Scary Short Story Contest – “Player Four” by Dan Diehn

five black & white die on a dark surface

“Roll 5d6 for Yahtzee!” (image via Flickr user Dennis Wilkinson)

The following story won 3rd place in our Scary Short Story Contest.

“Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” the three boys intoned within the darkness, the flicker of a solitary candle flame casting dancing shadows upon the walls. They peered into the bathroom mirror, awaiting glowing eyes and outstretched arms, but none came. She had never appeared to them before, no, but there was always a chance, a dark figure out of the corner of your eyes to creep down your spine. It felt weird after the funeral.

Sammy blew out the candle and let out a massive sigh.

“I’ll change first,” he said as he flipped on the light switch and urged Lucas and Fermin out into the basement living room. And then, one by one, they all changed out of their heavy suits, their choking ties, and exited the bathroom looking less like little adults and more like the children they were a few days ago, before they were confronted by the emptiness of death.

They stood awkwardly in the living room, their eyes cast downward, feet shifting on toes. The air was still and silent, teetering on the edge of breaking.

Fermin waltzed over to the game cabinet and plucked a worn box off of the top shelf. “Yahtzee?” he asked, his voice quavering with hesitation.

The other two nodded, their eyes brightening for a brief moment. They hadn’t been able to finish their game. They didn’t even know she was home when they heard her scream.

They sat in a circle around a coffee table and slowly emptied the contents of the box.

”Whose turn is it?” Lucas asked, rifling through old scoring sheets, quickly stashing ones where her name was scrawled at the top, hoping that Sammy didn’t see them, unsure if he would care.

“I have no idea,” Sammy started. “Let’s just start over.”

“You’re only saying that because you were losing!” Fermin exclaimed. The stillness broke and they burst out laughing, their giggles rising to meet the air and the wood-paneled walls before settling into a more serene calm.

“Okay, okay,” Sammy said, “let’s just start over. Roll to see who goes first.”

They each grabbed a die and tossed it onto the table surface. Fermin rolled a three; Lucas, a four; and Sammy, a six.

“I guess Sammy goes first,” Fermin teased.

Sammy laughed and scooped up all five dice into the big plastic cup. He shook it over his head and then, gesticulating wildly, unloaded the cup, watching the dice bounce and dance across the surface. One, two, three, four, five! The dice whirled to a stop, a large straight, in order from left to right in a near perfect straight line.

“Whoa,” Lucas whispered. “That was cool, but I bet I can do better.” He grabbed the cup from Sammy, tossed the dice into the cup, and rolled. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. “Huh,” he sighed, “I guess I’ll take a two on my ones?”

“Okay, okay, I’ve got this,” Fermin reassured the table while he animatedly shook and rolled the dice, but after three rolls he was left with nothing but two twos to add to his score sheet. “All right, big shot,” he called out to Sammy, “let’s see what you’ve got.”

Sammy dropped the dice in the cup one at a time, shook, and then rolled. One by one they spun and twirled and right before settling, toppled over into a perfect Yahtzee of sixes.

“Oh my god!” Fermin yelled and jumped to his feet. “In one shot?” Lucas’ jaw was agape, eyes wide and staring at the dice and then at Sammy, who was laughing and smiling. “No way, man,” Fermin called out. “Do it again.”

Without hesitation Sammy shook the dice and rolled again. One by one the dice lined up, coming to a quick and sudden halt into another Yahtzee of sixes.

“Again! Again!” the boys shrieked. “Do it again!”

Sammy’s face beamed wide as he shook and rolled another time. Six, six, six, six, six.

Lucas and Sammy jumped up to their feet as well, squealing at the impossibility.

The door at the top of the stairs swung open. “Sammy!” his father shouted down, “Sammy, boys, are you okay?” He stomped down toward them. His eyes were red and heavy, his voice scratchy.

“Oh, sorry Dad,” Sammy replied between breaths. “We were just playing Yahtzee and I keep rolling Yahtzees and it’s crazy and awesome. We didn’t mean to be loud.”

His Dad’s voice was distant, “Oh, Yahtzee,” he smiled only briefly, “your mother loves…” something welled in his throat, “…your mother loved Yahtzee.”

The room went quiet, the stillness reclaiming its grasp on the room.

“Oh, I’m sorry boys,” Sammy’s father said quietly. “You three have fun. It’s what she would have wanted.”

He sauntered up the stairs while the boys shuffled back to the game, plopping down on the carpet.

“Your turn,” Sammy mumbled, handing the cup and dice over to Lucas. Lucas picked up the dice and cup gingerly, shook, and then rolled. They dice landed firmly: four, four, four, four, four. But before Lucas could let out a yelp, all three boys watched wide-eyed as one by one each die slowly flipped over until there was nothing but two threes for Lucas to take on his score sheet.

Dan Diehn lives in St. Paul, MN with his wife and two cats. He likes taking long walks on the beach, drinking mojitos, and having fun. Select short stories and his serial novellas, Hashtag Barry: The Ugliest Kid Who Ever Lived and The Door, can be read at Culture CurrencyHis writing has also appeared in SickLitMagazine. Follow him on Twitter.

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