Written by Addie Barnett
I run through the darkness. My shoulders hurt; the armor is way too big for me, but that’s what you get with a universal size. Some time ago, I stubbed my toe on a corner, so now I’m careening through the maze, fleeing the mayhem behind me. Our enemies found a way to take advantage of the many weaknesses in our strategy and ambushed us near the entrance of the maze, cutting off our only exit.
I take a sharp corner and clutch my gun, wheezing. Without my eyes, I cannot anticipate what is to come if I do not listen. The muffled screams of my teammates and the thudding of my enemies pierce the silent maze; they are searching for another target, all the while covering their retreat. Their hideout isn’t far; I spotted it by mistake half an hour ago and decided a surprise attack would be the best. We have a mole in our midst. It’s the only way The Reds could have known we were coming and retaliated so thoroughly.
I stand up, sweat pooling on my forehead and dripping down to my nose. My legs tremble underneath me, but I have to push on. We have to win this battle, or else we’ll never hear the end of it. I walk out, my finger ready to pull the trigger as I make my way slowly, listening keenly to what is happening around me. Music blares from a speaker, making my job harder.
This is so unfair, I find myself thinking. How am I supposed to find anyone in this maze, let alone kill them? Since a year ago, my accuracy has greatly improved, and yet I am still no match for him. After all, he is the leader of The Reds. I know he’s coming; the only question is where he will come from.
I whirl around, never letting my guard drop. He could be behind me, or somewhere above, spying on my movements. In this darkness, there’s no way to tell if you’re being followed, and he steps as lightly as a feather. That much, I had learned from him. One, two, then turn around. Cover all possible directions and keep a wall as close to you as possible so your enemy won’t be able to jump you.
My armor chafes against my skin and I drop my gun slightly to wipe the sweat off my brow. In the instant my eyes are covered by my sleeve, a hand pushes me against a wall, and his scent – he always wears the sharpest deodorant – engulfs me and makes my eyes water.
“There you are. Nice escape job you pulled on us.”
His teeth flash white in the pitch black, and his breath warms my cheek. His gun is pressed to my ribs while mine is glued to the wall. I fight against his grip, but to no avail; he is much bigger and stronger than me.
“Who told you we were coming?” I ask.
If I go down, at least I’ll know who not to trust again.
“It was Sherry, wasn’t it?”
He chuckles and softens his grip, pulling away so we can make eye contact. His irises are as blue as the Mediterranean on a summer day, and they shimmer with amusement at my accusation.
“Actually, it was Jerome.”
“He’s quite good at this, isn’t he?”
“He changes sides every game.”
“You’re jealous?” He leans closer once again, pressing his forehead on mine. “Envy doesn’t suit you, Nat.”
“Arrogance doesn’t suit you either, Cam.”
His lips press onto mine, searching hungrily for something he knows is there. Something I hide from everyone because it’s just not proper–or I was taught it isn’t, anyway. And yet it feels so right when our mouths open and I bite his lower lip, his body pushing into my own.
“Ouch,” I groan when his gun digs into my ribs.
“Sorry.” He grins and draws back, breathing heavily. “Oh, by the way, Nat.”
A part of me hopes he’s going to do it again. But we’re close to the end of the game and my teammates are searching for me, drawing closer with each passing second.
He points the gun and shoots straight at my torso. My armor flares up and dies just as the alarm blares. See, this is why I never liked laser tag.
Cameron smiles at me and walks away, happy he managed to kill me again. It’s always the same damn trick, but I will never stop falling for it and he knows it. This is the only place I don’t have to be afraid my family is going to see us and make me stop.
“See you on Friday, Cam,” I mutter to myself, smiling.
Next time, I’m going to win.