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Old 12-16-2011, 09:53 PM   #1
Sherlock
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Default Enigmatic | Chapter Seventeen

Enigmatic
Prologue



Rain; an incessant pounding of liquid so jarring and distracting that it withered away any hope of accomplishing the simple task of thought. It fell through the rafters and cascaded onto streets abandoned by the common man, who opted to remain indoors during such a storm. The cacophony nearly drove one insane with its steadfast drops, its tenacious grasp to uniformity, and its refusal to divert from the original beat.

And yet I found it rather relaxing.

As an independent detective, it was days such as these which sparked a bit of optimism. Perhaps a mysteriously clad figure could come knocking on the door, requesting my assistance in a baffling case. It had been ages since the last offer I’ve had, or at least one of interest. Lately they have been of a straightforward nature, open and shut within a matter of minutes. I was hoping for a puzzle that would take more than a few hours’ times to complete.

I began to doubt my philosophy as the clock chimed two and I had yet to receive a caller. I heaved a sigh and slumped back in my armchair, only to be jolted to my senses by a knock on the door moments after.

One could only guess my great joy upon hearing a knock such as what I imagined. I hurried to greet whoever may be waiting, adopting a serious expression as I swung open the door. The space in front of me was empty, however, save for a plain envelope free of writing.

Puzzled, I picked it up and extracted an unmarked train ticket. Magine Express was printed in cursive lettering at the top, as well as a time and date. Exactly two hours from now.

Closing the door, I cracked a slight grin. Maybe today will be interesting, after all.

~

Chapter 1
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 1



December 2
3.45 PM

To say that I got what I wished for would be a gross understatement.

Earlier today, I found an envelope containing a ticket for the Magine Express. Consulting my endless collection of mystery novels, ranging from those written by King Doyle to Queen Christie, I came to the conclusion that accepting the trip will lead to what I desired. Travel by train always did have a mysterious aspect, especially if the destination was unbeknownst to me. Of course, the journey usually proves to be the most engaging part...

I shut my journal and pocketed my trusty fountain pen before making my way through the congested crowds of the station. I spotted the Magine logo on a train car and headed for the bright symbol, lugging my bag behind me. The duration of the trip was still unknown, and I had packed enough provisions to last at least one week. An elderly porter politely collected my luggage and led me inside.

Coming aboard the Magine Express, I noticed that many of the passengers seem to be dazed and disoriented. Most kept to themselves, and a good portion of this group was scribbling in notebooks. The other, miniscule percent were chatting among themselves in low tones, and they seemed to have former ties with each other.

I soon realized eavesdropping on them was a lost cause, and persuaded myself that it was nothing of interest anyway. I resorted to following the porter quietly, mentally questioning the reason for such confusion among the passengers.

“You will be staying alone,” the porter informed me as he placed the bags inside the compartment. “Have a nice trip.” I could have sworn he winked at me. It was discreet, and could probably be blamed upon my imagination, but he seemed to have another side to him.

My stomach turned and I took a seat, noting the subtle elegance of the train. It was the small details which leave a large impact, and there was no lack of those onboard. Suddenly I heard a static crackle above me, and looked up to find a speaker.

“Attention passengers.”

The voice was muffled, clearly altered to sound deeper and menacing. I looked up curiously, wondering what sort of conductor was in control of the train.

“Congratulations! You have been selected to travel aboard our train, specially created for those exceptionally skilled in the area of problem solving. Throughout your stay, you will be given various riddles and puzzles to solve. You have the choice to either work independently, or rely on the other passengers for assistance.

“I expect full participation; anyone who refuses will be escorted off. I do not predict that happening, however, considering your natural instincts to tackle mysteries as they come along. I will leave you to your own devices now. Those who wish to leave may do so now, but once you are off, you may not come back onboard. To the rest, enjoy your trip.”

He let out a dry chuckle, which reverberated throughout the enclosure. I bit my bottom lip, contemplating the offer, and going through the pros and cons countless times in my head. Finally, I came to a decision, however reckless it may be.

“I have nothing to lose,” I murmured under my breath, a slow smile stretching across my face. “Game on.”


Chapter 2

Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 2



A panel to my right slid open to reveals a slip of paper. My hand wrapped around the parchment, trembling from the sheer excitement coursing through me.

Riddle One

What is the real name of this train?

A frown crept onto my face, confusion slowly taking a strong hold on my mind. Magine Express, I thought, Isn’t that the name? Or is there something else? Thoroughly baffled, I decided my best bet was to seek out the aid of another.

I tentatively stepped outside my compartment, wondering how many had accepted the challenge. My fellow mystery enthusiasts milled about, deciding to step outside their own private worlds or allow others in their own in order to solve the riddle.

I was a bit hesitant about permitting another into my bubble; the last time resulted in betrayal. Why should this time be any different?

I perished the thought once I spotted a female around my age. She had long, black hair tied back in a messy pony tail, strands of it flying everywhere. Her calculating eyes darted from person to person, as if evaluating her competition.

I made my way over to her, waving one hand as a greeting. “Hey there!”

She spun on her heel to face me, the shock clear on her face. Her features slowly softened, realizing I meant no harm. “Hello.”

“Any luck with the puzzle?” I questioned, secretly hoping she had made some headway. She bit her bottom lip and examined me once more, deciding if I was worthy of her knowledge.

“I think I may have a faint idea,” she finally revealed, “But you have to promise to work together before I tell you.” She held out one hand for a handshake and looked at me expectantly.

Without a second thought nor a shadow of doubt, I shook it, promising her my complete trust.

The girl smiled delicately and looked around, wary of curious onlookers. Noticing her discomfort, I led her to my compartment. “Ok,” she began, holding up the card, “This one is simple. You just have to rearrange the words to spell out enigma.”

She pulled out a marker and wrote it out, linking the letters to the actual word. “There. Easy.”

I bit my bottom lip and stared at the answer, attempting to create some sort of excuse to mask my obliviousness. “So, what now?” I questioned, deciding to move forward.

She flipped her card over and held it up for me to read.

Write your answer below and return it to the panel within 10 minutes. Please remain within your compartment afterwards.

I hurriedly scribbled down Enigma Express and shoved it into the small space, where the panel slid close and a loud sucking noise assured me of its safe delivery.

“Well then, I’ll see you when the next riddle arrives,” said the girl, giving me a small wave before leaving.

Suddenly the door swung shut and the lock clicked into place. The intercom turned on once more and the formidable voice rang out.

“I hope this puzzle gave you no trouble; it really was quite easy.”

For a fleeting moment I was inclined to believe he was talking to me alone, and I felt a sense of fear creeping up. But then he continued.

“Those of who failed to either listen to directions or answer the puzzle correctly will be escorted off. I ask for the others to stay where you are until the next puzzle is distributed.”

The speaker crackled loudly, and the announcement abruptly ended, leaving me with more than a few questions floating around in my head. “Stay put until the next puzzle,” I murmured.

Heaving a sigh, I slumped into the nearest seat, wondering how soon that would be. They could not expect us to solves these puzzles all day, and especially not without a reason.

Of course, I mused, there must be some motive behind the act. This could very well be a mystery within itself, the main question being why we are asked to do this.

Now I just needed a plausible explanation.


Chapter 3
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 3



The first shriek rang out exactly ten minutes after the announcement.

It was a high pitched cry which soon morphed in a wailing resembling that of a police siren. Except it was louder. Much much louder.

I debated with myself whether or not to investigate; the speaker had told us to remain in our compartments, but there could be danger out there, something we could stop. I pushed open the door and ran into the aisle, along with a few others who shared my curious nature. They were trying to pin point the source of the scream.

“Where did it come from?”

“I don’t know!”

“I think it was from the third car.”

“Are you crazy? It was obviously from this one!”

“We’re all gonna die!”

I bit my lip, ignoring the last comment and concentrating on bringing back the memory. The sound was muffled, but it did seem louder on the left. That would mean it originated in the first car. “Hey guys, I think-“

I was cut off as another cry entered our ear shot, a cry particularly ear piercing on the left. One glance around and I was certain of our mutual understanding. We quickly squeezed through the door and into the first car, eager to find the cause of our confusion.

It came in the form of a middle aged woman. She was leaned against the wall, sobbing uncontrollably. She wore a sequined party dress and stark white gloves, fit for a ball rather than a train ride. Her hair was up in a tight bun, and her jewelry only added to her eccentric appearance. The only oddity was her face. Her makeup was running, causing her to look more like a clown than a member of high society.

“I-I can’t believe this!” the woman exclaimed, letting out another howl.

“Ma’am, what’s wrong?” A man stepped forward, attempting to comfort her, but she promptly shoved him away. He seemed a bit startled, and quickly rejoined the crowd, his mouth a thin line.

“Allow me,” a smooth voice cut in, “This is a woman’s job.”

I watched as a small figure weaved through the throng and straight to the woman. She whispered something unintelligible in her ear until the cries died into sniffling. “Now,” I heard her say, “What happened?”

“They- they,” she stammered, still shaken from her experience, “They took him away!” There was a general gasp of shock as a dull thud resounded around the small space. The woman had lost consciousness.

I propelled myself through the mass and to the fallen body, taking a small bag of herbs out of my bag. “This’ll bring her around,” I murmured, deciding I should provide some sort of explanation for my actions before waving the bag around in her face.

Presently her eye lids began to flutter, and I sighed internally, relieved to see she was once again aware of her surroundings. It was far from over though; she owed us a proper account of her story.

I was in the middle of mentally composing my interrogation when two burly men clad in Enigma Express uniforms entered the scene. Their faces were expressionless, revealing no clues as to why they had come. It did not take long for us to find out.

“You.” They spoke in unison, pointing to the woman, who was now fully awake. “Come with us. As for the rest, return to your compartments.” A murmur went up, and not a single person made a move to leave. The attendants’ faces remained stony cold as they repeated their command. “Return to your compartments. Now!”

That sent everyone into a mad scramble; it seemed the physique of the two was enough to frighten them. I wished to stay, but I had to admit I would be no match against them. As I walked through the door, I could not help but glance back at the aisle, wondering what the men would do.

It was empty.

December 2
5.24 PM

This day has just been getting more and more interesting. The Magine Express, or rather the Enigma Express, is a mystery train, simply put. We, being a diverse group of detectives and mystery junkies alike, have been summoned by a mysterious host to solve puzzle and riddles. It is all strange, and at first I assumed he just wanted to maintain an atmosphere of secure ambiguity as he went on with the event.

That feeling has disappeared now, just like a woman who a few of us found crying rather forcefully in the adjacent car. She was dressed richly, clearly out of place among the rest. After she calmed down, she said that ‘they took him away,’ and fainted right after.

I used my trusty herbs to awaken her in hopes of learning a bit more, but two intimidating attendants arrived before I could pose my questions. At their command, the crowd quickly dispersed, but after looking back, the woman and the two attendants had vanished into seemingly thin air.

I am beginning to doubt the sensibility of agreeing to participate in such a vague… get together. I am honestly unsure of what to call this. A game, perhaps? But how long will it go on? And who is the creator? The biggest question is still looming over, casting a shadow of darkness over my mind.

What are playing for?


Chapter 4

Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 4



Riddle Two

I am here in the present
In all my frozen glory

Yet I’m stuck in the past
And tell many a story

Who am I?

I fingered the card in my, hand reading it over yet again. It arrived just few moments earlier, and I had an inkling of an idea for the answer. I was in the process of writing it down when the girl who had helped me before came in. “You got the answer?”

I nodded in response. “Somewhat. Is that why you’re here?”

“Not quite,” she answered thoughtfully. There was a small pause before she revealed her motive for visiting. She wanted to learn more about the earlier incident, and I gladly obliged, but she did not deem it sufficient. Her dark eyes were swimming with uncertainty and bored into my head, waiting for an explanation I simply could not provide.

“You know more.”

She accused.

“No, I don’t.”

I refuted.

“Yes you do.”

She persisted.

“Fine.”

I fabricated.

I spun a tale about demonic attendants snatching woman away after sending us back to our compartments. There was little remorse from telling such a lie; I’m sure my story wasn’t too far from the truth.

She laughed and took a seat; I couldn’t tell if she believed me or not, but either way, she was entertained.

Our argument in a nutshell.

“What do you think about this whole business?” Her features now took on a serious expression, the topic being much graver.

I looked away, contemplating whether or not to compromise the security of my innermost thoughts by divulging my idea, however raw it may be. It couldn’t hurt, I decided; after all, I had not thought of much so far. “I’ve been thinking that it could be some sort of game.”

“A game?” Her tone was disapproving, as if the notion was entirely too innocent.

“A sick, twisted game,” I quickly added, receiving a satisfactory nod.

“That sounds plausible. But… what are we-?”

“Playing for?” I finished the question, anticipating her next words. They were the exact ones running through my mind. “That’s the big question. Hopefully it’s something worthwhile, or we’d be going to all this trouble for nothing.”

“It must be,” the girl stated, “because the host would have to be pretty rich to be able to take control of a train like this, or own it if that’s the case.”

“I suppose you’re right.” I was rather surprised the idea never entered my mind earlier; the host must be extraordinarily wealthy to be able to arrange this. That, or he has to be extremely influential to be able to persuade someone with the money needed to pull it off.

Suddenly the loudspeaker started up with its familiar crackle.

“Attention passengers, at this time I ask you to return to your compartments if you are not already there. The lights will be turned off in exactly twenty minutes. Thank you for your cooperation.”

Lights? I pulled the curtain aside, revealing darkened scenery. “Where did the time go?” I murmured, gazing at the night.

“I guess I should get going now.” The girl stood up and hurried out before I could reply.

I turned my attention back to the puzzle, jotting down the answer before stuffing it inside the panel. I patiently waited until it was whisked up with a loud hiss. Then I picked up journal, choosing to spend the little time I had left writing a new entry.


December 2
8.39 PM


Questions.

Questions eat at you, piece by piece, every inch of your body. They bombard your mind, pester you until you offer an answer, and if that answer is not satisfactory, the annoyance will only continue. Sometimes an answer causes even more questions to arise, and they proliferate, flooding your mind until you lose the ability to make a firm statement. And if that happens, you start to question everything, from your own identity to the reality of your surroundings .In that case you can consider yourself long gone, detached from the tangible world.

If you ask me, questions have a direct connection to insanity, and if there was one copious supply here, it would consist of questions. So why aren’t we all going insane? Perhaps there is an element of terror necessary, a terror which has been cleverly masked by the sense of security this train has created.

I came to a conclusion today. Questions will only create a cycle of unanswered inquiries and unquenched curiosity. The best course of action would be to set aside the question marks until the end and maintain my sanity when I most need it.

Maybe then I’ll get some answers.


Chapter 5
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 5



Morning. Bright sunlight flooded the room, scarcely filtered by the thin curtains firmly pulled across the window. I could see shadows of trees moving across the fabric as the train continued its journey. Yawning, I unfolded my body from its uncomfortable position: bent into a small ball against the seat cushions. One glance at the panel guaranteed that no riddles or puzzles arrived while I was asleep.

A slight rumble from my stomach reached my ears, and I slid open the door, deciding to find the dining cart. Simple logic assured of me its existence: people are players, a game needs players, players play the game, to play means to live, and food provides life. A game with dead players is worthless.

It seemed that the others had come to the same conclusion as I had, for there were a few standing in the aisle trying to make out the way to their destination. An attendant burst in, pushing a cart filled with food along with him. This one was different from the ones I saw yesterday. He seemed to be much weaker, lacking in strength and fortitude; his body was thin, gaunt, and incapable of handling a crowd as large as the one gathered in the narrow aisle. If we chose to, we could easily overpower him, though the idea did not cross anyone’s mind, and if it had, they did not relay it on their face.

Instead, they politely obeyed when he served breakfast and sent them back to their compartments. Not one displayed even an ounce of resistance, and, feeling slightly discouraged, I followed their lead, returning inside once I was handed the food.

I picked at a piece of toast, my previous hunger suddenly vanishing once I obtained what I desired. This game was tiring after a mere day, and the questions which I resolved to put off came flooding back. There was no use in trying to block the flow, for they only returned stronger.

With a new goal in mind, I began to shovel down the food, only to stop upon biting into something with a distinctly different texture. Puzzled, I carefully extracted a piece of paper out of my mouth. What the- I flipped over the bread, where a piece of paper was stuck on with clear tape. My fingers hurried tore it off.

Riddle Three

Decipher the code.

Below there was a hand drawn musical scale with a few notes scribbled upon it. On the back, it read,

Write your answer below and return it to the panel within 30 minutes.

“Thirty minutes, eh?” I murmured, reaching for the orange juice can. “That’s enough time to solve it and finish breakfast.” I took a sip, and almost immediately spit it out. It was most certainly not orange juice. The taste resembled orange soda. The can still read orange juice in large letters, however, and the overall design correlated with the drink, but the liquid was replaced with soda. There was a strange logo which stood out, a curvy shape which looked like the letter ‘B’ or possibly ‘P.’ The font of the lettering was pointed and sharp, unlike the rest of the smooth design.

“Odd, though I don’t think it’s of any significance,” I reported aloud, setting down the drink. “The whole thing is probably a prank they’re playing to mess us up.” The rest of the meal was just as advertised, and I found myself looking over the puzzle once more. It was simple enough, the notes corresponded with letters, and it would spell something out. Seven letters is not much to work with, but it is entirely plausible to create words.

I had a short, but informative history in the musical arts, and I had full confidence that it would carry me through to the solution. Summoning all the memories of music class, I figured out the letters were b, a, g, e, d.

I exhaled and bit down on the eraser end of the pencil, chiding myself for believing this would be simple. “B-a-g-e-d. That’s definitely not a word.” I examined the scale once more, just to ascertain I had not overlooked a detail in my haste. There was none to be found.

Another thought struck me. I had wasted time in enjoying my breakfast with leisure, completely ignoring the time. That had been about fifteen minutes ago, meaning half of my time was already up. A new sort of fear flooded my body; so far I was timely in answering in the riddles. What happened to the people who didn’t?


Chapter 6
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 6


Time was slipping through my fingers as if an hourglass had broken above me and released its contents over my head in a flurry of lost minutes. I decided to go back to the basics, translating to a thorough search of the breakfast. Upon closer inspection, I realized most of the items held no striking features, save for the can of soda.

I picked it up and turned it around in my hands absentmindedly, trying to get a clear perspective on my situation. Five minutes remaining, and only half an answer. The outlook was slowly dimming, and I was missing the means to provide some light.


My hands stopped when they snagged the sharp point on the can. “Sharp,” I murmured, “That’s it!” With a mental picture of a piano in my head, I wrote down the answer and shoved it into the panel just as the speaker came on.

“Congratulations to all that have made it thus far. I must say, I am impressed with your skill.” He laughed dryly, clearly amused by some unknown fact. I felt as if I was being drenched in a sudden cold sweat, and I wiped away at invisible perspiration as the speaker became sober once more. “As a reward, I urge you all to get acquainted with your fellow passengers before visiting the dining cart for lunch at noon. Until then, you are free to wander as you please.”

Finally, some freedom. It seemed best to follow his advice and learn a bit more about the histories of my neighbors on this trip. They may prove to be quite valuable in the future. My first stop was the compartment adjacent to my own. The knocks were answered by an elderly man dressed in a lavish suit and donning a top hat. His sophisticated figure was marred by the constant shaking of his body, particularly his arms and legs, and his facial features, distorted by paranoia. His eyes, bloodshot from a lack of sleep, darted from side to side with the intensity of a of a lost child’s cries. He seemed to be disoriented himself, a vagabond searching for a missing piece essential to his existence.

I felt a sudden desire, no, need to help him. I must admit, I was a bit put off by the fact that he eyed me as if I were a monster readying myself to attack, but I wrote it off as an effect of the train and its mysterious nature; what else could cause such a strange demeanor in a man who seemed more accustomed to an elegant ball rather than a place such as this?

Realizing he was expecting me to speak, I introduced myself and explained my purpose. A few seconds passed by and his eyes softened. He gestured for me to follow him in and pointed to a seat, foreseeing that my visit will span more than a few minutes. “So is there anything that you might be able to tell me?” I questioned gently, fully aware of his unstable state.

He simply nodded in reply, and I began to wonder if he had lost the ability to speak. If that were true, coaxing out information would prove to be quite trying. “I thought it may be beneficial if we learned more about each other and work together to unravel this little mystery. A greater number of people will definitely help us get through this.”

At that he smiled and sat down across from me, clearly more at ease. “I suppose you bring up a good point,” he finally responded, his voice cracking under the weight of the years. “My name is Thomas Andrews, and I am a romantic of sorts, a fact which may lead you to believe that was the quality for which I was called for, but I have a different motive for coming aboard.”

“Oh? I was under the impression it was merely for the entertainment for detectives and amateur sleuths,” I put out, selecting my words with caution.

“If only,” he sighed wistfully, running a hand through what little hair remained on his head. “I was once a professor of mathematics at the local university and helped the police with their cases a fair amount of times, but that all occurred many years before you were even born.”

“Then,” I began, completely baffled by the given information, “Why have you come?”

Thomas reached into a bag lying on the table and pulled out a crumpled letter. He handed it to me, beginning to summarize its message. “That arrived around eleven or twelve yesterday on my door step, along with a train ticket. It said- it said that my wife was kidnapped and that the only way I could have her back was if I came.”

At that his body convulsed, and a ripple of shivers ran through like the flames of a forest fire. I quickly poured a glass of water and raised it to his lips, supporting his back while he sipped the liquid. Then I pulled him up to a sitting position and looked over worriedly. “Are you all right? I can go get an attendant-” He rested a hand on my shoulder, silently saying he needed no medical attention.

“I’m quite all right for the time being,” he managed to squeak out after another long gulf of water. “Yes, fine, fine. Please, let me continue.” He held a determined gaze despite his lack of energy, and I eventually gave in.

“Upon receiving the letter, my first instinct was that it was a joke, one of a cruel nature. My wife was out running errands, but it was true that she was long overdue back home. Becoming a bit panicked, I phoned our close friends, yet they had not seen her since a few weeks earlier at a party.

“The police would not accept a missing person’s report, and I couldn’t help but feel as if my wife was on this train. If I waited for the police to investigate, I would miss my chance to come onboard, but it seems like the risk is not paying off so far.”

“So there’s no sign of your wife?” I asked, the alarm plainly written across my face. To think, I believed this was a game… it seems almost twisted now, as if I was as merciless as the sadistic behind it. Reality has finally reared its wicked head, and, to my great horror, it was far harsher than I had perceived.

He shook his head slowly, a lone tear trickling down his face. “I thought I’d play the part of the hero and come to her rescue, but obviously I was mistaken. If I only waited… I’d not be stuck here in this hole.”

“Don’t worry,” I declared, resolving to aid him in his search, “I’ll help you look for her.” His face brightened at the prospect of a helping hand, but reverted to its original bleak expression soon after.

“I can only hope we find her,” he muttered, “It seems this train is only good for bringing about misfortune.”


Chapter 7
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 7



Mr. Andrews and I continued to discuss the details of his wife’s disappearance until I gathered a decent amount of information scribbled in my journal. “How about we meet up later at lunch?” I suggested, snapping the book shut. He accepted with a deferent smile and we parted ways on a much calmer note than when we met. Outside, I flipped to the page with my notes and looked it over quickly.


December 3
9.45 AM

Details on Mrs. Andrews/ Sarah Andrews

Mrs. Andrews is an elderly woman who is considerably more active than others in her age group, husband included. She has the imagination of a child and the wisdom of a sage, a rather unfortunate combination for Thomas, who is often pulled into philosophical discussions riddled with notions of the impossible. She tends to point out the good and maintains an optimistic outlook when most would throw in the towel without as much as a second thought.

She was last seen in her home yesterday (12/2) by her husband and reportedly never came back from running errands. Her whereabouts are currently unknown, though we believe she might by on the Enigma Express.

Key Notes:

-mid 70s
-5’3”
-gray, curly hair; hazel eyes; small nose + mouth; walks with slight limp
-active
-imaginative
-missing since morning of 12/2
-possibly on train

It was a decent amount of information to work off of, enough at least to interrogate some of the other passengers. I went across the car and knocked on the door, readying my spiel.

“Coming!” a female voice rang out. Based on the voice, I placed her age to be around fifteen to seventeen, taking account of the sweet yet slightly mature tones buried underneath. It seemed my guess was not too far off the mark, for soon I was being introduced to Ms. Eliza Spruce, a fresh high school graduate. Her story revolved around discovering a new story for her budding journalism career.

“I want to leave a huge first impression!” she exclaimed excitedly, guiding me into the compartment. The bright, young enthusiasm was nostalgic of my college graduation, when I felt just as prepared to venture into the world of criminology. Though then I had more than a simple high school education to back me up when against experienced veterans of the field. The intimidation of a new challenge did not seem to alter her resolve, however, and I could not help but admire her courage.

Shot back to reality by Eliza’s impatient stare, I quickly proposed my idea of a group effort to solve the mystery. It seemed best to get her on board before explain Mrs. Andrews’ disappearance.

“A team, eh?” she murmured in a thoughtful fashion, glimmers of curiosity shining in her eyes as she took in the idea. Suddenly she grabbed a top hat next to her seat and plopped it onto her head, as well as adopting a somewhat unnerving, but polite smile.

“I suppose it will serve us well,” she began in an English accent, her eyes slightly closed and her posture much straighter than before. Confused at her sudden transformation, I’d lost the ability to form coherent words and merely watched as she poured an imaginary cup of tea and drank it. “Yes, I believe I shall join.”

The success of the visit was enough to take me out of my silence and I managed a small smile. “Great! But, if you don’t mind my asking-” Eliza held up a silencing hand and returned the top hat to its former location.

“I’m a bit of a Professor Layton junkie,” she laughed, as if it explained the charade.

“Professor…?”

Her laughter soon died down upon catching sight of my puzzlement, and she pulled a face of pure shock. “You mean you don’t know who he is?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“He’s a professor of archaeology at Gressenheller University, which is in London if you didn’t know,” she added in a smaller voice. “He’s solved many baffling cases which even the Scotland Yard couldn’t! They’re the hot shot police over there.”

“I’m quite aware,” I said curtly, a bit agitated that she felt it necessary to elaborate. Her tone indicated she doubted my intelligence, and there was nothing worse than a lack of trust by someone younger.

Ignoring my statement, she continued with her explanation of the Professor. “His latest case was discovering the mystery behind a specter terrorizing the town of Misthallery. It’s all really interesting.”

“Gressenheller…Misthallery…Layton. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of any of those,” I admitted, feeling a bit of my pride deteriorate as I uttered the words.

Eliza immediately thrust one hand into her bag and pulled out what appeared to be a gaming device. “I’ll show you.” She quickly turned on the system and after a few undistinguishable ‘beeps,’ she handed it to me.

‘Professor Layton and the Last Specter’ appeared on the top screen, and on the bottom there was an option to continue the game or start a new one. “Professor Layton,” I began slowly, barely able to comprehend, “is a game series?”

“Of course!” exclaimed Eliza, snatching the game back with a deft grab. “You didn’t think it was real, did you? A specter?!” Her boisterous giggles filled up the room as scarlet dispersed through my cheeks.

“Well, that was quite a surprise,” I muttered meekly, beginning to question my common sense. How did I believe there was actually a specter?

“I suppose I can let this slide,” Eliza said, stretching the words in a borderline obnoxious manner, “But you can’t tell me you don’t recognize these.” She pulled out two hats, a cloak, and a fake moustache. “Can you guess?”

At that I grinned. These were my kind of characters. “Holmes and Poirot,” I answered confidently, relieved that some of my dignity could be salvaged.

“Correct! Thirty picarats!”

“Huh?”

“Oh right, you don’t know.” She sighed exasperatedly, as if I were the one at fault. “I’ll get you the first game to play sometime. But I guess we should go gather others for the team, right?”

“Actually, I’ve already recruited one other person, a man named Mr. Andrews.” With a clear seriousness in my voice, I explained the disappearance of his wife. She listened in enraptured silence, along with a solemnity I did not think was possible for her.

Eliza pushed the moustache to her face and spoke with a surprisingly accurate French accent. “Looks we’re gonna have to use our-”

“Little gray cells?’ I offered with a tiny grin.

She returned the gesture and was soon donning the top hat once more. “Correct! Fifty picarats for you!”

I couldn’t help but suppress a smile as the hats toppled over her face, or as the moustache floated down after them, and most definitely not as Eliza proceeded to be all three characters at once. “Well, Professor Hercule Holmes, let’s get going!”


Chapter 8
Spoiler: show


Enigmatic
Chapter Eight


Eliza and I agreed on speaking to one other passenger before we headed to lunch. As I opened the door, the air was suddenly filled with light accordion music. Eliza held up the game system and explained, “Just some background music.”

I also observed she had various props in tow, as well. “I sincerely hope this doesn’t turn anyone off,” I murmured, to which Eliza responded with an indignant huff and marched ahead of me in a show of faux insult. She had already weaseled her way into her neighbor’s compartment when I arrived, and was in the process of spitting out quick fire questions. I interrupted the myriad of mangled words, hoping the opportunity was not lost.

My attempts succeeded at last, and soon I had Eliza calmly seated next to me, exchanging introductions while a soft tune played throughout the conversation. Our newest acquaintance, Ms. Molly Sylver, was a high school graduate as well, though her behavior was far more appropriate for her age than what could be said for Eliza. She met my gaze with a discerning eye, as if she could scrutinize my whole character with such an action.

If that were true, then it would be quite easy to figure out Eliza…or not, I thought as she slipped on a pair of sunglasses reminiscent of spy gear. “Who are you now?” I questioned, tearing my eyes away from Molly’s unwavering face.

“Don’t you know what’s happening?” A shake of the head affirmed the answer. She leaned in close to my ear, and I instinctively reeled back a couple inches. “She’s hypnotizing you!”

“What?” I questioned, my eyes narrowing in confusion. “Hypnosis? I strongly doubt that.”

“Well,” she hesitated, throwing another look at Molly, “I guess, maybe, I just thought they looked cool.” Eliza offered a sheepish smile and tucked the eyewear away before coughing and growing quiet.

“So, Molly, what brought you aboard?” I leaned back casually, hoping to create a friendly atmosphere, though Molly’s serious countenance did not change. With a straight posture and an expression better suited for a queen, she answered in a monotone which quickly eradicated any traces of previous carefree spirits.

“If you must know, I was more or less forced to come on this little trip.”

“How so?”

Molly bit her lower lip, seeming uncertain about divulging her reason. I couldn’t blame her, we were strangers after all. “Let’s just say they have some information I rather not get out.”

“Blackmail,” I murmured, eyes narrowing thin slits. “Whoever this is, they mean business.”

“What about you two?” As we explained our reasons, Molly’s frown grew deeper, and her stare colder. “Is that all? You two must be quite easy to persuade, then.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” I countered, keeping my voice steady. “Perhaps we don’t have more pressing matters than like yours.”

“Yeah, we probably have less to lose,” Eliza chimed in.

“Implying you don’t have anything of value,” Molly continued smoothly.

Realizing reason would be lost on her, I decided to be just as frank as my opponent. “Maybe we were just able to guard it more effectively than you,” I accused, fully aware of the statement’s undertone. She took the bait, I noted, as her cheeks took on bright shades of scarlet. The disposition did not last long, however.

“I suppose you are worthy of my company, though I’m not so sure about her,” she said, giving pointed look toward Eliza, who was fiddling with the music choices.

I glanced over and shook my head. “Sorry, but we’re a joint offer.”

Molly sighed exasperatedly and rested her chin on her hand. “Fine, fine, but-”

“Attention passengers. Lunch has been moved up. Please make your way to the dining cart as soon as possible. Thank you.”

“Saved by the mostly mysterious and possibly malicious host,” I muttered, standing up.

“Great! I’m starving!” Eliza cried, already en route to the destination. Outside we ran into Mr. Andrews, we was promptly introduced to Molly.

“Oh, are you two going to help find her as well?” he questioned, his aura already much brighter by the prospect.

“Her? Who are we finding?” Molly looked back in confusion, and I realized I had never told her about Mrs. Andrews. Thomas quickly cleared up the matter, though Molly’s reaction was less promising. “Well, I never agreed to that,” she huffed, a bit off by the fact we kept it a secret.

She seemed to have it drilled into her head that we tricked her into agreeing, and she was not hesitant about voicing this suspicion. It was not intended, of course, though trying to explain that to her would only result in flared tempers. “Besides,” she added after a barrage of baseless allegations, “I’m not going to waste my time trying to help someone else when I have to look after myself.”

“What do you mean?” Eliza hadn’t spoken while Molly went off on her rant; in fact, she was rather disconnected, floating in her own little world after our encounter with Mr. Andrews. She was back now, concentrating on Molly’s statement and hanging on every word as if she were precariously dangling from a cliff, and the only means of survival was to listen.

“Don’t you wonder about the ones who aren’t able to solve the puzzles or complete them on time?” She directed the question to Eliza, but since it appeared she had returned to her dream like state, I answered in her place.

“It has crossed my mind,” I responded cautiously. I was not going to give Molly the upper hand this time.

“Well, what do you think happens to them?” She looked at me squarely, as if challenging me to answer. Unable to produce a feasible explanation, I simply shrugged and waited for her to speak. “As I thought. I, for one, think they just do away with them.”

My eyebrows furrowed as I took in the implication of her theory. “You don’t mean-”

Molly grimaced and nodded slowly. Even she was frightened in the face of such a fate. “It might not be true, but what else could have happened?”

“That can’t be true!” Mr. Andrews piped up from behind us. Something about his tone struck me as odd, and I quickly turned around just in time to see Eliza snap out of her reverie and struggle to hold up the unconscious man. Throwing my bag to the ground, I went to help carry him back to his compartment as Molly watched on silently.

“He looks pretty pale,” I inspected once he was laid on the couch.

“He- he’s not going to die, is he?” questioned Molly, her voice suddenly stripped of its prior arrogance; it was small and faintly audible in the thick, somber air which now shrouded the room. Her face was deathly white, and for a few moments I was afraid we’d have two patients on our hands. Luckily Eliza dropped her detective charade and was checking Mr. Andrews for a pulse.

“Of course not!” I answered, glancing over to her. “How does he look?” A dismal shake of the head.

“Pulse is weak, but still there.”

“I suspect this is the result of a lack of food,” I hypothesized. “The worry of being away from his wife must have driven his appetite away.”

“It certainly took a toll,” remarked Eliza. She seemed to be an entirely different person, displaying a much more serious disposition than before. The emergency did call for maturity however, and I was pleased to see she was able to rise to the occasion.

“It’s nothing a little food won’t fix,” I assured, taking note of my companions’ worried expressions. “It’s best to keep him here for now and have our lunch with him, in case he wakes up.” With Eliza and Molly in concord, I headed out to inform an attendant about our absence at lunch.

By the time I reached the dining cart, people were already filing in, and I noticed a significantly condensed crowd than when we first entered the train. I was reminded of Molly’s theory, which temporarily slowed my pace. I pushed the thought of my head after noticing that the presence of others, however small it may be, still assuaged flittering nerves and provided a healing albeit ephemeral comfort.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted an attendant after he directed two passengers to an open table.

“May I help you?” he offered politely with an off putting smile. “I think I see an open spot for one over there,” he murmured, looking over my shoulder.

“Oh, no thank you,” I refused, “I just wanted to let you know that me and two others will be staying with a sick passenger.” If hadn’t known better, I’d say pure anger ran through his face in a few fleeting seconds. But, considering the smile which once more adorned his otherwise crude face, I couldn’t be sure.

“In that case, we’ll bring you and your friends lunch directly to the compartment.” After giving him the orders and our location, I left the dining cart and headed back.

“Pst! Hey you!” Instinctively, I turned around to find my caller, who took the form of a nose sticking out of the crack of a nearby door. “I have somethin’ to tell ya.” The voice was rugged and coarse, surely belonging to a male, and a burly one at that.

“And if I don’t want to listen?” I kept my voice steady, wary of the fact that this could very well escalate into a scuffle, and that was the last thing I needed.

The stranger let out a guttural laugh, sending shivers down my spine. “Ya got guts, kid. Now I’m sure I can tell.”

“If you think that ploy’s going to work then you’ve got another thing coming,” I answered in an equally cool voice. There was no need to openly show my fear. “Besides, I don’t even know the nature of what you need to tell me. There’s no point in staying.”

“Aw, come on. I know you want to know,” he urged, “It will only take a second. It’s about the host of the train.”

That caught my attention, as much I hate to admit it. I still had a lingering sense of unease. There was not a soul in sight; everyone had already gone to the dining cart, and all the attendants were gathered there. “Why don’t you come in the open and tell me?” I asked, still suspicious of the man.

“Is that what you want?”

His tone had changed. His tone was most certainly changed, it was different; a venomous one had replaced it. And yet, I was frozen with fear. I wasn’t even aware of my feet’s inability to move until he jumped out, thrust me into the closet with a vise grip, and slammed the door shut, where - and I am sure it was rather satisfying for him - a click of the lock soon followed.


Chapter 9
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 9



The thing about darkness: it’s disorienting. There is no sense of time, no means of knowing how many seconds, minutes, hours have passed. Luckily, after a few moments of aimlessly waving around my arms, I hit a dangling rope, which I promptly pulled down to illuminate the constricting space. “Finally,” I murmured, taking stock of the room. The dying light bulb provided minimum light, but I could make out shelves lining the walls. There wasn’t anything on them; in fact the entire closet was barren save for myself.

“What sort of supply closet has nothing to store?” I wondered aloud. The musty dampness was beginning to irritate my nose, so I turned to examine the lock. There was no point in such a safety measure under normal circumstances, for there was nothing to protect. A shoddy job had been done in attaching it, and it was clear this wasn’t included in the original design, and was most likely set up by my attacker.

The lock in question had a sliding puzzle to unlock it, and soon I was heading back to the compartment. Before I had a chance to speak, Eliza came up and began her interrogation with barely a second’s break in between for me to cut in. Finally, after Molly deemed it necessary to restrain her, she took over the questioning instead, much to my dismay.

“So,” she began coolly, “Where were you?”

“It-it was really crowded in the dining hall,” I fabricated, wary of my wavering voice. “It took a while before I could get in, much less find an attendant who was not busy with another passenger.” I did not want to worry them with details of the attack; we had more pressing matters to tend to.

“Oh.” Their harsh gazes faltered before melting away, and something like guilt flashed across for a moment. Molly still seemed suspicious of me, but that was to be expected. What threw me off was Eliza’s silence and stony face. Had Molly been able to infect the usually cheerful girl with her distrustful nature?

I perished the thought as Eliza broke out in a sudden, but relieving smile. “What was I thinking?” She pulled up the top hat and set it on her head. “I could never doubt you! It’s very unbecoming in a gentleman to distrust their own ally!”

“You do realize you’re a female, don’t you?” Molly broke in, clearly perplexed by Eliza’s behavior. Eliza’s response was a cryptic grin, though there was no time for further inquires due to a sharp knock on the door. I opened it, allowing an attendant to wheel in a cart of food.

“Good, good,” Eliza began, “now we can have our tea.” The attendant suddenly became panicked and pulled out a notebook.

“I don’t believe tea was in your order,” he informed us, flipping through the pages frantically.

“Nonsense!” she exclaimed, startling the increasingly nervous man. “We’ll do without it, I suppose.” The attendant hesitated for a moment and nodded.

“I’ll be back in half an hour or so to pick up the cart. Just call of you need anything, and enjoy your meal!” With that, he was gone.

“Really, I can’t believe you!” Molly shot Eliza a disapproving glare, who took it upon herself to experience the pleasure of indulging in all of the food in the least amount of time possible. “You practically scared the poor man away!” At that, Eliza murmured something unintelligible which neither Molly nor I had any success in deciphering.

“Might as well eat before there’s nothing left,” I suggested, grabbing my sandwich before a certain other passenger had the chance to. Save for Eliza’s occasional content mumbles, the meal was eaten in silence. Mr. Andrews did not stir even after we were finished, or when the attendant returned.

“Perhaps he should see a doctor.” I was hesitant about voicing my concern before, but the situation was becoming dire and I was afraid that if he was left in our care, his state would only worsen. “Is there one on board?”

“Of course!” the attendant affirmed, his pride restored now that he could help. “I’ll bring him here.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Molly questioned once we were alone. “Do you really trust these people?” A moment after she adopted a pensive expression, as if she just realized what she had said.

“We don’t have a choice,” I pointed, gesturing towards Andrews. “He needs medical attention and we cannot provide it.”

“If Doctor Watson were here,” Eliza cut in, “I would call upon him to assist us.”

“Unfortunately he’s not with us,” I pointed out with a stern glance at her. Molly added that he was fictional, but another glare quieted her as well. “We have to trust them, at least until Mr. Andrews is feeling better.” Molly grudgingly consented, and presently the attendant was back with the doctor. He ushered us out promptly, all the while assuring us that the patient would be better in no time, though his words were by no means credible.

“So, what now?” Eliza was itching to investigate, I could tell by her tapping foot and constant movement of her head.

“I say we check out the compartments while everyone is away.” I turned to Molly in surprise.

“You mean snoop in their stuff without permission?”

“I don’t think they’d give us permission for that,” she scoffed with more than a little scorn laced onto her voice. I bit my lower lip, uncomfortable with the notion of looking through the rooms without a strong reason to. I was more anxious about being caught in the act and the subsequent consequences.

“But there are a ton of compartments, and lunch must be ending soon,” I protested, hoping to talk her out of going. She waved off the concerns and shrugged.

“It’s a risk, I’ll admit, but this is the perfect opportunity.”

“Fine,” I gave in, “but only one.” Molly was already jiggling the handles to see if any were unlocked.

“No dice,” she murmured, opening the door to the next car. Eliza and I trooped behind, and found Molly pointing to a door that was left ajar. “Here!”

“I’ve never seen her so happy before,” Eliza whispered in my ear. I shook my head in agreement, noticing the change in her. So this is the type of thing she likes.

The inside of the room seemed normal enough; a bag was thrown haphazardly to one side, and a notebook lay open on the seat with a pencil nearby. Molly instantly went for the notebook, while Eliza rummaged through the bag. I decided to stand guard outside, in case the passenger returned.

“It’s a girl!” Eliza cried out, obviously discovering the clothes tucked away inside the bag.

“I can tell by the writing,” Molly added in. “Hey, your name is in here!” she called to me.

“What?” I hurried to her side and snatched the book away, just to find that my name truly was there, written in bright, blue ink. The entry was about the fainting woman we had found earlier and it had minimum details about the incident. As I skimmed through, I realized the word choice expressed clear skepticism towards me. “Who wrote this-” In my confusion, and the joint lack of attention of Eliza and Molly, not one of us realized that the passengers were returning from lunch, or that one of them had entered the room.

“What are you doing here?”


Chapter 10
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 10



“What are you doing here?”

She repeated her query and stared at us expectantly, hands planted firmly on her hips. There three of us struggled to provide an explanation, and with such diverse minds, it came out to be something like this:

“The- the food!”

“It was a death threat-“

“We don’t mean any harm-”

“Poison!”

“-To brainwash us and-”

“-Make us search the rooms-”

“We had no choice.”

“A lapse of judgment on our part.”

“For the evil alien overlord or he’d abduct us!”

Suffice to say, the truth had to come out after that little charade.

“See, we just wanted to know more about the passengers,” I explained, attempting to sound as apologetic as possible.

“I suppose I understand,” she sighed as she fixed up her belongings.

“We’re sorry for the trouble we caused you, especially me. After all, you did help me out when we arrived here.” I had recognized the girl’s face when she came into the room, recalling our meeting after the first riddle. After that, I had not seen much of her, and with the addition of the Mr. Andrews and his plight, she had completely slipped my mind.

A wave of guilt washed over me, and I felt a bit ashamed about leaving her behind, only to resurface once more by invading her personal space. “How about you join our group?” I was hoping to make amends, for there was no use in making an enemy, particularly one as intelligent as this. Molly and Eliza were sending me death glares, but it was too late to take back the offer.

“Really?” she questioned, turning to look at me with a perplexed expression. Her hard eyes bored into my head as they had once before. “I think I’ll take you up on that.”

Molly inhaled sharply and forced a smile onto her face. “Welcome,” she said in a strained tone, “I’m Molly, and that’s Eliza. I guess you already know who that is.” She gestured toward me, her lips still stretched in an unsettling grin.

“My name is Trinity Metlot. I’m sure it will be a pleasure working with you.” She thrust out her hand for a handshake, but Molly ignored the polite gesture by feigning interest in the carpet design. Trinity let her arm drop and launched into a conversation with Eliza instead.

Realizing her attention was diverted, Molly pulled me aside and began to speak in a low voice. “How could possibly let her come with us?” The scorn was evident in her tone, but luckily Trinity was engaged with Eliza so she could not hear.

“How else would we be able to compensate for looking through her things? I knew this would end up hurting us, but since you insisted, we did it. We have to pay for it, and even though she may not be your first choice, it’s the way it has to be.”

She pouted in reply and glanced at Trinity out of the corner of her eye, ascertaining she was not being overheard. “I just don’t think we could trust her. I’d even prefer Eliza over her, don’t you think that counts for something?”

“What I believe, Molly, is that you are threatened by her.” It was a heavy allegation to make and I was fully aware of what consequences may spur from revealing it, but I felt as if it needed to be voiced, as if it would only be a hindrance if it remained bottled up inside.

“You and Trinity are awfully alike, despite what you may think. You both come off as brash and have an air of sophistication which, and I’m afraid this may come as a shock, is just not a favorable quality in a person.” I allowed a few seconds for this to sink in before continuing. “It also creates suspicion about your own motive and a bit of hesitancy when trust is brought into the picture. That is the appearance you have, Molly Sylver, and you are in no position to criticize the character of others.”

Molly stood stunned for a moment, unaccustomed to being scolded so harshly. Her eyes were frozen in shock, and her body was in no better condition. Her mouth was agape, opening and closing as if the words were stuck on her tongue, unable to come out.

Times likes these brought out the age difference in the two of us; I was well into adulthood, she was just entering it. In this scenario I had greater power over her, and though it was not something I took great pride in utilizing, the situation left me with no other choice.

“Listen,” I soothed, softening my voice, “People who believe they know everything usually know nothing at all. And you make not think of yourself like that, but your behavior so far has given off that impression. It’s exactly how you see Trinity,” I pointed out. “I suggest you try to accept her, because she won’t be leaving any time soon.”

She was still for a few moments, digesting the information I’d given her slowly. Then she turned to Trinity, and cleared her throat to capture her attention. “Uh, Trinity,” she began, say her name as if it would bring about death, “I – I wasn’t exactly kind to you before, and I apologize. It was my idea to look in your room, and I realize that was wrong. I hope we can still cooperate and solve this mystery. Together.”
Genuine happiness flickered through Trinity’s face but soon it was placid once more. “I accept your apology, Molly. I think you’ve learned from your mistake.”

I grimaced at the last statement, wondering if I would have to deliver my speech once more to Trinity, but there was no time for that since the speaker was crackling with life.

“We will be reaching our destination soon, so please gather your belongings and prepare to depart the train. I request for all passengers to remain in their compartments until the train has come to a full stop and we are ready to disembark. Thank you.”

“I suppose we’ll be taking our leave, then,” I announced, beckoning for Eliza and Molly to follow me out. “We’ll be seeing you Trinity.”

“Soon, hopefully,” she replied, shutting the door behind us.

We went back singe file, me in front, Eliza second, and Molly last. Eliza blabbered on about the excitement of finally arriving somewhere while Molly was silent and sullen, most likely harboring a dislike for me. It did not bother me, however, because of two reasons.

One: She had to hear the words and realize what she was doing, and

Two: The destination was plaguing my mind.

I’d expected this to be on a train alone and no other setting but this. Bringing in another would be completely changing the game. Was this where we were to meet the host?

We had arrived to the car and parted ways, promising each other to stay safe. I took the time I had in solitude to make a new entry for my journal. A lot had occurred since the last time I’d written in it, and it would definitely kill the remaining time until we arrived.


December 3
1.45 PM



Confusion is quickly becoming the prime feeling for me, as well as a sense of overwhelming anticipation. Soon after meeting Mr. Andrews, I became acquainted with Eliza Spruce, Molly Sylver, and Trinity Metlot. The former two are polar opposites while the latter two could very well pass as twins based on their behavior.

Eliza has a particular interest in fictional detectives and acts like them often. It is quite odd, but is a nice change of pace when faced with other worries. She sometimes zones out into her own world, which may prove to be a problem in the future. She also acts childlike the majority of the time, though is capable of displaying her serious side. For now, she is a trustworthy friend and ally.

Molly came off as a cold person, tending to put herself above others. I am hoping my words will stuck with her and she will learn to kick the habit. There is no doubt in my mind it is an aspect of her that will prove to be harmful if not eradicated.

Trinity is the girl which I met when I first boarded in train. She helped me solve the first riddle, and I recall one other conversation with her. We stumbled upon her room when investigating the compartments, and I noted an instant animosity between her and Molly. Hopefully that will be fixed before it is able to cause any permanent rifts between them.

As of now, the condition of Mr. Andrews remains to be seen. He had fainted just before lunch. Molly, Eliza, and I remained with him, though his condition did not improve. He has been left in the care of the train’s doctor, so I am assuming he will be fine. Mrs. Andrews’ location is still unknown and it does not seem like we will be able to search for her any time soon.

Another interesting incident was my little capture after leaving the dining cart. A strange man had forced me into a supply closet. It held no materials inside it, however, which I find to be odd. I’m not sure what he was trying to accomplish, because the door was unlocked effortlessly and I escaped in no time. I would try to get back and examine the room more closely, but is an impossible task right now.

The next item on the agenda is to simply wait.

It seems unproductive, but the current situation denies me any means of gathering additional information. I do believe there will be a great deal of it at the destination our host has planned to take us to. The whole matter is strange, but I can’t help but feel we are closer to tackling the questions.

But if I were asked to speculate on it, I could not even being to fathom what sort of answers we will find.


Chapter 11
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 11



Tick. Tick. Tick.

The clock’s steady heart beat was the only sound that filled my ears during the tense wait. Presently, the train began to slow, its wheels creaking to a stop. Moments after, an announcement was made.

“Attention all passengers, please wait for an attendant to guide you off the train. The next stage will begin soon.”

Next stage? In that case, the theory of a game can still stand strong. We may be entering the next level. A knock on the door brought me back to reality; it was one of the attendants who took the fainting woman. What did happen to her?

“Please follow me,” he commanded in a monotone, gesturing to a group of people consisting of the car’s passengers. I grabbed my things and headed out. Molly and Eliza offered me small smiles, but I could not bring myself to even feign such a gesture. As I looked around, I realized Mr. Andrews was not among those present. The attendant was starting to lead us out and made no effort to bring him, leaving me with a desire to fetch him myself.

My wish could not be fulfilled, however, for the attendant was impatiently tapping his foot, waiting for me to follow. Reluctantly, I rejoined the group alongside Eliza and Molly. “Do you know what happened to Mr. Andrews?” I questioned in a low tone, staring straight ahead to avoid drawing attention.

Molly glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and answered, “No. Maybe he-”

“Quiet back there!”

A frown creased my face, but I continued to walk until the end was in sight. A couple of porters stood ready in the doorway, collecting luggage as the passengers passed through. I handed one of them my bag, yet he still blocked the exit. “Any electronics? Cell phones?” I shook my head, remembering that I forgotten it at home in my haste to arrive in time. According to Molly they had no reception all throughout the trip, rendering them useless in any case.

Molly handed hers over, as well as a suitcase and purse. “When will we be getting these back?” she questioned sweetly, donning a large smile. I watched the exchange with interest, containing a chuckle and wondering if she believed an act like that would grant her leeway with a strict operation such as this.

“Maybe,” came the vague, and rather confusing, answer.

Molly stared at him, dumbfounded, until finally her voice returned. “That’s not-”

“Please keep the line moving,” he commanded loudly, giving her a gentle push out.

Molly ‘hmphed’ and went ahead, muttering under her breath about the terrible service. Once we were out of earshot, she began to rant to Eliza, who responded with a mutual irritation concerning the loss of her game system. It attracted more than a couple glances our way. I tuned them out in favor of observing the surroundings. We had arrived in an unmarked station, or rather a shoddily built platform. It was surely not one of the usual stops, for there was neither a sign nor any form of guidance.

The area appeared to be rural, considering the large population trees and the high ratio of greenery over humans. There were no paved paths, only one worn lane of dirt leading into the forest behind us. Its existence would not even be possible if it weren’t for the numerous times it had been trekked over.

Our luggage was being thrown into a large bins stationed near the train. Once everything was set, an attendant called for our attention. “We will be going soon. Please stand in a single file line and I will bring you there.”

His command was hurriedly carried out, and we soon found ourselves walking down the path after him. As we got further in, the lighting grew dimmer and dimmer until an intense, all consuming darkness shrouded us. If it weren’t for the thin slit of light in the front guiding us through, we’d be as good as blind.

I felt a tug on my arm, which was suddenly enveloped by two others. Worried I was being attacked again, I shook them off vigorously. I turned and made out the shaking figure of Eliza. Apparently she was afraid of the dark. I reluctantly allowed her to cling onto me, secretly relieved of my own fear.

After a few more minutes of walking, a spot of light could be seen up ahead. It grew in magnitude as we approached, and soon we were engulfed in luminance. I blinked rapidly and covered my eyes until they had fully adjusted. But I was still doubtful of my vision's reliability for it appeared as if a large, castle-inspired building was looming over our heads.

So I’m not imagining this,
I thought, taking note of the shocked expressions around me. The attendant wasted no time in herding us through the door of the castle and into a large foyer.

There were two doors in view, positioned on either side of a stairway which diverged in the middle to lead both left and right. The décor was minimal, yet tasteful, clearly chosen by a savvy connoisseur. The entire place leaked sophistication, but its dismal guests only marred the elegance with their wary looks of confusion. Most were haggard and weary from the journey, slowly but surely losing the small details attributed to civilization. Passengers from the other cars had already been gathered there, and a murmur soon rose up in the crowd. The hum of conversation settled my nerves, if only for a few moments.

The atmosphere did not last long. The click of footsteps broke through attempts of communication and silenced the congregation. A figure had made its way to the top of the steps, barely visible in my line of vision. I craned my neck to get a better view, but of course everyone around me had the same idea in mind.

Finally I caught sight of a smile, better classified as a cocky grin of an almost malicious nature. It relayed no happiness, no pure happiness anyway; it was more like a forged pleasure obtained only through the suffering of another. At length, the lips finally parted, releasing a single, smooth sentence.

“Welcome, to my humble abode.”


Chapter 12
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 12



Stunned silence shrouded the air, a drape thick enough to prevent any voice from tearing through - all but one. “Introductions… a rather petty formality, but to ease your minds, I can provide a name with which you will address me.” He paused for a moment, his mouth drawn in a taught line. “Dusk.”

Despite what he may believe, a name granted no peace of mind nor settled any nerves. As he stated, it meant very little in a situation such as this, and it had no relation to his behavior or what actions he may take. He moved a few steps forward, and I finally got a clear view of his figure.

He was covered in nearly every part of his body: hands gloved, head with a large top hat - from which curls of black hair fell through - upper face covered with a stark white mask, feet clad in polished shoes, and donning an elegant black suit. Judging by the height and the deep tones in his voice, he seemed to be in his late thirties. With most of his face concealed, it was difficult to place his age. Overall, he gave off the aura of a villain – eccentric, extravagant, and not the least bit concerned with the consequences of his plans. It was chilling, to say the least.

“I am pleased to tell you this adventure is almost at its climax,” he announced, raising up his arms dramatically to demonstrate his point. “The search will be over, and then we will be able to begin our journey towards the resolution. But that will take much much longer.”

What the heck is this guy talking about? Climax? Aren’t we already there?

“We will be moving quickly from now on, so there will be plenty of time left to tie up loose ends. Wouldn’t want to leave the job incomplete,” he said more to himself than to us. “But I digress. The schedule will be as follows: First you will have dinner in the dining hall. With me. Lucky you,” he added, smiling. “Then you will be led to your rooms. You may be doubling up, for it seems there are more of you than we have prepared for.”

Dusk took a look around the room and gave a slight nod of the head, as if to justify the statement. “Now then, let’s get on with the meal.” He deftly jumped down a few steps and continued to do so until he had reached the bottom. He then began to make his way towards a door on the right. The attendants motioned for us to follow to him, and the reluctant crowd soon began shuffling into the entryway. There was an abrupt stop as Dusk let out a cry of surprise up in the front.

“Oh, I hadn’t realized!” he exclaimed, his tone clearly distressed by something in the room. He murmured something else, which I couldn’t hear from my position. Presently he called out “No matter!” and resumed leading us in.

I fell in line with Molly and Eliza, who were trying to get a better look at Dusk. “He is so odd,” remarked Molly, scrunching up her face in a mix of disgust and perplexity. “I can hardly believe he put this together.”

“I don’t know, I think he’s kinda cool,” Eliza put out uneasily. “I mean, of course it’s insane, but he is entertaining to watch. What do you think?” she questioned, turning towards me to avoid Molly’s glare.

“I agree with you both,” I replied after a few moments, “but it’s still too soon to say anything for certain. Right now, I have no clue as to what’s going to happen.” It wasn’t true. But I couldn’t risk sharing my ideas. If my theory were to be true, then it would cause more harm than good to tell them now.

Two long tables stretched across the room, occupying the majority of the space and leaving little room for movement. Most of the chairs donned identical designs, but extra ones were placed near the ends of the tables to accommodate the additional people.

“Come on, come on!” Dusk prompted from the head of the table on the left, looking upon us with an impatient frown. “We cannot waste any time.” The tables began filling up, and upon his demand, the attendants turned servants began laying out the food, their moves fluid to the point where they seemed rehearsed. “You there!” Dusk pointed to a man glancing around nervously as if something would spring up and shock him to death. He looked up at him, the terror clear in his frantic face. “I would like you to switch seats with the gentleman across from you.”

He was seated halfway through, and such a change would require them both to walk around the entire table. But these two men were too timid to refuse a request from the eccentric character, who acted as if dinner could not proceed without the small modification. He drummed his fingers on the table in the most agitating fashion, waiting for them. Finally a chair slid out, and a second followed its lead, and then two pairs of footsteps echoed throughout the empty air for a good minute or two as the men encircled the area and went to the seats they were assigned.

Much better,” Dusk drawled, cracking a crooked grin towards the two. “Let us begin, then.” The diners were reluctant at first, but after a few daring souls began to peck at the food, the others joined in. Soon a fragile sense of comfort was established, easily ruptured by even the slightest trace of tension.

After the people around me seemed to be in perfect health after consuming the food, I finally decided to try it as well, and was pleasantly surprised to find it tasted good, so good that my plate was barren after a few minutes. Granted, I didn’t take much to begin with, from fear of it being poisoned.

Molly and Eliza were still eating, as were the other guests, and Trinity was nowhere in sight. Seeing that all but idle conversation would be impossible at the time, I decided to examine the strange design printed on the plate. It was an elaborate picture with various blue lines and curves forming flowers and leaves, but there were a few odd red marks scattered around. I turned the plate a few times, though no recognizable shapes stood out.

“What are you doing?” The woman beside me looked on with an expression which betrayed her utter confusion.

“Nothing,” I replied, ignoring her stare as I set down the plate. I feigned a sudden interest in the sleeve of my shirt until she finally turned away and returned to her meal. After that incident, I made sure to make my observations in a discreet fashion and avoid drawing any more attention.

A shadow fell over me only moments later, and I turned to find Dusk looking down with that signature grin of his. “I see you’ve taken an interest in the dining ware.” He reached over and plucked it from the table in one swift move. “I picked it out myself,” he murmured, tilting it for a clear look. He stayed in that position for a few moments, still as a statue, before smiling and setting it down again. “Enjoy the meal,” he said before moving away.

Molly leaned toward me from across and whispered, “What was that all about?”

I shook my head in response and frowned. “I wish I knew.”

“I wish I knew anything at all about this,” the woman from before chimed in, clearly forgetting our exchange. “This Dusk,” she said the name with contempt, “is too weird for me. He goes around with complete composure, as if nothing at all fazes him. It’s unsettling.”

Molly nods vigorously in agreement and leans towards her. “I know! I feel like I’m being set up for something, but I don’t know what it is. I can’t even imagine what he may have in mind.”

The conversation was clipped short when Dusk announced the deliverance of dessert and began handing out room keys. Apparently we’d be sharing with the person seated across from us. For me, that meant Molly, for Eliza it was the woman we had been speaking to. She seemed harmless enough, perhaps a bit intolerant of the unordinary, but she would have to adjust if she were to live with Eliza. The girl practically seeped randomness.

The key was placed between each pair of guests, as well as a plate of chocolate cake on either side. Dusk had disappeared once he made his announcement, and did not spare another word. I strongly doubted he would return again that night. I nibbled at my cake slowly, and ended up wasting most of it.

Molly and I parted ways with Eliza once we were released, and headed for our room upstairs. We walked in silence, feeling a distinct void which Eliza would previously have filled. As we went on, I realized I had never gotten a chance to speak to Molly alone, and now seemed as good as time as ever. When I glanced over at her, however, she seemed to be lost in thought, her face emotionless and refusing to give away what she may be thinking. I opted to leave her be and save chatting for another time.

It was a pleasant surprise to find our luggage returned upon entering the room. Molly let out a tiny squeal and raced to her bag; she was in a great hurry to find her makeup bag and restore her face to its usual beautiful luminance, as she called it. I utilized the time to write out another journal entry.


December 3
8.45 PM

Dusk. With such a name, once can only guess what a character he is. And then they shall meet his acquaintance and realize how much worse he is than their predictions.

He has the makings of the sort of villain who would think up a scheme like this. I suspect something much bigger, however, than a mere pastime for someone who has lost more than a few marbles. There is some overarching plan he has been concocting, and the fact that he is this eccentric worries me. Not that I wasn’t before, of course, but this adds yet another aspect to consider. The experience is surreal.

Dusk has brought us to a place reminiscent of a castle, where we shall be residing until the end of the adventure. The building is fairly large and should have been able to accommodate a large number of people. Coupled with the fact that only a fraction of the original passengers remained, the issue of shelter could be easily resolved. It did bring up two extremely important notions:

1. Dusk expected less of a crowd. Did he mean to say the puzzles should have been more difficult? Or that some should not have been intelligent enough to solve them? The search, as he briefly mentioned, must be for someone, or a group of people capable of tackling the riddles set forth. With a large amount still remaining, narrowing it down to the number he wishes would prove to be difficult.

2. Considering the fact that we need to share rooms, it implies that there are some areas which are off limits to us. It is an inevitable outcome- of course they would desire privacy- but the fact that they are unable to spare any extra rooms means that whatever is in them cannot be removed, or cannot be removed easily. There is something hidden, something they do not want us to know.

There is much to contemplate right now, and even more to learn, and more to question. But the bed in this room is quite inviting, and seeing that Molly is almost finished with her task, I think I’ll leave the investigation for tomorrow. Perhaps tonight I’ll get a few hours of sleep, an escape from this deteriorating reality.


Chapter 13
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 13



Dawn was too early for the day to begin, too early for anyone to be properly awake. The sun had yet to make an appearance, and I was forced to use a lamp. The dim glow of the alarm clock caught my eye: it was set for 4:30 AM sharp. Its ring was shrill and unrelenting; for ten minutes it continued to shriek as if a banshee was trapped inside it. The length of the alarm was most likely implanted to assure the completion of its job, and the lack of a snooze button forced one to wake up, as well.

Simple logic says it must be infallible. And yet… with all the precautions taken, the alarm clock still failed to bring Molly out of her slumber and kill whatever fatigue remained afterwards. An involuntary groan escaped my lips upon catching sight of her relatively relaxed figure, knowing what was to come. As insane as it may sound, I was actually frightened of what response I may receive if I attempted to wake her. She could just complain about the sudden wake up call, but that would be the best case scenario; the worst scenario would be
if she turned into a raging monster, hair flying everywhere, fiery eyes, a malicious intent produced from the absence of sleep. People aren’t themselves without proper rest.

Something hit me after a few moments of thought - the pure absurdity of the situation. I let out a hearty laugh, inadvertently completing the job I had dreaded to do. Molly yawned loudly and then pushed herself up to a sitting position. “What’s so funny?” she asked, rubbing at her eyes to get rid of the last remnants of sleep.

“Psh, it's nothing,” I replied, suppressing a chuckle as I hid a smile behind my hand. The laugh came out as a hiccup instead, and I bit my lips to avoid a fit of giggles. “Nothing at all.”

Under other circumstances, I'd think something was wrong, but it was just early enough for her to accept the answer. She merely shrugged before heading for the bathroom. I felt a strange feeling of happiness, albeit short lived. After everything that occurred, partaking in a brief break from the odd events was a welcome occasion.

Once we were ready, we headed for the dining hall for breakfast, but found not a single morsel of food to eat. There were quite a few people were seated at the tables, waiting for it to be served, though there was not a single worker in sight. “What do you suppose this means?” Molly asked, glancing at me.

“Eh, there has to be some sort of puzzle,” I answered, looking around the room, “One designed to make us work for our breakfast.”

“You don’t think he’d let us go hungry if we can’t solve it, right?”

Thinking over the qualities of the man whose actions were practically unpredictable, I realized it could be true. “I wouldn’t put it beyond him.” Noting Molly’s distress, I quickly added, “But I’m sure we can do whatever it is he asks of us. With you, me, and Eliza,” I nodded towards the figure running towards us, “I’m sure we can do it.” A flash of uncertainty appeared across her face, but it morphed into a smile as Eliza reached us.

“Hey guys!” she exclaimed, pulling the both of us into a tight hug. “Boy, am I glad to see you. Last night was terrible. Mrs. McClellan – that’s the woman’s name – wouldn’t shut up about how worried she is. I guess I can understand how she feels, but there was no need to keeping going on and on and on and-”

“It’s nice to see you too, Eliza,” I smiled. “I take it you had a rough night?” She nodded vigorously in reply and launched into a recount of her experience before she was once again stopped, this time by Molly.

“Yes, sounds terrible,” she broke through with an unamused frown. Eliza’s excitement was too much for even her to handle so early in the morning. She turned to me and asked, “Do we just look around for a clue?”

“Clues? For what?” Eliza switched gazes back and forth from Molly’s face to mine, open to a reply from either.

“We think we may need to find breakfast. It doesn’t look like they’ll be giving it to us,” I answered with a wave around the room.

“How about we corner one of the people who work here and demand they tell us?” Eliza suggested, her tone too serious and her eyes too eager for it to be a joke. “I can be pretty intimidating if I want to.”

Molly sighed in exasperation and shut her eyes for a moment, trying her best remain calm. “We’re better off trying to get it ourselves. Come on.” She promptly headed for the table and began searching underneath the table cloth. Eliza did the same at the adjacent one, and I decided to check out the plates.

They were placed in the same position as the night before, though this time there was no food obstructing the view of the designs. The first thing I noticed was the similarity between them. They seemed to have a basic layout of flowers constructed of curving lines, but each plate had an extra curve or line in varying places.

A flourish of excitement sprung up inside me, though I kept it down, fully aware this may very well be one giant red herring. Despite my restraint, I couldn’t help the satisfaction in knowing we had a lead.

I continued to move down the table and up the other side until I’d circled it twice and had returned to the start. Each plate design differed from the next, and no two were identical. I had the clues, though not an inkling of an idea as to how they were beneficial.

“Perhaps Eliza and Molly will have better luck in deciphering this,” I murmured, scanning over the room for the two. They were nowhere to be seen however, and I concluded that they must have ventured out of the dining room.

I weaved through the throngs of people, but a particularly large crowd was packed near the entrance, delaying my exit by a few minutes. Once it had dispersed, I hurried into the foyer, expecting to find the pair poking around the décor, but there was still no sign of them.

Maybe they’re still – No! A faint voice could be heard from ahead, the gender unidentifiable due to a thick door between us. I froze, attempting to block out the noise emitted from the dining hall behind me. My ears strained to pick up any more speech, and they were soon rewarded with a small cry of surprise.

Fully convinced Molly and Eliza were faced with some sort of danger, I swung open the door and sped forward, finding myself in a small hallway. A door near the end was slightly ajar, beckoning me to come and find its contents. Unable to contain my blooming curiosity, I crept towards it slowly, monitoring every move made until I was comfortably peering into the room.

As luck would have it, I didn’t find what I was looking for, but that did not mean it was devoid of interest. In fact, one could say it was almost better than the success my initial search could have offered. Almost.

Inside the room, a rather heated exchange was taking place, between Dusk and a worker of his.

“Did you get everything ready in the backyard?” Dusk questioned, fingering a small marble on the table next to him. Compared to the way he acted before us, he was behaving unusually calmly.

“Yes sir. It’s all ready, sir,” the worker replied, the quiver unmistakable in his nervous voice. There was a clear anarchy between Dusk and the workers, though I couldn’t say the fact was surprising. He was a stranger person after all, and surely difficult to satisfy.

“How about the plates in the dining hall?”

So the plates were important! I allowed a sense of pride to surge up, glad to be getting a grasp on the challenge. Of course, while I relished in my small victory, the conversation progressed without its eavesdropper. I chided myself for acting so foolishly and turned my attention back to the room.

“Messed them up, Mr. Morris?” Dusk’s tone had grown irritated, and he had turned his back on the worker.. “Which ones?”

“The…er, the ones…”

“Out with it!”

Both Morris and I jumped at the outburst, and I struggled to keep my breathing even as I tightened my grip on the door threshold.

“Half of ‘em. They can still, uh, figure it out, though.”

There was a tense moment of silence as Dusk digested the information. His poor employee fiddled with his fingers to distract himself during the wait. Sweat glistened on his brow before dripping down his face and neck. The collar of his shirt soaked in it and began to turn a shade of dim gray.

Finally Dusk heaved a heavy sigh and shook his head in resignation. “Fine. So long as it is still possible to solve. You’re safe this time.”

“Oh, thank you-”

“Make no mistake,” he interrupted harshly, all traces of eccentricity now replaced with malice, “I cannot always be so forgiving.” He paused. “Not everyone deserves a second chance.” His words left Morris baffled, but only for a second. “Now go! Don’t screw up anything else.”

Still stunned at Dusk’s sudden change in character, I kept staring at the scene, as Morris apologized weakly and scrambled to get out of the room. At the last moment I realized he was on a crash course in which Iwould be the one ran over. I moved to the right, successfully bringing the majority of my body out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, my left foot was not as lucky.

The man failed to see it and soon was sailing into the wall, brining the life of the painting hung there to a tragic end. He fell into a still, crumpled heap, and I began to fear he might have sustained a fatal injury. The worry was slightly assuaged, for he began to sit up, groaning with even the slightest of movements.

Dusk came out to investigate the crash, but made no effort to help up Morris. Instead he watched the spectacle with a strange expression plastered on his face. His lack of concern was agitating me – here was a man whose only goal was to please him, probably willing to risk anything if it resulted in his happiness. But Dusk could not even help him to his feet, not if it meant stooping down to his level like they were equals. It was sickening.

A sound of disgust escaped my lips before I could prevent it, and my presence was noticed for the first time. Trying to ignore Dusk’s piercing glare, I turned to help Morris, only to find that he was gradually standing up himself, using the wall for support. “Who are you?”

“Me? Er…” I looked towards Dusk, hoping he would interrupt and just tell us to leave. A speck of recognition flickered through his eyes before dying away to emptiness. “One of our guests, of course,” he answered in my place, a broad smile emerging on his face. “Is there anything you need?”

I bit my lip and met his gaze, uncertain of an answer, but ready to show him that I was willing to cooperate.

“Nothing? Good.” He turned to Morris, who was looking on with interest. “Don’t you have a job to be doing?”

Morris took the not-so-subtle hint and scurried away, apologizing profusely to atone for his mistake. One he was safely out of sight, Dusk smiled and directed his focus to me. “I assume you’re wondering about breakfast?” he asked, twirling the marble in his hand. For some reason my eyes were latched on it, following the sphere as it rolled around his skin. “Or rather, you were wondering about it, and made your way here. Curiosity got the better of you, huh? And now you probably know your answer.”

He abruptly curled his hand into a fist, causing me to snap to attention. For a moment I though he may be planning to do away with me, though his faced betrayed no emotion akin to anger. In fact, he seemed to be pleased with the situation. It encouraged me enough to actually speak up, and possibly salvage a bit of dignity from the shameless act. “All I know is the location of the breakfast.” After a few moments, I added, “Oh, and that the plates mean…something.”

“But you already knew that,” he murmured coolly, running one hand against the wall. “You don’t know their significance though, do you?”

“How do you know that?”

“For one thing, when I said you had your answer, the first thing you told me was that you learned the location. That much is true. But then you stopped for a second and added the plates as an after though, as if it wasn’t as important.

“Second piece of evidence – and this one is quite obvious – you addressed the plates in a manner which led me to believe you do not know of their importance, only that you know there is one.” He looked up and raised his eyebrows. “Simple observation. Now, let me relieve your worries. The plates have a password hidden within them.”

I remained silent, unable to form a response. The marble made an appearance once more, moving smoothly in the cupped palm. I was once again drawn to it, unable to tear my eyes away. I was sure my face conveyed more surprise than I wished to ever show, but Dusk disregarded my amazement and continued to speak.

“I’ll make this even easier, still. The password is,” he paused to lean in and whisper, “Intrigue.” He straightened up and looked at me expectantly, waiting for a response.

“Why are you telling me this?”

Dusk merely shrugged and turned away, beginning a one man game of catch with the marble. “Blame it upon a rush of blood to the head, I suppose. Do what you want with the information, just please don’t let it go to waste.”

It was a cue to leave, and seeing that I had no other option but to do so, I returned to the dining room. I was instantly attacked by my companions upon entering.

“There you are!” cried Eliza, gripping my shoulder tightly, “Where did you go?”

“Where were you? I didn’t see you anywhere, so I decided that you must have gone out to search.”

“On Eliza’s insistence, we looked under the tables,” answered Molly, “As in crawling underneath them.” She wrinkled her face in repugnance, recalling the less than pleasurable experience. “There wasn’t-”

“Never mind that,” I cut in excitedly, anxious to describe my encounter with Dusk. I began with examining the plates in the dining room and ended with the small conversation between Dusk and I.

“Wait wait wait,” Molly interjected, holding up a hand to stop me. “You’re telling me that after eavesdropping on Dusk’s conversation with his employee and causing him to fall, he told you where the breakfast is and how to access it? And you expect us to believe it?” she asked, accompanying the accusation with an incredulous chuckle.

“Well, I didn’t make it up,” I refuted, taken aback by the reaction I had received. Eliza was still contemplating the story, her opinion unbeknownst to me. “You believe me, right?” I turned to her with pleading eyes, but a slight shake of the head crushed any remaining hope.

“I’m sorry, but just think about it. Does it really make sense?”

“I don’t understand,” I muttered, slumping into one of the chairs. “Why the sudden distrust?” Molly and Eliza exchanged knowing glances, and Eliza began to speak.

“Actually, it’s from the train. I mean, since we’ve been on the train. I mean-“ She stopped and took a deep breath before continuing. “Ok, remember when Mr. Andrews fainted and you went to put in our order for lunch? While you were gone, one of the passengers came in and told us that, well… he said…”

Molly picked up the narrative where she left off. “He said that he saw you talking with one of the attendants and that you were in on this whole thing. That’s why it took you so long, wasn’t it? You were probably planning the next move.”

My eyes widened as she made the allegation; I was scarcely able to believe this was the same person who I considered to be an ally and friend. “Molly, I don’t know what to say.”

“Of course not,” she snickered, “There is nothing to say.”

“Molly, calm down,” Eliza began, pulling her back gently. “I think we were misguided. That passenger was probably the one lying to us.”

“No, Eliza.”

There was an edge in her voice which caused Eliza to let go of her and step back. Her mouth was agape as she witnessed a startling transformation. Molly’s face became stoic and cold, her eyes displaying genuine resentment instead of the usual façade of mild vexation.

“I’ve made the mistake of trusting someone I shouldn’t have before, and I am not going to make it again. Do you understand me?” She pressed her lips tightly together, and maintained a fierce glare.

Eliza managed a feeble nod and said no more. Now there was truly nothing to say.

By this time all attention was drawn to us, and not a sound could be heard. The room grew still, as it often does when the atmosphere becomes tense. As I evaluated the situation it became increasingly clear that I had the next move, and if it wasn’t made we’d be stuck in this position.

I rose and looked around the room; the eyes of many followed mine. Molly still stared at the ground, seemingly afraid of her own power. Eliza stood by her side, most likely waiting for her to collect herself.

“I’m going to breakfast,” I announced in a voice which scarcely sounded like mine. “You are all free to join me.”

With that I took the first shuffling step away from the two. A pathway was cleared, and I was aware of footsteps pounding behind me, following closely. I spared a backward glance at the entryway. Molly and Eliza were still together, making no move to follow. I grimaced and resumed walking.

Even with an entire group of people behind me, I’d never felt more alone.


Chapter 14
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 14




Doubt clouded my mind as I led the way towards the backyard. At the moment, it seemed I would be forging on alone in this journey, though I’d already suspected a path of solitude in the end. The possibility of it arriving so soon just hadn't crossed my mind.

Understanding who desired our separation was a minor priority, the first being getting as far as possible in Dusk’s little search and learning his intentions. The identity of our saboteur would be a trivial matter if we were thrown out of the game. The time for a little clarity in all this confusion will come, though not any time soon.

Something about the incident in the dining hall was nagging me, Molly’s defensive attitude in particular. Her words made it clear that she had some traumatic experience with mishandled trust in the past, causing her to harbor a reserved nature even now. She had been doing an effective job in suppressing any suspicion, but my story seemed to be the breaking point for her. Her capacity of accepting the extraordinary was surely tested with strange events going on, and perhaps it was my mistake to push her so far out of her comfort zone.

Knowing I’d be the one to deliver the password, I focused on the heavyset man standing at the gate of a fence enclosing a good portion of the land behind the house. Surrounding it, of course, was the forest. “Password?” he grunted, the word barely intelligible.

“Intrigue.”

Slightly nodding, he pushed open the gate, through which only I was allowed to pass. I heard a few cries of protest before a chorus of ‘intrigue’ rose up, and finally the man was forced to grant entry to the entire group. Apparently the ones behind me had heard and spread it around to the point where it was impossible to keep it a secret or tell who was saying it.

After I’d gotten inside, I headed for a table in the back corner where I’d get a view of the entire place. It was set for four people, but once everyone was settled I realized I’d be dining alone. Two familiar figures entered my view – Molly and Eliza. They sat at the opposite side, putting as much distance as they could from me. I could feel their gazes momentarily linger on my table before turning away in favor of eating.

Pushing them out of my mind was the best course of action. I tried to convince myself of this, but I still strayed back to the pair, wishing we were working together. It’s my own fault. I shouldn’t have gotten so attached, or I wouldn’t have this problem.

“Ugh,” I muttered, flicking off a fly that had landed on my toast. It completely shattered my faith in the edibility of the food, and I opted to drink the carton of milk instead.

“Positively disgusting, isn’t it?” I glanced up in time to see Trinity slip into the seat across from me. She flashed me a grin before taking a swig of her own milk. “Haven’t seen you in a while. How have you been?”

Paying careful attention to my word choice, I answered, “It’s… trying. Difficult on the mind and body.”

“Everyone is feeling that way,” Trinity remarked, nodding understandingly, as if she did not suffer the same fate. “Slowing becoming unhinged, and gravitating towards hysteria, away from civilization.” A close observation of the adjacent table supported her claim. The woman’s movements were shaky, and she looked about in a frantic manner, attempting to conceal her anxiety by joking with the others. “It won’t be long before all traces of humanity are lost,” she commented in a low voice. “That’s why we have to do our best to end this before it gets out of hand.”

The reality was difficult to accept, but another look around confirmed her statement. “I suppose you’re right.”

Trinity suddenly straightened up and looked at me in confusion. “Say, where are Molly and Eliza?”

The question was bound to come up in the conversation, but I was still caught in the process composing a proper response when she asked. “They, uh… actually we’re not exactly on the best terms at the moment.” There was no time to create a convincing lie, and I strongly doubted the possibility that there even was one that could be accepted by Trinity, whose sharp senses I was well acquainted with.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” she murmured, yet there was no sign of sympathy in her voice. “But you still have me.” She offered a reassuring smile, though it did little good in calming my nerves.

“Do you have a plan to ‘end this,’ as you put it?” I questioned, quick to change the topic. “What do we do?”

“Nothing. For now, anyway. Once we have a little more information under our belts, we can strike.” She rolled up her fist and struck the table, which jumped up a bit and nearly knocked off our plates.

“Strike? How will that be done?”

“Well that depends on the information, of course!” she answered with a slight shrug. “Like I said, we can’t do much until later.”

“I don’t know…”

“Do you remember when we met? We were both trying to solve that puzzle, and we promised to help each other. Can’t go back on a promise, can you?” Trinity leaned back, a small smirk emerging on her face as she waited for me to answer.

I was about to object and claim that I had made no obligation, despite knowing I had, but then the truth of the situation dawned on me. I could not count on Molly and Eliza right now, and a new partnership was staring me right in the face. It seemed foolish to refuse the offer, even if it wasn’t an everlasting one.

“Well?” Trinity held out her hand expectantly, and after I moment I grasped it firmly and gave a small shake, swearing my allegiance to her once more.

“Trinity Metlot, you’ve got yourself a deal.”

~

An encounter with Molly was inevitable with the rooming arrangements, and it came even sooner since we were ordered to return once breakfast was over. I’d planned for complete silence for the majority of the time we were stuck together, but Molly surprised me by speaking up once we’d gotten in.

“I don’t understand what’s going through your mind.” I cocked an eyebrow and looked to her for elaboration. “I mean, Eliza and I are much better company than her.

The manner in which she said ‘her’ could only connote Trinity. “If I recall correctly, it was you who decided to split off,” I reminded her, causing her cheeks to flush.

“Well… perhaps, I made a hasty decision,” she murmured, unable to meet my eyes. “I still don’t trust her, though, no matter what you say.”

“Neither do I.”

She looked up sharply, perplexed by my words. “What? I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

I heaved a sigh and launched into my explanation. “When we were looking around the train and stumbled upon Trinity’s room, we found her journal. That journal had my name written in it.”

I paused, and Molly shook her head, still quite puzzled. “So what?”

“Here’s the thing, I never told her my name.” I stopped to allow the words to sink in, but the absolute shock on Molly’s face urged me to continue. “That could only mean that she already knew of me before she actually met me.”

“And that means…”

I nodded grimly, recognizing the feeling I had when I first realized the significance. “She must be working with Dusk.”

Molly sank into a chair, her face pale and almost sickly. “This is even more confusing! Before you said we should let her join, and then I saw you two shake hands at breakfast. You’re not working together now, are you? But that doesn’t make sense! Why would you-” She broke off, her expression betraying the cold realization she had come to.

“That’s right. If I get closer to her, I’ll learn more, and I’ll put a stop to this myself.”

Molly’s eyes widened in a mix of horror and admiration, and I couldn’t help the wry grin stretching across my face.

“The tables are beginning to turn, Molly.”


Chapter 15
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 15


For the time being, it seemed I’d have Molly’s – and surely Eliza’s – full support in my investigation. Molly’s dislike for Trinity became more apparent as we discussed possible plans for extracting information out of her. “I hate how she’s playing with your trust like that!” Molly exclaimed scornfully, her eyes blazing with fury. For a moment she’d forgotten her own betrayal, but the occurrence soon returned to her memory bank and she pouted in defiance. “You don’t have to give me that look. I already said I wasn’t thinking straight then.”

“It’s a good thing you brought that up, actually. We need to keep acting as if we don’t get along. Trinity may become suspicious if she sees up cooperating.”

Molly contemplated this before nodding appreciatively. “Smart. Though I can’t promise demonstrating much restraint if we run into her again,” she warned, the corners of her lips moving upwards.

“You should try.” My tone was colder then intended, and Molly’s grin quickly faded away. “But it would be equally questionable if you suddenly become friendly,” I amended, successfully restoring her positive mood.

“True. In that case it’ll be like this conversation never happened.” Molly glanced at the clock and abruptly stood up as if she’d just come to a realization. “We need to go to the foyer at 8:15, right?”

My eyebrows furrowed in confusion as I tried to remember any direction that I may have overlooked. The attempt was fruitless, however, and I turned to Molly for an explanation. She, too, seemed to be perplexed, but her puzzlement was spurred from my lack of knowledge.

“It was written on the cards at breakfast,” she said, holding up the card in question, “Right in the middle of the table, too. It’s pretty hard to miss.”

I grabbed it from her and gave it a quick inspection.

All guests are to arrive in the foyer at 8:15 AM sharp with their respective roommates. Those boarding alone with join a twosome to form a group of three.

“What does it mean by ‘those boarding alone’?” I wondered aloud, remembering the rather heavy groan when Dusk announced the rooming arrangements. “Wasn’t everyone paired up to share a room?”

“You know,” began Molly, her features scrunched together to form a pensive countenance, “not everybody went out to the breakfast. Some were stubborn and remained in the dining hall. Maybe they…” she trailed off, leaving me to fill in the rest. Fortunately my imagination was in bad shape, and the best I could come up with was ‘Maybe they were sent home.’ It would do no good to dwell on the other options.

“Of course!” I cried, “That’s also why I didn’t have the card on my table! They were placed on certain ones to get rid of the unwanted extras.”

Molly frowned; her dissatisfaction with the answer was plainly written on her face. “That doesn’t make sense, though. If Dusk is looking for someone smart, why would he risk the chance of losing a frontrunner just because they didn’t receive a card?”

As much as I hated to admit it, even to myself, her query left me stumped. “Perhaps he believes that they’d be able to figure it out some other way,” I suggested, aware that my reason was plausible, albeit weak.

“Crazy,” Molly stated flatly.”But it is Dusk after all.”

And we left it at that.

“I guess it’s a good thing I was able to get the card and tell you about it, or you’d be out of luck.” She pointed it out in a way which made it clear that I was indebted to her. “Anyway, we have nearly half an hour until we have to go. I think I’ll take a nice hot bath to freshen up before tackling the riddles,” she murmured happily, heading for the bathroom. Once the rush of water was audible, I pulled out my trusty journal and pen, and began to write.


December 4
7.48 AM


My mind is a complete mess at the moment. I’ve underestimated the lengths to which I must go to make this a success. Molly had a bit of an episode earlier today, but it is resolved, thankfully. Despite this I can’t help but think it may resurface if she catches onto the scheme I have in mind.

Now, for the actual plan – I feel that I must get it onto paper; it’s impossible to keep inside without getting jumbled up. I’ve told Molly that I am currently suspicious of Trinity, and will collaborate with her for the sole purpose of acting as a spy and getting as much info as I can from her.

The truth of the matter is that while I do question Trinity’s character, I wish to ask her straight up about this whole ordeal. If she is indeed working with Dusk, I strongly believe I could learn his motive from her.

I’d also like to know why exactly she agreed to help such a character. I know she is not the most amiable person I’ve met, but she does not seem like the type who would associate with Dusk. There is a slim chance I can convince her to join our side and become a spy for us, though I rather keep that as an option only available if we run into trouble.

I hate to keep this a secret from Molly and Eliza, but if it were to accidentally slip out, the plan will crumble. At times like this, secrecy is of the utmost importance, and even if a bit of faith is sacrificed in the process, there is this justification for it. Besides, those two are an understanding pair and I’m sure they won’t mind it in the long run.



I snapped the book shut as Molly emerged from the bathroom, looking much more energetic. “Ah, that was nice. We better get going now. I can at least trust you to help with the next riddle, right?” she questioned in an exasperated tone.

My eyes widened, and for a moment I entertained the idea that she may be a mind reader, able to find out about my treachery. “Wha- what?

“We’re supposed to be acting like enemies, remember?” she reminded me with a small wave to follow her out.

“Oh, right.” I forced a laugh and stuck the journal in my bag before joining her. My nerves were beginning to affect me, even though I made it a goal to remain calm. I’d have to heighten my awareness, be wary of those around me and my own behavior to keep a clear head.

We made our way downstairs, where most of the people had already gathered. The amount left was shocking – maybe twenty, or twenty five at most. It barely compared to the amount aboard the train.

After scanning the room, I spotted Trinity coming towards us at a rapid pace. Molly had also noticed, and I saw her steal glance at me from the corner of her eye. I averted her gaze to prevent arousing suspicion, and instead plastered on a fake smile.

“Hey Trinity!”

“Hi. Look, I know we’re not exactly friends, but do you mind if I join you guys for this? I have my own room and nobody to work with,” she explained, along with a wide array of hand gestures. “Please?” Her eyes were wide and pleading, with no trace of deceit.

Molly bit her lip and looked away for a few moments. “If you must. I suppose we can’t refuse.” I was proud of the manner in which Molly handled the encounter; she betrayed no inner emotion, aside from the disdain she had been displaying since they first met.

More importantly, this gave us a chance to grow closer to Trinity. It also meant we had to work even harder, but that was an inevitable consequence. If all goes well, Trinity may even choose to join us herself, and I could live without a guilty conscience. With that thought in mind, I could smile out of genuine content. “Welcome to the team, Trinity. Glad to have you.”


Chapter 16
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 16


I squinted hard and tilted my head to the right, attempting to figure out why something felt amiss. It was a small annoyance, not something to be taken seriously, though it bothered me enough to address it as an actual problem.

After a few moments, I realized the cause was Dusk’s appearance. By this point I’d memorized the lower portion of his face, but there was something distinctly different about it this time. The thought had struck me once he had appeared at the top of the stairway, positioned at the same location as when we first arrived. He’d come in person to deliver the next task, meaning it must hold some greater significance than the rest.

His behavior correlated with what I’ve seen so far, but his face was altered in some form. My fist clenched and I silently wished he would remove the mask so I could be certain of the change. From where I was standing, it was impossible to get a clear view, yet I continued the futile search until he announced the challenge.

One member of each group was given a scrap of paper and instructed to solve the riddle printed on it within ten minutes. It seemed simple enough, and I experienced a short-lived flood of relief, lasting only for the ten second pause Dusk took before continuing.

“Only the first five teams with the correct answer will be accepted. I shall see to that myself,” he announced smoothly. The arrogance he displayed was beyond belief. In another situation I would call him out on it, but when he was at top of the hierarchy, there was no room to voice such opinions. “In addition, no mutual spoken communication is allowed.”

The tension in the room went up a couple notches, and suddenly we were all keenly aware of each other’s presence. Each team silently calculated how many journeys would be ending soon – ten or eleven total. The endgame was arriving at a frightening speed, and I resolved to be one of the last standing.

“The person who received the riddle shall solve it silently, and then act out the answer for the other to guess,” Dusk elaborated. “The latter may call out his or her guess, and one of my men will confirm it.”

Charades? It seemed entirely too easy compared to the previous challenges, but there was no doubt in my mind that Dusk must have included some unique element to make it difficult. My expectations were met as I read over the riddle.


The laughter after tears,
Sunshine through the storm.
Bravery despite your fears,
I come in many forms.

Music for the blind,
A blue sky for the deaf.
Created by the mind,
To salvage what is left.

Who am I?


The riddle itself was simple to decipher (‘Hope,’ I’d concluded after a few moments of thought); the real endeavor lied in the second part – acting. Hope had neither a tangible form I could convey nor an action I could mimic. Expressions of hope were usually verbal or written, not communicated in a mime-like manner.

Lost in thought, the time limit slipped my mind until my concentration was broken by frantic waves in front of my face, courtesy of my two group mates. I immediately snapped back to reality, nodding my head to confirm that I was, indeed, entirely focused on the task at hand.

All around, people were thrashing about wildly in attempts to convey the answers, their movements met with equally frenzied guesses. It would have been a comical scene were it not for the imminent threat of failure hanging over us. As one team let out a cry of victory, I frantically consulted the riddle, hoping to find some basis to start with.

The storm clouds seemed promising, but I discarded the idea once I realized it would be too difficult to charade. It was a start, however, and the only one I had at the moment. After a brief mental debate, I reasoned it would at least give Molly and Trinity a general idea of the answer. I quickly brought my hands up, and wiggled my fingers as they descended towards the ground. It only took one more repeat of the action for the two to catch on.

“Rain!” they exclaimed in unison, before exchanging glares of animosity.

Nodding eagerly, I moved onto the next part, the clouds. Our luck suddenly died, for neither could figure out what I meant when I waved my hands around my head.

“Is it a party?” Molly ventured, eyes eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she tried to comprehend my movements. “People do that at parties, right? Waving their arms around like that…” She trailed off upon catching Trinity’s incredulous stare.

“You’re kidding, right?” she deadpanned, evoking a deep scarlet in Molly’s cheeks. “We just figured out rain, so a party doesn’t make any sense. But…I really don’t know what this one is.”

I groaned in frustration and received an admonitory look from a nearby worker that silenced me at once. I turned to the riddle once more, resolving to try another piece of it. Laughter after tears could work. I twisted my facial features into what I hoped was a depressed countenance, and brought down two fingers from my eyes to my chin. Then the frown was replaced with a wide smile, and I silently laughed like a maniac, even pretending to slap my knee.

After the performance, I returned to my serious self and waited for Molly’s and Trinity’s response, certain that this attempt was successful. What I received, however, was less than pleasing. They stood silent and dumbstruck, evidently more lost than before; so much so that the confusion left them completely speechless. At last, Molly hazarded a guess.

“Is – Is it a child?” Her tone lacked confidence, and it seemed as if the previously dauntless girl was beginning to lose her mettle.

“A child?” Trinity echoed, keen on belittling Molly despite the intensity of the atmosphere. “How did you get child out of that?”

Molly was quick to defend her answer, forgetting the gravity of the situation just as quickly as Trinity had. “Well, you know that the mood of a child can change easily. They may be crying from a paper cut one minute, then laughing from a joke the next. It’s perfectly plausible,” she insisted stubbornly, jutting out her bottom lip in a pout.

By that point, I was close to inflicting physical harm on the two. Two more teams had completed the challenge, and only two had the chance to continue. The girls seemed to have the attention spans of flies, though they were usually quite intelligent and focused. The mere fact that they were in the midst of each other was what crushed the stability of our group, and I was beginning to regret allowing Trinity to join.

It’ll all pay off in the long run, I assured myself. This is just one more obstacle, one that is comparatively easy when looking back at everything that has happened so far. Gritting my teeth, I repeated the rain action, successfully bringing Molly’s and Trinity’s attention back to me. This time I opted to imitate the sun afterwards. I brought my arms straight up so that the palms of my hands met right over my head. Then I slowly brought them down to my sides before smiling gently.

This time the response was far more favorable. Trinity’s face was scrunched up in a way that said she was close to coming to an answer. Molly was in deep thought as well, arranging and rearranging the motions to form possible connections between them.

“That last one was the sun, wasn’t it?” Molly questioned in a murmur, still confined to her thoughts. Trinity’s reply was a soft ‘hmm,’ of affirmation. “Sunlight after rain…”

“And laughter after crying,” Trinity finished, her attitude considerably brighter than before. “It’s something that’s positive. Like… light?”

“Goodness?”

“Happiness?”

I gave a slight nod, urging them to continue with the guesses. They were coming close to the correct word.

“It’s not only good,” Molly clarified after a minute of silence, “It’s good that comes out of something bad.”

Molly’s gaze met Trinity’s, and both girls inadvertently let out small smiles. “Hope,” they declared confidently.

I shut my eyes and released a long sigh of relief. At last. After informing one of the workers, we were ushered off to the side, and allowed to watch as the remaining teams battled for the final spot. Molly was busy searching for Eliza, leaving me and Trinity alone. Making sure there was no one around, I grabbed her wrist and pulled her around the corner and into an empty hallway.

“What are you doing?” she yelped, immediately snatching her wrist away and taking a couple steps backward.

It was a rash decision to confront her so prematurely, but it seemed like the end was arriving sooner than expected. I need to know what Dusk was planning; there was no time to wait and hope for Trinity to accidentally spill confidential information. I’d need to get it out of her now.

Maintaining a calm and even tone, I replied, “We need to talk.”


Chapter 17
Spoiler: show
Enigmatic
Chapter 17


In retrospect, I should have expected an attempt to escape. I never entertained the idea, however, because of the absolute faith I had in the fact that shock could leave people immobile. My infallibility was compromised, for she almost immediately turned to duck out of the hallway and return to the crowd. She would have succeeded, too, if I hadn’t snapped out of my own stupor and blocked her path.

“Move,” she commanded, her eyes fixed on mine with a piercing a glare. I shook my head in response, refusing to comply with her wishes.

“We need to talk,” I repeated, enunciating each word.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” she retorted bitterly, turning her head away.

I sighed, anticipating a difficult task ahead. “Look, I need to know why you’re working with Dusk, and-”

“Who said I was working with Dusk?” Her voice became unnaturally high and her cheeks flushed scarlet with anger, telltale signs of her guilt and a confirmation of the very role she denied.

“You did – indirectly, of course,” I replied smoothly, before laying out my deduction process. “Let’s go back to the train, when you found me, Molly, and Eliza looking through your stuff. I happened to come across your journal, which had my name written in it.”

“What of it?”

“I never told you what my name is.”

“Nonsense!” she snorted, relief briefly flitting across her features. “You probably just forgot that you told me.”

I quickly realized this piece of evidence would be roundabout - she would continue to insist that the memory of my introduction had simply slipped my mind, and we would find ourselves right where we started.

“Second,” I continued, “is the challenge we just completed. The directions were printed on cards that were placed on the breakfast tables. Ours didn’t have one.” I paused, giving her enough time to contemplate the information before resuming the narration. “Molly did get a card, which is how I found out about it. You, on the other hand, said that you have no roommate. How, then, did you come to know about this challenge?”

“I – I heard people out in the hallway and asked them.” She spoke as if trying to convince herself, and that was all I needed to be certain of my theory. Trinity, though, would need more concrete information if I were to draw a confession out of her.

“Highly unlikely. The card specifically said not to tell anyone who didn’t already know.” In reality here was no such instruction, but Trinity had no way of knowing.

“Well the people who told me obviously didn’t read that part.”

The direct approach was clearly failing, so I decided to try another tactic.

“You really seemed like an intelligent one,” I began, disappoint saturating my voice. Her head snapped back to me at the sudden compliment, suspicion written all over her face. “You could have accomplished so much. It’s a shame all that potential is going to waste.” I cast off my eyes dramatically and emitted a small sigh. As I expected, she pressed for an explanation of my words, her confusion evident. “See, if you hadn’t decided to work with Dusk-“

The change in her demeanor was almost immediate. Her back arched suddenly, and her eyes widened in horror. I’d somehow struck a nerve, though I wasn’t sure what set it off. “What are you playing at?” Her voice was a hoarse whisper, devoid of any emotion.

I shrugged dismissively, maintaining a nonchalant attitude. “Just playing the game. And I’d love to know your role in it.”

Trinity remained quiet for a few moments, opening and closing her mouth occasionally as if she were about to speak but decided against it. She then adopted a resolute expression, determination defining the narrow features of her face. “It’s for the good of humanity.”

This was not the type of response I’d anticipated, but intrigued me nonetheless, and I pressed for more details.

“What he’s planning… it’s going to help us.”

I resisted the urge to point out that she had just reiterated her previous statement using different words. “What exactly is his plan?”

Trinity lapsed into silence once more, an unreadable expression adorning her face. The gaps between her responses were growing unbearable. Usually I would tolerate it, in hopes of receiving more accurate and complete answers, but the challenge had surely ended. I could only hope we wouldn’t be missed for a few more minutes.

“His plan is help-“

“Yes yes, I know,” I interrupted impatiently, “It’s beneficial to humankind.” I felt as if I was interrogating a suspect, forced to use any number of methods to extract the full story. I preferred not to think of Trinity as the criminal sort and attempted to avoid an accusing tone, but I could no longer put up such fronts.

“Let’s switch topics, shall we? How did you get involved with Dusk’s plan?”

This time the answer was prompt, as if she had expected the query. “I was lost and confused, but then Dusk-“

I was quick to call out her bluff – the dramatics were a dead giveaway – but she insisted it was true with such fervency that I almost believed her. Then I remembered my own encounter with Dusk and how well the eccentric host played mind games. I strongly suspected he was capable of far more than what I experienced.

“What’s the real story?” I was forced to wait once more as Trinity contemplated the question, and she finally conceded after an excruciating few moments.

“He sought me out, claiming he had a revolutionary idea,” she began with an air of urgency, “He also said that he needed me to complete it, that I was a necessary in its success. I thought it was because he found me competent and loyal enough for the job, but I guess I was just foolish enough to believe him,” she muttered, resent lacing her words. “Either way, I accepted, and here I am.”

“So what now? How are you going to stop him?” I prodded, wondering what course of action she would take. I was sure she would abandon Dusk after confessing all this, but the puzzlement painted on her face said otherwise.

“What do you mean?”

Neither of us noticed the shadow of a frightening familiar figure descend upon us until I spotted his frame out of the corner of my eye.

Trinity seemed to notice as well, for we both turned around to face the very topic of our conversation, standing there in the flesh. He leaned against the wall with his arms crossed and a slightly amused expression adorning his face. “Yes, what do you mean?” he crooned, his ever-growing smile fueled by our terror. “I’d simply love to know.”

~

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Old 12-16-2011, 11:19 PM   #2
hy, I'm ASC! :)
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Default Re: Enigmatic

Cooooool, can I be on a VM list??

Brings to mind the flavour of Sherlock Holmes almost...
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Old 12-17-2011, 09:17 AM   #3
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Default Re: Enigmatic

It has already intrigued me. A detective story. Thoscould get interesting. If there is a VM list could I be on it?
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Old 12-17-2011, 02:49 PM   #4
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Default Re: Enigmatic

View Post Originally Posted by BalletLove:)
Cooooool, can I be on a VM list??

Brings to mind the flavour of Sherlock Holmes almost...
Sure! Does it really? That means I've fulfilled my goal. At least for now. xD

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It has already intrigued me. A detective story. Thoscould get interesting. If there is a VM list could I be on it?
Of course! I'll add you, too.
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Old 12-17-2011, 02:50 PM   #5
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Default Re: Enigmatic

I really love it! I don't think there is one detective story on WI so I really look forward to this one. Keep Writing! (Add me to the VM list of course)
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Old 12-17-2011, 09:23 PM   #6
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Default Re: Enigmatic

Thank you~

I really love mysteries and started this on a whim, so the idea is pretty vague at this point. What will happen is even a mystery to me! ...Well, not everything, or I wouldn't know what to write. xD


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Old 12-17-2011, 09:47 PM   #7
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Default Re: Enigmatic | Chapter One

oooo. This is interesting! I wonder what the riddles will be?

Could you put the riddles in a spoiler, and let us try to solve them first, or something like that? That would be so fun!
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:31 PM   #8
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Default Re: Enigmatic | Chapter One

Hm, that's an interesting idea. A very interesting idea. *strokes invisible beard*

I don't know if I could do it for every puzzle, but I think I can make it work for some of them. I can definitely do it for the first one, so we'll see how that works out.
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Old 12-18-2011, 12:54 PM   #9
hy, I'm ASC! :)
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Default Re: Enigmatic | Chapter One

Oh, good. That would be so much fun! I love brain teasers!
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Old 12-24-2011, 02:35 PM   #10
Sherlock
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Default Re: Enigmatic | Chapter Two

Enigmatic
Chapter 2
Part One



A panel to my right slid open to reveals a slip of paper. My hand wrapped around the parchment, trembling from the sheer excitement coursing through me.

Riddle One

What is the real name of this train?

A frown crept onto my face, confusion slowly taking a strong hold on my mind. Magine Express, I thought, Isn’t that the name? Or is there something else? Thoroughly baffled, I decided my best bet was to seek out the aid of another.

I tentatively stepped outside my compartment, wondering how many had accepted the challenge. My fellow mystery enthusiasts milled about, deciding to step outside their own private worlds or allow others in their own in order to solve the riddle.

I was a bit hesitant about permitting another into my bubble; the last time resulted in betrayal. Why should this time be any different?

I perished the thought once I spotted a female around my age. She had long, black hair tied back in a messy pony tail, strands of it flying everywhere. Her calculating eyes darted from person to person, as if evaluating her competition.

I made my way over to her, waving one hand as a greeting. “Hey there!”

She spun on her heel to face me, the shock clear on her face. Her features slowly softened, realizing I meant no harm. “Hello.”

“Any luck with the puzzle?” I questioned, secretly hoping she had made some headway. She bit her bottom lip and examined me once more, deciding if I was worthy of her knowledge.

“I think I may have a faint idea,” she finally revealed, “But you have to promise to work together before I tell you.” She held out one hand for a handshake and looked at me expectantly.

Without a second thought nor a shadow of doubt, I shook it, promising her my complete trust.

~

Author's Note: Well, I was halfway through writing this part and I realized I needed to reveal the answer to the riddle to finish the whole chapter. xD Which is why it is now split into two parts.

Now, the first riddle is posted above, but for your convenience, I'll post it here as well.


Riddle One

What is the real name of this train?

Just PM me with your answer if you think of one, preferably by Monday night. I'll post the answer and the person who guessed correctly (if anyone did) in the next part. You are allowed ONE GUESS ONLY, unless I specify otherwise. And suggestions for this aspect of the story is always welcome since I've never done or seen anything like it before.

Before I end my prolonged note, I can offer a bit of advice: Listen to the puzzle theme from the Professor Layton Series for some thinking music. Warning: If it drives you insane, I hold no responsibility.
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