“Oh, man…” his eyes slowly open, and he stares at the ceiling, seeing only bright white above him, as if there is no dimension to the room. “Where… am I?” he wonders, sitting up and looking around.
The size of the room is uncertain, as the walls and ceiling are all bright white blurs, erasing any trace of corners. On the left of him is a tall mirror. He walks over and stares into it.
He notices his bright russet irises, his ruffled black hair that hangs just in front of his eyes if he doesn’t brush it aside. His body is toned, and he’s wearing a white suit, with a red tie and white dress pants. He scratches his head.
Stepping back, he notices a door in the distance. On his left, beside the mirror, is a tall, strange lamp. It looks archaic, made of a dark wood, and the chain is hanging eagerly.
On the right of him is a mysterious grandfather clock, composed of the same dark wood. Atop the clock are two b*****s: one bright white button on the right, and one obsidian black button on the left. The white button seems to be pushed down. Right after 7, there is a sharp violet dash streaking the face of the clock, as well as a red dash just beside the 12.
Finally, on a small coffee table behind him, there is a yellow coin envelope, with a black letter “M” stamped upon it largely.
He walks over to the envelope, picking it up and undoing the top. He slides out several polaroids, all glossy and chic. The first depicts a baseball player. He has wild orange hair that’s stuffed under his scarlet hat, and a wide, mischievous grin on his face. His eyes are bright green, and his uniform is white with red stripes.
“Who… is this…” he feels only slightly familiar with the person in the picture. Something about him looks recognizable, but he’s not sure what it is.
He slides the picture behind the others, next finding a picture of a large stadium. The picture is taken at evening; the sun has almost set, leaving behind an orangeish slice of light at the horizon, underneath a milky, periwinkle sky. The stadium is empty.
The final picture is of a report card. There is an “F” on the card, as well as a “D”, and several “C’s” and “B’s” follow. The name on the report card is “Ashton Kramer.”
“Ashton…” the name does not sound very familiar. Then he begins to think about his name. It’s a blur. Everything about his name is missing in his brain. The letter “M” however seems familiar. He guesses, at the very least, that his name begins with “M.”
Now he steps over to the clock. The first thing he notices is the ticking sound: it’s not how he’d imagine it. It’s a low, reverberant tick; every time the hand moves, it sounds more like a heartbeat than a ticking clock. He studies the red dash, right next to the black dash indicating 12. Then he looks at the violet dash by the 7. He wonders why the clock is marked there. Then he stares at the black button. Noticing the white is pushed down, he decides to push the black down.
The moment he does, the hands on the clock spiral around, the hour hand landing on the violet dash by the seven, the minute hand directly on the red dash past the twelve, indicating seven o’clock. A second later, he is on the ground, his heart ablaze with immense fear. He feels his body beginning to sweat profusely as the horrible, gut-wrenching fear grips him a second longer, then he feels nothing, and the black button sticks out, the white sinking back into the clock as if it were pushed.
He weakly gets to his feet, hardly able to breathe. Now a horrible sense of dread is looming in the room, and he heavily considers interacting with the lamp.
He approaches it. His fingers curl around the small, cold chain. He pulls it down. A strange light pours from the lamp; the way the light unevenly spreads throughout the room looks like a drop of food dye in a glass of water. The light has a strange violet hue, and is visibly floating around him in a severely unnatural way.
Then his eyes meet the mirror.
His body looks mostly the same, except between his eyes, there is a large gash. Blood is pouring down his face, soaking his nose and dripping onto his white suit, staining it. His right eye is viciously swollen, and his reflection is squinting, the eye barely open.
He gasps in horror, yanking the chain down and jumping back. The moment he does, the light s***s back into the lightbulb, and his reflection is the same. Now his heart is racing.
As a horrible feeling of anxiety clouds his mind, he dashes for the door, running out of the room like it’s burning down. He swings the door open, gasping as his eyes meet six unexpected faces.
“M!” a black male steps forward, speaking tenderly. “Calm down. It’s okay.”
“Who are you? Where am I?” he’s catching his breath, still terrified but relieved that he’s no longer alone.
“Your name is M. That’s all we know,” the black male smiles at him. “I’m J. This is C,” he points at a girl beside him, who is smiling caringly at M.
She has bright blonde hair and alluring blue eyes. She is petite and beautiful, reminding him of a doll of sorts.
“Hi, M,” her sweet, light voice introduces.
“This is V,” a male next to him with spiky black hair and amber eyes nods charmingly.
“Sup, man,” he faces him.
“Over here is D,” he stares into the eyes of a girl with bright blonde hair streaked with blue highlights. Her eyes are grey.
She is attractive but has an angry, uninterested look on her face. She stares at M dully, not saying a thing as she crosses her arms.
“This is O,” J points at a male cowering in the back.
He has short, neat brown hair and dark eyes. His glasses are round and sit comfortably on his nose. He nods sheepishly.
“And that’s A,” he motions him to meet the eyes of another girl.
She has long brown hair and emerald eyes, and seems largely unamused. She nods. Still, he can’t take his eyes off her; she is intoxicatingly beautiful.
“Well,” J smiles at him, “this is the gang. Welcome to Osmocate Manor.”
“Osmocate Manor…?” M thinks confusedly. “Do… you guys know how long we’ve been here?”
“Hate to tell you this. We’ve got no idea. We just woke up here… in the same room. Saw and felt the same things, with the clock, and the lamp…”
“You can’t be serious…” M stands there, bewildered. He takes a long, deep breath, trying to accept what’s going on. “Well… what’s around here? In the Manor?”
“We’ll give you a tour,” J replies. “This is the second floor of the Manor. Here, follow me,” he walks him down the hall. They descend the staircase, finding themselves in another long hallway.
“This is the first floor,” he explains. “The door to our right? That’s the cafeteria. Always stocked with fresh-cooked food, but nobody’s ever in there cooking. Weird, right? Anyway, these other doors down the hall? They’re our rooms. This is yours,” he walks him down the voluminous hall, the walls a shady violet, the floor a reflective, glossy black.
Each door is comprised of the same dark wood of which the lamp and clock are composed, and beside each door is a golden placard. Each displays one letter.
“That’s my room,” he points at it as they pass, and he notices the “J” engraved in the golden placard beside the door. “We call you ‘M’ because that’s the letter that appeared on the room when you showed up,” he explains, introducing him to his room.
He studies the “M” engraved on the card outside.
“Showed up?” he inquires.
“Every so often…” O sheepishly replies, “somebody just appears in that room… The White Room, we call it… Not very creative… Anyway, sometimes, people just randomly appear in there… and the moment they do, one of the cards on the doors starts glowing, and a letter gets engraved there. That’s what happened just now.”
“How… long have you all been here?” he asks, looking around and noticing other doors inept of a letter on their respective card.
“J’s been here the longest,” C replies. “He’s been here close to three months. A is second. Then O, then D, then V, and I’m the newest, until you came along.”
“I see…” M replies.
“Outside,” J leads him to the end of the hall, and they step out the door, “there’s a courtyard, and a valley. See those trees over there?” he points at a forest off in the distance, across the massive, gleaming emerald prairie around the Manor. “They’re impossible to reach. We’ve tried walking out there, but we don’t get any closer.”
“Trippy as hell,” V adds. “You’re just walking, and you can tell you’re going forward, but the Manor never seems farther back, and the trees never seem closer. Makes you feel like you’re in a hamster cage or something.”
The thought of it gives him the creeps.
“Anyway,” J leads them back into the house, and onto the second floor, “there’s a swimming pool out back behind the Manor. None of us have really investigated it, but there are swimming suits in the closets in each of our rooms. Should be interesting to check out one day. Anyway, on the second floor here,” he points down the hall, “there are six rooms. Most of them appeared along with one of us arriving. This here,” he points at the first room on their right, “showed up with me. It’s a type of jazz club in there… When you step in, all the lights are dimmed, and there’s music playing. Some sweet jazz,” he grins. “And there’s this piano on the stage. When I sit down at the piano, a spotlight turns on me, and the music stops… Pretty crazy. Doesn’t really do that whenever anybody else sits there, unless I’m with them. Anyway, the next room showed up with C. It’s an art room. Paints and easels and stuff all over the place.”
“I love it,” she grins. “I never run out of ideas in there. If I’m not with the group, you’ll always find me painting in there!” she beams.
“That room showed up with A. A huge gymnasium, with all these things inside, like double bars and a pommel horse. Rings, all that good stuff.”
“That room,” he points at a room further down the hall, “appeared when D got here. Looks like an average teenage hangout for goths,” he grinned, D jabbing his side. “Grunge music playing, smells like weed and cigarettes; beers and stuff are in the cabinets in the rooms. Condoms too. Quaint little place.”
“Are you trying to say something?” D glares at J.
“Nah, D, it’s just what’s there. Anyway, last room came with O. Huge ‘ol library. I mean, massive. It doesn’t look like it could all fit in the Manor from the outside. Inside the library, it smells like incense is lit or something.”
O awkwardly looks at M, then looks away.
“The last room is a bedroom that leads to a balcony, which overlooks the pool. It’s a pretty view at night.”
“What about V and me?” M inquires. “No room appeared with us?”
“When I showed up,” V replies, “the back side of the Manor looked like it got destroyed. Things were jutting out all over it. It’s not… part of the Manor, though,” he explains confusedly. “Like, all the rooms and stuff that are exposed now, with the walls busted down and stuff, were never rooms we could access before. So like, it basically all got created with me. I don’t know why it’s like that, but it’s fun as hell to free-run on. Hundreds of things sticking out all over the place, going ten stories in the air. It’s awesome, M.”
“When you arrived,” C smiles at him, “batting cages appeared behind the Manor. We assume you’re a baseball player.”
“I… I think I am…” he tries to remember.
“The staircase keeps going up,” J finishes explaining, “but there aren’t any more accessible floors until floor ten. The doors are all locked on those floors. And on floor ten… we don’t go there. It’s just… this hall. We call it the Hall of Voices. That’s cause when you step off the staircase, all you hear are these voices… light voices… hard to understand, echoing around all creepy. And the farther you go down the hall- which doesn’t seem to have an end- the louder and more booming the voices get, until you can’t even hear your own thoughts. But the words the voices are saying never get easier to understand. It’s a nightmare.”
“Sounds like it…” M nods.
“Well, if we’re done here,” D walks off down the hall toward her habitat, “I need a beer. You know where to find me if some crazy s**t happens.”
“I’ll be off, too,” A departs.
O, V, J, and C are left.
“Well, M,” C smiles at him caringly, “what now?”
“How deep is this pool?”
“Moderately deep,” V grins. “About eight feet at its deepest… You thinking what I’m thinking, M?”
“Yep. Wanna check it out?”
“Oh. Sure. I thought you were asking if I wanted to jump into it from the balcony. Been thinking about that since I got here,” he laughs. “Anyway, man, sure.”
The five walk down the stairs and out back, walking behind the Manor and reaching the pool. It’s a long, glistening pool of still sapphire water. It looks cool and alluring.
Then, to the group’s shock, M throws V into the pool as he stands by the edge, not expecting anything.
“Yo!” V screams, shooting out of the water. “What was that?! It’s hard to swim in a suit!”
C and J look shocked, but start laughing when M does. O awkwardly dashes over to the towel rack and runs back to V, handing him a towel. V grabs it and wraps it around him.
“You’re paying for that, new guy,” V smirks at him. “You’re totally paying for that.”
“Wasn’t smart to cross V,” J warns with a laugh.
“Hell no it wasn’t. Just you wait, M…”
“Wait… you’re not actually mad, right?”
“A little. Not too mad, though.” He walks over to him. “I-” he lunges forward, trying to throw him in the pool, but he swerves to the side. He darts past M, almost losing his step.
“Dammit!” he laughs. “Okay. Well, I’m not a grudge-holder. Good job,” he chuckles, walking back over to the group. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to dry off and put on some clothes.”
He walks off, O admonishing, “V’s going to get back at you… He says he doesn’t hold grudges, but he never misses out on a good prank… Especially if he has good reason.”
“I couldn’t resist. I guess this all kind of feels like a dream. I wanted to see what would happen. But now, I feel like I shouldn’t have,” he grins awkwardly.
“That’s reasonable,” O concedes.
“How come A didn’t stay with us? I get that D needs a buzz, but does A just not like us?”
C and J chuckle.
“A is standoffish,” C responds. “She tends to spend most of her time in the gymnasium. Honestly… D is even more talkative than A. D won’t be as harsh to you once she’s gotten to know you. A, on the other hand, is… hard to interact with. She just likes her alone time, I guess,” she smiles understandably.
“So, M,” J faces him, “time doesn’t really seem to pass here. Have any ideas? If not, we could go mess with A,” he grins. “Try to get her out of her shell.”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
The four of them walk back into the Manor. They notice trails of water in the hall leading to V’s room. His muttering can be heard through the door. When they get to the second floor, J leads them to the gymnasium. Upon stepping inside, M feels his heart skip a beat; A is in a tight red leotard, spinning through the air practicing an uneven bars routine. M, C, J, and O, watch in deep amusement as she flies through the sky, finally landing with perfect posture on two aligned feet. Then she looks over at them. M can’t read the expression on her face.
“That… was stellar!” O gasps. “A! Excellent!”
“She don’t perform much in front of us,” J grins, while clapping. “Whoo! Go, A!”
A walks over to the group casually.
“That was an ‘A’ performance,” M grins. “Sorry, I had to.”
J chuckles, C smiling as secondhand embarrassment clutches her. O cringes. A has no visible reaction.
“I thought I was gonna’ have to duck a punch. Wow. Anyway, I wanted to know if you wanted to explore with us.”
“You guys have been here way longer than I have. Is there anywhere we can look? Something that could help us find our way out?”
“There is no way out. Sorry.”
She turns away, walking off to the uneven bars.
“Looks like you struck out,” J winks at him. “Honestly, man, it’s impossible for anyone in the group to get A to stick around. Don’t feel bad. Anyway, speaking of striking out and stuff, want to check out the batting cages? They showed up with you, after all.”
“I love the pun. And sounds good to me.”
The four of them journey outside, finding the batting cages. M steps inside, finding a bright, polished wooden baseball bat. He stands before the pitching machine. Without warning, a baseball launches from it, operating on its own. He slams the bat into it, sending it flying into the cage.
“Nice hit, M!” J claps.
He bats for several more minutes. It’s relieving to him to do so. When he’s finished, the four of them venture back over to the pool, where they sit around and talk for a while. In this time, he learns that J is a tenor, as well as a pianist, and would love to show him his voice sometime. C is a painter and does everything from sketches to full murals. O has a vast knowledge of many different subjects, but his favorite is forensic psychology. He has long wanted to work for a police department. He also learns that J is 20, O is 17, C is 16, D is 18, A is 18, and V is 17. M is 18.
When the sun sets, they decide it’s time for dinner, though none of them are necessarily hungry. J informs M that most of the time, they won’t feel hungry here. It’s strange for him to consider. He’s even experimented with simply not eating for two weeks, and there was no visible effect on his body. He never felt hungry, either; sometimes he was in the mood to eat food he enjoyed, but never hungry.
As they step into the Manor, M is coated in freezing water. He gasps as a bucket clangs on the ground beside him, and V bursts into hysterical laughter. “Got you!”
“Dammit…” M stares at his soaked clothes.
“Now you can get out of a suit soaking wet!” he laughs. “It’s not fun!”
“Told you not to cross V,” J grins wryly.
“I warned you that V holds grudges…” O whispers.
M walks over to V, shaking his hand.
“I’ll see you all at dinner,” M departs. “I’m going to change,” he glares at V. “Oh, also… do D and A join you for dinner? Or do they stay locked away from you guys?”
“They always join us. We always eat dinner together, just to make sure everybody’s all right.”
“Cool,” he nods.
He heads into his room. When he gets out of the suit, he finds a laundry chute on the wall. He knows suits aren’t usually washed, but figures the Manor is fantastic enough that the chute accepts all articles of clothing. He throws the suit inside. He opens the wardrobe and finds more suits, as well as swimming wear, a leotard, a folded V-neck and cargo shorts, and some shirts and pants. He also finds a smock. To his interest, he finds a baseball hat, too. Considering mostly everyone is dressed in suits, the ladies in dresses, he throws on another suit, nearly identical to the first, except now, his tie is not scarlet, but crimson. He walks back down to the dining room. He finds the group sitting together.
“Hey!” J grins. “Welcome, M.”
He’s not feeling particularly hungry, so he decides not to eat. He sits beside J.
“How was changing?” V smiles at him.
“Just as difficult as you said. That was some swift revenge.”
“Didn’t want to stress you out, what with you always wondering when I was gonna’ get you back. There’s enough to wonder about here.”
“Yeah…” M thinks. “No kidding.” He looks around at the group. “Has anybody ever tried messing with the clock in the room at 7:00 PM? Where it’s marked?”
The group exchanges curious glances.
“That’s where yours is marked?” C asks. “Mine’s at around 3:20.”
“Mine’s at 9:00,” V faces him.
“Everybody’s is different,” J meets his eyes. “Nobody knows what the dashes mean, or why they’re all at different times. Have you messed around with the clock at all?”
“Yeah… I pressed the black button. The whole room turned dark blue and in my reflection, I was… bleeding from my head. Have any of you? Oh, wait! That was when I pulled the lamp cord. When I pressed the black button on the clock I felt like I was having a heart attack. Then it just suddenly stopped.”
A faces him. “You’re not very secretive about anything. My experiences I don’t wish to share. I hope you can understand that.”
“When I pulled the lamp string…” J details, “my whole body was covered in bruises… My nose was bleeding, and so was my head…”
“I… was blue,” C stares at M coldly. “My whole body. Blue. It was… terrifying.”
He sits back as a strange sense of dread coats his skin.
“What… the hell…”
“My legs were smashed…” V faces him. “Bent all around, like a giant twisted them or something. I didn’t look long.”
“I was bleeding from my chest and shoulder… It looked as if there were bullet holes in my flesh,” O explains. “That is all I could surmise would leave marks like that.”
“I had a hole in my arm,” D states. “A small hole, in my inner elbow. My chest was violet, though. It was disgusting.”
“Damn…” he whispers.
“And that’s just the lamp,” J says gravely. “The clock… Once you mess with it the second time… press the black button down again… the hands of the clock don’t move. You can move them. If you move the hour hand at the purple dash, and the minute hand before the red dash on your clock… you’ll feel… all these things. Emotions. Vibrant emotions. Like, you can almost see things happening… and when the minute hand reaches the red dash… you’ll feel the same horrible things you felt last time. If you move the hand past the red dash, you’ll feel nothing. If you move either hand to either dash without them both being on the right dash, nothing happens either. That’s been all of our experiences anyway.”
“I really hope I don’t scare you guys. I just feel like… the lamp… It’s like the lamp is predicting our deaths. V, you’re a parkourist. Maybe the lamp is predicting that… you’ll fall. Or you’ll be pushed. And, C, I think you might drown. Or be frozen. As for D, it sounds like you’re injected with some sort of neuro-toxin. O is shot, and J, beaten to death. As for myself, maybe I’m shot right between the eyes or something. I don’t know. And the times on the clock… that’s when these things happen. That’s when we’re supposed to die. Maybe I sound crazy, and I’m really sorry if I’m scaring you. But this place is certainly off. It feels wrong. Evil. And those evil things seem to line up.”
“You’re not the first to think that.” He meets A’s green eyes. “However, that was the optimistic version of the conclusion we’ve reached.”
“What… do you mean?” he asks.
“She’s saying that those things already happened,” D expresses coldly.
“Wha… what? Then how could we be sitting here?”
“Exactly…” C whispers. “That’s why this place is so mysterious…”
“Well… damn… that… might also make sense. Well… I guess there’s only one way to prove it. J, you said you went two weeks without food, right? Then… maybe… we can’t die. Is anybody… crazy enough… to slit their own wrist?”
Everybody looks around nervously. Then A sits up.
“A…” C speaks calmly, but she continues into the kitchen. She returns with two long kitchen knives. “I will if you will.”
J and V face M in interest, C disapprovingly, O worriedly, and D amusedly.
“We can walk forever and there’s never an end. There’s a clock with precedence over our bodies. We don’t need to eat, and every time one of us appears, an entire new segment of the Manor materializes into existence. There’s something supernatural happening here. I’m not afraid. I’ll do it.”
“Then so will I.”
“Guys…” C touches M’s wrist. “It’s not smart…”
“Remember, C,” he smiles comfortingly at her, “we’ll get answers from this.”
The two of them place the knives against their wrists.
“Not sideways,” A turns the knife, aiming it straight down his arm. “Back. Back kills.”
“This isn’t smart…” C stares worriedly.
“I applaud the two of you…” O whispers. “This is a brave step for the benefit of the group.”
“Remember, M, you don’t have to do this,” V shoots him a worried look.
“No… it’s fine. Ready?”
“Ready,” A nods.
The two of them dig the knives into their skin and pull back. Blood spills from the wounds and M begins to panic, as if he didn’t expect that to happen. Immense pain courses through his arms. J gasps and O runs into the kitchen, looking desperately for a medicine cabinet.
“I told you this was foolish!” C screams.
Then, suddenly, the pain fades, and the bleeding stops. It’s as if it never happened less than a second later. O dashes out of the kitchen with bandages, but freezes as he stares at M’s arm, then A’s.
“They… The bleeding abated.”
“Then it’s settled. We can’t die here.”
“Intuitive thinking,” A faces M.
He realizes that this bizarre gesture actually seems to have gotten her interest. The group of them return to the table.
“You two are f*****g crazy,” D faces the two of them. “But… thanks. That answered a lot.”
The group looks around. He senses an awkward silence beginning.
“Does anyone here know what the word ‘Osmocate’ means?”
“We’re at a loss,” O confesses. “We’ve all pondered it since we arrived. Its only significance is it being written on a plaque atop the entrance to the Manor. I… M. I was wondering… if you’d assist me with something. And the rest of the group, as well, if that’s okay.”
“Of course. How can I help?”
“The White Room… I’ve entered it many times since I arrived. But… I noticed something peculiar. At one time, I was in the room, and when I exited, A was missing. I later discovered she too had entered the room. She never stepped into the room I was in, though. I figure that the door is a portal of sorts. Multiple people can pass through the doorway, but each finds themselves in their own room. However… I suspect that… perhaps… just perhaps… if I lead you into the room, clasping your hand… you’ll find yourself in my room. With my envelope. I would like to at least experiment. What do you think?”
“Let’s do it. Just curious… Would any of you be paranoid if I started carrying a knife? Sorry if that’s weird. I’m pretty sure I always used to carry one when… I was alive or whatever. And I just feel safer with something to protect myself, even if I might already be dead. Especially in a creepy place like this. But if that makes any of you uncomfortable, I understand.”
“I’m fine with it,” J nods. “Go ahead. Not like you could kill us if you tried…” he mutters gravely, but masks it with a smile.
“It’s understandable,” A replies.
“Just don’t go stabbing around at us for any experiment,” D glares at him. “Even if I can’t die, I don’t wanna’ get cut.”
“Why would I do that…?”
She shrugs. “Just covering my bases.”
“Whatever makes you feel safe,” C faces him with a kind smile.
“Hell, not a bad idea,” V nods. “Maybe I should too.”
“That’s your decision,” O faces him firmly, before they all rise, and begin ascending the staircase to the White Room.