Friends are really important people. They can help you in the loss of a loved one, make you laugh at your darkest moments, and stand up for you. Most of us end up making our friends in school. As for me, I was never too much of a social butterfly, so it took me up into high school to finally make some friends. Of course since I was so reluctant to meet anyone for so long I wasn't considered popular, but who even wants to be popular? After all, you're only in high school for a couple years of your life and then you are gone, most likely never seeing those people ever again.
Then again, there's always that inner thirst for attention that is so strong in certain people. My friend, Caleb, had that inner thirst.
Caleb was a wealthy kid who had a good home life. His parents were still together, he was an only child, and he even had his own cellphone, TV, and computer (which at the time was sort of a rarity). But Caleb hungered to be popular. Even though he never said it out loud, I could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at the popular kids strutting down the hall with a big crowd around them. Who could blame him? Caleb had sometimes told me that one day, he and I would be popular and all the people in school would bow before us. I laughed and shrugged it off, of course; after all, Caleb joked around a lot and had quite an imagination.
It was around the time of tenth grade when I noticed changes in Caleb. He started to hang out with our group less and less, scribble stuff down in a journal, and spend most of his time at his house. Around this time, YouTube also started to get popular, so I didn't have much time to ask him about it as I was eagerly waiting to see what the world had to share next.
Anyway, Caleb and I were best friends. I'm pretty sure we were closer with each other than anyone else in the group. Before he started to become so anti-social, we would hang around each other a lot of the time. Once, Caleb even almost got his classes switched so we could have the same schedule! But two boys hanging out all the time also meant we were the butt of many gay jokes. It didn't help that both of our names happened to partially rhyme with said word (my name being Raymond and you already know his name) so we had arguably the worst nicknames in the whole school. This really bothered Caleb, but I didn't take too much offense to it since I knew that the important thing to focus on in school was education. But, being the good friend I was, I was always sure to calm Caleb down after one of the names was shot at us.
One day I will never forget is when the facts started happening. The internet is full of facts (and myths) and Caleb sure liked his facts. However, he never got normal facts such as: 'Did you know that there's a mushroom species named after Spongebob?' or 'Did you know an adult dog has forty-two teeth?'. No, he had an interest in serial killer facts. It was always one a day and obviously disturbing for my friends and me. We didn't take action for a while, until a couple months later when he started doing five facts a day. While it might not see like too much you have to remember we just went through one murderous fact a day for over three months and now it was going to five.
We all had a meeting at my friend Skye's house to discuss Caleb's behavior. Skye himself suggested that maybe Caleb was starting to become goth/emo since that was the new popular thing at the time. We all considered it, but it was ultimately shut down since Caleb still had his normal clothes and hair (if he was truly goth/emo he would've most likely dyed his hair black by now or at least wear black clothes more often). My other friend, Jackson, suggested that maybe this was all a stunt to get attention. Caleb did love attention and it would make sense for him to go in this deep if it meant he might get even a shimmering glimpse at popularity.
I was feeling rather sick so I decided to leave the meeting early (as it was going to be a sleepover meeting). My friends waved me goodbye as I started walking home. My parents weren't home as they were going on a business trip and I wasn't sure if my younger sister was even home, seeing as she had some kind of party with her friend. Either way, it was just me alone walking home. I remember it being around eight or nine o'clock at night and it was especially cold. I shuddered as I hugged my light jacket closer to my body, the streetlights being my only guide to my house. As I trudged through the coldness I saw another figure walking on the opposite side of the street. I started to gain pace when I passed the figure. I've seen movies where the figure jumps out and kills you. At the time I should've known that the event of that actually happening was very slim, but I was still a dumb teenager at the time.
Of course my imagination was just being overactive. The shadowy figure was soon gone and I was left alone again. I laughed at how silly I was for actually thinking that someone -- something -- was going to attack me...until the figure came back. No it wasn't running. It just must've turned around and went back. I could see it out of the corner of my eye, but I didn't want to stare. Then I saw the figure start to jog, so I went into a sprint. The figure was close behind and was calling my name. "Raymond!" it called. "Raymond, wait up!" The fact that the shadow even knew my name was enough to get me running for my life. However, as I ran I noticed the voice sounded familiar. Just as it caught up to me I realized who it was.
I stopped and uttered one word; "Caleb?" The figure nodded and stopped right in front of me.
"Raymond," he said. "I know about the secret meeting you had."
'Crap' I thought at he stared at me in disbelief. I had a thought that maybe he was just lying, another one of his jokes. I laughed.
"Yep, and then we totally TP'ed the principal's house!" I said in a sarcastic tone. Caleb just looked at me with a serious face.
"I wasn't joking. I know about the meeting. Skye, Jackson, Albert, Alan, and Sam were there."
I sighed and decided to face the consequences.
"Fine, we had a meeting. The only reason you weren't invited is because, well, it was about you." Caleb's serious face turned to one of shock.
"Don't worry though," I started. "We, uh, we were, um, just worried about your health! You've been acting pretty strange as of late, all these murder facts and all..." I didn't want anymore questions, so I ended mine with a question I had been dying to ask. "How did you know we were having a meeting?" Caleb simply chuckled lightly and replied "I called your house and you weren't there." Then he walked off.
I was still confused, then I realized he implied I had no social life outside of our gang. I growled a little and continued on my way home. What Caleb didn't know was that that comment inspired me to start to change my life. I became more social, went out more, and even got a girlfriend. No, I wasn't popular nor did I want to be, but this was enough for me. People at least knew my name now.
As for Caleb, all of my new friends seemed to make him very jealous. This jealous behavior peeked when I told Caleb about my girlfriend, Laura. I didn't understand why he was acting so jealous. I still made time to be with the group, he was still my best friend, and the only nights I weren't around were Wednesdays (debate club meetings). Life was great at the time, but little did I know my world was about to change forever.
I encouraged Caleb to join some more clubs so maybe he could make more friends and possibly even be popular. He couldn't join the football club since the season already started, but the next most popular club was the hunting club which accepted newcomers almost anytime.
Over the months I didn't see Caleb too often. Whenever I tried to call Caleb (using my house phone, we weren't all rich!) he just replied that he was busy with hunting club. I just shrugged it off and accepted the fact that my best friend was lost to the hunting club. Aren't you supposed to lose at least one friend in high school?
Well, my life was going extremely well. I managed to stay out of the high school spotlight, I had a loving girlfriend, and my friends and I (excluding Caleb) were about to get a new video game we all pitched in for. However, there was the sad feeling of losing Caleb lodged in the back of my mind. Yes, I knew it was normal to lose a friend one way or another, but I never actually dealt with it. Knowing something and dealing with something are two different things after all.
They say before something life-changing happens you remember everything that happened before it. For example, my friend Sam said that his aunt was eating a donut when JFK was assassinated. Well, it was March 13 when all hell broke loose.
No one saw it coming, not even me. Caleb came in with two shot guns and began shooting people left and right. All of my new friends, even Laura, were gunned down. Some survived and others didn't. Teachers were scrambling to hide us, we were freaking out, and the bullets kept flying. And to think, the day started with my friends and I waiting eagerly for school to be out. And now, the thought of a new video game was the last thing on my mind.
My thoughts were crowded. People were screaming. Big bangs were going on and on. It was getting hard for me to concentrate, hard for me to even breathe. Caleb, my friend for two years, was killing people left and right. Not just any people, people who meant a lot to me. I was suddenly taken out of my thoughts when Caleb strutted over to me. "C'mon," he said in a raspy voice. "Let's go. The police are going to be here soon and if we leave now we might be able to outrun them!"
I stared at him in confusion. "You expect me to go with you? You sick bastard, you just seriously injured or even..." I took a deep breath. "...even killed some of our friends or people close to me. Why, why in hell would I dare escape with you!?" I wasn't expecting an answer, but the one I got in response shocked me.
"Because I l-love you Raymond. Ever since I first saw you in sixth grade when I transferred here. You helped me come out of my shell and realize who I am."
I looked disgusted at him. Not because of his attraction to me, but because he was willing to do this all because of me. I was the source of the issue. I feel bad for the LGBTQ community. People like Caleb are probably why they had such a bad reputation. Either way, I took a deep breath. With a shaking voice, I told Caleb that he was sick and that I'd never love someone like him. What happened next made me half wish I kept my mouth shut and half relieved that it was all over.
Caleb took one of his guns and pointed it inside his mouth. Before I could try to stop him, he pulled the trigger and was gone. I collapsed on the floor weeping. I had just witnessed a school shooting. I had just witnessed people die and get seriously injured. I had just watched my former best friend shoot himself. Caleb, the boy who could have everything he wanted, except popularity and acceptance for his sexuality.
Sixteen people were injured, four were killed (including Caleb). Skye, Alan, Laura, and Caleb all gone from this world. I soon learned that Caleb was scribbling his plans into his journal and he was kicked out of the hunting club for destroying a decoy. It then made sense to me that he had only joined that club so he could learn how to shoot and aim a gun.
It's a shame what happened to Caleb, but at the same time, he was asking for it. There were many ways he could've dealt with his feelings and actions. He chose not to and he chose to go through with the shooting. Later that week, the police came to my house to question me, and within a month the community seemed to be over the shooting. I was more unpopular than ever at school and people seemed to be afraid of me.
Jackson, Albert, and Sam were all that was left of our original group. My other thirteen "friends" didn't want to be around us after what happened. Jackson's legs ended up being mangled pretty badly and he had to be put in a wheel chair. Albert was mostly fine but was having trouble dealing with the death of his twin (Alan). Sam ended up having to get his arm amputated. I think the worst part of this all, though, was that it inspired more kids to shoot up more schools. Still, today, the shootings aren't over. But it's over now where I live.
Jackson, Albert, and Sam all ended up growing into fine, successful young men. The victims of the shooting ended up getting a fountain dedicated to them, even Caleb. I'm now married with two kids. I go around schools telling kids the tale of Caleb Marcus and warning them about the dangers of feeling left out and getting too attached to someone. Not a day goes by where I don't wonder how things could've went differently if I did something else. Hopefully you learned something too about my ex-friend Caleb.