A Cat and Mouse Game

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lydia attends a masqeurade party set up in a hedge maze with her classmates. The masquerade is hosted by the private academy's psychology professor. Once the students enter the maze, the shreiking begins. Someone in the maze is murdering Lydia's classmates, and she's determined to stop them before it's too late.

Submitted: March 10, 2015

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Submitted: March 10, 2015

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There was a blood curdling scream, then silence. 

Lydia ran faster, but her eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the complete darkness all around her. With the fear of tripping or running into something, Lydia stopped and grabbed on to a branch sticking out of the nearest hedge. It was a cloudy night, and without the light from the moon and stars, she was blanketed under a black cloak. 

The garden at her psychology teacher, Professor Walters’, estate, was adorned with pruned flowers, stone birdbaths and a large maze carved out of sculpted hedges—a maze that Lydia was now trapped in.

It was Professor Walters’ annual, end of the year masquerade party for the seniors of Cedar Hall Preparatory Academy. The masquerade marked the end of their time at the academy. It also occurred the weekend before many of them would be receiving letters. Letters from Ivy League Schools that they did, or did not, get accepted into.

Cedar Hall Students looked forward to the party when they first entered the school as freshman. They would hear the seniors talking excitedly in the halls about what masks they were going to wear. And the day after the party, they would longingly scroll through pictures posted by upperclassmen to Facebook—pictures depicting a Gatsby-esque environment. Then, they would begrudgingly wait four years until it was their turn at the fun.

When Lydia arrived at the party, glowing lamps had illuminated the maze. There had even been twinkling Christmas lights woven through the perfectly trimmed, green bushes. The garden looked more like a place inhabited by fairies or celestial beings than mere humans. It was just like she had seen in the Facebook pictures. 

Lydia couldn’t remember how long she had been in the maze before the lights coming from the lamps and bulbs had one by one dimmed, then vanished completely. She knew it couldn’t have been more than two or three minutes. 

Overhead, from the large speakers that had been playing classical music, came a high pitched, childlike voice. The voice was singing, and Lydia recognized the song.

“Three blind mice, three blind mice,

See how they run, see how they run,

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a thing in your life,

As three blind mice?”

It was the popular nursery rhyme she had sung as a child. But the voice that sang now did not remind Lydia of the laughter and joy of her youth. Instead, the voice repeating the words sent chills down her spine.

As the first line of the song started again, there was another gut-wrenching scream. This time, it sounded closer to her—as close as the other side of the hedge she was clinging to. She willed her eyes to adjust to the night.

After the lights had gone out, a chorus of screaming and wailing ripped from the other partygoers scattered about the maze. After the second scream, however, there came a silence so eerie it made the hair on Lydia’s arms stand straight up.  

After what felt like hours, she let go of the hedge. Finally able to see a few feet in front of her, she picked up her pace again. But this time as she ran, she tried to make as little noise as possible. She didn’t know what, or who, was causing her classmates to scream, but she didn’t want to be next. 

Rounding the first corner she came upon in the maze, she stopped dead in her tracks. Lying on the ground, just five feet away, a lifeless body blocked her path. Her mouth opened to let out a gasp. Luckily, she was able to catch her breath just in time, and remained quiet.

Slowly, she approached the crumpled heap of clothing and limbs. As she got close enough to see the victim’s face, she was brought back to the reality of where she was, and why she was there. 

Instead of a human face, Lydia stared into the face of a mouse. 

“It’s strange, isn’t it?”

Lydia looked up to see a figure approaching her—a figure wearing a mask shaped like the face of a mouse. 

She recognized the voice as that of her friend, Andrew Gibbs.

“Andrew?” she asked to reassure herself.

“I thought the tradition was that Professor Walters assigned us all different masks.” Andrew was now close enough that she could tell it was him. Even behind the grey mold of a pink nose and white whiskers, Lydia could make out his trademark boyish cheeks and mouth. 

Lydia reached up to touch her own face, and felt the bumpy glitter of the gold, paper mache mouse mask. She had bought the mask in Venice, Italy, the summer after her junior year. The day before the party, she’d opened the envelope from her psychology professor informing her of what mask she was to wear to his masquerade.

She had been ecstatic to see the word “mouse” written in black, curvy calligraphy on the cream-colored stationary. She would finally be able to put the pricey mask to use, instead of having to make her own or buy one from a cheap party store. Which was what most of her friends would be doing.

She moved her hand away from her face and inspected the gold glitter that stuck to the tops of her fingers. “I guess the three of us got the same memo.”

They stared back at the body on the ground. Blood had oozed out of what looked like a stab wound in the person’s chest, forming a red puddle. Andrew crouched down and carefully removed the dead girl’s mask. 

“I just saw her this morning…she was looking for a mask.” Andrew’s voice sounded emotionless. 

Lydia looked down into half open, emerald green eyes. It was Gloria Medley, head of the women’s lacrosse team. 

“Did you see what happened?” Lydia tried to keep the suspicion from her voice.

“I was at the other end of this row. You were standing here before I even got close enough to see her body.” He didn’t try to hide his defensiveness, and his words stung. 

Prior to tonight, Lydia would have never second guessed Andrew’s good character. But as she stood there watching the blood drain from Gloria’s body, she didn’t know what to think. She felt guilty for even letting herself question whether or not it was Andrew who had killed Gloria.

At the same time, he was the only person she had seen so far in the maze… the only person alive, at least. And for someone that just found the dead body of someone he knew, Andrew acted surprisingly calm.

Another scream broke the awkward silence. The scream came from in front of them, where Andrew had just been. Without pause, he ran the opposite direction. Rounding the corner of the hedge, he left Lydia standing alone in his dust. 

Lydia knew that Andrew was headed the wrong way. He was running towards the entrance of the maze, which had been shut off by a handcrafted metal gate. She had seen the gate being padlocked behind her by one of the many servers walking around the estate’s grounds.

The white-aproned man had told her she was the last guest, and then wished her luck. She had smiled at his words, excited to find her way through the maze with her fellow Cedar Hall Preparatory classmates. 

Although the prize at the end of the maze was always kept a secret, all of the students knew it would be something very elaborate—something she would want. Last year, the student that made it to the end of the maze first won a two week vacation to France. The year before, the winner drove away in a Ferrari. The prize was so sought after that this year a new rule had been put in place when going through the maze: no cell phones. 

Professor Walters said he wanted the game to be completely fair. He didn’t want anyone using GPS or calling their friends for help. So, before entering the maze, students had to drop their phones in a box to be retrieved later.  

After being in the maze for less than ten minutes, Lydia’s mind was no longer occupied with winning whatever lay at the maze’s center. And the server’s well-wishes now gave her an uneasy feeling. 

If she had to use one word to describe herself, the word “brave” wouldn’t even cross her mind. As a child, she had been afraid of pretty much everything. Her fears had lessened as she’d grown older, but she was still known as the “scaredy-cat” of her family.

However, the knowledge that there was nowhere out but through, and the terror she heard in the third scream compelled her to run forward.

The row of hedges on either side of her seemed never ending. She kept putting one foot in front of the other, hoping the hedges would soon give way to a curve in a different direction. Just as she could faintly see a hedge blocking the path in front of her, she felt herself falling to the ground. 

Caught off guard, Lydia landed with a thud on the hard, perfectly manicured grass, knocking the air out of her lungs. When she was finally able to catch her breath, she realized what had caused her to fall—another dead body. 

  This time, she wasn’t able to hold her terror inside. She let out a gasp, taking in the horror of the bloody corpse. The boy was on his back, facing up. And instead of a gaping wound, the handle of a silver knife stuck out of his chest. His mask had been knocked off, but Lydia could see it lying on the ground beside the body—another mouse.

Cedar Hall was a very small, private academy. It secretly prided itself on being home to the children of the wealthiest families in the area, and Lydia happened to be one of them. As a boarding school, Cedar Hall was where Lydia lived nine months out of the year. Needless to say, she knew, or had at least heard of, every student that attended the academy. 

The mask-less body that had caused her to trip was that of Steve Hillshire. Though she had never really talked to Steve, she, along with every other girl at school, had a crush on him.

“Run.”

Lydia jumped back. Steve’s voice sounded hoarse and strained. 

She immediately kneeled down beside him, and began the CPR technique she’d learned in her swimming class. 

“It’s going to be okay,” she whispered over and over as her voice croaked, tears forming in the corners of her eyes.

Steve inhaled deeply. His eyes glazed over as the pupils dilated, eclipsing the brown of his irises.

After checking his pulse and feeling nothing, Lydia slowly stood up. As she looked at his perfectly chiseled square jaw, splattered with the blood dripping from his lips, her fear had turned to something else: anger.  

 Two of her classmates had just been murdered, and Lydia was determined that Steve would be the last. She closed her eyes as she pulled the knife out of his chest. She had never held a large knife. Especially not one covered in thick, red blood. 

She stood there for a moment, trying to find the best way to get a good grip of the handle. Her dad, who was a surgeon, had told her that cutting through skin was not as easy as the movies made it look. If she was going to stab someone, she wanted to make sure she would only have to plunge the knife in once. 

With knife in hand, Lydia ran forward once again. She came to the edge of the row of hedges she had been in, and decided to turn left. She wound through twists and turns, frantically trying to find anyone else still alive. She was torn by her desperate desire to reach the end of the maze, and the duty she felt to help her classmates make it out alive as well. 

Lydia turned left around another corner. She had been listening closely the entire time she was running, and now she heard someone pleading.

“Please! I’m begging you. Don’t hurt me. We’re like sisters!” Lydia listened to Molly Greyson, one of her best friends since childhood, crying out. 

The anger Lydia felt burned deeper inside her as she sprinted towards her friend. When Molly came into view, Lydia abruptly halted. She felt sick to her stomach.

Wearing a purple mask shaped like a mouse, and a headband with felt ears, sat Molly. She was bunched up in the fetal position, trembling. She kept trying to inch herself back from the figure moving towards her, attempting to use the hedges as protection from the blade the figure was carrying.

The blade vibrated in the killer’s hand. Whoever held the knife was scared. She stared at the figure towering over Molly, trying to make out who they were from a distance. She slowly walked up behind them, thinking of what her next move would be, when she heard another familiar voice.

“Shut up! This is the only way!” Her other best friend, Blaire Thomas, was crying. Her fist was clenched around the knife, keeping the tip of the blade pointed at Molly.

“Stop!” Lydia shouted without thinking. “Blaire, you have to stop! She’s your best friend…I’m your best friend.”

Blaire turned on her heel, and Lydia stared into the face of a cat. 

Behind the black mask adorned with red jewels and pointy ears, Lydia could see the paleness of Blaire’s face. It was no longer just her arm shaking, but her entire body quivered. 

Lydia felt her own warm tears slide down her cheeks, and could taste their saltiness in her mouth. 

“Why are you doing this?” She felt surreal, as if she was outside her body, looking down at the scene unfolding below.

“You wouldn’t understand!” Blaire shouted, looking first at Lydia and then down as Molly. “Neither of you would understand. I am the cat and you are the mice. The cat always wins. And if the cat wins…I win.”

Lydia had now brought herself back to reality. “Understand what, Blaire? Please, we want to understand. We want this all to be over!”

Blaire stopped quivering. Her eyes glazed over just as Steve’s had when Lydia saw him take his last breath. She spoke again.

“It will be over…soon. I’ve almost made it to the end. I’ve almost slain enough mice to get the cheese.”

Lydia and Molly looked at each other, both terrified and confused.

Molly stopped pleading, and tried to reason with Blaire.

“Blaire, the game is to find your way through the maze…that’s it. If you want whatever the prize is, I’m sure you can have it. Just drop the knife and walk out of here with us.”

“It’s not just a game this year, Molly!” Blaire was enraged. “Are you really that stupid to not see it? This is an experiment.”

Lydia had flown back up to her out-of-body position above the ground, and was trying to decipher what Blaire was saying. As she listened, the puzzle pieces began to click. Professor Walters’ wife had died earlier in the semester. Ever since, he had been acting strange. The students had just chalked it up to grief, but Lydia had begun feeling nervous in his presence. And every time he talked about this year’s masquerade, he said he had something special in store. Everyone had assumed he was talking about the prize. But now Lydia wondered if he had been alluding to something more sinister.

“Did Professor Walters tell you to kill these people?” Lydia brought herself back down to reality. “Did he make you kill our friends?”

“He didn’t make me do anything, Lydia,” Blaire shot back. “I wanted to. Harvard has been my parent’s dream for me before I was even born. It had to come true.”

There was a few seconds of silence between them. Lydia and Molly were trying to soak up what they had just heard, when Blair began repeating herself over and over, as if hypnotized. 

“It’s the only way to win the game. It’s the only way to win the game…” Her robotic voice filled the night air. 

In an instant, Blaire had turned her attention solely on Molly, and reeled back her arm to stab the knife into her friend’s chest. 

Lydia’s plan had been to kill whoever it was that was murdering her friends. But now that the killer was her best friend, her plan had changed. Slashing her arm through the air, Lydia brought her own knife down on Blaire’s hand, leaving a deep gash. 

Stunned by the pain, Blaire let her unsteady knife fall to the ground. Molly untangled herself from the fetal position and grabbed the fallen knife before Blaire knew what was happening.

The two armed girls stood on either side of Blaire with their knives pointed towards her. 

In the same robotic voice, Blaire spoke again. 

“It was the only way to win the game,” she muttered. “I killed three people…does that mean I won the game?”

Blaire kept muttering to herself as Lydia and Molly escorted her through the maze. When they finally reached the end of the tunnel, they were blinded by the flashing red and blue lights of seven cop cars. 

One of the servers had used a student’s phone to dial 911 after they heard the screams coming from inside the maze. An ambulance siren, which got louder as it approached from the distance, pierced their ears.

As the girls stepped out from the hedges, three policemen surrounded and separated them. Lydia and Molly handed over their knives as they watched Blaire being pushed to the ground and handcuffed.

“It was the only way to win the game…” Her voice trailed off.

In a state of shock, Lydia stared blankly at the policeman in front of her, trying to comprehend what he was saying. It was Officer Taylor, one of the policemen that patrolled the grounds of Cedar Hall. Lydia knew him well, as he was always interacting with the students, making sure they were safe.

“Everything is alright now,” he said. “We have Professor Walters in custody.”

“How did you know it was Blaire?” Lydia was still cognitive, though in a state of shock.

 “As soon as we arrived on the scene, Professor Walters was standing at the end of the maze with his arms raised above his head.” Officer Taylor wrapped his arm tightly around Lydia’s shoulder, trying to control her trembling. “He said he wanted everyone to know it was him. He wanted to be remembered as more than just a high school psychology teacher.”

Lydia looked at Officer Taylor. He must have sensed her confusion, and continued his explanation. 

“He confessed to orchestrating this experiment, and using your friend Blaire to do it.”

Lydia had figured out some of the details from what Blaire had said while in the maze, but couldn’t figure out what Professor Walters’ goal had been. 

“What was his experiment?”

“He wanted to see how far a student would go to succeed…he promised your friend a full ride to Harvard if she…” Officer Taylor shook his head back and forth, still in disbelief. 

The picture finally became clear. Lydia felt dizzy and sick. She wanted to hate Blaire, but instead she just felt sadness for her friend. Blaire was just another pawn in Professor Walters’ cat and mouse game.

Her conversation with Officer Taylor was interrupted by a loud commotion going on by one of the police cars.

“My experiment worked,” Professor Walters shouted as another officer shoved him into the back of the vehicle. “She killed her friends. She left her humanity behind when she entered the maze, and the only thing she cared about was winning. My cat won.” 

Lydia looked from Professor Walters to all of her classmates standing around the scene who had made it out alive. 

“The cat didn’t win this time…this time the mice did.” Her quiet voice was drowned out by sirens, as Professor Walters was escorted by law enforcement to jail. A place that would become his own personal maze. 

 


© Copyright 2020 Meghan Whiting. All rights reserved.

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