There were five of us. Five friends that had been separated by the passing times and growing distance.
It had been years since we had seen each other, but by both chance and perhaps fate, a particular situation brought us all together.
The five of us had all gone to high school together, meeting through the fine arts department. We were all deep lovers of music, and this strengthened our bond.
In our group we had three guys, their names being Ben, Cody, and myself, Artie.
The two girls were named Trinity and Allie, and although we were all significantly different, we got along surprisingly well.
It was the very reason that even over a decade after high school, we could all meet up like we had seen each other yesterday.
It was late, late enough to have me lying in the bed, my tired eyes focused on a book as I could feel myself beginning to fall into a dreamy relaxation.
After reading for almost an hour my eyelids finally began to grow heavy, fluttering as they slowly began to close. I could feel myself drifting off to sleep when suddenly, the phone rang.
With a groggy voice I answered with a croaked "Hello", too tired to wonder who could possibly be calling at this time of night.
It was because of this that I truly wasn't expecting anything or anyone in particular to be on the other end of the line.
This is why it was quite the surprise when I quickly realized that it the voice of my old friend, Ben.
I hesitated for a moment, wondering if I was mistaken. His voice was lower now, slightly hoarse, even. It resembled a freshly addicted chain-smoker. "Ben...is that you?"
"Sure is, man," Ben replied eagerly.
No longer was I tired, but was overwhelmed with joy. It wasn't even that long ago that I had thought of him and our other friends, wishing that we could go back to the simpler times.
"Wow, how have you been?" I exclaimed, a million questions beginning to form in my mind. I wanted to know everything.
"I'd love to tell you, Artie; but I'd rather do it in person. I'm inviting you and the other three to come over to my place for a talk.
I figure we could all catch up, get into trouble like we used to."
It was true. In reality, none of us were considered troubled or anything of the sort. However, we were mischievous, I admit; especially Ben.
He was the most daring of us all, often performing dangerous pranks and stunts just for the thrill.
None of us actually told him, but sometimes he would scare us with his seemingly complete-lack of fear.
I agreed to this, growing even more excited after he gave me his address and told me that we would have our reunion that Saturday, today being Thursday.
After so many years without contact, I assumed that he and the others lived quite a distance away. It turned out, however, that Ben lived less than an hour north of my own place.
I couldn't be sure where the others lived, but by the tone of Ben's voice, it seemed that it was no problem for the others to come.
That night I could barely sleep, but when I did, I had quite vivid dreams. At first it was just memories morphed into the dream, watching our teen years unfold like a film in my sleep.
The dreams were quite blissful, until suddenly things began to change, and not necessarily in a direction I would like.
In the dream, the five of us were currently walking along the street that led from our high school into the heart of town.
There was a pizza shop that we always visited after school every Friday, and it seemed that in this part of the dream, we were walking to that shop.
I was walking alongside Trinity, the both of us laughing over a joke that was actually intelligible. Everything seemed perfectly fine, until suddenly, I heard it.
I knew right away what it was; there was no way that it wasn't. What I had heard was a gunshot.
Immediately afterwards, I looked to my side to see that Trinity had a bullet hole on the side of her head, blooding pouring from the wound like a faucet.
As if this sight weren't terrifying enough, her eyes were still clear with life, telling me that she was clearly still alive, and fully conscious for that matter. In my shock, I was rendered completely frozen.
The others seemed to be a part of the horrifyingly peculiar situation, for they all quickly ran up to her, all as surprised as was for her apparent consciousness.
It appeared that all of us were in a complete state of shock, that was, until I realized that there were only four of us.
Looking to my opposite side, I could see Ben continuing down the sidewalk, completely oblivious to the horror that was unfolding.
I screamed Ben's name, my voice shaky and crackling with terror. Even when I called his name several more times, he just kept walking as if he literally didn't hear me, even though it would be impossible that he didn't.
I could feel my heart beginning to pound in protest in my chest, especially when Ben finally turned around with the most disturbing yet blank expression on his face.
"She did it to herself," He said to me, staring deep into my eyes without blinking once. I let out of gasp before I woke up in a cold sweat.
Up until the very moment I got in my car to travel to meet my friends, the dream continued to stay fresh in my mind. It practically played in a loop, like a broken record player.
It got exhausting after awhile. It was just so strange and out of place that it left such an impression on my mind.
I was, however, able to distract myself with a relaxing jazz album that was long enough to take me all the way to Ben's house.
The ride was smooth, so smooth that I was almost surprised when I suddenly came upon a narrow dirt road, the road that Ben told me would lead to his house.
It seemed like forever that I drove on that secluded road.
Once I finally made it to his house, a small wooden house similar in structure to a log cabin, I felt myself begin to shake with both excitement and nervousness as I approached the front door.
After a few cautious knocks, the door flung open. I was then greeted by a very excited Ben. He looked practically the same, the only difference really was the small slivers of early grey beginning to rise from his head.
Seeing such a bright smile on his face helped me to forget about that disturbing dream. It was a dream. Just a dream.
Upon entering the house, Ben guided me to his living area, where the others were all crowded around a glass coffee table in the center of a circle of couches.
Immediately I was greeted with generous hugs and smiles. It seemed that the others hadn't really changed either. It truly did make me feel like we were back in high school.
For several hours, the each other us just talked, catching up on all the things that had happened since we graduated and went our separate ways to go to college.
Everything seemed to be going so well, until there was brief moment of silence, and Ben interrupted it by clearing his throat.
"I supposed you all are wondering: it's been over ten years, and now Ben wants to get together? What's so different about right now?"
This was true, even though I hadn't explicitly thought about it, myself. His statement certainly sparked my curiosity. The others had subtly leaned in, curious as well.
"Well, that is because this reunion isn't really a reunion at all. You see, a couple of you are already aware that we have actually kept contact, and quite intimately.
It might be surprising, or maybe not, that about two years ago, Trinity I reconnected, and found out we had a spark between us.
We became romantically involved soon after, and everything was going great, until..."
As Ben spoke, one could see the actual shift in his expression, almost like his face was shifting into a completely different one.
It scared the hell out of me, especially when I realized something that proceeded to make my heart drop to the very pit of my stomach.
Somehow, none of us had noticed that Trinity was nowhere to be found. In fact, she had never been there at all.
"That was until she decided that her disgusting primal urges were more important than our relationship, as did someone else..."
As Ben said this, his eyes then gathered their glare over to Cody, who had lost all the color in his face, and his eyes were shot wide open. It was a look that could have been none other than guilt.
"That's right, I know you had an affair with her, Cody. And you, Allie; I know that you knew about it. You didn't try to stop her, either. In fact, I heard you encouraged her, saying she 'deserves better'."
As I attempted to process everything that was happened, Ben slowly reached in his back pocket to pull out a handgun, and he stared at with empty eyes.
"I always did like the thrill; the thrill of the game," Ben said, his thumb softly stroking the barrel, "But Trinity didn't; not that it mattered, anyway.
I had one bullet that day, and I told her that it was either me, or her. But we had to play the game to find out. Of course, you know who won."
It seemed that my mind had completely shut itself off from reality at the moment, for I aimlessly fumbled over my thoughts in an attempt to comprehend what was happening. As I tried to make sense of it all, Ben loaded the gun with one single bullet.
"All of you, close your eyes. We are going to pass around the gun. If I get the bullet first, you all go free. If not, we keep going until there is only one man standing.
I'm sorry you had to be a part of this, Artie; I know you had no idea about any of this. But it just has to be this way. We can't have any witnesses. Now, close your eyes."
I think we all knew we didn't have a choice. We were silent, the occasional sob coming from one of them, as the gun was silently passed around. Click. Click. Then the gunshot.
I couldn't, I just couldn't open my eyes to see who it was.
I felt the gun being placed into my hand, and then I heard a malicious, sinister laugh.
Ben was still alive.