089:336 Prey

Thirty years ago this month, I was an unpaid, untrained assassin on a mission to eliminate selected residents of my college dorm.

The results were what you might have expected.

This is my story.

The Social Chair of our dorm (stately Allison Hall) thought it would be a cracker-jack of a spring activity to organize a game of “Assassin”.

People who signed up and paid a modest entry fee were given a dart gun, some rubber darts, and the rules.

The object of the game is to be the last person left “alive”. At the start of the contest, you were given the name of another player who was your target. Your target had no idea you were after her or him. Likewise, you had no idea who was stalking you. While you knew of other people who were playing the game, you were forbidden to kill any other assassin except for your designated target. The only other exception (the “self-defense” rule) was if you killed the assassin who was stalking you during their attempt to kill you.

There were other rules which pertained to the areas that were off-limits for an assassination attempt (i.e., bathroom, your own dorm room, lecture halls) and the times when killings were allowed (7am – 10pm).

As I recall, on a May day in 1987, the game was afoot with about forty players.

My first target was an acquaintance of a friend.

I did not know my initial victim personally, but I queried our mutual friend to develop a pattern of behavior. It really didn’t take all that long to draw out from my friend that my quarry had an 8am class the next day. Since I knew what floor she lived on and on what wing of our dorm she resided in, I knew what staircase she would have to take to leave our building. Sure, she could have taken a more circuitous route (i.e., go up one floor, walk to the other wing of our dorm, use a different staircase), but she didn’t.

The next day, I woke up early and used my own circuitous route to position myself for my first kill. Since I don’t want to give away any of the secrets of my craft (and since I can’t truly recall how it all transpired), I will spare you the gory, grisly (and, quite frankly, boring) details of how I dispatched my first victim with a silent, stealthy, and lightning strike that ended with a dart in her back.

As per the rules of the game, her intended target was now my prey. However, I was in a quandary because I did not recognize the name and the first name was gender-ambiguous (i.e., Pat). None of my college friends knew this person so I was flying (stalking?) blind.

For the next two days, I managed to avoid my own death, but I also managed to avoid running across my target because I still had no clue as to who he or she was.

On my final day as a dart-wielding assassin, I was in the lobby of my dorm walking back after the dinner to the safety of my room. I was with a few friends who were teasing me about not being able to find – much less identify – my target.

As we arrived at a door that led to a stairway, I said, “For all I know my prey could be right behind this door.”

With a dramatic flourish and with a hearty yell, I briskly opened the door towards me and flamboyantly pointed my toy weapon at the empty space beyond the now open portal.

Except the space was not empty.

My sudden action and loud yell startled the woman on the other side of the door. She was so startled that the gun in her hand went off and her dart smacked me square in the chest.

I looked down on my “wound” and then to my assailant. I informed her that unless I was her target, she was out of the game. She confirmed for me that I was not her prey, but when she told me her name, I discovered to my dismay that she was my target.

According to the “self-defense” rule of the game, because I had pointed my pistol at her – despite not even knowing she was there – it was considered an attempt on her life and she was within her rights to shoot, and eliminate, me.

She had my friends as witnesses and so ended my brief ignoble career as an assassin.

That’s my story.

P.S. If you want to hear the tale of when I shot a real gun…well, that’s a story for another day.

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