Monday, February 3, 2014

Missing Friends and Making Parties

      Nathaniel struggled to keep a cup of tea balanced in his shaking hands. Sweat beaded his face in an unflattering mosaic of frayed nerves. He watched his friend Adrian work calmly in the kitchen as if their meeting was about no more than an idle chat about the weather. A small wave of tea breached his cup and cascaded onto Nathaniel's pants, so he brought the cup to his lips to drain some of the liquid.
      “What can I help you with?” Adrian finally broke the silence in a voice lawyers and politicians would envy. It was slick and chilling, and perfectly matched the cold smirk splayed on his face.
      “We're going to get caught, Adrian,” Nathaniel blurted, spilling more tea.
      “Come now, Nathaniel. Calm yourself. That's a rare tea.” There was a glint of amusement in his condescending gaze. Adrian sipped his tea delicately and uttered a sigh of approval.
      “Forget the God damned tea, Adrian!” Nathaniel was pale and desperate. He had no one to turn to but his friend, whose demeanor was causing more anxiety than relief.
      “We will not be found out,” Adrian stated simply, as if that fact was as plain as the gravity that held them to the floor.
      “How can you be so confident? People will question us. We were his closest friends at the party.”
      A bone chilling chuckle poured out from Adrian's teeth. He had a grin that could make the Grim Reaper nervous. “My poor Nathaniel.” He strode across the kitchen, grabbed a chair, and pulled it in front of Nathaniel. He took a seat and leaned into his sweating friend's face. “You do not understand.”
      Nathaniel felt like his blood had turned to ice. He wasn't sure if he was more scared of getting caught, or his friend who seemed to find pleasure in what they'd done, and Nathaniel's reaction to it. Would Adrian ever do that to me? Nathaniel suddenly thought, and then couldn't shake the idea no matter how much he wished to.
      “Everyone has friends. Friends are as natural as the air you breath. Or the sweat running down your cheek. It protects us, my dear fellow.”
      Nathaniel frowned deeply, his brows knit together. “I don't understand.”
      Adrian continued, “No one wants to disrupt the normalcy of their reality. If we, good friends, could be suspected, then everyone around us will grow suspicious of the sanity of their own friends. Our world is their world. To question ours is to question their own, and they do not like change.”
      The logic made sense, and Nathaniel hated him for it. He could not back down so easily from his paranoia. “What if they search our homes?”
      “Legally they cannot, but of course we shall oblige them like gentlemen. We will offer them tea, discuss business and the weather, and air our concern for our dear friend. We will mention we have a dinner date with him and his wife soon that would be most inconvenient to reschedule, and that his absence is most inconsiderate.”
      Nathaniel gaped openly. Adrian's eyebrows were pulled together in mock concern and confusion. Nathaniel stood abruptly from his seat and began pacing to relieve some of the nervous energy building in his gut. “But what if they see? What if they hear?” It was all Nathaniel could see and hear every night when he slept. Therefore, he'd hardly slept at all for the past couple nights.
      “They can't begin to accept the idea that he could be down there. But even if they did check the catacomb, all they would see is a brick wall amongst brick walls. My dear fellow, they would be embarrassed to take time out of the day of a man of my status. They're more concerned that I wouldn't invite them to my next party than they are with finding our friend.”
      Nathaniel felt like he was seeing his friend for who he truly was for the first time. His calm demeanor, subtle smirk, and glinting eyes unnerved Nathaniel deeply. He found himself more disturbed and paranoid now than when he'd first come over to voice his concerns. He was scared. He was scared of Adrian. “Don't you hear him? See him?” he finally choked out, his voice barely above a whisper. Subtle shivers coursed through his body.
      “No,” Adrian answered simply, and sipped his tea. “And neither do you,” he said in a demanding voice.
      “Yes, I do!” Nathaniel blurted desperately.
      Adrian surged forward with a power and quickness that caught Nathaniel off guard. They stood with their faces inches from each other, Adrian staring Nathaniel down with wide, wild eyes that screamed with predatory animal instincts. All color drained from Nathaniel. “No, you don't,” Adrian insisted in a venomous whisper. “You're more concerned with our dinner party we're planning for our business associates. You find our friend's absence to be a mild annoyance, because it can't even enter your mind that he wouldn't be coming back. You're thinking about where to get the finest vintage of Amontillado for our friends and our parties. Understand?”
      Nathaniel could only manage a mute nod. He felt seconds from collapsing.
      Adrian's body relaxed in one fluid motion, like he could just sigh away all his tension and worries. He walked across the kitchen and poured himself another glass of tea. “So,” Adrian said pleasantly, turning his attention to Nathaniel with a smile, who was gripping a chair to keep himself steady, “shall we plan our next party, or shall I show you where I keep my cask of Amontillado?”

Author's Note

      While I think of this piece as one of the weakest ones I wrote in 2013, I still enjoyed the act of writing it. The prompt my professor gave me was to have two characters talking about something that never gets revealed to the reader. Obviously, I ended up using the plot of The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe with a few tweaks added to it, which is what made it so fun for me. I've always wanted to produce something along the lines of a gothic horror story told by an unreliable narrator like he did. That's not what I did here, but it was fun to write something in the setting used in Poe's stories. I'll make sure to write something better inspired by Poe in the future.

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