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James was walking to his high school bus stop somewhere in downtown Albany, as he did most days. As per usual, he saw Nick, the local “cool” kid whom everyone despised, harassing Todd, an orphan boy with whom James had formed a close bond, and as per usual, James told Nick to get lost.

“What are you going to do about it, punk? You gonna hit me with your scrawny ass hands?” asked Nick, trying overly hard to sound cool.

“Yes, clearly I’m the weak one, despite the fact that your entire body is skin and bones. You look like, and keep in mind I’m not exaggerating this, an exceptionally small chicken wing, and not even a delicious one, at that,” James responded.

“Yeah, well, shut up!” Nick retorted.

“I must say, Nick, if the best comeback you can come up with is ‘shut up’, I have been seriously overestimating the size of your brain. Now, if you are done taking out your insecurities on others, the bus shall be arriving at my stop shortly, so I must go. Oh, wait, shall I reexplain this in a much more simple way, for your clearly underdeveloped brain to understand?” James said to Nick, before walking with Todd to the bus stop.

“You must really want your ass kicked, James!” Nick squealed at them as they walked away.

“You truly are a bold one for going against Nick, James,” Todd said as they walked.

“Someone has to stand up against bullies,” James replied.

“You go too easy on him though, in my opinion. I’d sock him right in that ugly thing he calls his face if I could,” Todd replied back.

“Needless, unnecessary violence is dumb and immature, even against someone as quite honestly painful to look at as Nick,” James responded.

“Fair enough,” Todd replied, as their bus pulled up.

Later that day, during break, Nick came to harass James once again, this time with his friends, Trent and Carlos.

Trent was a large, muscular man, with the IQ of a piece of gum off of Mrs. Wood’s desk, who had been held back a total of three times throughout his career as a scholar.

Carlos was significantly shorter, and what he lacked in muscles, he more than made up for in body fat, making him the same weight as Trent, although his IQ was somehow significantly lower

“Boss says you won’t keep your damn mouth shut,” Trent said to James.

“Lucky for you, he’s feeling generous today,” Carlos said.

“He’s giving you one more chance to learn to hold your bloody tongue,” Trent said.

“Otherwise, we may have to pay you a visit, and I don’t think you’ll like it very much,” Carlos said.

“Trent, Carlos, are you aware of how many words are in the English dictionary?” James asked them.

“No, but what’s that gotta do with anything?” Trent replied.

“Roughly two hundred thousand,” James began. “There are roughly two hundred thousand words in the English dictionary, and yet I could never string together enough words to properly describe how much of a pathetic coward, a complete waste of oxygen, and an all-around useless human being Nick is.”

“Don’t speak about the boss that way!” Carlos squealed angrily.

“I’m standing right here, you idiot!” Nick exclaimed.

“I’m aware. I wouldn’t’ve been nearly as harsh if you weren’t here. But face it, you know I’m right, you wouldn’t have to rely on Tweedledum and Tweedleidiot to attempt to scare me if I was wrong,” James replied.

Nick snapped his fingers, and Trent and Carlos began punching James. Just one punch from Trent was enough to knock him out cold.

James woke up to his girlfriend Sam finding him shoved in Todd’s locker, Todd himself close behind her.

“Why is it always my locker?” Todd said jokingly.

“Not now, Todd,” Sam dismissed Todd. “Are you alright, darling?”

“I’ve admittedly been better,” James responded.

Sam and Todd helped James out of the locker, there were bruises across his body. They helped him walk to the Nurse’s office.

“Nick is such a psychopath, it’s as if he lives to torture people,” Sam said, as they walked.

“What was it you told me about him that one time? With your brother?” Todd asked.

“When my brother Jacob and I were younger, Nick lived in our neighborhood, and he, Trent, Carlos, and Barry would constantly harass Jacob, chase him around nonstop. They even pulled knives on him one time, just to scare him. When I found out, I nearly went out to kill him, Jacob had to hold me back,” Sam told Todd and James.

“Who’s Barry?” James asked.

“He used to be a member of Nick’s little friend group. When they pulled knives on Jacob though, Barry must’ve realized how terrible his friends really were. He helped Jacob get away from them that time, and he stopped hanging around them altogether afterward. I heard his family moved soon after that,” Sam explained.

“Nick is more insane than I thought,” James replied.

One month later, and Nick seemed to harass James and Todd more and more every passing day.

At this point, Sam had left for a little while for some reason, which may have something to do with burning a doll.

With each passing day, James found it more and more difficult to not punch Nick right in his stupid, ugly face, but he knew it would only cause more trouble than it was worth.

James and Todd walked to their bus stop, when a tall man wearing a black tuxedo, black gloves, black boots, and a black fedora, appeared seemingly from nowhere, in front of them.

“You’re having trouble with Nick,” the man stated, matter-of-factly.

“How do you know that? Who even are you?” James asked.

“That doesn’t matter. You are both in danger, more so than you know,” the man said.

“What do you mean?” James asked.

“Nick is more sick and twisted than you can even imagine, avoid contact with him at all costs, and if he gets too close to you, use this,” the man said, handing James a red envelope, which he seemed to pull out of thin air.

“Who the hell are you?” James asked.

“My name is Alexander. James, we will be meeting again, Todd, I regret to inform you that you will never see me again,” the man said matter-of-factly, before walking in between two houses. James followed him from afar, but when he looked between the houses, Alexander was gone.

“What the hell just happened?” James asked, opening the letter.

“Beats me,” Todd responded.

Inside of the envelope was a small, completely black pocket knife.

“Why the hell would that creep give you a pocket knife?” Todd asked.

“He said to use it on Nick if he comes close,” James replied. “Weren’t you listening?”

“I was, but why would he encourage you to kill Nick? Like, I want to kill him, sure, but encouraging someone to kill someone is a bit messed up,” Todd replied.

“It’s not like I’ll use it, anyway. Even in self-defense. Nick is messed up, but as I said before, unnecessary violence is dumb and immature,” James replied.

During lunch that day, James sat at the table where he, Todd, and Sam normally sat together. Today, he was alone. Trent walked up to the table.

“Trent, what are you doing here? Have you come to harass me for your ‘boss’ again?” James asked.

“No, boss wants to talk to you, in private,” Trent said.

“Tell him to go to hell,” James replied.

“He wants to apologize,” Trent responded.

James was surprised. He never thought Nick gave a damn about anyone other than himself enough to apologize.

“I’ll hear him out. Lead the way,” James replied.

Trent lead James to the field on the campus.

“I’m so glad you could join us,” said Nick, sitting on Carlos’ back like a chair,”

“I was just about to say I was proud of you for growing as a person, for caring about anyone but yourself for once, but here you are sitting on your friend like a chair,”

“Hey, my therapist said to start showing remorse for the people I’ve wronged, not to start being a better friend,” Nick began. “Anyway, I’m trying to be better, or some stupid shit like that, or whatever it is my dumb therapist said. I only go because my dumb parents started forcing me to, but here I am.”

“I must admit, I’m not finding you to be particularly sincere,” James replied.

“God damn it, I’m here, this is as good as it’s gonna get, are you gonna forgive me or not?” Nick said. “And think carefully before you answer, I got you this gift, and I didn’t carefully wrap it for nothing,” he said, holding up a relatively large box, which wasn’t particularly well wrapped.

“I still don’t think you actually care, but if this is what it takes for you to be better, then so be it,” James responded.

“Thank you. Trent, give him the box,” Nick said.

Trent got the box from Nick, and gave it to James. The box was heavier than James was expecting.

“What’s in the box?” James asked.

“You’ll see,” Nick said, smiling.

James unwrapped and opened the box. When he saw what was in it, he screamed and threw the box. It hit Trent in the head, and he fell over, unconscious. Todd’s decapitated head rolled to Nick’s foot, and blood began to spill onto his shoe. He kicked the head away.

“Disgusting,” Nick said.

“You monster!” James said to Nick.

“How am I a monster? It’s not my fault! I tried to apologize to him, I did, but somehow the conversation turned to me making fun of him for not having parents or something, and he attacked me, and one thing lead to another, and Carlos had to hide the body and the knife in the woods over there,” Nick replied, pointing at the woods just outside the school. “I figured I’d let you know what happened before you started wondering where he was.”

“You’re fucking sick,” James replied.

Nick began laughing like a maniac.

It was at this moment something snapped inside James. All rational thought left James’ mind. He no longer cared about morals, he no longer cared about anything but the monster in front of him. He remembered the red envelope. He remembered what was inside.

James pulled out the black knife. Nick saw it, and he stepped back fearfully.

“Hey, take it easy,” Nick squealed in fear.

James caught up to him before he could run, and slashed his throat.

Carlos shook Trent, trying to wake him up. James dragged him back from the shoulder, and stabbed him in the stomach. He started trying to run away, but James tripped him.

“Pig,” James said, before stabbing Carlos in the head, finally taking him out.

Trent woke up, and saw his friends’ bodies laying on the grass, dead. He started trying to run, but tripped over his untied shoelaces. He rolled over to see James above him, holding the bloody black knife.

“Don’t kill me, please! I didn’t do anything!” Trent screamed.

“I know,” James whispered, before slashing Trent’s face.

James turned around, satisfied with his kills, and began to walk back to the school, when he was knocked over by someone. He rolled over to see the man in the tuxedo, Alexander, towering above him.

“I’m afraid I cannot have you leaving now. I gave you the knife to defend yourself from Nick, not to go out and kill him. You’re no better than he is now, you’ve become the villain,” Alexander said.

“Let me go, you fool! If you let me get caught, I can just tell the police who gave me the knife, and it’ll be all over for you,” James said, struggling to try and escape.

“Good luck with that, James, but according to records, I don’t even exist,” Alexander said matter-of-factly, before kicking James in the head, knocking him unconscious.