The Game – part 3

And I did. But I didn’t feel any better when I finally woke up. I called and told my boss I was sick and asked for a week off, half jokingly because I knew that was impossible. Much to my surprise though, he let me have it. “Feel better Dax. See you in a week.” Even more of a surprise, I was starting to believe that man. What if I could control people? Just like I did with my boss just now.

All that week I tested it out. The results were unsettling to say the least.

I outrageously asked Lisa to make a commitment and move in with me. Lisa is the type to not rush things as her parents made the mistake of doing in their relationship and rationally take the time to think things through.Her stuff was in within a few hours no questions asked.

I asked my friends to go bungee jumping with me merely because it was the most off the wall thing I could think of. They planned the whole thing and we started lessons the next day.

Here’s the kicker, I asked my parents for a five thousand dollar “loan” that they would have NEVER given my drop out older brother who has actually made something of himself now, let alone this fresh drop out whose big claim to fame is being a D.J. It was in my account at the end of the week.

So, I was playing a game. The reasons to not believe the man were growing scarce. I was a major player. So what was my next move?

The first night back at work I waited impatiently for my callers to die down and then played that techno song that not many people asked for. Not even thirty seconds passed before the phone rang.

“Dax, glad you’re ready to talk” rasped the familiar voice.

“I want it to stop, it’s not right. How did it even happen to me?” I asked

“You have a natural sense of adventure son, an open mind, talent in most things you try. The game just picks people. You were an obvious choice. But the game can get dangerous. Tell everybody in your life the truth. Hope that they understand once the curse is broken. If you’re truly lucky you may still have some loved ones once the game is over.”

There was nothing I could really say. It all sounded ridiculous but I knew it was true. I knew that’s what I had to do.

“If you’re going to do it, Dax, do it tomorrow. I’ll be at Klutch that evening so stop by and talk. Drinks on me. You’ll need them. Trust me. I lost everything in the game.”

“Okay thanks….”

“Names Jason.” He said.

“Thanks Jason. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good luck kid.”

And that was the last time Jason and I talked. I never got to really meet him at Klutch the next night. I did see him, but not on friendly terms by any means. That night was the absolute longest night of my life.

Once I woke up the next day from a restless slumber things went bad pretty fast. I felt so awful about the game and wronging my loved ones (or at least the ones I thought loved me, who really knew now?) I decided to get it all over with fast. There was no way I wanted to stay in the game forever. Now that I knew about it I would never truly be happy again with it.

I called my parents first. It took a lot of explaining, and I still don’t know if they understand, but that didn’t really matter. I told them, and then I asked for another thousand dollars. Let’s just say it was not in my bank account within the hour. So that curse was taken care of.

Next I told my friends, they were open- minded like I was and they actually sort of began to kind of believe me. I asked them each to come over for a bit to hang out now that I told them the truth and they blatantly refused. Two down, one to go.

Lisa was the easiest to convince. She said she always felt like something wasn’t right. Like I had some magnetic force that she was drawn to over and over again. She didn’t understand that I never knew what I was doing. Just as fast as she had moved her stuff in, her stuff was moved out.

To say the least, I was heartbroken. My parents thought I was crazy, my friends were a little pissed off, and Lisa wanted nothing to do with me. Doing the right thing never felt so wrong.

I headed out to Klutch not long after my ex-girlfriend left with her last box.  A drink was exactly what I needed. Jason was right.

About a block away from Klutch a group of three men appeared in front of me. Just like my first encounter with Jason, I knew this was no coincidence. I should’ve been afraid but I just remember thinking what did I have to lose anymore really? I stopped directly in front of them and stared them down. They stood their ground.

“Dax, that man Jason, he’s no good. This game, this gift, is the best thing that’s ever happened to you” said the man in the middle.

“Leaving this would be a mistake. You’re a great player.” said the one on the right.

“I didn’t even know I was playing a game. And it doesn’t matter. It’s over. I’m done.” I said.

“I’m sorry to hear that Dax.” said the final man. “What Jason failed to tell you is that it’s not that easy to just quit the game. That’s why we’re here. To stop you.”

Just as the man said this he did a peculiar thing. He quickly stepped forward and closed the space in between us. He showed me a gun that he had in his pocket and slowly brought it out. My heart started pounding and I remember thinking about Lisa as he lifted the gun higher.

Instead of putting it to my chest or my head, however, he slipped it in my pocket and stepped back.

“Be careful Dax, that things loaded.” he smirked.

“What are you doing?! I don’t want this!” I shrieked.

“Then stay Dax. Don’t give up the game. Don’t do anything you would regret.”

“My decision is made. I won’t regret this.”

“Maybe not. But you will regret this.”

Everything started moving in fast forwarded time it seemed. By force my hand shot in my pocket. I placed my thumb on the top of the gun and cocked it like a pro. I had never used a gun in my life. My index finger cradled the trigger tightly and I pushed past the men into Klutch without even thinking about it.  I saw Jason waving at me from the bar and all too soon realized what was going on.

I had quit the game, but the other men outside had not. They had complete control over me.

I remember hearing the screams as I brought the gun out of my pocket. I remember my blurred vision of Jason as tears started building up in my eyes. I remember the pure feeling of hopelessness as I effortlessly aimed at Jason. Most of all, I remember the look of betrayal and terror on Jason’s face as I shot him perfectly in the forehead.

The rest is history.

I’m here. Nobody understood my explanations. Nobody understood the game. The men outside had disappeared. I was guilty as could be.

Perfect timing, the night guard is coming back. Again, he looked dishelved and in a hurry. He skipped the chair once again and came straight to the bars.

“Look, Dax, I just had some visitors. Three men who said they need to talk to you. They’re bad news! Don’t listen to what they say. You did the right thing!” The man breathlessly pleaded.

“Don’t worry. You’ve taught me well. I’ve been expecting them.” I calmly said. I added in a winning smile which seemed to convince him all was well and he slowly turned around to leave, smiling back.

I had had a year to think about this. I knew what I had to do. I needed my life back. The truth definitely did not stop a tragedy. I needed to play. I needed back in the game.

The End

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The Game – part 2

It started out as a pretty normal day. I woke up around three p.m. (remember I worked nights at the station) next to my beautiful girlfriend, took a shower, watched the last bit of the game, and went out for dinner with my buddies and my girl. After dinner we decided to hit up the new bar in town called Klutch. The place was nice. A perfect balance between classy and trashy. When we first got there I noticed a shifty looking character at the bar not even trying to hide the fact that he was staring at us, but I really thought nothing of it. Soon after we arrived the drinks started flowing and the music started pumping. I had about two hours before I had to head to the station and I intended on having a hell of a good time in those two hours. What better way to choose the evenings party songs than to party beforehand yourself? The two hours went by fast in a big confusing blur. A blur of alcohol, of dancing, of more alcohol, of me and my girl, and of that shifty character not taking his eyes off of us the whole time.

My two hours of play were over fast and I had to go to my seven hours of work just as fast. The night was young and Klutch was just now really getting into full swing when I stumbled out. I knew my buddies would get my lovely Lisa home safe so I left on my own. The station was only a few blocks away and I hoped the cool night air would sober me up some before I got there.

As I walked down the road from Klutch I noticed something that helped me sober up more than the chilly Seattle drizzle. It was that man. That shifty looking man had left not even a minute after I had. I kept telling myself that it was coincidence. Coincidence that he stared at me all night. Coincidence that he left when I left. Coincidence that he followed me for two straight blocks, even as I took all of the unnecessary turns and detours I knew. Deep down I knew it wasn’t just mere coincidence though, and I decided to turn around and figure out what the hell he wanted.

I did a quick about face and about fell on my face as I realized I wasn’t as sober as I thought I was. The man stopped about ten feet away from me. The streetlight above us illuminated his full figure, his matted grey hair, his ratty black overcoat, and his oddly shaped face. His expression wasn’t that of shock, of fear, or of intimidation. He was serene as could be. Calm. As if he had expected me to turn around and talk to him like we were best pals.

“Nice of you to finally stop and talk to me, Dax.” I remember my shock and wondering how he knew my name. It’s not like Dax is a very common name. Not at all.

“What do you want?” I asked the man.

“I want you to know, Dax, that you can’t keep using your gift to make your life perfect. You’ve had it for too long. You have to give it up, before they are forced to take it from you. You really won’t like that Dax. Trust me. Do it on your own terms.”

I stood there contemplating his words for a few seconds. Made sure they all sank in real good, even through the haze of alcohol still buzzing through my body. After some time I finally thought of something to say back.

“Ahahahaha! You must’ve drank more than I did in Klutch. Go home old man. Sleep it off.”

I turned around and started heading back to work, still laughing out loud. I couldn’t tell if the guy was still following me, and I really didn’t care. The guy I thought was going to rob or murder me was just a drunk lunatic. What a relief. But still, how did he know my name? He could’ve heard it at Klutch I guess if he got close enough. Something about the look on his face made me worry though. Not worry for my life or anything, but just worry.

I made it to the station at ten o clock p.m. on the dot. Perfect timing but I had to get straight on the air. The night went smooth for a while. My on air jokes were funnier than usual and the music was easy to pick even without call-in suggestions.

About halfway through the night, however, I started getting strange calls. First of all, it was strange to get many calls after three a.m. anyways, second of all the calls were all from the same guy. With the same raspy calm voice. It took me until the fourth call to realize it was that same drunk guy from the bar earlier. I took his calls while music was playing on air and it was the same bit each time at first.

“STXL .5 this is Dax in the a.m. what can I play for you tonight?”

“Dax, end this tonight. Tell them the truth.” And then the click.

Finally, on his seventh call I got tired of his game and decided to play along.

“Okay man how do I end it?” I asked as sincerely as possible as I picked up the phone.

“Tell them the truth Dax. Your control over them will break if you just tell them the truth.”

“Tell who the truth? About what?” This time I didn’t have to fake the sincerity. I was sincerely confused.

“Tell everyone. Tell your girlfriend Lisa. Tell your friends. Tell Freddy. Tell your parents. Hell, tell your boss too.” The man exclaimed.

“You still haven’t told me what I’m telling them.” I said, getting frustrated at the mysterious yet persistent man.

“Dax, don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the power you have over others. Your life has been pretty great this past year in Seattle hasn’t it? Don’t you ever wonder how things happen so perfectly? How they happen just the way you want them to? You are a major player in the game, but your time is up. Things will only get worse from here. Either commit your life fully to the game or get out while you can.”

Okay now I was even more confused. And even more frustrated.

“I’m playing a game? Are you saying my life is a game? What the hell are you getting at? My wonderful life is not magically fixed that way. I’m lucky. I made it this way!” I declared.

“Exactly! You made it that way! You’re not lucky Dax. You’re literally controlling everyone around you to mold to the lifestyle you want. I wouldn’t call it lucky. This game is a curse.” The man was getting flustered for the first time, finally breaking his calm façade.

“Even if I humor you and say I understand what you’re saying, say that I know that I’m “controlling” the people in my life, why in the world would that be a curse?” I challenged.

“Because Dax, how can you enjoy your life knowing that it’s all a lie? How do you know your girlfriend really loves you? That your friends even like you? That you even deserve this job?”

At this point I remembered my job, and caught the evil eye of my boss outside the thick glass studio walls. Apparently the song had stopped playing. I quickly started playing another one, a long techno mix, and mouthed a quick sorry to the boss man. Good thing he couldn’t hear the crazy man on the phone from in there.

“Good choice Dax. Cool song. But listen, I have to go. Just think about what I said. Test it out. When you’re ready to talk I’ll be waiting. I’ll call the station if you play this song again. And don’t worry, I won’t miss it. “And he was gone.

The rest of the night was normal, but I had an awful headache. Whether it was from the alcohol or the reoccurring conversation with that man constantly playing in my head I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that once I hit my bed I needed to sleep for a very, very long time.

…to be continued.

 

The Game – part 1

Only the truth can stop a tragedy.

That’s what the night guard would always say. He was quite the philosopher, that man. Always babbling on and on about inspiring and far away concepts. His eyes were gentle, his hands soft and uncalloused, but if any other prisoner got out of hand he would spring into action like a fierce tiger awaking from his slumber.

The man had always inspired something deep inside me, something that wishes I were elsewhere, something that wishes I could take back what I did. But I knew that couldn’t be taken back. No matter how hard I tried.

Don’t get me wrong, my peace has been said, I’m at one with the world. Now I just need out, need to right the wrongs that I did.

I’m sure you’re all wondering what I did to get in here in the first place. And rightfully so. It’s a considerably interesting story if I do say so myself. But that story must wait. You see, it’s complicated. Too many other things and people took part in it that you must first understand. And I sincerely hope that you do understand. Misunderstanding is what has led us to this situation in the first place. A huge misunderstanding.

But now, back to the night guard. He was my first and most valuable connection I have made at Havensakes Correctional Facility. I say connection because that’s what it was. Not a friendship per say, though if I were to say I had one it would be with him. Our relationship was more of an understanding. He understood what I needed to know, and I understood that he played a bigger part in it all than he let on. I also understood that I needed to understand a lot more before I could help anyone, especially myself.

So I would listen every night from midnight till three. He never liked to talk to me after three. Something about respecting the hour or some superstitious mumbo jumbo. That was fine though. I had to get some sleep sometime.

My days were filled with bartering, obeying, disobeying, lying, stealing, and intimidating. Now you might think that all of those things make me hardcore, but that’s not the case. I have to do all of that just to survive in here. I was not meant for prison, and I still don’t fit in. However, I do manage to do enough to keep my head above water, to not be a complete outcast among these men, and yet not a threat to the guards. The perfect penal balance. I’m not a bad ass, I just know how to play the game.

Playing the game is important here at Havensakes, but not as important a playing the game with the others. Playing the game of life. Now that game out there was fun. It was dangerous. It was rewarding. And I was meant for that game. But that game was also ever changing in a person’s life, and I am severely behind.

A game is what got me here to begin with you could say. Yes, that’s a good place to start my story, by explaining the game. I hope you can try to understand this game without judgment, because as I said before, it’s complicated.

The game requires faith, an open mind, a sense of adventure, talent, and complete secrecy. In order to play this game you must be chosen, no outsiders, no free rides. I honestly didn’t even know I was chosen until I was in too deep to refuse it. That is, saying I would refuse it.

Before Havensakes, before the game, I was a fairly average guy. I lived on my own in a downtown flat of Seattle, Washington. My family lived in a small town in Southern Washington. I left home as soon as I graduated high school, thrilled to get out on my own. I tried college for a while but I really had no goal in mind so I dropped out after my first year. I was smart enough that if I applied myself I could have easily gotten any degree I wanted, I just didn’t feel like college was my niche.

After I dropped out the real world hit me hard. I had been living in the dorms, so the biggest obstacle was finding a place to live. My parents were pissed and they weren’t going to let me come home. That was probably best though, because who wants to be another 20-year-old-living-in-their-parents-basement statistic. That definitely wasn’t my life goal. I stayed with a friend of mine I made in my short lived college career until I could get on my feet. His name was Freddy and he had his own apartment near campus. Real nice guy, but he wasn’t the smartest I had ever met. Until I could start paying him rent I agreed to help tutor him in just about every class he was taking.

But my exciting life story will have to be put on hold, here comes the night guard. He looked different tonight. His peppered grey hair was considerably dishelved and his soft blue eyes were more far away than usual. He walked by fast and passed the usual spot he liked to sit, the bright orange vintage recliner sitting directly in front of my shiny grey barred viewing space. He did manage to at least glance back in my direction and the shocked look on my face must’ve flipped a switch in his head. He back tracked a few steps.

“Sorry kid, no talk tonight, things to do. And remember, only the truth…”

And he was gone. Strange, he hasn’t missed an opportunity to share his knowledge with me in the whole year I’ve been here. Whatever it was, it must’ve been pretty damn important.

So anyways, my rooming situation with Freddy was actually going great. I lived with him for three months worry-free before I realized I should really be looking for a job. I looked around for a while before I found the right one. It was actually pretty perfect for me, and no degree was required. I soon became the freshest voice in nighttime radio hosting for Seattle’s younger crowd.

Music came naturally to me, and really, what young person wouldn’t like choosing the music half the city partied to that night.  I soon earned enough money to move out of Freddy’s collegiate apartment and get my own downtown flat. Life was going great. I had my own place, I had a job I actually looked forward to going to every night, my parents had more than forgiven me for leaving college, and I had met a great group of friends in this whole process. I had even managed to get the girl of my dreams under my arm in that golden year.

All of the happiness and tranquility that in abundance flowed through my life ended, however, on the night of October 2nd. That chilly Thursday night was the second longest night of my life. Just thinking about it gives me the goose bumps.

….to be continued.

 

Gone

He knocks.
The sound is something new.
There is a weakness in it that wasn’t there before.
His tone has changed somewhat.
He’s gone.

She expected it.
They say nothing lasts forever.
The strong man she once knew was taken by the lost soul.
This kind of loss always cuts deep.
It is expected.

Death is unfair like that.
Leaving nothing untouched, undisturbed.
It sweeps through like a tornado, destroying all walls.
Walls of love, of kindness, of bold strength.
Not fair to us, the rest.

The rest must clean.
Must console and rearrange.
If, that is, a mangled heart can even be arranged.
The effort is there from us.
But they are gone.

Procrastination, Partying, and Pizza: The College experience.

What else is really expected of you at college?

Now if I read this statement a year ago as a hardworking bright-future-ahead-of-me high school senior I may have laughed at the overly used stereotype of college students.

Oh but the amount of truth this statement holds is actually astounding.

Going into college I had every intention to put my almost perfected art of procrastination aside and really buckle down. I mean come on, I was actually putting myself into years and years of debt to learn new things and better my life, time to get serious. Easier said than done.

Also, partying was never my thing in high school. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like the aspect of going out with my peers and getting completely shitfaced. As a teenager, who really would pass up this opportunity? No, my reason for not being a partier was half my moral and religious obligation against it, half the lack of invitations to said parties. I mean I wasn’t a complete loser. I could have found my way to some if I tried. Trying to get invited to a party in high school didn’t seem like a time worthy activity to me though. Little get-togethers with close friends kept me occupied enough.

As for pizza, well, it’s not like that was a new found love of mine in high school. Everybody loves pizza. The reality of how big of a part of your daily diet depends on pizza in college may surprise you though.

First, my experiences with procrastination in just my first semester of college. Where to begin? Procrastination is like a drug. One that once addicted to it, you’re in for the long hull. It’s a long lazy road that no one should find themselves on, especially in a college institution. It started off slow at college. I missed a few journal entries, did them about 15 minutes before class. Easy enough to do and I still got great feedback from them. Then I realized that in college, no teacher is going to force you to do your homework or beg you to turn it in late. You are completely on your own in that department of responsibility. Well yeehaw! It looked like no homework for Danielle! This way of thinking caught up with me fast though. I started putting huge essays off until the night before. Not just the night before, but usually 1 a.m. of the night (well, morning) before. Even this didn’t get me to stop. I altogether started not doing my essays or take home quizzes and made up highly put together excuses the next day that my professors actually ate up. That’s what being a professional teacher’s pet and an exceedingly exceptional creative writing student for four plus years will get you.  I’d like to tell you that I’m going to be ending this section of my college experience with a big heartfelt lesson learned story, but I have yet to have one. Undoubtedly I will be procrastinating my way through semester two of my freshmen year, but I have learned my limits on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Second, partying. The words ‘college’ and ‘partying’ are practically interchangeable really. Who knew getting into frat parties on a college dry campus could be so darn easy? I sure didn’t. Until I met my two closest friends of the semester: Partygirl 1 and Partygirl 2. I only call them this because they opened up the world of partying to me. They didn’t only party at college, they were actually fairly serious about getting their education, perhaps more serious than I was (though Partygirl 2 did frequently make the joke that she was at college pursuing her mrs. Degree.) These girls taught me how to pregame, what to pregame with, how to insure that you’ll get into the party, how to keep your valuables hidden in scantily clad party outfits, how to get home safely, but most importantly, these girls taught me how to freaking party. Our weeks became slow countdowns till Friday and Saturday night parties. I must say the freshmen depression is easily fought with loud music and jungle juice. I can tell you that this section does end on a good note though, and I have learned my lesson with the limits of what I can consume in accordance to the stupid things I do when I’m drunk. No amount of fun is worth looking like a complete idiot the night before.

Finally, pizza. Unfortunately there’s no big exciting story with this one. College students just love pizza. Res hall food isn’t exactly the best, but there is a new type of pizza each day. The pizza choices are usually more appealing than whatever the main course of the day is. Not only is it a tasty and easy backup plan each day, but it also delivers. To dorm rooms. Greatest invention ever. The town I attend college in is especially great about this because they are famous for a little downtown pizza joint that delivers for free to anywhere on campus. They don’t only sell authentic pizza pies, but they are famous for their ‘ronzas’ which are like miniature calzones that can cater to any personality. Hooray for the freshmen fifteen.

And this, my friends, is college. Stereotypically true in most aspects. At least from my experience thus far.