A numb outcast witnesses a massacre by a fellow outcast
|God, I feel so dead inside. That's all I can seem to think today. As I walk from class to class, I see everyone around me pass in a blur. It seems so unreal. I wish it weren't real. I don't even acknowledge the other students and they don't notice me. That's the way it's always been.
A student gets in my path, but I deftly and silently avoid the collision. That is all my life has been; collision avoidance. I don't get in the way and nobody gets in my way. I think I'm getting used to being ignored; used to not doing anything of importance. I might as well be invisible. The hallway, lit too brightly, is still a blur. I know my way to the next class so well; I don't even need to look. As if I would want to look. If I seriously looked at the people around me, as I have done in the past, all I would see is the same monotonous hominid pass me every few seconds. The same face, the same hair, the same stupid beer slogan lewdly displayed on his or her chest. It makes me sick to think that I'm a part of this society.
I feel like I could move in and out of life without anyone noticing. I've done it before. I've missed entire days of school and then returned; with no change in the attitudes of the masses. Everything still looked the same; unchanged. Oh, there were little things. Juvenile dances, grad notices and other drivel. There is never anything that applies to me in any particular or interesting way. Of course, I haven’t joined any clubs or school societies, but what would I do? Play chess with some Star Wars fanatic? Get my ass kicked by some moron at a sport I don’t play? I bet that if I died right now, that no one would notice I'm even gone.
I arrive at my class. It is sunlit and stuffy. The subject is interesting, but I find no humanity in it at all. I am just assimilating information. I sit at my desk in silence and anonymity, little more than a physical barrier to the students behind me. I listen to the teacher, trying to drown out the static-like background noise of high-school society, of which I play no part in, and absorb information, just like I always have. I don't even recall how long I have been at school. I realize that it is daytime, but when exactly I can't tell. I could look at the clock, but what point would there be to do it? It doesn't matter what time it is. The day will eventually end the same way it started.
Class ends at the ring of a bell. I gather my things and swing my back-pack over my shoulders. I trudge out of class towards my locker. My vision is locked on the floor. I have no will or effort to lift my head. Still, I can see the people around me and avoid contact. My eyes hurt from the sunlight streaming through the windows. It would be hours before I got home, but I still have to endure to the grating sound of the surrounding life rip into my ears. I wish I could shut them all out.
Now I find myself in the atrium of the school; the hub of activity. I feel like a ghost that could walk through the entire sweaty throng and remain untouched. I am still locked in thought, cruising to my destination when I hear a deafening plethora of screams. My first thought is that some girls are screaming for whatever stupid reason girls scream for. It seems to me like girls will scream on cue when they feel it is appropriate, which is often. On that note, teenagers, especially girls, will cheer for anything, no matter the cause or statement, if there’s a camera or a microphone pointed at them. Just then a group of boys breeze past, faster than usual and without any of the playful violence that follows such haste. I scarcely look up to avoid them when I hear the report of gunfire on the other side of the room.
My senses immediately come alive, though my instinctual reflexes are dulled by my curiosity. There is a boy some fifteen meters away wearing a brown leather jacket and black jeans. He is shouting and firing a hunting rifle in the direction of the boys that ran past me. I assume he is either shooting at them or at random.
Strangely enough, I recognize him. He is an outcast like me, but more so than I because he openly expresses his views and personal style. He did not even attempt to blend in. His hair is greasy and messy and he has very bushy eyebrows. As a result, the other seniors, male and female included, tease him and made life hard for him most of the time. Personally, I could care less for the guy. He never did anything to me, so I never do anything to him. I don’t support the violence inflicted against him, nor do I care to stop it.
I watch him for what seem like hours, though it was surely seconds. He is screaming about insults, grievances, and revenge against the other students. His rifle would occasionally shout with him, though in shorter and louder reports of light and death. I am mesmerized by the insane rage in his eyes and the swirl of his coat. I wonder briefly why my legs won’t let me move. I suppose I am too terrified to run, though I only feel it distantly.
Another student, a girl wearing a tight shirt and shorts, purple, I believe, runs past me and grabs my arm. I think that it is quite kind of her to offer me aid when she saw I wasn't running. My legs finally obey and I move with her, though in silence and with my head straining around to watch the boy. He shouts another report of violence and blood springs from the young sophomores leg as the bullet buries itself in her. Fascinating.
Then I notice the sound of perpetual screams in my ears. I have never heard anything quite like it. It is much different than the sound of teens talking incessantly. This was much more beautiful. The girl beside me, dragging me, gave a pleasant contralto to the entire symphony of suffering.
We are nearly out of the atrium now. I think I had only moved a few meters in that space of time, though time felt so slow now. My thoughts are blazing through my mind. I watch as the boy trains his gun on my female friend and I. A flash of light erupts from the barrel and she stumbles and falls, her cry echoing in my ears with its volume and intensity. As she drags me down in her fall, her hand griping mine like Death itself, I see an expanding circle of blood on her chest.
Now I lie on the floor with a dead girl lying beside me that I never knew. I could see everything in her eyes. I see the pain, the suffering, and the loneliness as her vision darkens and her life fades away. Now it is obvious that she is dead. Dead as everyone else in this room, including me. I stand up, since I am unharmed, though the girl's blood stains my hands, and begin to run to the exit as best I can. I hear another bang from behind me and feel a sharp pain in the back of my head. Redness and the tiled floor fill my head as my legs refuse to work. The last thing I remember are the words, "I'm hit".
My mind finally weaves around the feeling of something warm enveloping my body and the warmth on my eyes, like a bright light in my face. But the warmth around me has a certain weight to it. Are the two properties connected?
Then I see a flash of bright light in my eyes, like the flash of a gun, and my eyes bolt open. Oh, what was I thinking just now? All I know is that my heart is beating like I am out of blood and I’m terrified of something, but I can’t remember what. I must have had some really messed up dreams.
I sit up on my bed. Odd, I am still dressed in what I wore to school yesterday. I don’t remember coming home, though. I just remember… gunfire? No, that must have been the dream I just had. It’s no matter how I got here. What’s important is that I’m not in a ditch somewhere. I probably took some hard drugs after last period and I just don’t remember what happened. Well, I certainly hope I did nothing too insane. Unfortunately, there is that disturbing dream which I cannot recall completely. Although I don’t think I’d be here now if that had been true, right? In any case, there is nothing I can do about now.
I look at the clock and see that it is still fairly early in the morning. I still have to go school today. Oh well. That’s life. Might as well. What else am I going to do today? I have no friends to skip school and hang out with.
I think about taking a shower and getting dressed, but consider that I am already dressed and, as I find out by inhaling, have no particular odor to me, so I decide not to bother. Not that anyone ever notices when I don’t change my clothes, or even if I’m there at all.
I walk through the door in my room out into the hall. There are stairs on my left and my parents’ room on the right. I can see inside their room through the open door. I see my mom sitting on the edge of her bed wearing her nightgown. She has her head in her hands as she sobs. Her messy hair bounces as her sobs wrack her body. I stop at the door and watch for a moment. I wonder why she’s crying like that. I don’t want to say anything; I don’t want to get involved. It’s not my business anyway. After all, everyone deserves a little privacy and time alone to cry. That’s the way I prefer it anyway.
I turn away and start down the carpeted stairs. I wouldn’t know how to comfort her anyhow. And I’m late for school.
I walk through the short hall at the end of the stairs to the kitchen. It’s empty and unused. The wooden table has crumbs on it from previous meals. The large sliding glass-paned doors are covered with blue shades, casting onto the white linoleum an odd shade of cerulean. The white chairs are still in the same position they were in when I last saw them. I do not think anyone has been down here yet. I guess mom is too busy crying to make breakfast. It doesn’t matter to me, though. She can cry all she wants. I look around, but I don’t see any bowls around for cereal. I don’t really feel like eating anything else. I’m not even that hungry, I realize. Well then, forget breakfast.
I pass through the blinds and the sliding door into my backyard. The sun is still behind the tall wooden fence, so the grass here is a deep shade of green and it glistens with moisture. I look at the sky; it’s the pink, yellow, and light blues of late dawn. This is another day I should be thankful to be alive. Instead it is another day spent inside a room that smells of teen sweat and no goddamn windows.
I walk through the gate in the fence and start making my way to the school. I don’t live that far from the campus, so I am there in just twenty minutes. I always prefer walking there instead of catching the bus. At least when I’m walking, it is easier to avoid people. All the jerks either have cars or take the bus anyway.
I go inside the school into the atrium. I suddenly remember a flash of that dream last night. Just for a moment I see blood, bodies and muzzle flashes… and my face in a puddle of someone else’s blood. Then it is gone. I’m shaken by the memory. I don’t like to dream of murder and things like that. It’s too personal; too close to what I fear might be true within me. At least on the screen of a movie theater or a television or a computer monitor I know that the violence and horror I see are just images. Except dreams, especially the most recent one, feel so much more real and more personal than usual. It’s disturbing to think that I could think such thoughts, but I suppose I don’t boast much control over my subconscious when I sleep.
There are a few students here; early risers like myself who arrive here before the buses. They are walking slowly, more slowly than usual, through the atrium. I find it odd that there’s so little activity. Even at this hour, there are always small groups actively chatting away. Today, however, most people are just sitting idly or walking in a daze. Obviously, they take no notice to my arrival, but I don’t really expect there to be any.
I wander around the atrium, occasionally looking up through the huge skylight to watch the clouds pass by. It’s a nice day, but the air in here feels so still and quiet, so much unlike usual. I still don’t hear much noise, even though there are more students here now. There are only the echoes of footfalls and guarded whispers. I can’t hear what those whispers are; there are too many echoes at once and I don’t feel like getting near enough to anyone to actually listen. For a brief moment, I actually think that they might be whispering about me, but that seems unlikely. I’m probably not odd enough to gossip about.
Eventually, the bell rings and I amble down to my homeroom. I notice that there are a several missing students in the classroom only because the density of students in their chairs seems slightly less than usual. Only two or three are missing, I think. It isn’t like I know all of these people by name or face. The next thing I notice is that someone is sitting in my seat. I usually sit against the wall during this class and some oaf that looks like he should belong to the actor’s guild is talking to some cheerleaders from my seat. These girls are obviously the kind of girls who smoke three cigarettes between classes. I can tell mostly because of how slutty they dress and by the smell of tobacco that wafts off them. The point is, he is in my seat and class is about to start.
I walk over to behind him and say, “Excuse me. You’re in my seat”. Sure, I may want to bash his head into the wall, but politeness overrules that desire. He makes no sign that he hears me or even notices me. I say again, “You’re in my seat. Please leave”. I stress the word “leave”, hoping he would take the hint. Still, he continues to chat with the stinking girls whose breasts hang out obscenely. I move in front of him and say to his face, even though he makes no move to make eye contact, through clenched teeth, “Okay. Get out of my seat. Now.” The bastard still ignores me. Am I fucking invisible? No, this asshole is just teasing me. He wants to make me angry. Well, he is successful. I pull my arm back across my chest and clench my arm. I’m ready to back-hand this idiot right out of my chair and to Hell with the consequences. I’m tired of these self-absorbed bastards thinking they can just step on and ignore me.
At the last moment before I am ready to take this guy’s head off his shoulders the teacher walks into the room with a loud “hello class”. His sudden presence distracts me and my fury instantly dissipates in favor of rationality. Sure, I am still angry at this jock in my seat, but not enough to hit him. He will pay for treating me like that later. But not now, I think with a grim smile. I find one of the empty seats near the front and sit down. I fold my arms on my chest and let the burning feeling of hate and rage simmer in my gut. It is a sensation I have never gotten used to, but one that I enjoy feeling now and then. It’s like a hot worm is grinding though my guts. It makes my muscles tense and my mind focus. It is interesting, to say the least.
Finally, the rage passes and I simply wait. Soon, the morning announcements come on over the school-wide intercom. First there are some inane news bits that I have no interest in. My mind just processes the data without more than a moment’s consideration before forgetting it even happened.
At the end of those, the principal comes on. I’m not really paying attention, but his first words get my attention immediately. “As many of you know, one month ago today a horrible tragedy befell our school.” I sit up and listen intently. Another image from my nightmare surfaces again: a boy and a flash of light. Then another: the tiled floor rising up to meet me. The principal, over the intercom, speaks again. “I’d like to ask that the entire school observe a minute of silence for the students who died that day.” I am in a daze. This can’t be right. A month? Died? My mind recoils into the dream I had last night. I see fallen bodies bleeding on the floor punctuated by brief flashes of light. I see the floor flying toward me and blood sticking to my cheek. I hear the chorus of screams, both far and near, echo in the back of my mind. This can’t be right. “… Andrew Rydman,” I hear the principal say before a long silence. That is my name. He read my name in a list of dead students. Impossible. I’m sitting right here. There must be a mistake. I’m not dead. It can’t be. It was just a dream, after all.
I stand up to protest this sick joke. I see girls crying in their seats and guys sitting sadly, but stoically. They know what the principal was talking about. It has happened. But I can’t be dead. I can’t be. “I’m here!” I scream at the top of my lungs. No one looks up at me; no one sees me. I’m not simply being ignored. I am invisible to their eyes. “I’m here,” I say, “I’m here.”
I run to the closed door and try to grab the steel doorknob. I can’t touch it. There’s simply nothing there to touch. I walk forward, not believing this could possibly happen. But miraculously, I’m on the other side of the closed door. This is impossible. This can’t be real.
I slump down against the hallway wall. I close my eyes and whisper, “I can’t be dead. It’s a mistake. I’m here. It’s just a dream. This must be a dream. This isn’t happening. I’m not dead.” Suddenly, I feel a pain in the back of my head. I gasp in surprise at the suddenly familiar pain. I reach back and I feel a depression in my skull.
A deep one.