To Die or Not To Die

By , Phoenix, AZ

Not all stories have a happy ending, and this is definitely not one of them.  Let’s just say, only one can go on and the rest die.  It all started when one of the three disappeared.  Imagine the worst place you could imagine.  Now, multiply that by 10 and make is gray. Congratulations!  You just found out what school is like in Chama, New Mexico.  It was 2:37 p.m. and the speaker comes on and belches, “Phoenix, please come down to the office immediately,”.  As I look up from the basketball game wondering what happened, I get 33 questioning glances from my classmates.
“What?” I asked awkwardly with a tremble in my voice. 
“You need to go to the office,” said Mrs. Lambar sternly.
“But the game is… yes ma'am,” said Phoenix as he caught the cold, hard stare she was giving me.
I start to pack up and walk out the door when someone calls my name, I turn around looking annoyed and it was Rachael.  My face immediately changed.
“Make sure he is O.K.” lipped Rachael.
I was really confused, what did she mean “make sure he is O.K.”?  Like, who was she talking about, I was the one going to the office.
As I walk down the hall I started to list the reasons I could be going to the office.  Once I finished the biggest reason, I thought of an ingenious excuse as to why I did what I did.  Then I had one of those aha moments, Jonathan Caval wasn’t in class today.  That was who Rachel was talking about.  He gets in more trouble than me.  And when he does get caught it, is because he did something stupid and hurt himself so he had to explain how he got hurt.  I finally approach the office and wonder how I could think that much in the short time it took to get here.  As I walk in the door, I was greeted by the Vise Principal who was as calm as can be and Jonathan’s parents who had a worried look on their face.  They sat me down and told be I wasn’t in trouble, that they just wanted to talk.  That is how it always starts. 

“When did you see Jonathan last?” asked Mrs. Melonder with the calmest voice I have ever heard.
“When he left for school yesterday at 7 a.m.” responded Mr. and Mrs. Caval
“Yesterday right after school, why?” I asked.
“We just got a call from the police asking if Jonathan was here.  Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Caval think their son is missing so I checked the attendance and Jonathan didn’t show up to school today.  So I called in his parents and they said that you were his best friend and if anyone were to know where he is, it would be you.  The detective is on his way and I thought I would get the questioning started for him.  I have been through this before and know the basic questions.  Most of the time the kid went to a friend’s house and fell asleep and didn’t wake till school started.  But, this is time is weird because the kid usually shows up right around lunch and,”  explained Mrs. Melonder.
“Hold up,” I interrupted, “did you just say you called a detective?  Well, did you call my parents too?  Because I can’t answer any questions without them here.  That’s right, I pay attention in class sometimes.”  After I spit that out like it was hot, because it was, I get three dumbfounded looks.  “What?  Am I not allowed to learn stuff in school?  Anyways, since I would take that look as a no, then I will be off.  I have a friend to find.  Oh, and can you call Rachael down?”

As I left the office, I was feeling accomplished.  I just got out of and interrogation in the office and got one of my best friends out of class by using a little bit of sass.  Bam!  And I am on the ground.  As I start to get up again, I see a figure standing over me.
“Get up you dolt”
“Oh, sorry Rachael.  I was lost in my thoughts.  Did I run into you?”
“Obviously, you're on the ground and I am standing and standing over you, what did you think happened.  Get up, let’s go,”
She gave me a hand, but I refused it.  She just called me a dolt, who does she think she is?  Oh, wait, never mind, she is Rachael and is the strongest girl I have ever seen/met.  One thing about our little group of friends, we have nothing in common, the only reason we are all friends is because we are the strongest kids in our school.  Everyone is scared of us, even the football players.  So we all sorta found each other.  We are kind of a weird bunch of kids.  I am the shortest of them all and that is saying something because I am 5’ 7”.  I also have brown hair and gray eyes.  Rachael on the other hand is 6’ tall with dirty blond hair and blue eyes and high cheek bones.  Jonathan is 6’ 5” with blond hair that he keeps short and green eyes.  We are what you could call the weird group at the school, but we are also the trouble makers.  Anyway, back to the story. 
“I have to go to Mrs. Melonder’s office,” said Rachael
“No you don’t, I told her to call you out.  I’m actually surprised she did it.  Anyways, Jonathan is missing and no one has seen him since after school Monday.”
“Well then, we better find him.”

We first went to his house, just to find out if had left anything.   Like a note, or an address.  As we entered his house we noticed that his room was cleaner than ever before.  His bed was made and his clothes were picked up.  Besides that there was nothing.  So, like any other responsible 17-year-olds, we went to the Juvenile Detention Center. 
“Hey Mrs. Rocklet, is Jonathan here?” I asked the lady at the front desk.
“No, he hasn't even stopped in to say hi to Becky today,” responded Mrs. Rocklet.
“That’s weird, he always says hi to her before and after school”

There is only one other place to look, under the bleachers on the football field.  Of course, he wasn't there.  What did we expect?  But, there was a red backpack.  Us being the nosy people we are, we opened the bag and in there was this note.

Dear Phoenix and Rachael,
Don’t worry, your friend Jonathan is not hurt, in fact, he is in a dark room right now.  In this bag are a couple things you will need on your journey.  First, there is a white button that you will not press under any circumstances.  If I tell you what it does, you might not ever see your friend again.  You will also find a rope, a poncho, a tent, a flint and steel, and a hunting knife.  Feel free to gather whatever you think you will need on your journey.  There is also another sheet of paper in there that is laminated and will never disappear, Even if you leave the bag somewhere it will appear in Phoenix’s pocket.  You just have to say “find me”  and it will come back to you.  I wish you the best of luck, I hope you succeed.  Oh, and one other thing, once you start this journey, you will never stop it unless you find your friend or die. 

Rachael and I both had our mouths open after we read this.
“Looks like we only have one choice,” Rachael said almost in a whisper.
“Ya, poor Jonathan.  He is going to be lonely forever.  I think I am going to throw away his stuff at my house, just to make it easier to forget about him,”
“PHOENIX!  We can’t just leave him!  He is our friend.”
“I know, I know.  I was just kidding.”
“Let’s just get on with the “journey” then shall we?”
As Rachael opens up the bag, I get the most sassy and annoyed eye roll ever.  And I am talking, she should get a world record for best eye roll.  Anyway, we open the bag that mysteriously had a full 10 person tent in it.  The bag on the outside looked like a regular drawstring backpack, but on the inside, it was like a Mary Poppins bag, it was huge.  Man, I get off track a lot.  We found the clue, but it is so confusing that we almost gave up right then and there.  Here, it is:

Go to Nowhere Else
Follow the sun, inspect all five with all you have
When done, repeat times 5
Off you are
“Seriously?  Really?  What does that even mean?  Go Nowhere Else?” I said,  “Who knows where that could be,”
“First of all, Nowhere Else, that is the name of Jonathan’s room.  And second of all, how stupid are you?” responded Rachael.
“Wait, how did you know that?”
“We were just there you dolt.  He had a sign on his door that you opened.”
“Well then, there is the difference in us.  I stupid and you're smart,” I commented with the utmost sarcasm, “seriously, how did you know that?  I have been to his house almost every day of my life and you have been there once?”
“Well, I’m observant and actually know what is going on around me.  Notice I have never been caught doing something illegal?
“True, true”
As we left for his house, I remembered something.  His room was cleaner than usual.

~~~
As we get there, we ran into his mom.  She was really confused when we said we were finding her son.  She was in so much grief that she couldn’t contain herself so she just let us pass.  When we entered his room, Rachael pointed out the sign.  Yah, I’m a real dolt.  Anyway, we got there just in time.  The sun was shining through his window right on his quotes he wanted to hang up for some reason.  We look at them and most words were blacked out.  Except for the words Love, Committee, Forever, and Jonathan.
“But, that is only four, there are supposed to be five words,” I said out loud even though I was thinking it.
“Well, it did say inspect it with all that you have so..”
“So, what do we all have in common?”
“We are strong?”
“So, maybe we smush all the papers together with all that we have”
“Oooh, yeah, that should work.  How did I not think of that?”
We set all the papers together and pressed them together and the word became clear, it was Bronze.
“So, we just say those five words five times?” asked Rachael.
“I get so”
“On the count of three”
“One,”
“Two”
“Three”
“Love, Committee, Forever, Jonathan, Bronze,” we both said.
Suddenly, the world began to spin and change.  As it started to slow down, we emerged into a dark, green, forested area. 
“Where are we?” asked Rachael.
“I don’t know, but I think we are trapped.  Look closely, there are walls everywhere” I said.
“There are.  Ummm, was that a wolf?”
“I don’t know, but this place is giving me the creeps.  We might as well follow the path, I mean, we have nowhere else to go.

As we started down the path, we heard the weirdest sound.  Like someone was screaming.  But, not like screaming like they are looking for something, like bloody murder screaming.  We both jumped and started running down the path when suddenly the path stopped and turned both left and right.  The screaming was still going on. 
“Well, I think we should find the screaming person because they obviously sound like they could be used in helping to find Jonathan,” I said with unexpected calmness.
“Dude, seriously?  You want to go towards the person who sounds like they are being murdered?  How stupid are you?  Let’s just try to get out of here.  Hold on a second, look down this path, you get another choice.  I think we are stuck in a maze.” Rachael almost yelled over the screaming.
“Shoot, we are screwed,”  I almost gave up right then and there.  “O.K. we need to get through this, you still have the backpack right?
“Yes?  But, how is that supposed to help us?  Oh, wait, have you hear the story of the labyrinth from Greek mythology?
“No,”
“Well anyways we could use the rope to mark where we are going, so we can come back to where we started.  Is that where you were going with that?”
“Umm, no.  But, your idea is better.  We still haven’t decided where we are going,”
“Lets go toward the screaming because I bet you anything that the person we hear is in the middle of the maze,”
“Yes!  Finally, we are going with my idea.  I knew spouting out random stuff would come in handy one day,” I said with excitement rising in my voice.
“O.K., O.K., you can calm down now, let's just go,”
As we went down the left path I was walking so fast with joy when I finally realized I just got us into some danger.  If we found that person there is most likely to be someone there making that person yell.

We just kept going and going.  It felt like it had been hours when finally the scenery became to change, but not in a good way.  I started to become more and more dark to the point where we could barely see the 20 feet ahead of us.  So Rachael  and I both agreed that it was time to set up camp.  It took me a while to figure out how to set up a tent.  Rachael was too busy drawing a map of what we have already explored to help me.  It took me a good 45 minutes for me to put the tent up. 
“At least the person who sent us on this “mission” is nice enough to give us a big tent,” I said to no one in particular, mostly to myself. 
As we got ready for the night, it seemed eerily quiet.  There were no animal noises or that awful screaming.  It was silent and I almost felt bad talking because I would be breaking the silence.  Even at school, it is never completely silent.

The night went by fast, it could be because I was tired, but I highly doubt it.  I was WAAAY too pumped up.  I was literally running in a circle when all of a sudden I get so tired I almost fall to the floor.  I think it was something in the air because it got foggy.  But when I woke up it was morning and it felt like I fell asleep for like 30 minutes because I was so tired.
“Did you see that?”  asked Rachael, “It went from night to day in a total of like 15 minutes.  I was about to fall asleep when all of a sudden you ran in here and fell to the ground.  After that, the sky changed all of a sudden and I got scared.”
“That’s weird”
“Totaly”
“Well let's get going then, I feel like we still have a long way to go,”

As we started to leave the noise came back.  The screaming, the howling, and the general noise of the forest. 
“Well, at least we know which was to go now,” I said
We started off on our journey, It wasn’t a very exciting day.  It was basically the same as the last.  All we did all day was fight over which was to go and whether or not there was a dead end here or there.  So it turns out that the maze doesn’t just lead straight towards the screaming, there were a whole lot of dead ends.  At the end of the day, the same thing happened that took place last night, a fog came over the camping site, except it was Rachael who went down today, I was in the tent and experience The Changing for myself.  That is what we are calling it now, The Changing.  As the next day went on it was the same as the last, I honestly think we are just walking in circles.  Then Rachael had an amazing idea, she suggested we climb up the wall and get a top view of the maze or even finish the maze on top of it.  We used the rest of the rope to do it.  We used to go rock climbing a lot in middle school so I guess you could say we have experience.  When we got up there we could see everything and immediately decided to finish the maze onto of it, we also decided to go towards the center because why not, it looks as if we were going there anyway. 
“Do you even hear the screaming anymore?” ask Rachael as we tried to balance on the balance beam thin wall.
“No, I guess we just have gotten used to it.  I mean I still hear it, I just don’t pay attention to it anymore.”  I responded as my foot slips and I land with the wall right in between my legs.  I get up as gracefully as I could so it looked like I did that.          “Look, I’m a gymnast,” I said as I did the classic hands in the air bowing thing.
“Oh, ya, totally.  Just keep telling yourself that.  Oh, we are almost there.” Rachael said as she started to run with amazing agility on the slender wall.
“Wait!  I can barely walk, let alone run!”
“Figure it out, I want to rescue our friend,”  she responded with some annoyance in her voice.
I started to lag behind because I almost dying every time I slipped, but eventually I caught up.  She was waiting for me because she couldn’t get down without me.  I guess that is all I’m good for, being there when someone needs to use me.  When we jumped down there was a red door in our right in front of us.
“Let’s go” Rachael said right as we hit the ground.
“Wait, give me a second to breadth, shesh.”
“O.K. 1.  Let’s go,” she said as she went through the door.
We emerge into the dark room and as soon as our eyes adjust, I am dumbfounded.  In the room there are four couches and three people sitting on each except for the red one.They all look like they have been through the same thing as us.  One of the people sitting on the yellow couch said “Hi.  My name is Zoe, and over there sitting on the yellow couch is the rest of the Beauties,”
“Hi, I’m Edward and the blue couch is the Intellects,”
“Hello, I’m Brenda and the green couch is the Technos,”
“You will guys will sit on the red couch over there because it matches your backpack and there is only one person sitting there.  What group are you?” asked Zoe.
“Umm, I don’t know.” as I turned around and found Jonathan sleeping on the couch. 
“JONATHAN!” both me and Rachael said at the same time.
“Look in your backpack, there should be an object in there that looks weird and on the back it should say what group you are.”  Zoe commanded.
Turns out, there was.  It was a little muscle emoji in there with the word Bronze on it.
“Good, so now we have the Beauties on the yellow couch, the Intellect on the blue couch, the Technos on the green couch, and now you guys, the Bronze, on the red couch.  Now all we have to do it wait.”  Zoe said to everyone as she pointed to each group.  As soon as me and Rachael sat down the room began to spin like Jonathan's bedroom and suddenly we are in an arena with a big screen in the middle that says
To Die Or Not To Die
Your task: figure out a way to get out
Take in mind that you all are still on each of your Journeys
Only one can get out of this alive
You may begin






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