Alea Ludo Chapter 11: Hope For A Better Tomorrow!
After I finished with my breakfast, I decided to wander throughout the facility. It was odd how I managed to spend four days in the place without feeling the urge to explore and find out where everything was. Luckily, there was a directory in the main lobby room. So, I managed to get a basic idea of the floor plan. My destination of interest was the lounge.
The directory mentioned there being a small bar area in that room. After everything I had to endure for the past few days, I needed a drink. It was just to help me calm my nerves. Nothing more.
The situation had grown more troublesome since none of the players wished to vote until someone else died. It was a cruel, yet effective way to figure out if someone was a culprit or not. It certainly gave me a chance to vote to leave, although it wouldn’t make a difference in the long run.
Four people prevented everyone from leaving the facility. It was obvious that even if one of them managed to die, that would still leave three more to deal with. There was also the problem of someone not dying in the first place. How were the other players planning on having someone die?
Would they kill them in the games? It was possible. But that action would place targets on their backs.
Were that hoping that someone would be foolish enough to gamble away all their points like Frederick did? The chances of that were low as well. No one would be stupid enough to follow that man’s example.
But then again, when it came down to someone’s greed. There were no absolutes.
After all, it was a huge shock to me when I learned that Elena gambled away five of her points to gain an advantage in our game. It didn’t do her any good in the end though. Despite her advantage, I won.
Although, I doubted that she gambled away more points out of greed. For her, it was most likely a survival instinct. No one could blame her for that situation. She managed to survive in the end, albeit with my help. But that’s all that mattered to her.
I eventually reached the door to the lounge. It was open. I stepped inside then found that there were others in the room. Darius, Elena, and Iris turned to look at me. Their expressions brightened.
Almost immediately, I turned to leave. However, my attempts to escape were disrupted by Iris. The young girl quickly crossed the room then grabbed onto my wrist.
“Where are you going, Ambrose? Did you come here for something?” She asked.
“No. It’s nothing. I just entered the wrong room.” I answered, trying to pull my arm away from her in the process. Surprisingly, the girl had a firm grip.
“What room were you looking for?” Darius asked, sitting up from the couch he had made himself comfortable on.
“None of your business.”
“Harsh as usual.” He accepted my cold answer with a shrug of his shoulders.
“It’s rare seeing you outside of your room like this, Ambrose.” Elena jumped into the conversation. “You only seem to come out for food or when there’s about to be a game.”
“Is there any other reason why I should leave the room?” I asked.
“How about to hang out with us?” Darius answered. Afterward, he gave me a bright smile, as if it would persuade me into going with his suggestion.
“Oh come on! Don’t be like that!”
“It wouldn’t kill you to hang out with us for a little while. I wouldn’t be able to stand being cooped up in a room all day, waiting for the next game to begin.” Iris said.
“It’s not so bad. The peace and quiet calms me.” I told them. “Besides, you’d be better off not hanging out with me.” I escaped from Iris’ grasp then wandered over behind the bar counter. On the shelf lied dozens of bottles of alcohol. All of them were untouched.
The nostalgic sight of the alcohol shelf brought back memories. Most of them were unpleasant. But there were still my memories nonetheless. It was odd how such items could make me feel a mix of emotions so easily. It was for a moment, but I was no longer in the facility.
I was at my house. In the living room. I was on the hard, wooden floor. My body ached. It was difficult to breathe. No matter how hard I wanted to move or call out for help, my body wouldn’t respond to my commands at all. I wasn’t the one in control.
The one in control stood over my body. He sneered, feeling confident that he had won. In one hand was a bottle of alcohol — vodka. In the other hand, a lighter. With a simple tilt of his hand, the vodka had poured all over my body. It stung.
The wounds across my body were fresh. My body writhed in pain as the alcohol poured into my open wounds. The bastard merely laughed at my pain. Then, he turned the lighter on before dropping it.
There was then a bright flash after hearing someone call out my name. I looked around frantically. I was no longer in that hell hole. I was back in the facility. Back in reality.
Darius, Elena, and Iris had gathered in front of the bar counter. Their brightened expressions had long disappeared as they watched me breathe heavily. It was humiliating knowing that they had seen me act like that.
“Ambrose…are you okay?” Elena asked.
“…Fine. I’m just fine.” I brushed off her words of concern. Then, I turned my back to them, wanting to collect myself before doing anything else.
“Do you…want to talk about it?” Darius nervously suggested.
“What? Are you a therapist now? Trying to take Nicholas’ job?” Iris asked.
“What? No! Of course, not! I just thought it would be a friendly thing to do after watching Ambrose space out like that!” He responded. “He looked like he went to a very dark place for a second there.”
“A dark place?” inquired Elena.
“Yeah. Like he was reminiscing about something very bad.”
Having had enough of their talk, I sharply turned around then slammed my hand against the table to shut them up. All three of them exclaimed in shock at the sudden action.
“It’s rude to talk about someone like they’re not here; especially when they’re standing right in front of you,” I said sternly.
“Oh…my bad. Sorry about that, Ambrose.” Darius sheepishly apologized. Elena and Iris immediately followed suit. Reluctantly, I forgave them, then moved on to continue checking on the alcohol.
“So…you only came here for the alcohol?” Elena questioned me.
“Yeah,” I answered.
“Oh yeah, that’s right!” Darius suddenly snapped his fingers. “Ambrose mentioned that he’s a bartender! Why not serve us up some drinks, barkeep!”
The next person to slam their hands on the bar counter was Iris. “What’s wrong with you? Why do you want us to drink alcohol suddenly? Especially at this time of day? You’re not planning anything weird, are you?”
“What made you come to that conclusion? I’m not up to anything suspicious! I swear!” He desperately tried to defend himself.
“Quit teasing him, Iris.” Elena came to Darius’ rescue.
“Thank you, Elena. I knew I could count on you.”
“If you three are about done.” I turned around to face the group. “There’s no way I’m giving any of you any alcohol. Aren’t the three of you below the age of twenty-one?”
The three of them exchanged glances for a moment before returning their gazes back onto me. In unison, they laughed. All I had done was ask a simple question. And they laughed at me.
“Dude, does it matter?” Darius asked. “You do realize that we’re trapped here in this facility, playing a series of games for the chance to win a million dollars, right? What part of any of this seems legal to you? I’m sure drinking a little alcohol is the least of our problems.”
“Besides, I’m twenty-two. So, I can legally drink unlike these two.” Elena said. She then looked over to Darius and Iris, giving them a playful smile and wink.
“Don’t rub it in,” Iris said before pouting.
“Well, the answer’s still no. If you three want to drink, then come around here and get it yourselves.” I told them.
“You know, you could tend to be a little nicer.” Iris pointed at me. “I mean, it’s great that you’re talking to us a little more and spending some time outside your room. But you need to be a little friendlier towards us. We’re your friends after all.”
“None of you are my friends.”
“Cold as usual.” Darius nonchalantly stated, shrugging his shoulders again. “Just give him a little more time, Iris. Ambrose is the introverted, reserved type of person. I’m sure he’ll be willing to become our friends soon enough.”
“Really? Is that true?” Elena frequently traded glances between Darius and I to confirm the boy’s statement.
“No.” I shook my head.
The three of them were acting far too carefree despite the situation. They may had become friends during their stay in the facility, but I didn’t have any plans to. The other players were strangers when I first came to the facility, and that’s how I planned for them to stay after leaving.
They still didn’t understand that everyone were enemies. There was no point in making friends. Making friends in a series of death games would only result in tragedy. Anyone could die in a moment’s notice.
Those three knew that. But they didn’t care. They were the optimistic type. They believed that their friendship alone would help them survive through the harsh games that were soon to come.
Or, perhaps they were just using that as a coping mechanism. I couldn’t blame them if they were. Being trapped in the facility for four days trying not to die must’ve been stressful for them. It was for me.
“That’s too bad. I’d like to become your friend.” Elena appeared disheartened after my cold response. “That way, I’d be able to repay you for all you did to protect me yesterday. Even though you didn’t need to.”
“Don’t worry about repaying me. I didn’t do it for any personal gain.” I told her.
“Then why did you do it?” Iris asked.
“It doesn’t matter. Just enjoy the fact that Elena’s alive.”
“Believe me, Ambrose. I do. I’m sure that once I leave the facility someday, my fiancée will be proud as well.” Elena announced.
It was Darius’ turn to slam his hands onto the bar counter. He shot up from his seat in shock then exclaimed, “What?! You have a fiancée?!”
“Yes, I do.” Elena fished underneath her shirt then pulled out a diamond ring, revealing it to everyone.
Iris squealed happily and clapped her hands together frantically. Meanwhile, Darius, on the other hand, didn’t seem too excited about the revelation. He returned to his seat then lowered his head onto the bar counter. Small groans came from him seconds later.
“Elena, I didn’t know that you had a fiancée! Since when? How? Who?! Give me all the details!” Iris grabbed onto Elena’s hands then shook them.
Elena’s face turned bright red as she stammered to find the words. She looked quickly between Iris and I.
“Iris, take your conversation elsewhere,” I ordered.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah, that sounds good. Come along, Elena.” She pulled Elena off her seat then out the room, leaving me all alone with the now “broken” Darius.
For the first few moments, there was nothing but silence. He was taking the time to process everything he had learned about Elena. To be honest, it was surprising to me as well. That girl was often so shy and timid. How someone like her found a fiancée was a mystery to me?
Despite my surprise, it was nothing when compared to Darius’. It was no secret to anyone that he had a crush on Elena. Sure, there were times when he flirted with the other girls in the facility, but his main point of interest was her. But now thanks to the shocking reveal of a fiancée, he was crushed.
Perhaps anyone else would’ve felt sorry for the poor kid, but I didn’t. What was he honestly expecting to happen? Trying to find love in the facility was pointless. Everyone, there were only after one thing — money. He had no one else to blame but himself for his foolishness.
But nonetheless, I poured him a shot glass of alcohol then passed it over to him. He slowly looked up from the table with a weary expression. He was truly being overdramatic. It was annoying.
He picked up the shot glass then took it to the head. Almost immediately, he made an expression of complete regret. His face contorted in disgust as he set the glass down back on the counter.
“So…that’s alcohol?” Darius’ voice shook a little as he stared intently at the empty glass.
“It’s…it tastes awful…” His shoulders trembled. His face showed clear distress as he closed his eyes, tears ran down his face.
Was Elena’s indirect rejection that painful to him?
He slouched in his seat, resting his head against the bar counter. He continued to sniffle and sob until I finally spoke out.
“Shut up already. It’s not that bad. There are more fish in the sea.” I decided to use the basic line used when consoling heartbreak. I didn’t know what else to say. I wasn’t good with…emotions.
The crying soon stopped. He wiped away his tears then forced out a sentence, “It’s not that. Yeah, it sucks that Elena’s taken, but I’m happy for her. I was crying about the alcohol.”
“Oh…” I answered with disinterest. Then, I turned my back to him to continue looking through the types of alcohol on the shelf. I didn’t care for his reasons. I didn’t want to know. I hoped that if I kept giving him the cold shoulder, he would simply end the conversation there.
But I was wrong. It didn’t end there. Despite my clear signs, Darius continued to speak.
“You know, for a bartender, you’re very apathetic.” He mentioned. “Usually, bartenders would sympathize with their depressed customers and try to console them.”
“If you don’t like it, go find another place to drink.”
“No thanks.” He pushed the empty glass away from himself. “I’ve already mentioned that it tastes awful.”
“Then, do you want to try something else?”
“No. I don’t want any more alcohol. I can’t see why anyone could get addicted to something so terrible.”
“Probably because it helps.”
A scoff came from Darius as a response. “Helps? With what exactly? To kill yourself? Abuse beloved family members? Gamble away anything and everything you can get your hands on?”
A familiar sensation coursed through my body after hearing his words. I slowly turned around to look at him. It was a rare sight. He was furious. His body was tense; his teeth were bared. His eyes were intense.
His gaze wasn’t focused on me. It was on the bottle of vodka set on the bar counter. In a short burst of frustration, he swung his arm out then knocked the bottle onto the floor. It shattered into pieces, and the alcohol spilled onto the carpet floor.
“Calm down, Darius,” I said, outstretching my hand to stop him just in case he decided to get violent. It was rare to see him act like that, so it wouldn’t hurt to be cautious around him.
I’d expect a reaction like that to come from Wyatt; not Darius.
The kid took several deep breaths. The veins on his forehead disappeared as he brought his hand up to his face to calm himself down.
“Sorry…about that.” He apologized, lowering his gaze onto the bar counter. “I…I don’t know what came over me.”
“Yes, you do,” I called him out. “Want to talk about it?”
He slowly looked up at me; his eyes narrowed. “Why the sudden interest in my problems now?”
“Well after seeing you act like that so suddenly, how could I not be curious?” I responded with a shoulder shrug. “But I could just as easily walk away. So, talk.”
He was hesitant at first. But he eventually gave in and spilled everything about his past. He mentioned that he came from an abusive household. His father was a drunkard, and his mother was a drug addict. A combination like that could only result in disaster.
And disastrous it was. Food and money were scarce in the household because of the addictions the parents suffered from. The only reason he managed to survive in that environment was that of his older brother, who was a senior college student. He was the only person that took care of him in his time of need. However, even that was short lived.
In a single night, Darius lost his parents and older brother in a car accident. Custody over him then fell to his aunt. When he entered middle school, he was often teased about his family. He snapped one day and assaulted the bullies, eventually resulting in him being expelled and then moving away to hide from the media.
From then onward he remained home schooled. In his free time, he would write novels then sell them to make money. However, his small paychecks weren’t enough for his aunt’s financial troubles. It was then he mentioned being approached by a recruiter in the organization. Someone I knew. It was Tanet.
The bastard manipulated Darius when he was vulnerable, convincing him that participating in the competition was the best course of action. It was infuriating to learn that I wasn’t the only one that had been played. The bastard had gone around and used the same methods to recruit Darius as he had done to me.
In fact, I had begun to suspect foul play. It couldn’t have been a coincidence that Tanet suddenly appeared when Darius encountered financial troubles. It was far too convenient.
“So, your true reason for joining this game was to help your aunt?” I assumed.
“Yes.” He nodded his head. “She’s done so much for me. I want to do everything I can to repay her for taking care of me in my desperate time of need. She was never able to have any children of her own. So, she considers me to be her actual son, despite how weird that sounds.”
“Do you think she would approve of you participating in games like these?”
He shook his head, chuckling slightly before replying, “Hell no. She’d be pissed if she ever learned what I’m doing right now. Hopefully, that’ll never happen.”
“Better hope so.”
His gaze fell to the bar counter. His fingers fidgeted around. There was more he wanted to say. “I have to get out of here, Ambrose. I’ve been trying my best to stay strong and optimistic in front of Elena and the others. But I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.”
“We’ve only been here for four days.” I flatly reminded him.
“Four days. Trapped in a secret death trap facility. You’re telling me you’re not stressed out at all?”
“I didn’t say that.” I poured myself a glass.
“Well, the stress may not be getting to you yet. But it’s getting to me. I have to get out of here.” He buried his face into his hands.
“What?” He removed his face from his hands to look at me.
“We have to get out of here. All of us.” I told him before taking a drink. Although I had a problem with alcohol just like Darius, I drank with moderation. I ensured that I never got drunk. I would never reach that point…ever.
After my drink, I looked to Darius. He was smiling at me. It was creepy.
“There’s the nice guy Ambrose I always knew you were.” He pointed at me.
“Don’t try and hide it now.” He rested his arms on the bar counter, leaning closer towards me with a bright smile. “You try and act like a cold-hearted person, but deep down you’re nothing but a big softy. Am I right? I’m right aren’t I?”
“You’re wrong.” I pressed my hand against his forehead, pushing him away from me. “I was only correcting your previous statement. It wouldn’t be good if only you left the facility. Everyone should have the opportunity to leave.”
His eyes narrowed as he continued to stare at me in disbelief. “You’re right about that for one thing. Although it’s thanks to the traitors that we’ve been stuck here for so long. I’d be willing to forgive them if they just voted to leave.”
“That won’t happen anytime soon, and you know it,” I told him.
“Yeah, I know. This sucks.”
“Yeah.” I poured myself another glass.
As I went in for my drink, Darius suddenly asked me, “Do you have any clue as to who the traitors could be?”
I paused, then set my drink down. It was a difficult question to answer. I had an answer, but the problem was whether I should. By that point, everyone should’ve had their assumptions as to who the traitors were. I know I did. But I didn’t want my answer to influence the others.
“You should ask Leona that question. She’s the one investigating about the traitors. Not me.” I answered before finishing with my second drink.
“It seems kinda unfair that we’re leaving all the hard work to her though. I wish there were something we could do to help her.”
“Try your best to stay alive. One of us have already died. We don’t need any more bodies.”
“Trust me; I have no plans to die.”
“Don’t we all?”
Darius let out a chuckle before he nodded in agreement. What followed afterward was nothing but silence. It was good.
But, it didn’t last long. Although his words were soft, Darius spoke up and asked, “Hey Ambrose. Do you think it was a good idea for me to suggest skipping the vote for today?”
“Why do you ask? Do you believe you made the wrong choice?” I responded with a question of my own.
He averted his eyes away from me before nodding his head. “At first I didn’t. But then once the others pointed out that they wouldn’t vote until someone else died, I started to realize that I unintentionally created tension between everyone.”
He was kidding himself if he thought he was the one that caused tension between everyone. The tension had been there since the very beginning. We were all trapped in a secret facility with a bunch of strangers, playing games against one another for the chance to win one million dollars. If that scenario didn’t create tension, then I didn’t know what would.
“Don’t be so dramatic. You didn’t do anything wrong. And even if you did, there’s no point in regretting it now. You’ll just have to live with the choice you made and accept the consequences that’ll come with it.” I told him.
Darius brought his hands to the side of his head, ruffling up his hair while groaning in frustration. “You make it sound so easy though!”
“It’s not easy.”
“I just feel like…I’ve caused some rift between everyone. As if people are beginning to break off into groups, praying for the deaths of one of us.”
I didn’t respond to his statement. I couldn’t say that he was wrong. It was a possible that the others were forming their groups among themselves. And if so, things would drastically change for the better or worse. I was leaning more towards worse.
“What if my choice gravely affects the games from now on? Like what if someone decides to act on their murderous impulses?” Darius asked.
“Only one you have to worry about doing that is Melanie.” I reminded him. “You’ve already played a game against her. The chances of you going against her again are slim.”
“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”
“Look, you’re thinking too deep into this. Now it’s no secret that some of the other players will be wishing for the deaths of one of us. After all, survival and money are the only things on their mind. Everyone has their personal reasons for being here, and they’re probably willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals.”
“Yeah, like murder the other players.”
“Like I mentioned, Melanie’s the only one you have to worry about. I doubt that the others would run the risk of doing something as outrageous as that.”
“How can you be so sure of that?” His voice was full of skepticism.
“I’m not. But if someone were to act on killing one of us during the games; that person would most likely get alienated from the group and become the next target. Could you imagine that? Dealing with nine other people seeking to kill you?”
“Since I was nearly killed by someone two days ago, yeah I can.” He answered, constantly nodding his head. “It would be overwhelming.”
“Just keep your mind off it. You’ll drive yourself crazy.” I suggested.
“Is that how you manage to get through each day? Because to be honest, I’m frightened of what’s to come in the future.” He admitted. “You and I have suffered through the games already. So, we have a clear grasp of the dangers.”
“All we can do is push through each day and hope for a better tomorrow.” I decided to use the same words that were repeated to me constantly by Maynard.
“When do you think that better tomorrow will come? It’s been three days, and so far, we’ve done well not to let anyone else die here. But how long do you think that will last?”
My gaze raised to the ceiling as I let out a sigh. His barrage of questions annoyed me. But he needed guidance, and for some reason, I was the person chosen to give him some. So, I decided to give him the best advice that I could offer.
“I don’t know. I’m not a psychic or a miracle worker. I can’t guarantee that none of us will die today, tomorrow, or the next day. Like I said, all I can do is push through each day, hoping for a better tomorrow.”
“Push through each day…” He softly repeated my words. A smile soon appeared on his face, as if he was satisfied with my advice. He then stood from his chair and said, “Thanks, Ambrose. I’ll be sure to follow your advice.”
“No problem.” I nodded.
And with that, Darius soon left the room, leaving me all alone. Instead of heading back to my home like I usually would’ve. I decided to stay behind in the lounge and drink. Darius may have hated alcohol, but I didn’t. His father may have been an alcoholic, but I wasn’t.
I could control myself. I drank in moderation. After all the stress that I had built up throughout my stay in the facility, I needed some form of release. And a bottle of Jack Daniels was just the right thing.