1×10: The Devil Within

Josh

“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.

Leslie

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.

“Leslie!”

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.

Eden

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.”

“What?”

“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.”

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.

Shit.

“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.

Masquerade.

Leslie

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.

Josh

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.”

Eden

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.”

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1×09: Leslie

Bam!

I shot up in bed, listening for the sound again. What had just woken me up? It was the middle of the night and everyone in the house was supposed to be asleep. But it seemed as though there was a bang someone in the house. Slowly slipping out of bed, I tiptoed over to the door, creaking it open.

Sticking my head into the hall, I looked for any signs of someone. No one was there. I closed the door and went toward my window, looking outside into the dark of the night. At first I saw nothing. Just the shadows of the trees and bushes.

But then one of those shadows moved.

As they stepped out into the streetlight, I saw that it was a person. They were standing there, facing my house, then looked up. Their face was covered by a black Masquerade mask.

My heart pounded in my chest as I backed far enough away from the window, hoping the person wouldn’t see me. I picked up my phone and dialed 9-1-1. I was not going to sit around and wait for this.

The phone rang, and someone finally answered. “9-1-1, what’s your emergency?”

“There’s someone outside my house,” I whispered. “Someone wearing a masquerade mask. They were just looking in my window.”

“Ma’am, what’s your address? I’ll send officers over there right away to make sure everything’s okay,” the woman said.

“I think he was in my house,” I explained, trying to calm my nerves. “I woke up and heard a bang. And then I didn’t see anyone in the house, but I saw him outside. I don’t know if he was inside or not, though.”

“Ma’am, what’s your address?” the woman repeated again. I gave it to her and she said, “I’m sending officers on the way.”

Looking out the window, I saw no sign of the person in the masquerade mask. Did they know I saw them?

Bang!

I jumped and said, “There’s someone in the house.”

“Is anyone else in the house with you?” the woman asked.

“My brother and parents,” I said, then stopped. Lucas. Lucas said he had seen someone with a Masquerade mask out by the buses the other day. Was this the same person? If so, what would be the reason for watching us? “My brother claimed he saw someone wearing a masquerade mask out by the buses the other day after school. I thought he was making it up…”

“So you think someone has been watching you?” the woman asked.

Bang! 

“Something’s definitely going on downstairs.” I opened my bedroom door and peeked out into the hall again. I didn’t see anything. Goosebumps ran over my body, causing me to shiver. “I’m going to go check it out.”

“Ma’am, stay where you are,” the woman said. “It’s a better idea to stay where you’re safe.”

Ignoring her, I walked down the stairs, peeking around the corner to see if someone was there. No one. Continuing in the downstairs hallway, I turned to go into the kitchen when I was thrown to the ground.

I screamed, but the person standing before me was intimidating. The Masquerade. And gleaming in their right hand was a knife. They lunged at me, but I quickly stood up, avoiding the blade. The Masquerade grabbed a hold of me and I shrieked when they threw me into the refrigerator, knocking me down again. Masquerade jumped on top of me, forcing their hand over my mouth, and using the other hand, held the blade to my throat.

Neither of us made a sound. Even though I could see their eyes through the hole of the mask, I knew they were watching me. I wanted to struggle, but I couldn’t. They were too strong. Masquerade lifted the knife, ready to plunge it deep into my chest, when a voice said, “Stop.”

Masquerade turned around, giving me enough time to throw them off of me. I scrambled, trying to stand up, and ran over to where I saw my brother standing. Lucas. And my jaw nearly hit the floor when I saw he had a gun in his hand.

“Get out of the house,” Lucas said to Masquerade. “And don’t come back again.” He stood there, looking ready to take on the world. My little brother was growing up. But what scared me was the lack of fear in his eyes. The cold, dark stare he was giving the masked figure on the other side of the room.

“Oh my God!” a voice said from the top of the stairs. Mom.

“Mom, don’t come in here,” Lucas said, refusing to take his eyes off the Masquerade. I turned to see Mom and Dad standing there, watching Lucas stand his ground. But the Masquerade wouldn’t leave.

“If you don’t leave, I’m going to shoot,” Lucas said, cocking the gun. “Three…two…”

And with no warning, Masquerade threw a stink bomb right at us. I screamed again, running away, and Lucas shot the gun. I heard screams all throughout, none of which I could make out. I couldn’t see anything and fell over something, right on my face. More gunshots rang through the house, and sirens could be heard outside.

Doors opening.

Cool air.

Voices.

Once outside, an EMT was talking to me, asking me questions about what happened, but I was too scared to talk. I looked over at my brother, who had a huge gash on his arm that wouldn’t stop bleeding. I heard someone mentioned “stitches.” Someone, an officer, handed me my phone, which they found on the floor inside the house.

I had one new text message.

Opening it up, the words sent more chills down my spine.

“Tell your brother to stay out of it. This is not his game to play.” -Masquerade

Looking back over at Lucas, I knew he was hiding something from me. Underneath that strength was a dark secret. And I needed to figure out what it was.

1×08: Eden

Tuesday morning came and Dad was driving me to school. I was half tempted to blurt out everything that was going on in my life and about the texts I was getting from Masquerade, but I didn’t want to compromise the “game”.

“Are your grades good so far?” he asked as we pulled into school. “It’s October now, right? You’ll be getting a progress report soon, I believe.”

“Soon enough,” I said. We pulled into the school parking lot and I gave him a hug before I got out. On the way into the school building, I saw someone I hadn’t seen before. He had dirty blonde hair and bright blue eyes. He was tall, wore a nice button-up shirt, and straight legged jeans, and smiled at me. I almost walked passed him until I saw a piece of paper in his hand.

“You’re new, aren’t you?” I asked him.

The guy smiled. “Yeah, I am. Today’s my first day.” He held out his hand and said, “My name’s Matt.”

“Eden,” I replied, shaking his hand. I felt a little weird, but Matt seemed nice. “Do you, uh, know your way around? I could show you if you…you know, need help.” Oh God, what was wrong with me?  But looking him up and down, I knew what was wrong. He was hot.

His smile didn’t drop once. “I actually don’t know my way around, so I could use the help. I have AP Literature and Composition.”

An AP guy? Must be pretty smart. I asked, “You’re a senior?”

“Actually, I’m a junior, but I’ll have enough credits to graduate this year. Unless I decide to stay for an extra year, I’ll be off to college.” He handed me his schedule, and I couldn’t help but notice all the classes he was in.

AP Literature and Composition

AP Psychology

Calculus

Lunch

AP American Government

AP Biology

Sociology

“This is, a uh, interesting schedule,” I said, not sure what exactly I was supposed to say. “Are these all the final graduation requirements you need?”

Matt nodded. “I’m really big into psychology and sociology. What makes people do the things they do is something I ponder on a day-to-day basis.”

His personality was fascinating. While he didn’t seen narcissistic, he seemed confident in his own skin, and that was something I admired. My phone beeped and my heart almost stopped in my chest. The look or horror must have flashed across my face, because Matt suddenly looked concerned, his eyebrows scrunched up and his mouth flat.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“N-nothing,” I said, pulling out my phone to read the text. I sighed in relief when I realized it was just Josh. He was letting my know to meet him before class this morning. Damn it. “Hey, I’m supposed to help a friend this morning with something. We still have time before the bell rings. If you want to come with us, maybe we can show you to you class afterward.”

For a moment, I thought he was going to say no. Finally, he smiled and said, “Sure. I could use some friends around here.”

Together, the two of us walked to the spot under the stairs in the main hall where Josh told me to meet him. Matt stood by my side the whole time with minimal space between us, and I tried not to look. There was no way he’d be into me. He looked like he just stepped out of an Aeropostale poster, and I looked like I was born in the corner of Hot Topic.

When we got to the stairs, I saw Josh keeping a lookout. “Hey,” I said. “Matt, this is Josh. Josh, this is Matt. Matt just moved here. It’s his first day.”

Josh looked at Matt, and the second their eyes locked, I saw it. Their eyes met, and for just a moment, Matt’s eye twinkled. Freaking twinkled. And he suddenly looked uncomfortable, but smiled anyway.

Matt was gay.

I wanted to laugh at how ridiculous it was. I wouldn’t have noticed, but by the way he looked at Josh, it was completely obvious. Josh, who seemed unaware of the situation, said, “Hey Matt, it’s nice to meet you. Do you like it here so far?”

“Well,” Matt laughed, “the first ten minutes have been pretty nice.”

Josh frowned, looking embarrassed. I watched the interaction, noting just how cute it was, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get Josh’s mind off the Masquerade business for a little while. As long as we discussed whatever he needed first.

“Anyway,” I said, “what did you need me here for? Is everything okay?”

“Um…can I talk to you away from him? It’s about that thing.” Josh smiled at Matt and said, “No offense to you, but it’s personal.”

“None taken,” Matt said. “I’ll just be over there by the water fountain, trying not to listen.”

Matt walked away, leaving Josh and I alone. Josh told me what happened to him yesterday at the graveyard, the unsigned text, and White Masquerade. The fact that there was another one was blowing my mind.

“That’s crazy,” I said.

Josh nodded. “Of course it’s crazy, but it’s the truth. There’s another one. And I think I have a pretty good idea who it is.”

He didn’t have to finish his sentence because I knew exactly who he was talking about. “Damien,” I whispered.

“Yeah,” Josh said. “It’s got to be. But why would Damien be running around town in a White Masquerade outfit? Especially since there’s another Masquerade? I can’t think that he’s the one doing this to us, so White Masquerade has to be good, right?”

So many possibilities and not enough answers. I sighed. “I don’t know, Josh. The whole thing sounds risky. I don’t think you should go see them on Friday. The chances of it being Damien are 50/50 and you shouldn’t take that risk. For all we know, Damien could be–“

I stopped before I finished what was coming too quickly from my mouth. Josh stared at me, not angry, but sadly. He had thought about it, too. It was hard not to when something like this happens. The chances of Damien being alive were slim. Especially since no one had heard a single thing from him since his disappearance.

“Maybe this is him reaching out,” Josh said. “If Damien is alive, I know he would try to get in contact with me.”

“That may be true, but this is dangerous,” I said. “The game doesn’t just involve you. Doing this could jeopardize me and anyone else who might be involved in this. There are other players. We need to find them.”

“No,” Josh said. “I don’t need to find any of them. I need to find Damien. I loved him, Eden, don’t you get that? He was my best friend. The love of my life. I’m not going to just let him die out there. If he needs me, I’m going to help him.”

Josh stormed off and Matt walked back over. “Is everything okay?”

I shook my head. “No. Everything’s definitely not okay.”

***

At lunch, Josh never showed. Matt sat with me instead, and the two of us didn’t say much. I was too busy thinking about what happened with Josh, and what he might be planning for Friday. I had to figure out a way to stop him.

“So…” Matt finally said. “Where’s Josh?”

“Why?” I asked, trying to laugh. “You got the hots for him for something?”

Matt actually seemed to blush, but didn’t stop smiling. “Am I that obvious?” Even as he talked, his voice was deep, not at all feminine. Of course, Josh’s voice wasn’t feminine either, but was a little more neutral.

“Yeah, you are,” I replied. “I mean, at least you are to me. Now…are you, you know…gay?”

He shrugged. “Bisexual, I guess. I’ve dated women before. I’ve actually never had a boyfriend, although I’ve had crushes.”

“Well, Josh isn’t out yet,” I said. “You guys should try and talk. Get to know each other.”

Matt smirked at me. “You trying to set us up? And here I thought you had the hots for me.” He went back to eating, while I pondered everything. Masquerade. Josh. Matt. The meeting Josh was going to have on Friday. There was one thing I knew I wouldn’t do, which was let him go alone.

“Hey Matt,” I said. “You busy Friday?”

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.

1×06: Lucas

The weekend went by quickly, and by the time Monday rolled around, I forgot about the person in the masquerade I’d seen outside by the buses. Rachel and I agreed to sit at lunch together, and Peter seemed okay with having a girl join us. At least he wasn’t completely freaking out. I thought my best friend wouldn’t like that, but instead, he was talking about another girl himself. One he was particularly interested in.

“Eden is just gorgeous,” he said that afternoon on the way to the lunchroom. “Do you think I’ll be able to get her to sit with us?”

I was starting to realize Peter needed a girlfriend. One who wasn’t Eden. I doubted she’d be into him, and it was kind of weird to me that he was so into her. “I’m not sure. But why don’t you try looking for someone close to our own age? She’s two year older than you.”

“One and a half,” Peter reiterated for the thousandth time.

“Not that it makes any difference,” I reasoned. “There’s no way she’s going to be into you. Maybe Rachel has a friend you can meet.”

Peter shrugged. “Maybe.”

The two of us entered the cafeteria and walked toward our spot to put our bags down. I saw Rachel across the room, heading toward us, with her long brown hair flowing over her shoulders, and her deep brown eyes staring right at me. She smiled. When she arrived at the table, she placed her bag town beside mine.

“We have a newspaper meeting on Wednesday,” she said. “The first newspaper comes out next month. Isn’t that crazy?”

“Yeah,” Peter said sarcastically, smiling. “Isn’t that crazy, Lucas?”

I glared at him. He knew that I was a terrible writer and knew that me joining the newspaper was a bad idea. Not only would I not know what to write about…I wouldn’t be able to actually write it. And once Rachel found out I lied about being an amazing journalist, she’d probably never speak to me again.

“It’s definitely something alright,” I said under my breath.

“What’s that?” Rachel asked with a smile.

“Oh, nothing. Just saying how excited I am for Wednesday.” Which was the biggest lie in history, but I didn’t have to admit that. “Hey, I gotta go to the bathroom. You don’t mind, do you?”

“Nope, we’ll be here when you get back,” Peter said, winking. I could punch him. I left the cafeteria and started toward the nearest bathroom when my phone buzzed in my pocket. Pulling it out, I saw that it was a text from an unknown number.

“Lying is the most fun a girl can have without taking her clothes off, they say. Maybe this applies to men, too.” -Masquerade

“What the hell?” I asked, glancing around to see who all was on their phones. Practically everyone. Looking back at my phone, I read the message again. Did someone know? Was the text from Peter? Or Rachel? Did she know that I was lying to her? Panic fell over me, and once in the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror.

Was it that obvious that I was lying? Someone knew, that was for sure. But the name from the sender was throwing me off. Masquerade. Just like the person I’d seen by the buses. Then I thought back to my sister and how she knew I saw the person. Was she playing a prank on me? Or was this someone else entirely?

It could have been anyone. That was the problem. And if it was really the person I saw by the buses that day, it didn’t narrow it down by much. It only ruled out my sister. But if it wasn’t the person by the buses, it could be her playing a trick on me.

After doing my business, I went back to the cafeteria. Lunch was strange the entire time, because I couldn’t help but wonder if the girl beside me already knew that I was lying to her. And if she was the one who was watching me out by the buses that day.

***

I couldn’t stop thinking about the message I’d received from Masquerade. At home I was lying on my bed, pondering the incident, when I decided that I just needed to ask Leslie. She was never really a good liar, and if it was her, it would at least clear my mind of worry.

I got up, went into the hall, and knocked on my bedroom door beside mine. She opened the door immediately, as if she were expecting me. “What do you want, Lucas?”

“Did you send me this text earlier?” I asked, showing her the message on my phone. Leslie took a long glance at it.

“No, I did not,” she said. “Was it an unknown number?”

“No, the person’s number was saved in my phone. That’s totally why I’m asking you,” I said sarcastically. “Yes, it was an unknown number. So it really wasn’t you?”

“I don’t even understand the context of the message, so no.” Leslie closed the door in my face, leaving me alone in the hall. The text could have been from anyone. Rachel. Peter. Heck, even Ruby could have sent that message to me.

I walked back into my room, throwing my phone down on the bed. This was ridiculous. Why was I getting so wound up over a text? That’s what I saw it. Outside my window. I headed closer to the window and looked out to see a person move behind the bushes. The sun was going down on the horizon already, and the shadow of the person was very obvious. Someone was outside my house.

I couldn’t tell if it was the same Masquerade I’d seen outside the buses because I could hardly see what they were wearing. But it had to be Masquerade. The same person who just sent me a text. I noticed that mom and dad were not home yet, so I decided I needed to do some investigating.

Once outside, I walked over to the bushes. No one was there. Had I imagined the whole thing? Was I becoming delusional? Then I heard footsteps crunching in fallen leaves behind me. Spinning around, I saw a figure in the backyard. The sun was going down fast, and I didn’t want to be out here too long.

“Hello?” I said. “Who’s there? Are you Masquerade?”

The figure stood there, waiting. Watching. I walked closer, and they didn’t move a muscle. As I got closer, I saw that they were wearing white. White hoodie, white pants–

“Hello?” I said again. “Can I help you?”

The person stepped forward and I saw that they were wearing a masquerade mask. Except this one was white. Everything they were wearing was white, and I wanted to scream. I was terrified. Something was wrong. Why had I come out here?

The White Masquerade lifted their arm up, and I flinched, expecting them to reveal a weapon. Instead, they went for their mask. As the mask was slowly taken off their face, I gasped.

“Oh my God.”

1×05: Eden

That night’s sleep wasn’t good. After seeing the video of Josh and I being watched, I was ready to have a heart attack. Finally morning came, my body was aching, and I had a migraine from hell. How fun.

Climbing out of bed, I pulled out my phone. No new messages. No new emails. Thank god. What did this person want? Who was the masquerade? Why were Josh and I, who had no connection until yesterday, being targeted? So many questions, hardly any answers. When did my life turn into a mystery novel?

I knew I should tell my dad about what was going on, but I wasn’t sure what to say. Hey dad, I’m being stalked some person who wears a masquerade mask. This person also attacked me in the school parking lot. Oh, and they’re stalking my new friend, too.

Yeah, that sounded like it’d go well. Josh and I would just have to figure this out together. I messaged him, asking if his night went well, then went to the bathroom to get ready, hoping this day didn’t turn out to be weird.

My wish did not come true.

***

The day started out normal. In fact, I was actually starting to enjoy Wellington. Josh and I sat together at lunch discussing the masquerade situation.

“What should we do about it?” he asked.

I shrugged, picking at my spaghetti. “Honestly? I have no idea. I can’t think of any reason why this would be happening, other than the fact that I’m new. But why you? Nothing makes any sense.”

Josh pulled out his phone and said, “I wonder if they’d respond to me if I emailed them back.”

I doubted it. Whoever this was clearly didn’t want to talk with us. They wanted to talk to us. Wanted us to know they were there. Watching. Waiting. For what? “You can try. Anything might work.”

Josh typed viciously at the keyboard on his phone, then it send. He looked at me, his face straight. “Now we wait.”

We ate in silence for a few minutes. Right before the bell rang, Josh’s phone dinged. As did mine. The two of us exchanged a glance and pulled out our phones. It was an email. From Masquerade.

“In time you’ll know the truth. In the meantime, let’s play a game.” -Masquerade.

“Oh my God,” I said. Reading the email over and over, the words rang in my ears. In the meantime, let’s play a game. That didn’t sound good. What kind of game? “What do we say to that?”

“Nothing,” Josh said. “We say absolutely nothing. I’m not giving into this.” As he stood up, his phone beeped again, a different sound. It wasn’t his email. It sounded as if it were a text. He read the text, then looked at me. “They know.”

“What?” I asked.

“They know about me,” Josh whispered. He showed me the text. “Look.”

“You don’t have a choice. How would you feel if everyone knew your little secret? I’m sure Damien would love to know.” -Masquerade

The words sent chills down my spine. The text mentioned Damien. I could tell Josh was thinking the same thing, but he didn’t vocalize his thoughts. Masquerade made it sound as thought they knew where Damien was. That Damien might still be alive.

Then the thought occurred to me. Haven. The girl who disappeared along with Damien. Could she be Masquerade? It seemed possible, but I wasn’t entirely sure if the person who assaulted me was male or female. Whoever it was definitely was strong enough to knock me over.

The bell rang and the two of us headed off toward class, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being watched. But with all the people in the hallway, I couldn’t figure out which one it was.

***

At home, Josh and I were talking on chat. I’d yet to bring up my theory, but I knew I had to. Deciding to just come out and say it, I typed it as quickly as possible. Listen. I’ve been thinking. Is it possible that Haven could be Masquerade?

It took him a moment to reply. Why would you ask that?

How could I explain this to him without him getting offended? It’s not like I knew him all that well. Or knew his friends at all. But I couldn’t just let this go. Both Damien and Haven were missing, and Masquerade made it sound as though they knew where Damien was. And that Damien was alive. Masquerade seemed like they knew Damien, that’s all. I can tell you thought the same thing earlier.

Yeah, well, it can’t be her, Josh replied. She wouldn’t do that. I know her. It has to be someone else. It just has to.

I decided it was best not to argue when suddenly my phone beeped. A text message. I pulled it out, reading the text I received.

“Trying to figure out this mystery, huh? Why are you trying so hard? Was it because you couldn’t figure out your mom’s?” -Masquerade

My heart stopped. Goosebumps ran over me. The Masquerade was trying to get to me, and it knew just where to hit. My stomach did flip flops and I tried not to vomit. Why would someone use my own mother’s death against me? Who the hell was this person? And what did they want?

I couldn’t respond because it was an unknown number. Untraceable. Of course it would be. Looking out my bedroom window, I saw someone standing there.

The Masquerade.

Watching. Waiting. Watching.

Even though I couldn’t see their eyes, I knew ours locked. They knew I had seen them. And from the looks of it, they didn’t give two shits. My hands balled into fists, and I tried to keep from hurting them. This person, whoever they were, knew where I lived. They knew my number. They knew my email. Hell, they probably knew my social security number.

A car drove down the road, passing in front of Masquerade. When the car was gone, so was Masquerade. Just like that. Vanished.

“Damn, you’re fast,” I muttered to myself. Where did they go? I went back to my computer and messaged Josh really fast.

Masquerade was just here. Across the street from me. They know where I live. They might know where you live, too.

Which meant they might have been here Wednesday. They might have really been outside my bathroom. They were in my house. I had to tell someone. Dad needed to know. I couldn’t handle this myself.

“Dad!” I yelled. “Can you come here for a minute?”

He burst into my room, looking a little worried. “Is everything okay?” he asked.

I opened my mouth to speak but my phone dinged. I knew who it was before I even looked. Unable to resist the temptation, I read the text.

“Speak a word of this to your father and he’ll be lying in a coffin next to your mother. The game is just beginning. Rule #1: No one knows about the game but the players.” -Masquerade

“Eden?” Dad asked. “Are you alright?”

My palms felt sweaty, and I put the phone down, plastering a fake smile on my face. “Oh, nothing. I just…wanted to tell you how much I loved you. You’ve been great since…Mom. and I just want you to know I really appreciate you.”

Dad smiled at me. “Thank you, honey. I know it’s been hard on you, but I’m glad you’re making an effort. Dinner will be done soon, okay? We can maybe eat together.”

I smiled, despite my fear of Masquerade. “I’d like that.”

As he left the room, I went back over to the window to see if I could see Masquerade. I could not. But that didn’t mean they weren’t still there.

1×04: Josh

Friday came quickly, two days after the disappearance of Damien. Everything was so different. Strange. Unbecoming. Without my two best friends by my side, I felt alone. Afraid. Desperate for some familiarity that clearly wasn’t coming any time soon.

Lunch rolled around, and I was going to head to the library again after getting my food. Once in line for some Asian chicken, I tried not to think about it. I couldn’t think about what might have happened to my friends. If I did, I was going to spend all my time worrying, which would distract me from school and my writing.

A girl I never met before came up behind me in line and grabbed a tray. She was wearing all black, with her long black hair put up behind her with a pencil to hold it up. I tried my best not to look at her. Something about her was very off-putting. Not only that, but I spent the last couple of years in the popular crowd with Haven and Damien–

Damn it. I was thinking about them again.

“You don’t have to do that,” the girl said.

Surprised, I looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t have to pretend I’m not here,” she said. “I know that I look scary. But I’m not really. It’s just my style.” Then, the girl actually smiled. “My name’s Eden.”

“Uh…I’m Josh,” I said, feeling a little unsure about the conversation. Why was she trying to talk to me? She must have been new. I hadn’t seen her the last few years, not that it didn’t mean anything. “Are you new here?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” she said, grabbing some chicken to put on her tray. “I’ve only been here about a week. I’m still adjusting. I haven’t really made any friends yet, either. Not that it’s anyone else’s fault but my own.”

“Well, you certainly came at an interesting time,” I said. “With kids going missing and all…” My voice trailed off. Why the hell did I just say that?

“Right? It’s so strange,” she said. “No one knows where they went. I’ve listened to the rumors in the hall, and some of them aren’t pretty–”

“Or true,” I added. “None of the rumors are true. They can’t be.”

Eden’s eyes widened as the two of them got out of line. “Wow, you seem sure about that. Is there something you want to tell me?”

“They were my friends,” I said. “My…best friends. Especially the guy, Damien. I’ve known him for a long time.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Eden replied. “I didn’t know.”

I started to walk off, then stopped. “Hey, do you, uh…want to come sit with me? With the two of them gone, I haven’t really had anyone to eat lunch with.”

Eden smiled. “Of course. With me being the new girl, I haven’t really made any friends that I could eat lunch with.”

The two of us walked over to the table where Damien, Haven, and I used to sit. It felt a little strange, but it was the only empty table in the cafeteria. For a few minutes, the two of us ate in silence. Finally, Eden spoke.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked. “Without you thinking that I’m really weird?”

I actually laughed. “If you’re asking whether I’m gay, yes. I am.” Whoa. Did I actually just say that out loud? Something was seriously wrong with me today. I hadn’t admitted that to anyone. “But it’s kind of a secret. At least, it is for now. Unless it’s really obvious.”

Eden laughed, too. “No, that’s not what I was going to ask, and no. It’s not obvious. I wouldn’t have really thought.” She paused, leaving me hanging. Then she said, “The other day…on Wednesday…I was waiting out in the parking lot for my dad to pick me up. And something kind of…happened.”

Happened? Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good. “Eden, did someone do something to you?”

“Well…sort of,” she said. “I was the only one left in the parking lot when someone came out of nowhere. I don’t even really knew if they were a student or not.” She stopped again, as if she wasn’t sure whether she should continue. I urged her to, and she nodded. “They were wearing all black. Black shoes. A hoodie. Pants. The hood was on over their head, but their face was covered.”

“Covered?” I asked. “Like a ski mask?”

“No,” Eden said. “Like a masquerade mask. Have you ever seen anyone like that around here? They kind of…attacked me. Pushed me against the wall. But they didn’t rob me. Or do anything else. It was almost as if they just wanted to scare me.”

What she said was definitely strange, and somewhat scary. But she did have a point. It was possible this person tried to scare her, and that’s exactly what I said to her. “Not only that, but I wouldn’t worry.”

“Well, there was something else, too–” she started, but the bell cut her off. “I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.” Before I could say anything else, Eden left, and I couldn’t help but wonder what else Eden had to say.

***

At home, I said my hello to my parents and hibernated upstairs in my room. The last few days, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, but I knew I had to be functional. They’d find Damien and Haven. They had to.

Walking over to my computer, I woke it from its sleep and began to work on my novel. And by work, I mean looking at the computer and not typing anything. My mind was blank. I couldn’t think. Sighing, I closed off and went onto Facebook. Seeing that I had a friend request from Eden, I accepted and about a moment later, it dinged, alerting me of a message. It was from Eden.

Hey, sorry I didn’t get to tell you the rest of my story, her message said.

It’s okay, I typed back. Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about it?

Her reply took a little bit longer than I expected. Finally, she sent her message and I read it.

It was so weird. After that happened, I went home and got an email to a website. http://www.whoismasquerade.wordpress.com. I clicked on it and there was a video of me being attacked by the masquerade. It wasn’t security footage or anything. It was like someone had been watching. And I heard these bangs on my bathroom door and it really freaked me out. I haven’t seen anything sense then or gotten any more emails. Do you think it was just a prank?

I wasn’t sure what I thought. On the one hand, it seemed like a pretty elaborate prank to pull on a new girl. But what else could it have been? Was someone really after Eden?

That’s when the realization occurred to me. Could this have anything to do with Haven and Damien’s disappearances? Were they being tormented by the masquerade before they disappeared? It seemed unlikely, as they never said anything to me, but was it a coincidence that a mysterious person was trying to scare Eden around that same time?

My phone dinged. My email. Heart pounding in my chest, I pulled it out to look, and fear swept over me at the sight of the email.

http://www.whoismasquerade.wordpress.com

I clicked the link, and it led me to the site’s home page. The newest post was a video. It automatically started playing, and I knew what it was. Eden and I at lunch. Someone had recorded our conversation.

Looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t being watched and that someone wasn’t in my room, I sent a message back to Eden. Just got an email. Same website. Go look. The first video there is of us. Someone was watching. 

But what did this mean? Were were next? The thought of Eden and I being the next two to disappear sent chills down my spine, and I hoped that this was a prank. I could handle pranks. Something as scary as this couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be.

The sad thing was, I knew in my heart it was true. Someone was watching us. Someone wanted to hurt us. To scare us. And that was the worst realization I could have ever had.

1×03: Lucas

There are a lot of things I never expected my freshman year of high school.

The hard work; the romance; the amount of electives. But one thing I definitely didn’t expect was the amount of horror I’d face. It was only a few weeks into school and I was enjoying it so far. I didn’t realize that soon everything was going to change.

It was the day after Damien went missing. While I didn’t know Damien personally, it was something that affected the entire school. Wellington was a large school, but nothing like this had ever happened before. Wellington was a nice town and violence was typically kept away. Of course, no one knew if there was any violence, but when a kid goes missing, typically rumors start flying around.

Considering Haven was missing, too, the rumors were pretty intense.

Maybe she killed Damien.

Maybe Damien assaulted her and took off.

Maybe her body will be found in a ditch somewhere.

Maybe they ran off together.

Maybe she’s pregnant.

The way people stuck their noses in other peoples’ business really frustrated me. Sure, I’d come up with a few theories myself, but didn’t really feel the need to voice them. As I walked into school that morning, my best friend Peter came up to me and bro-punched my shoulder.

“Hey man,” he said. “How’s it going?”

Peter was semi-tall, about 5’8, and had short blonde hair. Bright blue eyes. Not a single blemish. One would say he was attractive, but friends don’t admit that to each other.

I shrugged. “It’s barely 7 o’clock. Nothing eventful has really happened yet.” But as I watched all the people whispering in the hall, I knew the Damien drama wasn’t over. “Any more news on Damien?”

Peter shook his head. “Nope. Still missing. Haven, too. No one has any idea where they went.”

I couldn’t imagine anything like that ever happening to me. The thought sent chills down my spine, and I hoped that Damien and Haven were found soon. Everything about that situation sucked.

“Did you see the new girl?” Peter asked.

“There’s a new girl?” I asked. “I didn’t notice. Technically we’re new here, too.”

“No, we’re freshmen. There’s a difference. Look, there she is.” Peter pointed to a girl who looked like something out of Satan’s vomit. I mean, sure, she was pretty. But she definitely wasn’t my type, and the fact that Peter seemed into her was a little weird in itself.

“How old is she?” I whispered. “She looks older than us.”

“I’m pretty sure she is,” Peter said. “She’s a junior.”

“A junior? Why are you checking out someone two years older than you?” God, Peter was so strange sometimes. Didn’t he know that men were always supposed to be older in the relationship?

“She’s only about a year and a half older than me,” Peter explained. “Besides, she’s hot. And unique. I like it.”

The thought was totally grossing me out, but I kept that to myself. “What’s her name?”

“Eden.”

I snorted. How ironic, being named after God’s first garden. This girl looked as though she crawled out of the ass crack of hell.

The late bell rang and I headed off to class. The rest of the day was mostly boring, but when lunch rolled around, I found Peter sitting alone, watching Eden. Grabbing a tray to get some food, I stood in line, waiting patiently when someone came up behind me.

“Hi.”

I turned around and my jaw nearly hit the floor. The girl standing behind me was absolutely beautiful. With long brunette hair and glimmering brown eyes, she was one of the most gorgeous girls I’d ever seen.

“Uh…hi,” I said. Way to go, Lucas. Real smooth.

She laughed at me. “Are you going to move forward in the line or are you just going to continue standing there, gawking at me?”

Sure enough, there was a huge gap between me and the person standing in front of me. Feeling embarrassed, I ignored the girl and started walking forward. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” she said, holding out her hand. “My name’s Rachel.”

Was I supposed to take it? Reaching out, I said, “My name’s Lucas. Are you a freshman, too?”

“Sure am,” she said.

As we grabbed our food, I thought about what I should say to her. Finally gaining the courage, I asked, “Hey, do you want to sit with me and my friend Peter today?”

She actually frowned. “I wish I could, but I have a meeting with the school newspaper today. It’s the first one, and if I don’t go, I won’t get in. Maybe another time?”

Without even thinking, I replied, “Really? I totally forgot that was today! Thank you for reminding me!”

For a moment she looked a little confused. Finally, Rachel said, “You’re joining the newspaper? Today must be my lucky day.”

With that, the two of us walked out of the cafeteria, leaving Peter behind. Joining the newspaper wouldn’t be too bad. Only problem was, I couldn’t write worth a shit.

***

The day ended and I got on the bus to ride home. It was too hot for my taste, but at least it wasn’t humid. I sat down in the seat across from my sister, Leslie, and her friend Ruby. They were both sophomores and loved to pretend like they were mature adults.

Leslie leaned in to me and said, “So, how was your day little bro?”

“I’m not little, thank you very much,” I said. “And my day was fine. I, uh, joined the newspaper.”

Leslie and Ruby laughed like a bunch of prissy school girls. Leslie said, “The newspaper? When is the last time you actually read a newspaper?”

“When’s the last time you read a book?” Ruby asked, laughing a little too hard.

Ignoring them, I squeezed over by the window and looked out into the parking lot. As everyone got on their buses, I watched, wondering what Rachel was up to. The meeting had went fairly well, and I got the vibe that she was into me now. The newspaper would give us something to do. How bad could it be?

That’s when I saw it. And I blinked, revealing it to be gone.

“Les,” I said. “Come look at this.”

“Oh god, what now?” she asked. She came and sat next to me, looking out the window. “What is it?”

“Do you see anything unusual out there? In the parking lot?” I couldn’t find it again and it was bugging me. I knew I had seen it. Leslie just had to see it, too.

“See what?” she asked.

“Someone in a masquerade mask,” I said.

My sister snorted. “Why in the world would someone be walking around outside in a masquerade mask?”

“It wasn’t just that,” I told her. “They were wearing all black. Black hoodie, black pants, black shoes. The mask we even black. I saw them over by that bus.” I pointed to the one at the far end of the lot that was now leaving.

“You’re delusional,” Leslie said, going back to her seat.

But that was the thing. I wasn’t sure if I was delusional. I knew what I’d seen. Did that mean I was crazy?

1×02: Eden

“Eden, I don’t know how many times I have to say it. You have to go to school.”

Dad was really adamant about me going to school and making friends, but I really wasn’t a fan. In fact, I was begging him to let me be homeschooled. One can imagine how well that was going.

“But I don’t have friends,” I explained. “I don’t fit in.”

He was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a cup of coffee in one hand, looking like your stereotypical single father. Looking me up and down, he said, “You’ll make friends. Just find someone with the same…tastes as you.”

I wanted to laugh. My dad was great, because he let me express myself in ways my mother probably wouldn’t have. I was wearing black net leggings, a little black skirt, and a red and black checkered shirt. With my black hair tied up behind my head and my black eyeliner, I looked as if I’d just walked out of a Halloween store. I liked it.

“Dad. I’m the only girl in school that looks like this. And they’re all afraid of me,” I muttered. “Why?”

His eyes widened, and I quickly said, “Actually, no. Don’t answer that.”

Dad chuckled. “Honey, it’s okay. Look, things aren’t going to be easy. We both know that. But it’s going to be okay.”

“I just don’t get why we had to move here…” I said, taking a seat next to him. “I mean, what’s the point? We were happy where we were.” At least I was. It was the only thing that helped me remember by mother.

My father sighed. “I got a job here in Wellington. We’ve been over this. I needed to take you with me because I wasn’t going to leave you back there on your own. You understand that, don’t you?”

The worst part was, I did understand. I understood that we needed to move on. But just because I understood didn’t mean I needed to be okay with it. Ever since Mom had died, everything changed. The last thing that I had in life were my old friends and house. Now that was ripped away from me, too, and Dad just expected me to be okay with it. I loved my Dad so much, but didn’t want to be here. I wanted to be home.

Avoiding the question, I grabbed my backpack and said, “I have to go. I’ll see you later.”

“Do you want me to drive you?” he asked. But before he finished his question, I was already out the door.

***

The day was pretty boring for the most part, and once again I spent the entire day alone. Throughout the day, I heard murmurs of a kid who had apparently gone missing the night before, and I tried my best not to pay attention. Tragedy was too much to deal with. The only thing I knew about the student was that he was a male and was supposed to go to a movie with his friend. According to a few people, they think the friend did something to him, as she wasn’t in school today. Other people think he did something to her and ran away and her body would probably be found in a ditch somewhere.

Yeah, I thought to myself sarcastically. What a nice little down Wellington is. 

As the final bell rang, I headed outside to wait in the school parking lot for my father, who I knew would come pick me up even if I didn’t want him to. Might as well not make him waste his time. I waited patiently, leaning against the wall, trying hard not to imagine the terrible things that could have happened to those students.

Just like Mom.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move. Glancing away from my phone, I looked over to see what it was, but there was nothing there. It was just an empty football field. Thinking it was nothing of any importance, I went back to scrolling through Facebook.

About twenty minutes passed and my dad still hadn’t shown. I texted him, asking if he could hurry up, but I noticed that I was the only one left. No more teachers. No more staff. No more students.

“Great,” I muttered. I placed a call to my dad and it rang about five times before it went to voicemail.

Bang!

Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone came rushing at me. They were wearing all black–black hoodie, black pants, black shoes, and what looked like a black masquerade mask. I screamed, and they grabbed hold of me, and shoved me against the brick wall. I tried to fight back, but before I could do anything, I smashed into the wall again and fell to the ground in pain. The assaulter ran off, leaving me all alone. Blood dripped down the sides of my arms, and I tried to get myself together.

What the hell just happened? I thought. This person didn’t take anything. All they did was shove me into the wall. No rape. No theft. What was the point? It all happened so fast that I barely had any time to think.

A moment later, Dad pulled up. He jumped out of the car to come and help me, and said, “Oh my God! Eden, what happened?”

He reached out his hand to lift me up, and I wiped some of the blood off my arm. “I-I don’t really know,” I said. I tried to think of what to say, but what could I? “I-I think I just fell.”

His eyes narrowed as if he didn’t believe me. “You think you fell?”

I tried my best to force a laugh, but it came out hoarse. “Yeah, you know…tripping over air and stuff.” It wasn’t a very believable lie, but would he actually believe the truth? There was no reason for why I had just been assaulted like that. None. But every criminal had a motive, right?

***

At the house, I sat in the living room on my laptop, talking to one of my old friends back at my old home. I refused to talk about what happened at the school because it was too embarrassing, and quite frankly, bizarre. Maybe they got the wrong person. Maybe they thought I was someone else, and when they realized I wasn’t who they thought I was, they pushed me to make sure I couldn’t fight back.

It was unlikely, but the only thing that actually made sense.

Dad walked into the living room and said, “I gotta go out for a business meeting. You’ll be okay by yourself, right?”

The thought of him leaving me alone was terrifying, but I faked a smile. “Don’t worry, Dad. I’m alright.”

Looking rather unsure, he left anyway, and I was by myself for the first time in the new house since we got there. After the incident at the school, I was a little nervous and decided to go take a shower to help calm down. I closed my laptop and took my cell phone upstairs with me as I looked for some pajamas. With my pajamas chosen, I walked into the bathroom and closed the door behind me.

Beep. My phone just received an email.

When I looked at the name of the sender, I gasped. Masquerade. Locking the bathroom door quickly, I turned on the shower and then began reading the email. All it contained was a web address.

whoismasquerade.wordpress.com

My heart pounded in my chest as I clicked the link. It brought me to an all black page, similar to a blog. The first thing I saw was a video, and as I clicked on it, I gasped. The video was of me.

In  the parking lot.

Masquerade coming up and attacking me.

It was as if someone was watching, recording the entire thing. Or did Masquerade put a camera there to make sure they got this sick stuff on tape? This was crazy. It was more than crazy–it was twisted.

Bang!

I screamed as something on the other side of the bathroom door bashed into it and continued to bang it over and over. The Masquerade was here! They were here to get me! The banging continued for a few more seconds, then finally stopped. I found myself sitting on the floor, shower still running, holding myself in fetal position. The horror of what just happened wouldn’t leave my mind for the rest of that evening. And I had no idea that this was only the beginning of coming trouble.

1×01: Josh

Everyone has secrets. When you were little, you probably kept secrets from your parents all the time because you felt that if they found out, you’d get grounded. Maybe that meant your television privileges would be taken away, or maybe it meant you couldn’t have snacks for a whole week.

Secrets are a part of life, but the older you get, the more you learn about the world. When I turned sixteen, I never expected my life to get as complicated as it did. In fact, I don’t think anyone at Wellington High School excepted their lives to be irrevocably changed. 2014 was the year that changed out lives forever, and nothing would ever be the same.

I am not the founder of this blog. In fact, my hope is to find out who did. There are secrets the world needs to know, and I can’t let the truth slip away from anyone. My friends and I are here to tell you the tale. We all have our stories.

The story begins with me.

***

Sitting behind my computer, I typed away at my latest novel, trying to master the art of writing. Of course, with just turning sixteen, I was hardly Stephen King. Writing had been my passion since I was a kid, and knew that this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be an author. It was my dream job, and I vowed to make it happened before I turned eighteen.

Wellington was a quiet little town, one that I never saw the outside of. I spent my whole life there, and due to lack of income, we were never able to go vacationing anywhere. It was alright considering I had two great friends to keep me company: Damien and Haven. But recently, things weren’t going so well with them.

Thinking of the Damien situation, I closed my computer and headed over to my mirror to find myself gazing at my reflection. What was wrong with me? I mean, I wasn’t anything hot, but wasn’t an ugly guy. I had short, brown hair and chestnut eyes. I was about 6 feet tall, and was of white descent. I wish I knew more about my family background to give a better description, but white was it.

I can’t think like this, I thought. Damien’s my friend and that’s that. 

But things were getting a lot more complicated than I’d anticipated. Best friends since we were eight, Damien and I had a lot in common, and we knew practically everything about each other. He knew everything about me, all except for one:

I was gay. And I was in love with him.

It wasn’t something that was always there. It actually wasn’t until recently that I started having feelings for him, and it was a bit of a disaster. Being in love with my straight best friend was only going to lead to issues. So instead of admitting my feelings, I buried them underneath, hoping that no one would ever find out the truth.

My phone rang from my bed, and I jumped. I reached over to grab it, and answered before it rang for a second time. “Hello?”

“Hey,” Damien said. “What are you up to, man?”

Trying not to think about being in love with you. Not that I would say that to him. “Nothing, just working on my new novel. It’s going really well.”

“That’s great to hear. I’d love to read it some time,” Damien said. “But I was actually calling to see if you wanted to come with me tonight. Haven asked me to go see a movie with her, so I figured I’d ask you to come along.”

It took me a moment to process everything he was saying. “Wait–Haven asked you to the movies and didn’t ask me? Why did she do that?”

I could practically hear his shrug through the phone. “Not sure. Maybe she just thought you were busy.”

That was a huge possibility, but I wasn’t too positive. Were my suspicions coming true? Was Haven into Damien? And if she was, did I really have a right to be jealous? “I’m sorry, but I can’t,” I told him. “I have to try and get this chapter finished, and then I have to do some homework before I go to sleep.”

“You know, most people do their homework before they do other things,” Damien said, and my heart warmed at his jokey tone.

“I guess I have other priorities.”

He sighed. “Well, I suppose I can’t make you come. But we’d really like for you to come.”

After explaining a little more that I really couldn’t, we ended the call and I plopped down on my bed, trying not to think about him. But I couldn’t get him out of my mind. It was bugging me in more ways than one, and I needed to do something about it.

Before I could think of anything to do, I fell asleep.

***

I woke up to flashing lights outside my house. Had I dozed off? I looked at the clock and saw that it was 2 AM, and I climbed out of bed to look out the window. Police were here. Two cops cars sat in the driveway, blue lights blurring my eyes. What was going on?

Not wasting a moment, I headed downstairs to see that mom had already answered the door. She turned around to look at me and tears were streaming down her face. Between the tears and the bed head, she looked terrible.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

One of the officers, a young man who looked about twenty-five, said, “We have to ask you a few questions about your friend Damien. Do you mind stepping outside for a moment?”

Damien? Did something bad happen to him? My heart was pounding a million miles per hour, but I obliged. I followed the officer over to his car, and I looked in for some sign of Damien. Nothing.

“You’re friends with Damien, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “He and I have been best friends for years. Is everything okay?”

The officer frowned at me, showing off at least some sign of emotion. “I’m afraid not. He was reported missing earlier this evening. There’s been no sign of him. And according to his phone records, the last person he was on the phone with was you.”

My jaw fell open and fear swept over my body like a crash of ocean waves. Something had happened to my best friend, and that was all I was concerned about. “Oh my God…I…I fell asleep after we talked on the phone. He said he was going to the movies with our friend Haven. She apparently asked him to go.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to reach you’re other friend, Haven. While a missing person’s case has not been opened for her, it’s possible that it will.” The officer wrote something down on his pad. He asked a few more questions, including my number, school, and other personal information. After he finished, I went back inside to find my mother sitting at the table, her head resting in her hands with her elbows propped on the table.

“Mom?” I asked. Tears were forming behind my eyes, but I couldn’t let it show. “Do you think Damien’s going to be okay?”

She lifted her head and tried to smile behind the tears. “We both know Damien. He’s probably going to be alright.”

And that was definitely mom code for “Damien is probably already dead, but I can’t tell you that.”

I went back upstairs to my room, resting my head on my pillow and hoping for some sort of peace. There wasn’t any. That was the first night I realized my life would never be peaceful again.

And I was right.