All nine of us went to Jake and Todd’s joint birthday party, the one I spoke of earlier. We were the only attendants, rather odd for a sweet sixteen party. Jill, Eve and I figured we were invited because of Brenda, though none of us had really spoken with her since she began seeing Jake. Justin was invited without question, being Todd’s best friend. Jake had invited Karl and Don; don’t ask me why. Jake is Jake though, unpredictable and pushy. He gets what he wants whether he has an explained reason or not. He had insisted the two of them come, which was no problem with either of them. Eve and Don had not been going out then, but they did argue a lot, and a real romance was growing between them.
I had hopes of going and talking to Justin. As of yet, I had never done so. At least, not of any significance. While preparing to leave, I thought of as many ways as I could to start a conversation with him. I thought of how I could impress him with my wicked sense of humor, wow him with my brilliant intelligence. But I knew all of this was quite exaggerated and only in my mind. Who was I kidding? I’d be lucky if I could gather up the courage to say hi to him. I was a coward, too scared that I’d get my heart broken and shattered like fragile glass.
As I was thinking of Justin and what a coward I was, I heard a car honk outside my window. It must be Jill’s mom, I thought. God, how I wished the driving age was sixteen. It really sucked having to be driven around by parents. I stopped brushing my hair and took one last look in the mirror and decided I couldn’t possibly look worse if I tried. I ran downstairs, called goodbye to my parents, dashed outside and hopped into the backseat of Jill’s car, beside Eve. Jill sat in front, next to her mother.
“Hey, Andi, I hear Justin’s going to be there,” Jill said teasingly.
“I know,” I replied. “I probably wouldn’t go otherwise.” I was only half-joking.
“Does that mean you’ll talk to him?” she asked. Jill was on me to talk to him, get to know him better, at least say hi. She was convinced we would make a great couple. I didn’t exactly disagree with her.
“I doubt it,” I said truthfully, in response to Jill’s question.
“Then what’s the point of going?”
“To stare at his luscious body and let my imagination run wild,” I answered, laughing.
“Don’t you always do that anyway, even when he’s not around?” Eve piped up. Jill laughed. “It probably doesn’t seem as real if he’s not right there to stare at.” Eve laughed. Sure, I loved humor at my expense; I’d even started the whole thing. Yet at that moment, I was not in the mood for it. A sudden wave of sadness washed over me, seemingly for no reason.
We soon reached the Fayla residence. Jake answered the door. He let us in and led us to his spacious basement. It had plain white walls and a soft blue rug. At one end of the room was a big stereo with enormous speakers. In one corner there was a table set up with snacks and soda. There was a large-screen TV with chairs and a couch opposite it. “You guys are the first ones here,” Jake informed us in his rough voice. “Do whatever you want. Put on some music if you like. Todd and I have to finish up a few last minute things upstairs.” He turned and left. We settled down and began to talk. I was almost glad no one else was there yet. It would give me time to get comfortable and relaxed before Justin arrived. I voiced this aloud to my friends.
“You know, Andi, I think you have a fixation with Justin. I really don’t think that’s good,” Eve began to lecture me. “It’s especially unhealthy that you worship him so much. I mean, liking someone is fine and natural, but you are obsessed. That can easily make you feel inferior to him. As a woman, you should feel superior to him, not the other way around. In this day and age, men should not have the upper hand in a relationship. Women should show men who’s boss!” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’d heard it all before. It’s not like I would do anything Justin said, at the snap of his fingers, as Eve seemed to think I would. It’s just that I really liked him, and would have loved to go out with him. Eve was being way too serious, if not aggravating.
“Boy do I feel sorry for Don,” Jill muttered, loud enough for Eve to hear. I laughed.
Replying to Eve, I said, “I’m sure that would be a great flirting tactic.” Jill laughed. Eve looked ready to explode.
“Chill out, Eve. We’re only teasing you. But really, I would calm down a few notches if I were you. Justin is just a guy I happen to be in love with. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with men. In fact, I quite like them.” I smiled devilishly, “Life wouldn’t be life without them.”
That calmed Eve down. She had her hyperactive moments from time to time. They usually passed without violence. She smiled. “I guess you’re right,” she said. No doubt she was thinking of Don. Then she turned to Jill, “So how are you and Karl these days?”
“Oh, you know. We’re at the stage where we annoy each other to death, tease each other constantly, and want each other so bad that it drives us crazy,” Jill replied, smiling brightly.
I turned to Eve. “Hmm, she’s so sure Karl wants her. I’m not so sure. I think he just enjoys pissing her off.” Eve laughed.
“You guys!” Jill exclaimed, frustrated. “He tells me I look cute when I get really mad!” Eve and I laughed.
Soon others arrived. Brenda was first. She was clad in black, her latest craze. Karl and Don came next, arriving together. Todd and Jake came downstairs with them. Karl and Jake began fiddling with the stereo and soon wonderfully loud music was assaulting my ears. Justin was last to arrive. How Jake managed to hear the doorbell over the high decibel level blaring from the stereo was completely beyond me, yet he did.
“Hey Brute!” Karl yelled to Jill, walking over to us. Brute was Jill’s school nickname. She earned it by being so tall and athletic. I think it may even have been Karl who started the nickname. In response, Jill shoved Karl. She hated that nickname.
“A little touchy tonight, huh Brute?” Karl asked.
“I hate you, you know that?” Jill said, frustrated. “You annoy me so much!”
“I was only trying to say hi,” Karl protested.
“I know! That’s what makes you so impossible!” Jill smiled at him.
He grinned back and said jokingly, “But it turns me on, the way you look when you’re mad.” Jill swatted him.
Their banter continued back and forth. They were funny to watch. Eve and Don were also having a discussion. I believe it was about abortion because at one point I heard Don say, “I don’t really care either way. So many people die, what difference can a few more make? Besides, they’re only babies.” Eve’s mouth dropped open in shock. Eve loved nothing more than to argue politics and issues. Don could care less. I knew he wasn’t being serious, though. He just liked to argue, about anything.
I began feeling rather lonely, a bit sorry for myself. I had no one to talk to, joke around with, or even argue with. I felt rather awkward, just sitting there. I wished I had the nerve to talk to Justin, but as I said, I’m shy.
A while later, deeper into the night, the music was turned off and the lights dimmed. Brenda stepped to the middle of the room as a hush set over the rest of us.
“Guys,” she began, “I know you all think I’m crazy, but I just read about the coolest spell yesterday. It requires nine people and I really want to try it out. It supposedly makes people more powerful than normal mortals. I know none of you believe in any of this, but could you at least humor me?”
Jake emerged from the shadows he’d been hiding in, on the other side of the room. He stated that he’d be willing to try. One by one, all of us agreed. I had to admit that such things did intrigue me, though I could not call myself a true believer or nonbeliever.
Brenda instructed us to sit in a circle and placed herself in the center. She directed us to hold hands, breathe slowly and concentrate on our breathing. We were to clear our minds of any thoughts. We were not to speak, just absorb the silence, the calm, meanwhile working ourselves into trances. She spoke softly and smoothly. The process was not new to me; I had often used similar techniques when trying to fall asleep at night. Then Brenda began to speak, quietly but seriously. The sound seemed to come from miles away. I could tell she was not speaking in English, but that did not perturb me; I knew most of those books had all kinds of crazy spells in nonsensical tongues. It sounded like a chant or something like that. My breathing and heartbeat began to go in the same rhythm as her words did. Next Brenda stood up and walked slowly around the inside of the circle. I could sense this though my eyes were shut. She placed her hands a few inches above our heads and again repeated the chant, over each of us in turn. When she stood with her hands hovering above me, horrific images filled my mind as she performed her incantation; but they were short-lived, as I was the last person she went to. Jake, sitting on my right, was first. Finally she returned to the center and was still and silent.
After a few more minutes of absolute silence, Brenda told us we could open our eyes. “I guess it didn’t work,” she muttered, obviously flustered. “I wonder what went wrong.” She was deep in thought, searching for an answer to why her wonderful spell had failed, yet no answers were forthcoming. I could think of a few, such as the whole thing was a bunch of junk, but I kept my mouth shut.
If her spell didn’t work, the relaxation techniques she utilized sure did. I felt very calm, whereas at the start of the party I had felt quite anxious and uptight.
Todd, who had been our resident disc jockey all weekend long, went over to the stereo and put in a very slow song. “C’mon people! Let’s dance!” he shouted. Eve and Don, Karl and Jill, Jake and Brenda, the couples started moving to the center of the room.
My relaxation left me. That was exactly why I never went to school dances. I hated slow songs. I always felt like the oddball out, because I never had anyone to dance with. As I was wallowing in my self-pity, Justin tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up. “Would you like to dance?” he asked in that gentle voice he possesses. I could barely nod my head yes. I was speechless.
Within seconds I was in Justin’s arms, dancing the night away. OK, so it was just one song, but we could have been dancing all night for the wonders it did for my mental health. I could not believe how wonderful it was, being so close to him. For some reason I couldn’t even look him straight in the eye. We didn’t speak, nor did we need to. It was the greatest moment of my life and that was all that mattered. But even the greatest moments of our lives have to come to an end. The song ended, and we parted. I was not sad; I was just glad that it had happened.
Later on, we were sitting in a circle on the floor, all talking. It wasn’t so separated into couples as it had been at the beginning, with each pair having private conversations. Instead, we were all joking around with each other. It was really quite nice. Brenda was even vocalizing her own thoughts rather than mimicking those of my friends and mine. Karl had a can of soda. He finished drinking it, crushed the can in his hands and threw it at the garbage can. As can be imagined, Eve was appalled.
“Don’t any of you even care about the environment?” Eve said loudly. “Don’t you think that when you do things like that, that you are destroying the Earth? Do you ever think that soon the human race could die out because of its own wastefulness? Do any of you ever think about any of this stuff? I truly doubt it!” Steam was not simply coming out of her ears, it was cascading out.
“Eve, calm down,” Don said, with an air of nonchalance. “One can of soda not being recycled won’t be the end of the world. Sure, we’ll do that ourselves, but probably not through pollution. We have wars for that.” He laughed at his own joke.
Jake then entered the conversation. “I always thought that we, as humans, would destroy ourselves one way or the other,” he declared.
“I know,” Eve agreed readily. “I mean, if all this wasting keeps going on, how will we live? Global warming and the hole in the ozone are very real. What will we do when all the plants die and all the air is made only of carbon dioxide?”
“I didn’t mean exactly that,” Jake countered. “I just meant I don’t think that human life, or life in any other form will last very much longer.”
Justin spoke up. “You know what I think? I think you may be right. For some inexplicable reason I have always thought that when, billions of years in the future, our sun begins to die, there will be no life, that Earth will already be dead.”
Wow, I had always pictured the same thing. I have always been haunted by the image, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, other times in dreams. I picture a sun shining harshly over a barren landscape of only sand and water, with no life for miles around. Great minds think alike, I guess. And I had believed it was because of my acrimony to the sun.
Even now, in the midst of the party, I could not speak to Justin. Not about my undying love for him, but of how I thought the same way as he.
“Me too!” Karl exclaimed. “I figure maybe humans can survive by living in space or setting up colonies on Mars or something similar to that, but Earth will be dead.” Then he smiled sweetly at Jill and added, “But maybe I just think that way because I want to have sex in outer space.”
“Isn’t this weird how we all picture the same image of the end of the world?” Jill asked, ignoring Karl. “Maybe it’s destiny; I’ve thought of such things for as far back as I can remember.”
“I know it to be destiny,” Brenda interjected. “I have seen the image often in my crystal ball, and the crystal ball does not lie. However, I don’t think we’ll be living or having sex in space or anything like that. I foresee only death.” What optimistic friends I have.
Todd finally joined in. “I agree,” he stated. “I believe it could even happen in our lifetime, sad as it may sound.”
Don looked a tad frightened. “I wonder why we all see this. It must mean something.”
“Yes,” Eve said confidently. “It’s a warning. It means we have to take better care of our planet and ourselves.”
“I think it means we should start building spaceships,” Karl said.
“I don’t think it means anything. It is just what will be. We cannot change it. The cards and the crystal ball don’t lie. Neither do my magnets or my Ouija board.”
“I don’t know about that. I just know that it’s very sad. In my mind I picture the Earth dead, with the sorrow and pain that people suffered sprinkled over the entire land, along with the memories of what once was, and the inklings of what could have been. I don’t think the end will be easy,” Justin said, putting in his two cents. How poetic that sounded. He should be the writer, not I.
“If what Brenda said is true,” Don pointed out, “and there is nothing we can do to change any of it, then what is the point in worrying? Everyone will die eventually anyway, so why do we even care? This topic is getting really boring.” Don then got up and turned up the volume on the stereo. The conversation was in effect over.
The party broke up soon after that. The topic had me depressed, talking about the end of the world can do that to people sometimes. We all went home and tried not to think much of it. I did, predictably, think about my dance with Justin.
A year later we attended the funerals for Todd, Jake and Brenda. They had been on a camping trip with Todd and Jake’s parents. Justin had gone too, but he chose to stay behind when the three of them went on a hike. Thank God he did. Brenda, Jake and Todd never returned. They were all found shot to death in a cave not far from their campsite. The gun was nearby and had all three of their fingerprints on it. Police called it a suicide pact, case closed, a simple case which needed no investigation.
I had strong doubts about that. Jake was weird, but I could never imagine him pulling a trigger on anyone, especially not himself. I could not see Todd touching a gun. Brenda? I didn’t know what I thought about her. She had been acting more and more strangely for about a month before the incident, but that did not mean anything in terms of the deaths. I could think of no reason why they would want to end their lives. Nor could I think of any other way to explain what happened. It remains a mystery to me. I doubt if I will ever consider the case closed.
Sometimes I cannot help but think about the party. We were all fifteen or sixteen years of age back then, thinking we knew everything, even the fate of Earth.
How wrong we were.
Another installment of Affinity for Darkness, a novel I wrote in the winter of my junior year of high school. To read from the beginning:
- Josie – Sunshower Chapter One
- A Star is Born
- Dusky Waters, Orcas Island
- Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon
- Writing as Time Travel – Blue Alchemy 1
- The consequences of being Eve…
- spin the bottle