Chapter One: Do You Wish To Play The Endless Game?
"Carrie, aren't you too old to play with cards?" Kendra West, my best friend, groaned from her perch on my bed.
I ignored her, intent on cleaning my carefully wrapped cards.
"I totally don't get your obsession with cards!" she complained. "I mean, you collect Pokémon cards, Harry Potter cards, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and even SpongeBob SquarePants cards. But you don't even play with them! You just wrap them up and stare at them."
"I just think they're pretty," I said, shrugging and placing my cards back into my album with great care. "Besides, it's not as if it's only trading cards I collect. I collect greeting cards, birthday cards and postcards too."
She rolled her eyes, sitting up and flipping open her cell phone. "If only you'd stop spending so much time on your cards and spend more time trying to lose some weight, you'd get a boyfriend."
Once more, I ignored her. Although Kendra and I were as different as you could get, she was also the one person I could not trust more in the entire world. Despite her complaining and blunt manner, she would always be there when I needed her. I was also the person she would always come to when she needed help. I returned my album to its proper place on my shelves and sat on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest and watching as she texted her latest boyfriend.
Kendra was blonde, vivacious and popular. She was an extremely active, taking part in any sort of sports. Surfing, skiing, wakeboarding, cross-country, tennis, volleyball – the list simply could go on forever. On the other hand, I was incredibly lazy. The state of my room was so bad that the only spot clean was my bookshelves, where I placed my cards. Dirty and clean clothes alike were strewn everything. Empty bags of chips and cans of soft drinks were piled onto my table, where my homework could hardly be seen. Since it was currently summer and I spent almost all my time at home, the pile of garbage consequently got bigger.
"Hey, Carrie. Derrick and I are thinking of going to the beach for a week. Do you want to come along?" Kendra asked.
"Derrick who?" I asked blankly.
"My boyfriend?" she replied in exasperation, rolling her eyes. "How can you not remember the name of your best friend's boyfriend?"
"You change them after a couple of weeks anyway," I said indifferently with a shrug. "Do I really need to remember all the Derricks that come my way?"
"Don't make me sound like some sort of slut!" she complained, throwing a pillow at me. "Seriously! Don't you know that you have to kiss a couple of frogs before you find your prince?"
"Except that you do more than kissing," I pointed out, dodging another pillow she hurled my way. "Well, whatever. I'm hungry. I'm going to make a sandwich. You want one?"
"No," she pouted, already sending another message to Derrick. "I hate you, Carrie."
"No, you don't. You love me," I called over my shoulder as I left the room.
I passed the closed doors to my brothers' rooms as I walked to the kitchen. I wondered if I should check on Ben, just to see if he was still alive. I had not seen him for a week at least. He could spend days on end in his room without coming out once. Once he had locked himself up in the room for a month before Dad forced him to come out. Apparently, he had pizza delivered straight to his room, which was on the first floor, and he came out to use the bathroom only when we were asleep. He was such a recluse.
I found Dave in the kitchen with two of his friends, pulling out snacks to eat as they bandied dirty jokes. They fell silent when I entered. I looked at his friends in curiosity. I had seen them around school with Dave before but I never found out their names.
"What the hell are you doing here, Carrie?" Dave asked rudely, watching unhappily as I pulled a piece of bread to me.
"Making a sandwich is a crime now, is it?" I retorted coolly.
"You're such a fucking eyesore," he glared at me petulantly, glancing at his friends momentarily. "Have you even taken a bath yet?"
I sniffed at myself thoughtfully. "Not since the day before yesterday I think."
He looked disgusted. "God, you're the worst girl I've ever met!"
I rolled my eyes, slapping on layers of ham and cheese, another slice of bread then more ham and cheese. I topped it off with a third slice of bread and my sandwich was complete.
"You're such a fucking pig too," he complained loudly. "How can you eat so much?"
I raised an eyebrow then took a huge bite out of my sandwich, right there in front of him. He groaned in revulsion. Laughing lightly, I made my way out of the kitchen.
"Your sister is so fugly," one of his friends could be heard saying.
"Yeah, man. Those eyes of hers always freak me out," the other said.
My smile died and the sandwich turned into sawdust in my mouth. I clenched my fists, leaning against the wall. Did they think I wanted to have eyes this colour? Those morons! What did they know about me? If only they could go through a fraction of the suffering I had to endure because my purple eyes. I closed my eyes, pressing a fist to my forehead. They were not even a dark purple that could be passed off as blue if I was lucky; no, they were violently purple, clearly and impossibly purple.
"Hey, Carrie!" Kendra came running down the stairs, her hair flying all around her flustered face. "Derrick wants me to meet him. So I'll call you later okay? About the trip to the beach."
"See you! Love you!" she gave me a quick hug, jumped the last step and ran towards the open front door, calling a greeting to Dave as she ran past the kitchen.
"Aw, man! You know Kendra West? You lucky dog!" the first friend complained.
"She's my sister's friend for some reason."
"She has to be the hottest girl in school," the friend continued enviously. "Why the hell would she be friends with your loser sister?"
I did not want to hear anymore of this. I stuffed the rest of the sandwich into my mouth as I stomped up to my room angrily. Stupid, ignorant little bastards! The way they spoke as if a good-looking girl could not possibly be friends with a plain-looking one. It made Kendra and my friendship sound so cheap somehow. It seemed as if Kendra and I were not truly friends. Oh, what did they know? Besides, Kendra would never go out with assholes like them who could only see her looks.
I entered my room and stared around it. It really did look like an utter pigsty. I sighed, kicking aside a pile of old magazines. I would have to clean up soon, especially when Dad took it into his head to do his monthly inspection (which were actually only once every three months) and badgered me to get my room cleaned. Scratching my itchy scalp, I fell onto my bed and stared out of the window at the setting sun. Dad should be getting home from work soon. I was still hungry. I closed my eyes and fell asleep.
My family used to be a perfectly normal one and I used to be a normal little girl who cared about proper hygiene, as normal as you could get with my eyes anyway. Dave had always been annoying but he had not been as aggressive towards me as he was now. I used to have a mother, a father, two older brothers and a younger brother. Mom and Dad had been so in love and Ashton and Ben had been the best of friends.
I had adored Ashton. He had been good-looking and charming and kind and nice to about everybody. The girls had loved him; we could not go a day without receiving a call asking about Ashton. His hobbies included basketball, football, soccer and practically all sports but really, he had loved trading card games. So he had been the one who started me on card games.
It had started out innocently enough; he had found it exciting and interesting to pit his strategic skills against opponents. Even though his popular friends thought that it was a lame thing to get into, he could not care less. Then he had started to get more obsessive about them. He would save up hundreds of dollars just to get that one card. It had been sheer lunacy. Mom and Dad begun to worry.
One day, during summer, he had heard about a newly released card game that everybody was talking about but nobody had really seen. He then made it his life mission to get that card game. I could still remember the day he actually managed to lay his hand on a starter set. He had come home, exultant and happier than I had seen him months. He had picked me, twirled me around and it had seemed as if I had gotten my big brother back again.
That very night I had a sleepover at Kendra's and Dad had taken Ben and Dave out for a movie. Mom had felt ill so she stayed home. Ashton had retreated to his room earlier that night and refused to come out. Then a man had entered the house, dragged Mom to Ashton's room and slaughtered her right there. Ashton had also disappeared, presumed dead. The police could do nothing; the killer left behind no sort of trail. It was not like on television. The smallest detail, a minute clue, could not be found. The only thing strange, which everybody disregarded, was the fact that the pack of cards Ashton had taken so much effort to procure was nowhere to be found.
Dad moved us out to a new house and our old neighbourhood was torn down and somebody built a shopping mall there. So we had been living here for the past ten years. It had been awful at first. Dad had no idea how to handle us. I had been seven and Dave was six. Dad also had to cope with losing the love of his life and his oldest son. Ben underwent a complete transformation. He had been good-looking and smart, with a bright future, but after that night, he withdrew into himself and became a complete hermit. No one, not even his then-girlfriend, could get him to talk again.
"Carrie," Dad knocked on my open door.
I rolled onto my back, looking at him. "Hey, Dad."
I rubbed my eyes and yawned widely as he looked around my room in dismay.
"I swear I have three boys instead of a girl and two boys," he sighed in exasperation.
I gave him a cheeky grin. "So what do you want? Not here to nag me to clean my room again, are you?"
"No, don't worry about that," he said wryly, coming in. "Ugh, what is that smell?"
"Might be the socks," I said with an apathetic shrug.
He managed to quell his look of horror as he sat down gingerly on my bed. "Are you sure you're a girl?"
"Last time I checked I haven't any balls yet, why?" I replied sarcastically.
"Enough of the smart talk," he said sternly. "Your seventeenth birthday is coming up and I just wanted to give you your present. You know I won't be in town this Saturday."
"Yeah," I nodded then grinned. "So what is it?"
"I know how you like all those cards so..." he produced a pack of cards from his briefcase. "They're really old. I got them at the antique shop."
"Aw! Thanks, Dad! They look awesome!" I held the old, worn pack in my hands happily. "You really know what I want, don't you?"
"As long as you're happy, my dear," he smiled, reaching out to pat my head. "Have you bathed, Carrie?"
I looked at him sheepishly. He shook his head in amazement, cleaning his hand on his pants.
"You are not a girl," he said teasingly. "I've bought dinner. It's the new Greek restaurant today."
"Yay!" I cheered.
He left and closed the door behind him. I looked down at the pack of cards. The pack was falling apart and yellowed with age. The name of the game was written across the front in an elegant, flowing script: The Endless Game. What a weird name for a game. I shrugged and tried to open the pack but apparently, there was strange glue holding the flap down. I picked at it with my fingernails, trying my best not to tear the pack, but to no avail. I grabbed the penknife on my bedside table and wiggled it up and down the slit but the glue still not yield.
Do you wish to play The Endless Game? Startled, I dropped the pack of cards and penknife, staring around my room. The voice had been soft and androgynous, seeming to emit from everywhere and nowhere at once. Seeing that my computer was not on and my iPod was not playing, I shrugged and picked up the pack of cards again. I pursed my lips and pondered if I should cut the pack apart.
If you open this pack, you will never be able to turn back. Do you wish to play The Endless Game? I jumped and dropped the pack again, staring around my room wildly.
"Who's there?" I yelled. "Come out and quit whispering crap!"
There was no response but I got out of my bed and looked around my room. I searched under my bed and my wardrobe but there was nobody there. I looked out the window and outside of my room, but Dad was in the kitchen with Dave; I could hear them talking about a basketball game. I frowned and retreated back into my room. Was I going insane? Why did I keep hearing that voice? I shook my head. Maybe I was too hungry. My stomach was indeed growling but I wanted to open that pack of cards. I was getting annoyed by it.
I marched over to where it lay in a bed of bras and dug my fingernails into the slit. Then with all my strength, I ripped it apart. To my surprise, it opened easily and I sent the cards flying out of its pack and all over my cluttered room. I swore, looking down at the pack with an aggrieved expression. The insides of the pack was a bright red while the cards had a pitch-black background. I picked one off the ground. I nearly dropped it again at the sight of the picture on it. It was a woman screaming in agony, blood pouring from all her orifices as she writhed on the ground in a pool of blood. It was a coloured picture and very realistic. I shuddered. It was titled "The Bleeding Woman".
I put it back into the pack and set about picking up more of the cards. Most of the cards depicted scenes of gore and battle. For example, another card was titled "The Twins" and there were two little girls holding hands with sweet smiles and curly ponytails, except that one of them was holding a butcher knife as long as her forearm and the other was holding up a bleeding head by its hair. Another card, "The Murderer", had to be the creepiest card I had seen so far and trust me, many of these cards were creepy. It was a close-up of a man's grinning face, jet-black eyes flat and merciless.
I found the last card under my desk. It was laying face-down. I was expecting yet another terrifying picture when I flipped it over but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was actually pretty nice. A young man was standing in the middle, dressed in a crisp black suit. He is tall and thin, with black hair and eyes. He was called "The Shield". This had to be the weirdest card, considering the entire theme of the pack. I returned the card to the pack and placed it on my table. Stretching, I decided to take a bath before I ate dinner.
Sniffing at myself cautiously, I grimaced, grabbing a towel, underwear I guessed should be clean and a T-shirt. My bedroom had an adjoining bedroom. Dad had said that since I was a girl, it was only right. Who knew that I would turn out to use the bathroom the least in the family, save for Ben? I flicked on the heater as I stripped and stepped into the shower. I loved getting my water as hot as it could get. I hummed tunelessly as I bathed, although I had probably the singing ability of a clam.
My birthday was coming soon and with Dad out of town on some business trip, it was looking to be a lonely one. Dave would not even acknowledge my presence; like he would buy a birthday cake for me. I did not even know if Ben knew when my birthday was.
I remembered when birthdays used to be a joyous occasion. Mom would bake the cake herself and we would all gather around the living room and Ashton would call him his princess. Kendra would give me a present, of course, but she always gave me stuff she thought I needed, stupid things like lipstick and skimpy clothes. Like I could fit into those short shorts she strutted around in!
I stepped out the shower and rubbed a spot in the foggy mirror, drying off with a towel. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. It wasn't as if I considered myself particularly ugly. I just hated seeing my eyes. Narrowed purple eyes stared back at me accusingly, startling on a round, pale face surrounded by stringy, wet brown hair.
You're a witch, aren't you! Who has purple eyes? She's a witch, everybody! Run away! Don't play with her! Carrie is a witch! She'll eat your heart!
"Shut up!" I muttered, squeezing my eyes shut and clapping my hands over my ears.
Are you going to curse me, Carrie? She cursed him! She cursed Roger! She killed him! Carrie is a murderer!
"Shut up!" I cried out, removing my hands and staring furiously at myself in the mirror. "Shut up, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!"
My hands were shaking as I pulled on my bra, panties and T-shirt. I did not need to think about that right now. Maybe it was the heat getting to me. In my haste, I accidentally knocked over one of the many bottles of perfume cluttered on the counter Kendra had given me. It smashed and the overwhelming scent of roses flooded the steamy bathroom. Gagging and coughing, my eyes running, I threw open the bathroom door, letting fly a steady stream of curses.
I bent over to pick up the pieces of perfume bottle. Kendra was always giving me cosmetics even though I had never given any indication that I was actually using the stuff she gave me. She was so stubborn. Then I cut my finger on one of the shards. I squealed in pain. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I rushed out of the bathroom and grabbed some tissue off the box on my table. That was when it happened.
The pack of cards glowed with a misty bloody light when a drop of my blood landed precisely over The Endless Game. The glow died as soon as it came to being. My jaw dropped and I stared at the pack. Did I just imagine that? Oh God, I'm delirious! Holding the wad of tissue to my wound, I shook my head and told myself very firmly to get some food. Hunger created hallucinations I supposed.
Pulling on some sweatpants, I left my room for the kitchen, deciding that I could deal with the perfume bottle tomorrow. Ugh, I stink of perfume.