They left the bathroom and returned downstairs, music the only sound they heard. Andrea couldn't help but feel more and more uncomfortable with the whole scheme as they neared the door.
Was it truly too late to call the plan off?
Casey stopped at the door and turned around with a comforting smile. "You ready? I don't want you to feel bad and scuttle the effort."
She nodded in response, another half-truth, and the two entered the living room. What she found in the wooden-floored room troubled and surprised.
Where she expected to see seven men, there was one: Josh, who stood at the refreshment table on the far side of the room with the back of his dark green button-up to the door.
At the sound of their heels, he turned around with a beer in hand and face mired by a frown while disappointment leaked from his eyes like water from a cracked pipe.
While his shirt had more creases than when they arrived, he didn't appear disheveled; if anything, he looked thinner.
Where were Daniel and his friends? The couches to the right sat unfilled, and it doesn't take six full-grown men to flick a switch.
"Y'know, Andrea. I'm not one for pressuring others into things. If you wanted me to leave you alone, you should've just said so," Josh said, voice flat and unenthused.
"She did, dumbass. Not her fault you couldn't put it together," Casey snapped, taking a confrontational step forward.
Andrea, however, bounced between her feet. The guys wouldn't have just walked out, especially not Daniel; he'd floor a man if he thought they'd hurt Casey.
He wouldn't leave her with a man he didn't know.
"Josh, where did the others go?" She asked head turned to the door to the left.
"Others? I don't know." He looked to the right, a wry smirk creeping onto his face. "They were here, said their piece, and I turned around to think about how I'd been tricked and lied to.
Next I know, they're gone. Real weird.
"I wond-er where they could've gone," Josh said, canting his head to the left and back, gaze directed at the ceiling.
Without thought or hesitation, Andrea followed his eyes. Her throat clenched tight as she regretted the decision.
Stuck to the ceiling in white cocoons, the same color and texture as the ceiling, with red veins coursing throughout were six men–one of which, with short black hair and clean-shaven face,
was Daniel. His skin had gone pale, while his eyes froze wide as if forced to watch his own helplessness.
Or the happenings below.
"God...." Andrea muttered on reflex and covered her mouth.
Casey glanced back, then followed Andrea's eyes. "The hell! Danny! What the hell!" She rushed beneath her boyfriend, footfalls shaking the floor, face a pale mix of panic and concern.
She never could keep her cool in stressful situations. Not without Daniel.
"Honestly, I might've gone a leee-ttle overboard. This is going to take, like, twenty years of paperwork." He shrugged, his nonchalance toward the men almost as distressing as the sight of them.
"Still, their fault for tossing threats around. If you don't start none, you won't get abducted and drained of blood by a ceiling."
Josh smiled at them, and Andrea felt her blood run cold. "Oh well, best to tie things nice and tight. Sorry, Andrea; sorry...woman whose name I can't bother to remember.
Hope you have better luck next time."
Then the lights flickered, and the room went dark.
"Nighty-night, ladies." A different voice, Daniel's voice, came from where Josh stood.
An hour later, when the first guests for the actual party arrived, Andrea, Casey, Daniel and the rest were found pale, cold, and unconscious on the floor.
The music continued to play as the ambulances took them to the hospital, each diagnosed and treated for acute blood loss anemia. None remembered what had happened.
No one remembered Josh. No one except Andrea, who never stepped foot in that house again.