“Set the watch. Do not leave the gate open. Do not let it go hungry.”
Fourteen people are chosen for a competitive game of Hide-and-Seek in an abandoned amusement park that is more like a labyrinth – the winner promised $50,000. Mack knows all about Hide-and-Seek. At a family get-together when she was younger, her dad told her and her sister to hide then killed her mother, her grandparents, and came after them. Mack had taken the best hiding spot in the house. She was not found, but she lives with the guilt of staying hidden as she listened to her sister’s death. This game of Hide-and-Seek should be a breeze for Mack, but right from the start, she gets a sense that this game, just like the one she played as a child, has higher stakes than the people in charge led them to believe.
“It’s a game, yes. A game. A game run by people, and she understands perfectly well how monstrous people can be.”
From the strange town in the middle of nowhere, to the strange locals, to the excessive effort to make them feel at ease, Mack and Ava were the only ones who sensed anything off – Ava, a veteran with a honed sense for danger, more so than Mack. Much to the initial annoyance of Mack, Ava stays close by, promising to have her back if it comes to it. Ever since the death of her family, Mack has wanted nothing more than to be invisible. That’s why she felt like she could win this competition, and $50,000 is enough to disappear with, to fade into the background of life with enough of a cushion to keep her afloat. But she finds herself letting Ava in, and even more surprising to her, at least two other contestants as well, Brandon and LeGrand. These surprising turns of events leave her confused, battling a mixture of eagerness and doubt, hope and fear. Because she blames herself for her sister’s death, she feels like she doesn’t deserve the kindness of her new friends, but the longer they are in this situation together, the more she hopes a future for herself and them are possible. But things escalate, and it becomes clear this game isn’t what they all thought it was when they begin to hear screams and find puddles of blood as the contestants continue to disappear in pairs.
“If all the world is hell and evil is all around them, what else can they do but try to help each other?”
This is a story about resilience, about hope, about the slow recovery from trauma, about finding the will to live in an unfair world, about being told you have to pay for the actions of others and refusing to do so, about blazing your own path in a world desperate to keep you in line. The truth about what happens in the abandoned park, what those brought into the park under false pretenses were always meant for, and why the locals continuously trap fourteen unsuspecting victims there, is really a tale as old as time. The motive probably won’t surprise you, but it should make you angry. Because it’s our story as well.
“What a generation long before her summoned and paid for, and what subsequent generations decided to make others pay for. Trickle-down economics. They got the economy, and the blood trickled down the decades.”