Note: This is based on The Forbidden Game by L. J. Smith. I really encourage you to buy or borrow the book!
Sakura's mind was cluttered with thoughts, or more like stabbing stress. The back of her head throbbed as the blood pulsed painfully to the base of her skull. Trying to ignore her hankering headache, she sighed, stuffed her hands into her coat pockets and quietly strolled down the sidewalk. The fall air bit into her skin, but she loved the feeling of being alive it ignited.
She walked by stores looking for anything in particular for her artistic friend, Sai, would like for his birthday. She knew what he would probably want, but everybody else would have gotten him something similar, like pastels, paint, and stationary. She was aiming for originality.
Spotting a group of questionable people across the street her blood froze and a stony fear travelled through her body, making her as stiff as a corpse. She walked by the group and they watched her pass. Sakura was not the type of person to label people from the way they dressed or acted, but by the looks of the tattoo that was stamped on the left of their necks they were probably a gang and she certainly did not want to be confronted by them
The majority of them were bald or had crew cuts and visible tattoos on their chests and face – some were wearing leather jackets with the front opened and a wife-beater underneath. She jogged across the dead street, silent like night, but still bright as day. Her chest quivered and shook, she definitely needed a thicker jacket or tougher guts. Either one would have been nice at the moment.
She could hear a metal baseball bat hit the sidewalk and the most blood chilling sound as it was dragged across the pavement.
They were going to jump her for whatever reason, because whatever they thought she had, she didn't. She had no expensive phones, jackets, shoes, nothing. Plus, she couldn't believe that they would attack her in broad daylight.
Her long legs stretched, her feet slapping against the pavement as she sprinted. Her heart hammered uncomfortably in her chest, making her think how ironic would it be if they did hammer her chest. Their heavy sneakers hit the sidewalk, at least four of them were after her. Her breaths were short and quick as she turned corners and weaved through alleys, but it was useless, they knew this area better than her and the scary part was they knew that.
They were beginning to catch up, just five more steps and a swing and she'd be out cold. Sweat trickled down her face and her legs began to tire. Swerving around corner, Sakura looked up and realized something vitally devastating: Dead end.
She wiped her forehead and circled around looking for, hoping for, an escape out of the mess she brought upon herself. She could hear several heavy shoes nearing the alley she was in. Sakura, in panic desperately looked, but couldn't find no reprieve. Scanning the wall she saw a stainless steel door knob – breathing a sigh of relief she pounced on it and opened the door.
Once inside she slammed the door shut and locked it. She turned around and laid her head back onto the door, releasing a noisy breath. Sakura clutched onto her chest with her right hand, as the drumming sound pounded her head.
Her mouth was painfully dry, as she gasped for air.
"Can I help you?"
Startled, she jumped and nearly fell as she grabbed onto a table near her to keep balance. She fumbled to fix herself.
"Uhm, I'm not really sure. What do you sell here?" She was still trying to compose herself, she could hear the trembling in her voice. It was so shaky, even her body was shaking from the adrenaline. Her knees were weak, but she forced herself to walk deeper into the store to look at the speaker.
"Well, if you take a look around its kind of obvious," the person answered smugly.
Sakura furrowed her brows a little insulted, she took a closer look at the person and couldn't help but notice how attractive he was. She was guessing this was why her first impression of him was so poor. Nonetheless, she looked around the store and noticed stacks and stacks of board games, video games, game consoles, and every piece of technology crammed into the small store.
He looked at her with an amused expression on his face, arms crossed in front of his chest. Sakura, could feel her fear dissipate as it was replaced with growing irritation. She stared at him and noticed how his hair stuck up so effortlessly. It seemed almost . . . unearthly.
"Thanks for the flattery, but is there anything that interests you besides my face?" He grinned at her devilishly. She wasn't sure if he was trying to flirt or make fun of her. Maybe he was doing both. She didn't flush, she wasn't embarrassed, just thrown off kilter that he was so blunt.
"Uh, sorry? I just don't know what I'm looking for," she retorted.
"No problem, that's what I'm here for," he replied smoothly. His black eyes were glinting with a hint of playfulness and something else she couldn't identify as he began to approach her.
"What's the occasion?"
Still feeling frazzled Sakura paused for a second forgetting why she came out. She raked her brain for the answer, but the longer she took, the more the guy took it a 'different' way.
"Birthday, and I'm guessing any game is good enough," she finally answered. He smiled and Sakura couldn't help but cough, this time embarrassed at herself. He made her want to throw herself outside and start running from the people chasing her.
"Any game?" He asked, coming out from behind the counter. Taking a step back, she nodded her head, and dug her hands into her pockets.
"Then I have just the game for you," he said taking a step forward, his face a little less than an arm's length away from hers. She could smell the mint on his breath and couldn't help but feel self-conscious of her own.
As fast as he stepped forward he stepped back and walked away into the back room. She waited patiently for him as she looked around at the video games. She wasn't a big player, but she wished she was. She couldn't afford to spend too much money on games.
She turned when she heard what sounded like a rustle of game pieces and a clank on the counter.
"I think this game will be sufficiently entertaining, just like your visit here," he smiled teasingly at her. Did he treat all his customers like this? Besides that, did he even get any customers? The location was hardly convenient, but his looks would likely bring a crazy amount of business. Men and women alike would definitely come flooding in like bees to honey. Deep down, she frowned a little jealous of his good looks. She really wanted to give him attitude, but couldn't find it in herself to be rude.
She faked a laugh as she replied, "Right, how do you play it?" She looked at the rectangular metal box, it was a matte onyx box that allowed no light to reflect, but yet had this ability to gleam darkly. If this wasn't going to be a gift she would have certainly cherished such an oddly alluring box.
"You have to buy it to know," he winked at her as she raised a brow. He leaned back on the counter his white shirt stretching over his toned chest. He was built like Adonis, carrying with him a mixture of boyish charm and sexual masculinity. She cringed, creating a fist in her pocket as she choked that thought with all her mental strength.
"You're not trying to con me are you?" She asked crossing her arms. He raised a brow, a smile still present on his face.
"Nope, how about this: I give it to you for free and you come back and give me a review on the game," he said as he shrugged nonchalantly.
"Are you serious?" She looked at him suspiciously, there was seriously something up with this guy. Was he teamed up with the people outside? She knew she was over thinking it, it was just a game that he was allowing her to have a free trial of, right?
Sakura then remembered Sai's love for strategy games and said, "Wait, actually, I was kind of hoping on a video game," she said nervously, feeling a little bad that he went to the trouble to get it.
"No worries, it's got it all here. It's both a board game and video game. You can play either one to your favour," he smirked at her. Sakura could feel a sense of wild danger exuding from him, electrifying his surroundings – he was bad news just waiting to make the headlines.
"What game console?" She asked.
"Xbox One, it's got a drawing tablet too," he replied indifferently. Sakura tried not to feel weird, but this guy was seriously making it hard. No matter how icily he spoke, there was a flare to it, like he knew her and was merely making conversation with an old friend. Though he may have grinned, smiled, and smirked, something about it all irked her, like he didn't do it often. That his face was stoic on all occasions, but she ignored her unease. Besides, he couldn't have known Sai was into art, she hadn't even mentioned it to him.
"Is it a horror game?" She asked out of the blue.
He chuckled and paused to look at her, "Yes it is."
"Oh okay, I'll take it, how much?" She knew he said it was free or free trial or whatever, but she really didn't want to come back here ever again. She didn't even know what was in the box. It could have been a bomb for all she knew, but she just wanted out. Now jittery, she looked at her watch and made note that it was seven, how long had she been out here? Three hours? She needed to get home and get ready and prepare snacks.
"I told yo – "
Sakura cut him short, "I know, but I feel bad" – she paused trying to think of an excuse – "that I'm just taking this free of charge, besides it's a present for someone," she finished off.
He rolled his eyes at her and went behind the counter where the cash register was and motioned her to come. Sakura reluctantly walked up to the counter waiting for him to tell her the price. He punched in some numbers and on the side the tiny screen lit up, '$20'. Taking out her wallet from her back pocket she pulled out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to him.
Taking the game off the table she turned and curtly said, "Thanks, bye," and walked to the exit. Unlocking the door and turning the door knob she thought she heard, 'See you later', but shook it off as her imagination.
Once she was outside, Sakura walked to the mouth of the alleyway and peeked left and right to see if the people were still waiting for her. They weren't. Sakura breathed a sigh of relief and turned around to look at the door she had just come out from. To her surprise it no longer was there, not even the door knob. Sakura scratched her head confused, 'The hell?'
She didn't press herself on the subject, maybe the door knob blended in with the wall.
Tucking the box under her arm, Sakura made a run for it, just in case there was really something she needed to run from. She didn't stop until she reached an intersection full of other pedestrians. Putting her hands on her knees, she took deep breaths to relieve her aching lungs.
Walking the rest of the way home, she checked her watch, 7:10 PM. She had some time on her hands to take a shower and get everything ready. The party wouldn't start till eight-thirty.
Pulling out the card key she scanned it onto the machine and opened the door, and rushed into an open elevator. Her legs were starting to kill her. Pressing '18', she waited till it was her turn to get off.
After taking a quick shower, Sakura went into the kitchen to get large plastic bowls for the snacks. Loudly exhaling in satisfaction, she flopped down onto the couch, ordered pizza, and turned on the television. When the pizza arrived she placed it on the coffee table for easy access.
She jumped, surprised by the sudden sound.
"Hello? Ah, yes, I'll buzz you in,"
There was a knock on the door and Sakura rushed to answer it, hoping that it wasn't just one person but everybody coming in a group. To her relief it was. Tenten and Ino were loudly chatting, except for the quiet and shy Hinata; Naruto was arguing with Sai, fist held high as he yelled a string of curses. Slowly they trickled in placing their gifts by the door.
Naruto turned his head to the left and tapped his cheek towards Sakura, only to have her push his face away, he pouted at her and began to whine as he threw his arm around her shoulders, "Aww, Sakura, why don't you ever give me a kis – "
"Shut up." Sakura pinched his cheek, nail biting into his skin mercilessly and Naruto nodded his head stiffly, his eyes looking at her with terror. Sakura's temper was not to be tampered with. He sighed with relief when she released him.
Naruto's looks were deceiving. He seemed as if he was not mischievous with his sunny hair, sun-kissed skin, and transparent blue eyes, but he was every bit of that word. As embarrassing as it was to say, Sakura had a crush on him when she first entered high school, but then after a chance conversation with him during a biology lab, she completely changed her mind.
"Move dickless, stop causing problems," Sai voiced monotonously. Naruto glared at him, cracking his knuckles, but was stopped short when Sakura grabbed him by the ear dragging him inside with the others behind him chuckling and giggling.
"Okay guys, snacks are on the dining table and pizza and drinks are on the coffee table," Sakura shouted as she turned on the TV to pop the movie in.
"Awesome, let's get this party started!" Ino yelled as she danced sensually into the living room, picking up a pizza and stuffing it into her mouth.
Once everybody was settled in with a mountain of food on their plates, Sakura played a movie.
Everybody was sprawled on the couch and floor after eating three large boxes worth of pizza and one gigantic cake baked by Hinata. Sakura got up to stand to ease the bloated feeling, but Naruto held fast onto her shoulder and announced, "Time for presents!"
Tenten quickly got up from her seat on the couch and brought a gift wrapped in brown paper, the size of large poster. It was quite thick and heavy, but she had the muscle mass to bench press Hinata so it served her no problem in weight, but only in size.
Sai tried to remove the tape carefully trying not to rip the paper, he was one of those people who liked to preserve wrapping paper. Naruto rolled his eyes and brought his fingers to where the papers met and viciously ripped at it till a blank white canvas was exposed. A burst of laughter escaped from Ino and Tenten, while Sakura's jaw dropped.
"Naruto!" Bringing her fist towards his head Naruto cackled.
"He would have taken forever!"
Sai took it in stride, his face as blank as his gift, thanked Tenten, and moved onto the next one. It was so much like Sai to be unaffected by Naruto's antics, always cool, calm, and collected. When Sakura first met him, it was like he wasn't present in the world, always far from people, or far above them, looking down at everybody. His pompous air truly made her dislike him, then hate after their first conversation started as, "Hey, ugly, move." Humiliated in front of her classmates who began to guffaw, she was fuming. She drew her arm back and gave him one good sucker punch into the gut. The laughter stopped and she stood victorious. After that moment, a strange and curious friendship bloomed between them where jabs were exchanged, then ideas, then lives. Their friendship always stood on that peculiar and unwanted balance of love and hate, but they both didn't seem to mind. There was no changing that Sai would definitely get on her nerves one way or another.
After unwrapping everyone's gift, the last one left was Sakura's, she brought it over unsure what his reaction would be since she herself didn't know what lay in the box and in all honesty she wasn't sure if she wanted to know. The guy in the store was a shady and unnerving character.
Sai carefully pried the box open then looked carefully at its contents. He pulled out a thin tablet with a stylus and then a shiny black metal case. Everyone looked at it with interest, even Sakura was watching intently.
"Sakura, what'd you get him?" Ino asked, everybody turned to look at her.
Sheepishly, she scratched the back of her head, "To be honest," she paused, unsure how they would react, "I don't know."
Flabbergasted, Ino sputtered, "What do you mean you don't know?"
"Some guy at the store said it was a horror game, he didn't really explain what it was about, just that you could play a video game or board game version."
"Looks nice though," Sai added. He opened the black metal case with a click and sitting on the plush velvet support inside was a disk with the same texture as the box, no name, no logo. Nothing was on it. Sakura scrunched her brows, uncertain and hoping there were instructions somewhere.
Sai flipped the disk over as Naruto took the box from his lap pulling out from the bottom a thin wooden board, he turned it over to reveal an intricate path starting from one end of the board to the other inlaid with silver, but not much else.
"Hey, look there's something written on the bottom of the box," Naruto passed the box to Hinata to read as he inspected the board.
"It says if we're going to play the video game version we need to take a photo of each person then draw our worst fears onto the tablet in order to begin the game."
"That's it?" Sakura asked.
Hinata turned the box over, then reached for the lid searching if there was anything else and replied, "Yes, that's all it seems to say."
"That sounds fun, here put it in Sai!" Tenten reached for the remote and changed the television setting as Sai inserted the disk into the console.
As the screen changed to a black screen, a feeling of pure dread rose in Sakura's throat threatening to suffocate her, she clenched her jaw shut. Sai lifted the tablet and the television changed to her living room.
"I guess we take the pictures now." He turned to Tenten who smiled sweetly, then Hinata who shyly looked up, until he finally took one of himself. The screen then darkened and words appeared in a gothic script.
Please draw your worst fears.
"Oooh, scary!" Ino squealed sarcastically.
Sakura gulped as Sai handed her the tablet, which she estimated it to be about twenty-five centimetres in length and fifteen centimetres in width. On the left side was a vertical panel so that it could be held in the hand without disturbing the drawing pad and on the top left corner was a screen that allowed her to see was what was being drawn. Choosing the colour black, she merely filled out the entire display to represent the dark. She wasn't afraid of the dark per se, but she was afraid of what lurked in it when she imagined grotesque faces.
The tablet was passed on, and Sakura wondered to herself, what were everybody else's fears? Were they monstrous creatures that didn't exist like hers, or were they stereotypical fears? Things like standing in front of a crowd naked, or was it . . . death? Sakura shivered, her skin crawled and the feeling that this wasn't right never left her. She clenched her cold hands together and watched as each person drew their fears. Some took five minutes like they were already certain, some took longer thinking what it could possibly be. Sai, stared at the tablet and once he started Sakura knew whatever it was it would not only be a brilliant piece of art, but something she would never guess. Sai was not an open book she could leaf through.
When they finished the same script appeared and changed after each sentence, reading:
You must know that the world you are about to enter is a dangerous one.
A universe that lies beyond the reach of the one in which you live in, close yet far.
It lies in the shadows.
Swear that you understand that you can be killed.
"I'm a little creeped out," Naruto rubbed his arms as he looked around the room to see if the others shared his sentiments.
"Man, that is so cheesy" – Ino scrunched her nose in distaste – "It's just a game Naruto, they want to scare you. That's why it's called horror, you know, but this is a poor example," Ino remarked haughtily as she grinned at him.
Tenten laughed agreeing with Ino and said, "I swear that I understand." Everybody followed suit looking at the screen, clearly questioning whether the game would be terrifying.
Just like that the darkness in the screen exploded before anybody could react and engulfed them. Slowly losing consciousness, in the pitch black Sakura saw a glimmer, it looked like dark eyes staring at her.
She realized the look she was not able to identify.
It was hunger.