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Spooky Short Story // Cliffhanger Party

Updated: May 8, 2023


Cliffhanger Party

By Victoria Scarce


I kicked off my shoes at the door of my friend Laci’s apartment as I walked in.


“Welcome to my fancy ‘dinner party’ birthday celebration, Marley!” she yelled as she skipped towards me from across the room.


“Hey, Lace,” I said, meeting her halfway. I hugged her and handed her the bottle of wine I picked up on my way over. 


Laci leaned in to whisper in my ear, “Everybody thinks that this is some stuffy shindig, but I have plans for all the college games tonight!” she beamed at me and wiggled her fingers conspiratorially.


“No, Laci. Seriously?” I groaned. “Like what?”


“Well, not all of them. But most definitely Truth or Dare. I need fun! I can’t be fancy all the time!” Laci had been my best friend since we were assigned as roommates in college. She had been the golden child until I dragged her to her first college party. And then, she was hooked. For life, apparently.


We drank, mingled, and ate her catered dinner. She went all out for her twenty-fifth birthday. There were a lot of people there that I had never met, so I stayed close to the corners. I met Laci’s friends from work, and a few people that frequented the bar that Laci and I also went to on the regular. 


I was moseying around, pretending to be fascinated by the things on Laci’s book shelves that I’d seen a million times before, when a voice over my shoulder startled me. 


“Are you as ready to get out of here as I am?” an attractive guy about our age smirked at me. I rolled my eyes as if I had been caught.


“Is it that obvious? I love Laci, and I love celebrating her birthday, but I seem to have outgrown parties.”


“Me too. I hate them. I always have terrible luck,” He glanced down at his shoes.


I stuck my hand out and said, “Marley Graves. How do you know Lace?”


He took my hand and shook–firm grip–responding, “Tate McAllister, Laci’s cousin.”


“I’ve heard of you! You’re the cousin that never attended any family gatherings growing up, aren’t you?”


“That would be me,” he smiled at me sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his neck.


“Well, it’s nice to finally meet you,” I responded.


Laci, from the opposite end of the apartment, could be heard yelling, “OKAY, guys! It’s time for Truth or Dare!”


“Is she serious,” Tate looked at me in utter confusion.


Ten minutes later, with refilled drinks in hand, all fifteen people in attendance were draped across living room furniture–some of us on the floor–to play Truth or Dare for my best friend’s birthday.


A few guests took their turns and asked arbitrary questions, or gave generic dares like “chug your drink until it’s empty.” Then it was Laci’s turn.


“Tate!” she sing-songed. Tate and I had taken seats next to each other on the floor, in silent camaraderie about both wanting to leave.


“Yes, Laci Gwynn?” he responded with her middle name, and I couldn’t tell if it sounded like annoyance or a warning.


“Truth or Dare?”


“Truth,” he rolled his eyes. Annoyance then.


“No, that sounds boring. I think we’ll do dare,” Laci bull-dozed.


“I don’t think you’re allowed to do that, Laci,” I interjected.


“Nonsense! It’s my birthday, and this is my one birthday wish. So, Tate, I dare you to kiss Marley,” Laci replied.


My jaw hit the floor. “Laci, you can’t just dare somebody to kiss me, this isn’t college. I don’t know if I feel comfort–,” I was in the middle of my rant when a hand gripped the back of my neck and pulled me forward. Tate’s mouth connected with mine, and I don’t know if it was the shock, the nerves, the attraction, or all three; all kinds of fireworks went off in my brain. 


I hadn’t dated anyone in a while, and I’m pretty sure that was why Laci did what she did. I was trying to stay mad at her for calling me out like that in front of a crowd of people. But the longer Tate kissed me, the more Laci and everyone else became background noise.


I wasn’t about to end the kiss, but finally Tate leaned back with a smirk on his face that could melt an iceberg. And I was the puddle. 


“My turn,” Tate said. “Marley. Truth or dare?”


My brain was mush, and I only heard the last word out of his mouth. “Um…,” I spaced.


He looked at me with the most deadly serious expression I’d ever seen, and I swore I almost heard him whisper, “Pick dare,” in my ear. 


“Dare,” the word left my mouth, and I sounded like a zombie.


Tate looked at Laci, then looked back at me, and said, “I dare you to go home.”


“What?” Laci and I both said at the same time. 


“I dare you to go home.”


“Like, go home and stay there?” I asked. 


“Yes,” he replied.


“Well, it is Truth or Dare, and you have been dared. So what’re you gonna do Marley?” Laci asked me.


“I guess I’m going to go home?” I tried to sound disappointed, but honestly I was kind of relieved. I was ready to go home, soak in a relaxing bath, and unwind after a long work day.

But after that kiss from Tate, I was somewhat disappointed, because I had planned on making myself stick to him like glue for the rest of the party. I got up and kissed Laci on the cheek, wishing her a happy birthday. Then I grabbed my keys from the side table in the hallway, slipped my shoes back on my feet, and walked out of her apartment. I grabbed a cab home, and ended my night ideally–with a bath, and my comfy pajamas.


///


I woke up the next morning with a pounding head, and a buzzing phone. No, it literally wouldn’t stop buzzing. I got up to grab some Ibuprofen and a bottle of water, and then laid back down on my bed, chugging until I could feel a hint of hydration. 


Again, my phone began ringing. Buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, it bounced on my nightstand. 


After the third time a call came through, I finally picked it up and read the notifications. Thirty-six missed calls, twenty-three text messages, and 5 voicemails. I checked the text messages first. They were all from Laci’s phone.


Laci: Marley, are you home? 8:52pm


Laci: Marls, did u make it home okay? 9:00pm


Laci: Marley, please call me back. I’m worried. 10:01pm


Laci: MARLEY BETH LANCASTER ANSWER THE PHONE. 11:32pm


Laci: Marley, this is Tate from Laci’s phone. Please call me back. I need to talk to you. 11:35pm


In the middle of reading all of these messages, I heard a knock at the door of my loft. Weird, I thought to myself as I got up to answer it. I looked through the peephole to see Laci’s cousin, Tate. I unhinged the chain lock, unlocked the bolt, and as soon as I turned the knob, Tate bursted through the door, knocking me back a couple of steps.


“Marley, I need your help,” he said breathlessly.


“Wh-what?” I stuttered. 


He grabbed my shoulders and said, “Everybody from the party last night is dead.”


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