A revolver drops from one hand onto a small, circular table, the clap of its weight echoing in the darkness beyond, the clatter of five bullets following suit from five other hands. The sole table lamp hanging from above reveals six men in funeral suits as they each pull up a seat, their features obscured in the shadows and cigar smoke choking the pale light.
“Ignorance is bliss, eh gentlemen?” the sharpest of the men, Johnny, says as he reaches for the revolver and one of the unassuming bullets. He slides the single bullet into a chamber, spins the cylinder and snaps it into place. Johnny draws the revolver to his temple and, without a second thought, pulls the trigger.
Johnny hands the revolver, handle-first, to the guy on his left -- Lenny, the luckiest of the men.
“Your go,” Johnny says to Lenny.
Lenny grasps the handle with a shaking hand, and then begins to bring the gun to his own temple.
“No, stop!” says Franky, the largest of the men. “You have to spin the block first, you blockhead! Don’t you know anything?”
“Oh, right,” Lenny mutters. “Sorry.” He steadies his hands long enough to spin the cylinder block once more before raising the barrel to his temple. Lenny squeezes his eyes shut. Seconds start to pile up.
“Go already!” snaps Bobby, the quickest of the men.
Lenny slumps his head on the table, and the tallest of the men, Donny, peels the revolver from Lenny’s hand.
“The kid doesn’t belong here,” croaks Perry, the oldest of the men, pointing at Lenny. Donny spins the cylinder of the revolver, drawing the gun to his head.
“He’s old enough,” Johnny says, “and he can leave anytime he wants.”
“You know that’s not entirely true,” says Franky as he takes the revolver handed to him by Donny.
“You know what I mean,” Johnny growls. “Let’s not get into semantics, please.”
“It ain’t semantics,” Franky says as he spins the cylinder, his attention on Johnny. “It’s the whole reason we’re all here.” He raises the revolver to his head. “I’m just saying that we don’t want to--”
“--lose sight of the stakes here,” Franky continues as he slaps the revolver into Perry’s hand. “That’s all.”
“How could we lose sight of our own lives?” Lenny asks in a quiet, monotone voice.
“Shaddup!” Franky yells. “I’m talkin’ about how we even have stakes at all!”
Perry clicks the cylinder in place after spinning it and waves the barrel towards Lenny as if it were his finger.
“Our lives just make the stakes fun, kid.” Perry goes on as he turns the barrel towards himself. “Our lives don’t matter; the stakes themselves do.”
Bobby snatches the revolver from Perry’s hands and already starts spinning the cylinder.
“I don’t know about the rest of you gentlemen,” Johnny says, “but--”
Bobby slides the gun on the table into Johnny’s hand.
“--thanks--but I didn’t join this game to be reminded of what’s outside our little circle.” Johnny rolls the cylinder, closes it in place, and pulls the barrel up to his head. “And if it’s all the same, I’d rather not know any of your--”
Lenny jumps in his seat, while everyone else barely bats an eye at the now very-dead Johnny. The revolver falls to the floor.
“Will someone please get rid of the dead guy so we can get back to things already?”
Donny rises from his chair and moves around Lenny and to the late Johnny. He bends down, scoops the revolver from the floor, and drops it with a thud in front of Lenny before dragging Johnny’s corpse into the darkness. Lenny simply stares at the revolver on the table as a heavy minute shuffles by.
Donny returns to his seat.
“Any day now,” Bobby says. “Before someone figures to stop us.”
Lenny takes a deep breath, picks up a bullet, closes his eyes, slowly goes through the motions, and aims the revolver between his eyes.
Exhaling on the verge of a sob, Lenny tosses the gun on the table. Donny pulls the gun towards himself and turns the cylinder once more.
“Does your lucky streak last this long with the ladies?” asks Franky with a smirk. All the men guffaw except for Lenny, who groans.
“Hold on!” says Bobby. “This all is too predictable for my liking. The whole going-around-in-a-circle deal, I mean. Give it to me, Donny.”
Donny flashes a wicked smile. He points the barrel at Bobby.
Bobby’s body slumps onto the floor. The other men, save Lenny, applaud for Donny. Donny tips his hat towards the others before reaching for another bullet to begin the process anew. Franky stands up to move Bobby’s corpse away.
“Can’t say I didn’t see it coming, but he was asking for it,” Perry says.
“You didn’t—“ Franky starts to say before Perry cuts him off.
“Of course not! Knowing the outcome of our little game would ruin the only pleasure I have these days. I was actually hoping it’d be a dud just so I could see the stupid look on his face.”
“Wait for me, will ya?” Franky says as he drags the body into the darkness. Silence.
“So,” Lenny says to Perry.
Perry hums in inquiry.
“Do you remember what life was like before?”
“Before the moment when everyone could know their fate, and everything else in the universe, with precise certainty? Before the questions of science and faith were answered beyond a doubt?”
“Frightening. Exciting. A lot more gambling, and a lot less peace. Now let me ask you something, kid: why are you here?”
Lenny pauses in surprise.
“Life has no meaning if we can’t make our own choices. You said yourself that this game gives us the one sole thrill we don’t otherwise have.”
“You don’t belong here – and no, I don’t mean you’re not old enough. I mean that you’re better than us. No matter what life has dealt you, you have the strength to accept your fate, or the character to fight against it, regardless of the futility. That’s always a choice you have, whether you know your fate or not, and damn the gods who say otherwise!”
Lenny stares into the space that only exist in his thoughts. Franky returns to take his seat.
“Alright, let’s get this game going!” Franky says. Donny draws the gun to his head.
Donny passes the revolver to Franky. Lenny stands up to leave.
“You goin’ already?” Franky says to Lenny. “Don’t lose sight of the stakes, chump! It’s not like you ever made a real choice coming here or leaving, you know. None of us did.” Franky spins the cylinder block and snaps it into place. “We might as well be dead!”
“Damn it!” Franky screams, hurling the revolver onto the table. Lenny picks up one of the bullets on the table and walks into the darkness. Perry grasps the revolver and thumbs the cylinder block.
“So who wants to bet on how all this will end?” Perry asks. “I’m putting down two on the tall one left at the end.”