The Game

Today, I thought I would share a kind of different post. This is a short story I wrote as a Sophomore (two years ago) loosely based on a dream I had. Enjoy!

The Game

“I coming Nessa!” Albert’s voice crawled its way over Nessa’s shoulder. Nessa ran like the world might devour her if she stumbled. Her curly blonde hair stung her rosey cheeks as each of her feet battled to fly farther than the other.

“You will never catch up with me,” she yelled back. The sound of water gradually crescendoed, and the stoney bank near the curve of the river trapped her. She stopped. Stuck again.

“Ha. I knew you wouldn’t make it far,” Albert said with a smirk on his face, almost knocking her into the river with his momentum. Albert was a tall, slightly lanky, yet surprisingly agile boy of ten years old. As her friend and neighbor, he was the constant in her life. They had grown up together, going on various adventures around their neighborhood and the woods behind Nessa’s house. Today was no different.

“I would like to see you make it farther,” she accused him in return. “But, in the meantime, I’m tired.” She flopped down on her back, pebbles gently pressing into the back of her petite body.

“Already? Girls are so weak.” Nevertheless, Albert stretched out down next to her, ready to stop and rest for a while, but the moment he touched the ground, Nessa was off once more, laughing.

“Awe, now that’s not fair!” Albert yelled as he too took off.

All too soon, the light dwindled, and the waxing moon made his appearance once again, notifying the two children that their families were waiting impatiently at home with a warm dinner made.

* * *

“I finished my star,” Nessa told Albert the next day.

“Good. Now, it’s almost real.”

She pinned it to her wool coat. Perfect. And, Albert had on his own matching pin.

“I’ll give you twenty seconds,” he stated, “No more, no less.”

“Don’t worry.” She shrugged. “That’s all I need.”

“Now, if you are caught, you have to go to the prison,” his lean arm muscles tensed as his arm reached up to point between the trees at an concrete structure with a barbed wire fence around it. The vacant building stood silent in the distance, seeming to extinguish all the energy that may have existed in the area. So far, Albert hadn’t driven her even close to the place, so Nessa wasn’t worried about his empty threat.

“Good thing you won’t catch me!” Just like that, she was off. Once again, the trees jumped out of her way as she maintained her quickened pace. It was getting chilly. Soon, the trees and the smell in the air became unfamiliar. The light airiness of the woods was replaced by a faint smell. It was almost like the mild aroma of overcooked meat. She had made it much further than before, suddenly realizing she had gotten lost. Each moment that passed seemed like ten lifetimes. The warm spring air turned cold. Suddenly, a flock of birds flew out from behind a nearby brush, and Albert came running through.

“Put your hands up!” he yelled, pointing a pistol at her. She stood, confused. “I said, put your hands up, Nessa.”

She looked at the pistol and looked back at him. “What is that? Is it real?” She timidly asked. Their symbolic pins were one thing, but pulling out a gun was taking it too far.

“Come on, Nessa! How would I get a real gun?” He replied. The gun sitting in his innocent hands, however, looked pretty realistic until she noticed the dark paint on his arm. Her skepticism turned into anger as she realized how scared she had actually been.

“Let’s go home. It’s getting dark, and I don’t know where we are,” Nessa said.

* * *

Three girls ran alongside Nessa as she travelled down a new path deeper into the forest. It had been about a month, and many other neighborhood children had joined the game, their own stars gleaming in the afternoon sun. Albert had his own gang too running after them with their own versions of pistols. The girls around Nessa were breathing hard. Their individual puffs of smoke disrupting the still air.

“Let’s split up and meet by the old concrete building,” Nessa said, pointing to the “prison” that she still had yet to go near. “That way they will get confused, and we can use the building as protection.” Agreeing with her logic, the other girls split into groups of two and began to make their own ways there.

Nessa had never been directly outside the old building but had come close before. Actually, the idea of the place made her a little sweaty and uncomfortable. She had researched the building after the first time she and Albert came across it, but all she found were what seemed like made up horror stories of what lay within it decades ago. All the girls reached the building within five minutes. The gate that led inside was left cracked open. Leaves blanketed the hard dirt ground, but before they could discover more, Nessa heard the crunching of leaves and soft mumbling of Albert and his group.

“Split, split, split!” Nessa softly spat out as she began looking for a place to hide. Everyone scattered in different directions looking for secret havens. Nessa reached the nearest tree and began the climb. She was an animal, leaping from branch to branch, higher and higher. When the arms of the tree began to bend under her weight, she paused and held her breath. The crunching came closer. Nessa glanced down below her, spotting a young girl - maybe seven years old - hiding behind a nearby tree trunk. They were going to walk right next to her if she didn’t move.

Seconds passed, and the girl, finally realizing her invisibility would not last long, suddenly broke out of her hiding place and scampered away.

“Stop!”

She was caught. Albert’s gun pointed at the small girl. She turned visibly trembling, “Please don’t hurt me.”

Nessa’s heartbeat seemed to increase exponentially. Why was she so scared? This was simply a game. But then, there was a crack, and the child’s shirt spattered with red. Albert had shot her. The same Albert who Nessa had been playing with for years. The same Albert who used to tickle Nessa to death because he knew she couldn’t suppress her giggles. The same Albert who told her the guns were fake. There was no way this was her Albert, yet he had the same chocolate colored hair and the same loose gait as he walked. What was going on?

Nessa took a moment to recover from her initial shock. She wanted to go home to think this through, but first she needed to warn the other girls. As soon as Albert and his gang moved away, she silently slid down the tree and decided to sneak her way back to the cement building. The boys were scheming ahead of her, and when she was sure they were deep in conversation, she broke into a run. At that same moment, one of the boys glanced back.

“There’s one!” he yelled. Their footsteps crunched loudly in the background. She tried to keep her pace faster than theirs. There was a good thirty meters between them. The cracks of the guns sounded in her ears, yet so far, she had felt no pain, and even if she was shot, she doubted that she would be able to feel it over the numbness of her body. The entrance to the cement building was drawing near. Weaving around the thick trees, she began to flat out sprint as fast as her body could handle until the gate appeared. The footsteps of the boys could no longer be heard. She quietly closed the gate and turned around.

Sitting inside against the wall, hidden from the outside world, were people of all ages. Men, women, children, babies - all with sunken faces and scraps of cloth keeping them warm. Each wore matching gold stars. She stared, confused, and these silent people stared back with empty eyes. Nessa turned back towards the gate. A group of men, including Albert, were laughing at her. She had walked right into their trap.

This was no game. It was real life.

(This is a painting I made last year that I though was relevant to the story - let me know if anyone is interested in seeing more art!)


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