I’m not going to lie and claim I’m a perfect person. Hell, I’m probably not even a decent one. I used to party all the time, got involved in casual drug use and obscene amounts of alcohol. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of, but with no family, and few friends left to worry about me, I figured why not. I didn’t have any plans past high-school, so I might as well just enjoy the little time I’d been given on this planet.
However, with the illegality surrounding drugs, it means there is some risk getting a hold of it. Usually one has to get involved with sketchy people in strange places. Most of the time, the product is good. After all, the dealers need to keep their customers alive. Still, just getting caught, or buying fake stuff was a risk I didn’t bother dealing with.
Thus, I eventually turned to the dark web. Imagine that, a place online where you can buy the best quality drugs with just a couple of clicks, and they send it directly to your address in a discrete package. It tends to be pretty safe, and people even rate the various pills, full on with forums to describe each individual experience.
As time progressed, a few of the .onion sites would begin to vanish off the face of the internet. Maybe the dealers quit, or maybe the FBI shut them down, no one really knows.
So without a steady supplier, I had to venture deeper into the dark web in search of a new place to hand me my weekly fix. I looked around on a few forums, but most of the posts were old, and a surprisingly large amount of the sites had been taken down. Of those that still remained up, most sold dubious, weak drugs.
Eventually, my search landed me with a new recommendation. It was a place I’d never even heard about, but their product was fairly cheap. As if that wasn’t good enough on its own, their site seemed exceptionally professional. It might sound stupid, but if a site presents itself with a good looking design, there’s a bigger likelihood that people blindly trust them. I never claimed to be smart.
Yes, I was one of those gullible people, and it damn near cost me my life...
The website I found, didn’t even have a name. It just displayed a logo that consisted of a pill in the center of a bullseye. It only contained a single product, but it alone had hundreds of top rated reviews, all praising it in various different languages. It didn’t seem staged, and I truly believed they had been written by different people.
With that, I decided to order a weekend package which held three pills. It was the cheapest option based on the amount of pills, and I figured it would be worth a shot. As promised, the product arrived the next Friday, with an ample amount of time before the evening would even begin.
I got ready for a night out on the town, and swallowed the first pill with half an hour to spare. Of course, I made sure the dosage was fit for my bodyweight and previous experiences, knowing the real risk of overdose if I wasn’t careful. Then, I left my house, ready to waste another night of my life, and…
With that, my memories were shattered into a million incomprehensible fragments. Whether I went to a club, or just passed out in the street, I didn’t know. It was all beyond hazy, a mesh of colors and sounds that didn’t convey any meaning. It has stolen even my most basic, cognitive functions
The next thing I remember is waking up on hard, rough wooden floorboards. I was soaked in my own vomit, but the utter confusion of where I was overrode my pain. It was dark, which came as both a blessing and a cause for unrest. At least my eyes wouldn’t suffer, but it added to the mystery of where I’d awoken.
There wasn’t much in the room, except for a cupboard, a few moldy chairs and a broken fireplace. The windows were partially boarded up, and covered by dark curtains. On the floor, lay three strangers I’d never seen before. Two men, one significantly older than myself, and the other my own age, and a young woman looking slightly older than a teenager.
I rolled over to push myself up, groaning as I realized just how much my body hurt.
“Hey!” I tried to call out, but my voice was too hoarse to produce enough volume.
Once I was finally able to push myself to my feet, I took a peek out the window. We were in a forest, and the little room we’d awoken in looked like a hunting lodge. Whether I’d met these people during a party, or if I’d just stumbled into a drug den, I didn’t know.
Then the girl started groaning, finally regaining consciousness. She looked over at me in slight panic, clearly not recognizing who I was. Then she took a glance at her surroundings, and shot to her feet in fear.
“Where am I? Who are you?”
I backed away from her a bit, giving her enough space to calm down.
“Hey, calm down. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m Wilson, I just woke up here. I was wasted last night and can’t remember what happened.”
She thought about it for a moment, before realizing she too couldn’t recall anything from the previous night.
“I was… I was just partying. I don’t remember…”
“What’s your name?”
“Alright, Lisa. Do you know where we are?”
She shook her head. Her mind was as gone as my own. As we stood there trying to figure out what was going on, the oldest man started to wake up. He had salt and pepper hair, probably in his early fifties. I bent down to talk to him, but as he saw me standing above him, he grabbed my throat, rolled over and started choking me.
“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” he yelled as he crushed my throat.
The girl tried to shove him off, but she was too small compared to the massive man. Luckily, her effort distracted him enough for me to push him to the side, just giving me enough time to catch some air.
“Stop!” I coughed out. “I’m not trying to hurt you.”
The man quickly inspected his surroundings, immediately realizing his mistake.
“Where am I?” he asked.
“We don’t know,” I said, still out of breath. “Why did you attack me like that?”
“I thought I was at home. I didn’t even leave the house yesterday. What the fuck is going on?”
He took a moment to gather his thoughts, rubbing the heavy sleep out of his eyes. He was a well built guy for his age, clearly with some experience in fighting.
Lisa went closer, ready to introduce herself. “I’m Lisa,” she said as she reached out her hand.
“Adam. Adam Morrison. Do you guys remember anything?”
We both shook our heads. The fourth guy was still unconscious, lying face down on the ground. Adam went over to shake him awake, hoping he held some clues as to what had happened the night before.
“Hey man, wake up,” he said as he shook him another time. He still didn’t react.
“Oh boy, that’s not good.”
He then proceeded to turn him over. Lisa and I immediately jumped back in shock as we noticed several bullet holes to his torso. He was dead, and probably had been for quite some time. In addition, there was a note stuck to his corpse.
Lisa and I were speechless, but Adam didn’t seem all that horrified. He just took the note off the guy, and started reading it out aloud.
“Thank you for your purchase. Let the games begin.”
On the paper, I noticed an all too familiar logo. It was the bullseye with a pill in the middle, from the same dark web site I’d purchased drugs from.
“What, you know this logo?” he asked me.
“Yeah… I - I bought some pills from there a few days ago.”
“I did the same,” Lisa said.
The man sighed. “I guess we’re all in the same boat then. Whoever these guys are, they’re not just drug dealers.”
“What do they mean by ‘games’’ though?” Lisa asked.
“I’m not sure yet, but - “
He was interrupted by someone knocking on the door. We all jumped back from the sudden noise, but none of us dared open up. Three knocks were all we got, before a paper slid in under the door.
Adam rushed to pull open the door, but there was no one on the other side. All that lay before us, was a dense forest through which someone could easily vanish within a second. We’d basically have to crawl to get through it.
He picked the note off the ground and started reading.
Thank you for participating in the yearly hunt. You have twenty-four hours to escape the forest, or you will be eliminated from the game. Hunters have been dispatched to track you down.
He handed the letter to me, and I read over it again. Just like the previous note, it held the same logo.
“What the fuck are we going to do?” Lisa asked on the brink of tears.
Adam went from window to window, making sure the rotten blinds and boards were properly covering them up.
“We’re going to get the fuck out of here. But first, you need to get out of the neon-yellow top of yours,” he said as he pointed to Lisa.
“We need to stay hidden. These bright clothes won’t help.”
He went to the nearby closet and started rummaging through it. Within seconds he found some old jackets and shoes that were wet and partially broken down over time.
“Put these on.”
My clothes were already fairly dark, as were Adam’s. He seemed experienced, which gave me a minor glimmer of hope.
“Are you sure about this?”
“Beats staying here and getting slaughtered.”
We didn’t need any further convincing. Adam seemed to be the only one with even the faintest idea on what to do. Because of that, we diligently followed him outside, keeping our heads low as we got ready to crawl through the dense forest. It was about midday, and still we couldn’t see more than a few feet ahead.
Even after a few hours passed, we still didn’t see any of the aforementioned hunters. Still, Adam kept telling us to keep quiet, and to only step where he did. Lisa struggled to keep up, as she had replaced her high heels with shoes that were two sizes too big for her feet.
Suddenly, Adam stopped dead in his tracks, causing us both to bump into him. He’d noticed something on the ground, a tripwire. It was connected to spikes that would have emerged from the ground if triggered, killing whoever unfortunate enough to walk into the trap.
“How the hell did you see that?”
“Don’t worry about that… Let’s just say I have experience with it.”
The day went on, and my legs were getting to the point of total collapse. Adam kept looking up at the sky, but the clouds had since fallen away behind a thick layer of dense clouds.
“Where are we heading?”
“South… I think. I’m not sure.”
I was exhausted, out of shape and hungry. Lisa didn’t fare much better. She sat down to take a break, which seemed to annoy Adam. No sooner had she stopped moving, before we heard a brief whizzing sound, as if a bee had flown by at incredible speed.
“What was - “ I tried to ask.
“Get down!” Adam screamed.
Another whiz was heard, followed by a hole produced in the tree behind us. Splinters exploded from the hole through the air.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I screamed as I realized someone was shooting at us.
Lisa got up to run in panic. Adam called for her to get back down, but it was too late. Several more bullet holes were created in the scenery around her as she ran, none even close to hitting her. It was almost as if they weren’t aiming at her. Instead, they just let her keep running.
She didn’t get far, before running into a traphole in the ground. There she fell about four feet onto several spikes sticking up from the ground. I didn’t dare look down in the hole, but I heard her hopeless screams. We couldn’t help her. Still, I instinctively wanted to get up and check on her, but Adam held me down.
“You wanna die?” he asked. “Just stay close to me, we need to keep moving.”
We basically crawled away from the gunshots. But just like with Lisa, none of the bullets even came close to hitting us. It felt more as if they were herding us in a certain direction, but I wasn’t going to stick around and find out if that was truly the case.
“What about Lisa?” I asked.
“She’s dead. Keep moving.”
We spent minutes crawling before reaching a hill. Once we’d gotten halfway down, the shooting stopped. Adam pulled me to my feet and we kept running downwards. At the end of the slope, we finally found a clearing leading out of the forest.
“We got out!” I almost screamed in victory, but then I noticed something in the tall grass. About a dozen, darkly dressed men stood up, each wielding a rifle. They laughed at us as we retreated back into the forest. They didn’t even raise their weapons, they just laughed and waved as we kept fleeing. One of them even gestured for us to keep running, and held up five fingers to signify how much time we had left.
We escaped from the open fields, back into a forest constantly growing in density. There were no bullets flying by, but we both knew they’d follow us where we went. We needed to get out of the forest, but neither of us knew the way. Then we saw it, a mountain in the distance, only an hour’s walk away.
But, the closer we got to the mountain, the darker it got. The clouds above were thickening, and the dense treetops blocked out every bit of light we could receive. Before long, it would start to rain, a prophecy foretold by the howling wind that accompanied us on our journey.
In the dark, I kept stumbling over roots sticking up from the ground. I told Adam to wait, but he couldn’t hear me over the howling wind. As I got back to my feet for the third time, he was just gone. I kept wandering on alone, calling out for him. Then, I almost fell into a deep pit dug into the ground. Inside, lay several dozen corpses in various stages of decay.
Then it hit me, that the hunters wanted us to go here. They needed us to see this pit, so we could know what awaited us when we inevitably lost the game.
“Adam!” I called out.
But through the developing storm, he couldn’t hear me. I just kept walking, watching as darkness overwhelmed my surroundings. I started to hear twigs breaking around me, something stalking me almost in absolute silence.
Then something caught around my leg and I came crashing down to the ground. It was a tripwire, but no trap had been activated. I let out a mild sigh of relief, when I heard someone call out for me.
I looked to the side to find Adam nailed to a tree by the trap that had been activated. He’d tripped it before me, causing him to get impaled by metal spikes. He couldn’t move, he was too wounded.
“I found the exit, but I got careless,” he groaned.
“Oh, God,” I said as I tried to pull the spikes out from his abdomen. It was a futile task, he was pretty much nailed to the tree.
There was a cave in the wall behind me. Adam pointed to it with a trembling finger.
“Just go,” he let out in merely a whisper.
With that, he let out his last breath, and drifted off to eternal slumber. Without hesitating, I started running into the cave. Once inside, I had to rely on my other senses to get through. It was pitch black, but the draft produced meant there had to be an opening on the other side. I felt my way along the walls as I heard footsteps behind me. I just kept going as fast as I could, until I finally saw the light on the other end of the tunnel.
Then I ran again, my lungs burning and my legs wobbly. I couldn’t see any rain on the other side, but the storm might just be trapped on the other side of the mountain. There were footsteps following behind me, followed by chuckles that echoed through the save. I had to keep going, I couldn’t give up.
Then I finally entered open space again, just in time for my legs to give in. I was out from the mountain, and in front of me lay nothing but empty, open fields. I tried to crawl, but I was too weak. I just turned around, and saw five men in dark clothing come outside, each of them with a rifle.
One of the men raised his weapon, ready to fire upon me, but one of the others stopped him.
“Stop,” he said. “He found the way out of the forest. The hunt has ended.”
They chuckled again, before returning into the cave. For them, it had just been a game, a hunt that they’d already gone through a hundred times before. I was just a random victim that happened to purchase a drug off their website.
It took me another three days to traverse the massive landscape and find the nearest town, but the hunters had at least let me live. Once home, I called the police, told them everything that I knew. Of course, the website had been removed by then, and I couldn’t for the life of me find the forest they’d previously chased me through.
Officially, no one has gone missing, because the people chosen for the hunt were people who wouldn’t be missed, including me. ANIMATION