I can’t complain. I had it coming. During three different incarnations of Snuffhouse Alone, it became a bit of a gag for me to tease Mr. Black. To see how far I could take it. And it was a lot of fun – at Christmas Dinner I showed up in a Santa hat and a silly christmas jumper, before Valentine’s I wrote him a cheeky love letter. And I always got away with it, kind of. Drenched and beaten up a bit more than I would have been, but good times, all in all. Now, I was to enter his home for what looked like the final time. He had four hours to give me a proper send-off. I wouldn’t be the one laughing this time.
A week before, I started getting messages. “My eyes are firmly set on you. No running. No hiding. This time next week. It’s me versus you. And I’ll win. I always do. Let’s end this.” Pleasantries like that. So I did what anyone would do. I made a silly t-shirt. I am not a smart man.
The night before, more messages. Advice to take up religion, and to enjoy my last night. I sent him a picture of the beer I was holding, told him cheers. I really can’t complain. I really, really had it coming.
Twenty four hours later, I was sat on my knees. A familiar sight. That industrial soundscape, droning on all around us. Six people stand in front of us, dressed in black, wearing masks. The tormentors. They quickly flash their torches, illuminating their faces one by one in the dark. Faces I knew all too well. I looked up at Mr. Black, and barely got a glance back. He seemed to be biding his time. Four hours to go – he wasn’t in a hurry. And so, the games began, a barrage of vile, degrading or exhausting tasks, with tormentors nearby at all times, humiliating you, using every sign of weakness to your further disadvantage. Thumbs were twisted into pressure points, violent grabs knocked the wind out of me, and it rapidly became very clear that I’d have to fight to see the end. The first challenge left me soaked and smelling like a fish market at noon, after game number two, I was covered in a disgusting muck, my face and mouth burning. In between games, I barely had a chance to regain my composure. On my knees, hooded. A tormentor comes up to me. A voice I didn’t immediately recognize. “I know who you are. I remember you. Do you know who I am?” I answered that I wasn’t sure. Instantly, a hand covered my nose and mouth, squeezed tight. “Do you know now?” I could only nod.
Every single game was set up to cause friction between the contestants. Nothing was fair. All of it, set in place for us to betray each other, to throw each other under the bus. No camaraderie allowed. Every smile, instantly punished. Even before we were halfway through, safewords reduced our numbers to the point where we could no longer be divided into groups for the challenges, and this picked up the pace even more. Without a chance to take a breath, we were escorted from trial to trial, until it was time for the live broadcast. On my knees, waiting for the hood to go off, waiting for flashlights to blind me, for them to broadcast my shellshocked face to the world. My eyes tearing up because of vinegar fumes, my mouth completely dried out, grains of salt cutting into my gums.
Sure enough – minutes later, I’m being pulled to my feet. Number three, guess it’s your lucky day! I really shouldn’t complain. I had urged everyone I knew to vote for me. Did I mention I am not a smart man? Dragged through hallways. Made to sit in a chair. Cable ties strap my legs to the chair. My hands, bound, behind my back. The hood goes off. What followed broke the frantic pace and the violent shouting in the most refreshing way. It was Red and Yellow. A moment went by, a quiet conversation, probing me for my motivations, for the way I see myself. Then, they showed me a metal device, asking me to open my mouth. Suffice it to say that I was left utterly defenceless, reduced to an infant at their mercy. It was beautiful in a weird way, and definitely very unexpected. A highlight of the night.
Soon after I rejoined the rest, I was handed a drink, and a snack bar. Whispers that they were not the enemy. That we shouldn’t trust the others. The water was very welcome at that point, and I quickly made it through a third of the bottle. A minute later, it was taken away from me. A violent grip, and I was pulled outside. We were in an intermission? It was safe? What the hell was going on? Breakneck speed, me, still hooded, stumbling, running, trying to keep up, my feet hardly keeping up, being kicked out from under me. I’m thrown to the ground, my hood pulled off. A field, a patch of grass. There’s a bucket. Darkness, all around. Just me and him, no one else in sight. I’m staring in the face of Mr. Black. I really had it coming. And what followed wasn’t pretty.
I made it back to the group. They had no idea of why I was in that state. Shaking violently. Puddles, on the floor, everywhere I went. The games continued. Oxygen barely made it through the hood anymore. I was panting, trying to move my head so an opening could form around my neck, allowing some air to get in. At first, I thought I was just out of breath. But every single time I was hooded again, immediately, I was struggling. A game later, hands pull me to the side. Fingers, checking my pulse. Flashlights. A lot of people, standing around. Red is looking at me. “Do you want to continue?” I must have been quite the sight. I told him yes. The face of Yellow appears. “You sick fuck…” And I’m hooded again, rejoining the remaining few for the final hour.
At 2 am, I found myself in the parking lot again, along with just two other survivors.
All I can say is, what the fuck. This was the show it should have been last year. The flow was improved so much, especially after our group size made it possible to skip the group division videos altogether. The aggression of the tormentors was picked up. It was picked up A LOT. By now, three days later, my knees are barely black and blue anymore. The bump on my forehead is almost gone. Just some small scrapes remain. The games were properly degrading, setting us up against each other. The reveal, after they took your hood off, was always met with apprehension. Even though in concept the night was largely similar to the 2016 version, this time, it just worked. As a point of critique, the ending still could use work. Why were we allowed to leave, without a reason, just like that, after all the abuse? Apart from that, I’m not a fan of the videos or the character of Jimmy Grin. He was basically Russ 2.0, with a similar monologue, serving very little purpose. A deranged game show host, sure, but in the context of this show, it seems strange to me the tormentors would ever take orders from Grin. They are the real stars. Ever present, ever punishing, never letting up. Mr. Black and Mr. Blue, the personification of unwarranted hatred. Ms. Yellow, belittling you, there to crush your self-worth, to corrupt and taint how you see your future, your loved ones. Mr. Red, a quiet force, not caring or impressed, above it all. Like burning ants with a magnifying glass.
I got what I asked for. I had it coming. It was a proper send-off. One thing is branded on my mind. Mr. Black – you are the boss.