The ninety minutes flew by. In no time, Avery said, “Our last video question comes from Samir Gupta in Bakersfield, California.”
Pixels danced in the video box onscreen.
“I’m sorry. We’re having some technical—” Avery had one finger pressed to the earpiece in his left ear. Then the distorted pattern of blocks resolved into a face. “Oh, here we are.”
But the face wasn’t human: It was a sinister mask.
A bright light gave its bone-white surface a ghostly glow and plunged the background into shadows. It had a grotesque expression, with demonic eyes, a furrowed brow, and a horrible grimace.
Kids around Max gasped and murmured. Several students said the words that were also running through Max’s head: Dramatis Personai. The mask was reminiscent of the ones worn by members of the well-known hacker group when they addressed the public.
Avery turned to the technicians working in the wings. “That’s the wrong video,” he hissed off-mike.
“Hello?” the figure said. The voice was as unsettling as the mask, digitally altered to be flat and low-pitched.
The figure turned to the right and stared into the darkness for a moment. It wore a red-hooded sweatshirt, the hood drawn over the head.
Max’s heart beat faster and his palms prickled with anxiety.
The figure turned back to face the camera and took a deep breath. “My name is STOP.”
STOP was Evan’s online handle.
STOP leaned closer to the camera and Max instinctively leaned closer too, trying to get a better look at him. There were twin glints behind the large, dark eyeholes of the mask, like light reflecting off lenses. Evan was practically blind without glasses.
It couldn’t be.
“What’s going on?” Avery asked in an exasperated voice.
“Do you really want to know?” STOP asked.
Evan, what are you doing?
“He answered me! Is this video live?” Avery looked at the screen with his hand cupped over his mike. “What do you mean, you don’t know where it’s coming from?”
“Just listen,” STOP said. Even through the audio filter, there was no mistaking the urgency and desperation in his voice. “Please listen.”
Three loud tones punctuated the audio. Max and his classmates flinched.
“I have a question.” STOP took a deep breath and looked straight into the camera. Max shivered. From where he was sitting, it was as if STOP was looking straight at him.
“What is the silence of six, and what are you going to do about it?” STOP pushed his hood back. Evan’s usually wispy brown hair was greasy and dull, matted against his head.
He reached off screen with his right hand and used his left to slowly lift his mask enough to reveal his nose and mouth.
He had a few days’ growth of stubble and his pale skin glistened with sweat.
Max gripped the armrests of his seat. What the hell was he doing?
In his own undisguised voice, Evan mumbled. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. . . ”
Something dark flashed in the light from the desk lamp. It took Max a moment longer to figure out what Evan was holding in his right hand.
It didn’t register immediately because it didn’t belong there. It didn’t belong in Evan’s mouth.
Shit, that’s a gun, Max thought.
The sharp pop of a gunshot tore through the quiet. The video jumped as Evan’s body jerked and fell backward into the shadows with a sickening, wet thud. Blood speckled the camera lens and the light turned red.
The audience gasped then fell quiet.
The Silence of Six comes out November 5, 2014! Check out the trailer and come back tomorrow for my interview with the author.
**Leave a comment at the end to win a copy of The Silence of Six eBook and a copy of the Skinless or Interlopers eBook. Winner announced 12/1/14.**