The four of them walked into a large rectangular room, a common area with an open kitchen and living room. A small dining table sat in the middle of the room. Dark hardwood floors extended through the entire place. The kitchen was the first thing they passed through. The cabinets were white except for those above and below the sink, which matched the color of the floor. All the appliances were the newest models with the most updated technology. The living room consisted of light gray furniture and a large TV over the fireplace. Everything was very new and modern-looking. It was designed to feel welcoming, but there was no warmth. The group could feel that no one had been in there since it had been made, other than maybe to clean it.
There were two doors on the far wall, one on each side of the dining table. Assuming they were bedrooms, Jordan and Timothy went towards the door on the left, as it was the closest. Without even looking back at their new roommates, Jordan and Timothy disappeared into their room. That left Quin and Blair with the bedroom on the right. They darted towards it. The bedroom matched the theme of the rest of the place. There were two queen-sized beds with bed frames made from the same dark wood as the floor. The bedding matched the light gray color of the furniture. There were two large dressers to put all their clothes, even though they didn’t have much. They entered the bathroom to the right. The bathroom tile was white. Everything but the dark gray walls was white. The place was nice to say the least. Someone would pay good money to go there on vacation. Quin and Blair couldn’t enjoy it like that though; it felt more like a prison to them.
Quin and Blair finished exploring and sat on the bed closest to the door. Before either of them could say something, there was a loud knock on the outer door. Startled, Blair stood up quickly and walked out of their room. Quin followed closely behind her. As she opened the door, Jordan and Timothy poked their heads out of their room.
Blair opened the door to see the same man and woman that had picked them up at their house. They walked in, passed Blair without any acknowledgment and stopped at the dining room table. The woman cleared her throat before speaking. “You two,” she said to Jordan and Timothy, “please come out.” The two crept out of their room and closed the door behind them. Timothy looked like he had been crying. The woman regarded all of them. “Have you guys started unpacking yet?”
“No,” Quin replied, “not yet.” The other three nodded.
“Good, wait here. We need to do a security check to make sure you didn’t bring anything you shouldn’t have. We will start with phones.” She held her hand out. Quin, Blair and Jordan all reached into their pockets and gave her their phones without question. Timothy didn’t. “Your phone, please,” she said impatiently.
“Could…” His voice broke, and he had a difficult time speaking, as if he were resisting the urge to cry. He tried again. “Could I please… could I please hold onto my phone for just a bit longer? My brother, Evan, was supposed to be here as well. He told me he got accepted also and would see me here. Do you know if he arrived? Evan Derick. He looks just like me. He’s my twin.” Quin’s heart sank. That had been Timothy’s brother on the bus, not Timothy.
“Unfortunately, your brother did not make it through the journey here. He was found deceased upon arrival.” The woman gave a short glance in Quin and Blair’s direction. She pursed her lips and didn’t mention that they were the ones who had found him. “It appeared to be suicide, he had a pocket full of pills. I’m sorry for your loss, but if you could please…” She held out her hand again for him to place his phone. He slowly held his phone out to her. She slowly slipped it from his hands and said, “I’m sorry. These will be returned when you leave here.”
She placed the phones into her purse, and the man with her stepped up to speak. He looked at a piece of paper in his hands. “Alright. Before we go searching, does anyone have anything besides the following; clothes, prescribed medication, hygiene products excluding make-up, government ID card?” He looked up to check for a response. He saw there was none and continued, “If we find anything that is not allowed, it will be confiscated and destroyed. Any questions?” He dropped his hands when he finished reading from the paper. “Very well. Let’s begin. Have a seat here while we go in and check it out.” He gestured for us to sit at the dining table, which we all did without question. Quin and Blair sat on one side, and Timothy and Jordan sat on the other. Timothy laid his head on the table. His sobs were muffled in his sleeve. Jordan gently rubbed his back and laid her head on his shoulder.
“I’m really sorry that happened to you,” Blair said sympathetically. She looked up at Quin as if asking for his permission. Quin knew what she wanted to say. He elbowed her and subtly shook his head side to side.
“No,” he mouthed to her, his eyes wide. Blair wouldn’t listen.
“We were there. He was sitting across from us on the bus when we got on. We thought he was sleeping.”
Timothy looked up. His eyes were red, and his face was wet with tears.
Blair’s eyes filled with tears. “We’re the ones who found him.”
The man and woman returned from their rooms empty-handed. “Everything looks good,” the man said with a pleasant smile. “Enjoy your evening tonight and be ready by 8 o’clock tomorrow morning so we can begin your tour of the HUE. Dinner will be brought to your room later tonight, but only tonight. Don’t get used to it. See you soon,” he said as he followed the woman out of the room. When the door clicked shut, Timothy stood up.
“I think I just need to go to bed,” he said. His arms hung limp at his side. His legs barely had the strength to carry him to his bedroom. Jordan stood and guided him to bedroom. She looked back before closing the door and said, “Good night.” Silence followed. Quin and Blair sat at the table, staring at the space where their two roommates had been. Eventually they stood up and walked to their own bedroom.
“Why did you say that?” Quin said as soon as he closed the bedroom door.
“I’m sorry,” Blair said. “I thought it was right. We’re living with them now, and I thought it would be a way to break the ice, build some rapport.”
“Break the ice? Seriously, Blair? You break the ice with a cake or something, not by saying, ‘Hey, we’re the ones that found your dead brother.’” Quin fell onto the bed and stuffed his face in the pillow.
“You know that’s not what I meant,” she said, joining him on the bed.
Quin growled into his pillow, then turned his head to look at Blair. “I know.” He reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I know, it just wasn’t the right time.”
“Do you think we should share that note with him?” She reached down and placed her hand on his thigh where the note rested in his pocket.
“Maybe. I guess that depends on what it says.” Quin reached in his pocket and pulled out the paper. He sat up in the bed and carefully uncrumpled it. Blair sat up beside him. Quin read it aloud:
The Prism is a trap
Don’t trust them
Death is better
You’ll all die anyw-
Don’t enter the –
The bottom right corner was ripped off. The final words were missing.
“Don’t enter the what?” Blair asked. “And how could death be better? Do you think he’s just mental?”
“I don’t know. Timothy might know though. Clearly his brother knew something about The Prism, but how? We‘ll ask him tomorrow, after the tours. We need to let him grieve a bit first,” Quin said. He rubbed his hands through his hair and laid back down on the bed. He couldn’t stop thinking about death being better. How? Quin was scared and wanted to freak out, but he had to be strong for Blair. He had to make her think that everything was going to be okay. “What did we get ourselves into, Blair?”
She laid down next to him and replied, “A test, and we’re going to beat it.” She grabbed his hand and tried to squeeze some confidence into him.