The entranceway of the main lodge had an expansive glass ceiling and west wall, leaving the majority of the arriving guests mesmerized by the grand view of the evening sun just beginning to set.
I, on the other hand, was too busy looking at my key card and itinerary, wondering how I’d gotten the short end of the stick when the room assignments were given out.
“Is there any way we can swap rooms?” I asked Yurika hopefully, thinking I’d possibly sway her but the look she gave me was confirmation of the contrary, so it would seem, once again, fate see fit that I be stuck with Grayson Matthews.
“Don’t worry Cyd, I’m not a bad bunk mate, give me half the chance and I guarantee you the night of your life.”
“No thank you, I’ll pass.. let’s just find out who we’re sharing our suite with.”
We traveled through the expansive lodging grounds, finding a medium sized two story dwelling near the edge of the property. On the way, we passed Pastel, Shaw, and Yurika going into a dwelling of their own, as did Karishma, Zachari, and the secretary, Ms Saundra Dee.
Jynx and his four companions had the largest private lodge on the estate, with a balcony that overlook the tree line of the Royale Isle natural reserve, the views were as beautiful as one would expect for the price tag. Everyone seem happy with their accommodations, everyone except for me, I guess with so many things going right something had to go wrong, still, I was absolutely livid. Of all the people I could be trapped with, Grayson included, why did it have to be this bastard?
Famous and the bane of my existence, Cedric, are setting up shop in the left room of the suite when we arrived, I walk straight into the other room, slamming the door in Grayson’s face, ignoring the fact we were supposed to be sharing. Walking over to the bed, throwing myself face first into the pillows, I let loose the scream I was holding in, and if I had held it any longer it would probably turned into a tumor.
After a minute or so, I sat up and smoothed out my clothes before walking over to the door, I open to find an ivory toothed grin belonging to the notorious Grayson Matthews. He walked in carrying his bags, then stepped out again to get mine, receiving a grumble of a ‘thank you’ for the effort.
“You shouldn’t let him get to you.”
“What are you talking about?”
“When Cedric and I first started fuckin, I used to hate hooking up during the week because while I wanted to fuck and fall out, he would want to lay up under me and complain all damn night about you.. How you were so perfect, how you were so smart and success seemed effortless for you, how it’s been that way since childhood. And even when he used to gloat, that at the very least, he was better looking than you and would probably always be.. it was all still from a place of insecurity, the proof was the time I found him crying after a shower as he look in the mirror, it was the day you were put in charge of Project Sirius.”
“Wait.. are you being serious? You have to be joking, and it’s not funny.”
“I’m serious, you get to him without even trying, he’s so jealous.. possibly even obsessed.”
“He was supposed be my best friend, but if I think about it, he never was.”
“These hoes ain’t loyal bruh.” He replied, moving in close next to me on the bed, rubbing my arm like he felt sorry(-ish) for me.
“Well, it’s almost time for the event we’ve all been waiting for, I refuse to let Cedric or anyone ruin our fun.” I got up from the bed, brushing his hand off as I grabbed my toiletries and garment bag, turning to him, for once he was looking at his phone and not gawking at my ass. “You mind if I wash up first?”
“Not at all, I’d prefer it.”
I entered the bathroom to find a luxurious marble countertop sink, that had an expansive mirror, and warm bright lighting above. There was a jacuzzi tub and a waterfall shower, both facing a tinted open view window, making the bathroom one of the best spaces in the house.
After my shower and other grooming necessities, I looked over my outfit for the Opening Ball, wondering if it was too much or not enough. You had to bring your A game to this event, people took it so seriously, every Ball so far had a theme voted on by the employees. Last year’s theme was nineties era cartoon characters, I went as a male version of Carmen Sandiego, this year the voters chose the Seven Deadly Sins.
You had to arrive in a costume that embodies an individual sin that you are guilty of, when we first heard the instructions I nearly vomit, but in the end I figured I’d choose what seem to be the most harmless.
Once fully dressed, I look at myself wrapped in gold, my blazer had a faux shimmering snake skin lapel with shoes and tie to match, the skinny modern three piece suit I wore was an expensive avant garde piece I had custom made by this struggling designer I knew. Walking out of the bedroom I expected Grayson’s jaw to drop, which it did, but ironically so did mine.
“Why the hell are you naked?!”
“What you mean? You said it was time for what we been waiting for..” He replied, sounding genuinely perplexed as he held a sizable semi hard dick in his hands, I just closed my eyes and shook my head as I gather my things.
“Where you going?!” He called out behind me, about to get off the bed to chase me but I put my hand up, stopping him.
“Put some godforsaken clothes on, the ball is in two and half hours, don’t be late.”
I was nervous..
But then again, I was always nervous in the presence of Mr Ellison, there was just something otherworldly about him, and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.
Was he Lex Luthor or Batman?
A Koch brother or Elam Musk?
Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?
Caligula or Caesar?
The fact that I couldn’t tell if I was working for a ‘Hero’ or a Villain was unsettling to me, the man was a complete enigma, and I fear the answer to my uncertainties.
My heart beat steadily faster as I knock upon the door of his suite, a tall roguish blonde man with tattoos answer the door wearing only these basketball shorts that clung low on his hips, leaving little to the imagination and barely hanging on. He caught me looking at the length that snaked halfway down to his knees, so in return, he gave me a head to toe appraisal and smirked in approval as he let me enter the room.
Once inside, I was momentarily taken aback at how much more upscale Mr Ellison’s accommodations were, this most definitely was not your traditional log cabin. From the state of the art entertainment system and chandelier ceiling, to the chrome deluxe kitchen and breakfast nook.
“I was nearly as impressed as you look right now, when I first walked in, you did good Cydnee..” Mr Ellison said as he walked in dressed in an eccentric, but comfortable looking, white robe that had a dramatic train, he was followed by three more scantily dressed impossibly beautiful men, plus the woman I knew to be Ms Saundra Dee, and my direct work superior, Yurika Ymoja.
“Good evening, Mr Ellison.”
“You can call me Jynx in present company, hearing Mr Ellison reminds me of my repugnant father.” He reply, looking like he wanted to spit at the thought of his sire, after he was over it he started to get into my outfit. “Well just look at you.. I approve of your choice of sin for the Ball, fitting you would pick the worst of them all, there may be hope for you yet.”
“I picked Pride because it didn’t seem so bad.”
“You poor child, so capable, but still so much to learn.. Pride is what cause the Devil to be cast down to Earth from Heaven’s grace, Proverbs warns that Pride goes before destruction, you’ll find that Pride is ultimately the root of sin.”
“Could you get any more dramatic? You’re scaring him.” Yurika commented not looking up from her tablet, but clearly aware of the effect his haunting explanation had on me, the others in the room lightly laughed as Jynx just smirked mischievously.
“It’s okay, Cydnee is tougher than we think, I’m willing to wager my money on it.” He replied, signaling to one of his companions to bring him a decorative box that was on the coffee table, I looked on curiously as he motioned for us all to sit. “This is a gift from a friend when he was in Amsterdam, I saved it especially for this trip.”
He lifted up the lid, inside was a chocolate stained glass spun and crafted into the silhouette of a voluptuous woman, it took a moment but as soon as the smell of the weed hit me, I recognized her to be a pipe. The potent smoke that quickly fill the room was so pungent I immediately started to cough violently, which brought about another round of laughter.
“I guess I’ll go put some cookies in the oven, you know how you get..” Saundra Dee sighed, as she head towards the kitchen.
“No, please stay, I want you to try some again, you were hilarious last time and we had the best time..” Jynx whined childishly, but she sucked her teeth and waved him off.
“No way in hell you’re gonna get me to fall for that again, that was one of the most entertaining nights of my life, but I was a vegan for three years until you made me puff that reefer. Boy, you had me eat SWINE of all things.. lord.. Mr Ellison, thank you for the invitation but I respectfully decline.” She stated, shaking her head mouthing, what look to be a small prayer, she turned around without another word, leaving Jynx sulking.
“That was gonna be the highlight of my damn night.. ugh!” He said, before packing another another bowl, he looked directly at me with a straight face. “Cydnee and Yuri, you are officially nominated to take her place as tonight’s entertainment.”
“And if I refuse?” Yurika asked, still zeroed in on the work she was doing on her tablet.
“I’ll make Cydnee smoke twice as much, maybe even the whole ounce of this Wicked Widow.”
She finally looked up from her screen, first turning to look at him to gage his seriousness, second, she analyzed the zip lock bag he held in his hands, then lastly to me, surely wondering if a square like me had even smoked before.
“Please, I’ve only done this a few times..” I admitted, feeling appropriately nervous, knowing full well I’d spaz out if he followed through on his threat.
“You owe me.” She reply, giving me the sternest side eye I’d ever received, before gazing back to her work.
“That settles it Bella’s and Fella’s, tonight is officially LIT!” Jynx cried out, handing me the freshly packed bowl, I sighed looking to Yurika hoping for a sign the night wouldn’t be a complete train wreck, but her eyes were still glued to that damn tablet.
“I guess here’s to the night of our lives.” I said sullenly, as I reluctantly sparked and inhaled.
The music was turned up, the resort staff had set up strobe lights and a fog machine, accenting the grand entryway of the main lodge so it had become the Elysium of Windigo. I made sure the alcohol was free flowing, and I paid top dollar for a highly demanded outrageously priced DJ, one that only RSVP’d when I revealed Jynx Ellison would be there.
All in all, I think I pretty much covered my goal of impressing Jynx, and somehow I manage to be the life of the party without making a complete fool of myself. I was so totally unlike myself, and it was absolutely amazing.
I was witty, charismatic with timely sarcasm, everyone loved my outfit, and I felt on top of the world. I’d even gotten Yurika to loosen up, and surprisingly, the girl could dance like nobody’s business, it didn’t matter what song played.
I saw my peers looking on at me with a mixture of faces, ranging from jealousy to major concern, the one common factor was none of them could recognize me. Pastel, Karishma, and Cedric kept looking over, whispering amongst each other, no doubt gossiping something fierce. On the other side, Famous, Grayson, and Zachari seem to be having about as much fun as we were, but I’d occasionally see Aemous’s eyes straying over to me. Grayson was giving ‘fuck me’ eyes, and Zachari seem clueless, though having a good time.
I tried to find Shaw, but he was nowhere to be found, which was weird but oddly characteristic of him. The partying might be too much, especially for someone who didn’t partake in drink, everyone around him has been white girl wasted since before take off first thing this morning. It was easy to forget this was his first retreat, and the normal tempo of the Annual Work Retreats was overwhelming to most people, debauchery was just part of the package.
“Excuse me, excuse me, everyone. May I have your attention please?”
Somehow, somewhere, Jynx was able to find a microphone to the PA system, I’d have to tip the lodge staff graciously, cause they were expedient and resourceful, I hadn’t even notice him walk off.
“I said can I have your fucking attention please?! Shit, what the fuck, is this thing even on?” He hollered out, seeing some people were still in party mode, despite the music stopping and the CEO of the company taking the mic. “Thank you, thank you much, I’m glad to see you all enjoying yourselves, but I’s Talkin’ now and I’m thinkin I gots something to say.”
Everyone laughed at Mr Ellison’s signature newly acquired accent and crass language, it was a infamous sign our Boss was completely trashed. He’d sporadically do strange comedic voices and say odd phrases that made absolutely no sense, but somehow we all knew what he was saying.
“You all know there was a rumor going around, where someone may have unintentionally, but entirely on purpose, leak a tidbit of confidential information, about the new position opening up at the executive level. I stand here before you to say, that I’ve finally reached a decision.. and it’s somebody’s Lucky motherfuckin’ day!”
There was a sudden murmuring of whispers amongst the attendees, by now we had all heard of the big rumor around the many water coolers in Arkham, everyone had been on their ‘A’ game for weeks. Yurika and I locked eyes, and the dark beauty gave me the slightest hint of an encouraging smile, she was still so certain I had this in the bag.
“I have been debating this for a couple weeks now, and honestly, I’ve probably changed my mind a billion times. I feel so proud to have such a highly skilled, productive, and focused workforce, you all are the backbone of our family here at Arkham. Choosing among you wasn’t the easiest task, the potential of each and every one of you made it so. Please, give yourselves some love!”
He started clapping first, and soon more people began to join in, it built into a riotous round of applause and cheering from everyone.
“So today, I’d like to take one of you, and change that person’s life. THIS is the opportunity you all dream of, and today, I’m in the business of making someone’s dream come true. So let’s give a hearty congratulations to.. Zachari Grannison!”
There were several gasps, a plethora of bewildered faces, and more than a few people asked the person next to them “Who the hell is that?!”. As for myself, I might have been a little more disappointed if I wasn’t so genuinely perplexed, and surprisingly elated, that a honest to goodness underdog had succeeded.
Zachari getting the promotion, was akin the quirky high school nerd surprisingly winning prom king, chances were slim to none, yet here we were, and I couldn’t help but root for him.
“Oh wow, I.. uh, don’t really know what to say, thank you so much everyone.. I, um..”
“Give us a speech!” Someone yelled out, it sounded like it came from the back of the crowd, Zachari quickly broke out into a sweat.
“What’s wrong with him?!”
“Is he a mute?!”
People were drunk, and laying into him pretty hard, no one was thinking about political correctness, especially since we were on Retreat. I’m sure many of our peers knew of Zachari, as he had a bit of a weird presence around the company but only a handful were aware of his social Asperger’s, and all they knew was that he was the resident genius and somehow integral to operations. I was glad when Jynx grabbed the microphone, because Zach was about to crack under the pressure, even his glasses had started to fog up.
“Settle down, just settle the fuck down! How can you blame him for being a little bit speechless, this is the opportunity of a lifetime, and I just made this man a really really rich fuckin bitch.”
I don’t know how or when, but Jynx seemed to be more intoxicated than he was only moments before, commanding attention in the way only he could. Zachari seem to be doing just slightly better, now that he wasn’t the main focus of a hundred people, though if I wasn’t watching him to see if he was okay, I would have missed him reach for a glass of champagne and spill half of it across the front of his pants.
“Oh, my God!!” Pastel screamed out, childishly pointing toward the stage. “Did he just piss his pants?!”
“Holy shit..” Jynx mumbled, as he turned around and looked behind him, to see what was causing all the gasps and laughter, I grabbed the mic to explain but Zachari had already run from the room.
“That was his drink that spilled.. you guys didn’t have to act like a group of toddlers, watch the enemies you make cause the guy you all sent running out of here in tears is your new boss!”
“Our new Boss just pissed himself!”
It was another random jackass from the crowd, inciting another riotous fit of laughter from our peers, tears were flowing, though not a single droplet was in sympathy for poor Zachari Grannison.
I stood at the edge of the wood, finally finding a moment’s peace alone, exhausted beyond belief but still too wired to sleep. My only company was a glass of some insanely expensive chardonnay, I probably couldn’t pronounce correctly if I tried, and a joint I had snatched from Jynx’s room while we were partying.
It was late…
Late into the morning of a brand new day, much too early to watch the sun as it rises, but here I was, looking into the trees watching nocturnal nature at work. So tempted to step into the thicket and dance free into the morning night, but to afraid to escape the chains of responsibility, the cage of societal duty.
As I sat there wondering what would I look like running through the woods in a several hundred dollar suit ensemble, I caught sight of something that gave me an idea of how crazy and suspicious I would look.
He was dressed in all white, pristine.. aside for the bloodied white gloves, and the splatters of red all over his face. If I hadn’t been standing here, in this very moment, there would be no one here to witness. Almost too swiftly, he moved toward the rear of his cabin, not making a sound, giving away nothing to bring notice to his presence.
Where had he come from?
Why was he covered in blood?
Where had he been all night?
But most importantly.. What in God’s name has Shaw McCreed been up to?