This was written as a Halloween assignment for my theatre class. Just so you know.
Jon looked around the room. He was in the back room of his father's house. He and his eighteen best friends. Obviously, the number fluctuated over the past years, but it always found it's way back to eighteen.
Eighteen friends for eighteen years.
"Happy birthday, kid." His father had told him, patting him on the shoulder earlier that day. But he wasn't there now. They were in the back room of his father's house, he and eighteen other young men. He turned to the left.
Joey, his little brother, was standing beside him. Joey was seventeen. He hadn't come of age yet. He might never. His brother smiled at him. Jon smiled back. He felt a heavy, gently scarred hand find a place to rest on his shoulder. He turned to see Sam.
Sam was twenty years old. Sam was a man. Sam knew what was going to happen. Through his equally scarred face, a mangled face, a face that used to be handsome, you could still see Sam from when Jon and he had met at first, introduced by their fathers. He used to have wavy blonde hair. Now he had it cropped short, but on his off days you could still see some gold stubble atop his head. He was bulkily muscled now, a white t-shirt, black pants. But back when he was ten and Jon was eight, Sam was tall and thin and had shiny blue eyes.
You could still see his bright eyes, now crinkled up. He was only twenty, but he was already more worn that a lot of other adults he'd seen.
Jon still looked similar. Big brown eyes and shaggy black hair. Classically handsome, but not too outstanding. Joey looked like Jon from when Jon was maybe thirteen. Joey was so young for his age.
Paul, one of the nineteen young men in that room, coughed from the back. Jon and eighteen of his friends meant nineteen. Paul was nineteen. He'd known Paul since he was young, too. He'd known all of these boys. Their fathers, who almost all had two sons, introduced them. There had only ever once been a woman at one of these parties: Sam's little sister.
"Ready?" Paul called, impatiently worried. Sam nodded; Joey smiled.
Jon cleared his throat once, and then again.
"So... The rules?" Jon asked. Sam, the oldest of them all, stepped closer, and gestured to the eighteen handguns lined out on the steel table, like soldiers at ready.
"We each brought a gun tonight. Eighteen guns for eighteen years. Seventeen of them are blanks. One is loaded. We had Joey load one of them, then leave. Then I came into the room and I shuffled them. I didn't know which was loaded. I slid them on the table. They all look the same, obviously. So I don't know which is the gun, Joey doesn't know which is the gun, and you don't know which is the gun. None of us do. So here's what you need to do,"
He said, resting one hand on the table, but keeping one on Jon's shoulder. He wished someone would have done that for him on his eighteenth birthday. He took a breath.
"One by one, you will take each gun and fire it at your head. If it's a blank, you move on. If it's not... You don't, obviously. Only one gun is loaded. You have to choose which one you think it is. When it comes to that gun - if you make it to that gun - You hold it to Joey's head. You fire. If you were right, if that one was the loaded gun... Happy birthday. We'll go have cake. I mean... Except for Joey. But if you were wrong, if the gun you fire at him turns out to be a blank, then Joey fires the rest of them at your head, one by one, until we get to the loaded one. And you're done, kid."
Joey and Jon both shuddered, almost in unison. Steven walked up from the back. He was the only other one there who had turned eighteen, and made it past his birthday. Sam, Paul, and Steven. And maybe Jon. Most of the other boys were sixteen or seventeen. There was Jon, Joey, Sam, Paul, Steven, Matthew, Michael, Lucas Junior, Daniel, Brandon, Carter, Bill, Ishmael, Aaron, Charlie the third, Josh, Bryant, Chris, James, and Peter. Peter, - Petey, as they'd call him - was the youngest, sitting in the back on his brother Ishmael's shoulders. He was only nine. When Ishmael would turn eighteen in two years, Peter would have to go. He'll only be eleven.
"So you won't know. It's a descision you have to make all on your own." Steven said. Jon nodded, but his eyes were still closed.
"You can go when you want." Said Sam. "Whenever you're ready."
Jon nodded again.
One of these guns would kill someone tonight. He would either kill his little brother or be killed by his little brother.
Oh God, Joey's so young.
Sam didn't have a brother, so his little sister had to stand in. Little Sarah. Sam was still here. Sarah wasn't. Oh God, she was only thirteen.
God, oh God, Joey's too young...
Jon picked up the first gun of the line. Then the second. then the third. Without realizing, he was firing.
Jon remembered when they were in Little League. Neither of them were very good, but they were on the same team. Jon would pitch and Joey would catch. Joey always looked so dwarfed by all of the gear he had to wear. Jon couldn't even throw a straight line. How old were they? Eight? Nine?
Jon wanted to be a musician. When he was twelve he wanted to be a rockstar. He started playing guitar about then, and he wasn't any good. Joey still told him that Jon was the best thing he'd ever heard.
He had gotten better at guitar since then. He always kind of wanted to be some sort of artist, with some sort of outlet. He usually knew what he was doing , or at least he thought he did.
Joey still had a lot to learn. He was really good at math, though, really good at science. Got good grades in school. he didn't play sports either.
They were realistic kids, smart kids, but not a lot of kids have to make descisions like this, he hadn't been faced with something like this before, ever,
Oh God, Joey was too young...
He held the seventh gun. The seventh gun in the row of eighteen. It was heavier. It was heavier than the rest of them. it was older and it was heavier and it was loaded.
Oh God, it was loaded.
There was no way to get around this. This was a choice to make all by himself. He either shoots his brother or shoots himself. Happy birthday. Goodnight.
Seventeen is too young to die.
Eighteen is too young to die.
He's going to become a man or die a man.
Oh God, Joey's just too young...
Jon didn't look up from the gun in his hand. This was what the party was about. Their fathers had done this. They would all have to do this eventually.
Is eighteen too young to die?
The gun was loaded. It was going to kill someone. Someone would have to die. Jon didn't seem to notice or remember the others watching. Maybe he paused, maybe it was only a second that felt like eighteen long years; as though he were re-living everything he'd ever done.
Is seventeen too young to die?
He held the loaded gun in his hand, and noticed for the first time that Sam's scarred hand wasn't resting on his shoulder. He looked at the gun, and stole a short glance at Joey. Joey, his little brother. Joey that he was required to kill. Seventeen-year-old Joey.
They were so young.
He swallowed. Little Sarah's face flashed in his head. He was at Sam's party when it happened. Sarah smiled. Sarah was all right with it. She knew it was necessary. Joey knew it was necessarry, too. Sam still has nightmares, but that's something Jon could probably get by, eventually. Joey knew the risks, and he took them on acceptingly. He knew that Joey wouldn't hold it against him if he did what he had to do.
Jon took one last look at the seventh loaded gun and raised it to his own head.