Max’s Mistake

I am sitting on chair on the back steps with a white paper bag and a marker, writing a letter to Kimberly on my luminary when sudden shouting jars me from my thoughts.

“HOW FUCKING DARE YOU!” I look up to see what the commotion is. Santiago has climbed on top of one of the picnic tables, and her fists are flying.

Without thinking, I scramble over and physically pull her off of whoever she’s pummeling. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Several others have also run over to pull the two apart. As Sorrento, Enrique and I pull Santiago down from the table, Joani and some other Saratogans have appeared to help Max.

“You stay the fuck away from me! How dare you! You’re the reason she’s dead!” Santiago is yelling. I place myself physically in front of her to keep her from jumping on top of him again. “He asked me where Kimberly was,” she says loudly to the rest of us, still glaring at him. “It’s his fault she isn’t here! He’s the one who claimed he used a condom and then didn’t!” She’s shouting again.

Max is escorted away by his friends to another table as Sorrento and I lead Santiago a few feet away onto the wet grass. “What the hell was that?” I ask.

“I told you,” she says angrily. “He asked where Kimberly is. It’s his fucking fault she’s not here. Everyone knows how he told her he was wearing a condom and then didn’t. And she’s dead, and he has the fucking gall to ask where she is?”

I sigh. “Okay. I understand.” I stand there quietly for a few moments as her anger subsides and the chatter around us resumes. I quietly sneak away back towards the bonfire as Santiago and Sorrento are engrossed in conversation, my eyes scanning the partygoers. My eyes finally rest on Max, who is sitting across on the other side of the fire.

“Hey, Max?” I say casually as I stroll over. “Can I talk to you for a sec?”

He blinks up at me, looking surprised. “Yeah, sure.”

I raise an eyebrow when he doesn’t move. “Alone?”

“Oh! Umm, sure.” He stands up from the table.

I look around for a quiet place to chat, and settle on walking a few feet into the dark by the trees, just out of earshot. I turn to face him. He looks at me expectantly. I take a step closer to him and poke my right index finger into his chest as I speak. “Look. I don’t know what the fuck you were thinking, but you’re lucky that all she did was punch you,” I spit. “You have some fucking nerve, asking her about Kimberly like that.”

He pales. “I’m sorry,” he says, shrinking away from me.

“I don’t care if you’re sorry. You stay the hell away from her. Because next time, I won’t stop her.” My anger is cold and controlled, surprising even myself.

“I–I’m s-s-sorry,” he stutters again. He cowers a little.

“Sorry doesn’t bring Kimberly back from the dead,” I hiss. He recoils as if I’ve slapped him. I am still poking at his chest for emphasis. “It’s your fault she died.” Max is quiet, cowering wide-eyed in front of me.

“Stay the fuck away from me, and my family.” I glare at him again for another second before I turn on my heel and stalk away without a backwards glance, leaving him in the shadows.

I head back to Santiago, who is still chatting with Sorrento over on the grass where I’d left her. “Max won’t be a problem anymore,” I tell her.

“What? What do you mean?” she asks.

“I took care of him. He won’t be bothering us again.” I shrug at the suspicious look she gives me. “I just told him to stay away from you, is all. I’m gonna go finish my luminary.” I go back to my abandoned paper bag and pick up my marker to finish the letter I am writing to Kimberly.

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Close Call

NOTE: This post contains spoilers related to the Lottery of Death.

As a player, I’m not entirely sure where in the timeline the Lottery of Death happens. I think that’s probably unclear on purpose; since it’s not the way things “really” happen (well, as far as we living people know, anyway).

People are in good spirits until the bell rings, signaling that the Lottery is about to begin. The room goes silent as ominous music fills the room. I sit close to Santiago, my left arm linked through her right. Nate already has a tear sliding down his face. I smile at him, slightly bemused. “Already?”

Santiago gives me a Look. “Well, yeah. This is scary,” she says. I immediately wipe the smile off my face and nod somberly. She’s right.

One of the two Agents of Death passes out small pieces of paper to write our names on: one for the least risky behavior over the past year, up to five for very risky. Everyone must throw their name in at least once. The second Agent collects the names in a hat from which they will pull the names of the unfortunate. I am unsure whether to put my name in two times or three, but in the end decide to go with my original instinct and put in three. Death announces that they need ten names. Ten? I think, looking around. steps There were roughly forty people. That’s a lot.

Death asks Pepper to pull the names. Pepper steps out of the kitchen and comes to stand at the front of the room. He reaches into the hat and begins reading off the names, not pausing for more than a second or two between each. “Sam. Tomasz. Max.” As each name is called, that person stands up and goes to the front of the room to wait.

“Simon. Leon. Ruben. Trevor.” The room is silent save for the music and Pepper’s solemn voice.

“Joani.” Gasps all around the room, and one high-pitched voice lets out a horrified wail of, “What!?” I am slightly shaken, myself. I knew Joani. Not well, but I knew her. She was a bit of a quack, but she was kind and she had a good heart.

“Dawn.” I hear a choked sob, and look over to see Charlotte’s shoulders shaking. I am sad for her, but feel surprisingly calm: lots of people were more risky than me and my friends. I become more and more relieved as names are called and none are people I am close with.

“…and Katherine.”

Santiago and I look at each other in shock. I hesitate, then realize they are waiting for me. I stand up to join the crowd of names that had been pulled, my eyes wide. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. Santiago lets out a primal scream of grief that sounds almost inhuman. I jump, and look over numbly. Her face is buried in her arms.

“Please follow us outside. The rest of you, wait here.”

I fall into line in a daze as we follow of the Agents of Death dressed in black. As we march outside single file, I am filled with regret. “I made stupid choices,” I thought. “I should not have been so careless.” One anguished thought rises above the others: “I’m not ready to die!”

They lead us outside to a field behind the cabins. “Wait here. Do not speak.” We are left with the Angel of Death. I am standing amongst nine other people, and yet I have never felt so alone in my life. Tears stream down my face. We wait for what feels like forever before we are told to advance down the field. I can hear the distant strains of the same sad music from inside wafting down the field.

I see coffins in the distance. Only five? I squint in confusion. We are stopped about ten feet from the coffins. “Those of you who see your names in the coffins, lay down in them. If you are covered with a shroud, then you have passed on. The others who see your names in a coffin have contracted the virus, but you may not know it yet. The rest of you have had a near-death experience sometime later this year, but you survive.” My stomach drops as I advance, skimming the names in search of my own.

It isn’t there.

It takes a moment for the news to sink in. I’m not dead? I back away from the coffins and see the rest of the crowd starting to approach. Santiago rushes at me and envelops me in a bear hug. “Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I find Charlotte and Kimberly and hug them, too. I look around at the crowd, which is a mixture of people embracing and sobbing. There are two bodies still in the coffins. I don’t remember who.

The music slowly dies down, and the Angel of Death faces us solemnly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon.” The former disco star. I hear more gasping sobs from the people around me. The Angel of Death looks around sadly. “We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Simon.” The rock star? He was part of Urban Renaissance.

As the opening notes of Just A Little Lovin’ trickle from the speakers, there are no words. The vastly different cliques mingle, embracing both friends and strangers, united in their grief.

Tantra and Heavy Breathing

I spend the rest of the afternoon chasing after Evelyn. I introduce myself and find out that she’s a doctor. She also makes a point of telling me she’s straight. Well, “mostly straight” are her exact words. She shows zero interest, and I am becoming increasingly frustrated. I almost give up on her until Morgan taunts me again, making me even more determined.

“Hey, Nate,” I call out.

Nate, AKA the Queen of Manhattan, is the owner of Club Diamond. He’s one of New York’s best drag queens. He also has a knack for knowing all the gossip. He smiles and and kisses the air next to both of my cheeks.

“Katherine, darling. So good to see you!”

“And you! Hey, I was wondering… do you know anything about that girl over there?” I indicate behind him with my chin, where Evelyn is chatting with two other women.

Nate glances over. “Which one?”

“The one with the copper skirt. I hear she’s straight, but…”

“Hey, you!” he interrupts me as calls out to her. “No, not you – your friend. Yeah, you. Come here a sec.” She exchanges looks with her friends, but walks over. “You’ve met Katherine, right?” he says. “She works for the Times.”

Evelyn nods. “Yes, we met earlier. Hello again.”

Nate continues, “Well, she really likes your skirt, and wants to know if you’d be willing to take it off for her later.” With that, he walks off without a backwards glance.

“Nate!” I exclaim incredulously. There aren’t many people who can make me speechless, but somehow Nate manages it.

I turn to Evelyn, shaking my head in amusement. “Are you planning to attend the tantra workshop?”

“I am, yeah,” she replies.

“Great, me too. Let’s go.” I sling an arm around her shoulders as we walk over to the Pillow Room. It feels awkward, unnatural. We are both tense, and she doesn’t relax into me as most girls do. Hmm. This is going to take a lot more work.

We enter the Pillow Room and it’s packed. Somehow, thirty some-odd people have managed to cram into a space meant to sleep six people. The heat is stifling. We remove our shoes and squeeze in. Evelyn finds some space on the floor, and I quickly sit in the space right next to her, leaning up against one of the cots that’s been pushed against the wall.

Joani starts off by telling us that there is no actual sex involved in this workshop, and I sigh quietly. So much for that. Oh, well. I decide to struggle through the workshop and see if I can fake it, for Evelyn’s sake. Joani is droning on about breathing through your nose and chakras and some other stuff that’s a bit too “woo” for my tastes. Most people have their eyes closed, but I keep mine open because it’s so warm in there I’m afraid I might actually fall asleep.

Finally, Joani tells us to face our partners and take their hands. Yes! Getting to the good stuff, I hope??… oh, nope. She says something about joining our breathing, and I tune out again, focusing on the feel of Evelyn’s hands in mine. I catch her eye and make a face towards Joani. She smirks a little. Aha! So she’s not as into it as I thought. Good. I roll my eyes and she seems to be struggling not to laugh. A few moments later, Joani tells us to release our partners, and starts going around the room asking people how they felt, one by one. Huh. That’s it? That wasn’t sexy at all. When it’s my turn, I make up something about not having as intense an experience as the others – no point in hurting Joani’s feelings – and Evelyn echoes something similar.

After the workshop, I escort Evelyn out and back down the path towards the main cabin. We pause next door at the Darkroom where a large crowd has gathered. “Huh… what’s going on here?” I wonder aloud. Evelyn’s brother Chain is handing out pieces of rope… some kind of demo? Evelyn fidgets and refuses the piece of rope his… assistant? offers her.

I glance at her. Now or never, I think. “Do you want to get out of here?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says, looking relieved. We continue along the path toward the main lodge, where some of Nate’s crew is setting up a stage for Club Diamond drag show.

“That was… interesting,” I say.

She laughs. “Yeah.”

“So…” I continue, “tell me about yourself.”

She chuckles softly. “Still a doctor… still mostly straight.”

I raise an eyebrow. “Mostly?”

“Well, I’ve had sex with women before,” she says.

I shrug. “Well, I think we’d have fun together.”

She glances at me, hesitates for a second. “Well… if it involves an orgasm, I’m down.”

I stop walking and turn to face her, my face lighting up. “Really?”

She shrugs. “Sure. Why not?”

I grab her hand and pull her towards the left, over to the bathroom cabins. As soon as we’re close to the entrance, I push her up against the wall outside and slip my hand under her skirt. I watch her face carefully, which is bathed in light from the single bulb above the bathroom door. Her eyes are closed, her mouth open in a perfect “O” as her hips writhe against my hand. Within minutes, she’s crying out. Loudly. We’ve got a screamer, I think to myself, chuckling.

When she’s caught her breath, I lean against her, pinning her to the wall with my body. She wastes no time, both hands reaching under my skirt, spreading me open with one hand and rubbing my clit with the other. I groan softly, gritting my teeth. “You’re–AH! Pretty good at this, for a–ahhh, ah– straight girl,” I gasp out. “Oh, fuck!” Her finger fucks me while she keeps rubbing my clit. I’m humping her hands and crying out as I cum, all pretenses of staying quiet abandoned.

“God, that was good,” I sigh contentedly. “Did you have fun?”

She smiles. “Yeah, I did.”

We go inside the bathroom to fix our clothing and wash up, then head back to the main lodge for the drag show. Once inside, we smile at each other again, but go our separate ways.

Surprising absolutely no one, the drag show is running late. Still slightly giddy, I spy Santiago conversing with some other party-goers and head over. Leaning in, I whisper into her ear, “Straight girl’s not so straight!” and then stride off without waiting for an answer, gloating.