“Kara, this place is awesome!” Jill exclaimed as we walked into ‘Anastasia’s’, a small costume & new age gifts store. Most of our friends were going to the big Halloween store in the mall to pick up their costumes for the weekend’s upcoming festivities, but I preferred a smaller venue with more authentic items to choose from. Besides, Michael worked here and I knew Jill had a crush on him.
The costumes were displayed on the main wall in the middle of the store with the more conventional items like tarot cards and witchcraft books in the front, and the more adult-oriented items in the back. Jill immediately grabbed a gypsy costume and headed for the dressing room. I wasn’t in quite as much of a hurry as I preferred to savor the ‘costume selection’ process by taking the time to look at each outfit and accessory. Besides, Jill was sort of high maintenance and I knew she’d need my undivided attention while she tried things on.
“What do you think?” Jill asked me as she came out sporting a purple, pink and turquoise dress that looked two sizes too small for her. Her hemline looked like it was barely covering her ass and her boobs were spilling out of the top with her long blonde curls resting upon them. I admit I was a little jealous that I was not as blessed in the boobs department, but at least it kept most of the creeps at school from taking an interest in me.
“Looks good Jill.” Michael said as he walked past her with a couple of masks in his hands. Normally it would have been odd for a high school football player to be working at a store like Anastasia’s, but in this case Michael’s aunt owned the store. He was staring so hard at Jill I was surprised he didn’t run into the sales counter as he walked by it. I was actually not a fan of Michael, but he was athletic and had that whole ‘tall, dark & handsome’ thing going so it was easy to understand why Jill fawned over him.
I could see by Jill’s reaction to Michael that my opinion was no longer needed. She moved on to searching through the accessories while I headed to the dressing room to try my first attempt at costume bliss. As I closed the door I could hear a couple of girls giggling from the back room. I rolled my eyes, mocking their immaturity. “It vibrates too.” I shouted out, feeling quit clever about myself.
When I came out of the dressing room I looked for Jill to give me the thumbs up or down on the long, red and black Victorian style dress I was wearing, but she was standing over next to the masks flirting with Michael. I stared at the mirror, somewhat annoyed that my girlfriend had abandoned me, and tried to decide if I should dye my brown hair black for Halloween. While in the midst of my mental contemplation, I noticed a guy wearing all black enter the store carrying a large duffel bag.
The guy was about our age, extremely clean-cut with perfectly combed, dishwater blonde hair and steely grey eyes. He walked straight up to the counter, let his duffel bag fall with a ‘thud’ and then waited impatiently for someone to assist him. Michael said something to Jill that made her laugh, probably mocking the ‘guy in black’, and then walked over to the counter where he was standing.
“Uh dude, I’m sorry but we don’t allow duffel bags or back packs in the store.” Michael’s tone was slightly condescending, probably because this guy had taken him away from his ‘flirt-fest’ with Jill.
The guy in black gave Michael a very confused look. “I, I’m sorry do you think I’m going to steal something? Is there some law that precludes me from carrying my personal things with me? Perhaps I’m not allowed to purchase any additional items, either?” Michael wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Dude, I’m so messing with you right now. My name’s Eric.” Eric chuckled while he extended his hand out to shake Michael’s. “I’ve got something I want to show you.” Eric bent down, unzipped his bag and rose back up with a gun in his right hand. Michael quickly backed away from the counter and raised his arms half way in front of his chest. He was about to say something when Eric cut him off.
“Before you speak, don’t.” Eric leaned forward, pushing the gun even closer to Michael’s face. “Here’s what’s going to happen everyone.” Eric’s voice got louder so that all of us in the store could hear him. “First of all, don’t bother trying to leave out the emergency exit in the back because I already locked it from the outside. Second, I know there are exactly five of you in here so will the two little sluts in the back please come out front before I put a bullet in this guy’s brain. Same thing happens if anyone uses their cell phone!”
The two girls immediately came out from the back room and joined us. One was a tall, African-American girl that looked anorexic (probably wanted to be a model) and the other girl, a ‘ginger’, was on the short side with a couple extra curves. I recognized both of them from our high school, though I couldn’t remember their names. Honestly, unless they were a close friend or someone on the cheer squad with Jill, I didn’t really attempt to remember anyone’s name, especially if they weren’t in our senior class.
“Wow.” Eric grinned maniacally. “That was fast. Guess no one wants to see you get hurt.” He said looking at Michael. Eric confiscated all of our phones, checking them first to see if anyone had tried calling or texting (which no one had dared to), and then ordered the four of us girls to get into the dressing room. Jill appeared terrified so I held her hand, trying to calm her. The other two girls were even worse off, both crying profusely and in hysterics.
“You guys need to get it under control or you’re going to get us all killed.” I told them, keeping the volume of my voice low so that Eric wouldn’t hear me. I understood they were scared and upset, but acting like a bunch of sissies wasn’t going to help the situation. I had just managed to get everyone quieted down when I heard Eric walking back towards the dressing room.
“Okay ladies!” Eric opened the door with feverish gusto. “Our game is about to begin.” Eric was acting the part of some creepy game show host as he motioned for us to get out of the dressing room with a wave of his gun. The store was much darker now that Eric had drawn the blinds and covered the glass door entrance with a long, black sheet. Michael was sitting on a chair in the middle of the floor, tied up and gagged, with a candle placed about three feet away from him on all four sides.
“This evening you will all be part of a new and wonderfully terrifying reality game show.” Eric oozed an excessive amount of sick enthusiasm as he pointed to the webcams he had set up throughout the store. In addition to the webcams, he was using a small hand-held camera to narrate with. “First of all, each of you is required to wear a costume for this game. What are your names?” Eric pointed his gun in Jill’s and my direction. I immediately responded to him with both of our names as Jill went speechless from fear.
“Well, Jill and Kara, since you’re already in costume, please take opposite sides from Michael and have a seat. Eric then pointed to the other two girls, “You sluts! Take off your pedestrian clothes; all of them; and put these on.” Eric flashed a perverse grin as he threw a ‘Queen of Hearts’ and ‘Geisha’ costume down in front of them.
“If either of you protest my request, boy toy here will pay the penalty.” Eric placed his gun in his waist band and pulled out a rather large knife that looked like something out of a bad sci-fi movie. The blade was curved and serrated with a dragon etched into the handle. He then walked towards Michael and made a small cut in Michael’s forearm. “Just to make sure you bitches believe me.” Eric snarled.
Eric watched intently as the two girls stripped down to nothing. The slighter built girl grabbed the Queen of Hearts outfit which consisted of a form-fitting black dress with red hearts. She cried and trembled as she pulled it up over her naked body. The other girl bent down to pick up the bright blue and black Geisha robe, and slipped it on over her exposed flesh.
“Take your spots around the chair.” Eric commanded. He looked at the four of us in a circle surrounding Michael and appeared very proud of his handy work. “You all look quite lovely.” He said in an uber-creepy way. He then instructed us to pick up our candles and walk around Michael while he began playing freaky Halloween tracks on an iPod.
After we had been walking for what seemed like forever, I decided to break the silence. “So, judging by the webcams you’ve placed all over, I’m guessing you’re a delusional, sexually frustrated freak who’s watched a little too much torture-porn. Am I right?” I’m sure the other girls thought I was crazy for provoking Eric, but I had a method to my madness.
“Fuck you bitch!” Eric shouted in a rage as he made his way back into the circle and slashed away at Michael’s other forearm, this time making a much bigger cut. Michael screamed out in pain through his gag, but I knew he was as good as dead anyway and I was focused on saving Jill and me.
“Listen psycho, why don’t you just get to the point?” My chest was puffed out like some football player with too much testosterone. Everyone had stopped walking and was watching the scene between Eric and me. Eric threw down the knife, grabbed his gun and pushed the barrel of it against Michael’s skull.
“You know what,” Eric said, completely unhinged, “if you want the game to go faster then let’s make it happen!” He then turned around and pointed the gun at the girl dressed as a Geisha. “Pick up the knife and kill him!” Eric commanded. The girl froze in terror and looked at me as though I would have an answer for her as to what she should do next.
“Sorry, sorry I forgot to explain the rules.” Eric laughed as he scratched the side of his head anxiously with the barrel of his gun. “The name of the game is ‘Kill or Be Killed’. You see, ‘Memoires of a Geisha’ can either kill the boy in the chair with the knife or I’ll shoot her in the head with my gun. If she kills him then she’ll take his place in the chair and the choice to ‘kill or be killed’ will pass on to the next. One of you lucky kids will get to go free tonight and the rest of you…well, at least you all get to be stars in my show, right?”
“Let me go first.” I said as I began walking towards the knife.
“You’re going last!” He shouted back “Now step back or I’ll just shoot everyone right now.” I had definitely succeeded in throwing Eric off his ‘flow’, which was exactly my intent. However, before I could make my next move, I was going to have to wait until he was distracted. I stepped back into the circle so that Eric could once again focus on the Geisha.
“You have ten seconds to make your choice dear; starting…now.” Eric began to count down from ten while the girl just stood there, scared and crying. There was no way she had it in her to kill Michael. The lower the numbers got the more hysterical the young girl became, but she never even made an attempt to pick up the knife. “One” Eric said calmly. I closed my eyes and heard the gun fire a single bullet. Jill and the girl dressed as the queen of hearts screamed.
“Shut the fuck up, both of you, or we’ll just skip right to me blowing each of your brains out!” Eric was yelling at them and shaking his gun in the air. The dead girl’s brains had projected all over the front counter, leaving a horrific mess of gore and shattered pieces of skull. Now that Eric had fired his gun I anticipated he would accelerate the pace of his game, not wanting to risk the police showing up before he had finished.
Eric popped his neck from side to side and commanded us to begin walking again. The cracks of sunlight that had been sneaking their way through the blinds were now completely gone as the night had come upon us. I knew exactly how I was going to save Jill and me from this mess, but unless the police miraculously showed up in the next few minutes, no one else looked like they were going to survive.
“Stop walking.” Eric said calmly as the Rob Zombie song that had been playing on the iPod came to an end. He threw the knife down at the Queen of Heart’s feet. “Your turn ‘Queenie’…Kill Michael.” It occurred odd to me that Eric referred to Michael by his name when I didn’t remember anyone having told him that. The poor girl grabbed the knife and walked over to Michael. She raised it above him as Eric went through the same count down as before. Just when I thought she might actually do it, Michael looked up at her and she lost it. The girl dropped the knife to the floor and another gunshot followed shortly after.
“Well, no surprise there.” Eric quipped as he kicked the girl’s body out of the way. “It looks like it’s come down to the blonde versus the brunette. My money’s on you ‘Sabrina.” I couldn’t believe he had just addressed me as the ‘teenage witch’; normally I would have come up with a witty insult in that instance, but I needed to stay focused on the whole life or death situation in front of me.
Eric instructed us to once again start walking in the circle. He grabbed his hand-held camera and shoved it in both Jill’s and my faces for close-ups. I continued to look forward and acted as though nothing that had just transpired had fazed me. After a couple more minutes Eric appeared bored and I knew the moment of truth was about to come.
Eric looked up at the ceiling for a split second, rolled his eyes and head forward and then looked straight at Jill. “Stop.” He said with a twisted splendor. “What do you think blondie; can you do it?” Eric placed the knife directly in Jill’s hand, the gun in his other hand pointed straight at her skull. “Countdown begins…now!”
Jill held the knife loosely in her hand and looked at me with tears in her eyes. Anytime she had ever faced adversity in her life she looked to me, and I was always there for her. We had been best friends since we were six years old and no one was ever going to take her away from me. I nodded my head up and down and mouthed the words “you have to” to her.
Jill looked into Michael’s eyes and he nodded his head in agreement that she had to kill him. Eric’s eyes widened as Jill took the knife, her tears now raining down her face, and stabbed Michael in the heart. The life in Michael’s eyes vanished quickly. Jill stepped away from his body and fell to her knees sobbing.
“Ladies and gentleman the girl’s got a will to live after all!” Eric cheered gleefully into the camera. He walked over to Michael’s body, untied it, and cast it to the side with the knife still in it.
“And now it’s time for the climax of our show.” Eric said in true game-show host form. He placed the gun in his waist band again and while holding the camera in his left hand, attempted to force Jill up from her knees with his right hand. “It’s your turn in the chair sweetie.” He exclaimed, as he struggled to get Jill up and into the chair.
With Eric preoccupied with Jill, my window of opportunity had come. I quickly grabbed the knife out of Michael’s carcass and drove it through Eric’s spine so fiercely that the end of the knife burst through Eric’s rib cage. Sadistic as it might sound, I wished I could have seen the bastard’s look of shock at that moment. Before he could turn around, I grabbed the gun from his waist and unloaded several bullets into his chest and skull. His lifeless body fell to the floor like a sack of putrid meat.
I immediately went to Jill and held her as she broke down in my arms. We had survived.
After the drama of the endless police questions and the news cameras faded, we went to my house. Jill was planning to sleep over anyway that night since her parents were out of town and there was no way she could be left alone. Throughout the night Jill woke up screaming every hour, and every time I was right there to comfort her and help her get back to sleep. Over time the nightmares would fade, as would the memory of Michael.
I wished I could tell her the ugly truth about Michael; how he had raped me our freshman year and that he had deserved to die; but in the end I decided it was a story that was better left untold. After all, Jill wouldn’t understand. Obviously, Eric never understood either since he went along with my whole ‘horror game show’ idea thinking it would be him that ended up with me instead of Jill. He could never have guessed though that it was Jill that I loved. And now no one would ever come between us again.