I’d like to say this isn’t fair, but few things are. Especially not in a world where Dylan has to miss a week of school next month for their cousin’s bat mitzvah. “You have betrayed me,” I say standing up, ready to protest. “This should not be allowed. Not when I’m meeting Charlie’s parents that week!”
“Jason Qo'pol, I don’t care if the world is ending my cousin is finally getting bat mitzvah-ed and I’m going to be there for it.” They are by far the most infuriating person I have ever met.
“Fine, but at least give me some advice on how to help Charlie with babysitting his cousin’s kid!” The explanation for that sentence is a bit of a long story. The short version is: Charlie's cousin, Nicole, asked him to babysit her son and he asked me to help. “Think of it as a warm-up for the meeting the family,” he said.
Dylan seemed reluctant to help me, but still, they said, “You’re going to need a lot of help with that aren’t you?”
Thankful for a reason to sit and talk, I let them take over the rest of the conversation, only speaking sparingly.
I left an hour later so I can meet Charlie. Sighing while I get up to leave, I hear Dylan wish me luck.
* * *
Oh man, I did not think this through. Sure I do know most of Charlie’s cousins already, but only a month ago we said ‘I love you’. Wow, this was a bad idea. It may have been a good idea at the time, but now he's going to introduce me as his boyfriend. It’s not even under normal circumstances, his cousin is going to be leaving us with their 4-year-old kid.
“Thank-you so much for coming on such short notice, Lee!” Nicole smiles while running a comb through her hair. “Kat and I completely forgot about the business dinner, and we had to get someone to watch Danny on short notice”
“It’s no problem Nick, Jace and I are here to help.”
His cute little dimples turn up, and I decide that this may turn out alright.
Suddenly, I hear Kat yelling to Nicole from across the apartment. “Nicole, ?? ??? ???. - oh hey Charlie”
“Hey, Kat, I see you still convert to Korean when you’re frustrated.”
Kat laughs, knowing what he means, “At least it’s helpful with Danny. And I know, you still revert to Spanish when you’re nervous, like your cousin.” Then she turns to me and asks, “And you must be Jace, the guy I seem to hear so much about?”
“KAT! I don’t even talk to you guys that much!” Oh my god, he’s blushing!
“And yet…” The same smirk I see on Charlie, those few times, is now on Nicole’s face.
I’m going to like their son if he acts like this too.
After all the introductions are finished, I finally get to meet Danny. He is such a cute kid, too. He speaks fluent Korean (his biological parents did too) and still mixes up much of his English. Charlie told me that Nicole was trying to learn a bit Korean, to be able to communicate with Danny easier.
The best part of sitting there and playing was this kid, was watching Charlie. How his eyes lit up when Danny giggled, or the brightness of his smile that shines a bit more when he is home. This is the kind of thing that could last forever. Sure it may crash and burn at any moment, but for now, this is the best possible place I could be.
* * *
After Danny was put down to sleep Charlie and I became bored waiting for Kat and Nicole. It was only 10:30, but Danny had been asleep for three long hours. Though boredom is a cruel punishment, I tend to think best when I'm bored. After deciding on which idea was best, I declared, “Lee! We should have a sleeping baby bucket list!”
Charlie looked at me as if there were two other heads, “That would be a great idea! If only it were a real thing”
How dare he insult my lists, “It is real a thing! It's a list of things that we can (but probably shouldn’t) do while there is a baby asleep in the very next room!
“Hmmm, that actually sounds pretty fun”
“Well you see, Lee, I am actually pretty fun and amazing, you gotta open your eyes.” I make an attempt to flip my hair, making Charlie laugh enough that he falls out of his seat.
“Come on! Let's find some paper and start having some real fun!"
We start walking around the house trying to find some lined paper, but for some dumb reason, there was none! They're like some aesthetic family that has their life together and organizes everything. I mean, who needs to be like that, when you can have Taco Bell every day. Why should any person be so organized that paper is not just laying around the house? "Charlie, what kind of cousins do you have, that they don't have any lined paper?"
"Jace there is lined paper here somewhere, I'm sure! Look," he points at the bookshelf, "there's a stack of paper there."
"Finally! Paper should not be that hard to find, nor in only one room of a house!" I jump excitedly over to the pile and grab the pen sitting next to it.
When I go to grab a piece of paper, it won’t separate from the pile. After all this time trying to find some paper, and it’s a fake too! I grumble about how this house is full of aesthetic grumps, too cool for loose-leaf paper.
Charlie laughs at me while going to pick up the pile of paper from the bookshelf. The only problem was, it wasn’t moving. No matter how hard he tried Charlie could not get anything to move.
After taking my own sweet time laughing at him, I try to help out by fitting in the pen into the hole in the side.
“Hey Charlie, look at me! I’m like a whole genius over he-” I’m cut off by the sudden creaking from the bookshelf pushing open, revealing a dark tunnel.
“Wow” Lee looks over at me, his eyes shaking with fear of the unknown.
“Lee! Come on, we gotta go down there!”
“Jace I don’t really know… It’s dark and lined with hieroglyphics, there’s no way this is safe!” His eyes are pleading with me, and I almost got lost in those dark and mysterious emerald eyes. But a dark tunnel covered in hieroglyphics, it’s like a whole movie.
“Here, I’ll call Dylan and tell them to come here to watch Danny while we go down. I’ll make sure to text every five minutes, or less, and if I don’t then they’ll come down here to find us.
“Fine, let’s go.” He says begrudgingly, “But if we die I’m blaming you.”
I pull out my phone and download a hieroglyphics translation app, and open notes to copy down what it says. This was pretty hard since the only light came from some horror movie looking torches.
Once we reach the end of the tunnel I get a text from Dylan, saying they are here. I show it to Charlie so he can calm down just a bit. Though he did freak out a bit more once we looked at the big looming doors, that seemed to be staring back down at us.
“Charlie we’re fine, Kat and Nicole said they’d be home late and Dylan is on call ready for us.” But it was just that moment that I heard footsteps running in our direction.
“Good you’re alive, I thought you were dead since you didn’t respond to my text!” Oh, nevermind. I just forgot to text back Dylan.
“Nice, Jace!” Charlie fakes a laugh, “You’re making me feel so great and safe; what boyfriend material!” I begin to feel bad, for forcing Charlie to come down when he didn’t want to.
“I’m so sorry Charlie, I really didn’t mean to force you into something you were so uncomfortable with!”
“No, Jace, your excitement to go on your very own mystery novel adventure has been the best part of my day so far.” Dang it, he’s so cute, who would have thought I could fall even more in love with him.
“Hey guys, while I love being the third wheel, there are some huge doors that I am very curious about.” Oh right, Dylan.
“You’re right. Let’s check out what’s going on and leave.” That’s it, that’s all we’ll do. Just check it out. No need to stay any longer, we are only looking.
We push the doors open, but we hear the worst sound we possibly could, Kat and Nicole.
“Kat, I told you babysitters would be perfect! Now we can go through the sacrifice without being too attached to Danny!”
Sacrifice?? Sacrifice what? “Charlie is your cousin a psycho?” I whisper wondering if we left the bookshelf open.
“I don’t know, but can I see the hieroglyphics translation app?” Dylan asks tapping on my shoulder.
“Dylan, we’re about to be found by Charlie’s crazy cousins, and you want to use my phone?”
“Jace! Look at them!” They point at the carvings on the wall, “Don’t they look even a bit familiar?”
What in the world is Dylan talking about? “Dylan, I hope you remember that I failed Ancient Egyptian History.”
“Hey, guys as great as these fun times are, I learned that my cousin and her wife are sacrificing Danny to some kind of common pharaoh!” Charlie says pulling me and Dylan behind some kind of platform.
Whispering, I ask Charlie “What do you mean?”
“I started translating some of the hieroglyphics. When the app finally finished translating, it looked like some weird sacrifice stuff! So when you guys started arguing, I continued to listen to my psycho cousin talk about what was going on!”
“And what was going on!?” Dylan whisper-shouts at Charlie.
Dylan’s ignorance amazes me, “They’re going to sacrifice Danny to their Egyptian cult thing!”
It was then I first saw Kat bring a sleeping Danny into the dark tunnel. She took a step to the side and allowed some weird dude in a headpiece to step in front. Slowly they take steps forward, allowing chanting people to trail behind.
Charlie points me towards a cabinet that seems to be holding something important.
Once I make my way over and open the closet I see shelves and shelves of weapons. I grab a gun for me, Dylan, and Charlie along with some slingshot looking thing. When I notice the goblet with carvings on it, I decide on a plan to save, not only ourselves but Danny as well.
I wave Charlie and Dylan over to explain the plan to help save Danny.
* * *
Danny is sleeping in the goblet, with six cult members surrounding him. The cult leader stands holding his hands under the cup of the goblet.
Dylan is across the room, waiting for their signal. Next to me is Charlie, the only person who can see Dylan from the way we’re sitting.
I give Charlie the slingshot and signal him to begin, “Lee, I love you. Signal to Dylan and tell them I get to sell their kidneys when they die.”
Charlie takes the slingshot and shoots at the leader’s hands. The leader jumps from the pain and starts running towards the weapons closet.
Dylan sneaks through all of the cult members and grabs Danny from out of the goblet. Luckily, I watch them run out of the tunnel and hopefully make it to the cop car that should be outside.
I run over to round up the cult members, trying to stop them from escaping from the cops. As I block all alternative entrances, I see the leader grabbing a handgun from the closet.
Charlie runs over with his gun in hand, trying to get the leader turned in for their attempted murder. The leader hears his steps, turns around, and-
I see Charlie fall to the floor. Just after his head hits the ground, I feel my legs give out under me. I don’t know how to move. I stare at the life fading from his eyes, and feel tears fall from mine.
The cult members all run from the cave when a terrifying sound slips out of my lips.
Charlie is gone. The love of my life is gone. The man I spent so many years with is gone. After years of friendship, pining, and care, Charlie Martìnez is dead.
* * *
After the cult incident, I was never the same. Fortunately, others could outgrow the trauma.
Dylan and I were still best friends, but I couldn’t push myself to find a boyfriend. Dylan eventually went on to own their own coffee shop (which I technically co-own).
Danny grew up in a new family. He continued speaking Korean as he grew up but doesn’t fully understand why he’s quite so afraid of surrounding crowds.
Charlie was taken to the hospital and had to go through a surgery. Unfortunately, he was declared dead in the ambulance. I spoke at his funeral and still visit at least twice a week.
After everything that happened in the tunnel, I discovered the meaning behind everything. The cult all seem to follow the beliefs behind Ancient Egypt, and they were sacrificing Danny for their leader, the pharaoh. It really was a mystery novel adventure. I’m never going to read a mystery novel again.