Midnight. They always came at midnight. The chimes from the old grandfather clock in the den jolted Daniel out of his restless dreams. It wasn't the chimes that woke him so much as the knowledge that They were coming. It was the same horrifying ritual, every single night.
The room was illuminated by an eerie pale green glow. Three figures in haz-mat suits stood around his bed. One of them held a large briefcase, another held a gun, and the third--the apparent leader, from the way he acted--was making entries into a large handheld computer. Daniel tried to escape, to run, to even move, but some unseen force held him in place, as immobile as the bed itself. The leader looked up from his computer and signaled to the one holding the briefcase, who set the case down and began to open it. Daniel strained to see its contents, but couldn't from his position. If only he could move...
The leader reached forward, grabbed the bedcovers and--
The shrill blast of Daniel's alarm clock filled the room. He'd had that dream again, the same one he'd been having every night for nearly a month. Except that it didn't feel like a normal dream. It felt more like a memory, but one that had been partially forgotten. Anyway, Dan had more important things to worry about, so he pushed whatever it was aside for the moment. Today was the last day of school, finally. All he had to do was survive his last few final exams, and he'd be home free. He wasn't about to let a creepy dream get him down.
Dr. DiCaoz glanced over his biology classroom. "Is anybody still working on the final?" he asked tiredly. He paused for a moment, then said, "If everybody is finished, you may talk quietly amongst yourselves for the remainder of the period." As the class erupted in chatter, he went back to nursing his hangover.
Daniel loved his biology class. It wasn't just that he was good at it, or that it was the last class of the day. By some bit of luck or fate, he happened to be in the same class as his four closest friends, Gassan, David, Pammy, and Jake. Gassan, David, and Pammy had become absurdly popular since coming to high school. Gassan was Lebanese and therefore "exotic," David was a star swimmer, and Pammy was a cheerleader. In retrospect, popularity was an inevitability. To the other popular kids, Jake an avid follower of the Furry subculture (he called it a craze, but nobody else did) and Daniel, the introspective writer, were social liabilities. Still, Gassan, David, and Pam never let their newfound "friends" keep them away from Jake and Dan. Privately, Daniel was grateful that he had managed to befriend the four people who appeared to be immune to high school drama.
"So, what'd you guys think?" Pammy whispered.
"I'm pretty sure Dr. Di is a nutcase," Gassan answered quickly. He was met with a chorus of approval from his companions.
"Anyway," Pam continued, "are we having our annual Thank-God-The-Schoolyear's-Over party tonight?"
"I can't go," Jake said, "I've got a convention."
"I can't go either," said David, "My dad's taking me camping. He's on a back-to-nature kick."
"I'm visiting my grandma," Gassan said. Pammy rolled her eyes.
"Alright," she sighed, "when do you guys get back?"
"Sunday, but it'll be late."
"So," Pammy continued, "is Monday night alright with everyone?"
The days passed quickly. By the time Monday arrived, he had gone an entire weekend without his mysterious dreams. He was mostly relieved, but part of him wished the visitors would come back so he could find out what they were up to.
The streets were charged with an eerie calm. A summer storm was coming. As Daniel reached Pam's door, he couldn't help but feel a strange foreboding. Something was decidedly wrong. He rang the bell.
"Come in," called Pammy. Dan opened the door and found friend sitting on the floor in a tidy circle. They were all staring at him, an unsettling hunger in their eyes. "We are playing Truth or Dare," Pammy intoned mechanically. "Please, join us. Truth or Dare?"
"Please choose Dare," Gassan said, in the same unearthly voice.
"The Truth is never any fun," agreed David, still in the same tone. Throughout the exchange, none of the four took their eyes off of Daniel.
"Is everything alright?" he asked. "You all seem...different."
Pammy answered in the same monotone as before: "We are collectively unnerved at a series of recurring dreams we have been having. Perhaps you too are experiencing these visions?"
"Yeah," Dan said, "but I'm not acting that weird about it."
"Perhaps," Pammy said, "All will be made more clear if you answer this simple question: Truth...or Dare?"
Written by Zodiac on 31 May 2008
An eyebrow raised on the student still young enough to be in school. A quick glance through the rest of the room to notice the couch was moved back against the wall, the television was unplugged, and the lights were dimmed. Further back into the house was a black hallway, the half open doorway to a far off bathroom just barely illuminated in the low lights. To the right was an open archway leading to the kitchen, and straight ahead a stairway into the upper floors.
There were no parents in immediate view.
“None of you sound upset.” Daniel voices, looking away as he shuts the door behind him. His stomach sinking with a nervous anticipation of something. Of what he had no inkling.
“We have to get into the spirit. Of the game.” Droned out Pammy in a distinctly uncharacteristic voice, deliberately monotone. What could happen to make a cheerleader act without cheer?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about” came Gassain. His words flat, though his eyes betrayed the glimmer of excitement. “I’m just hoping you choose Dare.”
“We could get something to drink before setting up.” Whispered David, not moving an inch away from the tiny circle he had formed with his knees against Pammy’s.
“No, we’ll talk first. Drink later. This is too important.” Was pammy’s curt reply. Her gaze now directly at Daniel.
“How about” Jake started, his own voice flat and listless. “We start with truth. No one would lie here, that’s the best way to get answers.”
“Yeah” Pammy brightened. “Sit down, pick truth, join us.”
They never stopped staring. Any of them. All eyes gazing directly at Daniel’s, their gaze never breaking contact and their heads turning to face him. It was unnerving, and almost unnsatural. Did Gassain even have his neck bent at a tight angle? No, couldn’t be. He moved his head a bit when he seemed to catch Daniel’s sidelong stare, but continued his unearthly gaze through the corner of that eye. Daniel had no idea what this could be, but it had to be all of his friends acting as one. A prank? Some new game. Maybe they found something embarrassing and wanted to make the reveal something memorable.
None had acted this way before. Why start a prank now?
“I’ll head to the kitchen and get some water.” Daniel answered, making sure his shoes were clean before braving the carpets. Stepping to the right and fondling the walls for a light switch.
“The game is ready.” Pammy muttered in a disinterested tone.
“How about you guys get started? Long walk you know. A bit thirsty.” It wasn’t as if Daniel was the only person here, he thought. His arms swiped across where he knew the light switch should have been, but came up empty. Forced now to step into the shadows, using light from the living room to feel for the other walls.
“It’s best if all of us play together.” Gassain shouted, this time the look in his eyes was a bit more direct. More forceful.
“I can hear you from here, don’t worry. I’ll come in when it’s my turn.” His hands swiped over a light switch now. Flip. Flip. Flipflipflip. The darkness remained. “Say uh, did you know you’re light’s broken?”
One looking closely could almost see Pammy’s eyebrow twitch through the flickering backlit room. All four of the other school-yard friends turned to look at each other, not muttering a word before their full and undivided attention was directed at Daniel.
“We know” David said, the first to speak up. “It is better if you ignore the water. Simply come join us for a game.”
Daniel meanwhile was starting to get as frustrated as they were, only without the pretense of hiding it. What were these clowns trying to do? This was clearly a set-up and they all worked together to ensure the giant red X they intended him to sit on was within plain view. Now they aren’t even behaving reasonably.
“Go on, guys I’m like … right here, you see? If you guys say a dare I can just hear you. You aren’t even ten feet away.” And so Daniel continued into the dark, fallowing shadows to the far sink and feeling for one of the plastic cups left by the tap water. The lack of lighting would explain the rest of the house, but not the fact Pammy’s parents were missing on a Monday night, after school hours. Nor would it explain the lights working in their living room. It was obviously a lamp and a ceiling light, not some candle set out for emergencies.
Which was something of a shame as a candle would have easily fit the current atmosphere.
“We will wait until you finish then.” Said Pammy with her nose upturned, eyes closed in a grimace. Was that disgust? No, couldn’t have been.
“Say, what happened to your mom Pam?” Daniel called from across the tiled floor as he placed a cup under the glass, turning the knob to watch black sludge ooze from the tap.
“Ask your questions when the game begins.” Pammy replies, this time her tone was direct. Aggressive. She actually sounded angry.
Meanwhile Daniel was trying to not throw his cup in horror and flee at the sight of mud pouring into the glass. Was it mud? It might have been mud. He was quick to flick the water off, and when he placed his finger into the glass it felt like water. It flowed and splashed, it had the texture of water. It smelled clean, despite the thick and obvious color to it. By sight it should closely resemble oil, but in the dark or with his eyes closed it could have been easily mistaken for water. Was that deliberate? He could see it because of the living room lights filtering in, but what if …
“Daniel!” shouted Jake, his tone downright furious. “Are you going to join us or now?”
The boy set his glass down, rolling his eyes at the thought of someone as timid as Jake actually attempting to be threatening. After you’ve seen enough of that fox trying to cuddle a tree it’s hard to hear that voice and think ‘danger’ no matter what the reason.
“Yeah I’m coming.” Daniel shrugged, turning away to reach for the refrigerator instead. “Pam, something’s gone horribly wrong with your water. I think you’ve got mystic ooze pouring out. Try not to drink any or you’ll be mind controlled.”
Everyone stopped. Jake went from red with rage, to pale with horror, looking towards Pammy. The woman reaches out to touch her finger across his lips, mouthing something. Daniel didn’t really care because this prank had gone on long enough. It wasn’t as if the youth could read lips even if he was paying attention.
He grabs the soda and pours himself a fizzy glass, the color, the smell, the texture all seeming correct this time. He tastes, and nothing is inherently wrong with it. Daniel takes the glass and clickclacks back to the rest of the group.
“Okay guys, you seriously couldn’t have just let someone else go first?” he intoned towards the four glares, smugly aware that he had so easily ruined whatever prank they might have intended.
“It would be better if- …”
“Nope.” Daniel cuts his friend off without hesitation, casually sipping from the cup and taking a seat in part of the circle. His position made it lopsided but serviceable. Definitely not one for elaborate ceremony.
“You are going first! It’s already been decided.” Pammy monotones, her eyes twitching even as her face does its hardest to keep any emotion hidden away.
Daniel was having none of it “Jake! Truth or Dare.” The child snipped out smugly, his palm resting somewhat comfortably on what felt like heated carpet.
“You are going first.” Jake drones out, his gaze just as unwavering. It was all starting to get so very annoying to Daniel.
He sets his cup down, starts into a reply, and then immediately stops at a sudden and startling revelation.
Written by Arbon on 21 May 2016
The end (for now)