to me. In the end, you’re all gonna die.” Melanie nonchalantly proclaimed. She performed a cutthroat gesture with her thumb for emphasis. “But when you do die, please make it interesting for me at least. It’d be boring if you all died in a similar fashion.”

“You’re insane.” Said Darius.

“Insane? Perhaps. But you can’t argue with the results.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m the one in the lead after all.”

Before anyone else could speak out against her, our attention was drawn to the entrance of the room where Caius stood, frantically clapping his hands. Although I’d never admit it aloud, that was the one time I was glad to see him. I could only handle so of Melanie’s shit.

“Good morning everyone! Already up to your usual shenanigans I see!” He cheerfully greeted us.

“I wouldn’t call it shenanigans as much as it is a warning,” Melanie told him. “You taking us to the voting room?”

“You are correct!” He snapped his fingers then smiled. “It is time to start the third voting round!”

“Can…can we skip the voting for today?” The sudden request came from Darius.

In response to the request, Caius over exaggeratedly gasped. He leaned back and placed his hand over his chest. Truly, he was one for the dramatics.

“Skip…?! Skip…?! You want to skip the voting?!” He exclaimed.

“Darius? What do you think you’re doing?” Iris looked to Darius.

“Just listen to me for a second. Like Melanie said, there’s no point getting our hopes up, pretending like the traitors don’t exist. If we go and vote again, it’ll just be like yesterday.” He solemnly answered.

“The dumbass is right.” Melanie agreed. “No one’s gonna go home today. Might as well skip the voting altogether.”

“How can you all come to such a ridiculous conclusion? The voting rounds are very special! No one knows what the outcome will be by the end of it!” Caius desperately continued with his attempts to goad us into voting.

“That’s a lie, and you know it,” I called him out on his words. “Nothing has changed in the past four days, and nothing will change now.”

“I also agree. At this point, the voting seems to be redundant.” Nicholas added.

“Unforgivable! How could you deny the other players hope of ever returning home?” Caius threw a temper tantrum by stomping his feet on the floor. “Do you not understand that by refusing to vote, all of you will be stuck here for another day?”

“It was going to happen regardless if we voted or not. Might as well make things easier on ourselves.” Darius said.

“It’s regrettable, but it’s the choice we’re making. Nothing will change until the traitors are found.” Wyatt said.

Caius bewilderedly looked to everyone. He took immediate notice of their solemn expressions. He then hung his head and sighed in defeat, complying with their demands.

“Very well. If you all refuse to vote, then I shall not force you. We will commence with the games at the scheduled time.” He begrudgingly announced to us. Once he was done, he weakly waved goodbye to everyone before leaving, dragging his feet in the process.

It was odd, and yet satisfying watching Caius act all dispirited.

After he left, Darius heaved a sigh of relief. “I’m glad there’s an option just to skip the voting. No more getting our hopes up for the time being.” His expression turned grim afterward. “I can’t believe that I’m happy about not being able to get my hopes up.”

“Although unfortunate, it was the best move.” Wyatt consoled Darius. “By skipping the votes, we are saving precious time. Time that we could be using finding the traitors.”

“Yes. Also, it spares us from any more disappointment and heartbreak.” Elena added.

“But by doing so, aren’t we also giving up?” All gazes were on Salomon once he spoke up for the first time.

“What do you mean?” Iris asked.

“By refusing to vote, we’re practically waiting for someone to die.” He solemnly answered. “The identity of the traitors is still unknown. Right now, if someone’s alive, we’ll refuse to vote.”

“By refusing to vote, there will be no progress,” Nicholas announced.

“And there can only be progress through death.” Said Melanie, a dangerous glint flashed through her eyes as she chuckled at the revelation.

“So, until someone else dies…no one’s going to vote?” Darius hesitantly said. His body trembled.

There was no immediate answer to his question. There was no need to answer. He already knew what it would be.

It was idiotic of him to suggest skipping the votes without properly thinking things through. Overall though, I wasn’t too bothered by the sudden turn of events. Since everyone decided to skip out on the votes, it saved me the trouble of having to vote to stay another day. But while I was saved from one problem, another one reared its ugly head.

No one was going to vote until someone else out of the group died. It was unfortunate. But that’s just how things were going to be. The identity of the traitors was unknown. No one could be trusted.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Even if the traitors were found before the suggestion was made to skip the votes, their deaths would most likely be the key to the progression of the game anyway. It didn’t bother me if someone died. However, several questions lingered in the back of my mind.

Would someone die? Who would die?

When would someone die? Would it be sooner? Later?

My train of thought was derailed after hearing Elena’s distinctive cry again.

“No! That’s not right! It shouldn’t be this way! No one else should have to die!”

“That’s the way it’s gonna be, Funbags! Deal with it!” Melanie harshly told her as she headed for the exit. “Someone else had better drop dead soon! I don’t wanna be cooped up in this facility if nothing’s gonna happen!”

One by one the others began to leave the room, making claims about losing their appetite and whatever other excuse they could make on the spot. I stayed behind, however. Despite the situation, I was starving. The food had gone cold, but I didn’t care. I grabbed a plate of food, took an empty seat, then filled my stomach in complete silence.