Would you rather. That’s all it was. I’d played the game when I was a kid. Would you rather have a lifetime supply of Skittles or Starbursts? Would you rather have a pet alligator or a pet tiger? Things like that. It was supposed to be fun. Harmless.
But then I grew up. I turned twenty-two. And I made the mistake of playing the game with a stranger on the internet.
No. Not a stranger. At least, I didn’t consider her a stranger at the time. At the time, I called her Amelia. Amy, for short. I had a bit of a crush on her.
We met on Reddit. She was always sharing creepypasta that freaked me the fuck out. Real dark stuff. I wished I could write as well as she did. So we started talking.
She didn’t want to exchange numbers, in case I was some psychotic killer, so we talked over Snapchat. We never sent any photos. Just used the chat box.
And one day, she asked if I would play would you rather. A creepy version. She’d come up with all the questions (taken from a list on Thought Catalog). All I had to do was answer. It was a character study for the novel she was writing, she said. It wouldn’t take long, she said.
And it didn’t. Five quick questions. Five quick answers.
When she finished, she thanked me and told me she had a lot of work to do. But she promised she’d talk to me when she found the time.
I went about my day – went on a jog around the block, went to work, went to the pub with my friends (I had a brief scare where I thought someone slipped a drug into my drink), and then went to bed. Like it was any other day. Like I’d wake up the next morning and repeat the routine.
But instead of being stirred by the alarm on my phone, I woke up to a strong fruity stench and an unopened message on Snapchat.
I threw off the blankets and put my feet on the ground before realizing I wasn’t in my apartment. I didn’t know where the fuck I was. All I could see were brown stained walls, wooden floors, and a boarded window. There was hardly any furniture. Just the bed I had slept on, a fridge on one side of the room, and table covered with a thick sheet on the other.
Did I only dream about going home the night before? Did someone actually slip a roofie into my beer? Did someone rape me? Kidnap me? Hurt me?
I unlocked my phone with the intention of calling a friend to pick me up, but for some reason, the phone app wouldn’t open. Neither would the messages. Or the mail. The only thing that seemed to work was Snapchat, so I checked my one and only message. From Amy.
It said, “It’s okay. You’re with me. You’re safe. Now, check the fridge.”
The hell? Did she know where I was? Maybe I’d messaged her the other night to tell her where I was going? Or maybe she finally told me where she lived and I was at her house? That must have been it. This must have been her place.
For whatever reason, I walked toward the fridge. Call it a gut feeling. One of those instincts that your body can’t ignore, no matter how loudly your mind is screaming at you to get the fuck out of there.
I wrapped my hand around the old-fashioned handle and yanked it open, expecting to see a plate of waffles or pancakes. Something to eat.
Instead, on the shelf eyelevel with me, was a severed hand, purple and puffy at the wrists. A wedding ring sat on one bloated finger.
It looked so fucking realistic. It must have been some sort of prop, a piece of horror movie memorabilia, but it looked legit.
My phone glowed with a new message: “Would you rather find a human head or a human hand in your kitchen?”
Amy had asked me the same question the other day. When we’d played would you rather. I had picked the hand. When she’d asked for my explanation, I’d said that someone could have their hand chopped off and still live, but they couldn’t have their head removed without dying.
Did she set this up?
Another message popped onto my phone. This one said, “There’s a snack for you in there, too.”
I let my eyes trail down to the remaining shelves. On the very bottom, there was a bowl covered with tin foil. I crouched and peeled the covering back, revealing thin strips of meat.
It looked like shredded chicken. Or turkey. Some kind of flesh.
Wait. Wasn’t that her second question? Something like, “Would you rather eat the dead flesh of your mother or your father?”
I remembered joking about how, if I was desperate enough to become a cannibal, I might as well eat my dad, because he had more fat on him. Would fill up my stomach. She laughed at that.
And I bet she was laughing now, watching me admire her handiwork. I wondered how long it took her to set up all her props. She was pretty talented. She should really work at a haunted house. Get paid for all that work.
I checked Snapchat again to tell her that she got me. That she was sooo funny. Hah-hah. But this time, her name had a purple square next to it instead of blue. Not a message, then. A video.
I clicked on it, making sure my sound was on. And I heard whimpering. A weak cry muffled by duct tape. It was coming from my mother.
She was wriggling on the floor, tied by the wrists and ankles. She was almost nose to nose with my father, sprawled on the ground next to her, with a bullet through his head. With a missing hand.
My parents hated horror movies. Barely watched television in general. And I had never mentioned Amy to them, not once. There was no way they’d agree to pull a prank like this.
It had to be real. But it couldn’t be real.
I sprung up, snatched the severed hand (nearly dropping it when the coldness hit my skin), and tugged on the ring until it came loose. The right inscription was inside. Eternally yours ’88.
It was actually my father’s ring, then. This was actually happening.
Another message: “It’s okay. You don’t have to devour the whole bowl. You can ease into the game. Just a few forkfuls will do.”
And another: “In case you didn’t put two and two together, I’ll kill your mother if you don’t play along.”
I don’t remember taking any time to think through my options, to figure out if I could sneak out of the room before Amy pulled the trigger again. All I remember is sitting on the floor, bowl in my lap, scooping up meat with my fingers. Stuffing it into my mouth and swallowing after two or three chews. Coughing when clumps caught in my throat.
But I didn’t let my mind latch onto the present or look too closely at what I was being forced to eat. I just ate. And thought.
What was the next question? What the hell was it? I hated Snapchat. Hated that I couldn’t look back at our conversation to check, because our words got deleted right after they were sent.
I’d eaten a third of the… meat… when the next message came through. It said, “There’s a glass of water in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator. Drink it and take the pill next to it.”
I didn’t remember anything about drugs in our would-you-rather game. Who knew what it would do? I thought about sticking it to the side of my mouth, only pretending to swallow. But if it killed me, maybe she’d let my mother go. Maybe our game would be done early.
Or maybe it was a painkiller, something to calm me down. Wishful thinking, but I needed to latch onto any hope I could find.
So I played along. I swallowed it.
“Go take the sheet off the table and do your thing.”
When I walked across the room, I noticed the cameras. Four of them. In each corner of the room. Amy was watching from every angle.
After giving her the middle finger, I lifted the sheet off and found a dead woman. The source of the smell that had woke me. Now that I was closer, it was even sweeter. It strangled my stomach.
I retched before I even realized what Amy wanted me to do, little strands of vomit clinging to my lips.
Then I read her message: “Would you rather have sex with a family member or with a dead body?”
The noise I made sounded inhuman. Anger and disgust blended together. “Now how the hell do you expect me to do that?”
If she had cameras, I figured she had recording devices, too. That she could hear my voice.
And I was right. In less than a minute, I had my response: “You just took Viagra. It’ll work. Give it time.”
Fuck fuck fuck. Motherfucking fuck.
What if I had chosen differently? What if I’d chosen the family member? Would they be tied up and thrown in front of me? I didn’t want to think about it. Any of it.
My mother in ropes. The elderly woman on the table with a knife sticking from her spin. The girl (?) that pretended to be my friend for months before setting up this psychotic plan.
I just wanted it to be over it.
But I had to wait for my ‘medicine’ to kick in, and I used up the time with tears. I drew my legs up to my chest and bawled into my knees. Thick, wet sobs that I hoped my mother couldn’t hear. She was in the room with Amy, but please, God, I hope she wasn’t making her watch.
When my pants grew tight, I pulled myself together and did what I had to do. I closed my eyes – tight, tight, tight — and pumped, careful to clench my fingers around the table’s edge so they wouldn’t graze the corpse.
I don’t want to give anymore details about that part. I don’t want to yank the mental picture back into my mind.
“What’s the next question?” I asked the air after I’d finished. The sobs were back, but I talked through them. “I don’t remember it.”
Three down. Two to go. More than halfway done. That was the only consolation. I was almost finished. This nightmare would be a memory soon.
I was bent over, trying to slow my heart rate and end the tears, when her next message came through: “Would you rather cut off your own arm or gouge out your own eye?”
There was a knife sticking out of the elderly woman. Did she expect me to use that? Did she expect me to cut through bone?
“Oh, come on,” I said. “That’s impossible and you know it. This isn’t Saw.”
A few minutes passed without a reply. Then a video came through. Of my mother.
From off-screen, Amy rested a blade across my mom’s arm and seesawed it until it sliced. My mom screamed, the sound sharp, even through her gag.
The banner across the video said: “At least try. Hit the bone and I’ll be happy.”
So I grabbed the knife handle and wrenched it out of the woman. Flecks of flesh stuck to the blade, but I wiped it on my wifebeater and then placed it against my arm, a few inches above the elbow.
After a quick prayer to a God I never believed in, I cut.
All I heard was a high-pitched ringing, a piercing sound, like needles in my ears. Warning me to stop. Abort. Abort.
It was the type of pain where you’re suddenly aware of fragments of your body you never knew existed, of nerves that were buried too deep for you to ever uncover. The type of pain where you’re convinced death would taste sweeter. I had the urge to shove the blade through my chest, directly into my heart — but I wouldn’t let my mother die. I would do whatever Amy told me.
So I kept moving. Back and forth, through the blood and the veins and the tendons. Back and forth.
I had reached the point where I swore was going to pass out from blood loss, but Amy’s message finally came through.
It said, “I’m impressed.”
My arm was screaming, begging for bandages, but that was four. Only one more question. One more. I could do one more.
But what the hell was it? Choosing between eating rats or spiders? Being blind or deaf? Killing my brother or sister?
No, I remembered what it was.
Amy, or whatever the hell the bitch’s name was, had asked, “Would you rather be drowned in a bathtub or be trapped in a burning building with no way of escaping?”
I was terrified of water, so I had chosen the building.
And I could already smell the searing wood.