Ready or Not
The Darkest Angel
Ready or not, here I come!
Blood pounded in my ears and my heart thundered in my chest, eradicating any chance of rational thought. This was it. I was done for. My life: over.
The smell of musty wood evaded my nostrils as I traced my fingers across the smooth base of the wardrobe.
What in the Hell had made me think this could have been a good idea? On what level of utter stupidity had I been on the moment this thought had crossed my mind?
I should be running, should have been thinking carefuly enough to do anything but this.
But I couldn't.
I was frozen, my body pressed so hard into the backing of the wardrobe that I was sure I'd somehow break it down.
It'll be fun, you'll see!
Her voice came to me even now. The way it always does when guilt strikes you down.
At first I'd fought against the memories and tried to think my way out of this mess… but the game was going to end one way or another. Sooner or later, my time would be up. I had to realise this now; it was the only way.
So finally, I sank back into the darkness, closed my eyes and let the memories take me away.
"Found anything yet?"
There was a pause before she let out a bored sigh, "What about now?"
I felt her presence behind me, her breath climbed down my neck as she stared observantly over my shoulder, "You have the whole internet, surely there's something."
Lisa had never been the most patient of people, but I refrained from slapping her away nonetheless; "It's harder than you think, Lees," I countered, drawing my finger aimlessly over the mouse pad of my laptop.
I'd invited Lisa over for a mid-half term sleepover. Living so far from one another, we didn't go to the same schools and because of that, we rarely saw each other. Still, we remained adamant to stay in contact, so we'd thought up the 'sleep-over system' we'd alternate between each other's houses for half term sleepovers. A simple deal, but it worked well.
Today, my parents were out at a party and were leaving the house to us for the entire night. Most teenagers might have jumped at the chance of having a wild party, but Lisa and I saw differently. We were the kind of kids that had spent our early child hoods repeating 'Bloody Mary' into a mirror at witching hour, or perhaps spending all night trying to contact the dead with a tape recorder and a dodgy camera.
We'd never been successful, but Lisa was adamant that tonight would be the night that we would succeed in our ventures through the spirit world. So, she had instructed me to find something of interest, something that would work, something scary.
"It would help if you gave me a little more to go on than just scary," I muttered as I aimlessly scrolled through lists and lists of ghost sightings, Ouija board games gone terribly wrong and tarot card readings. None of them were what I assumed I was supposed to be looking for.
"What about a game?" Lisa reasoned as she leaned further over me. Her blonde hair caught the tip of my nose and I edged away irritably. She slipped into the space I'd left next to me to hang over my every movement on the keys.
Lisa was a slight girl with long gold locks and bright blue eyes. Most people would have never have guessed she was turning seventeen next month. My auburn hair and dark eyes contrasted perfectly with hers; however whenever we were seen out together, people would assume we were sisters, I being the older sibling. We'd gotten used to it so much that we'd started going along with that lie. If our features were that alike, then what was stopping us? Lisa had even assumed calling us 'sisters from another mister.'
"Okay, search scary games, that's a better search, right?" Lisa reckoned.
I rolled my eyes and slammed my palms against the keys, leaving an obscure line of gibberish on the search bar, "Have you ever been on Google?" I muttered darkly.
It took almost two hours, but after what felt like a substantial amount of time over the 'giving up' limit, we finally reached our goal.
"Creepy pasta?" Lisa read aloud, wrinkling her nose, "What's that?"
"You've never heard of Creepy pasta?" I asked incredulously. Lisa's unsure shake of the head was all I needed to thump her on the shoulder, "Lees, this is where horror stories are made! Jeff the killer, Slenderman… that Rugrat's theory…"
"There's a name for that crap?" Lisa groaned, "None of that is scary."
"Slender?" I reasoned.
"Fine. But only the first time playing it." Lisa crossed her arms grudgingly before slapping my hand out of the way to scroll through the lists herself, "Anything that has any truth to it?"
I shrugged and sighed, resigning myself to the new fate of taking hours to find something in this slightly diluted search for a 'scary game.'
It took a while, but Lisa finally found something she liked, "Amber, check this out."
I looked up to the screen from where I'd been picking my nails and scanned over what she'd found.
"H…Hitori Kaku…Kakurenbo?" I frowned, "What the Hell is that?"
"It's a game, idiot." Lisa growled, "It's Japanese for something along the lines of 'hide and seek by yourself.'"
"That sounds crap." I thought aloud, glancing to Lisa for her agreeing nod of the head. That didn't come, instead she stared at me expectantly, "No… listen." She said, pointing at the list of what looked like rather detailed instructions for a game of loner's hide and seek, "The point is you play it with a spirit."
I found myself shaking my head before I'd even begun to read the list, "No."
"Oh come on, it sounds like fun!" Lisa pulled me closer to her side, "We just need a doll we don't really like… some red thread, salt, water… some rice and some of our own hair or fingernails."
I didn't like the sound of it, but scanned the list nonetheless.
From what I gathered, it was a form of necromancy where a doll was given a symbolic sacrifice to allow a spirit's possession. The instructions were well thought out, but as I carried on reading, the story got darker.
"You have to stab the doll?" I asked warily.
"With a needle or pencil." Lisa recited eagerly, "Because knives could be dangerous."
I gave her my best deadpan expression, "You don't say."
"Oh, come off it." Lisa laughed, pushing at my shoulder, "You can't say it doesn't sound creepy." She wiggled her fingers at me in an attempt at a spooky gesture. I just batted her away before laughing nervously, "I don't know, I mean it's called 'on your own' for a reason, right?"
"Yup!" Lisa pointed to an obscure line in the direct centre of the instructions, "Playing alone is best because there's a chance that the other players might become possessed."
I frowned and glanced from the screen to Lisa for a solid minute before finally letting out a sigh, "This won't work you know." I reasoned, "None of the other stuff does, this'll just be like that."
"So there's no chance of a possession, then." Lisa coerced, grinning at me expectantly, "If you're that sure of it, then what's the harm in having a go?"
I couldn't even open my mouth to answer before Lisa was pulling me up onto my feet, "Great! I'll get a doll, you never liked that old stuffed fairy princess one, right?"
"Um, wait, what?"
"The doll." Lisa said as if it were obvious, "It says that when we want to finish the game we have to burn it."
I rolled my eyes. She was really taking this seriously, "Okay, fine, yeah, use the fairy princess."
I don't know how it happened, but I soon found myself staring down at my old fairy princess doll, stuffed with rice, mine and Lisa's hair and bound by red thread. Lisa was casually pouring a bag of salt into a pitcher of water as she glanced at the doll in the bath tub from the corner of her eye, "Is it moving?"
I sighed, "Lisa, we haven't even finished."
"Right, right." Lisa didn't look convinced as she finished pouring the salt into the pitcher, "Okay… I think this is enough, we'll keep the salt too, just in case."
"In case of what? Nothing's going to happen." I said for the umpteenth time. Lisa had been over the instructions hundreds of times, checking and double checking that she had every single thing accounted for that was on the list.
Lisa smiled at her own handy work and folded her arms, "So, what do you want to call the little cutie?" She asked, motioning to the doll.
I shrugged, "Billy-bob?"
"She's a girl!" Lisa insisted, "Call her a girl's name."
I chewed on my thumbnail passively and rolled my eyes, "Lisa it really doesn't-"
"Tilly!" Lisa suddenly exclaimed, "I like that name. We'll call her Tilly."
I didn't even spare another wary glance at her. She'd been into the spiritual stuff since she was a little kid, but I was starting to worry she was getting a little bit over excited over the game.
"We've locked all the windows and doors in the house, we've secured a place each of us will hide and we have the pins at the ready to stab the doll when it hits three in the morning." Lisa stole another glance at her digital watch, "I wonder if this counts as electronic."
But I was cut off as she continued babbling, taking her watch off as she went, "We turned off the TV and all the lights, you turned your laptop off, right? Oh and your mobile!"
I nodded to each of her questions and more or less thrust my phone in her general direction the moment she looked speculative, "It's off, see?"
She nodded approvingly before moving on in her mental check list, "And you know what to say, right?"
"Yes." I stated warily, refraining from rubbing the bridge of my nose just barely, I was pretty sure a headache was forming from this constant preparation, "First tagger is Tilly," I glanced at her, "We say it three times in a stern voice, then we stab it, and say 'We found you Tilly.'" Lisa nodded approvingly so I continued, "Finally we say 'now Tilly's it' three times and run like fuck."
Lisa grinned, "Perfect." She said, looking off at the ceiling as if mentally checking it off, "What time is it?"
Oh, of course. The time. We'd been at the preparations for hours and for almost thirty minutes we'd been in the bathroom just so Lisa could stare at her work appreciatively, we had five minutes until it was three. As in three AM. I was struggling to keep my eyes open and focused on this so called 'game.'
"We've got five minutes." I said.
Lisa nodded and picked up 'Tilly' as carefully as she could, "Alright, we have to take her back here and put her in that wash basin I filled up earlier."
I looked at the basin in the tub and nodded. I had wondered why we needed it.
The minutes ticked away painfully slowly as we waited in the hall. Lisa was jumping from foot to foot at my side. When it finally turned three, we both closed our eyes and - some speaking more eagerly than others - recited: "First tagger is Tilly, first tagger is Tilly, first tagger is Tilly!"
Lisa grabbed my arm and tugged me into the bathroom as she placed the doll into the wash basin. She then pulled me out, turning off the light on her way. With that final light diminished, we were left in complete darkness. All I could hear was Lisa's steady breathing at my side and the eerie thrumming of the fridge in the kitchen.
She poked my arm gently and whispered, "Count to ten."
I did as she wanted and let out a sigh. We'd played hide and seek in the dark before, playing it with a lifeless doll just seemed duller in my opinion. Still, Lisa was excitably muttering a countdown at my side and I tried to join in just as eagerly. As we reached the end of the countdown, I felt Lisa's leg brush my own as she walked past. I frowned, "Trying to scare me already?" I whispered.
"What?" She hissed through the dark.
A small pang of fear hit me for a moment before subsiding as I followed her into the bathroom. There was just enough light shining through a window out into the street to make out the outlines of the doll in the washbasin. Lisa nudged me and together we yelled out, "I found you Tilly!" Lisa suddenly lunged at the doll with her needle and I heard the small clink as the object found its way inside the fairy doll.
She nudged me again and I closed my eyes instinctively as we recited, "Now Tilly is it, Now Tilly is it, Now Tilly is it!"
That's when we ran.
Lisa seemed to know where we were going a lot better than I did. She practically dragged me by the hand as we found our way towards the stairs. I felt my way along each one, almost tripping over my own feet a handful of times as we reached the landing. Lisa struck me with her elbow and made a motion to my bedroom that I barely caught, "Hide in your old toy box, there's a cup of salt water in it, put some in your mouth!" her voice was barely above a whisper, but I just about caught it.
I nodded and hoped she'd seen as I felt my way into my room.
I didn't know where Lisa's hiding spot was, she hadn't told me. We'd been too preoccupied with making sure all the preparations were just right to discuss what we were actually going to do during the game.
After a few minutes, my leg banged against my old toy chest and I quickly lifted the lid up. It was big enough for me to lie in, legs outstretched when I had been younger, but now I had to curl up. I almost knocked over the salt water mug on my efforts to get inside, but managed.
I knew what Lisa wanted me to do with the mug, but I didn't thoroughly understand. Still, if I wanted to get any entertainment, I decided to do what she'd insisted of me.
After I had untangled my limbs in a way I was remotely comfortable, I grabbed the mug of salt water and took a tentative sip. It tasted disgusting and burned me as a drop climbed down my throat, but I kept a small amount in my mouth just as Lisa had instructed.
My eyes began to water as the seconds climbed to minutes. The salt kept finding new ways to make me want to gag and spit it out and my legs were beginning to cramp up from the awkward positioning. There was nothing to do, nothing to look at. My room was just as dark as any other and inside the toy box, it almost felt abrasive.
Nothing happened for a long while, and I was beginning to wonder if I could just give up and find Lisa again when something on the landing creaked.
I wanted to whisper Lisa's name, see if it was her, but the salt water hindered any hope of conversation. I stayed as still as a statue and waited. For a moment, everything was silent and I took a relieved sigh out of my nose, but then, all too suddenly, there was another creak, followed by another and then another. My heart rate quickened as the noise took on the sound of footsteps, footsteps I'd heard many times from my parents or Lisa… except this time there was no one to make them. They carried further and I tried to track them out in my mind. From the sound of it, I concluded that the creaks were coming towards my room.
The sudden fear that overwhelmed me beckoned my body to swallow convulsively, something I wasn't currently able to do under the circumstances, what with my mouth being filled with salt water. My body felt rigid as I tried to rationalise what I was hearing. Lisa was probably just coming to get me… maybe a stray cat had gotten in, maybe it was all in my imagination, after all… this was a game all about paranoia. Wasn't it?
That was when I heard my door open.
Just for a fraction of a second, but I was positive. I'd left it to and now it was opening. I struggled to remain calm, to keep the salt water in my mouth. Whatever was happening, it had an explanation, right? Surely a spirit couldn't have actually possessed that stupid doll. I was just paranoid. A breeze could have easily opened the door. A breeze could have caused the floorboards on the landing to creak. Of course that was all it was. It had to be.
Lisa's voice, screaming. She was scared, terrified perhaps. Her voice sounded near, maybe from the upstairs bathroom or perhaps from my parent's bedroom. I couldn't be sure.
I banged my head on the lid of the box in an effort to reach her. Salt water sprayed from my mouth rapidly and coated the walls of the toy chest. I reached for the mug, but Lisa's voice picked up again, "SHE GOT ME!"
I couldn't tell whether that was terror or… joy in her voice. Was she frightened or ecstatic? Either way, the game was over. The doll had done whatever purpose it had provided. It had found Lisa, after all.
I pried my way out of the toy chest and walked blindly through my bedroom, feeling along the walls for support, "It actually worked?" I called out, my voice still scratchy from the salt.
Lisa didn't reply and I assumed it was because she couldn't hear me. I felt along the wall for my light switch to gain enough of my vision back that I wouldn't go plummeting down the stairs. I found the switch, clicked it on and… nothing happened. Not even a flicker of light. I tried to remember whether my bulb had blown out but no recollection came to me. Another pang of fear entered my chest.
Then, I heard laughter. Ecstatic laughter I'd heard from Lisa a number of times. I stayed where I was for a moment before clearing my throat and carefully calling out, "Lisa?"
The laughter stopped abruptly, "Why aren't you hiding?"
The fear was back, an icy feeling in the pit of my chest slowly climbing through my body. I remained where I was, "The game's over, the doll found you."
"But I haven't found you." Came her instant reply.
I squinted through the darkness, laughing nervously, "This isn't funny, Lees. Come on; let's turn the lights back on."
She laughed again, a haunting sound, "But that'd ruin the game." She insisted playfully, "Finding you in the dark makes it more fun."
I frowned, "The doll was supposed to find me though, surely-"
"And I will." She cut me off again, her voice robotic and stern, "Just close your mouth and hide."
My heart sank as my legs turned to jelly where I stood. Her voice… it didn't sound like her any more. "Lees, this isn't funny!" I yelled, "Quit it and turn the lights back on!"
"Lisa isn't here right now." Her voice chanted excitedly, "Now, hide!"
The door in front of me swung open, hitting the wall with a loud thud. My heart leapt out of my chest as I stumbled forwards, "L-Lisa?"
"What is it going to take, Amber dearest? Your friend's not here anymore. It's me, Tilly! We're gonna have lots of fun!"
I ran before my brain could tell me otherwise. I stumbled through the darkness, feeling the walls, feeling for anything that could keep me safe.
Words from the list of instructions kept flitting through my mind.
Playing with others may result in one of you being possessed.
I let out a horrified cry as I found myself plummeting into the soft quilt of my parent's double bed. I lifted myself up and stared blindly.
I couldn't chance the landing again so I did all I could do not to be found. By wrenching myself into the silhouette of my parent's wardrobe. A bustling amount of clothes and boxes assaulted me as I fought my way to the back of the cupboard. There, I stayed completely still, heart hammering, breath hitching. My only hope was that she wouldn't find me here.
In my mind's eye, I knew this wasn't a prank and somewhere inside of me, I knew that Lisa was gone. Maybe forever. Tracing back, maybe I'd known the minute I'd felt something brush along my leg. Lisa hadn't understood what I meant because it wasn't her. It was never her.
Tilly had been here… maybe she'd been here the moment we'd given her a name.
Giving the spirit a name is the most powerful thing a human can give.
I heard Lisa's voice and took comfort in it. This was my fault. If I hadn't found that stupid website then none of this would have ever happened.
The guilty memory brought me to the present, still cowered in the wardrobe, still hopelessly afraid. Maybe if I'd run when I'd had the chance, maybe if I'd gotten out.
We'd unplugged the phones, turned off our mobiles. We'd locked all the windows and doors.
Now I thought about it, the entire game sounded like one big trap.
My heart leapt into my throat as the door to my parent's bedroom creaked open.
"I know you're in here." The sickly sweet, yet unfamiliar voice of my best friend sang, "And no salt water left to protect yourself." She laughed delicately for a moment before I felt her presence strengthen, She took a step forward, "One."
I huddled further in on myself. This was it.
The game was over.
She had won.
But… what then?
My stomach lurched.
The game was never over.
Not until we said so.
But I couldn't say so. There was no salt, no doll!
What could I do, what could I possibly do?
The wardrobe door opened and though the room was bathed in darkness, I still saw the pallid pale face of my best friend. Lisa. Her blonde hair was tangled with dried salt water, a playful grin on her face. And her eyes… her eyes were the most frightening of them all.
Her eyes were red.
In the darkness, she lifted her hand and with the eagerness of a friend I knew I had lost, she lunged at me.
A small jet of pain reached my arm as she plunged the small pin into my flesh. I glanced at it and then back at Lisa.
The smile was washed away, a look of terror replacing it. Her eyes were blue once more, almost non-existent in the dark.
She backed away.
I wanted to reach out to her, to tell her there was nothing to be afraid of. The game was over, Tilly had found us!
Instead, I reached for the pin stuck in my arm and gently pulled it out. I felt no pain; I didn't even feel the motions of my limbs.
"It got me!" I said with unusual enthusiasm.
Lisa's body froze for just a second before she fell limp. I watched her body crash to the ground.
I felt nothing for her, nothing of myself.
"I win again!" I walked forwards, sidestepping Lisa's body. I didn't even check to see if she was still alive. Instead, I moved with purpose to the window that out looked the street below. I pulled away the curtains and stared down. But it wasn't me. Not anymore.
In the faint mirror effect the window gave, I caught a glimpse of my eyes.
I felt no fear this time. No guilt. No pain.
I accepted my fate now. The game was over.
"Oh no!" My own voice was unrecognisable as I stared out through an unresponsive body. Tilly's ecstatic laughter filled my ears as I caught a monstrous grin in my reflection.
"The game is never over!"