This is just a quick little story I came up with and decided to publish here. Criticism is much appreciated.


Leon awoke in a small, square room with no windows or doors. The walls were barren and cement-grey, the only decoration a small television screen in a top corner of the room. Leon rose to his feet from the cold floor and scratched his head.

"Where the heck am I?" he wondered, taking in the appearance of the chamber. He squinted, trying to make out any details. There were none to be found. The screen sparked to life, and a lighthearted chuckle echoed through the room.

"So, I see our little guest has finally woken up!" the voice was smooth and deep. "Good, good. Now we can get to the fun!"

Leon's eyes quickly adjusted to the light, and he stared at the screen in disbelief. The face was hidden by a bright green mask that looked frighteningly like a lizard. He could see no more of the figure.

"You, my friend, are my newest test subject. Sad to say, my latest one was killed horribly, poor fellow. But I gave him a grand funeral: I encased him in concrete and sent him on his merry way through the waterway below us." The hair on the back of Leon's neck stood up. "Oh, I do hope you prove to be a bit more intelligent. It's been rather boring since his demise." The masked figure didn't sound sad or bored in the least. He sounded like he was holding back laughter.

Leon suddenly realized his dire situation. There had been news reports of kidnappings all over the country, the bodies had been found later with the same mark every single time: a green mask glued to the face of the victim with the word "Jesper" carved into it. The bodies had all been horribly mutilated, leaving just enough to still be recognizable. And now, he realized, he would be next. He could see the heading in his mind: The officers would find his thin form in a river somewhere, blond hair plastered to his skull by water and sweat, a green mask covering his grey eyes. His body would be torn and ripped, jeans and t-shirt both bloodstained and wet.

"It's you," Leon said numbly, stepping back in horror. "You're Jesper, the one responsible for all those killings."

Jesper held up his index finger and wagged it side to side. "Ah, ah, ah, I'll have you know that I never killed anyone. The poor fools killed themselves on one of my simple obstacles."

Leon shook his head in disbelief. This couldn't be happening, not to him. He was just a teenager! Jesper spoke again.

"Anyway, you're going to have to complete a few simple tests for me. Your reward, should you earn it, is your freedom. Sound simple enough? Good! Then let's get going, shall we?"

A rectangular section of wall sank into the floor in front of Leon. Another room appeared beyond the opening, grey as the first, walls unadorned. A chasm split the room in two, with only a single rope spanning the gap.

"We'll start with something easy. Your objective: Get to the end of the room. The rules are simple: You can use whatever you can to get to the objective. Do what you gotta do, as they say. Begin!"

With that the screen darkened. All was quiet, save for Leon's nervously tapping foot. He took a deep breath. "All right," he muttered. "If he wants me to cross, I'll cross. Not like I have much of a choice." He spent a good five minutes searching for a route other than the rope. Nothing.

"Alright, tightrope it is, then." Instead of walking across the rope, which Leon knew he lacked the balance to do, he grabbed onto the rope with both arms and shimmied his way on his stomach across the chasm. He reached the end and quickly sprang up, glad to be back on solid land. The screen flared back to life.

"Well, that was boring!" Jesper complained. "You didn't even try the balancing! Oh, well, I think you'll find this next test significantly harder." The same rectangular opening appeared in the next wall, again opening to another chamber. This was, once again, made entirely of the cold grey concrete as the other rooms. The floor sloped steadily downward into a brown-green pool of water. Leon could have sworn he saw something moving beneath the surface.

"Looks simple, doesn't it?" Jesper began. "But I think that this will be a far better test than that pathetic little canyon. You see the water, of course. But what you may not see is my pet that patrols the liquid. A new animal of my own beautiful design. Somewhat like a shark, but smaller, longer, and quicker. Oh, and the poor thing hasn't been fed in a few days. So mind the teeth!" The face disappeared.

Leon gulped. He'd never been a very fast swimmer, and the thought of the shark or whatever it was didn't exactly calm his nerves.

"There's got to be another way…" he muttered, searching the room. There were no weapons or anything he could use to fight the beast off. Then his eyes lit upon a few dead rats. The corpses reeked, but they were still fresh. Leon got an idea. He picked up a dead rat by the tail and held it at arm's length. Ignoring the smell, he threw the rat across the room, into the other side of the pool. Almost immediately, a pair of bright red jaws erupted out of the water and clamped down upon the body. Leon caught just a glimpse of the head before it once again fell under the water.

Leon smiled. "Perfect," he whispered. He scooped up the rats in his arms and stood on the edge of the water. He tried again, counting the seconds before the beast ate the second rat. Three seconds exactly. He readied himself for his next move. He would have to move fast. There would be no second chance.

He ran into the water and threw one rat to his right. "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi," he counted in his head. On the count of three, he threw another rat, this one to his left, running straight forward all the while. He felt the monster brush by his leg and ran faster. The water was waist deep, so he had to wade through it. He kept on with the tactic for several minutes, always wondering when the beast was going to get him. Once, he threw a rat a bit too close and the monster tripped him up and nearly sent him headfirst into the water.

When he finally got out of the swampy water, he had one rat left. Leon fell on the floor, panting from fear and exhaustion. He hurled the rat's corpse into the murky liquid, watching the monster snap the rodent up.

Jesper appeared again. "Well, that's certainly an original way to get by a fish," he said with a harsh laugh.

Leon stood up. "Well? Have I passed your test? Will you let me go?"

Jesper laughed again. "Oh, but we're having so much fun! Besides, we've got more tests for you to pass!"

Leon grimaced. How long was this going to go on? "Fine," he said sourly. "What do I have to do now?"

"Why are you such a party pooper? You just suck all the fun out of everything."

"If you don't like it, let me go."

"Not just yet." The familiar opening appeared in the next wall. "I hope you can hold your own weight!"

Leon entered the chamber. There were pipes everywhere, of all sizes. They covered the walls and hung from the ceiling, blocking almost all traces of the cold concrete. In the middle of the room was a deep crater. Leon couldn't even see the bottom. "How am I supposed to pass this?" he wondered. Then he noticed the seemingly random pipes on the ceiling. Some hung lower than others and looked like they could hold a person's weight.

"I see your game," Leon muttered. "I have to climb over the hole on the pipes. But knowing your other tricks, there'll be a pattern of some kind that I need to follow." He took a step back and looked around the room. He spotted a camera in one corner of the ceiling and a pipe that looked like it could be broken off. The pipe was on the opposite corner, exactly where the camera was pointed.

Leon decided that he didn't just want to leave anymore. He needed to take Jesper down as well, or others would be kidnapped. But to do that, he'd need a weapon. He kept an eye on the camera and walked over to the broken pipe, leaning against the wall and staring out to the crater, as if he were trying to discern the pattern. He kept his eyes pointed that way, working his hand around behind him to find the pipe. Got it. He pulled the pipe upward to try to dislodge it, but it was still attached at the end. After a minute or two of moving it around, he finally got it loose. Leon put the pipe in his back pocket so that the end was under the back of his shirt, the metal cold against his skin.

If his plan was going to work, he couldn't let Jesper know that he had a weapon. Leon stepped away from the wall and towards the crater once again. The test was easy; Leon had only to pull himself across like on a set of monkey bars at a park. Jesper appeared once again in his gleaming mask. "Not bad, but once again, boring! I think we'll have to try something different, don't you?" An opening appeared in the next wall. Leon could see nothing beyond it. "What if I deprive you of your precious sight, hmm? What will you do then?" The man disappeared.

Leon took a tentative step forward and the opening closed behind him. The room was completely black. He could hear swishing sounds in the darkness, creaking, groaning noises that seemed to become louder and louder, until they were all he could hear. The noise grew stronger, pounding and scratching at his eardrums, forcing the boy to cover his ears tightly to try and keep the infernal creaking out. It didn't help, the noise grew ever louder. Leon couldn't think straight, couldn't put together a single coherent thought. He could hear all the individual parts of the noise, creaking, groaning, slashing, thudding, and screaming. The screaming was the loudest of all, slashing his eardrums to ribbons. It was far worse than Leon could have imagined possible, a thousand times worse than the screeching of nails on a chalkboard.

Leon couldn't take it. He cried out, not even hearing his pathetic voice through the wall of noise. He could feel blood dribbling through his fingertips. And still the accursed noise grew louder. He felt that his brain would burst.

And in the middle of it all was laughter, a loud, high-pitched cackling that drowned out all the other noise. It was Jesper, Leon was sure. And with that realization came all the hatred and fear and anger that drove him forward. Leon focused on that noise; let it completely overwhelm him, letting his emotions rise with it. He cried out again, not in pain this time but in anger, his scream a challenge to the masked fiend that tormented him as he had so many others. He ran forward, eyes squeezed shut, not caring about the background noise or anything else other than thoughts of tearing Jesper apart.

He could feel his left arm break as he smashed into the wall. But he paid it no mind, and rammed the wall again and again until he felt it crumble before him. Light burst through his closed eyes, blinding him for a moment. He could see Jesper standing smugly in the middle of the room.

The man laughed. "So, I see the snake has finally shown its fangs! A pity that a boy as smart as you will have to die. You were quite the worthy opponent for me in my little game. But sadly, that game must end, here and now." Jesper snapped his fingers and once again the lights went out. Leon could see nothing.

The boy drew the pipe from behind his back. His blood was still boiling; he wanted nothing more than to crush the man who had put him and other innocent people through this torture. He swung at a random point in the darkness.

"Wrong move," whispered Jesper. Leon felt the pipe whipped out of his hands. Jesper's fist smashed into his nose, knocking him backwards. The man chuckled. "You really are pathetic, aren't you?" Leon could feel blood dripping down his face. Leon caught a flash of silver as Jesper swung again. A knife. He kept his eyes focused on that narrow sliver of light, keeping just out of its reach.

"Oh, come on! Give me a challenge, boy!" This time Leon couldn't dodge quickly enough. The blade slashed across his chest, ripping into his skin.

"Gah!" Leon crossed his unbroken arm over the cut, trying to stop the bleeding.

"Are you truly that weak? Will you be killed like a cornered rat, like all the others?" Jesper let out another harsh laugh.

Something inside Leon snapped. Suddenly he knew exactly when Jesper would swipe again. All thoughts of his wounds were gone. On the next swing, Leon caught Jesper's wrist and twisted the knife from his grip.

Jesper got his hands around the boy's throat, but not before Leon plunged the blade deep into the man's chest. They stood there for a moment, as if frozen in time. Then Jesper's grip relaxed and he fell backwards. Blood dribbled out of his mouth as he hit the floor. Leon dropped to his knees.

He'd done it. He'd finally gotten Jesper. The boy looked down at the gaping wound on his chest. He felt no pain, but he knew that there was no hope for him. It didn't matter. Jesper was dead, and nothing else seemed important.

Leon smiled one last time and fell onto his back. He had no regrets. Gazing up at the ceiling, Leon felt nothing but peace. He died with a smile on his face, triumphant at the very end.

The End