She shot up from the bed, her heart pounding against her chest. There were tremors and tiny beads of sweat everywhere on her body.
But the central cooling system was working over time. She swallowed a thick lump in her throat and peered across the other three sleeping forms.
In the semi-darkness everything looked normal: The clothes strewn across the opened wardrobe, Shoes by the bed, and the humming of the fridge downstairs.
Nothing was out of the ordinary.
So why was she so scared?
Something had woken her. A loud bang, followed by a scream. She was sure she'd heard it. Or was it part of a nightmare? But she couldn't remember anything.
But wasn't that how nightmares work? Images and sounds so terrifying, your awake-mind couldn't process them?
Samuel coughed and rolled over on his side. In the faint glow of the lights from the window, she could just make out his drooling face lost in blissful slumber. His cough had gotten worse. But she couldn't be bothered about that now.
What's wrong with me? She tried to control her breathing. The sight of her sleeping friends made it easier.
Stop scaring yourself, Funke. One week away from Winning 1million dollars and going back home, a T.V and phone and you're having nightmares? Typical!
She slipped back into the duvet. Years of horror movies finally got to you! She closed her eyes and waited for sleep to return. She knew it would be awhile. She was one of those people who couldn't just go back to sleep after...
But what exactly had she heard? She was very sure she'd...
A sound from outside made her insides freeze.
It was a scream.
"What was that?" Chinyere's voice was scarcely above a whisper but Funke could hear the fear in it.
Then there was another scream.
Most of the snoring in the room had stopped.
She could hear Prince moving about on his bed. "W-where's it...coming from?"
Other sounds came:
Glass breaking, loud thuds. Then from a distance, a series of sporadic high-pitched pops.
Her throat was suddenly dry. From the corner of her eye, she caught movement on Chinyere's bed. "Are...those---?"
"Yes!" Samuel's voice said.
There were more screams from the distance.
Then the room shook as a loud blast hit something close to the house. Funke scrambled to the floor, hitting her head against something sharp. But the icy feeling that spread across her spine numbed the pain.
"JESUS...!" Samuel's voice cried.
She pressed against the floor hearing the madness outside.
More gunshots and screams.
"What the fuck????" Prince whispered.
Another crash, somewhere outside was followed by a shriek that shook her to the core.
Then she heard something else...something amidst the screams and loud bangs.
A series of snarls...and growls.
Her breath was coming in short gasps. She could just make out voices.
"Shoot!...shoot him again...!"
More crashing sounds.
This wasn't real Funke told herself. I'm dreaming.
Another loud explosion.
Blast of light hit the room. For a few seconds, she caught Prince's eyes under his bed.
He was terrified too.
The sounds continued for minutes that felt like hours.
Then there was silence again.
Nothing stirred in the room. All she heard was rapid breathing. Someone was hyper-ventilating.
She closed her eyes and tried to steady the shivers running through her.
"Ch--Chinyere...just breath,"Funke whispered.
She didn't know what was going on outside. But she knew being loud was a bad idea.
Rapid breathing continued.
Funke could feel her own heart pounding against the frozen floor. She could still hear growling sounds.
More rapid breathing.
"Some--someone find her inhaler---!"
More rapid breathing.
"I...I can't find m-my breather!"
Sound of something sliding on the floor.
"There!" Prince whispered.
Funke heard wheezing and the sound of Chinyere's long nails fumbling with her breather. Then she heard her suck the air from the inhaler.
Then there was silence again. Even the growling sounds outside had stopped.
The room was still for a long time.
"Fuck this!" Prince said, she heard him stumble to his feet and make for the door.
"Wait! We don't know if---"
"It's part of the game, Funke." Then the lights came on.
The sudden glare hurt her eyes.
"Prince,I don't think that's a good idea."
"Look, these things happen every year at the game."
"What? Gunshots and people screaming?"
Funke was on her feet.
And so was Chinyere."I..I heard screams...gunshots."
Samuel's muscular figure shrugged "I-it's a r-re-reality show. The p-pro--producers are just t-tr-trying t-to spice things up."
Prince came towards the window, his lanky arm brushed passed Funke's nipple. A weird quiver went through her. Her nighty top was a thin layer of silk that was see-through. She snatched her wrapper from the ground and covered herself. Lord knows how many viewers had seen her bare breasts. But she couldn't be bothered about that now.
"I can see smoke rising from the other side of the fence." He said still peering through the blinds.
"Why would the organizers of the show scare us like that?" Chinyere said when Funke's eyes met hers.
"I t-think P-P-Prince is right." Samuel said he was standing by the bathroom door. "Th-the-they're j-just trying to scare us."
Prince stepped in front of one of the small cameras mounted on the windows, clapping his hands "Well done Big Bruce. Personally, I think the gunshots were cliche', but the smoke is quite original."
Funke went to the window. Her heart was still racing. The yard looked the same. Four white plastic chairs, a table and a well trimmed lawn. It was just as they'd left it a few hours before. It all looked normal. But the part of her brain that didn't trust appearances told her something was wrong. Then she saw the thick smoke rising from the other side of the fence.
"Did you hear me Big Bruce?" Prince was yelling. "we don't scare easy."
"I don't think it's part of the show." Funke was scarcely above a whisper.
Prince gave her his signature smile. The devilish one that probably got him the three or four million Twitter followers currently keeping him from being evicted. "Quit being paranoid.
It's a million dollars up for grabs. You think they'd make it easy?"
"Those screams sounded real enough," she returned to the window.
She heard Chinyere shaking the crap out of the inhaler and taking a long suck. "H-how would you know?"
"If you've witnessed a religious crisis in this country, you'd know what a real scream sounded like."
"Abeg, leave all this plenty English," Prince said making for the door. "Big Bruce will make the announcement soon. Anybody want a smoke?"
"Big Bruce!" Chinyere said to the camera. "If I have another asthma attack eh?"
ON the other side of the silent camera, through a series of wires stretching outside the house and past the fence was an elaborately built bungalow. Usually this bungalow was a swirl of activity with producers, technicians, Lighting-People,Security Personnel and a caterer named Justine.
On nights like these, activity was usually at a minimum with technicians and a few producers sitting in a room with over a dozen Monitors. These monitors were live-feeds of cameras (like the one Chinyere was addressing) in different locations of the house.
But this wasn't a normal night.
There were small fires in different rooms in the bungalow. There were blood sprays on the walls, most of the equipment had either been broken or shattered. The floor was littered with glass fragments, splintered wood, and blood splatters. Sporadic sparks from torn wires and flickering light bulbs. On the floor leading up to the room with the tv monitors was the bloodied corpse of a Security guard. He still had his name tag on... 'Lawrence' the side of his neck was still oozing with blood from a wound that seemed more like a large bite-mark. There was a single bullet hole on his temple. The back of his head was a large gaping hole spilling chunks of brain matter and skull fragments.
The door to the Monitor room had been broken in two. There were bloody hand-prints on what was left on the wood.
Save for the one showing Chinyere's screaming face, most of the monitors were either smashed, bloodied or showing static.
On the far corner of the room, past two more corpses, was Justine. Her clothes were ripped and torn in many places, blood and sweat matting her hair to her terrified face. Her bruised trembling hands barely held the small revolver in her hand. Her breathing came in whimpers as she stared at...
The two corpses lying a few feet away.
Chinyere's face was screaming on the monitor, but the audio was out.
Something in the room growled.
Justin gasped and nearly dropped the gun in her hand.
One of the corpses was moving.
Her entire body shook like it were about to come apart desperately.
It had to be a nightmare!
But what she'd witnessed in the past hour...
The growls got louder.
"...no..." Was the whisper that escaped her lips when a shadow loomed over her.
Then she pulled the trigger.
...to be continued.