Everyone filters into the hallway, their weapons held high and their nerves on edge. Brian begins walking toward the turn in the hallway, unhappy that it takes a minute before the others decide to follow. He feels like a worm on a hook just waiting for a fish to swim up and swallow him. He can remember being so happy that he was attending his first convention and would be on stage to promote his newest project. It was an event that he was left out of last year due to his girlfriend catching the flu and needing to be tended to. He didn’t regret his decision to stay behind last year, but it was a sore subject for several months. If he had known that a nightmare was waiting for him, Brian would have stayed home and suffered the wrath of his agent and director again.
His mind is still deep in thought when a sudden pain strikes his temple and he feels a wetness dripping down his head. He can barely hear the others scream and retreat in the opposite direction. Brian reaches up to feel a gaping hole in the side of his head that is big enough for him to stick two fingers inside. He touches something soft and realizes it is his brain before another bullet hits his chest. Brian is still confused as to what is going on while he drops to the floor and is pounced on by a pack of convention goers. He is savagely torn apart, his organs spread across the carpeting.
“You still think this is a prank?” Paige asks Kenneth as they run away.
“Brian was a mole the entire time,” he defiantly argues as he begins to trail behind the faster Morel siblings. “You saw how he oversold that first bullet to the head. We could see his brain, so he should have dropped immediately.”
“Just shut up and keep running!” Chace screams, taking his sister by the hand and dragging her around a turn.
“I don’t see Lena!” Paige yells when she looks behind them. She is revealed when she sees the blood-covered actress come barreling around the corner. A worried look crosses her face when she notices the gun in Lena’s hand.
“That was far too close,” Lena gasps as she catches up. “The one with the gun had me cornered, but the gun jammed and I was able to floor him with a groin kick. I think there’s flesh stuck in it. You want it, Chace?”
“Sure,” Chace says, reaching back for the offered gun. “I remember you running toward them, Lena, so I thought you had lost your mind.”
Lena smiles as they begin to slow down and catch their breath. “I tried to go for Brian when I saw that he was still alive. The guy might have been a coward, but I didn’t like that he was shot dead. It was a horrible way to go and he deserved so much better.”
“I don’t think I understand,” Paige admits, staring at Lena suspiciously. “He deserved a better death.”
“What? That’s a stupid thing to say,” Lena contends with a laugh. “Brian deserved to live a good life and die of natural causes. You’re not making sense, Paige.”
“I thought I was,” the girl quietly says.
A blood-curdling scream erupts from down the hallway where one of the maniacs has caught up to them. Paige and Chace sprint down the hallway while Lena and Kenneth run into the merchants’ room. They race through the dead bodies littering the floor and hurry toward the far door. Kenneth slams into the door to find that it’s locked and he whirls around to see four hunched figures walking through the curtains of a merchant stall. He jumps when he hears a metallic crunch and he looks to see Lena struggling to get the door open. Kenneth helps her push the door open, noticing an eviscerated body had been sitting against the door. They charge into the hallway, forgetting to slam the door shut behind them.
“They aren’t leaving us alone,” Kenneth gasps, holding his side as he tries to keep up with Lena.
“It wouldn’t be a fun game if they gave up,” Lena states with a smile.
“True, but there should be zones for the chasers,” he replies, looking back to see how close their pursuers are. “Otherwise, there would be no order to the game and the chasers will become a large mob. You can see that they have been staying in small packs and pretending to fight over territory.”
“Maybe it’s so late in the game that there are only a few chasers left,” Lena suggests, surprised at her own patience with the topic. “They could be a solitary pack that has won all of the territory. So, they have no fear about chasing us around the entire hotel. That is if this is a game in the first place and we aren’t running around actual bodies.”
“You people are so stupid,” Kenneth sighs. “If these were actual bodies and everyone was getting killed then police would have arrived. It wouldn’t explain how the doors have all been locked down.”
“There is an easy explanation for all of that,” Lena says. She turns back to glare at the handful of maniacs and grins when they start to slow down.
“I’m all ears,” Kenneth states, his voice full of doubt.
“Monsters,” Lena claims with a grin.
Kenneth slows a crawl when Lena’s top half turns entirely around, the sound of her breaking spine filling the air. He is horrified that she is still running ahead until she skids to a stop and returns. Lena hops into the air where her lower half snaps back into the correct position, but Kenneth is unable to rationalize what he saw. He is about to back away when the four maniacs pounce on him. They are about to kill him when Lena kicks one of their heads off and yanks the spine out of two of the others. The final maniac jumps at her, but she easily bends him in half until the back of his head is touching his heels. With a friendly smile, Lena flips the dead body onto her shoulder, wearing it like a morbid boa.
“Are you going to help me or kill me?” Kenneth asks, crawling away from Lena. He stops when the dead body lands in front of him.
“Kill you,” Lena declares as she grabs him with the ankle. “I was robbed of the chance to kill Brian who I really wanted to tear into pieces. I’ll be damned if I let another of you juicy mice get away from me. Still think this is all a prank, Kenny?”
“No!” he whimpers, his tears falling onto Lena’s shoes.
Disgusting by the pathetic display, Lena jams her fingers into Kenneth’s ankle and hooks them around his Achilles tendon. With a violent yank, she severs the tendon and pulls his muscles as far down his leg as she can get it before it snaps off. A spray of blood hits her face and she can see that she’s torn one of his arteries. Kenneth quickly bleeds to death, which Lena finds to be very dissatisfying. Grumbling to herself, Lena hurls the body through a nearby wall and licks the blood off her hands. She takes her jacket off and drops it on the ground while she thinks about what she should do next.
“Do they always die this quickly?” Lena asks the shadow lurking inside her. “No wonder you are getting bored. People are too easy to tear apart when you’re as strong as we are. Maybe we can get some fun out of the Morel siblings. I think it would be fun to get one of them to kill the other. Yes, we can kill the one that’s left standing.”
Lena quickly retraces her steps, slowly getting used to moving with a severed spine. She keeps feeling like her top half is going to flop over, which would ruin her chance to trick Chace and Paige to turn on each other. A few wandering packs notice Lena, but they stop bothering her after she slaughters the first two groups. To make sure they leave her alone, she carries the dead body of a young woman who had managed to tear off her right ear. She drags the body behind her like it’s a broken doll until she comes to a locked door. She can hear movement on the other side, so she uses the woman’s corpse like a hammer to break the door down. The body erupts in a blast of light, which confuses her.
“What do you mean this place is protected?” Lena asks, hearing the nervous warning of the shadow. “I don’t care about stupid children. Are you going to be of any use to me in tracking those two singers down? I’m getting tired of wasting my time in this hotel. So, tell me which way to go. If you don’t know anything then shut up and let me run the show.”
“Lena!” shouts a familiar voice from the far end of the hallway. “We thought you were dead!”
As they approach Lena, Paige cleans her newly acquired sword while Chace reloads his gun with a magazine he found on a corpse. The siblings are covered in blood, their blonde hair barely noticeable under a thick layer of gore. Chace is limping due to a large chunk of flesh missing from his leg. The wound is tightly wrapped in the remains of a shirt that they probably took off a dead body. Paige appears to be unhurt, but her eyes are wide with fear and she is gripping her sword so tightly that her knuckles are white.
“You guys look like hell,” Lena says, trying to get a smile.
“We had to kill at least ten people before we got away from them,” Chace says in a resigned voice. “I’m guessing Kenneth is dead. Out of curiosity, did he think it was a prank until the very end?”
“I think he figured it out when his intestines were being wrapped around his neck by a very angry man dressed like a catgirl,” Lena answers. She looks around the hallway as if keeping an eye out for attackers.
“Stop talking and let’s get out of here,” Paige begs, her mind starting to crumble.
“Would you please calm down, Paige?” Chace politely requests with an obvious edge in his voice. “This situation is bad enough without you whining about wanting to get out. We all want to get out of here.”
The trembling singer turns away from Chace and Lena to slowly walk down the silent hallway. Lena decides to take advantage of Paige’s obliviousness and lets the shadow begin to rise out of her body. She gets worried when she can feel her heart start to slow, but the shadow dives back into her when Chace’s eyes widen. She grins at him as he starts to sweat and looks at his departing sister. Growling in frustration, Lena lifts her shirt and plunges her fingers into her stomach. She removes her hand, drops her shirt, and waves at Chace with her blood-covered fingers.
“What the fuck are you?!” Chace shouts. He pushes Lena against the wall and presses his gun against her head.
“Don’t shoot me,” Lena whimpers, cowering away from the gun. “I’m just an actress. There’s no reason to point a gun at me.”
“Let her go, Chace,” Paige demands as she runs back to them. “We have to stick together, so put the gun down.”
“You didn’t see a shadow rise from her body, Paige,” he argues, the gun starting to shake in his hand. “Then she put her fingers in her stomach and she didn’t even cringe. There’s something wrong with her. I don’t know what is wrong with her, but I don’t want to give her a chance to kill us.”
Lena begins crying as Chace pulls the hammer back on the gun. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. The shadow could have been a trick of the light. The wounds on my stomach are from a woman trying to tear out my guts. Kenneth got her off me before he was killed. Please don’t kill me!”
“Don’t lie to me!” Chace angrily screams.
“Please put the gun down,” Paige requests, her eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to hurt you, Chace, but I won’t let you kill an innocent woman.”
“Stop being so fucking gullible!” Chace screams. He smacks Paige with the butt of the gun and returns it to Lena’s forehead.
“I can’t believe you hit me,” Paige mutters, wiping the blood from her mouth.
“He must be turning into one of them,” Lena declares, her eyes closed and her fists clenched. “You have to kill him before he kills us with that gun.”
“I’m not turning into one of them,” Chace says. He looks to Paige with a pleading expression as she places the sword against his throat. “You know I wouldn’t do this unless I thought Lena was a danger. You know I only want to protect us. You also know that I would never hurt you.”
“You already hurt me,” Paige points out.
Chace stares at his sister for a few minutes before letting the gun drop to his side. He cautiously looks at Lena as he gives Paige a one-armed hug. She drops the sword to the ground to hug her brother. Both of them stop when they hear a low chuckling coming from Lena. They look to see her tearing out her hair and savagely grinding her teeth. She no longer resembles the cowering woman that Chace had intimidated, but a crazed woman who is trying to decide what to do next. She pauses when Chace shoots her in the stomach and aims for her face. Lena reaches out to grab the muzzle of the gun, feeling a hot bullet pass through her palm and out of her shoulder.
“You two are pathetic,” she growls before grabbing Chace’s wrist and tearing his arm off.
He steps between Lena and Paige, but he is already losing consciousness due to the sudden loss of his arm. Lena stares at him in amusement before plunging her hand into his exposed shoulder. She burrows her arm into the wound until she can reach his lungs and crushes them. With a gleeful expression on her face, Lena looks at Chace’s face to watch him die, but she realizes that he died from shock before she reached his lungs. She hurls the body down the hallway and roars in frustration.
“Why won’t any of you die the way I want you to die?” she asks to nobody in particular. “Grayson’s body flew off in one blow, Brian gets himself shot, Kenneth bleeds to death, and now this asshole dies early. Maybe I should stop being so dramatic. I’m just going to tear your heart out and be done with it.”
Paige is still staring at her brother’s corpse when she feels a sharp pain in her back. With a blank expression, she looks back at Lena whose hand is slowly wrapping around the girl’s beating heart. Paige turns back to her brother and quietly waits to be killed. She can hear Lena cursing at her, but she refuses to say anything or even cry. She grits her teeth as a final surge of pain courses through her body and her heart is torn out through her back. Her body falls to the ground with a dull thud that echoes along the hallway.
“I’m sorry that wasn’t satisfying,” Lena says to the complaining shadow. “I thought they would turn on each other like normal siblings, but they didn’t. I also thought Chace would be able to handle a little pain and Paige would give us a good scream. I didn’t see you doing anything to help out. Wait! Don’t go anywhere. You broke my body, so I’ll drop dead if you leave me. I demand that you stay with me and I promise to find other people to kill. If we can’t do quality kills then maybe you will be happy with quantity. Just give me some time to make this right.”
Lena quietly waits for the shadow to make a decision. She can feel it churning under her skin like a parasite that is about to erupt through her pores. Minutes pass before the shadow calms down and Lena can breathe a sigh of relief.
“Thank you. I promise that you won’t regret this,” Lena swears to the creature. “Now let’s get mo-” Lena’s final words are cut off as her left hand, which had picked up the sword when she wasn’t paying attention, lops off her own head.