THEY all jumped at the sound of the gunshot.
"Jesus...!" Chinyere gasped.
"We have to get out of here!" Funke said.
"Something's wrong."The cigarette smoke reached her.
"Will you guys relax?" Prince came back into the room with a cancer-stick between his fingers. He was a left-handed smoker. Which she once considered sexy. But right now, it was a little annoying. "It's all part of the game."
"Do cigarettes deafen people?" She was really losing her patience with him. "Or is that ugly afro blocking your ears?"
He suddenly touched his hair---as if to verify its existence. "There's nothing wrong with my afro." He glanced into the mirror by the door with a somewhat skeptical expression.
"You guys are scaring me." Chinyere folded her arms across her breasts--which did very little to conceal her Double D-cups inside the flimsy night gown.
Funke stood in front of the camera. "Big Bruce. Is everything okay?"
The camera stared back. Not so much as a static crack came from the speakers.
"Big Bruce is just trying to scare us," Prince some smoke. "They'll probably evict the most frightened person."
"I--I'm not s-sc--scared oh!" Samuel said.
Funke ignored them. "Big House, please say something...we're worried."
"Speak for yourself!" Prince scoffed.
Funke started searching for her clothes.
"W--what are you d--do--doing?"
"What does it look like Sam? I'm going outside."
"Are you mad?" Chinyere said. "It's against the rules to go out into the yard after 1:00AM. You could get disqualified."
"At this point," she said throwing on a T-shirt on top of her nightie, "that could be the least of my problems."
"Think about what you're doing, Funke." Prince said. "Even if there was something wrong...and that's a big IF the show's watched by over ten million people. Help is bound to come at some point."
"And if your twitter followers get here too late?"
SHe held his gaze for a few seconds. Then he looked away. He could never out-stare her.
And to think she'd let him feel her up two nights before!
Prince put out the cigarette on the marble floor. It was his famous 'fuck-you!' gesture. "If you want to give-up a million dollars, be my guest."
She made for the door, brushing passed him on the way. She didn't bother asking Chinyere or Sam to join her.
She knew she was on her own.
"S-so what d-d--do we d-do now?"
Prince fiddled with his pack of cigarettes. "Nothing! Big Bruce will evict her, and there'll be three of us."
Chinyere coughed and waved the air in front of her face. "Why are you smoking in the room? Do you want to kill me?"
Prince threw her a sly smile and stepped out into the corridor.
THIS is a bad idea, a part of her brain said. She quickened her pace down the stairs. She feel the cameras following her. The part of her brain that spoke was the part that loved simple explanations. 'It actually makes sense for this to be a test.' It said. This part didn't like drama, it hated complex explanations the way she hated men without thick beards. 'If you're wrong, it's bye-bye One million dollars and hello poverty!'
She walked passed the living room towards the slide doors which led to the outside lawn.
'Viewers are probably screaming their asses off at you right now.' It said. An image of her mother and sister yelling at her through the old tv set in their living room came to her.
She slid the glass door open, letting the slightly warm air brush her skin. 'It's not too late, you can still turn back.'
She choked at the smoke and let out a series of cough. She could hear the crackle of burning wood and she could smell burning meat.
She knew that smell well. She shuddered at dark images of hacked up corpses being eaten by hungry flames.
This couldn't be that, she shuddered. Maybe Prince was right. Maybe this WAS a part of the game.
'Go back inside, Funke.' It said. 'If your foot touches the grass, you might as well throw your family into the street yourself.'
But the other part of her brain---the part that didn't trust appearances--the part she rarely listened to, told her to find a way out of this place---fast.
She knew that part of her brain. It had saved her life before.
She glanced at the camera at the far end of the yard. If she was wrong, Big Bruce's voice would boom across the yard the instant her foot touched the grass.
"I'm sorry, Mummy," she whispered as she stepped on the grass.
CHINYERE tossed the inhaler from one hand to the other and listened for Big Bruce's house.
She was scared and excited---but mostly excited. If Funke were evicted, her chances of winning this game were pretty high. Her only problem was smoking in the corridor. Prince had alot of fans--fans she knew were tapping their phones like crazy to keep him in the house.
She felt Samuel's eyes on her. She realized her 'breather-tossing' left her barely covered boobs loose which meant they were dancing all over the place like great balls of Fu-Fu.
He looked away the instant she caught his eyes and suddenly went to stare out the window.
She hurriedly threw on a T-shirt and smiled to herself. Samuel wasn't anything to worry about. He was a nobody. She doubted if he even had a Twitter account. All she had to do was make Prince fall for her once Funke was gone.
She thought Big Bruce would've made an announcement by now. Wasn't Funke outside yet?
SHE felt the grass against her toes, and counted backwards from sixty. In fact,she'd gotten to forty-five when it dawned on her that Big Bruce hadn't said anything.
She opened her eyes.
'Maybe they're scrambling a security detail to come throw your broke ass out,' the first voice said.
She listened for something---anything that would tell her what was happening outside.
'They aren't saying shit because they're probably sooo pissed off right now!'
'Or there's silence because they're either fighting for their lives,... or dead.' The second voice said.
She stared at the camera. "What the hell was going---?"
A loud crash cut the words from her mouth. It was coming from outside the fence. She heard a scream---it was a woman.
The sound shook her. She retreated a few steps.
She a loud growl.
Then another---then another.
They were coming from all directions.
Then she heard the frantic pounding of footfalls. The snarls and growls were louder now. And they were getting closer to the house.
CHINYERE shot up from the bed and screamed into the nearest camera, "Bruce, this isn't funny! Stop it!"
The animal sounds were getting louder.
Samuel tore into the room and ran to the window.
"What's going on?" Chinyere needed to hear something---anything that would make her know it was all part of the game. But somehow, she knew it wasn't.
He was peering intently through the window.
The sounds were louder.
He snapped around with a look of irritation, "S-stop sh--sho--shouting!"
"I'M NOT SHOUTING!"
"Will two of you just calm down?" Prince's voice said "It's all part of the ga---."
A loud bang caught him off.
Someone...or something had hit the front gate.
HOW she managed to stand there, she would never know. Her mind wanted to run, but her limbs felt frozen. Whatever had hit the steel gate wasn't considerable, but it was enough to know SOMETHING was there.
She heard whimpering and the frantic jingling sounds.
"P--please... help please...!" It was a woman's again. She was just outside the gate.
Funke heard dozens of footfalls pounding towards the gate. The snarls grew louder as they approached.
A sound like a bunch of keys hitting the floor.
"...shit...!" The woman's voice said.
Frantic sounds of keys again. There was a small metalic click, then the gate was forced open.
Samuel saw the gate burst open, he gulped.
At first sight of the bloodied wild-eyed woman, Funke opened her mouth to scream. But the sound was caught off when she saw more than a dozen dark forms charging towards the gate.
Her mind tried to interpret what she was seeing. They were...people, but they moved and sounded like...
"CLOSE THE FUCKING GATE!!!"
The woman's voice snapped her out of her trance. She grabbed one end of the gate while the strange woman grabbed the other.
The...'things' were almost upon them.
The two women grunted and pushed with all their might until both sides met. Funke forced the steel latch across the just as scores of bodies slammed into the other side of the large metal.
The two women retreated a few steps.
Funke wasn't sure of what she was witnessing.
The gate shook and rattled like it were besieged by wild beasts.