From the look in her eye, Andi had heard of D & D. Unfortunately, it was the same look Benjamin saw in most peoples’ eyes when he brought up the subject: the look of those who only knew of the game from panicked newscasts and accusatory sermons.
They’d never spoken, Andi and he. Not at length, not with any significance, and now he had a chance to talk to her, to interact with her, and it was all going away because he picked the wrong, stupid metaphor. Dungeons and Dragons was to Voidville what checkers was to chess. Stupid mistake, like he made every time he tried to talk to a Mundane…
“Dungeons and Dragons?” she asked, and he could see her expression: still wary, still skeptical, but not as harsh as he’d feared.
How much time left before the tardy bell rang?
“That’s some pretty wild stuff, right?” she continued. “At least, what I’ve heard about it –”
“It’s not as bad as you’ve heard!” Benjamin blurted, and Andi’s eyebrows went up. She raised a hand, palm toward him.
“Whoa, whoa,” she said. “I just know what people tell me; ease up. Anyway, I know it can’t be as bad as I’ve heard; they say the same thing about music videos. And hey,” and she switched into a British accent for some reason, “I can’t live without my MTV.”
She stared at him a second longer, then cracked a grin. “…that was my Sting impression.”
Oh, he meat to say, but the bell rang, drowning him out.
“Gotta go,” Andi said, and turned to sprint to class.
“We play again Saturday!” Benjamin said, not sure where the words came from. “You should come!”
Andi turned back, and there was a little of that wariness, a little skepticism again.
“Maybe some other time,” she said, then rounded the corner and was gone.
By the time he wandered, mind dazed and blackened, to Earth Science, the classroom door was locked. With the groan of one who expected nothing but punishment from the cosmos, Benjamin walked his weary way back down the hallway to the admin office to get a tardy slip.
The rest of the day gleefully assembled itself into its usual rigid, slow-passing hours. Earth Science (and its attendant humiliation for being late) became English, English became Choir, and Choir, with a sadism Benjamin could practically feel oozing from the walls, led into the pep rally.
The bleachers in the gym were almost full by the time he got there, but Eddie and the others had saved him a narrow gap in the inclined wall of bodies.
With a mighty shout, they entered the gym in order of hierarchy: football players first, taking their seats at the front/bottom of the bleachers; then the cheerleaders, the twirlers, the flags, and finally the pep squad. The JV versions of these groups were already lined up at the far end of the basketball court, ready to do their routines once the upperclassmen had their go at it.
Peppered across the bleachers, here as they would be at the high school stadium tonight, more than a few people had their green face paint on. If you couldn’t be on the gridiron as one of the mighty Dragons, you could at least approximate it with makeup.
The rest was as strictly scheduled and timed as the program at the Baptist church. Rousing words from the principal. Inspirational words from the head coach. Inarticulate words from the quarterback. And then, the routines: flips and catches and human pyramids; high-tossed batons; flags waved and swirled in time to pop music crackling through the gym’s ancient speakers.
And the JV groups took the floor, and cycled through it all over again. They’d had their game the night before, but two pep rallies, even in a town as football-idolizing as this one, was a bridge too far.
Eddie and the guys made jokes about their usual targets, like the principal’s toupee. And of course, running commentary on the cheerleaders and all the rest of the girls. Words were all they had; all any of them had.
Benjamin barely heard any of it, smiling and chuckling on autopilot whenever nudged. When the JV flags strutted out to the radio edit of “Start Me Up,” he couldn’t even watch, looking at the inert scoreboard, the cryptic lines drawn on the court, the frosted windows high in the far wall.
The group hung out for a few minutes as the gym cleared, finalizing plans to meet at Randall’s house tomorrow at noon. They peeled away from the pack one by one, going to meet with parents’ cars or the bike rack, leaving Benjamin alone before he realized it, standing in an empty gymnasium, one of the custodians preparing to lock up. The man wished him a good night as Benjamin slunk away.
He walked back to his locker, taking his time, not relishing going out to Mom’s car and dealing with her questions about how his day went.
It went from 75% crap to 0%, then up to 250,000% pure, unadulterated sewage — that’s how it went.
At least he had Voidville tomorrow, even though he didn’t feel quite up to it. Maybe…maybe he needed to immerse himself more. Maybe it was time to let Eddie be Horror Host for a while, and Benjamin could go back to his old vampire character.
And maybe that was an extra-good idea, what with the mistakes Benjamin had made recently. He’d forgotten about Jason’s petrification, for one. And when he’d checked in the mutant Trapper Keeper last night, sure enough, he hadn’t made a note of it.
More stupidity on his part. More useless mistakes.
He worked the combination lock, opened the door, and started to snag what books he’d need for homework, when something at the bottom of the locker caught his eye:
A neatly-folded rectangle of paper, with his name in flawless cursive.
He shoved the books he held into his waiting backpack, then knelt and grabbed the note with numb fingers. He could hardly work the pull-tab that made the thing unfold.
Thought about it, and you know what? I’m in! Give me a call. Let me know if I need to bring anything, or what to expect.
(Can’t believe I’m doing this!)
And below that…her number.
Benjamin stared at that part of the note longest of all. Her phone number. Not that it was some unattainable secret: there were three Brennans in his town’s six-thousand-strong phone book. All he’d ever had to do was dial them one by one until he reached her. But there was decorum, part chivalry and part abject terror, to this sort of thing. You didn’t — you never — call unless you had their permission.
He looked at the note again, top to bottom.
Benjamin grabbed his backpack, locked his locker, and ran out of the school building, finding Mom as one of the last cars in the parking lot.
“Hey,” she said, as he clambered into the front seat. “Pep rally run long? I saw a lot of kids come out, and –”
He hugged the hell out of her.
Today’s Words: 1202
Total Words: 5500
Notes: Tonight was the first night of Voidville where the words flowed quickly and smoothly. I have the next few chapters’ structure in mind, so the words may come easier this week.
Of course, it wouldn’t be my writing if I didn’t almost introduce a massive continuity error. After going to all the trouble of setting up a pep rally earlier, I almost completely left it out of this section, merrily going from Benajamin’s choir class to his finding the note in the locker. I swear, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t stapled on.
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)