Benny came to the birthday party because his mom had volunteered him to help supervise the children. He must have felt out of place being the lone teenage boy amidst a flock of over-excited six-year-old girls, but we welcomed his presence. We saw him as a sort of prop that we could manipulate in our imaginary games - a living, breathing human that would submit to pretending to be whatever we wanted it to pretend to be. On that particular day, we wanted to play a game called "wolf pack" which we had invented after watching a documentary about the hunting tactics of wolves.

We swarmed Benny as he was preparing to pour himself a glass of apple juice.

As a 13-year-old boy, Benny probably did not relish the idea of wasting an entire day entertaining us. But he was a good-natured young man, and he had agreed to help keep us out of trouble, so he reluctantly asked us what we wanted to play.

Us:  "Wolf pack!" 

Benny: "How do you play 'wolf pack'?" 

Us: "We're the wolves and you're the deer. We close our eyes and count to twenty and you run away. Then we try to find you and catch you!"

Benny:  "Okay. Where do you want to play?" 

Us:  "In the forest!" 

Benny followed us outside and we led him deep into the vast expanse of backwoods wilderness that was to be our playing field.  We reached a small clearing and decided to start the game there.  We yelled at Benny, "Now run away!"  

And we began to count.  

Benny scurried off into the forest, calling out behind himself to help make the game easier for us.  He thought we would have trouble finding and catching him.  

What Benny did not know was that we were incredibly serious about the realistic aspects of "wolf pack."  In our wildly vivid imaginations, we were actually wolves and Benny was actually a deer. 

We found him almost immediately.   

Benny probably would have tried harder if he knew that losing the game involved so much biting.  But he did not expect that the game would be so true to life. I'm sure it was quite painful for him, but that was a necessary casualty for the game to feel convincing and fun.  

Benny fought bravely, but there were too many of us and he was handicapped by his reluctance to punch and kick a bunch of six-year-olds. We wrestled him to the ground and bit him repeatedly until we were satisfied that we had "killed" him.

At that point, Benny had two options: he could stand there and try to reason with us until we finished counting and mauled him again, or he could flee and try to find his way back to the safety of the house before we caught him. 

Benny chose fleeing.  

But it was starting to get dark and the woods were unfamiliar to Benny.  There were labyrinths of footprints, left behind from our previous forest adventures, providing a confusing web of false trails.  He desperately clawed his way through the underbrush in a random direction that he hoped was the right one, but he only had twenty seconds and things weren't looking good for him.  We finished counting and took off after him. 

Benny was faster than us, but we greatly outnumbered him and we were able to strategically "herd" him into a clearing where we surrounded him and went in for the kill.  

Benny had severely underestimated our hunting and maiming capabilities.  We were not like ordinary little girls who frittered away their time hosting tea parties and pretending to be princesses.  We had spent countless hours out in the forest, sharpening our hunting tactics on imaginary prey and we finally had an opportunity to put all of our practice to use on a real thing that would run away from us and struggle for survival.  Unfortunately for Benny, we had not yet developed the ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of other people, and his terrified fleeing was pretty much the most fun thing that had ever happened to us. 

Once again, we let him stand up after we were satisfied that we had bitten him enough times.  

It became clear to Benny that he was going to have to play the game over and over and over until he could find his way back to the house.  He had to make the most of the 20 seconds we gave him to flee and try to make as much progress as possible in between maulings.  

We were exhausted from all of the chasing, but we weren't ready to stop playing, so we began to rely much more heavily on stealth. We stalked Benny through the darkening woods, waiting for him to make himself vulnerable to attack.

The psychological torment of waiting to be attacked was almost worse than the attacks themselves.  We darted around in the shadows, snapping twigs and making strange growling noises.  We sounded like tiny chainsaws.  

We would have continued to torture Benny for hours, possibly even days, but our parents called us home for birthday cake.

We cared about cake more than we cared about Benny, so we abandoned him in the woods and ran back to the house. Benny heard us being called, but he couldn't see where we went from his hiding spot. He tried to follow our shrieking voices, but just ended up getting turned around.

At first, no one noticed that we had arrived back at the house without Benny, but the topic did eventually come up.

My mom: "Where's Benny?"

Us: "Outside." 

My mom: "Doesn't he want some cake?"

Us: "No." 

My mom: "He should at least come inside and get warm..." 

Us: "He's fine." 

We didn't actually know if Benny was okay, but we wanted cake and talking about Benny wasn't bringing us any closer to that goal. 

 Eventually, the adults went looking for him. They tromped into the woods with flashlights, yelling "BEEENNNNYYYYY! BENNNNYYYYYYYYY!" They were startled to hear loud crashing and branches snapping behind them, but it turned out to be Benny. He stumbled into the pool of light cast by the flashlight.

Benny's mom:  "Benny, what are you doing?" 

Benny: "Where are they?" 

My mom:  "The girls?  They came back an hour ago, are you still out here looking for them?" 

Benny: "No." 

Benny's Mom: ".... Well, you should really come up to the house, sweetie. It's cold out here."  

And so Benny got to come back to the house. When he walked through the door, we ran over to him and hugged his legs. "Bennybennybennybenny!" we shrieked. Bennybennybennybennybennybenny! We brought him a huge piece of cake on the most special plate we could find, and we watched him eat it to make sure he was enjoying it.

When he finally had to go home, we cried out after him, "Benny, are you coming back?  When are you coming back to play with us?"  Benny's mom remarked about how cute it was that we loved him so much, "isn't that just adorable, Benny? They really seem to like you!"  She assured us that Benny would come back to play with us soon.