“I already told you I’m going,” I said to Eden that Friday. School had just gotten out and Eden was determined to keep me from going to the graveyard. Regardless of what she said, I already made up my mind and I wasn’t going to cancel just because of her. I needed to find out what was going on. I needed answers.
“Josh, wait,” Eden said, running to try and catch up with me as I reached my car. Opening the driver’s door, I slipped into the seat and closed it before Eden reached me. Then, instead of talking to me, she went and stood behind the car, blocking my way out of the parking lot.
Rolling down my window, I yelled, “Eden, move out of the way!”
“You can’t go!” Eden pleaded one last time. “It’s not safe.”
I knew it wasn’t, but that couldn’t stop me. “I’m going. Now please move.”
For a moment I thought she wasn’t going to move, but finally, she stepped out of the way and I pulled out of the school parking lot and headed toward the graveyard. In just a couple hours, I’d be coming face to face with the mastermind behind it all. At least that was the hope. I just kept my fingers crossed that it wasn’t Damien.
The school bell rang, and instead of heading to the bus, I was going toward the parking lot to meet my parents. We were going to see Lucas in the hospital. They asked him to stay a few days because along with the gash on his part, they said he had a concussion from hitting his head one something when the stink bomb went off.
I turned to see my best friend, Ruby. She smiled at me. I tried to smile back but it probably came off more as a grimace. “Hey, Ruby. I’m going to meet Lucas at the hospital. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”
Ruby frowned. “Is he okay?”
I shrugged. “I haven’t seen him. Mom and Dad are pretty pissed that he had a gun. Apparently it wasn’t even ours.”
“He had a gun?” Ruby asked.
“Yeah. And thank God he did. Otherwise I would have been stabbed right in my chest, and they would have found my organs spilled all over the floor, most likely.” Thank God for Lucas. Thank God for him having that damn gun, even if it was suspicious that he had one. But I knew he was caught up in something. I just wasn’t sure what it was yet. Whoever the Masquerade was came to send Lucas a message: To stay out of the “game.” Whatever that was.
“Huh. Who would have thought he had it in him?” Ruby said. She gave me a quick hug and said, “I hope he’s okay. Just don’t let him know I said that.”
I nodded. On my way out of the school, I got stopped by another person. This girl was a cute little girl, who looked about 13. But I had a feeling she was a freshman.
“Hey, are you Leslie?” she asked.
“I am,” I replied. “But I really have to get going.”
“Oh, of course. I, uh, heard about what happened to Lucas.” The girl stopped and said, “Can you give him this note? Tell him it’s from Rachel.” Then she walked away, leaving me wondering what the heck that was all about. I thought about reading the note, but I had a feeling I didn’t want to know what was inside.
It was time. I called Matt and he met me outside my house at 6 PM. The sun was starting to go down, and as I climbed into the passenger seat, he laughed at me.
“What?” I asked.
“Are you going to tell me why exactly we’re following Josh to a graveyard tonight?” Matt asked. “Did he kill somebody? Are we going to watch him bury the body?”
For some reason, I actually laughed. “No, Josh didn’t kill anybody. I’m trying to keep him from getting killed, if this counts for anything. So drive.”
We were driving for a few minutes, and I knew then that Josh would be mad at me the second he saw us. Not that I cared. I’d be a bad friend if I let him come out to a graveyard in the middle of the night alone.
“This is about Masquerade, isn’t it?”
My heart stopped. I turned to look at Matt, who kept his eyes on the road. His hands were gripped on the steering wheel and fear came over me. “W-what are you talking about?” I stammered.
He turned to glance at me for a second before looking back at the road. “Just answer the question. Is this about Masquerade?”
“How do you know about Masquerade?” I asked. This couldn’t be happening. I had a really bad feeling about this.
Matt didn’t answer for a moment. “I heard about it on Facebook,” he said. “Apparently Masquerade attacked a girl two nights ago. They just did a press conference about it two hours ago. That’s what they’re calling the person. Masquerade.”
My mouth hung open. “Masquerade attacked someone? I didn’t hear anything about that! Who was it?”
“Some girl named Leslie Sanders,” Matt said. “She’s a sophomore. Her brother’s a freshman and in the hospital. They won’t say what exactly happened, but according to the report, Masquerade attempted to murder her.”
Murder. Assault. Masquerade. My palms started sweating and I tried to relax. Inhaling was becoming an issue and my chest tightened with pressure. “Stop the car.”
“I SAID STOP THE CAR!” I screamed, and Matt slammed on the brakes. Opening the passenger door, I fell out on the ground, clutching my chest. I couldn’t breathe. Soon Matt was at my side and he was holding me.
“Eden, relax,” he said softly. “You’re having a panic attack.”
I tried to relax, but I couldn’t. Masquerade. Murder. Assault. Masquerade. Assault. Murder. Murder. Murder. The word kept replaying over and over in my mind. This is the game. To torture us. To kill us. To scare us.
After a few minutes, I stood up, brushing myself off. My breathing was back to normal. I looked down at Matt who was still sitting on the ground. He smiled at me weakly and said, “Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “No. All the more reason to go save Josh.”
Night had fallen. The mood was hanging high above the graveyard, and the light from the moon made it easy to navigate around the tombstones. I sat there waiting, looking at my phone, hoping for a text of some sort. So far nothing.
I listened to the sounds around me. Crickets chirping. Wind blowing. Cars driving by.
Feet crunching in the leaves.
I turned around but no one was there. Standing up, I turned on my phone to use as a little bit more light when I got a text.
“Welcome. It’s good to see you. I wish I could show myself, but I cannot. Not yet. Only when you’re ready for the truth.”
No signature. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really Masquerade, White Masquerade, or Damien. I wanted it to be Damien. It had to be. As if the person was reading my mind, I got another text.
“Remember the first time? I bet you do. It was the first time you ever realized the truth about yourself.”
My heart stopped. One who didn’t understand it would have thought the text was vague. But to me it wasn’t. I remembered.
It was the first day of freshman year. Damien and I were at his house, but he had gone to take a shower. I was sitting on his bed when his computer dinged. Our friendship was so good that we normally checked each other’s messages if the other wasn’t around. Why not? It wasn’t like we had anything to hide.
I walked over to the computer and shook the mouse so the screen popped up. It was a message from some girl–someone I didn’t know–and what I saw shocked me. It was a nude picture of her.
What the hell? I thought. Why is this girl sending nude photos of herself?
What made it even weirder was that I’d never seen a girl’s body before, but looking at one at that moment, I realized it wasn’t doing anything for me. It wasn’t that hot. Curious as to why this girl sent a photo of herself, I scrolled up, but only had to go so far to see what started the exchange.
There was a photo of Damien. Naked.
“What are you doing?”
I turned around to find Damien standing there in a towel. Taking a long look, I saw he was starting to get abs and his chest was…nice. I tried hard not to look. This wasn’t what friends did, was it? But looking at him was making me kind of…hot.
“Uh…I was looking to see a new message you got. It’s from some girl. Do you know her?”
Damien didn’t say anything at first. He walked over to the computer and saw that his nude photo was on the screen. At first, he seemed confused. Very confused. And as if something switched inside of him, he smiled, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t want you to see that. I should have told you not to look. This is embarrassing.”
“No, it’s uh…it’s okay,” I said. Really, it was. In fact, I actually kind of liked looking at it. And that was when I realized the truth. I was in love with him. All those times I thought my feelings were more than a need to be friends…I was right. He was attractive to me.
“It won’t happened again.” Then he logged out of his account and I saw him typing. Next thing you know, he was back on Facebook.
“What did you just do?” I asked. “Weren’t you just signed in?”
“That account is my fake account,” he said nonchalantly. “Now go. You already saw me naked once. Don’t need to see it again.”
I walked out of the room, closing the door behind me, wondering why I really wanted to go back in there.
That was the day I realized I had feelings for Damien. That whole account was a mystery, but it became very clear to me that something from that memory needed to be recollected. This person wanted me to know. It had to be Damien…but how did he know I had feelings for him?
“What do you want me to remember?” I said out loud, hoping they could hear me. “Is that you…Damien?” Tears formed in my eyes but I tried not to let them out. “Damien, if that’s you and you know the truth…I always wanted to tell you. Just…tell me what I need to know. Tell me if it’s you. Tell me what’s going on.”
I waited a few seconds. My phone beeped.
“I will reveal my identity soon enough. But remember the past. Remembering the past can help you with your future.”
The past. The memory. There was something there I needed to remember. Something important. Something that could help…
The fake account.
“Is it the fake account?” I asked out loud. “Damien had a fake account that he used for…things. But is that what I need to remember?”
Then from behind a tree, a figure stepped out.
Lucas was sitting in his hospital bed, looking at his phone, which he wasn’t supposed to have. I knocked on the door, even though it was open, and he smiled when he saw me. “Hey, sis.”
I tried to force a smile, but it didn’t work. “Where are Mom and Dad? They came in before me.”
“They went to go get my some food,” he said. “Are you feeling okay?”
I laughed. “I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be asking you that. But…that’s not why I’m here. We need to talk about what happened the other night. With Masquerade.”
Lucas looked away from me, avoiding my eyes. “Nothing. You know everything. I heard a noise and went downstairs to see what it was. And then I saw Masquerade was going to hurt you, so…I just…” He trailed off. For some reason this didn’t seem like the confident Lucas I’d seen the other night.
It seemed like an act.
Masquerade stood there, about twenty feet away, watching me. And in one of their hands was a gleaming knife.
“Is it you sending me these texts?” I asked. “Are you messing with me? Huh? Is this part of the game?”
But I realized very quickly that we weren’t alone. Turning around, I saw White Masquerade standing there. There was a gun in their hand. And they were pointing it right in my direction, but I couldn’t tell if it was aimed at me or Masquerade.
I fell to the ground when the gun went off.
At first I thought I’d been hit, but realized I only fell in fear. The gun didn’t hit Masquerade either, because they were running through the trees.
“Wait!” I screamed.
“Josh!” a voice yelled. I looked to see Eden and that new guy, Matt, running toward me. “Oh my God, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” I said as they helped me up. “But what the hell are you doing here? I thought I told you I could handle this!”
“Yeah, you look like you’re doing so well handling this alone,” Eden snapped at me. “You know, cowering on the ground.”
I glared at her. “The fun went off! There’s two of them!”
“There’s really two for sure now?” Eden asked. “A White Masquerade and Masquerade?”
I nodded. “And from what I can tell…they’re not friends. That’s for sure.”
Driving home was quiet. Josh didn’t want to talk to me, but said thank you to Matt. Of course he would. Sitting in the passenger seat of Matt’s car, arms crossed over my chest, I avoided conversation.
“Eden,” Matt said. “You did the right thing. I would have done it for him, too, had you not.”
“That’s because you like him,” I snapped. I don’t know why I was so mad about that.
Matt said, “I don’t like him, per se. I think he’s cute. But don’t admit that to him. The point is, I’d like to get to know him. And after tonight, seeing that go down…I really want to be there to help him. What was he even doing out there anyway?”
“Looking for an old friend,” I sighed. Then, as we drove along the road, I saw something. Someone. “Hey, slow the car down.”
Matt slowed down the car and as we got closer, I saw that it was a female. She had blonde hair and it looked like dried up blood was stuck in her hair. Make-up was smeared and clothes were torn. What in the world?
“Roll down the window,” I said to Matt. When he did, I stuck my head out the window and said, “Hey, are you okay?”
The girl looked up at me and wiped tears from her eyes. “I-I’m fine.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
“Sixteen,” the girl replied.
“Do you need a ride? We can take you to a police station.”
She seemed hesitant, but finally, she nodded. She climbed in the backseat and we drove in silence for a few minutes. I couldn’t take it anymore. Looking in the backseat, I asked, “What’s your name? What happened to you?”
The girl opened her mouth to say, then closed it again. After some thinking, she said, “Haven. My name is Haven.”