He couldn’t call any of the group Sunday, and it made him a little sick to think they were unaware of the bomb he’d have to drop on them at school Monday. They might play some sessions without him, just to keep things going. He’d do the same in their shoes.
Eury had been avoiding him all day, and Benjamin hoped that meant he wouldn’t have to play with her. If he could avoid that phase of his punishment, maybe exile wouldn’t be that bad, after all.
All through church, he thought about plans for the triumphant return of the game on Saturday. An expanded role for the Banshee, taking over some of the functions he’d planned to assign to the traitorous Mummy. Something fun for Randall, to thank him for the use of the farm yesterday. A challenge for Eddie, to keep him on his toes and deflect his tendency to be antagonistic.
And most crucially, plans for where they’d play, since his own house would be off-limits. This perfect convergence of both parents’ book clubs was the biggest obstacle, and the one he’d been spending the most mental effort upon.
They didn’t have many places to set up Voidville. Randall’s super-pious parents would never allow such an evil pastime to happen on their property. Eddie’s folks were pretty hands-off, but they’d set a strict one-session-a-month policy, and it had only been a couple of weeks since the last one at his place. Cy always said his parents wouldn’t be cool with it, either.
They tried in the city park, once, but some busybody had called the cops on them. Not that Benjamin and the others were doing anything wrong, but try and explain that to the police when you’re dressed like movie monsters months away from Halloween.
They had discussed jumping the fence onto the edge of someone’s ranch (too big a chance of meeting up with a shotgun), or sneaking into an abandoned building downtown (another meeting with the cops, and they wouldn’t get off with a warning). The school campus would be empty on the weekend, theoretically. But running into some high schoolers, particularly jocks, would be disastrous.
All possibilities, but all with their own dangers. And since Benjamin wanted this next session to be perfect, to convince Andi she should stick with it, he didn’t want to take any risks.
He ran over all of this in his head. In the past, he’d jot plans down on the church bulletin, but he didn’t dare tip his hand with Mom sitting right beside him, not to mention Eury on the other side. Sure enough, his sister would tattle if she knew.
Benjamin stood when it was time to pray or sing hymns, sat when those things were over, and dutifully passed the offertory plate when it went by, chipping in his quarter for the week. But this was all autopilot. His mind was elsewhere, a billion worlds away.
He understood his faith; it was simple enough. In an endless universe of infinite possibility, why not a God? But the non-stop repetition; the sermons that droned the same message over and over; the infantilization of belief via Sunday school…he had no problem believing, he just had a problem with the awfulness that was church. Church was the anti-Voidville: the infinite crushed down to the boring finite.
The last hymn was sung, the final prayer given, and Benjamin and the others shuffled out into the Sunday sun. Most of the parishioners talked not about what they’d learned from the sermon, but about the Cowboys game that afternoon.
Mom halted him for a moment as Dad and Eury continued on to the parking lot. “You need to ask her if she wants to play,” Mom murmured. “She’s not going to take the initiative. She feels bad now that you got in trouble.” Benjamin opened his mouth, but Mom continued. “And no, that doesn’t mean you get out of this. Eury didn’t lay down the punishment, I did. You’re going to play with her, all right?”
“Okay,” Benjamin said, and they hurried to catch up with the rest of the family.
He felt like a man walking down the corridor to the electric chair.
After lunch, he peeked around the corner of Eury’s door. “Hey,” he said, dread filling his gut. “Want to play?”
She looked up at him from rubbing two Barbie dolls together as though she were trying to start a fire. “I don’t want to if you don’t want to,” she said, frowning.
“I do,” he lied. He entered her room and plopped down on the other side of the pile of plastic dolls. “Are you playing dress-up?”
She shook her head.
Benjamin wasn’t sure how to proceed with this. The way she was moving the dolls…Eury was only seven. Mom and Dad couldn’t possibly have had ‘the talk’ with her yet, could they have?
“So,” he said, clearing his throat, “what are they doing?”
Eury looked up at him. “This girl,” and she held up a blonde doll, “is a monster. And she’s fighting this girl,” a brunette, “and she’s a monster, too.”
Benjamin’s eyebrows rose to undreamed-of heights. “You’re playing the game?” he blurted. “You’re playing Voidville?”
Eury nodded. “But we can’t play. You’ll get in trouble.”
“You want to play the game with me? Just the two of us?”
She looked at him. “I always want to play it with you. It’s fun.”
“Then we can play,” Benjamin said, thinking fast. “We can keep it a secret!”
Eury clapped her hands, smacking the hapless dolls together.
So he could still play the game, albeit in reduced circumstances. Maybe he could try out some of his storylines from church on Eury, play-test them in a manner of speaking. The week would pass, and he could get his fix.
Perhaps exile wouldn’t be so bad, after all.
“So what kind of monster do you want to be?” he asked.
“A kitty!” she said, smiling brightly.
Today’s Words: 1006
Total Words: 10670
Notes: Not much to say today, just hurrying to get the writing and other stuff done so I can meet up with friends for a concert tonight!
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!)