Chapter Three: The Secret Passageway [THE CUBE][Unedited]

Chapter Three: The Secret Passageway [THE CUBE][Unedited]

A Chapter by Rachel Barnard
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Indescribable; Future Best Seller; Page Turner; Future Classic... I can dream, right?

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[Unedited]

THE CUBE

RACHEL BARNARD

Text Copyright © 2012 Imagine Group USA, Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Imagine Group USA, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 3: The Secret Passageway [Unedited]

 

            I saw Johnny talking with Barbie. She had her arms folded across her chest angrily. I looked back up at the sky. A few clouds were strolling along and one had created a large shadow on one of the Cube’s walls. The shadow was actually right where the equipment area was located, not that anyone else knew it existed in the arena right now. I think I was the only one, however, I also knew that Henry always locked it up tight. It felt like it had been ages since I had checked in at the gate. Some of the fourth years were taking an awful long time getting here today. I wondered if it was purposeful. Suddenly a gong sounded and the walls of the arena lit up in color. Orange ran along the one half and a light blue that matched the sky ran along the other half. An outline of a bird appeared on the blue; while a tree appeared on the orange background. I looked down at my chest. No bird and no tree. Phew. I had time. My suit was a glittery gold with a sun on the front. That’s going to be great for camouflage, I thought and rolled my eyes. The field was full of colors and I squinted, looking for gold. Five minutes, I breathed to myself and took off. I had spotted a glimmer on the other end. Getting closer, I saw that the glimmer was from silver and not gold. Four minutes to go and not a single speck of gold on the field. I decided, as most of the other students had that it was time to vacate the playing field. Most students made their way to the platforms on the corners of the fields but I went right up to the nearest wall and put my hands in one of the slots and began to climb. Swiftly I had made it to the third floor and was face to face with Jeanie. She was in a light tan suit; surrounded by two others dressed the same. She held out her hand, in a gesture of friendliness and I grabbed it. She helped me clamber over the wall.

            “Thanks.” I breathed and then took off around a corner, not looking back.

            I only had two minutes left now and it was becoming imminent that I either find my group or find a hiding place until the next match. Rounding the corner I ran right into a large green-suited boy and fell skidding on the floor. I would have to be more careful. I looked up into the ceiling and found the nearest video feed of the arena. The orange team was huddled in a group, talking rapidly while on the other end the blue team were doing last minute nervous stretches. The wall right behind them contained a dot of gold, nearly invisible on the screen. There! I ran to the ledge and looked over to the blue team. Right above them was the disappearing body of a student. I was too far away now with only one minute to go, as the clocks on the arena walls counted down. I squinted and saw two other figures next to the one I had just spotted. The other three members of my team were up there too. It wasn’t worth it; I would be on my own this first round. I cursed my bad luck. My score would go down as well, for not meeting up with my team. I could rectify this by proactively seeking out others to paralyze with my fireballs, kills were worth the most points, but I decided I wanted to save my ammo. I might end up needing my ammo as a means of defense, if another group happened upon me. At least I would have some sort of defense if my “find a hiding place” plan didn’t work out. The best thing to do now was to find a safe place. The Cube was deigned to have no safe places. Being so easy to spot would also prove challenging. I hoped the first match would be over quickly and sprinted for the platforms. The less people who knew a loner was hiding out on the second floor, the better.

            Ever time I saw the second floor I was in awe. It was always so mesmerizing with its infinite variety. One day, during my punishment, I had started out for the Cube and Henry told me we would be doing maintenance on the second floor. It was not empty, like the last time I had seen it, but full of mirrors. There were mirrors on all the walls and everywhere! Both the floor and the ceiling though, was not a mirror, it was clear and I could see through to the grassy field below. Kind of disconcerting actually. I imagined playing a game in that kind of situation. There would be no hiding from anyone below or above. That would definitely make for an interesting tournament.

            “I’ve seen times where no-one dares enter the second floor. Annoying. I spend all that time setting it up, making sure everything works right and then they don’t even use it. The same patterns never repeat either. All that work. Gone.” Henry said and scrunched up his nose in remembrance.

            “What pattern scared them so much they wouldn’t go?” I asked, wondering what could be worse than total visibility and confusion with all the mirrors. I imagined accuracy would decrease significantly in such a situation where you couldn’t tell exactly where the enemy was standing.

            “Ah. That was one of my greatest ones yet. Came up with it myself. I was just lying in bed, about to go to sleep, when it came to me,” He began, “The floor was made up of these squares, see. Each time you stepped on a square your uniform would change colors.” He paused.

            “But, how is that even a challenge?” I spurted out without thinking. I had envisioned land-sharks or freezing mechanisms or something more sinister.

            “Think about it, what are you without your team?” He said.

            “But a uniform is just a uniform, it doesn’t change your allegiance until the end of the match, everyone knows that.” I countered, almost defensively.

            “Therein lies the beauty,” He smiled devilishly, “After the first match, when the first time he went up and just stepped foot on one of the squares before continuing to the third floor. Uniform changed, and he found himself going from a group of his friends to a group of enemies. Didn’t take his ex-teammates long to kill him. The Cube is brutal, brings out the worse in people but also, the best. You can see what people are made of.” He finished.

            Changing the subject I then asked him, “What’s really on the top floors?”

            “Some people say it’s….” He stopped and turned to look at me, “an ogre!” and laughed at his own joke before looking up and off to the right. “Nothing really. Just administration, storage, some of the monitoring devices. Students aren’t allowed up there. Now, we gotta make sure there’s no sharp edges.” He trailed off.

            Henry made me check over a portion of the mirrors. Sometimes the machines that set up the second floor didn’t always work properly, so Henry always had to make sure they were implemented and worked the way they were supposed to. I wished non-fourth years could watch the competitions but I guess then we would know too much by the time it was our turn to compete.

 

            Later that day I was joined yet again by both Jeanie and Arrow for lunch. As we devoured our lasagna and garlic toast, a wail erupted from the opposite end of the cafeteria. Looking up sharply I saw a tall and slender girl frantically jumping in the air. She kept saying “no, no, no, no, no.” Johnny stood over her, a necklace suspended in the air above the girl’s head. As tall as she was, Johnny was still taller and she couldn’t quite reach her prize.

            “Give it back!” She demanded, swiping once again at the air.

            “ This old thing? It’s mine now.” Johnny taunted.

            The whole cafeteria was watching and could hear the two. “How juvenile.” Arrow stated, having put down his fork. I understand he comes from a powerful background and all but this is a highly prestigious institution.” With that he put his fork back in his mouth, a thin trail of red sauce dripped down his chin.

            “Are you all just going to sit there and watch?” Jeanie asked as she slid out from her seat and walked calmly over to Johnny and the girl.

            “Johnny please give Misty back her necklace.” She stated politely.

            He seemed slightly taken aback at her calm demeanor. Then his eyes narrowed, “well… ok.” He said then took a step back from the two girls. He swiftly dropped the necklace and then stepped on it, crushing the object attached to the end with a crack. “Here you go.”

            I wondered what the object could be if it was that frail. Johnny turned on his heel and walked out of the cafeteria before I was halfway across the room. Jeanie had turned to the new girl, who had begun sobbing hysterically.

            “It’s ok. We’ll find another one.” Jeanie comforted the girl. 

            “We’ll never find one as lucky as that one. Acorns don’t even come from here. I was saving that one for the Cube.” She cried and fell on her knees to pick up the crushed little acorn. It crumbled pathetically in her fingers.

            “I have something even better.” I spoke up. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a penny. I found this today on the second floor of the Cube.” I said mysteriously, looking around to make sure no one else was listening. But, you can’t tell anyone where it’s from.” I told her.

            “Was it face-side up?” She sniffled.

            “Of course.” I countered.

            She took the coin and put it in her pocket. “Thanks. I’m Misty. You’re the girl who almost drowned.” She said.

            “MC” I told her.

            “Thanks.” She said again and then walked out.

            “That was interesting.” I heard Arrow say from behind me.

            “Thanks for stepping in there.” Jeanie stated a bit sarcastically.

            “No problem. Hey did you finish our English homework?” He asked.

            Jeanie and Arrow proceeded to get into a hot debate over some of the homework that was due in a couple of hours for our English class. They stopped trying to include me after I told them I hadn’t even started my homework.

            “Um. I should probably go start and finish that assignment then.” I said but they didn’t look up from their notebooks, too busy comparing notes, to answer me.

            I decided to check out the secret passageway that night. I had found a flashlight in one of the supply closets near our room. I walked over to the basement and down the stairs. At the bottom, I started directly for the second set of stairs when I heard a small voice.

            “Hey MC” She said slowly.

            I whipped around to see Misty sitting in one of the dark chairs against the wall. She nearly blended in with her black pants and black blouse.

            “What are you doing here?” I demanded

            She looked startled. “This is where I escape.” She stated in an even smaller voice.

            “Oh, well.” I couldn’t think of anything to say.

            “What are you doing here?” She asked sweetly.

            I walked over to her and sat in the chair next to her, glancing to see if the staircase was visible from where she sat. It only looked like the wall stopped sharply, not that it contained an entire staircase behind the corner.

            “Um.” I said blankly.

            “Did you find the staircase too?” She inquired and looked pointedly at the corner I had just glanced at. “I don’t like that room. Too dark. No lights. Anything could be hiding down there.” She looked pointedly at the flashlight in my hands. “Do you know what’s down there?”

            “Um.” I said again, for lack of something better.

            “I can tell you don’t want to tell me. That’s ok. You can go. I’m fine by myself here. Plenty of lights, see?” She gestured with her chin at all the lamps that she had turned on. There were quite a few.

            “Um. Ok then.” With that I got up and headed to the corner of the room. The first set of stairs was lit up completely, from all the lamps in the other room reflecting off the walls. The second set of stairs were a lot dimmer so I turned on my flashlight before continuing. The room was much like the one upstairs, heavy armchairs, a dark intricate-patterned carpet, and bookshelves. The entire room was covered in bookshelves. Many of the books had that fancy cursive gold lettering on them. I looked for the door to the passageway. Almost every book was standing upright on the shelves, save one. The one was lying flat on top of the rest of the shelves on the bookcase. I shined my light on it and started to walk over but stubbed my toe on an end-table and yelped in surprise. I heard a muffled sound from above and immediately shut off my light and crouched down. I decided I should come back another time and backtracked carefully across the carpet. I turned the flashlight on again and made my way up the stairs. Misty had gone.

            The next night I made my way back to the lower basement. Misty was not in the upper basement. I walked carefully over the carpet, avoiding the end table this time. I looked for a handle on the shelf next to my marker book, “Ender’s game.” I didn’t see one. Maybe, one of the books was actually a lever, I thought. I pulled out and put back every single book on the shelf. Nothing. What else? I thought. After inspecting every inch of that space I gave up.

            I fell asleep right away that night. I didn’t dream at all but woke up with a start. I didn’t know what it was that had awakened me at first, but then.

            “Can I ask you a question?” I looked over at Jeanie. Her eyes were closed but she was speaking.

            “Uh, sure.” I said sleepily.

            “How many turns does it take to turn back time?” She asked me.

            “What?” I answered.

            “How many turns does it take to turn back time?” She asked again.

            “Seven?” I ventured.

            “No. It only takes 4 turns to turn back time. You should know this.” After saying this she rolled over and went back to sleep.

            I forgot to ask her what she meant the next morning, about turning back time. I had woken up late and had to rush to get to the Cube for my last day of punishment.

            “Today’s their first tournament.” Henry said to me when I ran up, out of breath from sprinting to make it on time.

            “Do you get to watch?” I asked him.

            “Well, sorta. I’m one of the administrators. Can’t tell you any more than that, so don’t bother asking.” Henry said gruffly.

            The Cube was nearly ready. The first floor had been all set up with the blow-up obstacles. The second floor had finally been all checked over, as well. I didn’t even know what more we could do.

            “Last thing. Make sure all the cameras are positioned properly. Last year some of the kids tampered with them and they weren’t pointed at what they were supposed to. Now we gotta check ‘em all.” With that statement Henry took out his handheld device and turned it on. “First one is right, here.” Henry stopped and told me to stand a little to the left. He looked down at his little handheld screen and told me to wave. “Good. That one’s still where it’s supposed to be.”

            We checked every single camera on the second floor. Most were nearly where they were supposed to be, only some minor adjustments were necessary. When we got to the third floor, however, a few of the cameras were not working. Henry and I replaced them all and then he told me I was free to go.

            I decided the first thing I was going to do during my free time was check out the passageway again. I knew that I could find the door from the passage-side of the secret hallway, so I headed outside. I walked up to the shed, making sure no one was watching and slipped inside. I took the small pin I had placed in the door handle, I had stuck it into the door. It wasn’t bent at all. Good. No other students had come to the shed and opened it. If they had, the pin would have bent under the pressure. I put it in my pocket carefully so as not to poke myself. The passageway was a little more sinister in the glare of my flashlight. Unlike my previous imaginings, there were no exciting side tunnels. Slightly disappointed as I found myself standing in front of the other end, I pulled on the handle. The door opened and I shined my light out. I climbed out of the passageway and shined my light back in. It looked ordinary. I moved to shut the door but left it open a crack, to see how I could open it in the future, from the other side. I didn’t see anything so I decided to close the door. When I did I heard a faint click. I pushed directly where I now knew the door to be. Nothing happened. I frowned. This should work. What was the matter?

            I looked all over the shelf again for any discernible handle but nothing. I memorized exactly where the door would be if it was open. Sighing, I started my way back up to the main ground level. I left the front of the academy, walked down the enormous steps and walked back to the shed. I replaced my pin and then headed back to my room before it got too dark outside.

           

 

Excerpted from The Cube by Rachel Barnard. Copyright © 2012 by Patricio DeLaCruz. Excerpted by permission of Imagine Books, a division of Imagine Group USA, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

***This is an excerpt from RACHEL BARNARD’S “THE CUBE.”***

***Released by IMAGINE GROUP (USA), INC. ***

***Every two weeks, a chapter will be leaked; so stay tuned. ***

*****

 



© 2012 Rachel Barnard


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Added on May 31, 2012
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