Donna and I had barely started dating. She played in the orchestra for a musical, so I went almost every night. One night after the musical finished, she invited me backstage. As we were mingling with other cast and orchestra members, one of them made an announcement.
“Hey, everyone, how would you all like to join us for a game of Murder in the Dark?”
“What’s Murder in the Dark?” I asked Donna.
“Oh, it’s a fun game,” she answered. “I’m sure you’d love it. Come join us.”
We went over to the black box theater. It was a room about twice the size of a normal classroom with bleachers on one side, and the rest was open floor space for the actors. Everyone took a seat on the bleachers while the actor who invited us gave the rules.
“Okay, for those who haven’t played murder in the dark before, the rules are easy.” He held up a bowl. “Papers are put into the bowl, one for each person. One paper will have a black dot. The person who gets it is the murderer. We then shut out the lights, and the murder wanders around the room. If he grabs someone, they are dead and have to sit on the bleachers. When the first person dies, he or she calls out one. As each successive person dies, they call out the next number. When half of the people are dead, the game ends. Anyone who doesn’t die is a survivor and scores a point.”
“There’s one other thing,” a girl added. “The murderer has to hold onto you for three seconds. If you can get away within three seconds, you’re not dead.”
There were twenty-two people in the room. The papers were put into the bowl, and we each drew one. Then the lights were turned out. In the dark, every once in a while I would hear a scuffle, then a number would be called out. Once eleven was called, the lights came on.
I looked around the room. Donna was sitting on the bleachers. She had lost in that round. I hadn’t felt the murderer touch me at all. I had bumped into a few people, but each of them darted away from me as fast as I had from them.
Everyone drew a paper for round two. The lights went out, a few scuffles occurred, and a few numbers were called. Suddenly, I felt someone grab my shirt. I was on the varsity wrestling team, and we practiced hand control at nauseam. Without even thinking, my reflexes kicked in. I grabbed the person’s wrist and threw him across the room. I wasn’t dead, but someone was groaning.
The person said, “I’m the murderer, and I think I was just killed. Turn on the lights.”
The lights came on, and there on the floor about twenty feet from me was one of the actors. I thought I surely couldn’t have tossed him that far, but I realized that adrenaline can do crazy things.
“So what happened?” somebody asked.
“I don’t know,” the murderer replied, as he slowly pulled himself to his feet. “All I know is I grabbed somebody, and in the next instant I was flying across the room.”
“Was it under three seconds?” a girl asked in a snickering tone.
“It was so fast it must have been a half a second,” he replied.
Everyone wanted to know who had gotten away. I was embarrassed and wanted to remain anonymous, but my shirt hung open, all of the buttons ripped off, so I raised my hand.
One girl looked at where I stood compared to where the murderer was and gasped. “You threw him that far?”
I just shrugged. “Natural reflexes, I guess.” They continued to stare at me, so I said, “How about I sit out this round and say I died?”
“You’re okay with dying?” the girl asked.
“Sure,” I replied. Then I called out, “Seven,” as the lights went out, and I made my way to the bleachers.
I truly didn’t mind. Donna was already out, so the bleachers were where I wanted to be anyway.