1×10: The Devil Within

Josh

“I already told you I’m going,” I said to Eden that Friday. School had just gotten out and Eden was determined to keep me from going to the graveyard. Regardless of what she said, I already made up my mind and I wasn’t going to cancel just because of her. I needed to find out what was going on. I needed answers.

“Josh, wait,” Eden said, running to try and catch up with me as I reached my car. Opening the driver’s door, I slipped into the seat and closed it before Eden reached me. Then, instead of talking to me, she went and stood behind the car, blocking my way out of the parking lot.

Rolling down my window, I yelled, “Eden, move out of the way!”

“You can’t go!” Eden pleaded one last time. “It’s not safe.”

I knew it wasn’t, but that couldn’t stop me. “I’m going. Now please move.”

For a moment I thought she wasn’t going to move, but finally, she stepped out of the way and I pulled out of the school parking lot and headed toward the graveyard. In just a couple hours, I’d be coming face to face with the mastermind behind it all. At least that was the hope. I just kept my fingers crossed that it wasn’t Damien.

Leslie

The school bell rang, and instead of heading to the bus, I was going toward the parking lot to meet my parents. We were going to see Lucas in the hospital. They asked him to stay a few days because along with the gash on his part, they said he had a concussion from hitting his head one something when the stink bomb went off.

“Leslie!”

I turned to see my best friend, Ruby. She smiled at me. I tried to smile back but it probably came off more as a grimace. “Hey, Ruby. I’m going to meet Lucas at the hospital. I’ll talk to you later, okay?”

Ruby frowned. “Is he okay?”

I shrugged. “I haven’t seen him. Mom and Dad are pretty pissed that he had a gun. Apparently it wasn’t even ours.”

“He had a gun?” Ruby asked.

“Yeah. And thank God he did. Otherwise I would have been stabbed right in my chest, and they would have found my organs spilled all over the floor, most likely.” Thank God for Lucas. Thank God for him having that damn gun, even if it was suspicious that he had one. But I knew he was caught up in something. I just wasn’t sure what it was yet. Whoever the Masquerade was came to send Lucas a message: To stay out of the “game.” Whatever that was.

“Huh. Who would have thought he had it in him?” Ruby said. She gave me a quick hug and said, “I hope he’s okay. Just don’t let him know I said that.”

I nodded. On my way out of the school, I got stopped by another person. This girl was a cute little girl, who looked about 13. But I had a feeling she was a freshman.

“Hey, are you Leslie?” she asked.

“I am,” I replied. “But I really have to get going.”

“Oh, of course. I, uh, heard about what happened to Lucas.” The girl stopped and said, “Can you give him this note? Tell him it’s from Rachel.” Then she walked away, leaving me wondering what the heck that was all about. I thought about reading the note, but I had a feeling I didn’t want to know what was inside.

Eden

It was time. I called Matt and he met me outside my house at 6 PM. The sun was starting to go down, and as I climbed into the passenger seat, he laughed at me.

“What?” I asked.

“Are you going to tell me why exactly we’re following Josh to a graveyard tonight?” Matt asked. “Did he kill somebody? Are we going to watch him bury the body?”

For some reason, I actually laughed. “No, Josh didn’t kill anybody. I’m trying to keep  him from getting killed, if this counts for anything. So drive.”

We were driving for a few minutes, and I knew then that Josh would be mad at me the second he saw us. Not that I cared. I’d be a bad friend if I let him come out to a graveyard in the middle of the night alone.

“This is about Masquerade, isn’t it?”

My heart stopped. I turned to look at Matt, who kept his eyes on the road. His hands were gripped on the steering wheel and fear came over me. “W-what are you talking about?” I stammered.

He turned to glance at me for a second before looking back at the road. “Just answer the question. Is this about Masquerade?”

“How do you know about Masquerade?” I asked. This couldn’t be happening. I had a really bad feeling about this.

Matt didn’t answer for a moment. “I heard about it on Facebook,” he said. “Apparently Masquerade attacked a girl two nights ago. They just did a press conference about it two hours ago. That’s what they’re calling the person. Masquerade.”

My mouth hung open. “Masquerade attacked someone? I didn’t hear anything about that! Who was it?”

“Some girl named Leslie Sanders,” Matt said. “She’s a sophomore. Her brother’s a freshman and in the hospital. They won’t say what exactly happened, but according to the report, Masquerade attempted to murder her.”

Murder. Assault. Masquerade. My palms started sweating and I tried to relax. Inhaling was becoming an issue and my chest tightened with pressure. “Stop the car.”

“What?”

“I SAID STOP THE CAR!” I screamed, and Matt slammed on the brakes. Opening the passenger door, I fell out on the ground, clutching my chest. I couldn’t breathe. Soon Matt was at my side and he was holding me.

“Eden, relax,” he said softly. “You’re having a panic attack.”

I tried to relax, but I couldn’t. Masquerade. Murder. Assault. Masquerade. Assault. Murder. Murder. Murder. The word kept replaying over and over in my mind. This is the game. To torture us. To kill us. To scare us. 

After a few minutes, I stood up, brushing myself off. My breathing was back to normal. I looked down at Matt who was still sitting on the ground. He smiled at me weakly and said, “Are you okay?”

I shook my head. “No. All the more reason to go save Josh.”

Josh

Night had fallen. The mood was hanging high above the graveyard, and the light from the moon made it easy to navigate around the tombstones. I sat there waiting, looking at my phone, hoping for a text of some sort. So far nothing.

I listened to the sounds around me. Crickets chirping. Wind blowing. Cars driving by.

Feet crunching in the leaves.

I turned around but no one was there. Standing up, I turned on my phone to use as a little bit more light when I got a text.

“Welcome. It’s good to see you. I wish I could show myself, but I cannot. Not yet. Only when you’re ready for the truth.”

No signature. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was really Masquerade, White Masquerade, or Damien. I wanted it to be Damien. It had to be. As if the person was reading my mind, I got another text.

“Remember the first time? I bet you do. It was the first time you ever realized the truth about yourself.”

My heart stopped. One who didn’t understand it would have thought the text was vague. But to me it wasn’t. I remembered.

***

It was the first day of freshman year. Damien and I were at his house, but he had gone to take a shower. I was sitting on his bed when his computer dinged. Our friendship was so good that we normally checked each other’s messages if the other wasn’t around. Why not? It wasn’t like we had anything to hide.

I walked over to the computer and shook the mouse so the screen popped up. It was a message from some girl–someone I didn’t know–and what I saw shocked me. It was a nude picture of her. 

What the hell? I thought. Why is this girl sending nude photos of herself?

What made it even weirder was that I’d never seen a girl’s body before, but looking at one at that moment, I realized it wasn’t doing anything for me. It wasn’t that hot. Curious as to why this girl sent a photo of herself, I scrolled up, but only had to go so far to see what started the exchange.

There was a photo of Damien. Naked.

“What are you doing?” 

I turned around to find Damien standing there in a towel. Taking a long look, I saw he was starting to get abs and his chest was…nice. I tried hard not to look. This wasn’t what friends did, was it? But looking at him was making me kind of…hot.

“Uh…I was looking to see a new message you got. It’s from some girl. Do you know her?”

Damien didn’t say anything at first. He walked over to the computer and saw that his nude photo was on the screen. At first, he seemed confused. Very confused. And as if something switched inside of him, he smiled, looking embarrassed. “I’m sorry, man. I didn’t want you to see that. I should have told you not to look. This is embarrassing.”

“No, it’s uh…it’s okay,” I said. Really, it was. In fact, I actually kind of liked looking at it. And that was when I realized the truth. I was in love with him. All those times I thought my feelings were more than a need to be friends…I was right. He was attractive to me.

Shit.

“It won’t happened again.” Then he logged out of his account and I saw him typing. Next thing you know, he was back on Facebook.

“What did you just do?” I asked. “Weren’t you just signed in?”

“That account is my fake account,” he said nonchalantly. “Now go. You already saw me naked once. Don’t need to see it again.”

I walked out of the room, closing the door behind me, wondering why I really wanted to go back in there.

***

That was the day I realized I had feelings for Damien. That whole account was a mystery, but it became very clear to me that something from that memory needed to be recollected. This person wanted me to know. It had to be Damien…but how did he know I had feelings for him?

“What do you want me to remember?” I said out loud, hoping they could hear me. “Is that you…Damien?” Tears formed in my eyes but I tried not to let them out. “Damien, if that’s you and you know the truth…I always wanted to tell you. Just…tell me what I need to know. Tell me if it’s you. Tell me what’s going on.”

I waited a few seconds. My phone beeped.

“I will reveal my identity soon enough. But remember the past. Remembering the past can help you with your future.”

The past. The memory. There was something there I needed to remember. Something important. Something that could help…

The fake account.

“Is it the fake account?” I asked out loud. “Damien had a fake account that he used for…things. But is that what I need to remember?”

Then from behind a tree, a figure stepped out.

Masquerade.

Leslie

Lucas was sitting in his hospital bed, looking at his phone, which he wasn’t supposed to have. I knocked on the door, even though it was open, and he smiled when he saw me. “Hey, sis.”

I tried to force a smile, but it didn’t work. “Where are Mom and Dad? They came in before me.”

“They went to go get my some food,” he said. “Are you feeling okay?”

I laughed. “I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be asking you that. But…that’s not why I’m here. We need to talk about what happened the other night. With Masquerade.”

Lucas looked away from me, avoiding my eyes. “Nothing. You know everything. I heard a noise and went downstairs to see what it was. And then I saw Masquerade was going to hurt you, so…I just…” He trailed off. For some reason this didn’t seem like the confident Lucas I’d seen the other night.

It seemed like an act.

Josh

Masquerade stood there, about twenty feet away, watching me. And in one of their hands was a gleaming knife.

“Is it you sending me these texts?” I asked. “Are you messing with me? Huh? Is this part of the game?”

But I realized very quickly that we weren’t alone. Turning around, I saw White Masquerade standing there. There was a gun in their hand. And they were pointing it right in my direction, but I couldn’t tell if it was aimed at me or Masquerade.

I fell to the ground when the gun went off.

At first I thought I’d been hit, but realized I only fell in fear. The gun didn’t hit Masquerade either, because they were running through the trees.

“Wait!” I screamed.

“Josh!” a voice yelled. I looked to see Eden and that new guy, Matt, running toward me. “Oh my God, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I said as they helped me up. “But what the hell are you doing here? I thought I told you I could handle this!”

“Yeah, you look like you’re doing so well handling this alone,” Eden snapped at me. “You know, cowering on the ground.”

I glared at her. “The fun went off! There’s two of them!”

“There’s really two for sure now?” Eden asked. “A White Masquerade and Masquerade?”

I nodded. “And from what I can tell…they’re not friends. That’s for sure.”

Eden

Driving home was quiet. Josh didn’t want to talk to me, but said thank you to Matt. Of course he would. Sitting in the passenger seat of Matt’s car, arms crossed over my chest, I avoided conversation.

“Eden,” Matt said. “You did the right thing. I would have done it for him, too, had you not.”

“That’s because you like him,” I snapped. I don’t know why I was so mad about that.

Matt said, “I don’t like him, per se. I think he’s cute. But don’t admit that to him. The point is, I’d like to get to know him. And after tonight, seeing that go down…I really want to be there to help him. What was he even doing out there anyway?”

“Looking for an old friend,” I sighed. Then, as we drove along the road, I saw something. Someone. “Hey, slow the car down.”

Matt slowed down the car and as we got closer, I saw that it was a female. She had blonde hair and it looked like dried up blood was stuck in her hair. Make-up was smeared and clothes were torn. What in the world?

“Roll down the window,” I said to Matt. When he did, I stuck my head out the window and said, “Hey, are you okay?”

The girl looked up at me and wiped tears from her eyes. “I-I’m fine.”

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Sixteen,” the girl replied.

“Do you need a ride? We can take you to a police station.”

She seemed hesitant, but finally, she nodded. She climbed in the backseat and we drove in silence for a few minutes. I couldn’t take it anymore. Looking in the backseat, I asked, “What’s your name? What happened to you?”

The girl opened her mouth to say, then closed it again. After some thinking, she said, “Haven. My name is Haven.”

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1×07: Josh

“So basically, Masquerade thinks this is a game,” I said Monday afternoon at lunch. “That’s reassuring. I suppose.” To be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I thought. When Eden had told me about the “game,” I thought she was joking. But when she showed me the text this morning, I knew it was true. Masquerade was playing a game.

“Right,” Eden said. “All games have an ending in mind. In hide and seek, the winner finds all those who are hidden. In Chutes and Ladders, it’s about who makes it to the top. All we have to figure out are the rules of the game, how to win it, and how to beat it.”

She made it sound like it was so simple. I didn’t think it would be. Whoever Masquerade was, they weren’t going to make it so that we could win easily. In fact, it was possible we couldn’t win at all. The thought of that was terrifying.

“I don’t even know if we can,” I said to her. “How do we know that there’s a way for us to win? What if only he can win?”

“He?” Eden asked.

I noticed the word that came out of my mouth and shrugged. “I guess it just feels like a he.”

“Maybe that’s the exact reason why it won’t be a boy,” Eden replied. “I mean, I thought it seemed like a guy, too, but we shouldn’t rule out females. Females can be vicious.”

But this vicious? I’d never heard of female stalkers. Sure, it was possible, but just how likely was it? I kept my phone’s volume a little higher today. I was more on edge than I ever had been. It seemed as though every second I was being watched, even though it wasn’t possible. I was being paranoid and knew it.

“So what do we do about it?” I asked.

“We play the game, and hope that whatever they want gets resolved quickly,” Eden said. “But I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something else.” She leaned and said whispered, “Do you think we’re the only ones?”

“The only targets?” I said. As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that was something I really hadn’t thought about. Were we the only targets? Was that even possible? “I guess…I haven’t really considered anyone else. But that’s a really good question. If we’re the only targets, that’s odd since we didn’t have a connection prior to becoming friends, but you were already attacked when we became friends.”

“Exactly. There’s a connection. Something that ties this all together. But…what is it? And are there really other people involved? How would we even find out if there? We can’t just go around asking people if they’re being stalked by Masquerade.”

She had a point. So how would we find out if we were the only ones? Suddenly, our phones both buzzed at the same time. Glancing at each other, fear etched on our faces, we glanced at our phones.

“Think you’re the only ones? Think again. This game needs lots of players in order to go forward. There’s a lot you need to know.” -Masquerade

“A lot we need to know?” I said. “What do you think they mean by that?”

“I’m no expert, but…I did take psychology my freshman year and AP psychology last year,” Eden replied. “It’s possible that this person is crazy. But sometimes crazy people have reasons. Motives. What drives a person to make them do the things they do? That’s what we need to ask ourselves to figure this out.”

But it seemed as though Eden missed the point. Masquerade heard our conversation. Masquerade was here. And they were close.

***

On the ride home from school, I was about to pull into my neighborhood when I saw it. At first I thought I was going crazy, but after another glance, I knew I wasn’t losing my mind. It was Masquerade. Except this time, their disguise was different.

It was white.

They were standing off the side of the road by the gate of a graveyard. I didn’t stop my car, and instead kept driving. Should I have stopped? Maybe. But I didn’t want to risk it. I was alone, and we still didn’t know what Masquerade wanted.

My phone beeped beside me, and I waited until I got to the nearest stoplight to read the text message.

“Meet me Friday night in the graveyard. There are things we need to discuss.”

No Masquerade signature. Of course, it was an unknown number, but the fact that Masquerade didn’t sign the message made me wonder. The person that I just saw…was that Masquerade? It had to have been, right?

Unless there were two.

“No,” I said to myself, pushing on the gas when the green light lit. “That’s not possible. There are not two of them. One is enough.”

Then the other thought occurred to me. One that made my heart stop. Damien? Could that person on the side of the road have been him? Without any hesitation, I looked to make sure no other cars were on the road, and I swerved around, going back toward the graveyard.

It’s Damien, I thought. It had to be. But if it was him, why has he dressed up as some sort of white Masquerade? Was he the one messing with us? I had to find out. He had to tell me the truth.

I pulled up the the curve, jumping out of the car. There was no sign of the White Masquerade. Maybe they went inside the graveyard. As I went to go open the gate, my phone beeped again.

“Do not come inside. Come Friday. You’ll know everything then.”

It was Damien. I knew it was. I wanted to text back, but the best I could do was yell through the gate.

“I know you’re in there!” I yelled. “I’m coming back Friday, but I need to know the truth. The whole truth, no beating around the bush. You better be here.”

As I got back in my car and drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror. White Masquerade was watching me. It was the most chilling sight I’d ever encountered in a very long time.

1×04: Josh

Friday came quickly, two days after the disappearance of Damien. Everything was so different. Strange. Unbecoming. Without my two best friends by my side, I felt alone. Afraid. Desperate for some familiarity that clearly wasn’t coming any time soon.

Lunch rolled around, and I was going to head to the library again after getting my food. Once in line for some Asian chicken, I tried not to think about it. I couldn’t think about what might have happened to my friends. If I did, I was going to spend all my time worrying, which would distract me from school and my writing.

A girl I never met before came up behind me in line and grabbed a tray. She was wearing all black, with her long black hair put up behind her with a pencil to hold it up. I tried my best not to look at her. Something about her was very off-putting. Not only that, but I spent the last couple of years in the popular crowd with Haven and Damien–

Damn it. I was thinking about them again.

“You don’t have to do that,” the girl said.

Surprised, I looked at her. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t have to pretend I’m not here,” she said. “I know that I look scary. But I’m not really. It’s just my style.” Then, the girl actually smiled. “My name’s Eden.”

“Uh…I’m Josh,” I said, feeling a little unsure about the conversation. Why was she trying to talk to me? She must have been new. I hadn’t seen her the last few years, not that it didn’t mean anything. “Are you new here?”

“Yes, sir, I am,” she said, grabbing some chicken to put on her tray. “I’ve only been here about a week. I’m still adjusting. I haven’t really made any friends yet, either. Not that it’s anyone else’s fault but my own.”

“Well, you certainly came at an interesting time,” I said. “With kids going missing and all…” My voice trailed off. Why the hell did I just say that?

“Right? It’s so strange,” she said. “No one knows where they went. I’ve listened to the rumors in the hall, and some of them aren’t pretty–”

“Or true,” I added. “None of the rumors are true. They can’t be.”

Eden’s eyes widened as the two of them got out of line. “Wow, you seem sure about that. Is there something you want to tell me?”

“They were my friends,” I said. “My…best friends. Especially the guy, Damien. I’ve known him for a long time.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Eden replied. “I didn’t know.”

I started to walk off, then stopped. “Hey, do you, uh…want to come sit with me? With the two of them gone, I haven’t really had anyone to eat lunch with.”

Eden smiled. “Of course. With me being the new girl, I haven’t really made any friends that I could eat lunch with.”

The two of us walked over to the table where Damien, Haven, and I used to sit. It felt a little strange, but it was the only empty table in the cafeteria. For a few minutes, the two of us ate in silence. Finally, Eden spoke.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked. “Without you thinking that I’m really weird?”

I actually laughed. “If you’re asking whether I’m gay, yes. I am.” Whoa. Did I actually just say that out loud? Something was seriously wrong with me today. I hadn’t admitted that to anyone. “But it’s kind of a secret. At least, it is for now. Unless it’s really obvious.”

Eden laughed, too. “No, that’s not what I was going to ask, and no. It’s not obvious. I wouldn’t have really thought.” She paused, leaving me hanging. Then she said, “The other day…on Wednesday…I was waiting out in the parking lot for my dad to pick me up. And something kind of…happened.”

Happened? Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good. “Eden, did someone do something to you?”

“Well…sort of,” she said. “I was the only one left in the parking lot when someone came out of nowhere. I don’t even really knew if they were a student or not.” She stopped again, as if she wasn’t sure whether she should continue. I urged her to, and she nodded. “They were wearing all black. Black shoes. A hoodie. Pants. The hood was on over their head, but their face was covered.”

“Covered?” I asked. “Like a ski mask?”

“No,” Eden said. “Like a masquerade mask. Have you ever seen anyone like that around here? They kind of…attacked me. Pushed me against the wall. But they didn’t rob me. Or do anything else. It was almost as if they just wanted to scare me.”

What she said was definitely strange, and somewhat scary. But she did have a point. It was possible this person tried to scare her, and that’s exactly what I said to her. “Not only that, but I wouldn’t worry.”

“Well, there was something else, too–” she started, but the bell cut her off. “I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.” Before I could say anything else, Eden left, and I couldn’t help but wonder what else Eden had to say.

***

At home, I said my hello to my parents and hibernated upstairs in my room. The last few days, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, but I knew I had to be functional. They’d find Damien and Haven. They had to.

Walking over to my computer, I woke it from its sleep and began to work on my novel. And by work, I mean looking at the computer and not typing anything. My mind was blank. I couldn’t think. Sighing, I closed off and went onto Facebook. Seeing that I had a friend request from Eden, I accepted and about a moment later, it dinged, alerting me of a message. It was from Eden.

Hey, sorry I didn’t get to tell you the rest of my story, her message said.

It’s okay, I typed back. Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about it?

Her reply took a little bit longer than I expected. Finally, she sent her message and I read it.

It was so weird. After that happened, I went home and got an email to a website. http://www.whoismasquerade.wordpress.com. I clicked on it and there was a video of me being attacked by the masquerade. It wasn’t security footage or anything. It was like someone had been watching. And I heard these bangs on my bathroom door and it really freaked me out. I haven’t seen anything sense then or gotten any more emails. Do you think it was just a prank?

I wasn’t sure what I thought. On the one hand, it seemed like a pretty elaborate prank to pull on a new girl. But what else could it have been? Was someone really after Eden?

That’s when the realization occurred to me. Could this have anything to do with Haven and Damien’s disappearances? Were they being tormented by the masquerade before they disappeared? It seemed unlikely, as they never said anything to me, but was it a coincidence that a mysterious person was trying to scare Eden around that same time?

My phone dinged. My email. Heart pounding in my chest, I pulled it out to look, and fear swept over me at the sight of the email.

http://www.whoismasquerade.wordpress.com

I clicked the link, and it led me to the site’s home page. The newest post was a video. It automatically started playing, and I knew what it was. Eden and I at lunch. Someone had recorded our conversation.

Looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t being watched and that someone wasn’t in my room, I sent a message back to Eden. Just got an email. Same website. Go look. The first video there is of us. Someone was watching. 

But what did this mean? Were were next? The thought of Eden and I being the next two to disappear sent chills down my spine, and I hoped that this was a prank. I could handle pranks. Something as scary as this couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be.

The sad thing was, I knew in my heart it was true. Someone was watching us. Someone wanted to hurt us. To scare us. And that was the worst realization I could have ever had.

1×01: Josh

Everyone has secrets. When you were little, you probably kept secrets from your parents all the time because you felt that if they found out, you’d get grounded. Maybe that meant your television privileges would be taken away, or maybe it meant you couldn’t have snacks for a whole week.

Secrets are a part of life, but the older you get, the more you learn about the world. When I turned sixteen, I never expected my life to get as complicated as it did. In fact, I don’t think anyone at Wellington High School excepted their lives to be irrevocably changed. 2014 was the year that changed out lives forever, and nothing would ever be the same.

I am not the founder of this blog. In fact, my hope is to find out who did. There are secrets the world needs to know, and I can’t let the truth slip away from anyone. My friends and I are here to tell you the tale. We all have our stories.

The story begins with me.

***

Sitting behind my computer, I typed away at my latest novel, trying to master the art of writing. Of course, with just turning sixteen, I was hardly Stephen King. Writing had been my passion since I was a kid, and knew that this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to be an author. It was my dream job, and I vowed to make it happened before I turned eighteen.

Wellington was a quiet little town, one that I never saw the outside of. I spent my whole life there, and due to lack of income, we were never able to go vacationing anywhere. It was alright considering I had two great friends to keep me company: Damien and Haven. But recently, things weren’t going so well with them.

Thinking of the Damien situation, I closed my computer and headed over to my mirror to find myself gazing at my reflection. What was wrong with me? I mean, I wasn’t anything hot, but wasn’t an ugly guy. I had short, brown hair and chestnut eyes. I was about 6 feet tall, and was of white descent. I wish I knew more about my family background to give a better description, but white was it.

I can’t think like this, I thought. Damien’s my friend and that’s that. 

But things were getting a lot more complicated than I’d anticipated. Best friends since we were eight, Damien and I had a lot in common, and we knew practically everything about each other. He knew everything about me, all except for one:

I was gay. And I was in love with him.

It wasn’t something that was always there. It actually wasn’t until recently that I started having feelings for him, and it was a bit of a disaster. Being in love with my straight best friend was only going to lead to issues. So instead of admitting my feelings, I buried them underneath, hoping that no one would ever find out the truth.

My phone rang from my bed, and I jumped. I reached over to grab it, and answered before it rang for a second time. “Hello?”

“Hey,” Damien said. “What are you up to, man?”

Trying not to think about being in love with you. Not that I would say that to him. “Nothing, just working on my new novel. It’s going really well.”

“That’s great to hear. I’d love to read it some time,” Damien said. “But I was actually calling to see if you wanted to come with me tonight. Haven asked me to go see a movie with her, so I figured I’d ask you to come along.”

It took me a moment to process everything he was saying. “Wait–Haven asked you to the movies and didn’t ask me? Why did she do that?”

I could practically hear his shrug through the phone. “Not sure. Maybe she just thought you were busy.”

That was a huge possibility, but I wasn’t too positive. Were my suspicions coming true? Was Haven into Damien? And if she was, did I really have a right to be jealous? “I’m sorry, but I can’t,” I told him. “I have to try and get this chapter finished, and then I have to do some homework before I go to sleep.”

“You know, most people do their homework before they do other things,” Damien said, and my heart warmed at his jokey tone.

“I guess I have other priorities.”

He sighed. “Well, I suppose I can’t make you come. But we’d really like for you to come.”

After explaining a little more that I really couldn’t, we ended the call and I plopped down on my bed, trying not to think about him. But I couldn’t get him out of my mind. It was bugging me in more ways than one, and I needed to do something about it.

Before I could think of anything to do, I fell asleep.

***

I woke up to flashing lights outside my house. Had I dozed off? I looked at the clock and saw that it was 2 AM, and I climbed out of bed to look out the window. Police were here. Two cops cars sat in the driveway, blue lights blurring my eyes. What was going on?

Not wasting a moment, I headed downstairs to see that mom had already answered the door. She turned around to look at me and tears were streaming down her face. Between the tears and the bed head, she looked terrible.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

One of the officers, a young man who looked about twenty-five, said, “We have to ask you a few questions about your friend Damien. Do you mind stepping outside for a moment?”

Damien? Did something bad happen to him? My heart was pounding a million miles per hour, but I obliged. I followed the officer over to his car, and I looked in for some sign of Damien. Nothing.

“You’re friends with Damien, right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied. “He and I have been best friends for years. Is everything okay?”

The officer frowned at me, showing off at least some sign of emotion. “I’m afraid not. He was reported missing earlier this evening. There’s been no sign of him. And according to his phone records, the last person he was on the phone with was you.”

My jaw fell open and fear swept over my body like a crash of ocean waves. Something had happened to my best friend, and that was all I was concerned about. “Oh my God…I…I fell asleep after we talked on the phone. He said he was going to the movies with our friend Haven. She apparently asked him to go.”

“Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to reach you’re other friend, Haven. While a missing person’s case has not been opened for her, it’s possible that it will.” The officer wrote something down on his pad. He asked a few more questions, including my number, school, and other personal information. After he finished, I went back inside to find my mother sitting at the table, her head resting in her hands with her elbows propped on the table.

“Mom?” I asked. Tears were forming behind my eyes, but I couldn’t let it show. “Do you think Damien’s going to be okay?”

She lifted her head and tried to smile behind the tears. “We both know Damien. He’s probably going to be alright.”

And that was definitely mom code for “Damien is probably already dead, but I can’t tell you that.”

I went back upstairs to my room, resting my head on my pillow and hoping for some sort of peace. There wasn’t any. That was the first night I realized my life would never be peaceful again.

And I was right.