The Game at Carousel: A Horror Movie LitRPG
Arc II, Chapter 83: The Narrator Part Two

When we first read through the accounts of Project Rewind in the Carousel Atlas, we had to take what we had read on faith. We knew we had not been “brought on” to the broken Throughline that had doomed so many of those who had come before us, but we never knew why.

We assumed, as the architects of Project Rewind had implied, that we were not incorporated into the broken Throughline because we had not learned some crucial piece of information.

Now, if he could be believed, Silas Dyrkon promised to tell us what had necessitated the deaths of all of the other players and what had spared us.

“Carousel’s Throughline is about… escaping Carousel,” he said.

He let his words hang in the air for a moment.

“Escaping Carousel. You and I are left to wonder what aims Carousel actually has for its Throughline and what twisted gauntlet it prepared, but I hope at least one of you has the capacity to understand just how nefarious Carousel’s Throughline is. It wants to play cat and mouse. It wants players to run while it takes aim. Think about what that implies,” he said, calming his tone, “Carousel can’t come down to players in person and reason with them; no, Carousel needed another way to bring them onto its Throughline.

“Any player who put in consistent effort to plan or enact an escape, any player that ran stark raving mad into the forests and mountains that blockade you, any player who tried to get to the other side of the mountain, those players would be brought onto Carousel’s Throughline, ensuring that they could never, indeed, escape.”

He looked down at the ground as if he were letting his words sink in, “So what did you and your friends do that was so special? You were the only players in the history of Carousel who never really tried to leave. Everyone else did eventually. That’s why it took over a decade for Project Rewind to succeed after its framers sacrificed themselves… You had to follow their commands without trying to escape—”

Antoine interjected, “That doesn’t make sense. Everything we did was in an effort to escape. Everything.”

Silas considered this. “I’m sure most players who step foot in Carousel want to go home, Antoine. That isn’t enough to be brought onto Carousel’s Throughline. If I recall, you were never trying to escape. No, that was not exactly your quest, was it?”

Quest? The word quest had only come up in one context.

One by one, we turned our heads and looked at Dina.

“Yes,” Silas continued, “Invitees really are worth their weight in gold. Players that actually want to be here. The way I figure it, you all must have agreed to join her quest at some point. What was it she was after? Fame? Riches? No. Her goal was to revive her child.” He turned to look at Dina. “You have noble intentions, truly. I am sorry for your loss. I hope you find him out there somewhere.” Looking back to the rest of us, he continued, “Your invitee’s goal protected you from being brought onto the Throughline. A clever trick. Makes me wonder exactly how much this Insider or yours actually knows.”

The Carousel Atlas said that the Party of Promise needed an Invitee, someone who had come to Carousel on purpose. Dina had come to revive her son Sean. Could this be why she was put on our team? When we had seen her letters from Carousel and compared them to the coded tropes I had been given, we agreed to help her. We thought that was what we were supposed to do.

“Let’s look past the details and allow me to guide you gently to the ultimate conclusion here; you must have contemplated leaving at some point, correct? You must have had whispers of breaking up the band and running for the glowing lights opposite the mountain across the lake, right? You did discuss escape at some point, no?”

In fact, there had been a discussion or the beginnings of one. Chris had told Antoine that if the run west during the Western Excursion showed signs of success, he would take Antoine, Kimberly, and Anna west toward the mountain. They would make a break for it. In fact, Bobby was actually supposed to go on the secret preliminary run.

He didn’t go because the people planning that secret run had died…

“No,” I said. I had finally connected dots that had laid dormant in my mind for so long. “You’re not saying…”

They had died in the Black Snow.

“That’s what I thought,” Silas said, though his tone wasn’t gloating; he was clearly suppressing a smirk. “When you finally started talking about escape, your beloved Insider, the final surviving member of that project, must have found out. And they dropped an Apocalypse on you.”

I couldn’t breathe.

The Black Snow Apocalypse came early, and no one knew why. Although it was prophesied for winter, it came in summer.

It had killed many players and caused the deaths of others. Reggie, Travis and his team, so many other vets… and Anna and Camden.

He was telling us that the Insider had killed them all in the hope of salvaging their plans.

“The other Narrators and I hadn’t done it. It had to be your Insider, but why? Why would they risk killing their best hope at success? I couldn’t figure it out for so long. It was because it was better you be dead than stuck on a broken Throughline. That was why.” Sᴇaʀᴄh thᴇ N0vᴇlFirᴇ.ɴet website on Gøøglᴇ to access chapters of nøvels early and in the highest quality.

Anna and Camden were collateral damage. I couldn’t feel my face. I couldn’t feel anything.

“That can’t be true,” Antoine said. “That… can’t be.”

He tried to protest, but we knew that Project Rewind had required the deaths of so many people. What were a few more?

“But it can,” Dyrkon said. “And it was… successful. I might add.”

If Silas was to be believed, the Insider had seen the seeds of an escape plan that would break up the Party of Promise and had snuffed it out.

“If Carousel wants us to escape,” Kimberly asked, panicking. Does that make it good?”

It was a desperate plea for a silver lining.

Silas didn’t laugh, but he seemed to find the idea amusing.

“I doubt Carousel has any intention of you completing whatever tasks it hopes to aim you at,” he said. “I suspect that its Throughline achieves some other end, some greater goal that I couldn’t begin to theorize about. But I suppose you will be the ones to find out. There aren’t happy endings in Carousel, my dear, not without someone on your side. Someone like mys—”

Silas stopped speaking as something else caught his attention. It was Ramona. She ran back to the group and ran right up to me.

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“Riley, you’re alive,” she said. She grabbed my arm. “My sister is missing and I don’t know how. I had her right in my—”

She stopped talking. She glanced over and saw Silas standing next to his mechanical counterpart.

“Mr. Dyrkon,” she said. “Oh my god. I can’t find my sister.”

Silas looked at her. I saw pity or shame in his eyes. I couldn’t tell.

“I apologize, Ramona,” he said. “It would seem fate isn’t shining on our plan… The Phoebe you know is a part of my Throughline. More than that, it’s Carousel 2023… She’s dead by now. She tried to tell you that. You didn’t listen.”

2023? Had we been in the tutorial for months?

“You said if I helped you I would get her back,” Ramona said.

“I said you could save her,” he replied. “I… I have been on a mission of destruction and discovery for so long. I never intended to become responsible for….” He gestured to Ramona. “Let’s speak about this in a moment.”

Ramona looked sad and angry. She was shutting down as her world imploded. Isaac wasn’t the only person with trust issues.

He took a moment and seemed to be suppressing his own emotions.

“Your people managed to pull off Project Rewind. I couldn’t stop it, so I tried to redirect it. Tricking you was the best play for us all. I meant it when I said that we would all be in better positions if I had succeeded. You see, if you are tricked, then you maintain your innocence. Anything you do will be out of coercion. In a place like this, innocence is a shield. The audience would hate me for what I had done to you and want you to succeed all the more. They would want you to succeed and win back your freedom so that Project Rewind would not have been in vain. It was inevitable that you would be able to rescue your loved ones, eventually. It would have worked. Now all that is left is for you to join me willingly, a proposition that is decidedly less... potent.”

Whatever look our group collectively gave him made him laugh.

“Yes, you see why I went with trickery first,” he said.

Antoine was putting the pieces together. “If we finished the storyline with Lillian alive, that would mean we had done enough to be bound to your Throughline, right?” he asked. “Letting her die meant that we hadn’t done enough to be bound. Help us understand the connection. Make it very clear.”

“Antoine,” Silas said. “The fighter. You, of all people, should want to join me. After all, wasn’t it Project Rewind that caused you to be placed in that forest for years? All so that your team could discover Secret Lore without you? Hmm? I’ve done lots of things, but that was dark.”

Antoine didn’t answer. He looked angry, but I felt he was putting on a brave face.

Silas continued. “I needed you to keep going long enough to make the Choice. You know, the Choice, the stage on the Plot Cycle. It isn’t just for storylines. It’s much older than that. You had to make a concerted choice. Fixing the paradox and saving Lillian was the choice. It had to take great effort to make; it had to be related to the Throughline. It’s that simple. Carousel’s magic works like a fractal. There are patterns that repeat in the micro and macro. As above, so below. If you had made the choice, you would be bound to me, as you say.”

It was that simple. Omen and Choice. Just like a storyline. We were that close to sticking with him until his goals were met, assuming we survived that long.

“Alright,” he said. “Let me have it. I am sure you have plenty to say to me.”

“Not really,” Isaac said. “Never fooled me.”

“How could I fool you? You had your eyes closed the entire time,” Silas said. “For a Cynic, you were asleep behind the wheel.”

Isaac looked like he wanted to respond but didn’t.

Antoine took a tactful approach.

“If you want us to trust you,” he said (although we were never going to trust him). “Tell us what it is you want. You want to look into the past using the Geist family like a time machine. Why?”

Silas nodded. “That’s fair. I have been here far longer than you can imagine. I helped make Carousel what it is today. I am, however, not all-powerful. I don't remember why I came. I don't remember much at all of my origin. I want my memories back. I want to know what happened to me.” He took a deep breath. “Why am I here? I feel rage and… longing. There’s something in my past I am desperate to recover. Ages ago. Before the Game at Carousel was even formalized, back when the rules weren’t written on tickets. I need answers. That is a powerful motive. With all I have done, I will succeed eventually. I hope you will help me get there. My Throughline was built for the task at hand.”

“I’ll take the deal,” Ramona said. “I’ll be a player for you. You said my sister is on your Throughline. Let me stay on your Throughline.”

Silas looked at her sadly. “Ramona. You… you have helped me in ways you’ll never understand. Some twist of fate led to you ascending from my Throughline. I can never bind you. I won’t.”

Ramona was confused. “Mr. Dyrkon… I don’t understand. You promised.”

“I have been tempted; I’m not a saint. I’ve done terrible things on my rise to power. I do need players to achieve my ends. The problem is, Ramona, you are not a tool for me to use. You may be the only good thing I have done in a long time. I cannot bring myself to undo it.”

Ramona was confused and angry but mostly quiet, to the point of being catatonic. It was as if she had expected this. There were no happy endings for her.

I tried not to overthink it. Whatever part of my soul was designed to trust was bruised and sore. I didn’t know what to think of Ramona. I half expected her to be revealed as a spy, though I couldn’t exactly figure out what she might have accomplished as one.

“I suppose the rest of you won’t be taking my offer,” Silas said. He paused. “I thought not. Not yet. There may come a time when you regret this decision. If it does, come find me. One of those infernal boxes made in my image should help with that.”

He lifted his fingers to snap them once more, but he hesitated.

“Of course, one last thing,” he said. “Now that I have told you all I intend to tell, I suppose I must do this.”

He took the silver hole punchers from his pocket and lifted them back to the card.

“Carousel really loves to rub it in, as it were,” he said under his breath.

He punched a hole in the corner of his ticket.

Suddenly, I felt something in my mind pinch as the useless Throughline task list we had received was replaced with something new.

“It seems Carousel wanted you more prepared than your predecessors,” Silas said. “It would also seem it liked my Geist idea for its own ends.”

I stared at the new section.

Throughline Progress

The Geists’ Ancient Past

For when you need to go back

~

“Carousel Loves to Recycle”

● ● ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌

Project Rewind

A Second Chance at Escape

● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

The Carousel Throughline

The Only Way Home

◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌◌

Secret Lore

Arm Yourselves with Knowledge

● ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌ ◌

The new sign on the red wallpaper listed the Geists’ Secrets alongside Project Rewind and The Carousel Throughline. Secret lore was also there, meaning it was technically a throughline.

I heard a snap. In an instant, Silas had disappeared.

In the distance, I heard the festivities begin to play. On the red wallpaper, a plaque reading “The Centennial” appeared like a trophy.

The Paragons were still there. They watched on.

Constance approached us. A look of shame was plastered on her face.

She spoke firmly and apologized profusely. I couldn’t even process it. I didn’t care. She said they were bound to their scripts. I could have guessed as much. It didn’t matter. The moment we learned they were compromised, they became the enemy.

Sidney, the Scream Queen Paragon, said, “We told you to find us if you made it to the Centennial. We had a plan to let you know what was going on. It was our only opening.”

Kimberly may have said something to her, but I ignored the whole conversation.

I was focused on other things entirely.

None of the other Paragons moved in, but I heard Kurt Willis whispering about how he thought we were being overly dramatic.

I turned back to my friends and we just looked at each other. Above all else, we were tired.

Now, it was time to wait. Carousel had planned a Throughline for us. That was our ticket out of here. That was what Project Rewind was designed to help us complete.

I didn’t care about any of it. I didn’t want to think about Throughlines or Geists. I wanted to level up. I wanted to make my own decisions.

I had people to rescue.

Whichever Narrators had their sights set on us would just have to wait.

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