This story contains adult themes. Reader discretion is advised.
“There are two kinds of secrets: those we keep from others, and those we keep from ourselves.”
– Frank Warren
It was a den of sex, lust, and sin, or as close to one as they could create. The music seemed to flow through the house like a current, trailing smoke from a dozen cigarettes behind it, and moving from room to room as easily as the cottonmouths did in the river behind the house. The bass flowed like a living thing, sinuous and lithe. She was a huntress from the darkest of places, pulsing in a synchronized madness. She surged through the veins of those too drunk to fight her, and throbbed in the temples of the willing wicked in the many hidden places the house could afford. It was a welcomed chaos, one that Sean Sabine thrived upon.
He tossed back the last of the fiery liquid in the shot glass he carried, throwing the glass against a distant wall, and threaded his way through his house. Friends and classmates caught up in the moment passed before his eyes, each one little more than a sum of the whole. The alcohol burned its way down his throat, adding to the spreading numbness that started in his midsection and was working its way outwards. It was a familiar inebriation, purring as gently as a kitten when he started drinking but raging like a lion the next morning. Still, something was missing.
Like a doctor seeing patients, he wandered the halls, filtering in and out of the various rooms before he could decide on a prognosis. The outcome was grim. It was terminal and unless treated, the party would be dead before midnight.
The beginnings of a plan begun to form the moment his eyes settled upon an uncomfortable looking boy in a corner. He wore a tweed blazer that looked like it was a size too big and a mop of unruly hair. Beneath a pair of wire-thin glasses burned the eyes of a soul who wanted nothing more than to talk to someone, but feared the interaction. Sean didn’t remember his name, didn’t remember inviting him, but he would do.
“You there,” He pointed, “Boy. Come here.”
He looked like he wanted to return to his corner and continue gathering dust, but Sean knew his type. Call out the quiet ones where you see them and they’ll always obey. It was like a rule built into the introverts that made them easy targets. When he came near, Sean snatched the red cup from his hands and sniffed the contents.
“Water?” Sean asked. He scowled and threw the drink across the room eliciting a scream. “Are you fucking serious? We have enough alcohol to drown a fucking elephant and you’re drinking water? What’s your name again?”
“I…Sam,” He began.
“No. Go get yourself a real drink and follow me to the den,” Sean said, pushing him towards the kitchen. “And bring a girl with you if you can.”
It was a start. He felt a triggering release as he set things into motion, a tension that once uncoiled would lead to a night no one would forget. He still didn’t have a plan, but already things felt right. He grabbed another boy as he walked, someone with dark hair slicked to the side, and pulled him behind like a rip tide.
“What the hell man,” the boy protested when he pushed him into the den.
“Tyler, right?” Sean asked.
The boy was smaller than he’d thought, barely a buck fifty even if he’d been dropped fully clothed into a river. He was the kind of kid who’d drown before he’d be seen without his shirt. The kind of kid more worried about whether his clothes matched his shoes than how he felt. Cold blue eyes stared back at him, waiting for an answer, but for all his posturing, Sean instinctively knew he wouldn’t do a thing to defend himself.
“Chill,” Sean said. Tyler let out the breath he’d been holding in; his hand fluttering to his chest.
Sean waved in two of Tyler’s friends who’d been waiting at the doorway. “I just wanted to show you guys something.”
“Great party, man,” Ryan said, pulling his girlfriend Amanda behind him.
“Well that was the idea,” Sean grinned. “Last big fucking thing before summer. Our senior year should be special, right? At least that’s what they keep telling us, as if we’d fucking somehow forget. You two most of all should be living this shit up.”
“And why’s that?” Amanda asked.
“Marriage. Babies. College,” Sean said. “Maybe not in that order, but you two are kind of expected to have your shit together. No pressure.”
“None taken,” Amanda said, rolling her eyes.
Sam entered the room holding a shot glass, looking like he once more wandered into an adult conversation with nothing to say. Behind him was a girl squeezed into a black dress with her hair pulled up in a bun. She grinned when she saw the others gathered. Unlike Sam, she looked like she knew exactly where she was going and how to get there.
“Krista,” She said.
“I don’t remember inviting you either,” Sean said.
“Never said you did,” Krista said. She took the shot from Sam and tossed it back, handing the glass to Sean.
“Sam, lock the door behind you,” Sean said, never taking his eyes off of Krista. He waited until he heard the door latch before motioning for the others to sit.
“Nice room,” Krista said. “Your father’s obviously since you don’t look like you’ve read a book in your life.”
“Sheath your claws, kitten,” Sean said. He sat at his father’s desk and removed a bottle of vintage scotch from the bottom drawer. With it he set out six shot glasses and poured a drab into each. “There’s a reason I invited you select few in here.”
“Are we toasting something?” Sam asked, dipping a finger into his glass.
“What? No. It’s for your nerves,” Sean said. Only Amanda refused her glass.
While the others drank, Sean went to a cabinet recessed into the wall and opened a latch. From there, he punched a code into a nine digit keypad and swung open the door. Within the cavity was a small machine with cables strung in coils and a glass container like a candy dispenser.
“No fucking way,” Ryan said. He drank his shot and set the glass on the table face down. “Is that what I think it is?”
Sean grinned plugged the device into the wall. It hummed to life, the display flashing before falling silent.
“Mnemosyne,” Sean said.
“It’s a mood machine,” Tyler said, forgetting his discomfort.
“Nemesis,” Amanda said.
Sam cleared his throat, drawing everyone’s attention. “Well, mood machine is a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? I mean, it doesn’t draw upon your mood alone, does it?”
“Our bespectacled friend -”
“Sam,” Sam interrupted.
“- Is right,” Sean grinned. “Easy to use, they say, but hard to put down. It draws off of a memory and an emotion both. After all, what’s the fucking point of watching someone hang-gliding if you don’t get the same thrill from it?”
“Can we, like, try it?” Ryan asked. He sat the edge of his seat, ignoring Amanda who pulled at his jacket sleeve.
“That’s the point,” Sean said. “But there’s one caveat. We’re going to make some real memories here, boys and girls. We’re on the cusp of freedom here, slaves only to ourselves, and only the truth will set you free. To watch the game, you’ve gotta play the game. Presence implies participation.”
He didn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he filled up the remaining shot glasses and poured the rest of the liquid on the ground at his feet. The bottle he placed in the center of the room and spun in a lopsided circle. It came to rest on Amanda.
“No fucking way I’m strapping that thing to my head,” She said, getting to her feet.
“Baby, you gotta do it,” Ryan said.
“You probably won’t get another chance,” Tyler said. “My father works for a distributor and even he’s never seen one in person yet.”
“It’s a breach of privacy,” Sam said.
“It’ll be cool,” Ryan said, pulling on her hand like an impatient child. “Please?”
“What do I have to do,” Amanda said, stepping forward and strapping the device to her forehead. She sighed while Sean punched in buttons on the display, twisting the edges of her oversized pink cardigan in tight circles.
“Easy,” Sean said, flipping a switch. “Tell me your darkest secret.”
“But I don’t have one,” She frowned. The device disagreed and spit out six identical pills in a clear plastic coating. Sean handed out one to each person while Amanda gingerly sat down next to Ryan.
“Fucking wicked,” Ryan said, holding it up to the light. “So it’s like I’ve got a little piece of my girl right here in this pill.”
“And we each take one?” Sam asked.
“Like a vitamin,” Sean said, placing his on his tongue.
It wasn’t even her baby, but she cried the first time she saw it. It was little more than a squirmy, chubby little angel with rolls so fat you could butter them up and serve them for dinner; useful for absolutely nothing and yet she wanted nothing more than to hold it and smell it and just breathe it in. The little boy had blue eyes and couldn’t have been more than a month old. She was amazed something so young could look so old all at once.
Then the baby was pushed past and out of sight and a little part of her broke. She could feel the pieces jangling around in her chest where her heart had once been; a perfect little baby sized hole in its place. She thought she’d known everything by then. Every step. Every option. Her life spread out before her in a homemade spreadsheet, but then came that damned baby. It wasn’t even her baby…
“Obviously, she cheated,” Krista said. “Liking a baby is not a secret”
Amanda said nothing, glaring at Sean over crossed arms as if it was his fault. Only Tyler seemed to have understood the drama unfolding and waited until Ryan was fully withdrawn from the hold the pill had over him.
“Babe. I thought we talked about this,” Ryan said.
“We’re doing this now, Ryan?” Amanda shot back. “Really?”
“It’s not a big deal. She likes kids. You obviously don’t,” Krista said. “In the grand cosmic scheme of things, it’s probably for the best you two don’t reproduce.”
“At least they have a chance of getting laid,” Tyler said.
Ryan ignored both and again pulled at Amanda’s hand. “We agreed on this. College first. Then after we have our careers going, we think about having kids. Are you getting cold feet on me already?”
“It’s just a fucking kid, Ryan,” Amanda screamed. “This is exactly why I was keeping it a secret. God help me for being so fucking backwards as to want to have children and be a mommy over anything else. I guess I’m just not progressive enough for you or my mother.”
Ryan squirmed in his seat, glancing towards both the door and Sean who sat at the desk with steepled fingers and a wide grin spread across his face. Sam was the only one not to speak, sharing curious glances with his drink and the floor in turn. He seemed to regret being in the room and looked like he would melt into the wall if he had the ability.
“Babe…” Ryan began, breaking the silence.
“Don’t you fucking babe me,” Amanda said.
Ryan turned to Sean. “Maybe Sam was right. This does seem like a bad idea. Sort of invasive.”
“No you don’t,” Amanda said rising to her feet. “Presence implies participation. You wanted to do this. So let’s do this.” She picked up the device and handed it to Ryan who stared at it like it was going to bite.
Sean pushed one of the remaining shot glasses forward. “For courage, if you find yourself lacking.”
Ryan placed the device on his head. “So all I have to do is think of a dark secret?”
“Oh no, mon ami,” Sean grinned, flipping the switch. “I said your darkest secret. The one thing you’re most afraid of letting go. Besides, you don’t get to pick. The machine does it for you.”
“That’s bullshit,” Ryan said, but before he could remove the device, six identical pills were dispensed from the bottom of the machine. Each one were tinged pink in a clear plastic container.
“This should be good,” Amanda said, placing it between her teeth and biting.
He was still erect. His breath returned slowly and his heart raced in his temples to find its rhythm. Had that actually happened? Ryan wanted to believe that he’d only imagined it. That the rush of sex and emotion had been something he dreamed up in the middle of the night, but the warm body next to him said otherwise. Had it been magical? He searched himself waiting for an answer, but nothing echoed back up to him and the only thing he felt was a hollow disgust.
How many did this make? Eight? Nine? He thought he was happy with Amanda. Everything and everyone told him he should be, but there was always an emptiness inside; a wanderlust that kept him going from flower to flower looking for the elusive thing he couldn’t even hope to name. He was empty. He was searching. He didn’t even care that he cheated again. It was only the serpent of doubt coiled in the darkness that tormented him the most. He didn’t know what he wanted and he’d never figure it out.
“Hey Tye,” Ryan said, shaking his friend awake. He stirred uneasily, shrugging off the bed sheets and exposing a bare chest. “You should probably go, bro.”
“Yeah, sure,” Tyler said, rising to his feet.
Ryan could see he didn’t want to go, but surely he realized the mistake this had been. A part of him felt dirty, though he couldn’t explain why. He waited until he’d gathered his clothing and dressed, standing at the door before saying something. “Maybe don’t tell anyone about this, yeah? I don’t want people thinking I’m a fag or anything.”
“Yeah,” Tyler said, hesitating at the door. “Sure. I understand, man.”
Krista’s laughter rang out in the small room, echoing off the books and trinkets lining the shelves, while Ryan hid his face in his hands. An uncomfortable silence greeted them while their heads cleared, one punctuated only when Sam shifted in his place. Before Ryan could say anything, Amanda stood up and slapped him. The action was so sudden, that even Krista held a hand over her mouth.
“You damned hypocrite,” Amanda said, her anger overpowering her disappointment. “You don’t think I knew you’d been sleeping around on me? That my parents forced me to stay with you because you were going places? I’m not mad at you for cheating. I’m not even mad at Tyler. I feel so sorry for you.”
“Sorry for me?” Ryan shouted, rising to his feet. “You have no drive, Amanda. No ambition. You’re content to just sit around letting life pass you by. You’re going to end up with three kids still in this dead-end town working at a diner and wishing you still had a chance at life.”
“At least I know what I want,” Amanda said softly. “However dull you might find it, I have a soul. You’re empty inside and that terrifies you more than anything else.”
Ryan said nothing, returning to his seat without meeting either Amanda’s or Tyler’s stare. The music filled the void, the distant bass beating a staccato on the walls, broken only by the sound of laughter and cheering.
“I’m so sorry, Amanda,” Tyler finally said, rubbing at the corners of his eyes. “I never meant to hurt you.”
Amanda nodded, but said nothing.
“Well, I’ve certainly learned a lot,” Krista finally said.
“Krista, don’t,” Sam said from his corner. He turned to Sean, “This has gone on long enough don’t you think?”
Sean laughed. “No I don’t Sam. We still have four more to go.”
“Speaking of which,” Tyler rose from his seat, placing the device on his head. “How about we get the full story? You ok with that bro?”
Mother had always been supportive. Shy and sensitive were just keywords for sexual preference rather than having had anything to do with an uncertain son. Rainbow flags were in as well as books and literature for the social mask she wore around her drinking friends. After all, nothing was as cosmopolitan as having a gay son.
“You just be whoever you want to be,” She would say while tucking him into bed, the alcohol still strong on her breath, “And whenever you’re ready to decide, I’ll be right there for you.”
Every action he made only added more weight to her argument and cemented a decision she was sure he’d make for himself one day. After all, isn’t that what mothers were for? To support the decisions of their children? To know what’s best for them especially when they can’t see it for themselves? Not like her mother who was so conservative that it would make a southern Baptist tell her to ease up.
After his mother dropped him off in front of the school, he decided it was time to finally come out. He dressed in his Sunday best, even though mother never liked going to church, with a handful of daisies he pulled from the neighbor’s garden. They were meant for a special someone, the one person he’d had his eyes on for some time. Crushes were like that; you watched them from afar, their every decision weighed and balanced until you either gained the courage to say something or faced the prospects of never knowing. He decided to take the chance. After all, you could be whomever you wanted to, right?
The shove came out of nowhere and sent him to his knees. One moment, he was upright and confident and the next sprawled on the floor with the sun in his eyes. He scrambled to his feet, picking up his flowers where they fell and looking for the offending thing that had tripped him. He only saw a young boy he’d seen before in class grinning at him.
“Sorry man, I didn’t see you there,” He said. “Who are the flowers for?”
“How dare you!” His mother answered for him. “What are you? Homophobic? You think it’s nice to pick on a little boy just because he’s gay?”
She appeared out of nowhere and she’d seen what she wanted to see; that of a bully picking on her shy and sensitive son. A boy with no real identity of her own. He realized she must’ve remained parked nearby to watch him offer his token of affection to his crush. What’s worse; she was drawing a crowd with her screaming. At least this time she was sober.
“Is this the kind of kid you’re teaching at this school? Bullies and homophobes?” She screamed when a teacher finally appeared. Then she turned to her son, “Be brave. You hear me? Don’t let anyone stop you.”
Already embarrassed, he picked up what he could salvage and handed the entire bouquet to the first boy he saw, a kid named Freddy in the grade above him. Then they clapped; two dozen boys and girls uncertain as to what they’d just witnessed save for the bravery it took for a young boy to finally come out. Even his crush was clapping, the look in her face telling him he’d never stand a chance more than just a friend.
“You’re not gay,” Sean said. It wasn’t a question any longer, but a statement. They’d all felt the same crushing defeat, the certainty of emotion, and the embarrassment.
“I don’t understand,” Tyler said. “This was supposed to show my side of things.”
“Are you arguing that it didn’t?” Krista asked. “It was pretty damned certain from where I was standing. I didn’t think anyone could be that pathetic.”
“Dammit, Krista, would you have some compassion?” Ryan asked.
“Like you did when you used him just to figure out it wasn’t what you wanted?” Krista asked. “Did you ever stop to consider that maybe it’s really fucking pathetic to be something you’re not? To not stand up for yourself for so long?”
“I’m sorry, Tye,” Ryan finally said. “I didn’t know…”
“How could you?” Tyler asked. “How could I? I mean, it’s not like I was given a choice in the matter. Hell, I just might be gay, but shouldn’t it be my choice? You took my virginity and I wasn’t even sure it’s what I wanted.”
Ryan opened and closed his mouth, but no words emerged. He collapsed inwardly instead, his head resting in his open hands, shutting off the world around him.
“I was never given a chance to explain myself. I can’t hold you accountable for that…I’ve seen you have your own problems to attend to after all,” Tyler said. He turned to Sean. “Sam is right. This is wrong, forcing people into this kind of thing. What did you hope to accomplish by it?”
“Accomplish?” Sean laughed. “You guys come here and drink away your problems like you can just piss them out the next morning. Well you know what? It doesn’t fucking work. I’m tired of watching these shadows of themselves flutter around like everything’s ok in the world.”
“It’s not your place to decide that for others,” Sam shouted, surprising everyone. “You can’t just go around trying to fix everyone.”
“Who said I’m trying to fix anything?” Sean asked. “I’m just the guy sitting in the stands waiting for the wreck to happen.”
“Can’t you see the pain you’re causing them?” Sam said, pointing to Ryan and Tyler.
Sean grinned. “Of course I can. Now who’s next?”
“No one’s next, Sean,” Sam said. “We’re leaving. You can sit there and play with your toy if you want to, but you can’t force anyone else to go through with this psychotic game.”
Sam turned to leave. He made it as far as the door when the click froze him in place. He’d recognized it before; the sound of a hammer being cocked back and it only took a glance to see the silver barrel pointed at his back. The others in the room had cleared a path before him, all of their troubles having vanished at the mere sight of the gun.
“Presence implies participation,” Sean said softly.
“You’re a sadist,” Sam said, staring down the barrel of the gun. “You somehow get off on seeing others suffer, don’t you?”
Sean shrugged and pointed to the device. “Seems to me like the quietest people always have the most to hide. Shall we see what dirty little secrets you’ve been hiding from the group? It’s only fair, Sam. I certainly didn’t see you complaining whenever it was someone else’s turn.”
Sam said nothing. He approached the desk and placed the device on his head, staring Sean in the eyes while the machine dispensed six identical pills. Sam passed the pills around, placing his own condensed memory on his tongue before swallowing. It didn’t take long.
The air smelled of pickles. Sam found it to be a brief ray of humor in an otherwise dark place that his dying grandmother would smell like the one food she hated the most. Turtle dicks, she called them, as if somewhere out there was a group of castrated turtles who’d paid the ultimate price for the sake of cuisine. If his grandmother saw his smile, she said nothing. The steady beeping of the heart monitor the hospice worker left behind told him she was still alive, even if her face said otherwise.
“Sammy,” She called out. He inwardly groaned, knowing her dosage must’ve worn off. “Sammy, where am I? Where’s David?”
“David…” Sam began, his voice catching. His grandfather had been dead for the past fifteen years, but no matter how many times he told her, she kept asking the same question.
“You’ll see him soon,” Sam lied.
He glanced down the hall, knowing if he left her there, she’d disconnect herself and have to be reattached once more. The nurse promised she’d be out for another hour at least. Plenty of time for her to run to the office and pick up some paperwork she wanted them to look at, but Grandma was tougher than she looked and lived on her own schedule. No amount of pain kept her confined for long. Some mornings, he’d find her curled up on the floor, crying from the pain she was in. They kept her sedated while his social life was consumed along with hers. No one liked coming over when there was a woman screaming for her dead husband the next room over.
“Sam. I want to go home,” She said, sighing and lapsing back into a blessed sleep.
A part of him felt sorry for her. He made his way to the kitchen, removing her pain med’s from the fridge and a syringe from the drawer next to the silverware. She’d already had her morning dose, which meant he couldn’t give her the afternoon dosage for at least another hour. That meant an hour of bickering, chasing away the shadows of her old friends and family, and keeping her restrained in bed.
He plunged the syringe into the bottle, withdrawing her standard dose. Then he doubled it. His hands began to shake. He tripled it, knowing he’d push the extra back into the bottle. This much would not only put her to sleep, but kill her. He remembered the hospice worker telling him that at this stage of her health, they dosed her as much as she needed. Pain management was the key phrase she’d used and wasn’t grandma always saying how much pain she was in? He stared at the syringe, wondering when the dark thoughts would pass, but they didn’t.
She was still sleeping when he came into the room, feeling like he was death come for her soul. He slid the needle into her IV, his thumb hesitating over the plunger, sparing her one last glance. She stared back at him, her eyes open watching him work.
“Sammy,” She began.
He depressed the plunger, emptying the entire contents into her bloodstream. Hot tears washed down his face as she smiled and fell asleep. He waited there next to her until her heart stopped beating, but it wasn’t loss he felt. It was freedom.
“Well, I’m impressed, Sammy,” Sean laughed. “I always did wonder why you walked around like you were guilty of something. I just figured we’d catch you jerking off into your mother’s underwear drawer.”
“It’s not like that,” Sam protested.
“Oh thank Christ,” Krista said, her hand fluttering to her chest. “Because for a moment, it looked like you murdered your grandmother.”
“He was easing her pain,” Amanda said, finally breaking her silence. “We may have taken the same pill, but we saw different things.”
“So you didn’t see him inject her with three times her dose? That was easing her pain?” Krista asked.
“She was dying,” Amanda said.
“Well Sam made sure of that,” Krista said, laughing. “Besides, you can’t tell me he did it for her. I felt the same thing you did at the end. He was doing it for himself.”
“She’s right,” Sam interrupted. He slumped to the ground, pulling his legs up to his chest. “She’s right. I was doing it for her, but it was more for me. I was tired to taking care of her. Tired of watching her suffer. In the end, I killed her so I could be free but I’m still suffering for it. I’ll never be free of my guilt.”
“Is that why you’re so cautious all the time? So restrained?” Amanda asked.
Sam ignored her. “So you got what you wanted after all, Sean.”
Sean nodded and turned to Krista. “Not yet.”
“If you think I’m going after Doctor Kevorkian over here, you’ve got another thing coming,” Krista said. “What kind of game do you think this is?”
“No you’re right,” Sean said. He flipped open the cylinder and removed six rounds, placing the side by side next to the shot glasses still filled with alcohol. Then, he placed one round back in the cylinder and spun it in a circle, flipping it back into place. “Now we have ourselves a real game.”
“You fucking wouldn’t,” Krista said, challenging him.
Sean pulled the trigger. The empty click rang out in the room, eliciting a scream from Amanda who cowered next to Ryan. Even angry, he wrapped an arm protectively around her while Sam watched with wide eyes from the floor next to the desk.
“Your odds just dropped,” Sean said. “Shall we play again?”
“Go to hell, you sadist,” Krista said.
The hammer fell again and this time, Krista flinched. Sean cocked the hammer back a third time, staring her in the face while his finger inched over the trigger.
“Fine,” Krista said, placing the device on her head. “Prepare to be underwhelmed.”
The cat’s neck broke easily in her hands. A quick jerk and it was over. She stared at the place where it scratched her feeling the pain of the injury, but nothing else. Then again, what did she expect from a feral animal? The laceration would need to be cleaned and she’d have to bury the animal, but it wasn’t anything she hadn’t done before.
She stared down at where the cat lay, its hind legs clawing needlessly in the dirt behind it. A puddle formed beneath it.
“And you called Ryan a hypocrite?” Sam shouted, rising to his feet. “You’re the worst of all.”
“Excuse me? You killed your grandmother, Ryan raped his best friend, and Sean just tried to kill me. But I’m the worst of all in this room?” Krista asked. “It was just a cat.”
“But you felt nothing,” Sam said. “You’re a psychopath, Krista. You’re the kind of girl you read about in the paper who kills small animals and then graduates to killing people.”
Krista shook her head, pointing an angry finger at her chest. “I wouldn’t get caught.”
She glanced around the room, finding only five uncertain faces staring back at her. It was the perfect moment to storm out of the room save for the gun in Sean’s hand. He spun the barrel in quick little circles, caught up in his own thoughts, but unashamedly displaying the power he held over them. The only thing that was still a mystery was his end game. She didn’t know what he expected to get out of this little display, but she recognized someone who was near crashing and burning when she saw it.
“You don’t know how hard it is to be like this. To feel nothing. Do you think I want to be this way?” Krista asked. The question snapped Sean out of his thoughts.
“I think you do,” he said. He grinned and shook his head as if chiding a child. “I think that’s exactly what’s going on. You feel nothing. You desire nothing. You’re empty inside and you kill to feel anything but that hollow place in the middle of your soul. Sam was right about you: You’re the biggest hypocrite of all.”
Krista’s smiled which spread into a grin. She shrugged her shoulders and spread her hands. “Guess you caught me. Turns out I’m a heartless bitch after all.”
“You’re sick,” Tyler said.
“At least I’m honest with myself,” Krista said. She turned her attention to Sean. “So it’s still your game after all. You still have a loaded pistol and no one’s gotten the bullet yet. You going to finish the game.”
“The game’s over,” He said. “Get out.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Krista said, her smile returning. “We still have one more person who hasn’t gone.”
Sean slumped in his chair, the color draining from his face. He picked up a half loaded shot glass, seemed about to bring it to his lips and then threw it across the room. The glass bounced off the wall and spilled to the floor.
“The game,” Sean shook his head, “What you don’t understand is I already took the bullet. I already lost.” He attached the device to the temple and let it flash to life.
He’d been looking for the good alcohol his father kept locked away when he came across the Mnemosyne machine. The password to the safe had been easy enough to figure out, but staring at the device only raised more questions than he had answers to. For one, how did his father manage to come across one? The only place he’d seen them is on TV or in news reports.
Along with it, came a half dozen boxes filled with crystal clear pills. He wondered if they were the kind of pills that came along with the machine, like a flavor you could try to get an idea of how it worked. Of course, the only way to tell would be to try one.
He picked out a small box labeled ‘Sarah’ and slipped it on his tongue….
“That’s it?” Krista asked.
“You didn’t see what was in them,” Sean said, his voice breaking. “You didn’t see her….her f-face when he…”
“That’s why you did this,” Sam said. “You trying to feel something other than what you saw in those little boxes, aren’t you?”
Sean shook his head, and then nodded. “Stop trying to fix everyone, Sam.”
“But it’s true,” Sam continued. “I know what I did. I have to live with it and myself. You didn’t down whatever you saw in those boxes but you’re holding onto that guilt as if you did.”
“What choice do I have?” He asked.
Tyler cleared his throat. “You be true to yourself. A lesson I haven’t quite learned yet, but I’m going to try.”
“If I do, my life is over anyway. If I say something…show anyone what I saw, he’ll go to jail. My mother will be broken. I…”
“You’ll figure it out,” Ryan said. “We all will eventually.”
“You told us,” Amanda smiled. “That’s gotta count for something, right?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Sean smiled. “But it’s not enough.”
He raised the pistol to his temple and pulled the trigger. The click rang out in the room, eliciting screams from those gathered around him.
“There’s got to be a better way,” Sam begged. “Please don’t do this. We can find you help.”
Sean spun the barrel and pulled the trigger again. The barrel fell, striking an empty chamber.
“Sam’s right,” Krista said. “I may be a bitch, but even I know the value of human life. You obviously like games, how about we play one now?”
She rose from her seat and almost melting across the room. Sean’s eyes never left her but neither did his finger fall to the trigger.
“A game?” Sean asked when she was close enough.
“You get one last free spin. If you die, you take the secret with you and you have our word that what happened in this room stays in the room.” Krista sat on the edge of the desk, the split in her dress exposing the length of her leg.
“And if I live?” Sean asked, his eyes dancing up her exposed leg.
“You tell the police about what happened,” Krista grinned. “About your father, I mean. We still stay a secret obviously. Most of us have enough dirt on each other to keep quiet anyway.”
Sean spun the chamber and placed the barrel against his head. “I was wrong about you, you know.”
“How’s that?” Krista asked.
“I think there’s a good person hiding somewhere in there. You may not want to admit it, but there’s hope for you yet,” Sean said. “Either way, I’m done playing games.”
He pulled the trigger and the hammer fell.