Card Day 54: A woman wearing a rainbow-striped skirt reaches for a golden apple.
Linette’s problem was that she knew she was running out of time. The letter had shown up on her kitchen table two days ago, its simple message handwritten in an ornate, looping script. “Linette,” it began, “We would like to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. Pick up the phone. Call us.”
And so she had, dialing the number at the bottom. A cheery woman on the other end answered, greeting her by name before she could even speak. “We’ve had our eye on you,” said the perky voice, no hint of shame or disgust at the creepy message. She had gone on to reveal things that Linette thought no one in the world knew about, and then gave her the promised opportunity.
They—who they were was never disclosed—wanted to offer her enough money to spend the rest of her life in luxury. The only catch was she had to complete a simple task. They would provide everything she needed, a clearly outlined plan for completion, and full coverage should anything go wrong. Realizing the job sounded too good to be true but unable to pause in her excitement, Linette agreed. And the line promptly went dead.
It was a hoax, a practical joke, she assumed. She was the unwitting patsy while some teenagers giggled merrily in some loud and gaudy bedroom. Of course, her opinion changed when she woke up to a pale grey, metal box at the foot of her bed the next morning. The awareness that someone had crept so close to her while she slept left her frozen there for the first hour, anxiously awaiting the intruder’s return. No one walked in, and eventually curiosity drew her out. She flipped the metal clasps, the sound echoing in her empty room, and looked inquisitively into the dark recesses.
Inside was another letter, this on crisply typed in small font. She set it aside to explore further. There was a small flash drive, two plastic keycards, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, and a brick of cash. Linette’s heart beat quickly as she lifted the cash up, looking at the stack of $100 bills staring up at her. Benjamin was smiling at her, and she could only gaze back in wide-eyed shock.
She quickly grabbed for the letter, trying to figure out what she had signed herself up for. The “too good to be true” feeling was back in full force, currently occupying a pit of snakes in her stomach.
“Ms. Linette Jones,” was the formal opening to the letter. “We appreciate your dedication to our service. We hope that this may be the beginning of a fruitful relationship. Inside this box you should have found one (1) military grade encrypted flash drive, two (2) numbered and identified keycards for Room 1178 and Room 932, one (1) pair of video recording lenses, and the first installment of your reimbursement for service.
“We have a simple task for you to begin, so that you may prove your dedication to our initiative. First, put on the glasses so we may monitor your progress. This will also help to provide you with a small deal of concealment as they are equipped with video recording disruption capabilities. All you must do is go to the two rooms and do simple tasks. Both offices are within your current office building, hence your current utility. Room 1178 hosts a large collection of mainframes. Find the port and plug the USB into them, then leave the room. Next, go to Room 932. This room should be a plain, but empty office. Take your glasses and break off the left earpiece, and then slide it into the bookshelf, the broken end in between the books. You have until 4:45pm on January 3rd to complete the assignment.
“As you can surely understand, this is a very delicate matter. We assure you, your cooperation in this is for not only your benefit, but the benefit of all those you currently know and work with. However, given the delicate nature of this situation, failure to complete the assignment will result in permanent TERMINATION. “
There was no name or signature, only the crisp words on creamy paper. Linette had gotten up and gotten ready, trying not to think about the stack of bills she had sequestered under her mattress. She shoved the items into the recesses of her purse and went to work.
Now, she looked at the clock, watching the number tick away. It was 4:15pm already, and she felt no more certain of how to proceed than she had two days ago. There was a heavy cloak and dagger feel to it, and, despite the letter’s assurances, she felt certain there was a nefarious plot underway. Still, the final note about termination left a lead weight in her stomach. She had no difficulty reading through the innuendo, nor understanding that she was far over her head.
Linette scooped up her purse with sudden resolve. She could use the money to flee to Mexico or something, put this behind her, and never open an unaddressed letter again. But she had to survive.
She put the glasses on her face, feeling out of place with the heavy frames. A couple of her coworkers gave her odd looks as she walked past, commenting on the new look. She tried to keep her head down instead.
It felt like an impossible wait by the elevators as the lift climbed from the first floor to the fifth. She hoped no one would join her as she waited, because the thought of friendly chitchat brought a wave of nausea over her. The job was possible, she knew, but only if she did not think about it at all. Finally, the doors opened and she flung herself into the little metal sanctuary.
Cheery music piped in, a sharp contrast to the anxiety flooding her thoughts. Linette felt as if the world had slipped off of its axis, sending her into a tailspin without an emergency escape.
The doors opened on floor eleven—it would be best to start at the top and work her way down, she reasoned. Trying to appear confident, she strode down the pale grey hallway, her eyes scanning the numbers on the doors. What would she do if there was someone waiting inside?
Fortunately, the door swung open onto nothing but rows of blinking computers. She was not a tech-savvy individual, but she did know what a USB port looked like. Locating one was difficult amidst all the wires and displays, but she found one and jammed the device into it. At a half run, she fled the room and exited back into the quiet hallway.
It felt impossible, this conspiracy swirling around her. Everyone she passed was simply going about their day, not a thought or care in the world. She felt like she had a gun pointed at her head, forced to jump through flaming hoops. Worst financial decision she had ever made, she decided as she stood waiting for the elevator again.
This time, a man in a suit and woman in a fitted dress were standing inside, chatting as the doors slid open. They barely glanced at her as she slipped into the small cage, pressing the eleven button just above their ten. She imagined he gave her a side-eye as she did it, that there was a brief hitch in the conversation. Just paranoid, she cautioned herself, closing her eyes and breathing deep. Just paranoid.
Stepping out onto the eleventh floor, she saw even fewer people than before. Now it as simply a matter of finding the door and leaving the frame—
“Lin?” she heard from the other end of the hall. She spun around quickly, trying to figure out who could know her here. No one she knew worked on eleven.
Jason from International Services was standing just a few feet from her, smiling broadly. She tried to mimic his smile, but felt her eyes beginning to crack from the pressure. “Jason, hi.”
“Nice glasses,” he said with a knowing smile, his eyes drilling into her. His smile was genuine and friendly, but Linette felt a slight threat emanating from him nonetheless.
“Yeah, my contacts were really bothering me today,” she lied fluidly, surprising herself with the ease. She let her eyes wander, trying to find the door she needed and trying to find an escape for the impossibly inconvenient conversation.
His lips were moving, her were responding out of force of habit, She could almost feel the time ticking away, second by second. “I didn’t know you worked up here,” he said casually.
“I don’t,” she said, barely realizing the words. He gave her an inquisitive look.
“Then why would you be up here, Linette?” Her name brought her back to the conversation, catching his searching eyes. He knew. And she knew he knew. “Go home, Linette,” he whispered, his voice soft and sad.
She responded with desperation. “I can’t.” the words hurt tumbling from her lips, and she could see they pained him, too.
He sighed. “You know I cannot let you do what you were going to do.”
“Jason, I—“ He put a hand up to cut off her words.
“Please, Linette, don’t make me do something I don’t want to do.” She looked frantically down the hallway, down where the door should be. In her mind, the numbers were there, hovering just against that fourth door form the end.
“I don’t have a choice,” she replied, steel in her voice. She broke off down the hall with breakneck speed, trying desperately to reach her target. What she would do when she got there was a giant mystery, but she could only hope that eventuality had been worked out. Instead, however, she felt heavy arms plow into her back, flinging her forward to the cold tile floor.
Pinned to the ground, the glasses busted against the floor, Linette could see her watch from its trusty position on her wrist. “4:48,” it proclaimed cheerily.
I am not too happy with this one. I feel like it is all jumbly, misplaced, and probably rife with logic errors. It was an idea I liked, but then it just wasn’t really working for me today. Oh well. Everyone has an off day. This one was also tough because the card screams Atalanta to me, but I’ve already used that in a few places. So, I was not getting much new from this card. I went with unattainable goals and distraction, but I’m not sure how well it came through. Either way, I hope you found something you enjoyed in reading it. Please feel free to drop me a comment about what you loved, hated, or anything in between. Happy reading!
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
This is a goofy little piece. It is a parody of ritual style stories, which if you haven’t heard of…well…it won’t make much sense. The idea is these ritual stories outline a series of steps and requirements to achieve some desired end. The path through is often fraught with peril, with failure resulting in terrible consequences. This is a parody on those ideas, playing with some of the cliches that plague the style. If you found this blog from creepypasta, then you’re probably familiar.
I am working on some other projects as well right now, including a “kind of” prequel to Purified. They are moving along, but I’m stuck with a bit of writer’s block. Those stories aren’t flowing, and I know that forcing it will end up making it completely terrible. Plus I’m having some trouble tying the plot together in a coherent way. Just need some space to tie it all together. Oddly, the idea for this ritual piece kind of smacked into me, and I wanted to just throw it together and see what happens. I’m not suggesting it is good, but it was at least fun.
In other news, I successfully proposed my dissertation! So, I’m still celebrating that. Well, I hope you enjoy this weird little piece, and I hope to have a new more typical something up by next week. Enjoy!
This ritual should only be undertaken by those brave of heart. If you succeed, the path will not be easy, but you will find your wildest dreams within reach. If you fail, you will doom yourself to a life of misery and torment, haunted by the specter of the chance you had and lost.
This cannot be started haphazardly. If you wish for any chance to succeed, I suggest beginning your preparations months in advance. There are sacred tomes which can be purchased (assuming you know where to look) which will instruct you in the completion of this ritual. If you do not know how to find such tomes, I heartily suggest you do not continue on, for only failure and despair await you.
Read and study the tomes diligently. They will provide tips for how to pass the numerous tests of this ritual, and may even provide sample scenarios so that you might better prepare yourself. If you cannot understand or complete the samples, I recommend you do not continue the ritual. Failure at the preparation almost certainly assures failure of the ritual. Failure no one wants.
Once you are confident in your ability to proceed through the ritual, you must then find the website. The book you have studied should show you the way. Go to the website it directs you to, and provide the information they request of you. Some of the questions may be deeply personal, but you must persevere if you are to accomplish this task. Remember, though, it is not too late to turn back.
Once you have answered the questions, the website will show you many dates and locations where the ritual can be completed, based on cosmic forces that are far beyond our ken. You must not question the timing or location for doing so risks your own ability to move forward in the process. Only those times and locations presented will allow you to successful complete the ritual before you so that you might gain your rewards. Select one, and then make the offering demanded of you. Once your offering is accepted, the computer will provide you with a paper covered in all kinds of warnings, information, and arcane symbols. Hold fast to it, because this page is crucial in completing the final ritual.
For now, you must wait. During this time, I recommend reviewing the tomes and website again for any additional information. You never know the capricious will of those controlling the ritual; perhaps the answer to your success will appear before you in that time.
I recommend preparing the requirements for this ritual the night before it is to begin, for the road forward will be long and trying. The requirements are simple; do not mistake their simplicity for ease. Bring the page you received from the website, a pencil , a calculator, and a photo ID, just in case something were to go wrong. You may also wish to bring food and water, because the ritual will take hours, and you may not leave the designated location once it has begun. Whatever you do, do not bring in any sort of cell phone or external forms of communication. You cannot share anything about what happens once the ritual is begun. I risk much myself by giving you even this information.
On the day of the ritual, arrive at your location at the designated time. Go forward, alone, and present your materials to the One who Waits. The One who Waits is never the same person. They may be young or old, male or female, black, white, or anything in between. The one thing that will always be the same is that their eyes will be empty and lifeless, a cog in some massive cosmic machine. They may look at you wordlessly or they may ask you, but either way provide them with the sacred page you received from the website, along with your identification so that they may ascertain your trustworthiness before you continue on. Answer any questions they ask truthfully, and they will allow you to move forward. Attempt to deceive them, and you may never see the ritual to fruition. Once they have assured you are one strong of heart, they will direct you where to go so that you might partake in this hallowed rituals. Follow their directions, and you will arrive in a room.
This room will look like a normal classroom. Do not be fooled. What you face here is far more than any teacher ever brought down upon you. There may be others like you waiting in the room, characterized by the look of fear and resolution on their faces. Do not be deterred by them, do not be dissuaded. Seat yourself, and wait for the ritual to begin.
Another human will enter the room, perhaps the same as the One who Waits, perhaps someone entirely different. The universe has a strange way of playing out sometimes. The One who Watches will present you with paper, and instruct you on how to continue. Listen carefully to the words, for they hold the answers to completing the ritual with any hope of success. Failure to heed the warnings they give you will lead to almost certain failure.
The final step is upon you. Once the warnings have been given, the One who Watches will present you with a small book. Look carefully as you are instructed, and read the mysteries hidden within. From here, you must simply heed the One who Watches and do your best to provide honest and accurate answers to all the book asks of you. Do not try to jump ahead in the book, or return to those things which have been sealed. You must progress forward as instructed. In each moment, you may only do that which is before you; pay no mind to the past of future, but move forward. After carefully following the commands of the One who Watches, you will complete the ritual.
You will not know whether your participation was a success of failure immediately. Either way, those who have passed through report that the sky looks bluer and the sun feels warmer after you leave that forsaken location. It may take days, weeks, or months, but eventually a letter will arrive in your mail box. Open it carefully, perhaps by the light of a single lamp when you are alone in your bedroom. Inside will be the results of your ritual. If you have failed the ritual, you will see that which makes you sad. You must take heart and persevere. While your life may not go as you had hoped in your wildest dreams, there is still hope. Some have been able to overcome the curse placed on their shoulders after such failure. There is happiness to be found even in the darkest parts of life. And the ritual is always waiting, should you wish to try your luck again. And again.
Should you see that which brings you joy and satisfaction, congratulations. You passed the SAT.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.