The dance was off to a great start. Dirk and Ella's custom playlist had gone down brilliantly: so far, there hadn't been a single track anyone had groaned at. The refreshments were to die for, and the decorations captured the atmosphere perfectly.
Melissa sat at one of the long buffet tables, sipping from a plastic cup of iced tea. She had cleared a space around herself, and her laptop was plugged in, a charger cord extending to the socket on the wall behind her. A word document was open, several paragraphs in. The white colouration of the screen provided the brightest light source in the room: the only other lights came from the disco ball in the middle of the room.
She glanced at the screen again, reading the draft of the story she was writing so far: she had told herself that there were more important things to do, but she needed to write. It was the only thing keeping her grounded throughout all this madness.
“And so what if I didn't go back for him?” he cuttingly remarks to me, off-handedly dismissing the fate of the only other person I ever loved. “Surely you cannot be attempting to unload all the responsibility on me?”
“I have no choice at this point,” I shakily reply, daring to defy him for the first time ever. “No other person had been in close contact at the time of death; through circumstance alone I must suspect you.”
“I fail to see why you care so much for an old flame,” he jeers, looking down at me as if to make the one foot height difference even more prevalent. “You walked out on him, didn't you? Perhaps then you are
Melissa was snapped out of reading through the story she was writing to see Mark standing to her right. He was holding a camera, and grinning. “Hi, Mark,” Melissa replied, shutting her laptop.
“What'cha writing?” Mark asked.
“Just a quick drabble,” Melissa said. “It's nothing worthy of becoming a best-seller or anything.”
“I have to disagree there,” Mark said with a wink. “You could write a grocery list and it'd become a global best-seller with a eight act movie deal.”
“You don't have to be so supportive,” Melissa said calmly. “I know where I stand in the world of literary success.”
“Speaking of which,” Mark added, “why the laptop? It's a party! You shouldn't be writing; you should be having a good time!”
“I could say the same to you,” Melissa said, motioning to the camera.
“At least I'm moving around and talking to people!” Mark responded enthusiastically. “Plus, this is still part of my Sun's Joy documentary!”
“How's that coming along, anyway?” Melissa asked.
“Pretty good,” Mark said. “I've edited it down to twenty-eight minutes of footage, and I've nearly got the narration script down! Hopefully tonight will provide enough footage to finally complete the first episode!”
“Hopefully,” Melissa said. She smiled. “I'm looking forward to it, Mark.”
“Thanks!” Mark exclaimed. “That really means a lot, coming from you!”
“Well, you're welcome,” Melissa said.
“Oh! I have an idea!” Mark said as the song changed to a more upbeat pop-dance track. “Wanna dance?”
“What?” Melissa asked, looking genuinely surprised. “But I'm not really the type to dance!”
“Come on,” Mark said. “You're all dressed up like that; you can't spend tonight just sitting in the corner.” He grabbed her by the hand. “Let's go!”
Melissa was useless to resist as Mark dragged her away from her laptop, and to the dance floor. Straight away, Mark began to dance to the song. Melissa also noticed Naomi and Joel dancing away.
“This is just too embarrassing; I'm sorry.” Melissa turned to see Chelsea standing on the dance floor, her arms folded. “Did Mark drag you out here?”
“Yeah,” Melissa said. “But I am surprised: the ETL Ballerina not wanting to dance?”
“Trashy techno-pop isn't really my forte,” Chelsea explained. “Nothing against the song; I like everything musical, really, but I don't see why we have to dance to everything.”
“What do you mean?” Melissa asked.
“I mean I don't see most of these songs as just the background to some school dance,” Chelsea said. “It might just be me, but when I listen to music, it's like listening to poetry with a beat. Every lyric has been thought over and a part of the singer imbued within each track. When you look at it like that, it sort of feels disrespectful to the artist to just dance away, ignoring the words behind the tune.”
“Wow,” Melissa said. “I didn't know you felt like that, Chelsea.”
“Well, I do,” Chelsea said.
“I see where you're coming from,” Melissa said. “My favourite thing about music is when you finally get exactly what the lyrics are about, or at least have a personal interpretation of the song.”
“Glad you see where I'm coming from,” Chelsea said. “I thought an author like you would know a thing or two about it.”
“Well, you guessed right,” Melissa said. “I'm feeling somewhat uncomfortable here; want to head back to one of the tables to get a snack or something?”
“I thought you'd never ask,” Chelsea said. “Let's blow this place.”
On the other side of the meeting hall, Carlos and Charlie stood next to each other, next to a chocolate fountain. Charlie was currently eating a strawberry dipped in chocolate, whilst Carlos stood in front of her, blushing and trying to act cool.
“So, how about this song?” he asked awkwardly, running his hands through his hair for the hundredth time this evening.
“I like it,” Charlie replied softly. “It's a very fun song.”
“G-good,” Carlos said. “Me too. It's really cool, don't you think?”
“Definitely,” Charlie replied, giggling. She had to admit, seeing Carlos this flustered around her was definitely really endearing.
“Wanna go dance?” he asked.
“No thanks,” Charlie said. “I like being back here; it feels like the spotlight's on you when you're out there.” She glanced over to see Naomi rushing around on her skates, singing along loudly to the song currently playing.
“It's cool,” Carlos said. “I totally understand.”
“Great,” Charlie said. She finished eating the strawberry. “You know, you should really try strawberries in chocolate; it's delicious.”
“Okay,” Carlos said. He grabbed a strawberry from a bowl on the table, and dipped it in the chocolate, placing the fruit in his mouth. His eyes lit up in delight. “Wow! That was delicious!”
“Told you,” Charlie said. “These strawberries were grown really well; they're the perfect size and texture.”
“Really?” Carlos exclaimed.
“Yes,” Charlie said.
“I guess that's good for them just being found in the kitchen,” he replied. “I suppose the actual staff here were really prepared for us.”
“That they were,” Charlie said. “It's a real shame that this whole thing had to happen; I really think that we would have had a great time otherwise.” She let out a sigh.
“Hey,” Carlos said, smiling at her. “Don't think about that. We're here to have a good time, not feel down. So promise me that you won't get yourself down tonight.”
“All right,” Charlie said. “I'll try.”
“That's the spirit,” Carlos said, returning to his bubbly demeanour. “So let's have a good time.”
Dirk was stood on stage, headphones on his head as he adjusted the sound levels of the speakers, and arranged the next songs in the playlists: not that it mattered, but the next two songs directly came from Wyatt's music. The guy had a hell of a lot of different songs to choose from.
He was currently covering for Ella, who had taken a quick breather from playing DJ to grab a drink. He looked out over the hall to see her filling up a plastic cup with a soft drink from a dispenser near the corner of the room. He also watched as Shauna approached her, still holding Cammy, and the two of them walked back up to the stage.
“Hi, Dirk!” Shauna exclaimed excitedly. “How are you enjoying the dance?”
“Not bad,” he said, removing the headphones. “Dancing's not my thing, but the music's awesome.”
“Well, you helped pick it out,” Shauna said. “I only expect you're enjoying it!” Shauna definitely seemed to be full of more energy than normal tonight; she was really enjoying herself. That much was obvious.
“If you knew that, then why did you ask in the first place?” Dirk asked.
“I just want to make sure that everyone's having a good time,” Shauna said. “After everything we've been through, it's only right that we all enjoy ourselves.”
“I see where you're coming from,” Dirk said with a casual shrug. “But it's perfectly reasonable to not be enjoying yourself as much as possible when there's a maniac stuffed bear going around yelling 'kill kill kill!' literally every three seconds.”
“But the goal of this dance is to not let Monobear crush our spirits!” Shauna exclaimed. “Stop thinking like that, Dirk; it's not good.”
“Sorry,” Dirk said dryly. “I'll just try and pretend for a few seconds that we aren't in fact trapped within some school, completely cut off from civilisation, under the iron rule of a two-foot pile of stuffing that has issues with referring to us as anything but bastards.”
“Okay, you win,” Shauna said with a sigh. Cammy drooped as well. “Just don't try and dampen anyone else's mood, okay?”
“Whatever,” Dirk replied. He returned to the music station, and then cast a glance towards Ella. “Sorry; do you want to take over again?”
“No, you can handle it for a moment,” Ella replied, taking a sip from her drink. She screwed her face up. “Man, is this sour.”
“That's odd,” Shauna said. “Joel and Naomi told me it was fresh cola.”
“Well, something's up with the taste,” Ella said. She shoved the cup towards Shauna. “You try it.”
“No way!” Shauna suddenly cried out, hostile. “What if it's poisoned or something?!”
“Naomi? Joel? Poison?” Ella said with a laugh. “Those two are definitely not the types to actually try and poison us.”
“Well, you never know!” Shauna replied. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
“You're hopeless...” Ella said. “Here, Dirk: try this.” She handed the drink over to Dirk.
“Fine,” Dirk said, taking the drink. “But if I die from poisoning you can be sure I'll come to haunt you.”
“I'll take up necromancy, if it's any consolation,” Ella replied.
“You'd better,” Dirk said, before bringing the drink to his lips. The fluid passed through into his mouth, and he swallowed. “Eugh; it tastes like someone injected booze with sugar.”
“What?” Shauna exclaimed in shock. “Really?”
“Yep,” Dirk said coolly. “The drinks have been spiked.”
“But who'd have done this?” Ella asked.
“Yeah!” Shauna added. “Who'd want to ruin the dance like that?”
At that exact moment, the music cut out for a moment, plunging the hall into silence.
“What the hell?” Dirk asked, staring at the sound system in confusion. He glanced at Ella, who shrugged in response. But then the music started up again; only instead of the playlist put together, it was a strange techno rave sound with a deep, pounding bassline. It was loud enough to cause the entire hall to vibrate; it was as if the music itself was generating a mini-earthquake.
“What's going on?!” Shauna yelled, her voice barely audible over the deafening song.
“I have no idea!” Dirk replied equally as loudly.
“What?!” Shauna shouted back.
“Woohoo! This is my jam!”
The three of them stared in disbelief as Monobear suddenly sprang up onto the stage. He stared at the trio for just a moment, before spinning around, and then, most unbelievably, he began to twerk.
“Of course it was you,” Dirk groaned. “Haven't you screwed with us enough yet for us to warrant a night off?”
“Nope!” Monobear exclaimed, still twerking away. “Not until you bastards are standing over a body!”
“Oh my god can you just stop doing this,” Dirk said, burying his face in his hands and shaking his head. “I hate your guts like you wouldn't believe, and even I'm embarrassed for you.”
“What?” Monobear questioned. “Isn't this the current dance trend?”
“If your IQ is sitting in the single digits,” Ella snarked. “You look like a joke.”
“Humph!” Monobear scowled, standing upright again. “Can't I do anything right with you bastards?”
“Not until you open up the front doors and we get the hell out of here,” Dirk said.
“Not gonna happen!” Monobear said cheerfully. “If you want out that badly, then just kill someone! It's not too hard; sheesh!”
“Why are you even here?” Dirk asked. “This is hardly a despair-oriented event, so I don't get why you'd show up.”
“Upupu~” Monobear giggled. “Even us bears get disco fever sometimes!”
Shauna rolled her eyes. “Really?” she asked.
“Hey!” Monobear yelled. “You're one to talk, demon spawner!”
“Demon spa—” Shauna began. “Oh my god; you still can't believe Cammy's some evil being can you?”
“He is!” Monobear cried out. “He's using his powers of darkness to instil unholy thoughts into the pure innocent minds of the teenagers in this building!”
“This is just a joke,” Ella said. “But I do have a question, Monobear.”
“Eh?” Monobear replied.
“It's about the drinks,” Ella explained. “Did you have anything to do with them suddenly tasting like booze?”
“Well...” Monobear began. “I might have spiked all the drinks with Enhanced Talent Level Alcohol just a little.”
“You did what?!” Shauna yelled, suddenly furious. “Why would you do that?!”
“For fun!” Monobear replied. “It's just not a party without you bastards all getting drunk on spiked drinks!”
“You are the worst, you know that?” Shauna said, seething. “We're all here to have a good time, and honestly you're completely destroying the purpose of that!”
“Uwah!” Monobear exclaimed. “I came out to have a good time and I'm honestly feeling so attacked right now!”
“Could you at least put the music back?” Dirk asked. “I don't care if you get us all wasted; I just don't want to get hammered with this awful trash playing.”
“Fine,” Monobear said dryly. The music cut out and the original playlist resumed. “Happy?”
“Somewhat,” Dirk said. “Now can you leave us alone?”
“Whatever,” Monobear said off-handedly. “But I'll return in a little while; see you bastards around!” And with that, Monobear vanished again.
“This isn't good,” Shauna said. “We need to do something about the drinks; we can't have everyone getting drunk without their knowledge; it's just wrong!”
“Don't panic,” Dirk said. “I brought a whole bunch of water bottles with me in case the other refreshments were disgusting.”
“That's a relief,” Shauna said. “Where are they?”
“In a backpack behind the curtain,” Dirk said.
“How much?” she asked.
“About fifteen or so bottles,” Dirk said.
“That's hardly enough to get the others away from the drinks,” Ella said. “Whether you like it or not, Shauna, we're gonna have a bunch of drunk ETLs on our hands.”
“This is just great,” Shauna sulked. “Monobear has once again ruined everything!”
“Hey, you don't know that for sure,” Dirk said. “Maybe everyone here can actually handle their booze pretty well.”
“Let's hope so,” Shauna said.
“And honestly, I couldn't believe it! Her routine was so screwed over, yet she won first place like it was nothing!” Melissa sat next to Chelsea as the ETL Ballerina continued to rant about a rather unpleasant past experience.
“I'm sorry to hear that,” Melissa said, taking small sips of her iced tea. “But you have to keep in mind that you still ended up winning the title of ETL.”
“True,” Chelsea said loudly. “But these kinda things just stick with you, ya know?” Melissa paused for a moment as Chelsea's breath reached her nostrils: she smelled of alcohol.
“Um, Chelsea,” Melissa began. “What have you had to drink?”
“Just some diet cola,” Chelsea slurred. “Why?”
“Because you're behaving like you've been drinking heavily,” Melissa said.
“Huwha?” Chelsea exclaimed. “Damn it! Someone musta spiked the drinks!”
“It seems that way,” Melissa said.
“Who d'ya think done it?” Chelsea asked.
“I'd guess Monobear,” Melissa said. “That's probably why he hijacked the music a little while back.”
“Oh my god,” Chelsea said, staring off into the distance. “Oh man. That's pissing me off.”
“I know it's annoying,” Melissa said, “but isn't that being a little harsh? You'll be sober again by morning.”
“No no no,” Chelsea continued, oblivious to Melissa. “Who does she think she is?”
“I'm sorry?” Melissa asked.
“Naomi,” Chelsea spat.
“I don't follow,” Melissa said.
“Just look at her!” Chelsea shouted. She grabbed Melissa's head, and turned it to face the dance floor. Naomi was currently moving around on her skates, talking and laughing with Ben. “Flirting with Ben like that! It makes me sick!”
“How is that a problem?” Melissa asked, pulling out of Chelsea's grip.
“Because Ben's the biggest hottie here and I saw him first,” Chelsea said. “Like hell is she gonna have a chance with him; I've been by his side for practic... prato... praciti...”
“Practically?” Melissa offered.
“Yeah!” Chelsea shouted. “For practically two days I've been by his side! And she waltzes up with her skates and her rainbow hair and suddenly she's queen of the hot girls!” Chelsea leaped to her feet. “I'm not gonna stand for it.”
“Now, now,” Melissa said nervously. “Let's not do anything we'll end up regretting, huh?”
“The bitch is going down,” Chelsea said, storming away from Melissa, and heading towards the dance floor, swaying unhealthily as she did so.
“Chelsea! Wait!” Melissa cried out, hurrying after her. And as she followed, she knew that nothing good would come from this conflict.
“So then, I'm about to lose, right? But then through some hella stroke of luck, he just goes pchoo! Right into the wall!” Naomi exclaimed to Ben. “And then I managed to win!”
“That's certainly interesting,” Ben said sheepishly as Naomi circled him. “I wish that my artistic experiences were as exciting as yours.”
“Aw, come on!” Naomi said. “I'm sure they were just as awesome!”
“Not really...” Ben said.
“Pretty please?” Naomi asked. “Just a little teensy tiny story?” She suddenly slipped, and grabbed onto Ben to regain her balance. “Whoopsie!”
“Are you all right?” Ben asked. “You're a little... uncoordinated tonight.”
“Am I?” Naomi said, giggling. “How crazy is that?” Her face was a bright red, and she couldn't stop laughing. “You know, I do think that you're being way too serious for tonight.” Ben then caught the slurring of her words and knew.
“Have you been drinking, Naomi?”
“What?!” she exclaimed, letting go of him. “Why'd I be doing that? I've only been consummating cola!”
“Um...” Ben said, speechless at Naomi's unfortunate slip-up. But before either of them could continue talking, Chelsea stormed up to them.
“Hey, Naomi!” she yelled angrily. “What do you think you're doin' with my man?!”
“Huh?!” Naomi replied. “What are you talking about?!”
Chelsea moved up to Ben, and poked his chest. “I'm talking about this fine piece of man right here!” she exclaimed. “I called dibs!”
“You did not!” Naomi shrieked. “You can't do that to a person! And anyway Ben and I totes get on better than he does with you!”
“Take that back!” Chelsea roared, stepping towards Naomi.
“No!” Naomi said. “He likes me more, because at least I look like a girl and not like an undercooked dough-ball!”
“Yeah?” Chelsea replied. “Well at least I have an IQ above two and don't parade around like a ditzy airhead pop idol reject!”
“Um, girls,” Ben said nervously, looking at the escalating conflict. “Perhaps we should all calm down a little.”
“No way!” Naomi yelled. “Not when she ruined our good time!”
“I did not!” Chelsea responded viciously. “I saved Ben from having the worst evening of his life!”
“That's it!” Naomi cried out. “I've had enough!”
Without warning, Naomi rushed up to Chelsea, and slapped her face. Chelsea backed up, and glared at Naomi, sheer rage becoming her only expression.
“You bitch!” Chelsea screamed. She suddenly ran towards Naomi, and gripped onto the ETL Skater's hair, pulling on it with all her strength.
“Let go!” Naomi squealed, punching and kicking at Chelsea. She then managed to lift her arm up towards Chelsea's face, and punched her nose.
“Ah!” Chelsea cried out, backing away. She placed a hand to her nose, and looked down at it: it had started bleeding heavily. “I hate you!”
“That's what you get for trying to ruin my date!” Naomi yelled back.
“But I'm—” Ben tried to say, but was interrupted by Chelsea.
“That's it,” she said. “I'm taking you down.”
“Huh?” Naomi questioned, but she was then tackled by Chelsea. The two of them ended up flying across the hall, heading towards the buffet table on the far side. Joel saw the two of them careening in his direction, and desperately leaped out of the way, spilling his drink. They both slipped on the fluid, and crashed into the table, causing it to collapse. At the far end of the table, the chocolate fountain fell off, crashing down towards Carlos and Charlie. Charlie screamed as the fountain crashed into her, catching her shoulder and coating her outfit in melted chocolate. In the middle of the table, various beverages were crashing onto Naomi and Chelsea, creating a puddle of drinks and soggy food. For a few moments, neither girl moved, but Chelsea then stood up, and roared triumphantly, before moving towards Ben.
At the same time, Melissa rushed up to Ben's side, her eyes wide with concern. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“I'm fine,” Ben said. “I'm more worried about Naomi.”
“I'm so sorry,” Melissa said. “I tried to stop Chelsea, but someone spiked the drinks. She's wasted out of her mind.”
“I see,” Ben said. “I think Naomi's drunk too.”
“What?” Melissa asked. “This is getting out of hand; we need to let Shauna know.”
“We should,” Ben said. “But first let's make sure Naomi's okay.”
“Where are you going?!” Ben and Melissa looked to see Chelsea standing in front of them. She was soaked through with the refreshments, blood poured from her nose, and her make-up was running every which way. “I won, so I get to have you!” Chelsea exclaimed. She narrowed her eyes, and then looked at Melissa. “You're not gonna try and take him from me too, are you?”
“No,” Melissa said with wide eyes. “Why would I do that?”
“Good,” Chelsea said. She then grabbed Ben's hands. “So, let's dance for a bit. Maybe kiss and fall in love as well, hm?” She winked, and puckered her lips. Ben began to back away.
“I appreciate the offer and all, Chelsea,” he said apprehensively. “But I'm not really interested in you like that!”
“Youwhat?” Chelsea exclaimed. “So you do like Naomi more! How dare she take you from me!”
“No, it's not that either!” Ben shouted, suddenly tense.
“Are you okay?” Melissa asked.
“Fine,” Ben said.
“So then are you gonna tell me what's wrong with me that makes you not want to date me?” Chelsea asked, becoming hostile.
“Okay!” Ben snapped. “It's because you're a girl!”
“What?” Chelsea said, not processing it. Melissa, however, mouthed an 'oh' in realisation.
“I like boys, okay?” Ben said. “Nothing against you, Chelsea; you're a very pretty girl, but I'm just not attracted to you.”
“You're gay?” Chelsea finally said blankly. “You mean, I just got into a fight with someone over a boy who isn't even into girls?” She began to laugh. “Oh man, my life is just the greatest.”
“I'm sorry,” Ben said. “I was trying to tell you but you were so riled up that I couldn't get a word in.”
“Nah, it's fine,” Chelsea said. “No big deal. We're still cool though?”
“Definitely,” Ben said with a grin.
“Well, that's a relief,” Melissa said. “But Naomi still needs our help.”
“Oh my god!” Chelsea said, burying her face in her hands. “I am such an idiot! Why did I do that?!”
“It was the alcohol,” Ben said as they hurried over to the table. “Don't hold it against yourself.”
They reached the table to see Marian, John, and Andrew standing over Naomi. Joel and Mark were currently dragging Naomi out of the mess she had fallen into.
“Is she okay?” Chelsea asked, extremely concerned.
“She's knocked out, but she'll live,” Joel said as they set Naomi down on a row of chairs. “Man, what happened here?”
“The drinks were spiked, and we ended up fighting over Ben,” Chelsea explained, before letting out an anguished cry. “Oh man, she'll never forgive me!”
“I wouldn't worry about that,” Andrew said. “Naomi's a pretty bubbly person: she'll be cool in the morning.”
“Really?” Chelsea asked. “Oh my god, I was so stupid! Why did I do this?”
“Come on, Chelsea,” Mark said warmly. “It'll all be fine in the morning. All right?”
“Okay,” Chelsea said, wiping tears from her face. “But I don't want to face her alone.”
“That's fine,” Mark said. “We'll all be there tomorrow to keep the atmosphere bright and happy.”
“You'd better keep to your promise,” Chelsea said.
“That's all well and good,” Marian said, “but we need to look at the bigger picture here; who spiked the drinks?”
“Monobear.” The group turned to see Shauna walking over to them. “He decided that it'd make the dance more fun. But it's just ended up with Naomi getting knocked out and Charlie getting injured.”
“What?” John asked. “Charlie's hurt?”
“The chocolate fountain fell on her,” Shauna explained. “Her shoulder's bruised, but Carlos is looking after her.”
“This dance is becoming a disaster,” Andrew said. “All because of that damn bear.”
“Should we end it early then?” Melissa asked. “Because it'll only get worse.”
“I don't want to,” Shauna said. “But it's looking like it'll be our only option; someone will get really hurt if this continues.”
At the same time, Nina and Wyatt walked up to the group. “What's going on?” Nina asked.
“We're thinking of stopping the dance,” John said. “Two people have already been hurt.”
“Who?” Wyatt asked.
“Charlie and Naomi,” Marian said. “Monobear spiked the drinks and Chelsea and Naomi ended up getting into a fight that ended with Naomi unconscious in a pile of food and drink, and Charlie crushed by a chocolate fountain.”
“Oh my gosh,” Nina said. “Are they all right?”
“They're fine,” Shauna said. “Charlie's just a little shocked, and Naomi will come round.”
“That's a relief,” Wyatt said. “Perhaps we should stop it then.”
“It's the most sensible option,” Marian said. “If it doesn't stop, it could end up escalating to the point where someone could actually get killed.”
“I suppose we should put it to an end,” Shauna said, deflated. “I'll go tell Dirk and Ella to turn the music off and turn the lights on.” She walked away from the group, and up to the stage. After a few moments, the music cut out, and the lights turned on again.
“Man, that sucks,” Dirk said as he, Ella, and Shauna returned to the group. “Monobear's making it so we can't have anything decent.”
“Tell me about it,” Marian said dryly.
“So how are we gonna do this?” Dirk asked. “Are we gonna just get up and go to our dorms, or are we gonna clear up first?”
“What time is it?” Shauna asked.
“Just after midnight,” Wyatt said.
“It's far too late to clear up right now,” she said. “We'll just get some sleep and do it in the morning.”
“Sounds good,” Marian said. “But before we head out, it'd be best if we all go in groups.”
“Why?” Nina asked.
“In case someone tries to pull a fast one and commit a murder,” Marian said. “We don't know who's entirely sober here, so it'd just be dangerous to head out alone.”
“I'm in agreement,” John said. “Discovering a body would just make it all worse.”
“All right then,” Shauna said. “So let's go put ourselves into groups. How big should we go?”
“I'm thinking groups of four, to deter any potential double murders,” Marian said. “Melissa, Mark, Chelsea, and Ben can be one group.”
“That's fine,” Ben said.
“Wyatt, Nina, Carlos, and Charlie can be another,” Marian said.
“Got it,” Nina said. “I'll let those two know.”
“I'll be in a group with Ella, Shauna, and Joel,” Marian said. “So Dirk, Andrew, Naomi, and John will be the last group.”
“That's fine,” Andrew said. “But I have a question: what do we do about Naomi?” He motioned to her. “She's out cold.”
“That could be a problem,” Marian said.
“Couldn't we just move her?” Dirk asked.
“That'd be dangerous,” John said.
“Hey, I've got an idea,” Andrew said. “I'll stay here until Naomi wakes up and then we'll head back together.”
“I don't know about that,” Marian said. “You'll be alone in here and something could happen.”
“It's better than slowly moving through the hallways in the dark being a potential target,” Andrew said. “Plus, it's not as if anyone could sneak up on us in here.”
“That's true,” John said. “This place is pretty safe.”
“The only downside I see is that Monobear could spring up in here and cause you bother,” Shauna said. “But other than that, it's not that bad an idea.”
“All right then,” Marian said. “Andrew, you can stay with Naomi until she wakes up. Dirk and John, feel free to join another group whilst you head back to the dorms for the night.”
“Can do,” Dirk said. “I'll be walking with your group if that's okay.”
“Same here,” John said. “Our dorms are all closely grouped together so it won't be as if we're taking any more time.”
“That's fine with me,” Marian said.
“I don't have a problem with them joining us,” Ella said.
“The more the merrier, huh?” Joel said.
“In that case, it's settled,” Marian said. “Let's head back to our dorms for the evening; Andrew, are you sure you'll be all right here alone?”
“I'll be fine,” Andrew said. “Besides, who's actually going to try and kill someone?”
“That's true,” Shauna said.
“So, I'll see you guys in the morning,” Andrew said, grinning confidently.
“All right,” Marian said. “See you.”
The individual groups of students swiftly dispersed from the meeting hall, having had to bring the dance to an unfortunate early end. Most of them ended up making it back all right; the only exception was Marian's group: they had to take a detour to the IT room; Ella had left a USB drive in there.
Currently, the others were standing outside the room as Dirk and Ella searched the room for the USB drive. Marian looked over to John and Joel, who were lazily leaning against the wall. She then glanced over at Shauna, who was wearily standing with Cammy firmly in her arms.
“I don't understand why this couldn't wait until the morning,” Joel yawned. “It's nearly one in the morning; I'm not gonna wake up until next evening at this rate.”
“Don't complain,” Shauna said. “It's not as if it'll take that long; there are only a few computers in there.”
“I know,” he replied. “I'm just so tired, though.”
“Well, your wait's over,” John said, motioning to the door. Ella and Dirk walked out; Ella held the drive in her hands.
“Got it,” Ella said.
“Now we can finally head back to our dorms to sleep,” Dirk said. “You know, so we can see who wakes tomorrow with a hangover.”
“Dirk,” Shauna said. “That's hardly something to joke about.”
“Hey,” Dirk said with a shrug. “If you can't poke fun at a crappy situation, then what's the point?”
“He has a point,” Marian said. “If we don't try and make light of it, it'll just bring us down which is what Monobear wants.”
“Hey, speaking of which,” Ella said. “I haven't seen him since the dance.”
“That is somewhat odd,” John said. “Half-drunk students wandering the halls? You'd think it would be a perfect opportunity for him to harass us.”
“Well, maybe we should just be grateful that he isn't here,” Shauna said. “We might even make it to our dorms in peace.”
“Maybe,” Marian said. “In any case, let's go.”
The group of six moved through the hallway, and to the staircase at the end that led down to the dorm rooms. However, just as they began to descend, Shauna tripped. She gripped onto the banister, steadying herself, but in the process, Cammy flew out of her hands, crashing down to the bottom of the stairs in a heap.
“Cammy!” Shauna cried out, rushing down the stairs.
“Wait up!” Joel called after her as the group followed Shauna down to the bottom off the stairs. Shauna was stood there, staring in disbelief at Cammy; in the fall, one of his arms had broken off.
“No...” she said softly, cradling the toy in her arms.
“I'm so sorry,” Marian said.
“This is bad,” Shauna said. “I need to go fix him immediately.”
“What?” Joel exclaimed. “Shauna, it's one thirty and dark: can't you wait until morning?”
“No!” Shauna shouted. “What if Monobear decides to shut off the wood workshop tomorrow? Then I won't be able to fix him!” She gave them all one last look. “This can't wait!”
“Shauna!” Marian yelled as Shauna took off down the hallway, heading for the workshop.
“This isn't good,” John said. “We need to bring her back before she hurts herself.”
“I'll do it,” Ella said.
“Really?” Dirk asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “I know that area probably better than anyone else; I'll get her back before she puts herself in any more danger.”
“Would you do that for us?” Marian asked.
“She's my friend too,” Ella said. “I couldn't live with myself if she got hurt.”
“Thank you,” Marian said. “Be careful.”
“I will,” Ella said. “I'll meet up with you all again in the morning.”
“All right,” Dirk said. “Just don't die.”
“Trust me,” Ella said wryly. “I won't.”
Ella then took off down the hallway after Shauna, leaving the rest of the group in the dorm hallways.
“Do we wait for them?” Joel asked.
“I wouldn't do that,” Dirk said. “Ella's competent, plus we'll just end up being exhausted by the morning.”
“True,” John said. “In that case let's call it a night.”
“Yeah,” Marian said. “See you all in the morning.” And with that, the remainder of the group also dispersed, each retiring for the evening. They were all asleep within fifteen minutes.
Back in the meeting hall, Andrew sat at the one surviving buffet table, nibbling at a chocolate pastry to keep himself going. Naomi was still out cold on the far side of the room: he had used a table cloth as a blanket for her. At least she seemed comfortable.
He wished that she would wake up soon, though: he was beginning to feel quite drowsy, even with all this sugar going through his system. But he just couldn't fall asleep: that would be putting both of them at risk. But from what? Nobody was going to kill anyone, and even if someone had planned it, they were probably too drunk and too tired to go through with it.
The lights hummed softly, being the only sound Andrew heard. It was somewhat unnerving, but also kind of soothing. If anything, it reminded him of staying overnight in a hospital: the strange noises there were also similar to this. The only difference was that in this building, Andrew felt more alone and isolated than in a hospital: there were only fifteen other human beings in here. Hopefully they would get out soon enough.
Andrew went to take another bite of the pastry when the lights suddenly went out, plunging him into pitch-blackness.
“H-huh?” he called out, his voice echoing around. “Someone there? Naomi, is that you?” No response. Then Andrew heard the doors to the hall creak open. “Hello?” He was beginning to feel terrified. He strained to listen for a moment, hearing the sound of footsteps: someone was definitely walking around in here.
A terrible thought occurred: what if this was someone attempting to kill? No; it couldn't be. “Who is it?” Andrew cried out, feeling his pulse increase. Without meaning to, he leaped to his feet, the sound of the chair scuffling against the floor sounding out. He was now feeling terrified: something was definitely wrong. It was still too dark to see, but Andrew glanced nervously in the direction of Naomi. Was she okay?
Suddenly there was a sound behind him. Andrew swung around, and was about to speak, when suddenly, there was an intense burning pain in his chest.
He tried to cry out, but found himself in too much pain to. Andrew then felt himself going weak: without warning he fell backwards, slamming into the table, and then sliding onto the floor. He couldn't see what was going on, but could now feel the blood oozing from his body.
Andrew was beginning to go faint, but before everything faded away, he still managed to hear one last thing: the sound of footsteps hurrying away, and a voice.
He was dead less than a minute later.