1×07: Josh

“So basically, Masquerade thinks this is a game,” I said Monday afternoon at lunch. “That’s reassuring. I suppose.” To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I thought. When Eden had told me about the “game,” I thought she was joking. But when she showed me the text this morning, I knew it was true. Masquerade was playing a game.

“Right,” Eden said. “All games have an ending in mind. In hide and seek, the winner finds all those who are hidden. In Chutes and Ladders, it’s about who makes it to the top. All we have to figure out are the rules of the game, how to win it, and how to beat it.”

She made it sound like it was so simple. I didn’t think it would be. Whoever Masquerade was, they weren’t going to make it so that we could win easily. In fact, it was possible we couldn’t win at all. The thought of that was terrifying.

“I don’t even know if we can,” I said to her. “How do we know that there’s a way for us to win? What if only he can win?”

“He?” Eden asked.

I noticed the word that came out of my mouth and shrugged. “I guess it just feels like a he.”

“Maybe that’s the exact reason why it won’t be a boy,” Eden replied. “I mean, I thought it seemed like a guy, too, but we shouldn’t rule out females. Females can be vicious.”

But this vicious? I’d never heard of female stalkers. Sure, it was possible, but just how likely was it? I kept my phone’s volume a little higher today. I was more on edge than I ever had been. It seemed as though every second I was being watched, even though it wasn’t possible. I was being paranoid and knew it.

“So what do we do about it?” I asked.

“We play the game, and hope that whatever they want gets resolved quickly,” Eden said. “But I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something else.” She leaned and said whispered, “Do you think we’re the only ones?”

“The only targets?” I said. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that was something I really hadn’t thought about. Were we the only targets? Was that even possible? “I guess…I haven’t really considered anyone else. But that’s a really good question. If we’re the only targets, that’s odd since we didn’t have a connection prior to becoming friends, but you were already attacked when we became friends.”

“Exactly. There’s a connection. Something that ties this all together. But…what is it? And are there really other people involved? How would we even find out if there? We can’t just go around asking people if they’re being stalked by Masquerade.”

She had a point. So how would we find out if we were the only ones? Suddenly, our phones both buzzed at the same time. Glancing at each other, fear etched on our faces, we glanced at our phones.

“Think you’re the only ones? Think again. This game needs lots of players in order to go forward. There’s a lot you need to know.” -Masquerade

“A lot we need to know?” I said. “What do you think they mean by that?”

“I’m no expert, but…I did take psychology my freshman year and AP psychology last year,” Eden replied. “It’s possible that this person is crazy. But sometimes crazy people have reasons. Motives. What drives a person to make them do the things they do? That’s what we need to ask ourselves to figure this out.”

But it seemed as though Eden missed the point. Masquerade heard our conversation. Masquerade was here. And they were close.

***

On the ride home from school, I was about to pull into my neighborhood when I saw it. At first I thought I was going crazy, but after another glance, I knew I wasn’t losing my mind. It was Masquerade. Except this time, their disguise was different.

It was white.

They were standing off the side of the road by the gate of a graveyard. I didn’t stop my car, and instead kept driving. Should I have stopped? Maybe. But I didn’t want to risk it. I was alone, and we still didn’t know what Masquerade wanted.

My phone beeped beside me, and I waited until I got to the nearest stoplight to read the text message.

“Meet me Friday night in the graveyard. There are things we need to discuss.”

No Masquerade signature. Of course, it was an unknown number, but the fact that Masquerade didn’t sign the message made me wonder. The person that I just saw…was that Masquerade? It had to have been, right?

Unless there were two.

“No,” I said to myself, pushing on the gas when the green light lit. “That’s not possible. There are not two of them. One is enough.”

Then the other thought occurred to me. One that made my heart stop. Damien? Could that person on the side of the road have been him? Without any hesitation, I looked to make sure no other cars were on the road, and I swerved around, going back toward the graveyard.

It’s Damien, I thought. It had to be. But if it was him, why has he dressed up as some sort of white Masquerade? Was he the one messing with us? I had to find out. He had to tell me the truth.

I pulled up the the curve, jumping out of the car. There was no sign of the White Masquerade. Maybe they went inside the graveyard. As I went to go open the gate, my phone beeped again.

“Do not come inside. Come Friday. You’ll know everything then.”

It was Damien. I knew it was. I wanted to text back, but the best I could do was yell through the gate.

“I know you’re in there!” I yelled. “I’m coming back Friday, but I need to know the truth. The whole truth, no beating around the bush. You better be here.”

As I got back in my car and drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror. White Masquerade was watching me. It was the most chilling sight I’d ever encountered in a very long time.

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