She rounded the corner of the street and quickened her steps, fear adding a surreal atmosphere to the moonless night. The only sources of light were the occasional lights from two or three open stalls in the street. She dared to dart a glance behind her, wishing, hoping, and even willing the monster trailing her to stop or lose her.
But he did not. Instead he seemed to mirror her movements; it was like a choreographed affair: the distance between them was a hundred feet, and the man moved with the sure and steady pace of a confident predator waiting for its prey to get tired so as to go for the kill.
She let out a whimper of terror as his indeterminate features came into her mind once again; he was built like a mountain—height of over six feet, massive shoulders and arms that looked like tree trunks. But it was his eyes that scared her the most. The one time she had looked at his eyes, she had been chilled to the bone and knew that nothing (only God perhaps) could stop him from killing her.
Yet she had to try to get away; that was the only way. She could not stay in her room, she would be a sitting duck if she stayed there. This was the only way she could try to beat him at this game—running. At the thought of a game, her heart sank. She regretted ever installing that game; she wished she could get her hands on the hourglass of time, she would then turn it over, making this nightmare to go away.
She was never one to fall for all these get-rich-quick schemes that flew about on the Internet these days. She was a shrewd businesswoman and knew that all those businesses that promised high ROIs were shams. Yet she did not resist the pull of the game once she saw the brief detail about it. The app had simply asked her a question: “Can you survive 25 levels and win $25,000? That’s $1,000 per level!” Even the name of the game had been warning enough: ‘Win… or Die?‘ But she thought it was just a name, something that would make the game more interesting and fun. Now she knew better, she did not win, and she would die.
She noticed that there were fewer people in this part of her area and her fear spiked. Was this how she was going to die? She thought about her parents and friends who would not know what happened to her; if only she knew somewhere she could be safe. But where? She couldn’t put any of her friends in danger knowing fully well that none of them would be able to protect her.
Then the idea hit her. With some sort of plan in place, she increased her pace, and wasn’t surprised when her stalker’s movements synced with hers, still keeping the hundred feet distance. But the euphoria of the fact that her idea could actually save her made the distance to her destination seem far, and she broke into a run, nearly colliding with a couple who were holding hands and coming out of the junction she ran into.
As the familiar shape of the building came into focus, her heart, which had been a sort of battering ram against her ribcage reduced its palpitations and she gave a huge sigh of relief. But just as she was about to step into the building, she noticed a flash of movement by her left side and turned sharply to stare into the cold eyes of death itself. How did he catch up with her already? she wondered with a mixture of terror and admiration. She knew she had to scream, she knew that she had to force her vocal cords to respond at this life-and-death point, but she just stood, rooted to the spot.
She didn’t see it coming, and even if she did, she was helpless against the inevitable. The only thing she felt was a sharp, pricking pain on her throat as it burst open, spilling blood—her blood—on her and on the wet tarmac. She looked into his eyes one more time and saw the slight curve of his lips (why did he have such a sexy smile?) as everything became darkness.
The next morning, it was Corporal Wasiu who found the dead and mutilated body in front of the police station. It was a young woman, beautiful and with a nice shape. He rushed in immediately and called the others. As they all went about making arrangements for the body to be taken away after the forensic team had done their job, Wasiu noticed an inscription on the girl’s body. It looked as if it had been tattooed on her skin with a hot knife:
IN THE GAME, YOU EITHER WIN OR YOU DIE. YOU DID NOT WIN.
He wanted to comment on it, but someone called his attention and that part was forgotten.
Over the next one week, hundreds of bodies were found across the country—in front of police stations, churches, mosques, shrines and other public places. It seemed as if there were a group of demented killers on the loose with the same pattern of killing. But each body had the same inscription Inspector Wasiu had seen on the dead girl’s body.
These were the people who played the game but couldn’t not win. The question now is: can you win… or will you die?