“That buzzing is back. God damn, it’s driving me insane.” Kyle said rubbing his ears. “It comes and goes and there’s a sharp pain at first, but I really wish it would stop.
“Think it’s tinnitus?” Matthew asked. “My uncle had that shit for almost two years before the doctor fixed it.
Kyle’s friend Matthew, whom he only met a few weeks earlier, had become his closest friend and self-appointed wingman. Two weeks ago, a trip to the corner dive bar ended with Kyle meeting up with a girl named Priscilla and a new found affinity for a club that she described as, “enlightening.” She even invited him to visit the club.
He joined with the hopes of taking their relationship further. It’s been an uphill climb ever since.
“I dunno man, but I’ll blow my brains out if it lasts for that long!”
“Dude, you’d better get that checked. You’ve been bitching about that for a couple of weeks now and with the clubs party coming up, you’re going to need to be on your A-game if you want to get Priscilla in your bunk.”
Kyle knew that she had been giving him the cold shoulder since arriving at the strangely named Eighth Gate. Surrounded by Jesus-freaks, he wanted to show on the surface his inner love of Heaven, but he secretly trolled for the women here.
He was a scumbag and he knew it. He believed in the Lord, but something hinted to him that the Eight Gate weirdos went above and beyond to show their love. Whatever happened to being a good person? Or hell, didn’t God forgive those who repented? He found himself asking. Yet, he dared not ask his bunk-mates. He was thankful to have Matthew with him. A man like him kept him on his toes and his eye of the prize.
Getting her away from this circus wasn’t going to be easy. The self-proclaimed “leader”, Jacob Cross, which he doubted was his real name, took an affinity to the pretty girls in the group. Actually, now that he thought about it, all of the girls were attractive.
Clever bastard thought Kyle. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet he learned that Jacob Cross was really a former Circuit City store manager named Jason Ross. Not much of a stretch, but it didn’t matter. He built himself a kingdom from the ashes of his life. Kyle only wanted to take a smidgen of that with Priscilla, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Tonight’s the big party with the rest of the group. That’s where you can make your move on Priscilla. Get in and get here out of there. We’ll sneak out the back. You’ll find your love and we’ll be back on the easy streak. We good?”
Kyle and Matthew entered the common area later that evening. The lights were dimly light and the smell of pizza filled his nostrils. Reminded him of every school party he had ever attended save for the matching jumpsuits.
“Least they could have done is let people dress down a bit. Open up our imaginations just a little.” Matthew said as he scarfed down a slice of pizza.
Then across the floor, he saw Priscilla holding a glass of punch and laughing with one of the other girls. Now was the time to make his move. Rolling his shoulders and riding high on his private pep talk, he approached Priscilla confidence bustling.
“Hi Priscilla, funny seeing you here.” Kyle joked.
She turned and nodded. That was her response to both his presence and the ill-fated attempt at humor. Yet, he persisted.
“Listen, do you have a second to chat?” Kyle asked nodding to Matthew for him to do his part. He swept in and with deadly precision, managed to pull away Priscilla’s friends using just a touch of charm and the promise of engaging conversation.
“Kyle, I want to be upfront with you about everything. You and Matthew aren’t exactly bonding with the rest of the group. Part of what I do for the Eighth Gate is I recruit members for the awakening ceremony. I thought you would be a good fit, but you’re frankly not welcoming Father Jacob’s message.”
Kyle paused for a moment then pressed the attack. The buzzing crept into his mind again. He tried to shake it away but stomached the annoyance as he continued to make his case.
“Jacob Cross isn’t even his real name. Look, this is a cult. I joined with the hopes of getting to know you better. You are blinded by the cult and if you would just see that we could be happy together, I know that to be the truth.”
Priscilla gave a patronizing smile and hugged Kyle.
“Maybe you should talk to Father Jacob. He helped guide me to the light when I was lost in darkness.”
With that Priscilla was gone.
The next morning Kyle decided to pay Father Jacob a visit. Maybe there was something he could glean by speaking with the mastermind of this cult. He had an aura about him that captivated Priscilla and dragged her away from reality.
Kyle knocked on the office door and waited for Jacob Cross to answer. Cross was a man in his forties that looked like he came straight out of a Just For Men’s Touch of Gray commercial. Just the perfect amount of dignified salt mixed in with the pepper.
“Kyle? I’m surprised to see you. Priscilla mentioned you might be swinging by the office, but I doubted you’d come around. I think it’s become apparent you don’t exactly fit in around here.”
Kyle was silently flattered that Priscilla had brought him up in conversation.
“Well, first I do want to say I’m trying and I want to thank you for allowing me to take my online courses for school. Hell, even my old employer didn’t want me taking classes because he thought it would distract me from my job.”
“Far be it from me Kyle to deny the world another for-profit online school’s communication’s degree. In any case, I wanted to say I believe I found a solution to your melancholy approach to our mission here.”
Are you going convince Priscilla to leave this place and date me? Kyle asked himself.
“I have authorized the one-time inclusion of alcohol into our common area for you, Matthew and the others. I have long sworn off it necessity in finding pleasure, but I understand it can be difficult to let go. Trying the band-aid approach clearly has been met with failure so weaning ourselves off this vice is perhaps the better method.”
Kyle narrowed his gaze.
“Are you accusing me of being an….alcoholic?”
Jacob raised his hand to protest.
“Of course not, just that you are human. As are most of the followers. Listen, just be at the common room this evening around 7 ready to enjoy yourself, understood?”
Kyle nodded. “Thank you. I will see what I can do about it.”
A few hours passed and Kyle sought out Matthew at his bunk, but his room was empty. The bed sheets folded and his foot looker stowed away. As he looked into each room he soon realized that each bunk was neatly tucked away he decided to make his way to the common area.
The common area greeted him from down the hall with the thump thump of stereo bass. It wasn’t his favorite song, but the compound had been devoid of music since he had arrived. He wasn’t about to complain.
Inside the familiar of faces of the people, he had never grown to like save for Priscilla and of course Matthew. Each wore a smile. Toothy grins did little to mask the utter disingenuous nature of their glee upon seeing his arrival. For a moment, Kyle debating about turning heel and going for the nearest exit until Priscilla rushed towards him, red solo cup in hand.
“Glad you could join us!” She bubbled.
Kyle smiled, stupefied by his feelings for her until the image of a passed out Matthew caught his eye.
“What happened to Matthew?” Kyle asked pointing to his slumped over friend on the couch closest to the keg.
Priscilla’s grin bent slightly before turning into a flirtatious smile.
“I wouldn’t have pegged him as a lightweight.” She shrugged. “I have faith that’ll you last a bit longer.”
Kyle winked and tipped the glass to his lips. The hop driven taste of beer rolled over his tongue followed by the familiar bitter after taste of an IPA. But there was something else. He couldn’t point his finger on it.
Suddenly, the room began to spin and his eyes blinked uncontrollably. He realized too late that he had been drugged.
The buzzing started again.
Kyle awoke and struggled to move. His eyes felt heavy, but his mind was clear. Extreme exhaustion tried to set in as he mustered what remained of his energy to stay awake.
“What the hell is going on here? Why am I chained to this bed?” Kyle asked exasperatedly.
Priscilla and Jacob appeared in his view.
“Kyle, today is the day of the Awakening and you are the guest of honor. Eighth Gate is a place for lost souls and between you and Matthew, we don’t have anyone among our ranks as lost as you.” Jacob said with a grin.
Kyle looked to his right and saw Matthew and a pool of blood on the floor, his body slumped over.
“What did you do to Matthew?!” Kyle screamed as adrenaline shot him from his stupor.
“He was the first to be awakened and you shall be next.” Priscilla said pull a power drill into view. “Hold him!”
Kyle struggled against the restraints crying out in anger. The sound of the drill getting closer. The grinding heat of the bit as it approached his head.
“Don’t do this! Don’t do this!” Kyle begged as he contained to pull at his restraints.
“We’ll see you on the other side,” Priscilla whispered into his ear as the world faded to black amidst a deafening buzz.