This year, a friend and I are sharing a project. We will use the same prompts and create our own story, but then see where we each end up. My sister made a game for me for my birthday to help get through writer’s block, and we are using those cards as our prompts.
This is the first installment:
Prompt: A party where time (seems?) to stop.
Characters: two men and a Giraffe
Gerald hated parties, and this one was no exception. He only agreed to come so his friends would get off his back about staying at home every night, but of course, tomorrow they would all bitch that he did not have enough fun.
His drink was getting warm, and one thing he hated almost as much as parties was warm beer. Gerald looked around for somewhere to put the tepid brew down. It was just cheap, mass produced swill anyway, not like the brewpub two blocks from his house. That place served real beer. He could almost taste one now, the cold mug, and the bitter hops. It had a malty aroma, and there was just enough background noise to make you feel just ever so slightly less lonely without feeling overwhelmed.
“Heeeeey, Brittney!” Gerald startled out of his daydream. That moron Greg was busy pulling up his shirt and showing a little brunette woman, he assumed this was Brittney, his latest tattoo. At the rate Greg was going, he would look like the illustrated man, without any of the class, before he was 35.
Seriously, Andy needed a better class of friends. All around him were drunk and stoned 30 somethings desperately trying to hang onto their misspent youth. The party was loud, and the house already reeked of cigarettes and pot. Why was he here again? Gerald checked his watch for what felt like the tenth time in the last hour. Nope, time was not moving any faster, it was only 9:30. What was a respectable time to leave a lame party? He saw Andy in the kitchen, it looked like he was taking shots with a couple frat boys. Maybe he could leave before the host got to the “I love you, man” stage. That was always uncomfortable and unnecessary.
“How did you get roped into this?” Gerald turned around, surprised to find someone talking to him, and even more surprised he could hear anyone over the blaring pop shit pouring out of the expensive speakers. Behind him was a young man wearing a crisp button down shirt in a pale blue, cuffs snuggly closed, but no necktie. His dark hair was careful combed, and his slacks had that sharp crease that meant he took good care of his clothes.
“I’m Simon.” The man held out his hand, and Gerald took it hesitantly. He knew he looked suspicious, but he was. Simon did not look either drunk or stoned, but maybe he just hid it well. “And you are?” Simon prompted after the silence between them stretched out too long, the handshake had become awkward as well. Gerald quickly dropped the newcomers hand and self-consciously shoved his hands in the pockets of his khaki slacks.
“Sorry about that,” Gerald refused to look up. He was always doing this, saying the wrong thing, or not saying anything, or making it weird before it even got started. “I’m Gerald.”
“No worries, Gerald,” Simon’s voice was calm. “It just looked like you were having as little fun as myself, so I thought we could perhaps be miserable together.” There was a faint accent, but Gerald wasn’t sure what it was. British? European of some kind? He never was good at figuring stuff like that out. “I’m here because Andrew in there is my new boss.” Simon’s tone was not bitter, but there was a hint of disapproval. “Seems he thinks having a party to celebrate his promotion would be a great team building exercise.”
“Is that where these people came from?” Gerald glanced around again. “I thought I didn’t recognize some of them.”
“So what brings you here? I can assume from your response that you are not an employee of Smithers, Rector and Grimm.”
“No, not at all,” Gerald mumbled. He hated small talk. “I’ve known Andy since we were kids, we were also college roommates back in the day.”
“Back in the day, is that it?” Simon sounded distracted, but he was not looking toward the kitchen where the frat boys and a few girls now chanted “chug chug” as Andy smashed one of the cheap beers against his face, foam flying and running down his next as he sucked the watery brew through a small hole in the aluminum side like some college age vampire.
“Why don’t we step outside,” Simon suggested.
“I didn’t take you for a smoker.” Gerald looked at his watch again. “look, I was about to head home anyway, I hope you are able to have more fun.”
“Don’t be absurd, Gerald,” Simon purred, his cool hand gripping Gerald’s elbow. “The night is young and there are many strange things left to see.”
“As tempting as that sounds, I have seen enough keg stands, bong hits, and shitty tattoos to last me a while tonight, I think I’ll pass.” Simon did not let go.
“None of those things are worth our time, friend, “Simon acted like Gerald was not trying to pull away, he did not even seem to notice, just kept guiding him toward the sliding glass doors, now standing wide open. “I think we can find something much more interesting than this drivel.”
The night air was thick with smoke and the smell of beer and booze. Gerald had no desire to follow this strange man into the back yard, the light from the inside and the lone light bulb at the back door made a patch or warm amber light before falling away into blue black shadows.
“Just trust me.” Simon’s smooth voice suddenly seemed very loud. The thumping bass of the music, the endless chatter of the party goers, even the chanting from the kitchen were suddenly silenced. He could not even here the traffic from the highway just outside the bounds of Andy’ subdivision.
“What the hell-“ Gerald planed his feet and grabbed onto the door jamb as he was steered out onto the cement slab that served as a porch. No one moved, not even a blink. Everyone stood frozen as still as a freeze frame in a movie, even the clouds of smoke were perfectly still. Simon pulled him forward across the threshold just as easily as before. They walked through the human statues and strangely static clouds of smoke.
“You need to meet someone much more interesting than anyone in this crowd,” Simon said calmly, half dragging a now astounded Gerald toward the back fence.
“Am I stoned? What have you done to me?” Frantically he tried to think if he had taken a drink from his beer after this man had appeared at his side, but he knew he had not. Had someone else slipped something into his drink before that? Was Simon and everything else a hallucination?
“Do calm down,” Simon assured him. “Jerry here just doesn’t like crowds.” He pointed vaguely up and Gerald’s eyes followed the direction almost against his will. There leaning over the fence, chewing on a branch from a hydrangea was a giraffe.