Alea Ludo Chapter 2: Serendipity!
My eyes snapped open. The upper half of my body shot up from the ground in a state of panic. I didn’t know where I was or how I even got there. I frantically scanned the area and took immediate mental notes of my surroundings while in the barely lit room.
Sweat poured down my face. Breathing was difficult. I undid my tie and allowed it to hang loosely around the collar of my shirt.
Only a single source of light was in the room. A light bulb that dangled from the ceiling, illuminating a single door with the number twelve painted on it. I racked my brain trying to remember what had happened to me. The last few events that I could remember was the IRS foreclosing on our bar, Maynard telling me to give up on saving it, and then the bastard Tanet injecting me with something to knock me out.
I clenched my fists at the thought of Tanet. That bastard was going to pay for what he did. I felt insulted by the arrogance shown by that man. He didn’t even bother to tie me down. A mistake he would soon learn to regret.
I rummaged through my pockets in search of my cell phone. Nothing. Of course, Tanet took it.
With no other options, I approached the door. First, I placed my ear against it. Quiet voices came from the other side. It was difficult to pinpoint what was said.
Testing my luck, I moved my hand to the doorknob then gave it a little turn. Strangely enough, it was unlocked.
I remained on my guard.
The possibility of there being a trap on the other side was quite high. But, I refused to sit back and wait for my kidnappers to return — especially when I had no idea when that would happen. I slowly pushed the door open, keeping an eye out for any tripwire or anything else out of the ordinary.
There was nothing. There were no traps rigged to the door.
I stepped outside and left the room, immediately entering a well-lit room filled with eleven other people standing around. All gazes turned to me.
“Who the hell are you people? Where the hell are we?” I began to interrogate the people to gain some information on the situation. I also cautiously brought my fists up close to my face. Never could be too careful when dealing with strangers in a small room.
“Great, we have another contestant in this game as well. I thought we would have been able to get some answers finally.” The first person to speak out of the group was a man that appeared to be in his late twenties or early thirties.
He was wearing a medical coat, so I assumed that he was a doctor. The man heaved a sigh then began to pace back and forth while mumbling something to himself.
“There he goes again pacing around the room! As if that’s gonna do something!” The next person to speak up was a pale-skinned girl with an extravagant and outrageous mohawk hairstyle that matched her punk rock appearance. She looked away from the doctor, focusing her attention on her nails with a half-lidded expression.
My attention moved over to a plain looking woman. She left the group and found a secure spot at the back of the room where she then propped open the book in her hand. Something about her captivated me. Perhaps it had something to do with the empty look in her eyes.
They reminded me of the pictures Tanet showed me about the previous winners of the games. The woman must’ve felt my gaze since she momentarily looked up from her book then stared at me.
I quickly looked away from her. The next thing that came to my field of vision was a teenage boy in a green hoodie approaching me with a wry smile.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Darius. Guess you’ve been caught up in this game as well it seems.” He introduced himself.
“I guess you can say that.” I nodded while slowly lowering my fists. He didn’t seem much of a threat considering his lanky appearance.
“Well, looks like you’re the last player. So, I guess we don’t have to worry about any more surprises for the time being.”
“What makes you so sure that I’m the last player?”
To answer my question, he pointed to the doors around the room. “There are thirteen doors in this room. But only one of them doesn’t have a number painted on them. We all believe that door number thirteen will lead us out of here.”
I glanced around the room to confirm his words. Twelve out of the thirteen doors indeed had numbers painted onto them. The significance to the numbers was a mystery to me.
Before I could think any more about the situation, my attention was brought over to the thirteenth door. A young woman in a purple blouse desperately tried to open it. Both of her hands were on the doorknob, and she leaned back as far as she could.
“Come on! Come on! Why won’t this door open?” It didn’t take long for the woman’s hands to slip from the doorknob. She fell backward into the arms of a tall man in a dress shirt.
“Are you okay, Henrika? Maybe you shouldn’t try messing with the door anymore.” The man said.
“I think that she should continue.” The Doctor interjected. “We cannot afford to be trapped here in this room forever.”
“I’m starting to get hungry. If no food arrives soon, I just might hafta resort to cannibalism to satisfy my lust for meat.” The punk rock girl said as she rubbed her stomach. Her eyes scanned across each of us. Her tongue slowly and menacingly traced around her lips.
Red flags flew up in my mind. That girl was going to be nothing but trouble.
“Little girl if you managed to out power all of us and eat us, then I guess luck would be on your side.” The next one to speak up was an elderly man wearing worn out and tattered clothes. Despite his attire, he smoked an expensive looking cigar, possibly Cuban. “However, I doubt that you would want to eat an old man like me. I would give you quite the tummy ache.”
“Please don’t joke about eating one another.” Stammered a blonde-haired young woman that appeared to be in her early twenties. Judging by the way she kept her feet close together and her arms around her noticeably large chest, it was easy to tell that she was rather shy and timid.
“Who’s joking?” The punk rock girl looked over to the young woman with another menacing expression. The young woman shrieked in terror and hide behind a teenage girl with rainbow streaks on her cheeks.
“Oh, are you going to eat someone? The one day I forget to bring my camera with me!” The rainbow streaks girl voiced her disappointment.
The blonde haired woman peered her head out from behind the teenage girl and asked, “You’re not going to let her eat me are you, Iris?”
“Not you, Elena,” Iris assured the young woman before she looked over to the others, “but the others, however, I actually might.”
“What? Why are you going to protect her and not us?” exclaimed Darius.
Iris’ eyebrows furrowed as she leaned forward and firmly placed her hands onto her hips. “You’re a man aren’t you? Can’t you protect yourself?”
“I’m a high school dropout!”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
The Doctor brought his hands up to his head then rubbed his temples. “Can we please stop with all the nonsense already? We’re in a dire situation here! We are trapped in a room, and we can’t get out!” He reminded everyone, trying to make them understand to graveness of the situation.
Iris’ eyes appeared to sparkle after the Doctor spoke up. She sharply turned around then raised her arm above her head. “That sounds like an awesome movie title. Trapped in a room and can’t get out, coming soon to a theater near you.”
Nothing but silence greeted her joke. No one seemed to be amused by it.
“At least now I’ve deduced that you’re entirely useless in a serious situation.” The Doctor turned his head away from Iris, deciding not to pay the young girl any mind.
“What?” Iris exclaimed.
The Doctor ignored Iris and looked to everyone else around the room. “Does anyone else plan to have a serious and rational discussion in how we should be escaping from this place?” He scanned the room then set his sights on another man at the other end of the room. The man appeared to be in his late thirties, and he wore a cheap looking suit with noticeable alcohol stains on the front. “What about you? So far you haven’t made any attempts to help us get out of here.”
The man in the cheap suit tilted his head back and crossed his arms over his chest, trying to portray himself as a tough guy. “And why would I want to help you get out of here? There’s no point in trying to leave this room. We should wait patiently for our captor to reveal himself to us.”
He reclined against the wall and averted his gaze from the group. A groan of frustration came the Doctor. He then turned his head to glance over to a woman in a trench coat. She was on the other side of the room, patting down the walls.
“Have you managed to find anything over there yet?” He inquired.
“Not yet. So far this room seems to be normal.” The trench coat woman replied, making no attempt to turn and face us.
“Why should we even bother to escape? We’re all here because we agreed to play in these games, right?” asked the punk rock girl.
The old man nodded his head in agreement. “The youngster has a point. If we try to escape from this place, we’ll miss out on winning all of the money.”
“Well, I don’t want to miss out on winning the money. But I don’t much like being cooped up here in this room anymore.” Darius complained.
“It’s beginning to smell like old farts in here.” The punk rock girl’s face distorted as she turned her head away from the group while pinching her nose closed.
“Well, there is no other method of escape besides the thirteenth door. But none of the doors will open after they have been closed.” The shaded-glasses man said.
“So do we just sit here and wait for the thirteenth door to open?” Elena asked.
“Exactly! That sounds like a great plan!” Iris exclaimed.
It may have sounded like a great plan. However, there was a question there that no one had yet bothered to ask. Since it seemed like no one else would do it, the task fell onto me.
“But when does the thirteenth door open?” I suddenly asked.
The room fell silent. Everyone exchanged glances with one another. No one knew for sure as to when the door would open, or even if it would open at all for that matter. As far as they were concerned, the door would stay locked forever until we all died from starvation.
“Are we going to die in this room?” Darius nervously asked.
“You might.” The punk rock girl replied harshly.
“Wait! Why only me?” He panicked.
“Now, now, there is no need to panic. No one is going to die in this room.” The shaded-glasses man assured everyone to calm them down and ease the situation.
“Unless this is part of the game. We were told that we would be gambling with our lives in these games.” The Doctor mentioned.
“So you’re saying that this is part of the game? For us to try and figure out how to leave this room?” Henrika inquired while crossing her arms underneath her chest, expressing her disbelief at the idea.
Darius closed his eyes with a thoughtful expression on his face. “I don’t know. This might be a part of the game.”
“If that’s the case, then let’s just ram the damn door down.” I approached the thirteenth door. Everyone stood aside and anxiously watched me, waiting to see the results of my tactic.
The door didn’t look all that sturdy. One shoulder tackle should’ve been enough to take it down. I steeled myself then rushed at the door.
It suddenly swung open, knocking me flat on my ass in front of the group. Laughter instantly filled the room as most the people pointed at me with mocking smiles. While they were busy laughing, a man in a black blazer and fedora entered the room with a bright smile on his face. Something about him gave me a bad vibe.
“Welcome players to the wonderful facility of Serendipity! We sure are pleased to see that you are all alive and healthy — for now, that is.” The man politely bowed to us.
“Serendipity?” The Doctor repeated.
“Who the hell are you?” The punk rock girl pointed to the strange man.
“Forgive me. Allow me to introduce myself.” The man politely bowed to us. “My name is Caius. I will be the Game Moderator. It will be my job to watch over the games and ensure that things proceed smoothly. I hope that we can all get along and have fun playing these games together.”
Darius’ eyes lit up at the mention of Caius playing the games with us. “Oh, so you’re going to be playing with us?”
Caius stared blankly at Darius for a moment before he burst out into a fit of laughter. “Of course not! I am not risking my life during these games! But I will have fun watching you all play!”
Darius’ eyebrows furrowed, and the corners of his lips curve downward. “Oh great, a back-seat gamer.” He mumbled.
“Now then since we are running short on time. I will explain the rules of the game in a nutshell. For the next few days, you will all be living here, playing various games for the chance to win one million dollars possibly. If you can survive, that is.”
“What? Survive? You mean we’re not gambling with our lives figuratively?” Elena exclaimed.
A scoff came from the punk rock girl in response. “Don’t be stupid, funbags! We’re gambling with our real lives here for real money!”
“Now onto the next order of business.” With a snap of his fingers, twelve people in black suits entered the room. They stood in front of Caius. In their hands rested small black boxes. On his command, the black suits opened the boxes. Inside rested bracelets with black screens located in the center. “Please pick up the bracelet that contains the number on which door you all left from earlier. Once you have them, place them on your wrists.”
Everyone followed his instructions. We all obtained our respective bracelets and then clamped them onto our wrists. Immediately the screen on my bracelet turned on. The number ten appeared on mine. I glanced up then inspected the bracelets of the others. It was the same for them.
“What’s with the numbers on the screen?” The Doctor asked while inspecting the bracelet on his wrist.
“I am glad that you asked that question, Wyatt. The numbers on your screens are your gambling points. They display the number of points you have left while participating in the games.” Caius replied. Wyatt looked to the bracelet and nodded in response, completely accepting the answer.
“This makes a nice fashion accessory.” Iris inspected the bracelet on her arm, admiring it.
“So, these bracelets only tell us how many points we have? How boring.” The punk rock girl voiced her complaints.
“The bracelets do a lot more than that, Melanie. Consider these bracelets to being your lifeline. Each day two of you will participate in a game against each other to win points from one another. If your points reach down to zero, you will lose the game and face the ultimate penalty. The bracelets will inject a lethal poison into your bloodstream and kill you.” Caius happily announced.
The room grew silent after Caius mentioned the penalty. No doubt everyone grew tense after hearing those words. Hell, my entire body had goosebumps. If the points on my bracelet reached down to zero, then that would be the end of my life.
“Lethal poison? No way man! Forget this noise! I want out of here!” Darius began to panic again. He grabbed onto the bracelet and attempted to remove it from his wrist.
“I would not do that if I were you, Darius. If you attempt to remove or destroy the bracelet forcibly, you will be disqualified and killed by lethal injection.” Caius quickly warned him.
Darius cringed in fear then ceased with his attempts to remove the bracelet.
“Doesn’t that seem to be a bit unnecessary?” The cheap suit man inquired.
“Now that’s more like it. The game keeps getting interesting for me,” said Melanie.
“So how do you determine which one of us will be playing these games each day?” I felt the need to ask the question. If I was going to be forced to play games every day, I might as well learn everything that I could.
“We roll dice of course. Every day we roll the dice and whichever numbers they land on determine the players.” Caius replied.
“I see. So that’s where the gambling part comes in. The winners of the games will live while the losers die.” Wyatt flatly said.
“That’s so cruel!” Elena’s lips quivered.
“Them’s the rules of the world! Winners will live on, and the losers will die!” Melanie ecstatically announced to the group.
The old man closed his eyes and smiled. “That’s life for you.”
“Since there are twelve of us and there can only be one winner. We can expect to be playing these games for twelve days.” The shaded-glasses man calculated.
Wyatt looked to him then scowled. “Twelve days? I can’t sit here and play games for twelve days! I have to leave here as soon as possible!”
“What’s the rush, youngster? We should take our sweet time and enjoy having fun together while we’re still alive.” The old man said.
Wyatt ignored the old man’s words and looked to Caius with pleading eyes. “Please! Can’t we just finish off all the games in one day?”
“Sorry, rules are rules. Only one game can be played each day. The rules have already been set by me, the game moderator, and they will not change under any circumstances.” Caius replied.
Wyatt’s heart must have sunk after hearing those words. His body slumped over then clutched his head, letting out a disgruntled noise.
We would be playing games for twelve days. I didn’t mind staying there for that long since my time limit was two weeks. But still, twelve days was cutting it close.
“And to correct what Nicholas had mentioned earlier, it is possible for the losers of the games to survive,” Caius stated.
“Really? How is that possible?” The trench coat woman asked.
“This is where the gambling part comes in. Before a game can proceed, the players must offer up some of their gambling points to play.”
“How many of our points?” I asked.
“It is entirely up to you. Since you all start off with ten points, you can offer up ten points or even one point.”
“That sounds like an excellent idea! That way no one has to die!” Iris happily clapped her hands together after hearing the revelation.
Hope had been offered to us — the players. If we only offered up one point each day, no one would be in danger of dying. Simple.
“I’m fine with offering up one point every day. It’s not like I could lose ten times in a row.” Darius proudly stated while confidently crossing his arms.
“What’s the point of even gathering up points? What’re we aiming for here if there can only be one winner?” Melanie questioned Caius. She didn’t even bother trying to hide the venom in her voice.
“Who said anything about there being one winner? It is possible that none of you could die while participating in the games. And it is possible for every one of you to leave Serendipity with large sums of money.” Caius replied.
Everyone besides Melanie appeared to be happy after hearing those words leave his mouth. His words inspired more hope within the players than the last time.
“No one’s gonna die? How boring!” Another complaint came from Melanie.
“The point system is to rank the players. The player in first place will receive one million dollars while second place will receive ninety-thousand dollars and so forth.”
“So, to get more money, we need more points. Sounds easy enough to me.” The cheap suit man said.
“Since we all have the same amount of points right now. How much money do we all start off with?” Henrika asked.
“Absolutely nothing. You’re all tied for first place. Until there’s a definite leader between you all, no money will distribute among you.” Caius shook his head.
“Um, excuse me?” Elena nervously raised her hand above her head to gain Caius’ attention. “So hypothetically speaking…if we all earn more points and we’re satisfied with the amount that we have, can we leave with the money that we earned?”
“Yes. But, you can only do that after a game has finished. Once that happens, we have a vote the following day to see how many players wish to continue or leave.”
Elena’s face brightened up.
Wyatt heaved a sigh of relief before he said, “Oh thank god. So, it is possible for us to leave this place as early as tomorrow then?”
“That is correct. However, that is only the case if all players wish to leave. If all but one player wishes to continue playing, then everyone will still have to remain here.” Caius informed everyone, once again mercilessly crushing any form of hope that we had of escape.
“What? That’s not fair! Whatever happened to majority rules? Don’t we live in a freaking democracy?” Darius exclaimed.
The game moderator turned his head then smiled again. “Oh, we live in a democracy, but as of now, I am the one in charge of it since I am the game moderator.”
“No need to panic. We all just have to vote to leave for tomorrow.” Iris assured everyone.
“You make it sound so easy, Iris. Do you believe that it will be that easy to leave this place?” Caius’ happy and cheerful tone suddenly went dark and menacing. “Have you ever heard that money is the root of all evil?”
“He is right. It is possible that greed will get the best of some of us. Some of us may want to test our luck and continue playing to win even more money.” Said Nicholas.
“Even more reason to finish the first game today and then move on with our lives tomorrow,” Darius suggested.
“It’s easier said than done. We have no idea as to why every one of us is here or how much money we need to settle our individual problems.” The trench coat woman said.
“I got another question. Is it possible to ignore the games and just kill the other players? It’d be much more fun to hunt them down and kill them to take their points and money.” Melanie announced, ignoring the glares she received from the other players.
Caius shook his head and wagged his finger back and forth. “Physical violence is not allowed outside of the games. If a player is caught physically harming another player, that offending player will be disqualified and killed on the spot.”
Melanie puffed her cheeks then pouted, acting like a complete brat. “No fun at all. Fine.”
“And to make sure that the rule of no physical violence is kept, all rooms within this facility are filled with security cameras that are watched routinely in the monitor room. Minus the bathrooms of course.”
“So attempting to do anything sneaky would be pointless.” The trench coat woman said.
Elena heaved a sigh of relief before she said, “Thank heavens.”
“And another important rule to keep in mind, when the games are in motion, all players must be in attendance to witness the game. If a single player is missing, then that missing player will be disqualified and killed by lethal injection.” Caius added.
Wyatt, Darius, Elena, and Iris expressed their shock upon hearing the news. Their faces turned pale as their eyes darted towards the bracelets on their wrists.
“I see no benefit in such a strict and senseless rule.” The trench coat woman voiced her opinion on the matter.
The corners of Caius’ lips curved upward. He wasn’t trying to hide his sadistic nature at all. “Punctuality is very serious, Leona. I want everyone to witness the majestic sight of two players fighting for their lives to survive.”
“It’s just another way to keep us in line. It’s cruel and yet effective. I don’t want to wind up dead for being late.” The cheap suit man said.
“I am happy that someone agrees with me. Thank you, Frederick.” Caius bowed his head to Frederick. “Anyway, that is all for the rules for now. Follow me to the next room where we will determine which one of you will be risking your lives for today.”
“We can do this, right? We just have to play for one day, and then we can all leave with our lives intact and one million dollars.” Darius nervously said as he looked to everyone for confirmation.
“I’d very much like that.” Elena nodded.
“Same here.” Iris agreed with the plan.
“If Fate wishes for everyone to live, then we will live. However, if she wishes for us to die, then we will die.” The old man said with a cheerful expression on his face.
“I don’t have any plans on dying for today or anytime soon,” Henrika spoke with much conviction.
“Sure, it’s easy to say that you’re not gonna die. But when it finally comes down to it, you have no control of your life.” Melanie stated with a deadpan expression. Her Cheshire smile was gone.
“Let us all work together to make sure that we will survive this game,” Nicholas suggested.
“I am with you.” Wyatt nodded his head in agreement to the suggestion.
“Understood. We shall leave this place tomorrow after the vote.” Leona said.
“Now, now, follow me please.” Caius gestured for the players to follow after him. Everyone formed a single file line then followed him out the door, up the stairs, and into the next room.
“What was with the stairs? Hold on. Were we in some kind of basement all that time?” I asked.
“Yes, you were. Forgive us for placing you in such a predicament. But the lobby needed some spring cleaning.” Caius said.
“Spring cleaning?” Henrika glanced suspiciously at the man.
He simply waved off her suspicions. “Never you mind that, Henrika. We have finished cleaning. No worries.” He assured her before he brought his hand up to his mouth and then loudly cleared his throat. “This is where we will determine the players for the spectacular first game!” He happily announced as everyone spread out around the room.
We took a moment to marvel in how nice and elegant the room looked. It had the basic commodities. A large screen television resided in one corner of the room with a large sofa in front of it. Bookcases rested against the wall to the far left. Surround sound speakers set around here and there.
“This room doesn’t seem so bad. It’s better than that stuffy basement we were in.” Darius ventured over to the other side of the room to inspect the large screen television.
“I can see myself getting comfortable here.” Elena sat down on the sofa alongside Iris. The two of them began to engage each other in small talk.
The old man walked over to the bookcases then read the books along with the bookworm. While they seemed to immerse themselves with the luxuries of the room, the others and I remained cautious. Keeping us in a dusty old basement and then moving us to a luxurious room to relax seemed too suspicious.
“Don’t get too comfortable here. This is how they are planning to keep us here even longer.” Wyatt warned the others.
Caius frantically clapped his hands together to gain everyone’s attention. “Everyone please draw your attention onto the screen over here. This is where we will roll the digital dice and determine which one of the players will be facing off against each other today.”
Everyone gathered around Caius then stared anxiously at the screen. The game moderator then pulled out a tablet from his pocket, pressing one of the buttons to activate the digital dice roll.
“Please don’t be me today. Please don’t be me today. Please don’t be me today.” Darius and Elena repeated a mantra to themselves. As if their mantra would’ve had any effect on the outcome of the dice roll.
“Please be me today. Please be me today. Please be me today.” Melanie repeated a mantra to herself as well.
The dice eventually stopped. They landed on the numbers three and eleven. Everyone checked their bracelets to confirm their numbers. There were different reactions from all around the room.
Wyatt sighed in relief. Melanie folded her arms and then stomped her foot on the ground. The plain girl checked her bracelet then closed her book.
Darius, Elena, and Iris jumped for joy. Nicholas and the old man simply shrugged their shoulders. Henrika exhaled then fell back onto the sofa. Leona folded her arms then looked away from the screen.
Frederick smirked after checking his bracelet.
“Would players three and eleven please step forward?” Caius requested. The bookworm and Frederick stepped forward. “Congratulations! The first match will be between Klara Ismene and Frederick Lukas!”
“Let’s turn this negative into a positive, Klara. Let’s only gamble one point so that we both can survive this game.” Frederick offered his hand to Klara for a handshake.
Klara ignored the handshake then returned to the realm of her book. A frown appeared on his face in response as he placed his hand into his pocket and smacked his lips.
“The game will begin shortly. Please take this time to prepare yourselves mentally while I go and fetch the gaming wheel.” Caius bid everyone farewell before leaving the room. Everyone stood still in silence, not knowing what to do until the games started.