*Disclaimer: This chapter has strong themes that may trigger you when you read it. Please read with caution.*
A deafening sound fell from the heavens, making everyone’s heart palpitate from surprise.
However, the other three people have already experienced playing in a haunted house before and knew outright that the terrifying sound was a common characteristic of any haunted house, so they quickly went back to the way they were. Contrary to what Xu Xiaojing had expected, upon hearing this ear-splitting noise, her face immediately turned deathly pale, while her body started trembling like there was no tomorrow.
“What the reviews say were right. This haunted house’s music is too loud, so much so that it could make anyone deaf.” Wang Ziwen mumbled while pulling Xu Xiaojing to the side to look for the mechanism.
Wang Ziwen was continuously making banging sounds all over the place as Bai Yan and Su Yize also started looking around the escape room. Since they bought the tickets, the countdown has started moving. They needed to walk out of this haunted house in half an hour, so the two’s actions were nothing short of swift.
“One and a half minutes have already passed in the countdown. We wasted a minute and a half when we were walking here, we need to pick up the pace.”
The escape room’s layout was clear from one glance. The room’s colors were painted monochromatically. There were no windows nor were there any doors. Only a table was placed in front of the two opposite walls, and a white metal cabinet was in front of the other wall, blocking it.
Bai Yan and Su Yize walked to the table, and on top of it was a model of a head, completely dripping with blood.
The workmanship of the head was crude at best, similar to a zombie’s head in Plants vs Zombies. No wonder Wang Ziwen, a haunted house fan, didn’t show any interest in the things on the table.
“Generally speaking, there could be something hidden inside this head.”
Bai Yan lifted the head upside down and shook it wildly but to no avail. As a result, his fingers probed around the figure’s mouth, taking out a small note as expected. Written on it was number 4 in a blood-red color.
“This should be the secret code for us to solve the escape room.”
He placed the small note on the table and raised his head to look at Su Yize. While he was searching the head, Su Yize crouched at the right side of the table, where a zombie’s body, dressed in a blood-stained white shirt, was exhibited there.
After playing three levels of the game and seeing his fair share of malicious ghosts, Su Yize could say that these props looked too fake to even be considered as fake. But no matter how phony these decorations were, he still cautiously felt the zombie’s two pockets, not taking long before he obtained a key from one of the pockets.
This key should unlock the drawer situated in the middle of the bottom side of the table.
Su Yize grabbed the key and quickly unlocked the drawer, finding a note inside that had the number 3 written on it.
While the two were making some progress, on the other side of the room, matters with Wang Ziwen were also going smoothly. In a minute, she already found the mechanism hidden away in the wall.
“I found where we can input the secret codes.”
Wang Ziwen wittingly knocked on a small bump of the wall to make it open, exposing a secret panel underneath the grey wall. The players needed to enter a 4-digit code with the numbers ranging from 0 to 9.
“Have you guys found the secret code yet?” Wang Ziwen asked Bai Yan and company.
“We found a 4 and a 3.” Bai yan said, “The remaining ones must be inside the cabinet.”
Su Yize had long been standing by the cabinet, so he pulled the large white handles open. Inside was a long yet thin broom, and at the bottom of the cabinet was a note with the number 0 on it.
Seeing this scene unfold, Wang Ziwen was disappointed, “It hasn’t been two minutes yet, but we already found three numbers of the secret code. Granted that there are four of us playing, our pace is far too fast. No wonder the online reviews were bad.”
After playing like this, Wang Ziwen’s expectations for this escape room already went downhill. She only hoped that the next escape room was better.
Due to her experience of playing numerous escape rooms and haunted houses, right now, she could even guess where the hidden door was.
Wang Ziwen was about to tell Bai Yan and company to open the cabinet when Xu Xiaojing’s sharp shriek penetrated her ears, making her scared for the very first time she entered the escape room.
“Xiaojing, what’s the matter?”
Wang Ziwen promptly came to her side. When Bai Yan and Su Yize heard the scream, they followed closely behind and immediately looked around Xu Xiaojing’s surroundings.
They saw Xu Xiaojing standing in front of another protrusion on the wall, her body completely stiff from shock. Wang Ziwen promptly kicked the small bump, and the grey wooden board that was the same color as the wall was dislodged. What entered their eyes was a large iron cage with a fake corpse placed in it. Once someone has kicked away the board, the corpse will consequently give out a low growl to intimidate the person who triggered the machine.
Xu Xiaojing was frightened by this just a moment ago.
Faced with the two guys’ hard-to-describe looks, Wang Ziwen felt a bit of embarrassment. She didn’t expect that her best friend would have so little courage. If she had known about this earlier, she would have avidly refused the boss’s suggestion and played together with only her best friend. This way, at least she could have saved some face.
She looked at her restless friend and comforted her without another option, “Xiaojing, don’t be scared. This is just a machine. If you trigger it, the machine will move.”
“I… I know, but I’m still a little surprised. The sound it let out was intimidating.” Due to the music inside the escape room being far too loud, Xu Xiaojing had to yell out these words.
Xu Xiaojing’s current state wasn’t good, but she wasn’t on the verge of crying. Seeing that her friend was still standing firm, Wang Ziwen opened her phone and once again kicked open the wooden panel. She then discovered that there was a hidden note inside the cage, but since the piece of paper was placed deep inside the cage, they couldn’t reach it.
“The two handsome brothers over there, could one of you help me get that broom to sweep the note to the outside? My friend is a bit timid. Someone has to hold the board as well.”
“I’ll do it.”
Su Yize held the moving panels while Bai Yan took out the broom and swept the note out.
With the help of the broom, he was able to drag the note out. The number 5 was written on it, and with this, they have finally gathered the four secret codes to finish the escape room.
Just like what Wang Ziwen had anticipated, there was another hidden door behind the cabinet.
She then inputted the four numbers, and at last, the code they used, 4503, finally opened the door. Not counting the delay from going to the escape room, they only needed three and a half minutes to complete it. The group entered the new escape room, and as soon as they did, something triggered a mechanism, and they were shut inside the room.
The last escape room’s playability level was only an ordinary one, but like the boss of the haunted house had promised, the new escape room was arranged according to how the old boss had killed herself, the room emanating a foul stench that seeped into everywhere.
At the center of the room, there placed a fallen chair, and above it was a rope used to hang oneself.
But the strange thing was, there was no female corpse suspended on the rope. The bare hangman’s noose slightly swayed in the air as if them entering the room had somehow made it move.
“Where’s the person? Why is this rope moving on its own?” Xu Xiaojing’s heart stirred as she stared wide-eyed at the empty rope, “Didn’t the boss say that the female boss hanged herself when she committed suicide? Why isn’t there anyone on the rope? Will she descend upon us later?”
“Also, why is this room so smelly?”
“Don’t let your imagination run wild. I’m not scared of this escape room, I’m scared of your imagination.” Wang Ziwen shook her head, wanting to dispel the horrific scenes her friend had just said, “This escape room looks like it came from real life. It looks like someone lived here before. It’s obviously not as scary as the haunted houses that I’ve been to before. But, why do I always feel a bit agitated ever since I entered here?”
Wang Ziwen pondered on it more and finally concluded that the reason for her uneasiness was because of the haunted house boss telling the story before they entered.
There’s nothing special about how the boss set up the escape room, but the way he told the story was top notch. Wang Ziwen believed that this was surely a hint from the haunted house boss, leading her to think that there was a ghost inside this room.
“Interesting. Other haunted houses would have had a fake corpse hanging from the noose, but this haunted house did the exact opposite. In addition to the story we heard before, maybe this is a tactic to scare people by making them think that the body is walking around? It’s the first time I’ve encountered a situation like this.”
Wang Ziwen threw away her previous nervous self and had once again raised her spirits, “There’s no woman’s corpse suspended from the rope, so that means that the boss must have hid her corpse somewhere in this room to catch the players off guard. Let’s search for the hidden cadaver first.”
Wang Ziwen was busy analyzing the situation and pulled along a pale-faced Xu Xiaojing as they looked for the corpse inside the escape room.
Without rhyme nor reason, the perfectly good escape room was quickly turned into a corpse search party by Wang Ziwen.
Bai Yan and Su Yize didn’t have any hopes for the NPCs’ actions. For them, the sole purpose of an NPC was to use their lives to save theirs when the time came.
While the NPCs were playing to their hearts’ content, the other two approached this room with more cautiousness.
There was a possibility that the two ladies just thought that the haunted house boss was just talking up the escape room, but they believed that the haunted house boss didn’t tell any lies.
Bai Yan gazed at the empty rope, which most likely had some sort of strange magic stuck to it that drew anyone that looked at it to hang themselves from the neck to fill up the noose.
Bai Yan felt that it may be him being too sensitive, so he quickly shifted his line of sight.
On the other hand, Su Yize checked the wardrobe and then walked towards the lady boss’s desk, searching for possible clues hidden in them.
This was a room where a woman lived alone, but her desk was unexpectedly tidy.
There were stacks of books and papers neatly arranged on top of the desk, but there was a lone pencil case filled with random stationery resting on the desk.
Bai Yan nonchalantly flipped through the books and the stack of papers. There were red lines drawn on the books, but these were just the lady boss’s notes when she was studying, not having other special meaning to them.
The white papers were completely lacking any markings, there wasn’t anything written on them.
Once Bai Yan determined that there wasn’t anything useful on the desk, he began to pay his attention to the drawer underneath the table.
The drawer was filled with nail clippers, scissors, and the like. After rummaging through and finding a small knife, Bai Yan’s gaze suddenly froze. The small blade’s surface was completely covered with dried up blood. Leaning in more closely, the rusty iron smell could still assail his sense of smell.
Bai Yan carefully placed the small knife on the table and pulled open another drawer, finding a deformed cellphone inside.
The phone’s screen and tempered film were entirely cracked as though the cellphone’s owner was often fiercely throwing it.
However, from seeing the gravely worn tempered film on the screen, Bai Yan was able to deduce that the owner had been using this phone for a significantly long time. So much so that the owner didn’t even find the time to replace the tempered film.
Unfortunately, the phone was completely ruined. There was no way to analyze it.
He placed the phone down and tapped his restless hand on the table, crouching down to check the bottom of the table. But, other than a few specs of scattered blood on the floor, he didn’t find any other clues.
“The small knife had blood on it. Did this lady boss have the tendency to inflict harm onto herself? Or, if she didn’t slit her wrists, she’d turn to hanging herself?” Bai Yan contemplated for a moment, “The phone was surely something that was dropped before her death, or else the boss wouldn’t have moved it here in the escape room.”
Bai Yan placed the broken phone and small knife together and grabbed the small waste bin resting at the side that contained scraps of paper covered in handwriting.
The waste bin was extremely clean and didn’t have anything besides those pieces of paper, so Bai Yan didn’t feel sick and directly threw the paper onto the table.