Front doors it is. You’ve lasted this long inside; surely a few moments longer won’t make a difference?
You follow the curve of the hallway and soon find yourself in front of the glass double doors. The sky outside is brighter now. The daybulbs are coming on, you think — then you remember that there are no daybulbs above ground. That brightness must be the sun beginning to rise.
You push one door open, anxious to be safe underground before the glaring sun rises high into the sky. door slides shut behind you easily. A quick scan of the area lets you know you’re in the clear — no one is around to see you.
You retrace your way back to the underground entrance, your heart growing lighter with each step despite the ominous open sky above you. You’re nearly there. Nearly home.
Mark is waiting for you at the mouth of the tunnel. He looks a little awed.
“You came out the front doors,” he says.
“Yes.” A shrug, as if your actions were nothing special.
His eyes narrow at your easy confidence. “Where’s my souvenir then?”
You glance away. “I couldn’t find any.”
He straightens, steps closer, leering. “No souvenir, no proof you went inside.”
“You saw me come out the front doors!”
“And?” Mark squints, an expression with which you’re overly familiar. He’s deciding how to turn the situation to his favour. “There’s no proof,” he says slowly. “For all the others know, you’re a coward. A coward who can’t keep promises.”
That you’d never promised to go to theatre is a moot point. You bite the tip of your tongue, feel the anger bubbling inside. You’ve faced horrors beyond imagining to return to this pettiness?
“Tell you want. You tell the others that I went into the theatre, while you stood guard like a little cowardly dog, and I’ll forgive you for forgetting my souvenir. Deal?”
With every word, every fleck of spittle glistening at his lips, your anger grows further. You turn around, begin to walk back towards the exit, towards the theatre, without really thinking it through.
Mark grabs your arm. “What’re you doing?”
“Did I tell you there are vampires in the theatre?” you say. Mark’s grasp slackens. “That’s right: vampires. Blood-sucking monsters.”
His hand drops, he looks queasy. Can it be–? Yes, it has to be: Mark, notorious bully, can’t stand the sight of blood. The thought almost makes you laugh, and you see your chance now to break free from his influence.
“I’ve got your scent on me now,” you say in a sudden burst of inspiration, pointing at your sleeve. “Once a vampire catches a scent, they don’t let up until they’ve tracked you down. And then they drain you dry. Blood everywhere.”
Mark’s lips are pursed together as if he’s trying not to be sick. “Don’t you dare–!” He steps forward, fists clenched, then realises he’s about to touch you and pauses, uncertain.
“Next time you touch me, I’ll head straight to the vampires.” It’s a weak threat, but one he seems to believe.
“I’ll kill you,” Mark hisses, but he makes no move forward. “Watch your back.”
You smile grimly as Mark backs down the tunnel, then begin to make your way home.
Congratulations on surviving the Theatre of Horrors. Why not try again?