It was ten minutes after midnight when Iris got kidnapped. Right before she was taken out of her apartment, she heard her baby, Holly, crying from her crib.

A bag was thrown over Iris’s head as she rode in the back of a van, not knowing where she was going. Her body can’t stop trembling. She puked a little inside the bag, making her face reek of Parmesan cheese.

The van doors swung open. Iris’s bag was removed as two men in clown masks dragged her outside. A third clown stood guard, armed with a rifle. They walked near a large open field. About 100 yards away across the field was the woods.

Iris was shoved into a cage that had a dozen other kidnapped victims inside. The clowns randomly grabbed a blonde woman and yanked her out of the cage. Once the cage door was locked, the blonde woman was let go.  

One of the clowns pointed at the woods and said, “If you can make it to those trees, you’re free to go.”

Without hesitation, the blonde woman skedaddled.

Iris kept her gaze on the blonde woman running for her life. Within seconds, two shots were fired, making Iris jump. The last thing she saw of the blonde woman was her body falling to the ground like a rag doll.

            Everyone in the cage panicked and banged on the bars, desperately calling for help.

Iris was as stiff as a board as her heart hammered in her chest. She quietly said to herself, “I’m going to die.”

“With an attitude like that, you most certainly will,” said a voice from behind. A young woman approached Iris. “Hey, I’m Phoebe. What’s your name?”

“Who the fuck cares about my name?” Iris cried. “What’s going on here?”

“I don’t know for sure,” Phoebe said, shifting her feet nervously. “But I’ve noticed that about every five minutes, someone new gets picked to run to the woods. So far, no one has made it. They always get shot down.”

They?” Iris scanned the field again, discovering at least twenty human bodies scattered throughout, every one of them riddled with bullet holes. She dropped down to her knees and muttered, “Oh god. Oh god.”

“Hey, hey, relax,” Phoebe said calmly. “Just breathe, okay? Listen, can you tell me your name?”


“Iris,” Phoebe repeated.

Instinctively, Iris reached for her locket necklace and opened it, gazing at a small photo of her newborn daughter as tears streamed out. “I can’t believe Holly is all alone right now.”

“You will see her again,” Phoebe said reassuringly.   

“I wish I can be certain of that,” Iris said gravely. “I just don’t see me getting out of here alive.”  She wiped her face with her sleeve and added, “To tell you the truth… I feel like I’ve been dead for the past five years.”

“Your life can’t be that bad,” Phoebe told her. “What do you do for a living?”

Iris chucked. “I work at some shitty bank job.”

“Are you married?”


“But you have a kid. Holly, right?”

Iris nodded.

“Listen to me, Iris,” Phoebe said. “If you want to see Holly again, you can’t give up now. She needs you.”

The cage door burst open. The clowns entered inside, searching for a new victim. They cornered a five-year-old girl and seized her.

The mother stood up and said, “No!”

The little girl started kicking and screaming as the clowns carried her away.

“Let her go!” the mother pleaded.

Phoebe sprang into action and intervened. “Hey, back off!” She decked a clown in the face.

The clown immediately pointed his rifle at Phoebe and pulled the trigger with a resounding bang.

Iris gasped as Phoebe’s body hit the cage floor. Several people screamed.

“Everyone, stay down!” the clown shouted.

Iris stared into Phoebe’s lifeless eyes as blood flowed out from the bullet hole in her forehead. Iris shifted her gaze to the terrified faces of the victims. Seeing the little girl reminded her of Holly. When she grabbed her locket again, she realized how much she missed her daughter. She knew she had to survive for her sake.

            Slowly, Iris stood with her hands in the air. “I’ll go.”

            The clown stepped forward with hostility and aimed his rifle at her. “I said stay down!”  

            “I want to volunteer,” Iris said, struggling to not burst into tears. “Please.”

            “You don’t get to decide, bitch,” the clown told her. “Now, if you don’t get down in the next two seconds—”

            “Wait, wait,” said the second clown, intrigued. “I like this girl’s attitude. Let’s see what she does.”

And just like that, Iris was escorted out of the cage and stood in the middle of the field.

A clown nodded at the woods. “Alright, if you can make it to those trees—”

Iris didn’t bother waiting. She ran swiftly and refused to look back. She went in a straight line for about ten seconds until she decided to veer left. As soon as she did, she heard the first shot.

She suddenly turned the opposite direction just before she heard the second shot. The more Iris zigzagged her way across the field, the more she heard the clowns talking to one another. Unable to hear what they were saying specifically, she can’t tell if they were laughing or panicking. She knew it didn’t matter. The only thing she concentrated on was running as fast as she can with all of her remaining strength.

Less than 20 yards away to the woods, Iris said to herself, “I’m not going to die. Not today.” Another shot was fired about two feet to her left. This motivated her to increase her speed.

As soon as Iris made it to the woods, she shouted with victory. The sound of gunshots gradually faded from behind. She raced her way to freedom between the trees while firmly holding on to the locket of her daughter.

Patrick Pals is currently attending Full Sail University, majoring in Creative Writing for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.