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Back in my hometown, our county had this costumed motivational speaker that would occasionally visit the public school I went to, as well as other institutes surrounding the area. This speaker went by the titular name, Stanley Squirrel.

Stanley was a red squirrel who sported a stop sign T-shirt and some dark red sneakers. His purpose was to teach grade-school kids about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, gun safety, the usual jazz that you’d expect from a cartoon crime-buster. He often spoke to kids with a lisp, and after his demonstrative performances were finished, he’d pass out free stuff to the audience, like branded bouncy balls, yo-yos, etcetera.

I never knew Stanley’s real name when I was young, nor did I ever get to meet him out-of-costume, but based on my experiences, he wasn’t too shabby of a role model. The animations shown to us that featured him actually gave pretty decent advice, and it wasn’t stupidly unrealistic like those anti-drug specials where the character of interest takes meth to “be like the cool kids.”

It was nice, for the most part, until that one school assembly. I was just ten years old when I witnessed his final performance.

On my way back to the audience from the bathroom, I heard two people talking behind a door leading to the cafeteria stage. Two people talking, with one of the people speaking in a lisp. I knew for certain that this was Stanley talking to what was presumed to be a woman helping him with his costume. I peeped my head through the window of the door, and there he was, sitting next to a lady with a microphone wired over her torso.

Stanley was slouched over, dizzy and shivering. He was able to speak, but he sounded more slurred and garbled as he conversed with the female worker. He said that he was way too nervous to go on stage and his stomach was churning like hell. The woman next to him replied that it’s normal to have stage fright, but still asked him why he feels like this today of all times. All he could reply with was a mumbled sentence.

“It’s startin’na get ta me.”

I was lost at first, but being the ignorant child I was, I shrugged it off as a stage fright-induced stomachache like the lady did. I made my way back to the audience, consisting of kids my age or lower, sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor.

The extra-large projector came down from above and showed us another prolonged prevention PSA, meant to show the effects of heroin injections, what makes them so dangerous, and what the motivators could be. It was a pretty dark cartoon to show to us kids at the time, but I understood why that was the case. It needed to nail a point in our heads somehow, right?

The same woman I saw in that room earlier showed up on-stage to greet the audience, basically treating the place like a pep rally, asking us if we were ready to see Stanley. We all cheered and yelled, before he finally stepped out.

Stanley was slouched over, and he walked to the microphone at a snail’s pace. His tail dragged across the floor miserably. Some of the kids in the audience laughed and took it as a comedy act, while some of us were lost. The woman spoke through gritted teeth, telling Stanley to stop playing around and hurry up.

When he did get to the propped-up microphone, he started saying something. None of us could understand him, and it wasn’t because of the lisp. The only words we could catch through his speech were “needles” and “danger,” but aside from that, it was like we were listening to some weird ritual.

Suddenly, Stanley gagged. Right into the microphone. Most of us were looking at each other, asking what the hell was happening, before he froze in place. We all fell silent, and he began to intensely convulse. The woman told Stanley that they were going to a hospital, and she speedwalked over there, presumably to lead him out of the door.

Then, it happened.

The gagging grew louder, and longer. Stanley stumbled around, looking as if he was about to fall off and possibly crush a kid with his weight. In the process of it all, he ended up knocking the lady overboard, giving her a concussion. His hands tightly tugged at his ears, in a vain attempt to pull off the mask he wore with the costume.

Gray, oozing slush shot out of Stanley’s mouth and eyeholes, spewing like a firehose. Parts of his costume were darkening from the miry slime, including his eyes, which were dampened into a charcoal color. His mask sagged like a wet dog, and threads burst, dripping miniature cascades of the repulsive, dark muck.

The crowd was screaming and crying in agony watching this monstrosity happen, me included. Some of the kids threw up, others either ran or were escorted by teachers out of the cafeteria.

Finally, Stanley tore off his mask, revealing the person behind the costume. His entire face was drenched in gray liquid, and the spots that weren’t covered were stinging with light red. His pinkened eyes rolled up to his forehead, and we could see the mashed contents of the lunch this poor actor had forcibly belch out of his esophagus.

Wham. He fell to the floor, breath shortened to nothing.

The death had traumatized me for quite some time, to the point where just thinking about it made me want to heave. Homework was distributed through alternative means, and we had to be homeschooled by our parents since the cafeteria was basically a crime scene.

I am now twenty-four years old and working for the faculty of the school. If you’re wondering how I still feel about the incident, I’m doing much better now. It did scare me then, but as an adult, I can’t help but feel more remorseful for the actor behind Stanley rather than perturbed.

Yesterday, I was told by the school principal that I had been ordered to clean out the archive room behind the auditorium. As I was sweeping and dusting off shelves, I came across a binder stowed between a few yearbooks. Inside, I came across some information. That information being various documents relating to incidents that have happened at the school, including the infamous one with Stanley.

I found an autopsy report, and I know that it’s about the original actor based on the descriptions given. The gross, gray slime that shot out of him all those years ago, apparently were slowly taking over his veins, hence why he looked so lightheaded on arrival to the assembly. It didn’t just hurl out of his mouth; the sludge ejected from every hole in his body. Eyes, ears, nostrils, and even his genitalia, which ended up splitting in half from the force’s magnitude.

I also found paperwork regarding a crime scene that linked back to the actor. At the cafeteria, a few hours after the incident, fingerprint samples were taken by an investigator. His home was looked into, and nothing of importance to the case was found. Days later, a few blocks away from his apartment, a pile of empty needles was discovered in an alleyway after the violent stabbing of an elderly woman occurred. All of them, every single one, had the actor’s fingerprints.

I carefully placed the documents back where I got them from, and continued cleaning the shelves, feeling stunned, yet expressing no emotion.

During my break, I sat outside on the curb, pondering over the accidental find. The receptionist I worked with was there with me, and we talked about the problems we dealt with during work hours. She sighed and lit up a cigarette before offering it to me. I stared at it, the tiny blaze slowly dying as she raised an eyebrow, asking again if I’m going to have a smoke.

Strangely enough, I can’t look at a cigarette anymore without thinking of needles instead.

Written by LafawndaPasta
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