Chapter 1

“Ladies and gentlemen,” A man’s crystal-clear voice announced over the crowd. “May I please have your attention?”

The crowd simmered down and gathered in front of the stage. While listening, their eyes wandered cautiously around, taking in every single detail that was presented in front of them. Knowing the enemy was the best tactic in winning the game. They needed every second they had to study everyone present.

“The letter you received a month back explains the game in general,” The same man continued. “I am going to use the next hour or so to go into details.”

They had received a letter in the mail about a month ago, stating that:

Dear [Name]:
You are one of the lucky guests who had been selected to participate in this fun game. You can take a friend or two with you. The more the merrier.

The rest of the contents covered the rules and what was to be expected.

“Today’s reception is not only a welcoming party, but it is also for everyone to pick their partners for the first part of the game,” The same spokesperson explained. “If you brought a friend, you two can choose to be partners or pick another guest you meet today. After you are done with that, you will be given an envelope per group. The game starts next week. This week is provided to you for preparation purposes. Any questions?”

“Is this like Liar Game?” Someone within the crowd asked.

A set of murmurs traveled through the crowd. Some sniggers were also heard. The rest just remained silent, waiting for the answer.

Laughter was heard from the spokesperson. “No, sir. This is just a fun game our company has organized to promote our product. It is also used to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It is no way harmful to anyone participating.”

“What’s the prize?” Someone else in the crowd asked.

“The prize will be announced when the winner is known.”

“How many rounds will there be?” The same person asked.

“Three total.”

The series of questions continued until the spokesperson exhausted all his answers. Then they were free to roam around and mingle with their new friends. Or more like their competitors. Within the crowd, there were two pairs of friends walking and talking among themselves. They were one of the few groups who did not have to pick a partner. One group contained two guys and the other girls. They were scattered among the crowd but making their way toward one another without knowing.

“What do you think we have to do?” One guy asked the other.

“Relax, Jensen,” His friend said casually. He was munching on an apple. “It’ll be a piece of cake.”

“Then why do we need time for preparation?” Jensen asked.

His friend shrugged. “Maybe they’re just trying to scare us. We’ll get the envelope in a bit.”

While the two guys were exchanging those words, the girls had been doing the same.

“This is exciting!” The girl in white said, her hands clapping together and her smile ever so cheerful.

“Calm down,” Her friend said, her voice passive but her eyes were darting among the crowd. It was like she was trying to find a familiar face. Yet the semi-intense look told a different story.

“You see any cute guys around?”

“I’m trying to study our enemies here, Kimmy. We need to know who’s the strongest and who’s the weakest.”

Kimmy’s eyes were darting around as well but she had on the confused look. “What enemy? I thought we’re here to participate in a fun game.”

“What’s the point of creating a game when the result isn’t about winning?”

“I just know that it’s a great chance to meet cute guys!” Kimmy’s expression was turning into overly-excited again. Like she was being possessed by some virus. Or was she bitten by a love bug?

Her friend could not take it anymore. She turned around, her arms on her hips, ready to scold some sense into Kimmy.

Just then, some voices were coming closer to them.

“You just wait and see how I’m going to win the game for you,” The guy munching the apple declared.

He had of course removed the apple from his mouth while he was saying those words–and turning to face his friend temporarily. But he had returned to his munching task.

“Vic, watch out!” Jensen called out.

Too late…

Jensen covered his mouth, not knowing what to do. The sight in front of him was not of anything strange but more of an awkward situation. Vic was on the ground. No, on top of a girl, his apple still in his mouth but the apple was also in someone else’s mouth. The other girl’s.

“Cyndi!” Kimmy yelled out, rushing over to them.

Jensen took that time to unfreeze himself from his spot also, attempting to help Vic up.

“Get off of me, you pervert!” Cyndi blurted out after her mouth was free of the apple. She had to push Vic aside before removing the apple from her mouth. She looked at the apple in disgust and tossed it to the ground like it was carrying some unknown virus.

Vic had straightened up with the help of Jensen and was turning to face Cyndi. “Hey! That was my apple! I didn’t finish it yet!”

“You can get it then, no one has claimed it yet,” Cyndi returned, taking a step toward him.

Vic pointed at her face. “Hey, you expect me to pick it up from the ground?” Then he seemed to remember something. “Besides, your saliva is already on it, why would I want it anymore?” He knew he was contradicting himself but he had to say something. Staying silent was accepting defeat. “I demand you compensate me with another apple.”

“Huh!” Cyndi shot back. Her tone was too hostile to not notice. She even took it into her hands to wipe at her mouth briefly–as if still trying to get rid of possible germ transfer from the contact earlier. “There are lots of those here, you can just go to the table and get another one!” She had her hands on her hip again. “Besides, I should be the one asking for compensation.”

“You just don’t know anything!” Vic’s voice was rising to another level. “That was the apple I brought from home. It’s my lucky apple. You just have to ruin it. You’re jinxing me so you could win this game, right?”

“Hey!” She was pointing back at him. She was fuming but her eyes were changing its course. “Do you think a silly apple would help you win?” Her smile was mocking.

Vic’s expression had softened into an amused one. “I like to see you win some game like this. Maybe you should just pack your bags and go home.” If anyone had mistaken his smile for a hint of peace, they were so wrong.

“Maybe you should pack your bags!” Her expression was mocking.

“Want to bet who wins?” Vic challenged.

“Like I’m scared of you!”

“Whoever loses will have to admit defeat but also be the other person’s slave for a year.”

Jensen poked Vic from behind at that time. “But you’re not going to be around after the game ends.”

Vic elbowed Jensen into silence and turned to Cyndi again. “Well?”

“Deal!” Cyndi called out, not wanting to back down at all.

They shook hands at last. Not to call truce but to seal the deal like any challengers out there.

And that was how it began. Their declaration of war. Their determination to win. Not because of the prize offered at the end of the game but a chance to prove a point.

© Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Posted: Tuesday, December 28th, 2010