by Eric J. Krause
Ryan took a deep breath and tried to remain invisible. He'd already revealed that he asked Hannah Bailey, the prettiest girl in school, out on a date. She'd been polite about it, but still turned him down faster than a rocket accelerating out of the Earth's atmosphere. He'd never told anyone, not even James, his best friend, and now everyone at the party knew. No doubt that would equate to the entire school. Why had he come tonight? He'd have been much happier mining and blacksmithing in World of Warcraft while watching a MythBusters marathon. But, no, he had to be stupid and show up in the hopes that a girl would somehow notice him. He should wait for college when girls actually took brains into account when judging guys. At least that's what Brandon, his big brother, and maybe the only person he knew who was smarter than him, said.
Now he just had to stay hidden in the background and hope no one noticed. It worked well at school, and since these were his classmates, there was no reason it shouldn't work here. He hoped. After all, in this game of Truth or Dare, if someone didn't answer a truth or perform a dare, they'd be held down, pummeled, and who knows what else. From the stories he heard, the last part was scariest.
Diana Samson scanned the room and found Tyler Huxley. "Tyler, Truth or Dare?"
Tyler flipped his hair and flashed a smile that made the girls swoon. Ryan didn't get it, as Tyler was a slacker who did nothing with his life but smoke pot, drink booze, and skateboard. What sort of future was that setting up? He probably wasn't even going to college, which Ryan had planned for himself since the second grade.
"Dare, baby," Tyler said. "And I hope it involves you."
Diana giggled, blushed, and looked at her friends, who giggled back and nodded. "Yeah," she said. "I dare you to go into one of the empty bedrooms with me."
Tyler shrugged and stood. "Accepted." The two headed for the back of the house amid cheers and cat-calls. If Ryan could be assured of a dare like that, especially with a hottie like Diana Samson, he'd try to be noticed.
"Okay," Henry Rogers said, "we're not going to wait for them to come back, so I'll choose the next person." No one objected. "How about you, Ryan? Want to tell us about more girls who were out of your league?"
Ryan's face ignited as all eyes turned to him. He looked to James for support, but found him staring at his shoes. Thanks for the support, bro.
"What's it gonna be, lover-boy? Truth or Dare?"
Everyone expected him to choose Truth, but there was nothing safe about that. By the twinkle in Henry's eyes, the question wouldn't be comfortable, and maybe a bit dangerous. Besides, since Henry, who was quite popular, teased him about girls, maybe he'd pick one of his lady friends to do something with Ryan. And if not, Henry had the imagination of toast and would probably come up with a lame dare on the spur of the moment. Ryan wasn't a gambler, but this bet was worth taking.
"Dare." He again glanced to James, and this time his friend stared back, but his expression didn't exactly send Ryan's confidence soaring.
"Wow, didn't think you had the balls, Egghead. But let's see what you're really made of. If you do this, Hannah Bailey might even go out with you." Henry reached into the backpack lying at his feet and pulled out a pistol. The room gasped and went silent. "This is a six-shooter with one bullet loaded. You ever hear of Russian Roulette?"
Ryan nodded, his mouth too dry and his throat clenched too tight to answer.
"Good. I dare you to play. Just one time. Spin the chamber, put the barrel to your head, and pull the trigger. That's it."
"No, come on, that's stupid," James said, leaping to his feet. "Where'd you even get the gun, Rogers?"
"What does that matter? He doesn't have to play. But, remember, there are consequences."
"No, Ryan, don't do it" James said. "It's better to get beat up than risk your life. C'mon, man, you got MIT waiting for you. Take the black eye, and we'll get out of here."
Ryan almost agreed, but then he looked around the room. Some of the girls had lust in their eyes. If he did this, it might mean a date before high school was over. Maybe more than a date. Sure, the one in six odds were bad, but still. Five out of six were safe.
He strode over to Henry. "Fine. Give it here." Ryan had been smart his entire life, and he'd received great grades and entry into a pristine university because of it. But right now he wanted a girl. A hot girl. And this was his best bet.
Henry popped out the chamber, showed him that there was indeed only a single shot loaded, and spun it before popping it back in. Ryan couldn't tell where the bullet went. He took the gun and saw the fear in Henry's eyes despite a desperate attempt to remain cool. No doubt he'd expected Ryan to not only decline but to try to run to get out of the punishment. It wasn't too late, and now he had the gun in his hands. No one would grab him while he held a gun.
Another quick peek around at the girls drove him to continue this stupidity. He'd be a legend, right? And girls loved legends. James again tried to talk him out of it, but Ryan ignored his buddy. Henry gave him a shrug which said, "Whenever you're ready," and Ryan put the gun to his right temple. Sweat beaded up on his forehead, but he barely felt it. He cocked the hammer back, took a deep breath, and pulled the trigger.