content warning: graphic violence
2/14/22 11:59 pm
“The rules of the game are simple. Live through the night, and next year you’ll be playing Cupid.”
2/13/22 2 pm
Eliot nursed his whiskey in an attempt to numb the pain of his broken heart. The old woman next to him droned on about her third divorce. He tried not to look too closely at her snarled teeth. The quaint town he had chosen for him and his wife’s Valentine’s weekend no longer appealed to him. Not since he’d walked in on her, with her legs wrapped around his best friend’s hips. But, the room was non-refundable, so here he was. The gold of his wedding band repulsed him now. Under the bar’s dim lights, the color closely resembled the yellowing of the teeth of the woman next to him. He finished the last of his whiskey with a gulp, nodding absently as the woman eyed him for a response before continuing to drone on.
The dive bar was the only spot in town that had not been assaulted by Valentine’s decorations. It was perfect. However, the stench of urine was off-putting. Whether the smell was from the old man sleeping two stools down from him or ingrained into the walls of the bar itself, he couldn’t be sure. Besides him and the divorcee, the occupants were sparse. A man playing pool wiped tears away before missing the ball entirely. The bartender had disappeared to the back room and had yet to return. Eliot looked solemnly at his empty glass.
“Tough night?” The sound of a chipper voice startled him out of his trance. In his effort to tune out the woman, he had missed the screech of the stool next to him. He rolled his eyes before shifting his slumped shoulders to face the newcomer. Why couldn’t people leave him to drown in his sorrows?
He eyed the man warily, giving him a curt nod. This man did not belong here. He looked as though he had just stepped out of a business monthly magazine. His light brown eyes shone brightly, and his pin-stripe suit did not have a single wrinkle. Eliot resisted the urge to tug at the string of his gray hoodie. The man slapped him heartily on the back, making Eliot grimace. He left his hand on his shoulder.
“Valentine’s day is always such a trying time.” He nodded in agreement with himself, placing a sympathetic hand over his heart. Eliot wished he would remove his hand from his shoulder. Eliot nodded placatingly, attempting to tune this man out as he had the old woman. He eyed the door the bartender had slipped through longingly. He must have missed the next thing the man had said because suddenly, the hand on his shoulder gripped him sharply. His eyes snapped to the man, but the grip had loosened as quickly as it had tightened. The man’s small smile no longer reached his eyes.
“I have a proposition for you.” His grin resembled that of a shark, almost as though he had an extra row of teeth. Eliot had the distinct feeling he was the bait.
2/14/22 5 pm
Eliot glanced between the large estate before him and the business card he clutched in his hands. The man from the bar, Thomas, holds a Valentine’s Singles Soiree every year and seeks out slovenly depressed singles from dive bars to fill out the guest list. Those weren’t his exact words, but Eliot got the gist. Eliot fiddled with the cuffs of his finest suit. He wished he had packed the cuff links his wife had bought for him last Valentine’s Day. He made his way to the front door.
“Phone, please.” The doorman holds out a bowl to Eliot. He supposed it would make sense for a singles party to have a no phones policy. He gingerly placed his phone on top of the rest. "Will this be your first visit to the estate?” The doorman asks. Eliot stares at him blankly before dipping his chin. “Enjoy.” The man hands him a headband with bunny ears on it. Eliot turns it over in his hands. Odd. He slips it onto his head.
“Must not be a very successful singles party if there’s a lot of returnees, eh?” The man behind him laughs jovially, nudging Eliot with his elbow. Eliot kept his features calm as he took in the sight of the man. He wore nothing but a blindingly white diaper, partially obscured by his overhanging stomach. He stuck a meaty hand towards Eliot. Dirt and grime visible beneath his yellowing nails made Eliot’s stomach flip. Eliot hesitantly placed his hand in his, attempting to retract it quickly. The man took a firm grip, eyes bright with excitement. Eliot sucked in a breath as a broken blister from the man’s palm oozed onto his. “I’m just playing! Who am I to talk anyhow? I’m one of the poor bastards who returns year after year. A pleasure to meet you, Eliot, the name’s Eric.” He winked, withdrew his hand, and returned his attention to the doorman.
Eric dropped his phone into the pocket on the doorman’s suit. The doorman thrusts a headband with a halo into his outstretched, grabby hands. “Always a pleasure, George!” He bellows, jostling Eliot through the entryway.
2/14/22 7 pm
Never one for mingling in large crowds, Eliot stood in the corner of the ballroom clutching an empty champagne glass. The room was filled with elegant dresses and well-tailored suits mingling through the room, each with a halo or bunny ears on.
Conversations slowly died to an excited whisper as Thomas stepped onto a stage that stood in the center of the room. He lifted his champagne flute into the air. “Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! To those of you joining us for the first time, all my lovely little bunnies, welcome. Thank you for braving the world on the hardest day of the year for those of us who the god of love has not treated kindly.” Scattered applause filled the air. “To my cupids, tonight, we are the gods of love. May your arrow’s aim be ever true.” He sips from his drink to the sound of rapturous applause.
2/14/22 11 pm
Eliot paced the foyer. The valet to whom he had given his keys was nowhere to be found. No one seemed to be leaving. The doorman with his phone was also absent from the entrance. Eliot didn’t consider himself the most rambunctious party-goer, so being first to leave did not particularly mind him. He liked to be in bed by midnight at the latest.
“Leaving so soon?” A woman with long blonde hair was leaning against the entryway to the ballroom, an amused twinkle in her eye. She stalked towards him with a flash of teeth that Eliot wasn’t sure to classify as a smile or a sort of snarl. “The night is young,” she looped her arm through his, “hop along, little bunny, the fun is just about to begin!”
2/14/22 11:59 pm
Everyone in attendance was ushered through the backdoors of the mansion. A forest stretched across the property, as far as the eye could see. Melissa’s hand carded absentmindedly through his hair. She had a pretty face and decent enough conversation that he didn’t mind staying later than he had planned. But, he grew tiresome of her constant petting. His steps faltered as he surveyed the couples around him. Each Cupid seemed to have a bunny in their company.
A lady with large fake breasts who stunk of wine clung to the broad shoulder cupid beside them. Eliot spotted Eric, the large man wearing an adult diaper, several paces away with three young women doting on him.
“What a lovely evening this was, and now it’s time for the best part of the night!” Thomas’ voice carried through the crowd as he slowly made his way to the front. He slapped Eliot’s shoulder and smiled brightly at him. Eliot couldn’t draw his eyes away from the sleek, metallic bow that rested over Thomas’ shoulder. He turned to raise an eyebrow at Melissa. She smiled sweetly at him and turned his head forcefully back towards the front.
Thomas turned to address the whole crowd, smiling demurely. “My sweet, innocent bunnies, it is time to test if you are worthy of Cupid’s love.” He plucked at the string of his bow with a well-manicured finger. “The rules of the game are simple. Live through the night, and next year you’ll be playing Cupid. But, if tonight Cupid’s arrow strikes true, die with a smile on your face knowing that the power of love has struck you down.” Thomas flashed his shark-like grin and fired a red flare into the air. “May your arrow’s aim be ever true.” A group of musicians seated at the edge of the forest began playing Flight of the Bumblebee.
“Run rabbit run.” Melissa gleefully whispered into his ear, her nails digging into the back of his neck.
Melissa cackled as Eliot’s feet hit the ground hard. Screams of terror pierced the air. Whoops and hollers followed suit as the Cupid’s scrambled to grab bows as they were wheeled out from indoors. Eliot was going to die. He felt it in his gut. His very prominent gut. He had become complacent during his marriage. He ran track in high school, but those days were far behind him. He pitied the women in heels as they stumbled towards the tree line. The crack of bone echoed grotesquely as some women were too hasty in their escape.
He wished he had never come. He wished his wife had never cheated on him. This was all her fault. He was a good man.
2/15/23 12 am One Year Later
His heartbeat was erratic, and he wiped his sweaty palms on the leg of his suit pants. Love is exhilarating. He dropped his head back, basking in the moonlight. The dark blood splatter across his face glistened under the moon’s rays. He had survived last year due to willpower and love. Love had guided a stray arrow straight through Melissa’s heart. The other Cupid’s were too focused on their rabbits to notice him climbing a tree deep in the woods. He sighed deeply.
His first kill of the night had been easier than he expected.
He smiled at Eric, whose diaper had been splattered with blood and mud as he trotted after a slow-moving blonde.
The arrow knocked back easily. A flash of bunny ears popped out from behind a shrub.
There she is.
The beautiful brunette he had spent the evening chatting to now had dirt smudged across her face. Her shimmering red gown was tattered and torn. Her feet were bloody. He had been kind enough to tell her to take her heels off before the festivities began.
He had hoped she’d be better than this. He should have picked a rabbit with a better physique.
On to the next.
The smooth wood of the bow scratched against his calloused fingers. He’d practiced all year for this. His angel wing cuff links sparkled under the starlight. They were a gift from Thomas, who was now a cherished friend. He had helped Eliot rise from the urine-scented bar to the top of the food chain. No one would dare cheat on him now.
His arrow arced through the air.
Her hazel eyes widened in fear as the arrow pierced the next woman’s heart. Breaking her heart now would save him from his heartache later on.
He was glad he came. These women’s deaths were his wife’s fault. He was a good man.