The line of mothers went around several blocks for the sign-up; some hadn’t slept the night before because their little one was screaming excitedly about the event into their ear. “DON’T FORGET!”
It went fast however, they all had filled out the form, printed off the internet and simply had to hand the piece of paper over.
Some signed up themselves, showed up with their papers- a guardian’s signature wasn’t needed since children gained full rights.
The available slots were filled rather quickly as the line filed-in and out. Plastic figurines of this year’s monster was given away, the movie had already been seen by every single child in the country, and everyone was a fan.
Then it was done, and invitations were sent.
Samuel Cain sat by the door all day, in his mother’s 15th story apartment when the mail light lit red. He sat frozen. His mother came hurriedly over “oh boy Sammy,” she said as she swung open the door, and left.
A scene starring Prixel, one of the main characters in the last movie, had her head crushed, Sammy remembered vividly. She had a doll in her tent, he happened also to recall.
At once the door swung back open and mother was dancing an envelope side to side in her hands crouching to Sammy’s height. Sammy remained sitting, recognized the glee on his mother’s worn face and smiled.
“Here it is Sammy!” The anticipation was moot since every child was accepted as a participant in the yearly event.
“You…MADE IT!” She jumped slightly up and down to show excitement. Sammy stood and opened his mouth, raised his eyebrows and let out a silent nothing. She put the piece of paper down on the counter in the kitchen area, and walked off to the other room.
The tv shown a cartoon green figure, slicing and dicing with his claws and metal horns that shot out of his shoulders.
A week later Sammy joined who he recognized as kids from his building in line to participate in the yearly “Exhibit.” More kids he had recognized from around his neighborhood were also there. It clicked for him that this must always be the way; the children in the movies always automatically knew each others’ name.
The warehouse was on the outskirts of the city. Large, made of metal, rusted, over grown in spots outside, in the parking lot where nature has reclaimed. A large surrounding parking lot cracked with grass, and a burnt out car rest just off the main entrance, where, he and his mother now waited in line. Holding her hand as his mother chatted with Dorothy’s mother, who he presently waived to. She eked out a smile, that wrinkled the sides of her eyes – she waved back with a doll in her hand. “Just like Prixel” he laughed. She laughed too.
Sammy remembered Dorothy telling him that Prixel was her favorite after all. Sammy showed her his bike, as his one object he was allowed to take in with him.
Inside the massive warehouse rest a large metal box, on criss-crossed beams. Lining above the walls of the warehouse were windows that went all the way around.
Tents lay scattered throughout the warehouse floor, outside the large box of which the officials termed “the museum.”
The Official who took the paper once Sammy and his mother reached the entrance said he would be escorted to his tent, that he was assigned to. It was a shared tent, he was told, and his tent partner was a boy who lived in his building named Jared.
Jared was the closest Sammy had to a best friend. This excited him, and his face lit up. The Official saw this and smiled broadly. “I knew you would like that,” he said.
They were led-in to the great warehouse. It was mid day and the sudden shade of the place forced Sammy’s eyes to adjust rapidly.
Jared was already there at the tent, and, not surprisingly too brought his bike, which Sammy parked his right next to.
Sammy looked around for Jared’s mom, who must’ve dropped him off and left already. Jaredy presently looked up, saw Sammy and tightened his lips to a smile, got up to walk over to him.
The Official who escorted the both of them in, finished up talking to Sammy’s mother, who leaned down and planted a kiss on Sammy’s forehead “I’ll be watching. Bye.”
“Bye,” Sammy replied before turning to his friend and excitedly waddling over to him.
“Everyone is now here!” a booming loud speaker suddenly broke out “Its time, for THE EXHIBIT TO BEGIN!”
Sammy looked toward the large warehouse door, as it began closing – the mothers waiving, slowly faded to silhouettes, until disappearing behind the great door. Then the big hard metal door clamped shut with a reverberating bang.
Sammy and Jared talked all night. They reminisced about the time they had shared in the building they both lived in, and riding bikes in the parking lot. As the full moon, seemingly peering-in through the window, shone down brightly. They spoke of the intricate bus routes they’ve taken in the past, miraculous, it seemed whenever they would actually make it to their desired destination.
Abruptly the boys caught a glimpse of a figure in the darkness, just away from them, emerging from the darkness beside the warehouse wall , lurking. A man, they could see, in an old filthy dress coat, stopped, and turned toward them. The boys were sitting up, straining on end, looked on, adrenaline pumping. The man turned his head, toward them, his edges illuminated by the lunar light, enough so though to make out his dour expression, and middle to later aged face. He then slowly turned back toward the trajectory of his path and shuffled away.
A moment of silence had passed when Jared remarked “that’s an old kid.” To which Sammy broke out in raucous laughter at.
The next day the large vid screen shown what they were to encounter inside the “museum.”
“Inside the museum, as you can see there is a platform, and ladders. Bathrooms are located on this platform on the western side.”
Images of a large, shiny new appearing steel room, with diamond pattern floor and railing leading all around the cat walk second tier. On this second tier platform, on the western side of the square was one large bathroom, inside, the vid screen continued to show, four stalls and one large water basin.
“As you see, breakfast is waiting for you on the killing floor,” on screen, a table covered in fruit and pastries, eggs and bagels and other breakfast fair lie waiting on a table on the first floor of the museum.
Just then, the doors at the top of some stairs flicked open, sucking into the walls on either side of the entrance leading to the killing floor.
After breakfast, each day, Sammy and the other children found that there was nothing to do in the large space allotted to them, besides, sit, wait and interact socially. Images flashed on the enormous vid screen showing the cocoon, hidden somewhere within the compound, where, the dreaded monster was to hatch.
They’re whole lives they, each one of the children, saw the movies as they were shown on the public vid network in each of their apartments. Each time, the children were brought to the compound; the cocoon was eventually found, always too late. The plot had always run the same course, with different variables here in there. Different characters of course were presented, of whom the viewer was welcome to relate to.
Sammy thought of himself as Arnold. Arnold in the latest “Exhibit” movie had the most screen time. He lasted the longest, as it were. Until, he was at last, the sole child survivor. Always at this point in the movies, aside from scrambling about to recover the green orbs, which extended their time and paralyzed the monster momentarily, an option to escape would appear.
In the last “Exhibit” the escape option appeared in the center of the killing floor. The bodies of the slaughtered children lay strewn around it, floating there in mid air seemingly. It was shown to Arnold on the large vid screen, that could be seen from anywhere in the warehouse. It was a framed photograph of a man, always, in the movies it was a cherished possession from the character’s history to bid the child to go recover. In hopes of escape, Sammy recalled vividly, the boy teary eyed, came out from under a pile of bodies and a collapsed tent, when suddenly the monster who had camouflaged itself against the wall bounded toward him. He ran, but was taken down before he could get to the stairs leading up to the museum, killing floor and thus escape.
Sammy’s mother let out a “oooohhh,” at the moment, the scene in the movie. “Too bad.”
Sammy already knew what his “bait for escape” would be. A ring from his uncle, given to him.
The bathrooms, after several days were disgusting, excrement everywhere. Fights broke out frequently. Children were dirty.
Jared wondered aloud most nights, contemplating the logistics of the place. How did they replenish the food on the killing floor? How is it the cocoon just appears right before its hatching?
Sammy didn’t know.
Every night the inevitable deaths plagued Sammy’s dreams. All he could do was assure himself he would not be one of the first to go, once the killing starts.
As the day approached, Sammy fell silent along with the rest of the children. No longer did anyone look at each other in the face. They became despondent. It was obvious the most optimistic ones, in the movies, were the ones to survive the longest – knowing this however did little to lift anyones’ spirits.
Sobbing was frequent. Most of the boys had explored the whole place by now.
Then, the green digital numbers appeared on the vid screen: 20:00. Quickly changing to 19:99, and descending.
Later, a boy ruddy-faced and smeared with built-up dirt, with tear treads marking his cheeks ran up to the tent of Sammy and Jared sometime early morning, before sunrise.
Sammy and Jared lurched awake, and alert to the rustling at the tent.
They saw Jinksy, a little boy they both had played games with in the past, panting out of breath, breathing out an incoherent, urgent, and dire apprise.
“I found it!” he breathed out, wide-eyed and alarmed.
They three went to it. In the scant moonlight they could see it undulate underneath one of the ladders that led up along the north side of the ware house to locked doors, around twenty feet up. They stood around it, feet balanced on the beams, holding onto the ladder; the three of them, around a large glistening, beating sack. Green and gross, stuck to the wall. Jinksy held his hand out toward it, Jared said “Don’t!”
“OW!” Jinksy spouted, retracting his hand, blood running from the gash.
“Don’t you remember? They’re spikey.”
It made a wet jostling sound, as they watched, it vibrating against the reverberating sheet of the wall. After so long, the three boys clambered down the ladder.
Sammy looked up at the vid screen to see the latest time, it read: 01:20.