"Welcome to the gang." These words greeted Will as soon as he woke up. "From now on, you're one of us."
Slowly his vision came into focus. A horde of those skinny kids gathered round him.
"P-please don't tell me Mrs. Banks locked us in." His heart beat faster than ever.
Jimmy stepped forward, nodding. "You shouldn't have meddled with the Secret Room. I tried my best to keep you away."
"You remember that new lady Phyllis? That was actually me. I would've actually stopped you straight from coming here, but Mrs. Banks was watching me too closely."
"Same thing here," the girl who called herself Stella spoke. "I kept warning you, but in the end Mrs. Banks found out as well. Now she's terminated my worker personality."
"You're all mad! Mad, I tell you, MAD!" Will screamed at them. He ran to the door and kicked it repeatedly. "Anyone there? We're trapped inside! HELPPPPPPP!"
"Save your breath, you're going to need it," Jimmy said. "That Mrs. Banks, she's been doing this for a long time. The Secret Room is just a set-up for her to get workers to keep the orphanage running."
"I bet you don't understand," another girl said. "Let me show you."
She led him to a cleverly hidden compartment with many sets of buttons and knobs. On top of each set was a numbered screen, all of which read "ASLEEP".
"You see this?" she motioned to Screen Number Three. "I'm the worker called Pat."
Will's mouth gaped in horror. "You mean..."
"Yes. That's Martha...Ruth...Teresa...Bessy...Polly. Stella, whom you know, is Stella. Jimmy is that new girl Phyllis."
All the nice ladies were in fact kids trapped in the Secret Room. It was a truth too crushing for him to bear.
His knees buckled. "So...those nice ladies who walk around each day...what are they?"
"Nobody knows. They could be robots, or illusions, or spirits...only Mrs. Banks has any idea."
Stella and Jimmy came over. "You found out the hard way too, huh?"
Will looked at Stella. "What happens to you, now that Mrs. Banks has killed off your nice lady personality?"
"You only get one personality," she said grimly. "Once she catches you doing anything wrong, that's it. You'll never get to see anything but the four walls of this room."
"But what wrong did you do?"
"I told you about the consequences I were bearing for this, didn't I?"
"Yeah," Jimmy quipped. "I almost got into trouble too as Phyllis the other day, blurting out your name like that."
Will covered his ears, wanting to hear no more. But it could not be undone. He was doomed to spend a lifetime inside the Secret Room.
As the days wore on, Will found out more. Twice a day some sorry-looking excuse for food was served through an air pump located at the ceiling.
Escape? It was as possible as flying elephants. The doors were both made of solid metal, strong enough to withstand thirty kids pushing against it. Slipping notes under the door to people outside was prevented by the second door located at least five feet away from the main purple door. Any noise was also drowned out by the room's soundproof qualities.
He also discovered that some months ago, a few kids managed to unlock the second door from inside. They poked their fingers underneath the door while screaming for help, in hope that someone would notice them. Unfortunately, only Mrs. Banks found them the next morning. It was a good thing they didn't know that Will was right there outside and could've saved them if he didn't freak out. Jimmy wisely kept his mouth shut too.
But the worst part was that the kids in the Secret Room weren't really kids at all. Some of them had been locked up for ten or twenty years, they just never grew up in the Secret Room. A few, like Teresa and Ruth, had been able to keep their jobs as nice ladies for all the time, but many weren't as lucky. They made some mistakes, causing them to not even get a chance to see the outside world through the eyes of a nice lady.
Now, you may be thinking why Will doesn't somehow rescue all the kids or defeat the evil Mrs. Banks. After all, he is the protagonist of this story and they always win in the end, don't they?
Well, Will is sadly just not one of those protagonists. For all his efforts, he has merely become another dot on the Secret Room's long list of victims. Perhaps someday a true protagonist will come along and free Will, Jimmy, Stella, and all the other kids. Or maybe it could even be Jan. That, I assure you, is another story.
But until then, I bid you farewell and a simple warning: Stay clear of the Secret Room!