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It was silent in the room. So silent, in fact, that Jade could hear the adrenaline enhanced beating of the other player’s hearts. There were six total in the room. Six bets and six reasons and six beating hearts. All of them were strangers to her; and every one was desperate, for you must be desperate to play this game.
The room was actually an abandoned college classroom. The college had burned been burned out some years ago, but the old redbrick walls had never been torn down. They called it the “Red Room”, for the blood. Blood on the walls, blood on the floor, blood on the ceiling. If one looked closely, which Jade soon found out was not a good idea, one could see bit of brain stuck to the walls. She closed her eyes and tried to swallow, but her throat was swollen with fear and she ended up simply spitting onto the floor. No one cared about hygiene if they came here. Not anymore.
For what seemed hours, days, months, even years, all of them milled around, as though not sure if they were in the right spot, though no one ever came here by accident. A blond haired woman, she must have been in her 30’s but she looked so tired it aged her 20 years, began to walk towards the door, but changed her mind. Finally, and yet too soon, A blond haired blue eyed man, looking as though he would fit right in at any highline business, pulled out a pistol and held it out, waiting for the first player to step up and take it.
For a moment no one moved. No one breathed. Who would decide their fates, ultimately? Who would take the gun? Jade shivered. Her strongest instinct was to run. To get as far from the dangerous object as possible. One thought of Boden, however, and not even the thought of pointing a loaded gun at her head could make her leave that room. She stepped forward and took the gun.
It wasn’t a fancy gun. No one used fancy guns here. It looked worn, with scrapes and dents from hard use. It was all black, with six cylinders, just enough for everyone in the room. The handle was textured for easier gripping, but the texture was beginning to wear off, making it semi-smooth and difficult to hold on to.
The man who had brought the gun produced a five bullets, and lay them in the center of the room. Jade bent and picked one up, holding the gun close so no one could take it. She quickly went back to her corner of the room, standing there as though not knowing what came next, though she did know perfectly well.
“Do it. Do it or leave.” A woman dressed in a horrid green dress she had probably gotten from some garage sale said nastily. Her hair was so greasy it almost turned the light blond into a brown, and it stuck to her head like a helmet. He face would have been pretty had it been five years prior to this point, but now it was so hardened by troubles and time that it almost appeared cruel.
When Jade put the bullet in the gun, she had no thoughts in her head but those of Boden. If she succeeded, he would be alright. If she spun cylinder wrong, he would die. This was his life she was gambling here. But he would die if she had never come here. If she had never heard of this place he would have died. This was the only way to save him. It had to work. She spun the cylinder. It went round and round and round, and it stopped. She couldn’t tell whether the bullet was in the shooting socket or not, but did it matter? Whether it was or it wasn’t, there was nothing she could do about it now. The game had started.
She held up the gun to her head, her arm felt heavier than a bucket of lead, and resisted with all that lead weight to be pulled up. The feel of the cold muzzle of the gun pressed against the side of her head, even cushioned by her thick red hair, made her whole body shiver and shake. Was she really doing this? Couldn’t she back out now? Was it really too late? The trigger resisted being pulled, straining against her finger as her thoughts whirled around her head. Finally, she pulled, and all of her thoughts went silent.
For one instant Jade felt nothing. Heard nothing. Saw nothing. Thought nothing. Then relief flooded her body. She was alive. The cylinder had been empty. Her knees felt week, and her heart beat, stopped for that one moment, thumped wildly to make up for lost time. Her palms broke out in the sweat they were too nervous to release a second ago, and in no time her hands were soaked. Hurriedly, wanting to get the thing as far from her as possible, she handed it to the next person.
“Your turn,” she gasped. She barely even noted what the man she handed the gun to looked like. Brown hair. Brown eyes. Young. That was all she caught.
The young man pulled the trigger on himself. Click. He handed it over, his hand shaking uncontrollably. Two more people survived the process. Pull, click. Pull, click. Pull, BOOM!
The blond haired blue eyed man who had first handed her the gun stood upright for a moment after his brains splattered the walls, gore and blood dripping from the ceiling, then he dropped. He collapsed in a pile, his suit ruined in an ever growing puddle of blood seeping from his head. It really was a nasty sight. Jade hurriedly averted her eyes, trying not to take in any more of the sight than absolutely necessary. A few others, likely those playing the game for the first time as well, did as she did. One, a fat man who’s trousers were way too small causing him to have an awful muffin-top, turned a sickening green and threw up all over the floor. The putrid scent of coppery blood and acidic puke meshed to create an extraordinarily nauseating aroma. Jade gagged, covering her nose and mouth with her shirt and taking short ragged breaths through her mouth to try to block out the stench.
The gun was retrieved, a new bullet was put in it, and it continued its way around through the group of them, though the group continued to get smaller and smaller and smaller. Click click click click BOOM click BOOM BOOM click click click BOOM.
Jade was so still, so emotionless, during this time, that had she been thinking she would have wondered if she was human. People were shooting themselves. Dying, their brains being blown over the walls, and it was a game. She was playing, and she was alive, and she felt NOTHING.
All of a sudden Jade was standing face to face with a huge, bare-chested man who could have come right out of the movies. He looked just like an evil dictator, with his shoulder-length black hair pulled back from his face in a tight ponytail. His strong jaw and chiseled features were the cliché of story books, and his goatee was pointed and oiled; it almost looked unreal it was so shiny. His thick neck gave way to broad shoulders, muscular arms, and such a six pack that Jade could have readily believed he was a superhero out of a comic-strip.
Looking at him, Jade snapped out of her eerie calm. She was overrun by emotions. The horror of being surrounded by four dead bodies, the realization of what she was doing. She broke out in sweat again, wrapping her arms around herself and hugging her body to try to comfort herself. This man had played this game before. Multiple times.
He loaded the gun. He spun the cylinder. He held it to his head, and he pulled the trigger. Click. Nothing showed on his face. He had known that he wouldn’t die. He handed her the gun.
“Here. Your lucky. Is this your first time?” His voice surprised her. It was high and squeaky, like someone who had taken too many steroids. Its severe contrast with his threatening body shocked her brain into answering him.
“Yeah. First time. Hopefully not last. What about you?” She took the gun from his outstreatched hand. Its handle was dry as bone. The big man wasn’t nervous at all. He must be a veteran.
As though reading her thoughts, he winked, letting his thin lips turn up in a smile. “I’ve been playing once a week since I was twelve. I’m 34.”
Jade nodded and held the gun to her head. Casual conversation. Nice. She pulled the trigger. Click. She must be getting numb.
It was his turn again. Then hers. Neither time was a shot successfully fired. The next round would decide it. Two cylinders left. One bullet. Which cylinder was it in? Only one way to find out. It was his turn again. He held it to his head. Jade was nervous now. This one shot decided her fate. Would it be him or would it be her? He shot. Nothing. It clicked. Jade felt faint. It was her turn. She was going to die.
She took a breath. A deep breath. A tear leaked out of the corner of her eye. She was going to die.
“Calm yourself” He said, his squeaky voice making her giggle hysterically. She was going to die, and this big man had a squeaky voice. Wasn’t that funny? “You can still quit now. Walk away with your life. I wont stop you. But if you do play, you play for keeps. Take the gun honey. Count to three.”
Jade began sweating now, her semi-dry clothing was soaked in seconds. Everything moved slower, her blinks lasting minutes instead of milliseconds. There was no time to think. It was her turn to go. She held the gun to her head, her movements timed to coincide with the beats of her heart, which seemed so loud and so strong and so alive, that surly the man opposite her could see and hear its beating. She was terrifed, but through that terror she knew one thing and one thing only. She would not take his offer. She would not leave. Boden would die, but she would not be there to watch him suffer. Maybe he would survieve better without her. She could only hope.
“Close your eyes honey. Sometimes it helps.” He said. He was trying to be helpful, but he wasn’t. She was terrified. She was hopeless. She was going to die. She had realized something now. He had cheated. No one was lucky enough to play Russian Roulette since they were twelve and survive to thirty-four. Her heart beat harder. Surly he could see it. Surly he was gloating inside. Another victory for him.
She pulled the trigger. In a second her life flashed before her eyes. Her as a child. Her mother. Her father. Jack and Boden and her watching a sunrise one summer evening. Would she ever see another? She wouldn’t get to say goodbye. To any of them. But it was too late to think of the values of her life. She was going to die.