Pulling into the driveway, Johnny shut off the ignition before stepping out of the car. The game was tucked under his right arm as he approached the front door of his house. As Johnny entered his house, his footsteps echoing through the halls were enough for him to know he was alone. Then again, it would explain why his mother's car wasn't in the driveway, no doubt she was still at her job somewhere in town. Since his mom wouldn't be back for a while, Johnny would take this opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet and catch up on his school work. Except the game he found made him curious, which was a good thing his mom wasn't around.
"What is your deal?" he said to himself.
Stepping into his bedroom, Johnny laid the game carefully onto the bed. With his hands on the lid, it opened with a click and it flipped over on one side and he noticed that it was actually two separate lids. Lifting the other one, the inside of the game was fully unveiled. In the center seemed like a regular set-up for a board game. Four pathways that appeared to be tiles, twisting around before meeting toward the center where a black orb sat. As his fingers traced along it, he noted that it felt as smooth as marble and yet when he pounded it the material actually felt stronger.
As he examined the board, he turned toward the left side where a little compartment caught his eyes. He flicked it open with one finger and sees some tiny figures inside. He clutched the tiny objects and laid them in the palm of his hand. They appeared to be the game's tokens, shaped as animals that would inhabit Africa, and they appeared to be looking at him as they laid there in the palm of his hand. All together, they were a charcoal gray elephant, a dark-green monkey, a black crocodile, and a white rhino.
Then his eyes turned to some bold red and black letters written on that one end of the game. From the looks of the writing, it appeared to be the game's rules.
"Jumanji," Johnny read. "A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind."
Johnny paused after reading the first part, looking back at the tokens then towards the game.
"Johnny!" A voiced called out.
Hearing the voice, Johnny turned, dropping the tokens from his hand and onto the board. Before Johnny could see what happened, he quickly shut the game's lid, took it in his arm, and hid it under the bed as soon as he heard footsteps making their way to his room. He quickly turned around just as his mother appeared.
"Hi mom," Johnny spoke, casually.
"So, how was school?" his mom asked.
"Well… You know. Getting through my classes, doing homework, exploring the campus… More homework."
"Well, that's college, for ya."
"Oh, and, uh... That one guy, Luke, invited me to a party tomorrow."
"Shut up!" His mom exclaimed, excitedly. "Can this be true? My son has been invited to a party!"
"Okay, mom, no need for the dramatics. It's not really that big a deal. Though I did promise I'd bring Doritos."
"Well this is perfect! A party would be a perfect way for you to meet people, mingle, and share some laughs. You should be happy, a young man your age would give anything to be invited to these events."
"I am happy, mom," Johnny assured. "But let's be real about this. There might not even be many people at the party."
"True. But a handful of kids is better than none. Who knows? Maybe you'll meet someone. Why when I was your age, I met your father at a party."
"Mom, I think it's a little soon for me to 'meet anyone'"
"Well all right, Mr. Macho," His mom replied, nudging his shoulder. "Just promise me you won't bring your work tomorrow night. The point of having a party is to have 'fun'."
Johnny sighed. "I won't."
"That's a good boy," Johnny's mom nodded approvingly. "Special dinner tonight! Just think, after tomorrow night, maybe that'll get you to start hosting your own parties."
"Thanks mom," Johnny replied, rolling his eyes. "That really means a lot to me."
Johnny looked over until he saw his mom disappear down the stairs and paused for a few moments. Once she was out of sight, Johnny collapsed back first onto his bed with a sigh.
After a few seconds of looking at the ceiling, Johnny suddenly remembered the game and peered below the bed. Bending on his knees, he pulled out the game and examined it silently. He was thankful his mother had not seen it; he wouldn't know she would react. Still, something about this game drew Johnny's interest wondering who it belonged to and to whom it was going to. But then a more appropriate matter came to mind.
"Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to bring something extra to the party," Johnny spoke to himself, quietly. "Can't go wrong with bringing a game to a party. You're fun, right?"
Johnny paused after that question, his eyes never leaving the game as if he expected a reaction. He shook his head as he lifted the game, opening his closet and stuck it in a corner.
"Listen to me, talking to a board game."
Johnny turned his back to the closet and proceeded to his desk. While his mom would be downstairs cooking, that left him some time to get back in his school work. And in the closet, the Jumanji board game sat in the corner hidden in the dark. And in that place it stood, as if one would expect it to do anything. And yet, it held a foreboding presence and what little Johnny knew about it was just how special this game appeared more than he could possibly imagine.
It was late in the afternoon by the time Johnny arrived at Luke's house. Exiting the car, a bag of Doritos in one arm and the game in the other, Johnny strolled towards the house. He knocked on the door and as it opened, the sound of 'Uptown Funk' bounced along the walls as Luke appeared to greet him.
"Hiya," Luke said.
"Hey, Luke," Johnny replied. "Sorry I'm late. Kinda lost track of time."
"No sweat, I'm glad you finally made it. Come on in, the rest of the guests are waiting for ya."
As Johnny entered, he saw all of Luke's friends enjoying the party. Of course, by 'all' it was mostly Luke and two of his classmates. There the two were, sitting on the living room couch, eating pizza, and listening to that song. As Luke took the bag of chips, Johnny placed the box on a bench and followed Luke to the living room.
The one guy sitting on the couch, eating a slice of pizza was a rather pale young man. He had bushy black hair under a blue trilby hat that matched his buttoned shirt with a black vest over it. The remainder of his wardrobe was a pair of jeans with black sneakers. The girl next to him, simply chilling out, had her hair tied to a ponytail, her circular rimmed glasses slanted on her nose, and there she sat decked casually in a black T-Shirt and blue jeans. These were Dan and Heather, two of Luke's close friends.
"Guys, Johnny's here," Luke said to them. He then turned to Johnny. "Johnny, you know Heather. Next to her is my friend, Dan Spencer. He's from England, too."
"Well actually that's a bit of understatement," Dan replied. "I live in Southern Wales, but it's close enough."
"Hmm, two Brits in the same American school," said Johnny, "What are the odds?"
"So, Johnny," Heather spoke up. "You actually showed up to the party."
"Yup," Johnny replied, holding up the bag of Doritos. "And I brought Doritos, spicy sweet chili flavored."
"Well Dan, looks like you lost the bet on the Doritos," Heather replied with a smirk.
"Ah, crap." was all Dan could say.
"So, everyone enjoying themselves?" Luke asked.
"Well, I got here, good news," Johnny replied. "Any pizza left?
"There should be," Luke assured, looking around. "Somewhere."
"Oh," Dan replied, holding a crust. "I think I just had the last slice."
"Damn it!" Johnny groaned.
"Nah, no sweat," Luke approached a box. "There should still be some left-"
Luke flipped the box lid, only to discover it was just another empty pizza box with barely any cheese stuck to the lid. He turns to Dan with an annoyed look.
"Bloody hell, Dan. I told you to make sure there was plenty for everyone."
"Hey, you're the one who said to order for anyone that shows up," Dan raised his arms in defense. "And you said you weren't sure if the lad would show."
"What?!" Johnny exclaimed, turning to Luke. "You actually didn't think I was coming?!"
"Well, at first you did seem more like the stay-at-home with your nose-in-a-book kind of guy," Luke admitted with a shrug. "But I really did hope you'd accept the invitation."
"All right, all right, all right, let's just calm ourselves before we get a heart attack," Dan came in. "We'll just order another pizza and I'll pay for it."
"Let's make it that bacon wrapped pizza this time," Luke instructed, then turns to Johnny. "You like anything else?
"Some pepperoni perhaps?" Johnny asked.
"All right, pepperoni it is. You just sit here and chill, I'll go make the call."
As Luke went to the kitchen to place the call, Johnny casually approached the couch where Dan and Heather were sitting. He hoped to sit at the empty end of the couch, but instead Dan scooted over so now Johnny found himself facing a space between the two classmates. Johnny took a deep breath then sat himself between Dan and Heather. Neither one said a word at first while the music continued to play.
"So..." Johnny began. "Are we expecting more guests any time?"
"Ah, Luke tends to exaggerate his parties," Dan replied. "Technically we're the 'only' ones that actually show up to his party. Not like I had anything better to do."
"Well, we asked this one guy if he wanted to come tonight," Heather pointed out. "But… The dude got a nervous breakdown and bailed. He kept talking about it, but I didn't take it seriously."
"What was his problem?" Johnny asked.
"I think he kept babbling about crashing a motorcycle in the guest room, a midget wrestler, and fireworks in the toaster…"
Johnny's eyes widen as Heather continued her story, wondering how such a person can even exist. But the startling thing was that Heather wasn't even finished with her story.
"Oh, and something about a pony," Heather finished.
"The hell?" was all Johnny could say.
"All right folks, I made the call," Luke announced, as he returned. "The pizza will be here in twenty minutes."
"Twenty minutes," Heather sighed. "So what does that leave us to do?"
"I might have the answer to that," Johnny answered.
The trio looked confused as Johnny walked toward the front door. He made his way to the bench and picked up the box he placed. He carried it back to the living room as the others looked on.
"I was thinking that since we're all together, maybe we can play this."
As he placed the game onto the table, the trio took a closer work at the wooden game board sitting before them. It was certainly unlike any game they have ever seen before.
"'Jumanji'," Dan read. "Sounds like those 'Jumon Jumon' crisps I purchased during an outing in Spain."
"A board game?" Heather asked. "I'm surprised you didn't try to pull out 'spin the bottle' with me here."
"That was sort've my first thought," Luke added.
"Hey I just thought I'd bring over something we can all do together," Johnny spoke, defensively. "I found it just yesterday at the beach."
"What was it doing there?" Dan asked, curiously.
"To be honest, I don't know. But I sure pity the poor guy who lost it. I mean, just look at this thing!
"Hmm…" Heather examined the box. "Decent craftsmanship for sure. But how do we play?"
"Maybe there's some instructions inside," Luke suggested.
"There are," Johnny answered.
To prove it, Johnny unfolded each side of the board, revealing the playing board toward the trio. Only this time, positioned on the starting positions were the small marble animal tokens. Johnny noticed the pieces for a few seconds, but then turned to the one side of the board with the instructions.
"'Jumanji: A game for those who seek to find a way to leave their world behind'," Johnny read. "'You roll the dice to move your token. Doubles get another turn. The first player to reach the end wins'. Seems pretty straightforward."
"DIBS on the crocodile," Heather called out.
"Damn it," Dan cursed silently. "Well, I guess I'll settle for the monkey."
"I got the rhino," Johnny spoke.
"Nuts, low man again," Luke groaned. "Guess I'll have what's left."
Luke reached for the elephant token to pick it up. But then his eyebrows narrowed when he noticed the token appeared to be stuck on the game board.
"Hey, what gives? It's stuck!"
Of course, Luke wasn't the only one who noticed something was wrong. Johnny and the others tried to take their individual tokens only to realize that no matter how hard they pulled they weren't moving off the board. At least not on their own.
"Must be something sticky under there," Dan noted.
"Fucking token won't move," Heather cursed.
"That's strange," Johnny added. "They were just fine when I found it."
"Anything we can use as replacements?" Dan asked.
"Hang on a sec," Luke stood up. "I got some coins in my bedroom drawer. We can use those instead."
As Luke rushed upstairs to fetch the coins, the remainder of the party stared down at the board and were trying to figure out what other secrets this game had.
"So, while we're waiting, who should roll first?" Johnny asked.
"Ladies first, anyone?" Heather offered.
"Yeah right, Heather," Dan replied, snarkily. "You 'always' cheat!"
"Cheat? MOI?! Pffft… Please. If you'd think with a bit more strategy, you'd learn to appreciate my style! Besides, I was talking about YOU."
"Oye!" Dan threw his arms in the air, as Heather smileed coyly.
Johnny was about to say something when he saw Luke return from downstairs, a set of coins were held in the palm of his hand.
"Okay ladies and germs, I got the coins," Luke announced. "First come, first serve, and no more arguing."
"Dibs on the nickel!" Heather shouted, grabbing the coin.
"You always call dibs on everything!" Dan retorted.
"How else am I gonna get the best pick?"
"Never mind," Dan sighed. "I'll take the dime."
"Why don't you take the first roll, Dan," Johnny offered, holding the dice.
"All right, give it here."
Dan reached for the dice, taking them from Johnny's hand. He motioned his arm up and down before rolling the dice. The dice rolled until it landed on a three. As he reached to move his dime, he paused when the monkey token slid three spaces… All on its own.
"What the shit?"
"Sweet, this must be electronic!" Heather remarked.
"But that can't be," Johnny spoke, tapping the board. "It's wood."
"Probably internal, dude. There's plenty of games like that."
"Hey guys, look at this," Luke pointed.
The four turned to the crystal ball in the center of the board where a swirl of yellow smoke swirled inside. All at once, the smoke formed into words spelt out into a sort of riddle.
"'Big as fists these balls of ice'," Dan read. "'Through umbrellas they will slice'."
"What does that mean?" Luke asked.
"Oh goody," Heather spoke excitedly. "I love riddles; I think I know this."
Before Heather could answer, they heard a pelt on the roof causing the four to slowly look up. It was followed with another pelt and another, soon a multitude can be heard clattering on the roof of the house.
"The hell is that?" Luke looked up.
"It's coming from outside!" Johnny pointed out.
They cautiously made their way toward the front door as the pelting grew louder. Johnny slowly opened the door and to their surprise a sudden hail storm was taking place. The tiny bits of ice crashed along the street, even cracking the windows on the cars. But even strangely, the hail seemed to be falling from the clear day sky.
"It's hailing?" Heather wondered, adjusting her glasses. "That's trippy."
"Okay, this is freaking me out," Dan looked around.
"How the hell did that happen?" Johnny asked. "This wasn't in the forecast today."
"Johnny, this is Fleming," Luke pointed out. "We don't get hail storms!"
Suddenly, a hail stone the size of a fist smashed into Luke's mailbox as stones of similar size hurtled from the sky like bullets. More and more of these fist-sized stones rained upon the streets like bullets, smashing flower pots, the roofs of the surrounding homes, and even hit a fire hydrant so hard, it released a stream of water.
"Everyone, back inside!" Johnny shouted.
Without a second thought, the group ran back inside the house, as Luke locked the door behind him. Suddenly, a larger hail stone crashed through the window causing the four to jump back while the stone rolled along the living room. The gang stuck close together as they watched the hail stone spin around before coming to a stop.
"Holy… Fuck!" Heather exclaimed.
"Yep, this is no coincidence," Luke agreed.
"Think we should pack up and go?" Dan asked, with a note of sarcasm.
"In that weather?!" Johnny exclaimed. "We'll be pelted to death!"
"No shit, Sherlock," Heather remarked.
"All right let's just chill for a sec," Luke motioned. "That storm is probably going to get worse before it gets better. So I suggest we all gather down in the basement where we'll be safe."
"We can definitely continue the game down there," Johnny added. "At least to keep us occupied."