They Sat Around The Table
The day dawned when they were finally all to meet, the six members of this unknown group who somehow had been drawn together randomly (or so they thought). Up to this point they had been communicating only via email, always written in capital letters, never knowing the identity of who they were writing to or even why. Just a compelling feeling to connect and a silent understanding that all would be revealed in the course of time. Somehow each had built an image in their minds of the person they had been writing to, but really if they passed them in the street, they would probably walk past without a glance.
They were given instructions as to time of arrival and location, each given a different time and not to disclose this information to anyone outside the group. The mystery only served to draw them further into the web of intrigue, as each one prepared carefully and precisely to arrive at the allotted time.
They were to be dropped at the end of the road and walk the rest of the way, which proved to be challenging, as the road was narrow with no street lights or houses around, no phones were allowed, so they stumbled their way in the inky blackness, each solitary one thinking the same thing: how the hell had they agreed to this? If they had told anyone, they would most likely have been accused of making up some crazy spook story, but no, this was happening, this was not a dream.
After a lengthy, nightmarish walk, each came across the huge wrought iron gates, which towered above them some ten feet high. There was no bell, no code or speaker, nothing. It couldn’t be the house; it must be further, but then, and with a jolt, suddenly the gates began to open, revealing a scene that was far from inviting.
Each tentatively walked through onto the gravel driveway, which crunched underfoot with each step. In the distance loomed a dark mansion, huge, haunting looking, menacing against the night sky. Crunch, crunch, it sounded as though someone was behind them, each span round, but there was no-one, they walked quicker up the endless drive, until finally, on reaching the door, they fumbled around in the darkness and found the cord which rang the bell hanging to the side.
The door opened, creaking under its massive weight, and silently, cautiously they entered the unknown. As the door shut heavily behind them, they expected to see someone standing there – a butler perhaps, or whoever opened the door, their host, a maid, but no-one stood there, just each one, alone, as they had been instructed. It was hard to focus, as the only light was from flickering candles spaced out in the dark, cold hallway. Looking around, feeling helpless and vulnerable, each stood frozen, hoping that at any minute a friendly face would appear to welcome them, but somehow they knew a friendly greeting was not to be.
A small table lamp suddenly lit up on the sidewall highlighting what lay upon it. On approaching, each found a black cloak with red lining together with a black mask. The mystery deepened, now this was feeling scarily real, like something they had heard of, but never thought they would be part of. Oh God, what had they got themselves into? Some sort of sworn oath that they couldn’t get out of or worse…their mind raced with thoughts of rituals, sacrifices, they wanted to turn and run, get out of this place, but to where? There was no car waiting outside, they had no phone, no clue where they were. Maybe it wasn’t that, they were letting their mind spin out of control, it was some sort of game, and after putting on the cloak and mask someone would jump out and say ‘ha fooled you’. So they waited, the light went off and the candles spluttered wax, as one by one they slowly went out.
The only vision they now had was the restricted eye holes in the mask. Nausea came over each one as they stood alone, then, a door in the far corner opened and voices could be heard. Thank God, it is a prank, our host is through there ready to reveal why we are here, and each moved quicker to the open door.
A vast room opened before them as they entered, again dimly lit by candles spread across the high walls. A large group of people, twenty or more, stood around the walls, all wearing purple cloaks and elaborate masks. In the centre of the room was an oval shaped table with six chairs carefully placed around it. To the side of this table sat a figure wearing a red cloak and mask sitting on what appeared to be some kind of throne, holding a gold staff in their right hand.
The figure stood, and with a wave of the staff ushered each of the six to move to the table and stand behind their chair. The buzz of voices from the watching crowd grew louder and the atmosphere was electric with excitement and anticipation. Not a word was spoken between the six, and all stood with heads lowered. A loud gong boomed out and echoed round the room, and the crowd fell silent.
The figure with the gold staff rose from the throne and approached the first of the six tapping them once on the shoulder with the staff. Their voice was male, deep and clear and spoke one word: “password”, whilst placing some paper and a pen on the table. Without raising their head, the bowed figure lifted the pen and wrote on the paper, placing it back on the table. The man collected the paper, read what was written and ordered the bowed figure to sit. This was repeated with four of the six.
When the fifth person was tapped with the staff, it was clear they were struggling and visibly shaking.
Number five desperately tried to recall the password written in his email, but it was all a blur, the atmosphere, this figure standing imposing over him: “Oh God what was it, must think.” In his mind he scanned the words written to him, all the instructions that were given to him, but he just froze, unable to move.
“PASSWORD”, boomed the voice next to him making him almost wet himself with fear. “Please I can’t remember my…”
“SILENCE. PASSWORD”, the voice shouted as he slammed the staff on the floor. A few gasps were heard from the crowd which made number five panic even more.
“Please I don’t know why I’m here…” his voice trailed off as the man waved his staff and swiftly two figures appeared from the shadows and stood side by side number five who was begging, pleading. A large wet patch appeared where he was standing as the men each took hold of his arms. He was led away screaming and begging for mercy as the figure stood next to number six, who swiftly scribbled something on the paper and handed it to him. Gratefully they were ordered to sit and take their place amongst the other five.
Each tried not to look at the empty chair between them or think of what might have occurred behind the closed doors. Number three took out a handkerchief from their sleeve and wiped their brow. The hand was slender, and the hint of long curls below the hood suggested a female. Number one coughed nervously and sounded male. The room fell silent apart from the laboured breathing of number two who was clearly struggling.
They reached up to loosen the cord of the heavy cloak round their neck with large chunky fingers that revealed a gold signet ring with a diamond set in the centre. The room was hot with no windows and all five were desperate for water. Number six suddenly stood up and a female voice bravely spoke out:
“Look this is ridiculous, why are we all here in this charade and …”
The staff slammed down on the floor for the second time and she immediately sat down bitterly regretting her outburst.
Number four sat very still, head bowed, beads of sweat visibly oozing down their face. With a quiet feeble voice the man whispered, “Water, please can we have water?’
Again the staff boomed across the floor. For what seemed an eternity they sat there, not daring to glance up, until finally the man holding the staff stood up and said, “Well everyone I hope you enjoyed the prequel to our mystery event this evening, now if you will all follow me, we will provide refreshments and continue the evening’s entertainment.”
Loud applause followed and everyone filed off into the next room laughing and saying what an excellent start to the evening. Everyone that is, except number five.
“I hope you enjoy this story as it is only one of six I have written as a beginner. Any feedback would be welcome.”
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