9: Another One Bites the Dust
Russia had heard a lot of commotion upon entering the room. He’d remained hidden behind his chair, refusing to leave or look up as the lights were flicked on and off for fear of raising his head too high and risk being caught by Belarus. There had been a lot of scuffling, some faraway whispers, then the room had gone completely dark and he’d been left alone. He was too frightened to leave the room. He would much rather stay in the dark. Belarus was still out there, and he could even hear footsteps outside the room. Somebody was out there. Russia held his breath. If he could have it his way, he would remain there for the rest of the night.
He could still hear footsteps nearby, but they were more distant and indicated someone was still in the hallway. He feared Belarus was opting for the “wait big brother Russia out” tactic, so he bowed his head between his knees and squeezed his eyes shut, willing the night to pass and for the day to bring blissful salvation to him.
Germany wandered out of the bathroom to see Latvia still standing where he had left him. The boy was idly tapping his foot on the ground, but raised his head as Germany left the bathroom.
“Oh, good, you’re still here,” he said. “I wondered, but it seems the attacker is not on this side of the building.”
“Just as well,” Latvia said. “I’m not sure I’d be able to fight back if someone attacked me. Mr Russia’s loving, affectionate nature has prevented me from growing big and strong like most others my age.”
“What?” Germany looked at him. ‘Loving’ and ‘affectionate’ were hardly words he would use to describe Russia.
Latvia glanced around, as if expecting Russia to be nearby, and then leant closer. “He puts his hand on my head and crushes my cranium. No oxygen can get there so I can’t think and I believe the deprivation has prevented me getting taller and bigger. I say it’s his affectionate nature to his face, but it really hurts!”
Germany wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Prussia was a disastrous brother, in a pestering, needy and overly affectionate way, but that’s what he expected from his older brother. From afar, he had always wondered whether Latvia and Russia shared a similar brotherly relationship, but now he wasn’t so sure.
“I hope Ukraine and China are well,” he changed the subject swiftly. “I would hate for them to suffer at the hands of this mystery attacker.”
Latvia nodded, swallowing, and the pair of them wandered to the end of the hallway where China and Ukraine had been watching TV. As they neared, Germany could hear the screams of the horror film on full volume as well as the ambience to accompany them. He entered the room and froze in the doorway, Latvia walking into him.
“What is it, Mr Germany?” Latvia asked, sounding concerned.
“Damn,” he cursed, and allowed Latvia a view of the room. “They've both disappeared. They barely even managed to drink their tea and eat their chocolates. That’s assuming neither passed you by.”
“No, actually,” Latvia looked surprised. “You reckon the attacker got them?”
“Of course,” Germany looked guarded, and then checked the time.
His watch read it was quarter to ten. There was still too much time before he met with the others. However, it was just him and Latvia. They were vulnerable to attack. If he went to the west wing, there was a chance he would encounter England, America and France. His two team-mates had vanished, and he wasn't about to let Latvia out of his sight at this stage.
“We’re going to the west wing,” he announced. “There we have a chance of finding three others. We need to make battle plans and seek out our attacker. It’s no longer a case of finding the others, I'm afraid.”
“O-OK, Sir,” Latvia sounded afraid.
Germany turned and saw the boy shaking a little with fear.
“What is it?” he asked.
“Is it possible that Mr Russia is behind these disappearances?” he asked. “Whenever I've said something he doesn't like he stretches me.”
“Stretches you?” Germany heard alarm bells ringing in his head. “He turns to these acts of violence frequently?”
Latvia shifted from foot to foot. “Only if I say something he doesn't like to hear. He hates us mentioning America. He doesn't even answer if we mention that name, just falls silent and gives us that awful smile. I once hid this really ugly coat of his from sight, thinking it was old and disgusting and long out of use, but it turns out he wears it frequently and almost all the time. But it was so ugly, Mr Germany, that when he said it was brand new I almost died of fear and horror. Why would you buy something so nasty? It was too late for me to take back my words though, because I’d already called it ‘too hideous for plain sight’.”
“And he… stretched you?” Germany frowned.
“Yes,” the boy answered. “I know stretching is supposed to make you taller, but I don’t think Mr Russia stretches me out of the goodness of his heart, especially when he’s crushing my head and spine later in the day.”
Germany laid a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “No need to worry, Latvia. If Russia really is the one behind these disappearances, myself and the others will handle this. Just stay by me.”
Latvia glanced at Germany’s hand on his shoulder and seemed comforted by it. He nodded towards the older nation, and the pair of them left the horror film running on the TV and headed towards the west wing.
Russia heard more footsteps outside, but then the house was plunged back into silence. He waited just a little longer, before rising to his feet and treading his way carefully past the bookshelves and to the door. He took a long breath before opening the door and then glanced both ways down the corridor; it was still empty.
He sighed with relief, and then heard something in the distance. It sounded like music from the end of the hallway. Cautiously, Russia wandered down, keeping an ear out for Belarus’s voice, until eventually he reached the end of the hallway.
One of the room’s doors was left wide open.
Russia felt a cold chill pass through him. Swallowing, he looked inside and saw a film playing on the TV. The room was empty. There was tea and chocolates sitting there. He lifted a chocolate and ate it.
“Russia! Those were for the guest!”
He jumped and turned to see Ukraine standing in the doorway. Her face melted into a smile at the sight of him. Russia braced himself just as she launched herself and enveloped him in one of her trademark hugs. Behind her back, he stuffed another two chocolates in his mouth.
“Oh, the guest is gone,” Ukraine commented. “And China looked so comfortable…”
“Schina wushere wishoo-mm,” he swallowed the chocolates. “China was here?”
“Yeah,” she beamed. “He and Germany were here not long ago. Germany went to the bathroom with Latvia about ten minutes ago, and I was in here with China. What? What’s that look in your eyes, Russia?”
“Nothing,” he stepped away from his sister, his stomach performing flips. “I need to find them, though. I passed the bathroom on my way here and neither Germany nor Latvia were there. Just stay in this room, though, OK? Because I think there’s someone in the house…”
“Someone in the house?” she looked at him oddly – it was an expression Russia had never seen in her eyes before, and it unsettled him.
“Yeah,” he swallowed and backed out of the room. “Just stay in there, OK?”
He closed the door and stared at it. There was no sound of movement from within the room, but the horror channel continued playing. Russia stood contemplating the circumstances. Belarus had looked suspicious before, but now he was sure that was her usual behaviour. On the other hand, there was Ukraine. Both China and Germany had vanished beneath her care.
Russia felt all the more cold as he vacantly walked down the hallway. He didn't want to think Ukraine was behind the abductions. He wanted to pretend his agricultural sister was as innocent as she seemed. He pulled his scarf closer around his face, hugged his coat to himself and continued down that cold, unforgiving hallway.
Suddenly, in the far distance, Russia heard horrified yells. They weren't female, but were coming from Ukraine’s direction. Russia tore down the hallway, away from the terror, not wanting to face the facts…
America found the cramped little corridor leading to the kitchen to be the most uncomfortable place in the house. He was sure there was a distant wailing or shouting coming from somewhere, but he didn't want to think their enemy was actually an old Russian ghost invoking revenge against those who weren't connected to Russia.
They found the kitchen exactly where Latvia told them it would be. The first thing America did was check the fridge. Raiding it of soda, he turned to see England glaring at him disapprovingly.
“What?” he moaned. “Even heroes need drink breaks…”
He slurped on the soda whilst England located a little door at the back of the kitchen that led to the pantry, and through that, the garage. This was the place they needed to be in order to get their precious ladder. England opened the door into the dark room. A crack of light slid into the room and- wait. The lights were already on. The room was just dim, not dark.
England swallowed. “Hello?” he called out uncertainly.
“Dude, why did you do that?” America hissed. “It could be the attacker.”
England glanced at him sceptically. They had both seen Estonia’s suspicious behaviour from earlier.
“Who is it?” Belarus called and stepped out of the garage rubble, a large, dusty crowbar held in between her hands. “Oh, the westerners! How nice that we should come across one another?”
America felt the soda slip from his hand and crash to the ground, soda spilling out across the ground.
“Not only that, but you’re the America bastard that torments big brother Russia so,” she scowled, and tapped the crowbar to her hands. “The moment he organised this whole thing, I've hated every moment of it. I knew it was a bad idea. The very sight of you sickens me.”
“Sickens you enough that you would dispose of all others?” America blurted out, half hiding behind England.
Belarus’s head tilted eerily to the side, and her cold, icy eyes settled on him. “I really want to dispose of you right now.”
“Bloody hell, we were wrong,” England took a step back. “It was Belarus this whole time!”
“Let’s the heck outta here!” America cried and stumbled backwards.
Belarus swung the crowbar to the side. It crashed into several toolboxes, sending them tumbling to the ground where nails and screwdrivers and other equipment scattered across the floor.
America raced back through the pantry, England not far from his heels, and Belarus just steps behind, crowbar in hand.
“I’ll kill you for how you've treated my precious love and brother,” she howled.
“Bollocks!” England wailed. “I say we find Germany and others and just leave this place!”
“We can’t just leave France and Italy, though,” America replied. “We need that ladder.”
“I'm not going back there,” he felt England’s glare on the back of his head.
“Why don’t you pussies stop running and accept you’re on Russia’s turf now?” she demanded. “Russia’s house, Russia’s rules, and I'm here to make sure Russia is happy. Getting rid of you will make Russia very happy.”
So he is behind it all! America thought as he sprinted out into the corridor. Russia’s little sister is only doing what he commands. The bastard was behind it this whole time!
“We won’t make it!” England yelled, and threw himself out into the hallway.
Turning round, America slammed the entrance shut and bolted the door in place. It shook as Belarus threw herself against the door and howled like a she-wolf. America staggered backwards and fell to the ground, staring at the bolted door.
“I’ll find you both,” Belarus threatened. “I’ll find you and then big brother Russia will be happy.”
“She’s insane,” England whispered, chest rising and falling in fear from the whole thing. “I say we just leave.”
“We can’t,” America gaped. “There’s a storm out there. We’re trapped.”
“Oh, no, I remember now,” England moaned and held his head in his hands. “This is the worst. This is truly the worst. How are we supposed to get into the attic at this point?”
“We’ll either have to find another way into the garage, or another way into the attic,” America shuddered.
England straightened up, and then frowned. “No, I've got a plan. We need to set up a decoy of some sort. That way, we can sneak past her…”
America looked at his English speaking ally. “You really are away with the fairies…”