I feel like I should write something about how this story came to be. I had originally come upon the idea for this story while sitting in a latrine in the rain during the middle of the night, shitting out my soul as a result of either food poisoning, a bacterial infection from drinking the water in my site, or a witch’s curse. (Possibly all three.) I remember racking my memory for what could be the cause of this sickness. I was prosecutorial in my search for the reason behind my nausea. (“The old bitch probably dumped a gallon of homemade cooking oil into my food.” and “The goddamn water committee didn’t do their job and chlorinate the reservoir that La Quinta uses.” were a few of the intuitive leaps I made over that miserable night.)
It was then that I realized that I had almost become unhinged because I didn’t know what was wrong with me and I was scared of dealing with a medical emergency in a place where the nearest hospital was hours away. I thought that would make a good story so here we are. Most of the premise of this story was mapped out that night. (Seems funny that you should be reading this as a result of me feeling like I was losing half my body weight over the course of twelve hours, but then again We R Leejun came about by me deciding to try and work the next song I heard on the radio into the soundtrack of a zombie apocalypse movie. (“Come Sail Away” as it turns out is probably the worst fitting song for a zombie outbreak.) So it goes.)
My first problem was an over-abundance of characters. I wanted to isolate the story to a single classroom and that became chaotic when I realized I had over twenty characters trying to develop themselves and endear themselves to the audience. By this time, I had developed background stories and dreams for almost all of them and couldn’t bear to cut them from the story, but I knew I had to if I wanted to write a novella rather than a hundred page epic. I decided to unleash a plague of my own on the characters and the five from the twenty (Only two were excluded from the outbreak as a result of their necessity in the storyline.) who got infected at random would be removed from the story.
Comically enough, the first randomly selected character turned out to be the original protagonist who was intrinsically tied to every single classmate. Whoops. I decided to stick with my selections and tell the stories of those that were lucky enough to avoid the randomized selection. (I left their names and bios at the end of this story for those interested.) After every draw, I almost always felt the need to put the name back in the hat and re-draw, but I managed to avoid that temptation. I guess I could make some didactic moral out of that or I could just opt to sum in up with a “shit happens and you gotta roll with it.”
I didn’t write this story in condemnation of people in trying circumstances. I know that sometimes people can be made into monsters by their circumstances. (Sometimes they can rise above and do great things.) I didn’t write this as a means of pontificating on human nature like I was a guru of some sort. I guess I wrote this because I personally know what it’s like to be sick and scared. I remember what it’s like to call a hospital home. (The antiseptic smell still triggers memories at times; a toy cat with taped ears in an attempt to assure a child that surgery wasn't a terrifying prospect, being restrained by my father while I was having an antagonistic reaction to the sedative, C.V.C. lines and what happens when they are not properly sealed.) I have contracted the most infectious disease. If I had to guess, that would be my reason for typing this. I didn’t really realize that until I actually typed it and now it makes perfect sense to me. Fancy that.
This novella is dedicated to the authors of Battle Royale (Koushun Takami) and Lord of the Flies (William Golding). Both of which heavily influence this story and should be read right away if you haven’t already. Like now.
“I’m just a man who died a thousand deaths and would die a thousand more times just so I could live another one of my lives with you.”
He scribbled the lines in his notebook. He could feel their eyes on him. They were always watching him. It used to bother him at first and now, it still bothered him, but he now had the foresight to not let it show. He could have written lyrics in his room, but a part of him wanted the rest of the class to see that he was working on it and not lifting lines from the internet off of underground bands. These lines would probably never find their way into a song, but it still was enjoyable to him to press his mind to come up with something new and original. Louis Pasteur had formed a band sophomore year with a few other friends that had grown popular this year past and now everyone in his class kept their eyes and focus on him.
Lou didn’t know what change had occurred between sophomore year and junior year. He was exactly the same in temperament and attitude as he was last year. Before all of this, he was generally overlooked. Once his band took off, he noticed a bump in people paying attention to him. Most hadn’t even gone to see his band perform, but word travels like the wind here. It didn’t matter much either way. If they talked to him, he would talk back. That was the kind of person he was. He had shown up early to class to see if he could bum yesterday’s homework off of anyone, but as it turned out; everyone who had shown up early had the same intentions. With only ten minutes left until class, Lou needed to find someone.
The rest of the calculus class flooded in at the ring of the bell, but the Prof. hadn’t shown up yet. It was a pretty common occurrence. A lot of his classmates gossiped that it was because she lived in a cheap apartment miles away and needed to take the bus in. Lou didn’t mind much anyway, she did her job and he did his job to try and pass the class. Most of the time anyways.
Patrick Finnegan sat down next to him and asked, “You got the homework?”
“Shit, was gonna ask you.”
Lou didn’t fault Patrick for not having the work done. He was a tri-athlete and spent most of his time training. He wasn’t going to get into college with his grades, he would achieve that with his prowess in football, swimming, or baseball. The search continues.
Finnegan sputtered out a flurry of coughs that racked his body. A sly looking boy sidled up to him and asked:
“You get the clap over the weekend Hulk?”
Lou had only known this boy for a few weeks, but could already tell he was a shit-stirrer. He had recently transferred to this school after an incident at his old one. A nearby boy responded without looking up from his book:
“Coughing isn’t a symptom of gonorrhea.”
The brainiac was Ed Jenner and he was always full of these little fun tidbits of knowledge.
The shit-stirrer whose name, Lou never remembered fired back, “As if you’d know anything about V.D.”
“To be honest, I haven’t much time to visit with your mom so no.” The boy huffed off, accepting that he had been bested for now.
Lou was about to ask Eddie to copy his homework, but a loud conversation tore his mind away from the topic at hand. The girl practically shouted at he cell phone as she entered the room. It was an expensive phone and she had to draw attention to let everyone know that it was hers.
She shouted, “…And then Beyonce said to me-”
She was cut off as she bumped into a pretty girl who was chatting up a heavy-set girl.
“Watch it sko!” The entitled girl, Lou remembered, was called Mikela Richards. He had a crush on her freshman year until he learned of her personality. She was shallower than a koy pond.
Lou scanned the classroom, hoping he could find someone whose name he knew. He wanted to ask to copy his or her homework, but he refused to ask anyone whom he didn’t know. It wasn’t mistrust, it was the feeling that he was taking advantage of the person to ask a favor of someone whose name he didn’t know. There were only ten students in this class. Calculus is not a crowd drawer. He didn’t know the heavy-looking girl, the buzz cut guy, the shit-stirrer, the pretty girl (Although rumors had started to drift out to his circle of friends.), or the lone wolf who he was pretty sure had never uttered a word to Lou. He knew Eddie, Joey (The slacker is late.), Mikela, and Patrick.
Lou would have to go through the channels he knew if he wanted that homework copied before-
“Sorry I’m late!”
The prof. walked into the classroom and threw her bag on the table. The sound of glass breaking followed so closely behind that that everyone assumed the professor had been too rough with her stuff, but he soon realized that the sound came from the classroom below them.
The prof. continued, “Let’s get-”
Joey Meister slid into the room like Kramer from Seinfeld and effectively cut the teachers introduction into pieces.
She recovered her senses and said sarcastically, “So nice of you to show up on time.”
He responded nonchalantly, “I was right after you, so it looks like we’re both lat-”
“Anyway, let’s begin class by handing in your homework.”
“She’s hung-over, but is trying to cover it up by acting cheerful and upbeat. She has a slightly pronounced tremor. In all likelihood she is a high functioning alcoholic.”
Jonas knew the trick to it all. He had to be quiet. He couldn’t draw attention to himself. By being a wallflower, he could pass unnoticed around the others. Better than that. He could observe. He sat in the second row from the back. The troublemakers took the back row thinking that it saved them from suspicion, but it did the opposite. The teachers focused on the back and front. They showered their attention on those two extremes and those in-between were left to their own devices. This class period was ripe with things to observe and note.
For example, the professor was wearing the same pantsuit she had worn two days before, but it hadn’t been washed. She was being chipper, but she was battling some deep disappointment in her life. She was losing the fight. He could tell just by looking who had done the homework and who hadn’t.
The musician kept looking around at everyone’s. He wants the answers, but knows it’s too late.
Andrew Wakefield had a look of defiance on his face. He has a problem with authority figures. He looks at everyone and is quick to try and press people's buttons.
Jennifer looked ecstatic. She completed all her calc homework for the week and knows the answers are all right. She most likely is overqualified for this class, but wanted the easy grades. A glandular disorder or a stress eater?
Jonas handed his homework to the teacher. She reeked of perfume.
Trying to cover up the smell??? Not my place to interfere anyway.
Jonas knew that his answers would all be correct. Not because he knew the formulas, but because he knew that the faculty rotated the textbook years by four and once he figured that out, all he had to do was order an old addition that had all the correct answers in the end text. Homework was seventy-five percent of the grade. He didn’t need the formulas memorized; he just needed the patterns.
The teacher stood behind her desk and exhaled. He knew she was going to go off on the students that didn’t have their work completed and since she took a lot of her social cues for teaching from movies like Freedom Writers and Stand and Deliver, her speech was bound to be long-winded and filled with colloquialisms from the 90’s. He took this time to watch those around him. Geraldo was checked out mentally. His buzz cut and insistence on wearing dog tags and camo pants seemed to shout his desire to drop out and join the army or at least R.O.T.C. Andrew tried his best nonchalant look, but a jerk of the lips betrayed his sentiments. Joseph however was the real deal and seemed not to mind either way about his grades.
Jonas knew what he had was a gift. The closest comparison would be Sherlock Holmes’ hyper-observant and vigilant attitude. He could intuit a lot about someone by his or her facial expressions and body cues. He knew most people considered him mentally defective, but he figured it was more of a social disorder. Had his parents decided to check out his aloof nature with a doctor, they would probably discover he had mild Asperger’s syndrome. The drawback to all of this was that he was paralyzed in social situations. He took a peek out the window expecting to see students ditching class out in the parking lot. He couldn’t figure why they would ditch class only to sit in the parking lot. Instead he saw something much more interesting.
The street outside was completely empty. Usually it had its share of people walking or truants smoking, but today there was nothing. He saw a couple of men pull up in a beat-up truck and begin to unload what looked like a series of planks. Jonas’ interest grew as they began to connect them on the road.
A barricade? An accident nearby?
They had erected a simple barricade across the road. He realized that it was facing the high school and the men kept glancing furtively at the building. Was there an accident here?
He continued to watch, but made no motion to inform the other students. Most were trying to keep their focus on the teacher and avoid her gaze when it swept over them to not be singled out. Jonas however had known the bullet points of the speech before she had even begun. As he continued to watch the men, he noticed on-lookers start to get turned away. They left in a hurry without looking back.
This was something serious. A bomb threat?
Just as was trying to puzzle it all out, three humvees pulled up to the barricade and soldiers began to pour out.
The teacher’s eyes swept the classroom again and she finally homed in on the only student not paying attention.
“Mr. Salk, are you paying attention?”
Jonas’ heart began to thump as he turned to her.
She said, “It’s a beautiful day, but we have more pressing matters to address. Am I right?”
She waited for a response. Jonas nodded and hoped she wouldn’t continue.
She did. “A yes or no is required here Mr. Salk.” Panic started to course through his veins. The professor saw that she was making the boy frantic and decided to lay off a bit. She continued, “Jonas. Let me rap with you a bit about what’s totes import-”
It was then that her eyes actually looked out on the street and saw the commotion and her words were stolen from her.
“The Milgram Shock Experiment posited that eighty percent of people will obey authority figures even in situations that directly result in the bodily harm of others.”
She didn’t need to say anything for everyone to know something was going on outside. Everyone flooded to the window to get a peek at what could have shocked her so. Edward watched as more and more soldiers arrived at the scene. They began to post up behind the wooden barricade. They swarmed over the streets like ants.
Harriet spoke first, “What do you think they want?”
The instigator said, “Ain’t you ever heard of Battle Royale? I call dibs on the tech-nine! Rat-a-mother-fucking-tat-tat!”
“Andrew! Watch your mouth! We are in class!”
“I’m sorry your highness, but these military types got me all bent out of shape.”
The teacher glowered at Andrew, but decided not to try and make an example out of him with all of the soldiers around.
Mikela reasoned, “Maybe there was an accident nearby and they’re just sealing the area off to keep interference to a minimum?”
Some people nodded in agreement, hoping that this had nothing to do with them.
Jenny McCarthy countered, “Then why do they keep looking in our direction and why are they facing us? Those guys are here for us.”
A few harsh looks were thrown in Jenny’s direction, but if she noticed them; she chose not to react. Before anyone else could speak, the announcing speakers crackled to life and the principal’s voice filled the room.
The voice spoke in its best attempt to sound authoritative that did not inspire confidence in many of the students in classroom 300, "Do not panic-”
“You hear that everyone?! Panic!”
“-This is an emergency drill. Will the classes on the first floor please report to the gymnasium?”
Below them, the calculus class could hear students open the doors of their class and hurry out into the hall.
The teacher tried to calm everyone, “Do you all see? It’s just a drill. Now everyone, wait for the third floor, our floor, to be called down for the drill.”
A few minutes passed and everyone waited for their time to leave the classroom. The speaker system eventually continued after all the students on the first floor probably reached the gymnasium:
“Classrooms 201 through 210 may proceed to the gymnasium. Do not hurry, this is just a practice run.”
The fact that classroom 200 which was directly below them was not called did not escape the attention of any of the students. The sound of students banging around in the floor below them began to arouse feelings of jealousy amongst the other students.
A few more minutes drifted by before the principal’s voice came on a third time, “Classes 301 through 310 can now walk calmly to the gymnasium.”
Patrick Finnegan coughed a few times and asked what was on everyone’s mind, “Just what the hell is going on here?”
The professor chose not to scold and in fact commiserated with him, “Damned if I know.”
Andrew said, “Well let’s all mosey on down to the gymnasium and find out what’s going on-”
The announcer broke through the thought, “Students in classroom 200 and Classroom 300 are not to leave. A representative will be up soon to talk to all of you and explain the situation.”
Jenny snapped, “Isn’t that peachy!”
Edward Jenner found his voice and finally spoke, “We should at least wait and apprise the situation. If we panic now, we could make everything a lot worse.”
Geraldo continued, “He’s right! We need to hear them out. Those guys know what they’re doing and we should at least wait to hear their reason.”
Andrew prodded, “You hear that, G.I. Jingo wants to wait here with our thumbs up our asses. I say we go out there to the barricade and have a nice tit-to-tit conversation.”
Any supporters of Andrew shrunk back at the thought of confronting the soldiers.
The professor killed the discussion, "No one is going anywhere, we are going to wait and that’s final.”
The teacher tried to distract the class until someone would come up and speak to them, but found that they had no interest in learning calculus and all the games she knew catered mainly to children. The ideas of heads-up seven-up, the telephone game, and popcorn were all met with blank looks. Edward reasoned that she had secretly wanted to teach younger students, but was pulled into this job because of a lack of money and availability of jobs in high schools. He felt bad for her. She had her dreams, but couldn’t achieve them at the moment. He felt bad, but he didn’t feel bad enough to open himself up to derision by the other students by playing along with her. He had enough of getting isolated by the crowd.
They all waited in silence. Edward killed time by counting out Fibonacci sequences in his head to help him think and calm him down a little.
Zero, one, one.
Unlike many of the students in this class, he actually had a use and interest in mathematics.
Two, three, five.
The numbers and raw data of it came to him naturally.
Eight, thirteen, twenty-one.
His true love however was science.
Thirty-four, fifty-five, eighty-nine.
He read scientific journals and read case studies in his free time.
One hundred and forty-four, two hundred and thirty-three, three hundred and seventy-seven.
He didn’t know what was waiting for them or when the people calling the shots would show up, but he intended to get to the bottom of all this.
I am like a river. Things may flow through me, but will never influence my motions. I will brook anything that comes my way and drift through it.
Joseph had enough of sitting at his desk, waiting in silence.
He got up and waved off the teacher’s question with his hand, “Just getting a bit more comfortable. Those chairs can be a real bother.”
He sat down on the floor by the shelving units that held all bags. He was by the window, but knew that watching them set up the barricade outside which would likely be a quarantine would do nothing for his mental state. He kept his mask of nonchalance up in front of everyone. He figured that when this was all over; they would be talking about how not phased he was. He sat down and laid back with his head on his backpack. The bag was empty.
He closed his eyes and pretended to drowse. He knew that a few people were watching him. He didn’t feel tired at all, but knew that nothing showcases a devil-may-cry attitude like nodding off when there was tension. He liked the feeling that came with everyone’s perception of you being so laid-back. He did everything in his power to foster that attitude. It was this perception that made him so easy to approach. He was friends with almost everyone. He also knew that those he wasn’t friends with disliked his slack attitude.
That Wakefield kid would like to take me down a few pegs and Jenny is a bit too high-strung to accept my roll with the punches attitude.
Fifteen minutes passed as he spaced out and drifted into his own world.
He felt the urge creeping up on him and knew that she probably would make a big fuss out of it, but he could probably convince her it was okay given the circumstances. With his eyes closed, he reached backwards into his backpack and felt around the side pockets. He pulled the small box out and flipped the lid back. He shook the box upward and put the cigarette into the corner of his mouth. He reached into his back pocket and retrieved the lighter.
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
Her voice grinded into his ears before he could light the square, “What do you think you’re doing?!”
He opened his eyes and spoke, “Extenuating circumstances Ma’am. I think we can bend the rules just a little, don’t you?”
“Smoking on campus is against school regulations! Are you trying to get on my bad side?”
Joey continued, “I’m sorry if I’m putting you in an awkward position, but I could really use one. I would be eternally grateful if you looked the other way just this once.”
“Do you want one?”
The teacher shocked the class by pulling a cigarette out of the box in his extended hand and sitting on the shelf next to him.
He lit his cigarette and then hers.
He smiled and said, “Didn’t have you pegged for a smoker.”
“An old habit from college.”
He responded, “Which college and which brand?”
“Cowboy killers huh? Pretty hardcore.”
She smiled and exhaled the grey smoke. Her face looked like she had just remembered a pleasant memory. Joey was a master of making small talk and getting people to open up. He knew she probably didn’t want to talk about college. Maybe she went to a community college or she could have dropped out. They sat and chatted while the rest of the class watched them with awe-struck expressions.
Joey finished his cigarette and flicked it indiscreetly out the window.
He said, “Thanks for joining me.”
“My pleasure, let’s just keep this our little secret okay? Everyone.”
Most gave her commiserating nods except for Andrew who looked like he wanted to needle her with a quip that he couldn’t quite piece together. Edward shot to his feet and moved to the vents. Something had dawned on him. He pried the floor vent away that circulated air through to the adjoining classrooms.
He stuck his head down to the hole in the floor and said loudly, “How’s it going down there?”
Joe realized he was using the vents to communicate with the class that was also on lock-down directly below them.
The laid-back smoker got close to the vents and heard the response come in loud and clear, “Having the times of our lives here. You guys?”
Edward motioned Lou over who looked confused at first, but took over for him, “We’re bored up here. Looks like we are all in the same boat. You got an idea of what happened to get us and you guys put on lockdown?”
The female voice cut back and explained in a bitter voice about the glass and the incident.
“Some asshole pharm-head bought something that another junkie lifted off the back of some pharmaceutical’s truck. Daniel says he saw him with some pills in a vial.”
She paused and Joseph knew that she was shooting the kid in question the dirtiest look.
“So the asshole brings it to school and pops it right before chemistry class. About two hours ago, he goes into convulsions and is basically a vegetable. The teacher runs out for help and tells us to wait where we are and then those douche-nozzles show up and guess what, she doesn’t come back. You want my opinion, idiot od’d and this is all some fucking useless precaution.”
Lou said, “That sucks. Anybody come to see you guys yet?”
The voice responded, “We’re still waiting.”
Wakefield cut in, “Ain’t that just precious?! I’m so glad we decided to wait.”
Lou said, “Shut it. I got one last question. What’s the dumbasses condition right now?”
The voice paused before responding, “Breathing steady and slow, still alive, but if we’re here much longer, I don’t think he’ll be that way for much longer.”
“Kill a defenseless man?!”
“This defenseless man caused all of this by popping that damn pill. I don’t know what’s happening to him now, could be the best trip of his life or could be experiencing hell on earth. All I know is that he’s probably the reason that we’re all here.”
“I’m scared of everything. Who I am. Most of all, I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my life the way I feel when I’m with you.”
Mikela Mary Richards had been running an autopilot for a bit while she waited for some sort of catalyst to knock her out of her stupor. She was the type of girl to give into fancies of indecisiveness and let other people step in and address her problems for her. She was surrounded by people who wanted to, needed to help. Her father was quite well off and everyone sought his favor. She just happened to be one of the ways people found their way into his good graces. She had almost let herself become content in her inactivity. The conversation with the girl below the classroom was just what she needed. She knew what had to be done.
She stood up from her desk and walked over to the window. The window definitely reflected the style of the architect. It utilized a crank to open. She saw other signs of the antediluvian influences the designer had a predilection towards in the vent system, the whole wooden structure of the school, and of course, the water fountains that looked like they were probably running on segregated systems until the equal rights amendment was passed. Mikela cranked the window open and looked at the soldiers setting up the barricade.
They ran feverishly back and forth like a colony of ants to try and set up a metal chain link fence between them and the school. If she had been thinking clearly, she would have realized that they were setting up for the long haul. She didn’t realize that they were not going to pack up and call it a day at the end of the day.
Mikela leaned out the window and shouted, “I don’t think you’ve all realized the mistake you all have made! We are just students and some of us are quite affluent. I insist someone come up here so I can tell you just who I am and why that name is currently the only thing between your job and a gruesome court-marshal-”
She watched in horror as her words grabbed their attentions and they all raised their weapons and trained in on her. A finger twitch was all that was between her and doubling her weight in lead.
They roared, “Step away from the window or we will shoot!”
The words died in her throat for just a second before that fear was swallowed up in rage. Did they not know the clout her father had? She was about to spew them with vitriolic diatribes when an arm wrapped around her and pulled her back from the window.
The R.O.T.C. wannabe growled, “Princessa! They mean what they say! Let’s not push them to make any split second decisions which will end with us getting aerated like Swiss cheese!”
Mikela reached back and slapped him as hard as she could. He didn’t flinch from the blow. He didn’t grimace or wince. Everyone else did.
The teacher broke the shocked silence with a set-in-stone command, “No one hits anyone in this classroom! Everyone get away from the windows! Whoever doesn’t comply in the next three seconds will spend the rest of their high school life coming in early for detention.”
Everyone moved back from the windows and the rest of the afternoon was spent in silence. Mikela spent the next three hours shooting daggers at Geraldo.
This close to getting to speak to a superior officer and maybe getting those barricade lifted and that monkey of a man ruins it all!
The buzz cut boy fiddled with the dog tags that hung around his neck and tried to avoid her gaze. Time continued to crawl onward and still no one came to speak to them.
Night fell upon them and brought them no comfort. Many of the students began to think about how they were going to get comfortable enough to sleep. Mikela opened up her cell phone and knew that if she couldn’t reach someone in her father’s thrall then she would be spending the night sleeping on the floor.
Shit, no bars.
She knew someone was going to pay for this. They wanted to shut up, but she wasn’t the kind of person to be cowed by such threats. They thought she was someone that would take an order lying down, but she was not a jarhead like G.I. Joe over there. In older times, she would have perfectly aligned herself to the aristocracy.
Mikela Mary Richards made an oath to herself while sealed up with the other classmates. She would see them all court marshaled and charged with human rights violations. She would see them destitute and ruined. She shut off her cell phone and retreated into her mind and imagined whoever was in charge of the operation being crushed under her presence as she laid into them with every four and five letter invective that she knew. She even made a few up in her mind as stewed in her own rancor. Time crawled by and when the teacher shut off the lights, she rested her head on her backpack and drifted off. She had no dreams or nightmares, but melodrama dictates in these situations that her nightmare was just beginning.
““…he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation… For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!” ~ To Fortunado”
Jennifer McCarthy woke up with dreams of him in her mind and his taste on her lips. She had never kissed him, but she was imaginative. She had to be because she knew her love for him was like most things in life, forlorn and unobtainable. She easily came to this conclusion by analyzing her social status in comparison with his and her weight. She had learned not to pull any punches when it came to her weight. She weighed about as much as him and he was about a foot taller than her. She was a nerd and he was a jock. There was no way that they could Romeo and Juliet this.
Besides, both characters commit suicide in that play.
She had stayed on the outskirts of the social scene and never even thought about putting herself out there. Instead of using her considerable intelligence to see the strengths of her and those around her, Jenny used her mind to bring other people and herself down. As a result of all this, she had little friends and even less self-respect. Like many during her teenage years before her, she subscribed herself to a very Gothic stance. She was pessimistic and a fatalist. Whereas most youth grow out of this phase, she was certain to carry it with her as long as she lived. She had been hurt too much and knew that by not caring and hurting those around her she would be certain never to feel the same pain twice.
Jenny was the first one to wake up. She glanced over at Patrick and realized that even when he wasn’t sleeping, he exuded something that was magnetic to her. She wasn’t sure if it was her desire to hurt herself or maybe the battery of teenage comedies she watched, but she knew that she was attracted to him. She looked around the room at all her classmates sleeping on the floor or propped up against walls. Some used jackets or the backpacks as pillows. She realized something was missing in all of this. It took her a few minutes to shake off the drowsiness that her overtaken her. It dawned on her the second she looked at the large desk.
She stood up and asked, “Where’d the teacher go?”
The class woke up quickly as the commotion rose. Theories came out quickly and without much evidence to back them up. Andrew claimed that the government soldiers took her while she slept to experiment on her. She wasn’t sure if he really believed that or if he had just said it to spook some of the other students. Jennifer suggested that she abandoned them to go and run for safety. She proposed the idea in common sense, but she could sense the classes’ outright and fearful rejection of the thought. Joey decided she had gone to use the bathroom. Everyone seemed to pick sides and stick to the authenticity that theirs was the right idea. The theories continued to spin out of control until almost everyone was shouting at each other. The argument turned uglier and uglier until Jonas interrupted everyone, not with words, but by merely tapping on the window.
The ten students (Including Jonas) went to the window to look out at the barricade. He had something important to tell them all, but he still hadn’t found his voice. In her free time, she had read many books on psychoanalysis and she had decided that Jonas had social anxiety disorder. During the night, the barricade had swollen and looked even more formidable. The soldier’s ranks had expanded as well. Now the chain-link fence was reinforced with sandbags for the soldiers to take cover behind and three tents had sprung up. It was a disheartening sign, but what was even more discouraging was seeing the teacher step outside from the lobby and begin to approach the barricade.
Jennifer snarled, “That settles it! She’s leaving us behind.”
The class watched spellbound as their calculus teacher raised her hands and shouted, “I’m not infected! Those kids are not infected! You can’t keep us locked up in there! At the very least we need food and water.”
The soldiers commanded, ‘Go back inside! We will use deadly force to keep you inside the quarantine.”
She continued approaching, ignoring their mandates. They all raised their guns and she was in the crosshairs of every weapon in the vicinity.
The teacher shouted, “I demand to see who’s in charge here! You can’t do this to us! We’re human-”
A single shot rang out and the class watched horrified as a splash of red materialized behind their teacher.
She pressed her hand to her stomach, unable to accept what had just happened. She pulled her hand back and stared in terror at the red liquid oozing between her fingers. The single shot galvanized the other soldiers into action. She had just enough time to look up mystified at the soldiers before every finger found their triggers. A volley of bullets burst from the collective mass of guns and tore through her. She rocked back a few steps as she was cut to ribbons. She collapsed onto her back and stopped moving, a pool of red spread out beneath her. Almost every student either cried out or shrieked in terror. They got as far away from the window as possible and then when everyone was out of the line of fire; they broke into panic.
Boys and girls alike wept openly. Andrew clenched his fists so hard that his nails cut his palms. Geraldo hid his face behind an impassive mask, but anyone could tell he was deeply disturbed by the teacher’s death. Patrick Finnegan gritted his teeth and punched the painted cinder block wall in rage. He got in ten punches before he dissolved into a coughing fit. The slacker took it probably the hardest. He screamed aloud with such pain that for a second Jennifer thought he had caught a stray bullet. Those who weren’t crying were in shock. They looked into nothingness with a stare that really saw nothing. She wondered if they had gone into a catatonic state. She became aware that her vision had gone blurry and couldn’t figure out why. She wiped at her eyes and came away wet.
Am I crying? When did that start?
She broke down in sobs that racked her body.
“When God closes a door, She opens a window.”
Harriet was trying her best to think on the bright side of things, but there weren’t many things to be optimistic about. They had just executed a teacher without remorse and these were the people that had them on lockdown. The slightest misstep could result them all ending up like her. She crept close to the window and poked her head out. The soldiers were scrambling around and talking frantically on the radio. A man was hurriedly jamming his feet into what looked like a mass of yellow.
A hazmat suit?
Soldiers swept their guns all over the campus as if they expected everyone to come running out at them. She knew that no one had that thought. They probably wanted to get as far away from the soldiers as possible.
She watched as a man made his way to the barricade. He was dressed differently from the soldiers. He didn’t have any camouflage. He was wearing something a colonel or general would be wearing. There were a few medals pinned on his jacket like that would inspire confidence or trust with them. She rightfully assumed that he was in some position of power.
He looked at the window of classroom 300 for a few seconds before he raised a megaphone up to his mouth and set the tone of the dialogue, “I will only speak to one person. This does not need to be a cluster-fuck of shouting. You have three minutes to select someone.”
He set the megaphone down and turned to the soldiers and began to talk to them. The class looked at one another. Jonas was not a wise choice, nor Andrew. Joseph looked too forlorn to be an eligible choice. Everyone one else was up for selection.
Eddie broke the silence, “I vote Harriet.”
“Talkative, pretty cheerful-”
“I don’t feel very peppy-”
He continued, “–femininity might help diffuse some of the us and them tension.”
Andrew spat, “He thinks you might be able to seduce him. Flash him a little bit of titty-”
Lou intervened, “I second the choice.”
Jonas simply nodded and Joey said through red-rimmed eyes, “You’re the best choice in this situation.”
Harriet nodded and joked, “No pressure right?”
Mikela said, “Only the pressure of getting us all killed. Watch your mouth and make sure he knows how important I am!”
She knew that Mikela had something against her, but she never could figure out what it was. The decision had been made.
They just want the pressure off of their shoulders. She slowly walked to the window.
Her knees threatened to buckle under their weight and she was almost certain her heart would beat out of her chest. The leader was waiting behind the chain-link fence and the barricade looking at an old pocket watch impatiently. She assumed that he was wishing that they finished their deliberations in a timelier manner, but you can’t rush perfection.
She shouted, “My name is Harriet Patricia Vognert. I am a student here and I live at-”
He spoke through the megaphone cutting her off, “We know who you all are. I am here to explain what is happening.”
Chatter broke out through the class before she continued, “Tell us why we’re under quarantine then. Tell us who you are and the reason for all this.”
He looked directly at her and for a second, she felt as if his eyes were boring through her and looking at something behind her. The class had gathered around her, but most stayed out of sight for fear of a bullet finding them should they start flying. The man with the megaphone began:
“From best we can tell, there has been a biological incident-”
Andrew Wakefield popped out from behind the shelves like a demented Jack-in-the-box and shouted at what he saw as the man hiding behind the barricade, “Incident?! Why don’t you just call it a whoopsie-daisy! We’re fucking surrounded like Butch Cassidy by soldiers with assault riffles and you’re trying to downplay it! Was it also an ‘incident’ when you lit up our calculus teacher like a goddamn Christmas tree?! You must be a stupid mother fucker if you think that we’re going to eat this bullshit hook-line-and-sinker!”
Everyone’s breath caught in their throats. They knew nothing good would come from instigating this man. Other students restrained Andrew before he could launch into any more invectives.
He continued without batting an eye, “The classroom directly below you was exposed. Do not worry about them; they are being given the best medical care and will be back on their feet soon enough. Until the time we can identify the biological entity, you guys are all on quarantine. Do not try to leave the school. You are free to use the restroom on the third floor, but are not allowed to visit the other floors.”
Harriet replied, “There is no restroom on this floor-”
“I suggest designating a nearby classroom as a bathroom then. Tomorrow, we will send in the doctors to treat you all and provide food. It is our duty to make sure everyone gets out of this alive.”
Joseph Meister “The Slacker”
“I am like the wind. I am constantly moving and carry my burdens with finesse.”
The man set the megaphone down on a concrete block that composed part of the ever-growing barricade and walked away. He was finished talking and cut the communications without so much as a goodbye.
Everyone turned away from the window and Mikela was the first to speak, “That’s good news right? We’re going to be all right.”
Geraldo joined in, “They have the situation under control! Gracias a Dios!”
Andrew spat, “Good for you! He’s fucking us and you're optimistic that he ain’t gonna come in our mouth and get none in our hair!”
Geraldo was about to punch his lights out when Jonas startled everyone.
Jonas grabbed a desk and overturned it. Silence settled on the room like a miasma.
Jennifer snapped, “The hell was that, social butterfly?!”
Eddie spoke up for him, “He knows. How can you provide treatment for an illness if you can’t even identify it? They lied to us about treating classroom 200. What else are they lying to us about? I don’t think we can trust them.”
Harriet countered, “Maybe they don’t know and they’re just trying to keep us calm until they can come up and take blood samples and what not.”
Patrick coughed and spoke, “We can’t know anything for sure until they show up tomorrow.”
Jennifer snapped her fingers loudly and said, “We don’t have to wait!”
She walked over to the vent and shouted, “How are you all doing down there? Copacetic?”
She waited for a reply, but heard nothing back.
She shouted, “We just want to know if you had a bunch of doctors treating all you guys? You heard the douche. We just figured it was a bunch of bs, but it never hurts to follow up.”
Again there was no response. The class was getting worried now.
She shouted, “Can you hear me you bunch of chatty Cathies?”
She pried off the lid and stuck her head into the hole to make herself better heard. It was there that she first became aware of the smell.
She pulled her head back and wrinkled her nose in disgust.
She said, “This school’s falling apart! Something must have died in the vents. What did I expect going to a public school.”
Jonas’ hands clenched into a ball and he gritted his teeth as the realization made itself known to him.
Edward was the next to put the pieces into place and he said, “Oh sweet Jesus.”
Jennifer raised her eyebrow quizzically and then the implication settled on her. She crowed, “They couldn’t have! We would have heard!”
Mikela said, “What’s going on?”
Andrew reasoned, “Dunno myself, but seems like the genius got a whiff of something that wasn’t a fried double-down. My guess is on the scent of decomposition.”
The rest of the class didn’t have to go near the vent to become aware of the smell. Now that the vent cover had been taken off and someone had called attention to it; they could all smell it.
Andrew continued talking to no one in particular, “I guess it makes sense. The guy with the megaphone was only addressing us. I bet the class below us has gone on to the great gig in the sky with the help of those soldiers.”
Lou spoke aloud, “Well, what now?”
Edward answered, “This may be a horrible suggestion, but why don’t we have a look-see to find out what happened. We won’t know for sure until we can see it with our own eyes.”
Jonas Salk “The Loner”
“His right hand keeps tracking back to his pocket. A talisman or lucky charm? Given the situations in which he touches his pocket indicate some sort of weapon. Mace or a knife.”
The class looked at their fellow student as if he had made “A Modest Proposal”.
Andrew concurred, “This may be Stockholm syndrome talking, but that is the sexiest idea I’ve heard since we got locked up.”
Edward corrected, “I’m not your captor so you wouldn’t be developing feeling for me, but the soldiers-”
“And the magic is gone, you’re back to being annoying.”
Geraldo resisted the idea, “What happens if the soldiers notice that we are gone? We could be in serious trouble.”
Jonas noticed his hand wandered.
Lou reasoned, “We won’t send everyone. Maybe two or three people. The rest will keep an eye out and maybe forage for food because I am starving over here.”
The group embraced the idea, but when it came to electing themselves into the search party; they fell short. They eventually decided on Andrew who volunteered out of the sheer desire to break the general’s orders, Edward Jenner, and Louis Pasteur. Jonas, Patrick, and Mikela would watch the soldiers and shout down the vent if they saw them approaching the school. The rest would go through the other classrooms in search of food as most hadn’t eaten anything for a day. They all split off to perform their tasks.
At first Jonas watched the soldiers, looking for a pattern or habit to become evident, but at such distance, he couldn’t make out anyone’s face and without any identifying features, he was forced to give up. He turned his attention to those in the classroom with him. Patrick coughed frequently. He probably had a cold, which had been compounded by the stress of the situation. Mikela kept glancing out towards town and he knew that she was waiting for the time when he dad would show up with a legion of lawyers. He didn’t bother to tell her that no amount of legal intervention would help them if they pulled the marshal law card.
The group that had been searching the other classrooms on the third floor came back and deposited their collection on the teacher’s desk.
Jennifer rationalized, “Most kids took their bags with them when they left. We have slim pickings here.”
She is avoiding eye contact. A guilty conscience about something?
He knew that she had pocketed a bit of her findings. He didn’t see any reason in calling her out on it as doing so would only serve to increase paranoia and threaten cohesion in the group.
Harriet said, “This should tide us over for the day and we can always raid the lunchroom and lockers if this lasts another day. Everyone just needs to tighten their belts a little bit.”
She knows how important it is for everyone to be calm and optimistic. She will be extremely important if this quarantine persists.
The three man search party returned and Jonas knew what they had found before they began talking.
Eddie looks paler than a porcelain doll and Lou can’t hold anyone’s eyes for more than a second. They don’t want to talk about it, but they know it has to be done.
Even Andrew seemed dejected as if he even he didn’t want to talk about what he had seen directly below them. The others had been excited by the prospect of finally getting something in their stomachs other than air and hadn’t noticed the pallor or miasmic depression that clung to those three. Patrick showed them the food they had collected; mainly granola bars, candy, and water bottles. Jonas knew that food was the last thing on their minds at the moment. Louis broke the news to everyone.
He said, “They’re all dead downstairs. Every single one of them.”
Silence reigned supreme amongst the class.
Ed continued, “Most of them looked like the aspirated blood or were bleeding from their mouth, nose, and eyes. They were showing symptoms very similar to hemorrhagic-”
Andrew interrupted solemnly, “They don’t want to hear about that shit. We didn’t hang out there for long for obvious reasons, but it seemed like they all died of the same thing. There were no signs that doctors had been present or any treatment was given.”
There was no response. The class absorbed this news like it was the reading off of a lunch menu and not the violent death of a class of students just feet away from them.
Jonas processed the information carefully. The girl who spoke to them through the vents had implied that only one of them had taken the pills, but if everyone was dead that suggested that the biological entity was infectious on some level whether it was contacted through bodily fluids or aerosolized, Jonas couldn’t be sure. The illness if left untreated could be fatal. One sign of infection was severe bleeding, but panic could trigger a whole myriad of placebo-symptoms. Patrick’s persistent cough could lead to severe fractioning of the group if tensions rise any higher. Jonas knew that something had to be done to diffuse the tension in the class before paranoia began to influence everyone’s actions.
The miasma that had started with those three investigators suffused throughout the room. Students were dead below them and some knew them as friends or at least acquaintances. Jonas knew none of them, but he had kept to himself mostly. For the others however, Mikela bit her lip and looked down at the floor to keep herself from crying.
A crush maybe?
Andrew snapped, “Goddamn it.”
Geraldo’s hand shifted, but returned back to his side. The realization that this room may quickly become their tomb had not escaped anyone’s mind.
Harriet’s voice broke through the murk, “I would kill for a drink right about now.”
It was then that Jonas spoke for the first time since everyone was put on lockdown.
Harriet Patricia Vognert “The Girl-Next-Door”
“If you see the glass as always being half-full, your life will be full of happiness.”
Much to everyone’s surprise, Jonas sat up and moved to the teacher’s desk. He pulled open a few drawers as if looking for something. Upon not finding it, he then grabbed a nail file from one of recesses. They watched with interest as he jammed the nail file into a locked drawer and pried the desk drawer open. Those locks weren’t really made for security purposes. They were there to give the illusion of security and Jonas easily pried the door open. He smiled as he reached into the once locked drawer and pulled the item out. He thunked the bottle of cheap vodka on the desk.
He spoke, “I will give you this entire bottle if you kill the fellow with the megaphone out there.” There was a moment of stunned silence before they dissolved into laughter.
Harriet grabbed the cheap plastic handle of vodka and said, “A promise is a promise.”
The joke wasn’t that funny, but it gave them something else to do than think about the fifteen dead people below them so they laughed. Tears welled up in their eyes as the laughter rolled through them. Finnegan laughed until a fit of coughing stopped him.
Lou asked, “How’d you know she had a bottle here?”
Jonas rubbed the back of his neck and said, “She had the shakes and she doused herself in perfume. A high functioning alcoholic was the most likely scenario.”
Andrew walked up to the desk and said, “Thank God for people and their inner-demons.”
The class quickly divided into who was drinking and who wasn’t. Jennifer refused on principle and Mikela refused due to her drinking buddies were to be. Harriet wouldn’t have been surprised if she turned her nose up at them a few times before the night was done. Geraldo wanted to stay sharp and Patrick didn’t feel up to drinking. Jonas tried to join the others, but was pulled into a few shots by an insistent Harriet. The vodka could only be described as cheap with its plastic, shatter-proof bottle and its taste that was like drinking lighter fluid and then swallowing a lit match. Most of the students didn’t mind as it achieved its purpose of putting fire into their bellies.
Harriet went through a bit of a phase a couple of months back. She went to parties, got drunk, did a lot of things she would come to regret. She had decided not to dwell on it. Instead she took another shot of the paint thinner vodka and let a warm feeling suffuse itself throughout her body. She was certain that Edward hadn’t ever tasted liquor because he winced after every shot. It was kind of cute like watching a baby first take a bite into a lemon. She knew Lou had managed to get a few gigs with his band in a bar and probably had a couple of drinks after the show. She went to one of his shows once, but was so drunk that she only had an inkling of an image of him standing by the stage afterwards with a red silo cup in his hand.
Joseph seemed to be drinking only socially. He took a nip every now and then, but was mainly attempting to engage others in conversations. He chatted with Eddie about sci-fi movies and pulled Lou into a lengthy conversation about philosophy. She wasn’t sure if Andrew even knew the definition of moderate as every time the bottle was passed to him, he chugged it like it was water. Like always, Jonas seemed to be an enigma wrapped in a mystery. His face was impassive after every shot. Everyone coughed or winced after a shot except for him. Joseph managed to pull everyone into a conversation except for Jonas. He drank perfunctory like a clockwork machine and watched everyone from the corner of his eye.
Jonas tipped the plastic vodka bottle over and said, “Dead soldier.”
Andy nodded and said, “I wish.”
Andy walked up to the window and opened it all the way. He climbed up on the shelf and began unzipping his pants. Before Harriet could ask, he took himself out of his pants and started pissing out the window.
He shouted, “You think I’m scared of you all and your dick-wagging!? This is so you can see who’s the big swinging dick ‘round these parts!”
She waited with bated breath to see if he would catch a bullet for taunting the soldiers.
Andrew continued rocking back and forth on the windowsill while shouting vulgarities at them and pissing in their direction.
Is this literally going to become a pissing contest?
With a flash, a massive spotlight kicked on and illuminated him with light. He stood in the window in shock as the light bathed him and exposed him to those who were still in the class.
Not a bad specimen, but his personality is radioactive.
He stumbled back and fell off the shelves. The spotlight swept the window as if looking for the source of the shouts. Lou smiled and exchanged a glance with Joseph. The same idea ran through them both. They worked at their belts and undid them. The realization what they were about to dawned on Edward and he struggled to catch up with them. They both dropped their pants at the same time and mooned the soldiers just as the searchlight rolled over them. Edward joined them a few seconds later and they all dissolved into laughter. Jonas walked off as they shouted and taunted the soldiers. Harriet followed him out into the hall, she wanted answers that only he had.
She called out softly to him in the hallway.
He turned to her and she asked, “Who are you?”
He responded simply, “I’m Jonas Salk. We have two classes together. I don’t know if I should be offended by you not knowing my name or whatev-”
She pressed, “No. I know almost in this classroom except you. Edward is some sort of genius; he is lacking social skills that’s for sure. Patrick is so driven to escape that he doesn’t realize the danger of trying to escape a quarantine. Joe is trying to play everything cool and calm, but he is anything but. Andy is caustic and definitely likes to grind peoples gears-”
Jonas interrupted with his own analysis of the class.
He spoke calmly and in a deadpan manner, “Most likely he has oppositional defiance disorder. Mikela thinks she has control over the soldiers due to her status, but not really. She is best kept away from discussions. Lou is dealing with a sudden growth in popularity and is wondering which of his friends or true or fair-weather. His amiability will make him an effective leader in this situation. Jennifer believes she can out-think everyone, but is not equipped to handle pressure. She is mostly likely going to be the first to snap under the pressure. You, Harriet-”
She growled, “Don’t distill me down to a few sentences. There are more to us than that. We’re people goddamnit!”
Jonas watched her expression with confusion. It was clear he was not expecting this.
He began again, “I am Jonas. My strength lies in reading a situation. Most likely I have some form of Aspergers’ syndrome or a social disorder. I will never be able to unify everyone. That is your talent. You can be the mediator to their conflicts. We are on the precipice between barbarity and order. This is only going to get worse. You can be the one that saves us all.”
Her face softened and she said, “I’m going to get to bed and sleep this off. I’ll see you in the morning.” He nodded and she left.
I can be the one to save them all.
The words rang in her head, but she never took into account the fact that not everyone can be saved.
Edward Jenner “The Brainiac”
“The University of Liverpool posited that brain size directly impacts the number of social connections a brain can form. The range is 135 to 150 meaningful connections.”
Edward woke up with a pounding headache and the feeling that felt like he had gargled a foul-tasting molasses just before going to bed.
Imbibing alcohol can dehydrate the body. Most of the effects of a hangover correlate with symptoms of dehydration.
He ticked through the symptoms of binge drinking and nodded at the symptoms he was experiencing. He even handled his first hangover like it was a scientific expedition. He went to the water fountain outside and washed his mouth out a few times. He drank about a liter of water. Filling his stomach and re-hydrating were sure-fire methods to alleviating the symptoms of a hangover. His stomach was growling so he moved to the desk and helped himself to a granola bar that had been scrounged from neighboring classrooms. He didn’t blackout last night, but there was a slight haze to the festivities.
He recalled talking with Joe about whether Attack of the Killer Tomatoes or Killer Clowns from Outer Space made a more intimidating monster. (They decided that the tomatoes had more gumption and had actually had sequels and thus were the winner.) He remembered mooning the soldiers.
We’re probably going to face some retaliation for that little rebellion later on.
There was no use dwelling on it. They couldn’t dress it up and apologizing would be a venture in the futile. They had already shit the bed sort to speak and trying to spray Febreeze on it wasn’t going to make it better. He stretched and looked around classroom 300.
When they had started to drink last night, the group had split into two. Those who didn’t want to drink went to another classroom while those who opted to get drunk stayed in room 300.
Drinking just ten feet away from a classroom full of corpses. Sounds like a Russian novel.
He looked at the others in the room with him. Joseph was sleeping contently using his backpack as a pillow. Andrew was sprawled out on the floor without anything to use to cushion his head. Jonas wasn’t in the classroom. Lou was curled up on the floor with his head resting on the crook of his arm. Harriet had her back up against the wall and her head was resting on her knees. His awakening seemed to serve as a catalyst as slowly the other revelers began to wake up.
They all stretched and looked uncomfortable at each other. Lou and Joe about mooning a group of soldiers who currently had their lives in their hands. Andrew seemed to be carrying the brunt of the awkwardness. He probably remembered exposing himself to the soldiers in an act of bravado. He wouldn’t look people in the eyes and Edward tried to remember if Andrew was insecure about his size.
He smiled inwardly and said, “Let’s meet up with the others.” Most grunted their approval and assent. They left the classroom that now reeked of a cloying smell of death.
They located the other students in classroom 303 that was on the same side of the building, but occupied the other corner. It was furthest away from the corpses, but was still adjacent to the barricade.
Jennifer spat upon seeing the others come into the room, “Here come the lushes. Did you enjoy yourselves last night?”
Mikela chided, “So Harriet, I know you hooked up with at least one of them while intoxicated. That is your modus operandi now. Pray-tell who was the lucky, now syphilitic gentleman?”
Before Harriet could fire back with a caustic rejoinder, the megaphone screeched into the mid-morning air and the voice piece spoke to the quarantined students.
The mouth piece spoke in a cheery tone, “Morning! I heard you all had quite the busy night last night-”
Andrew vented vitriol, “Fuck you, you shit-sucking cockroach! If you don’t have anything important to say to us, shut your goddamn mouth!”
One part of the class was too stunned to interfere with Wakefield’s diatribe and the other part was wishing they could express the same sentiments.
He raised the megaphone to his mouth and boomed, “I would prefer the company of Ms. Vognert-”
“Too bad crotch-rot! You’re talking to me. She doesn’t feel like talking to a limp dick, impotent withered old husk such as yourself.”
The megaphone man raised the tool again to talk, but Andrew continued his rant, “You see, you failed to deliver on your promise. Where’s our food!? We’re starving here!”
“The food is coming-”
“You’re more full of shit than a port-o-potty pops! You’re just a toady! Let me speak to the big swinging dick here! Let me speak to Mr. Tuskegee experiment. I want to talk to MK Ultra. I’m tired of paling around with Mr. Puppet.”
“If you’d just let me talk-”
Andrew roared and it was as if his voice was amplified stronger than the megaphone itself, “We’re tired of talking marionettes! You talk and talk and achieve nothing! We’re tired of going around in circles. We’re tired of you, Da-”
The realization of what he was about to say stole Andrew’s words away and the man with the megaphone used that opportunity to seize control of the conversation:
“I was trying to say before I was so rudely interrupted by such a crass and crude individual-”
“Both those words mean the same thing asshole!”
“-that we now have new information on the biological entity that made this quarantine necessary. We know the symptoms that you should be vigilant for. We have identified the virus that you have been exposed to.” Silence reigned supreme in the class.
The man continued, “The first symptoms are cold-esque in nature. The incubation period for the symptoms to become manifest in twenty-four hours after exposure. Intermediary stages are extreme lethargy and dementia. This stage can last one to two days depending on your immune systems. The final stages of the virus are very similar to hemorrhagic fever, bleeding from the nose, eyes, ears, and any orifice really. In this final stage, the person is highly infectious and can contaminate others through bodily fluids, close proximity, and physical contact. The final stage lasts two to three hours before death.”
The man with the megaphone waited for his words to sink in with the class before continuing, “We highly suggest isolating people that show signs of early infection. We have our top scientists working on a cure at this very moment, but it will take time. Keep calm. Losing your patience or flying off the handle could sign the death warrant for you and your friends. We will bring you food and the cure when we manage to fully understand its effects.”
He set down the megaphone and walked off in a brusque manner. The words hung throughout the classroom and rendered the situation in a brutal clarity. They could be infected with this fatal virus and could die within days. The only thing that could be heard amongst the shell-shocked students was the relentless coughing of Patrick Finnegan. Slowly the dark realization began to set upon them like an ancient Lovecraftian horror, insinuating itself throughout their minds, corrupting their thoughts.
Patrick Finnegan “The Athlete”
““Liston is staggering! Clay is rocking him with combinations! Clay is killing him! Clay is killing him! Sonny Liston is down!””
—Second Clay-Liston fight
Patrick doubled over coughing. It seemed to everyone like his next fit of coughing would result in him ejecting a lung from his body. Andrew Wakefield was the first to make the connection and take the initiative.
He growled, “You son of a bitch! You are infected.”
Part of the class gave out stifled shrieks and gasps. They were now coming face to face with the infection; they were coming face to face with their own mortality. He tried to shake his head and deny the claim, but a flurry of coughs rendered him incapable.
Wakefield snarled, “When were you going to tell us Typhoid Timmy? After you infected us all or when you became a fucking plague victim? You’re a goddamn Trojan horse!”
Jonas looked at Louis, who jumped to Patrick’s defense.
He shouted, “Don’t put ideas in their heads. We are all scared enough as it is. He had that cough before all this started! He was hacking and wheezing two days ago!”
Edward said, “According to the data we were given, Patrick should have slipped into delirium and lethargy by now if he was infect-”
Wakefield snapped back, “Can it nerdlinger! The big dumb ox may not have been infected then, but look at him now. He’s coughing more than a Tuberculosis ward.”
Jenny agreed, “With a cough like that he has to be immuno-compromised. He’s a ticking time bomb! Oh God, I don’t want to catch it!”
Patrick hacked out, “Guys, I’m not. Infected. A cold. Is all. I’m fine.”
The coughing, made worse by the stress and hunger doubled him back over in chest heaving coughs.
Joseph said, “We can’t know for sure, but we have to think this through carefully.”
Wakefield badgered, “We can’t take that chance. We have to exile you to-”
Mikela was the lynch pin that sealed his fate.
She shrieked, “Blood! He’s coughing up blood! He’s got it!”
Before Patrick could defend himself Mikela, Geraldo, and Harriet fell upon him in a flurry of punches, scratches, and kicks.
Louis tried to scream for them to stop, but his voice was overwhelmed by their collective screams. Whipped into a frenzy by the mob rampage, Andrew and Jenny joined in on the attack against their defenseless coughing classmate. Patrick covered his face as punches and kicks rained down on him from all angles. They shrieked, scratched, stomped, and struck at the helpless athlete. Geraldo’s boots caused the most damage, but in reality it was the combined might of the mob in those furious seconds that ended Patrick’s life.
No one knew who dealt the coup-de-grace, but by the time Louis, Edward, and Jonas were spurred into action; it was too late. For the sake of honesty, he was dead before the beatings, before Mikela’s condemnation, Patrick Finnegan was dead the moment he started coughing. Those who didn’t participate in the mob mentality pulled the others away: Jonas tearing Wakefield away and into a nearby desk that tipped over, Louis dragged Mikela and Harriet back by their hair as they shrieked in surprise more than pain, and Edward slammed into Geraldo which sent both of them tumbling past Patrick’s broken and bloody form.
Joseph ran forward to check on Finnegan’s twitching and twisted body. He couldn’t bring himself to touch him for fear that his blood was infectious and infection was a death sentence, but it didn’t take a doctor to tell his condition. His forearm looked like a broken stick and his face could only be compared to red jello. He turned to the class, some of which were on the floor, some of which were struggling against the hands that held them now; all of which were staring in abject terror at the bloody form that lied before them and said:
Geraldo Ramirez Inez-Dinarte “The Jarhead”
“Semper fi. ~ Marines”
Mikela was the first to really react to the realization that they had killed Patrick. She sank to her knees inches away from his ravaged form and broke into tears.
¡Sangre de Cristo! ¿Que hicimos?!
Her tears galvanized Jennifer into a blind fury. She slipped free of Louis and delivered a powerful backhand to Mikela as she wept. The force slammed her into Patrick’s corpse.
She roared, “You bitch! We were going to quarantine him! You did this! He’s dead because of you! Did you even see him coughing up blood?”
Harriet tried to pull her away, but Jenny broke free from her grasp and grabbed Mikela, who was a sobbing mess, by the hair and threw her backwards. Mikela was too shell-shocked to even register that she had been slapped. Jennifer broke down at Patrick’s corpse and wept over him. She muttered nonsensical things to him like whispers in the ear of a lover.
Está loca. ¿Estaba enamorada de él?
She surprised the entire class when she bent over his prone form a planted a long kiss on his cold lips.
Geraldo didn’t have long to register this shock before Louis caught Andrew unprepared with a right hook that sent him to the floor rubbing his jaw.
He shouted, “We could have talked this through! You just had to instigate, and prick, and prod them all didn’t you?”
Wakefield snapped back, “I didn’t see you stopping us! Admit it! You were scared shitless just like everyone else!”
The musician was on the instigator in the blink of an eye and the two struggled on the ground. Mikela took the opportunity to take reprisal against Jenny like a clawing, screaming banshee.
The situation devolved into a fighting and screaming clusterfuck. Everyone had lost their marbles except for him and maybe Jonas. Geraldo knew that he had to restore order before it was too late.
Necisitamos estar tranquilo o todos vamos a morir antes del militar pueden salvan nos.
He reached into his pocket and retrieved his last resort, his lucky charm, his butterfly knife.
He had carried this four-inch blade to school with him everyday since he had saved up the money to buy it. He wanted to be prepared for everything. Geraldo watched the news every night that was laden with stories of dirty bombs, hostage taking, and public executions of infidels. He dragged the knife across the chalkboard with such a screech that all fighting stopped and everyone’s hands shot to their ears.
He let the moment settle before speaking, “Ahora, we need to calm ourselves or-”
Andrew snapped, “G.I. Joe has a knife?! How long were you holding out on us? Hand it over!”
He went to move forward, but Geraldo raised the knife in an unmistakable stance that stated the only way he was going to get it was to kill him for it.
Jonas said, “A knife doesn’t change our status any. We’re not going to escape with that and thinking it’ll restore order is only going to form some sort of police state amongst us.”
Edward said, “What are you proposing Geraldo? You have all of our attention.”
The idea hadn’t settled on him until Jonas spoke, but now it wrapped its tendrils through-out his brain and refused to be torn out.
“We are going to destroy ourselves before the scientists can engineer a cure-”
“They ain’t gonna save us jarhead!”
“-if we keep this paranoia and insanity up. We are going to starve if we don’t get help. The answer is simple. We need to go out into the front lobby and surrender ourselves to the military to be placed in a real quarantine where they can provide us with food and take blood samples.”
Wakefield shattered that idea with a horrible accent, “You loco esse? They shot our teacher full of more holes than Swiss cheese for trying that!”
Louis said, “Hate to agree, but they don’t seem the type to try and approach a situation like that with kid gloves on.”
Geraldo pressed, “We are going to the lobby and we are going to shout our intentions to them. We can negotiate from there. If we stay here, we are going to tear ourselves apart.”
Edward said, “I don’t think it’s going to work. Any action like that could be viewed as an act of aggression.”
The jarhead responded, “We don’t, you don’t have a choice.”
He raised the knife in a threatening manner and said, “We are going down there if I have to force all of you at knife-point.”
Louis stepped forward with his arms raised and said, “We can’t do that. They will shoot us.”
¡Ya basta! Tengo que mostrarles que no estoy jugando.
Geraldo stepped forward with alarming speed and brought the knife down. Louis sank to the ground with the weight of the jarhead pinioning him to the ground. The jarhead was on top of him and buried his butterfly knife into the space between his shoulder and chest.
He snarled, “We must surrender ourselves! They are right! They’re always correct! They wouldn’t mislead us! I’ll kill you if you say otherwise!”
This wasn’t Geraldo anymore. All that was left of him was a museum of fear. Louis screamed in pain as the knife dug deeper into his left socket. His hand grasped the knife and tried to push it back out of his wound, but the jarhead pressed it back down. It was clear by the look in his eyes that Geraldo had lost all semblance of thought. His plan was going to get everybody killed. He was going to kill anyone that stood in his path, the musician swung at him with his right and connected with the left side of his face. The aggressor dropped back, but tore the knife out of the wound as he went as a means to defend himself should the others attack. Louis regained his footing as Geraldo charged forward to continue the attack.
The musician managed to grab the arms before they could be brought down into his chest.
Tengo que matarlos a todos. Sólo puedo salir. Van a traicionarme eventualmente. Tengo que sobrevivir.
Louis managed to fend off the attack, but it was obvious to the jarhead with the pain lancing through his shoulder that he wasn’t going to hold off this fight for long. Geraldo pushed forward and shoved his target against a toppled desk. Louis fell back and the soon-to-be soldier brought the knife down towards his chest not knowing that this would be his downfall.
In his shock, instead of pushing, Louis pulled and changed the trajectory of the knife completely. Geraldo fell on top of him and pressed the blade deeper. He didn’t feel it at first, but once the shock wore off; he became aware of a caustic and stinging sensation in his chest. The two bodies were intermingled for a few seconds before Louis slipped off to the side and the jarhead rolled onto his back with the knife buried just below his ribs in his diaphragm.
The class gathered around him as he lay on the tile floor.
Vamos a morir aquí y ellos pueden limpiar la sangre fácil con agua y cloro. Bien suavecito. Estamos fregados.
Every breath came out in a rattling gasp that felt like razor wires were being wrapped around his lungs. He knew he was dying. He felt tendrils of a frigid sensation enveloping his body.
He wheezed, “Mamá, lo siento mucho. Solo quise escapar. No es mi culpa. Quise-”
He reached up towards an invisible phantasm and when his hand sank down, he was dying in a series of twitches or rasping gasps. The last thought he had was the realization that he was escaping in a sense.
Andrew Wakefield “The Instigator”
“In the Tuskegee experiment, 399 (of 600) African-American sharecroppers were left untreated to study the effects of Syphilis and its long-term effects from 1932 to 1972.”
The wannabe-rocker didn’t even bother to get to his feet. He curled up on the ground and tried to bury his head as deep into himself as was possible. The nerd knelt by him, but couldn’t think of anything to say. It didn’t really matter. Anything anybody could say would only make things worse. Andrew knew this all too well. The best thing for everyone would be to shut up and focus on the military.
They are the big threat around here. We would tear ourselves apart, but what they would do to us.
Andrew shook images of glass rooms and gurneys with restraints built into them from his mind.
Andrew looked from person to person. The fatty had moved back towards the jock’s corpse, little miss next-door was zoned out in an almost catatonic state, Ms. Princess kept looking at the mehicano’s body with the knife buried up to the chest. The social butterfly looked out the window, desperate to focus on something other than man’s inhumanity.
This is who we are.
A thought went through Andrew’s mind. Someone had to claim the knife.
Andrew spoke, “Who gets the knife?”
The nerd’s head snapped up and the look he gave him could have curdled milk.
Little Ms. Next-door answered, “No one. I’m going to throw it out the window.”
She approached the knife, but realized that retrieving it would involve pulling it out of the corpse.
The fat girl snapped, “Don’t be foolish! We need to establish some sort of order and that knife is the perfect enforcer.”
The slacker said, “I don’t know what kind of totalitarian regime you are planning here-”
The wannabe rocker interrupted, “They’re right.”
Silence filled the room as they hung onto his words like a sinking ship in the ocean.
He continued, “We can’t keep going like this. We’ll tear each other apart.”
Andrew approached the body and said triumphantly, “Then it is decided.”
He reached for the butterfly knife when Lou interrupted him, “You won’t be the one with the knife!”
He shot back, “Well I sure as shit don’t trust the knife with the guy who murdered the previous owner!”
The nerd spoke almost in a whisper, “We vote who gets the knife.”
Andrew Wakefield and Lou Pasteur were unanimously excluded in the vote. Harriet argued a strong case that Jonas should get the knife as he was currently the most level-headed of the group, but he refused. The ever-shrinking survivors broke into petty infighting to decide ownership of the knife before the slacker uncharacteristically took charge of the situation.
Joseph Meister slammed his hand on a nearby desk and spoke, “I’ll take the damn thing.”
The class decided that Joseph was the best choice. He was perfect for the job. He was on friendly terms with most of the class and he was clearly the most laid-back. Those two qualities were necessary for whoever would have the knife. Everyone assumed Joey was the least likely to threaten someone with the knife. Once he had everyone’s support, he began the cruel task of reclaiming it from its original owner. He knelt by Geraldo’s corpse and put his hand on his shoulder.
His voice cracked when he said, “I’m sorry for this.”
He jerked the butterfly knife out of his chest. It tore out of the wound with a wet lewd sound. He closed the knife and put it in his back pocket. Having decided, the survivors moved to another classroom and ate a meal. It seemed that the classrooms on the third floor were quickly filling up with the dead or shit. The students finished the meal.
Joseph tried to start a conversation and engage the other students, but was met with silence. They had just finished off the last of their reserves and without the military’s intervention; they would starve. They all went to bed knowing the foolishness of that hope. When they would wake up; they would find that Joseph Meister had disappeared.
Lou Pasteur “The Musician”
“She’s got a killer’s grin or maybe I’m just too dead to know.”
Lou woke up to the sound of Andrew Wakefield cursing. He stood up and stretched. Some of the other students were already awake and the rest were waking up. Jennifer sat on the shelf and looked out the window at the barricade that had striped them of their freedom. Andrew kicked a chair and unleashed another volley of swears, some of which Lou had never heard used in conjunction before.
He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and asked, “What’s got your goat?”
Andrew fumed, “Son-of-a-bitch slacker flew the coop. No one can find him.”
Eddie was the voice of reason. “He couldn’t have left with the barricade, he’s still here. He probably just took a walk.”
Andrew snapped back, “We fucked up trusting him with the knife. He’s probably lost it and is planning on slitting out throats in our sleep!”
“That’s absurd, Joseph is a good guy!”
Andrew continued to whip up hysteria, “I don’t trust him and anyone that does belongs on a short bus with a helmet-”
Lou interrupted, “Instead of bickering like a bunch of kids why don’t we all go looking for him? He’s probably taking a smoking break somewhere.”
They broke up into three groups. Lou, Edward, and Jonas agreed to search the first floor. Harriet and Jennifer were paired up to check the second floor. That left Andrew and Mikela to look around the third floor. Neither seemed happy to be paired with the other, but due to their personalities; it wasn’t too far-fetched to assume why no one was scrambling to search for Joseph Meister with either of them. They all left to begin their search.
Lou, Edward, and Jonas walked through the hallways first. They completed a circuit before moving onto the classrooms. They didn’t turn up any sign of him.
Lou asked, “What do you think he’s doing?”
“Probably smoking,” Eddie responded.
Jonas stated, “He only has a few left from what I saw. Could be rationing them? Nicotine withdrawal is not fun.”
Just as they were about to abandon the search, they found Joey in the boy’s bathroom. He had been stabbed multiple times and had bled out on the bathroom floor. A half-smoked, now extinguished cigarette, lay a few feet away.
Lou sank to his knees while Eddie checked for a pulse. He already knew that Eddie would find no pulse due to the amount of blood pooling on the floor.
He asked in a quavering voice, “Did he kill himself?”
Jonas knelt by the body and after a few seconds of examination answered, “Murder. Judging from the multiple stab wounds, the fact that he didn’t finish his cigarette, and also that the knife is missing.”
Upon hearing those words, Lou had a sudden feeling of unease about his other classmates. One of them had murdered someone in cold blood and that person now had the butterfly knife.
The three students were silent for a moment. Lou wished he could cry, but found that he couldn’t. He hoped that it was the shock of seeing the body of one of his close friends or that he was so emotionally drained from this experience that he couldn’t weep, but he knew that wasn’t the case. Lou couldn’t cry because he knew that this would most likely not be the last corpse he saw in his life.
Edward Jenner was the first to break the silence, “What do we tell the others?”
Lou spoke first, “We tell them the truth. Jonas, when I tell the others, keep an eye on them. Someone is going to show signs of a guilty conscience. We have to find out who has the knife. They’ve killed once; they may kill again.”
Eddie began, “Is that really the best thing to-”
Lou snapped, “It is the only thing we can do!”
His outburst surprised even him. They stood over the corpse of Joseph Meister for a few minutes before another question crossed their minds.
“What do we do with his body?”
Once again, the musician was the first to speak, “We move him out into parking lot or we bury him behind the school.”
The brainiac opined, “The soldiers may open fire on us.”
Lou punched a stall door and dented it.
He growled, “Goddamnit!”
Jonas drew the others’ attention and pointed up.
Eddie got the implication and asked, “Move him into the 2nd floor classroom?”
Lou had wanted to do something vaguely ceremonial to honor his friend, but he realized that to go outside would spell trouble with the soldiers and to leave him in the bathroom was extremely disrespectful. He nodded his reluctant approval.
They moved Joseph’s corpse into the second floor. Lou tried his best not to look at the bodies of the other students whom had looked like they perished in pain, bleeding from every orifice, and choking on their own blood. He failed to ignore the corpses and found himself glancing in a macabre manner at their grisly end that he may one day share. Jonas, Lou, and Edward then proceeded upstairs to break the news to the others.
The other students received the news sullenly. Lou found himself slightly aggravated that no one wept over the news of his friend’s death. They all just listened with their eyes glazed over and their faces blank. He let go of his anger when he realized that even he hadn’t been able to weep over finding his friend’s corpse. Andrew tried to instate mandatory searches to find out who had the knife now, but most were apathetic and the idea was passed over.
The remaining students: Lou, Jonas, Jennifer, Edward, Mikela, Harriet, and Andrew spent the rest of the day in relative silence. Some spent the day in silent introspection of their lives; while others cast spurious glances at the other students hoping to find out whom the murderer was. The hours passed slowly and uneventfully. At the end of the day; they all went to bed. This was the first day where all of them went to bed without having eaten anything all day. They had finished off the stockpiled food and snacks. Some of the more realistic students realized that this would not be the last day that they went to bed without having anything to eat.
Mikela Mary Richards “The Entitled”
“That’s life. If nothing else, it’s life. It’s real, and sometimes it fuckin’ hurts, but it’s sort of all we have.”
It wasn’t until a few days later that Mikela developed the cough. At first she told the other classmates that it was allergies and nothing more. She didn’t even believe that it was allergies. Deep down she knew what it really was, but to admit it would mean certain death so she kept coughing and talking about her seasonal allergies. The other students watched her, some with blank, vacant stares and others with judgmental and accusation in their eyes.
The past few days had been spent in a malaise. No one had eaten anything since the discovery of Joseph’s body. Their supply had been used up and the military had not brought in any rations or supplies for them. Most spent their days lying on the floor, trying to conserve energy. Only Jenny and Jonas really seemed to do anything interesting. Jenny looked out the window at the army and the barricade; while Jonas left the classroom for a few hours at a time only to return and lay back down on the tile floor.
Mikela Mary Richards spent most of her days lying on the ground with a backpack as her pillow, thinking about how her father was going to tear into the generals and corporals that were running the barricade. She quickly realized that her father wasn’t going to do jack-shit, couldn’t do jack-shit. She coughed some more and slowly let a fatalistic attitude overtake her.
It wasn’t until the third day that her coughing began to attract negative attention from the others. By now she was coughing up brackish phlegm. She was sore all over and felt unnecessarily tired. After every coughing fit, she heard the others whisper about the infection and the symptoms. It wasn’t until the end of the day when she coughed and hacked up a reddish phlegm that Andrew Wakefield called her out.
He grabbed her by her shirt and hauled her to her feet. She stared at him with feverish eyes. He spoke, but the words seemed to echo.
“Infected. Infected. Infected.”
He shook her, hard. She felt her brain rattle inside her head.
She looked at the space behind Andrew and exhaustedly huffed, “Fine, I’m fine.”
He slammed her back against something and growled, “Bullshit!”
She felt like she was crying and drooling, but knew that wasn’t right. She didn’t need to look at a mirror to know what it was leaking down her face judging from the other students’ cries of shock and horror. She was infected. She was probably bleeding from her eyes and ears, but at this point she was too far gone to care. Andrew shouted something, but she was beyond caring.
Andrew slammed her against the glass again and for the first time in a few days, Mikela experienced a moment of clarity. She looked around at the horrified students.
Andrew snarled, “Make peace with your God.”
The world seemed so clear, “I’m an atheist.”
“Well then it’ll be easy.”
She heard someone shout, “Don’t do it!”
The instigator kicked her square in the stomach. It should have hurt, but she felt very little. She felt the glass behind her shatter and tinkle to the ground. She felt weightlessness and the air rushing around her body. For a brief moment, she felt at peace with the world and then she struck the ground. The impact jarred her bones and sent her brain bouncing around in her skull. She died before she could really make sense of it all.
Jennifer McCarthy “The Genius”
“I am hungry, feed me; I am bored, amuse me.”
—To Edmund Dantes
Days had passed since Mikela’s death and every day Jennifer told herself that this was the last day she could bear. Each day the hollowness and hunger compounded and grew exponentially within her like a fast-multiplying cancer. She wasn’t completely sure how much time had passed. She thought it was three days, but that seemed like a conservative guess to her. It felt like weeks. Every night before she went to bed, she told herself that tomorrow was the day she would end it. She would then wake up the next day and do her best to conserve her energy.
She woke up on her last day feeling feverish and slightly giddy. She stood up and went to look at her reflection in the glass. She had to push her face close to the window to see her face in the clear glass. Her eyes hag dark bags around them and she looked perpetually tired. What was worse was the fact that she could see her cheek bones It was enough to push her over the edge. She decided that today would be the end for her. She had heard about the rule of threes. A person could live three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food. They never calculated how long someone could live without hope.
She calmly slid open the window. She didn’t want any pain. She had suffered enough. When Mikela had gone out the window, she died almost instantly she impacted the ground. Jennifer sat on the ledge and looked out at the barricade. The soldiers watched her through the fence. They watched her with interest. She quietly wished that the biological weapons that they were all infected with were more virulent. She would have loved nothing more than to charge the fence and spit in their faces. She would have to settle for a quick death.
Just as she was preparing to lean forward a voice spoke, “Jennifer? What are you doing?”
She craned her head back to look at Lou.
“What does it look like?”
He spoke calmly, “Don’t do this.”
She snapped, “We’re not getting rescued from this! They are just going to watch us die. They don’t want any of this getting out.”
Andrew spoke like he was trying to be nonchalant, “I figured the genius was gonna outlive us all. Not just due to all her built up reserves of fat.”
She snarled, “Shut up!”
He spoke calmly, but it seemed like a line of tension ran through his words, “Why don’t you come back into the classroom and make me shut up?”
Jenny groaned, “Do you think I’m stupid enough to come back into the classroom so you can restrain me?! I just want this to end! We’re going to die here! I just want the express ticket.”
She gestured to the remaining students. Lou edged towards her while she was distracted.
She ranted, “Glad you’re paying attention because I have some things I want to tell you all. I’ve wanted to let you know my true feelings for so long so here goes.”
The remaining students looked at her numbly as she began to vent vitriol and revulsion on them. Jennifer spun around so she could face them all.
She pointed at Harriet and spoke, “Little miss perfect! You think you can get by in life with just your good looks? God, you’re foolish.”
She pointed a trembling finger at Andrew and he actually stepped back as if she had shot him, “You are nothing, but a shit-stirrer! You killed Patrick and Mikela. Are two deaths enough to satiate you or will you only be satisfied with killing us all?”
Edward was next, “You know-it-all, I hope you’re smart enough to realize how fucked we all are.”
She howled at Jonas, “It should have been you! You should have died instead of him.”
She snarled at Lou, “And you! You are the worst! A popular kid who acts like he gives a shit about us, but in reality is just a clique-y exclusionist. Fuck you for trying to give us hope in a hopeless situation.”
She leaned back to fall from the window, but Lou jumped forward and caught her by her arm.
Lou gritted his teeth and shouted, “Help me out here! I can’t hold her for long.”
Andrew turned away, after what she had said; he didn’t care what happened to her. Harriet started forward to help Lou pull her back into the classroom, but something stopped her dead in her tracks. Jennifer’s free hand slid into her front right pocket and she pulled out the butterfly knife. She began to open it with her free hand hoping to use it to extricate herself from Lou’s grasp.
Jennifer watched the realization play across Lou’s face as she said, “I did it. He thought I was just keeping him company while he smoked. I needed that-”
She let out a surprised cry as Lou let go of her hand and watched her plummet three floors to the ground below. The realization that Mr. Popularity had let her go dawned on her as she fell. The butterfly knife hit the ground and she quickly followed after it. It felt like she had been hit by an incredibly strong wave.
She regained consciousness some time later. It was the sounds of shouting that woke her up. They sounded urgent. At first she thought it was the other students, but as her mind cleared she realized that they were coming from her left. She turned her head to the side and looked at the barricade. The soldiers were running around and some were shouting. She saw one raise his rifle and fire a few rounds.
Were they rebelling? Was there some internal strife they didn’t know about?
She watched them for a few minutes. Some were fleeing; others were firing on them, while a few were returning fire. It was chaos.
The soldiers abandoning their posts meant something. She wanted to puzzle over it some more, but a sudden blinding pain began in her chest. She bent her neck to look at her body. There was a rib bone sticking out of her chest. Blood trickled out of the hole. One leg was bent at an odd angle and it looked like there was a lumpy mass within her leg that she quickly realized was her bone. A sudden lightheadedness swept over her.
Jennifer wanted to sit up, but felt too woozy to manage that. Her breathing was shallow and that led her to assume that when her rib had broken, it had pierced into her lung. She had wanted it to be quick, painless. When Mikela went, it was almost instantaneous. She had twitched spasmodically on the asphalt for a few seconds before stilling. Her face had looked so confused as if she hadn’t known what was happening. Why hadn’t that happened to her? She listened to the soldiers screaming and shooting for a few minutes before the feeling of dizziness returned.
She coughed and wasn’t surprised when a little bit of blood came up with the hacking fit. She re-assured herself that it was the injury she had sustained in the fall and not the onset of the infection. She laughed at that simple and stupid reassurance. It didn’t really matter, she was fucked either way. That thought made her laugh harder. She contorted into a ball of manic laughing at the ridiculousness of it all.
It hurts so much to laugh, but I can’t stop.
She wasn’t sure when the laughing became sobbing. Jennifer wept uncontrollably as the shock set in. She died as the soldiers escaped and embraced the end around her.
Harriet Patricia Vognert “The Girl-Next-Door”
“Thinking positive is the first step to leading a positive life.”
They watched the quarantine crumble apart. A few deserters were executed, but panic spread like wildfire and it quickly became impossible to contain. Jennifer’s suicide had spurred them all into action. As far as Harriet could tell, Jennifer’s corpse proved a substantial biological threat. Her close proximity to the barricade ignited an already bubbling fear in the already frightened soldiers. They were seeing the infection firsthand and they didn’t want to get any closer. They must have not known how virulent the infection could be. Most soldiers had had enough with standing around, wondering if one of them was going to start coughing and bleeding from every orifice. Most soldiers fled in fear of the impending infection.
The remaining students: Eddie, Lou, Harriet, Jonas, and Andrew watched the chaos unfold before them. They listened to the cries, smelled the cordite in the air, and felt the panic emanating from the barricade. A few hours later, the camp was completely abandoned. They watched it in silence for a few minutes. The realization dawned on all of them at almost the exact same time.
All of their faces lit up in jubilation. The soldiers were actually gone. The soldiers who had trapped them inside the school, shot at them, and killed their teacher had abandoned their posts.
Harriet was the first to speak, “There’s no one keeping us in here! We can finally get out of-”
A fit of coughing doubled her over. She hacked and coughed up a storm. She covered her mouth and silently prayed that it wasn’t what she thought it was. The others watched her coughing fit.
Andrew was the first to make the assumption, “I knew you had it! Of course you had it. Your bodies already riddled with STD’s. You are a goddamn pestilence. You’re gonna give it to all of us!”
Harriet tried to speak between coughs, “No, it’s not-”
Jonas looked at her for a few seconds before he turned and slowly left the classroom. She couldn’t tell what expression was on his face, whether it was fear or sorrow.
Andrew said, “There you have it! Even fucking Rainman knows you’re infected.”
She wheezed, “Then just go.”
Wakefield snapped, “I can’t risk your ass following us and spreading the sickness. You have to die here.”
Andrew took a step forward and she shrank back from him. She winced and squeezed her eyes shut. She expected to feel his hands wrap around her throat or push her towards a window. Those things didn’t happen. She opened her eyes to see Eddie standing between her and Wakefield.
He said, “You aren’t touching a hair on her head. You’re going to have to kill me first!”
Wakefield stepped forward and began, “Don’t think I wouldn’t-”
Eddie punched him. Hard. He staggered back and looked up with unbridled rage burning in his eyes. Seconds passed slowly between them.
Andrew finally declared, “If you want to get one of her many infections go ahead. Don’t come crying to me when you’re coughing and hacking from the clap-”
“Still not a symptom of gonorrhea.”
“Whatever nerdlinger! Fuck you!”
He turned around and left the classroom. The classroom was as still as the grave. Harriet coughed again. Eddie looked at Lou and said, “I’m staying with her.”
Something seemed to unfold between the two good friends. Lou realized that Eddie wasn’t going to change his mind. He gave a slight nod to his friend and turned and left the classroom to go outside.
Lou Pasteur “The Musician”
The man recalls memories of a life that only he knows.
Such beautiful and bittersweet memories, so it goes.
Lou ran down the empty hallway. In his food-deprived mind, he imagined the students that had once walked these halls and the small number who had called this place their tomb. It was an interesting dichotomy brought about by his degrading mental state. He had to catch up with Andrew Wakefield. He sprinted down two flights of stairs and reached the lobby. He paused for a few seconds. Fear welled up within him and he wasn’t sure he could actually bring himself to step outside.
There were two things that gave him pause. The first was the sinking suspicion that the second he stepped outside he would be torn apart by gunfire like their teacher. The second reason was hesitation. He didn’t want to pass by the corpse of Jennifer who he had killed. He let her go to fall to her death. He poked his head out the door and after a few seconds he decided that there were no soldiers left. He stepped outside and felt the sun warm his skin. The air was fresh and he realized that the school behind him smelled like decomposition. He had grown so accustomed to it that he hardly even noticed it.
Lou walked up to Jennifer’s body. Her body looked like a marionette that had been cut from its strings. Her limbs were splayed out in all directions and bent at odd angles. He knelt by her corpse and closed her eyes. A part of him wanted to spit on her corpse for killing his friend, but another part just felt sad. Sad at what she had become. Sad at what they all had become. The sound of the chain-link fence drew his attention away from Jenny McCarthy. Andrew was a few yards away from him rattling the fence of the barricade.
Andrew snarled to no one in particular, “They thought they were so tough behind the barricades and barrels of their rifles, but they were just pussies! I thought guv’ment spooks were supposed to be ballsier than that.”
Lou said, “Don’t think any government officials stayed behind to listen to you. It is a shame really, you have such a way with words.”
The instigator turned and looked at the musician for an instant longer than a standard blink before responding, “Good timing! Give me a boost up over this fence.”
“No,” he sadly responded.
Andrew looked at him as if he had grown a second head before letting go of the fence and roaring, “You really think they give a fuck about us?! They’re just waiting until we all get it and kick the bucket so they can put us in a fuckin’ Petri dish and see how everything worked! I’m not gonna wait for that to happen! I’m getting out!”
“But you could infect the other people-”
“Fuck ‘em! They don’t care about us, why should I care about them? Every single goddamn person in this town is culpable. They may have not infected us or built the barricade, but they sure as shit didn’t do anything to stop the army or save us. Their apathy makes them just as bad as those assholes.”
Lou countered, “You would risk infecting your family, your friends just for a few hours of freedom?”
“Family? I didn’t see my family lining up at the barricade demanding my release. Didn’t see yours either. Friends? They bailed the second they got the chance. They’re no friends of mine. We’re all alone here, so I’m going to do what I want from now on. If you dare bring up any jingoistic follow the government’s mandate, I’ll punch you in the throat. Uncle Sam can eat an entire bag of dicks for all I care!”
He turned back to the fence. He slid his fingers into the chain-link and asked, “Are you going to help me or not?”
Lou paused for a moment and answered, “I can’t let you do that. You could infect them all. We can’t risk it. I have family and friends out there.”
“You gonna stop me? Do you think you can stop me?”
“I guess I have to.”
Andrew heavily sighed, let go off the fence, and cracked his knuckles while he approached the other student. His attempt at looking like an intimidating badass failed due to his starved and fatigued appearance. Lou solemnly realized that he was no better off. The lack of food had really equalized any advantage that one may have had over the other.
Lou leaned back to avoid a punch meant to finish the fight quickly and delivered a quick jab to Andrew’s solar plexus. He stumbled back and grunted in shock more than in pain. A lack of food had robbed his attacks of any real power and left everything feeling dull and muted. The stunned student quickly recovered and charged forward while throwing a hay-maker hoping to catch him off-guard. The musician sidestepped the blow and the instigator lost balance and fell to the ground. Lou turned to the fallen students and realized how hard it was for him to maintain his balance. He would have to end this fight quick or run the risk of passing out from exhaustion.
Lou closed in to pin him to the ground, but Andrew pushed off the ground and lashed out at the approaching man with his foot as hard as he could. Lou was lucky that the attack glanced off his leg rather than hitting him in the knee. A few inches lower and that kicked would have shattered his patella. The force of the kick sent him tottering backwards and he fell back into the fence. The exertion had left both feeling dizzy, but neither wanted to give up. Both boys struggled to their feet to continue the conflict that had been bubbling within them ever since they were put into quarantine.
Andrew Wakefield “The Instigator”
“MK-Ultra was a U.S. government-funded project focused on finding a truth serum to out communist spies. Mind-altering drugs and torture was inflicted on unwilling participants.”
Andrew got to his feet first and charged Lou and pinned him up against the fence. With his target pinioned against the fence, he quickly unleashed a flurry of blows directed at his abdomen. The musician could only try to fend off the blows and the urge to empty his already empty stomach. The fence shivered and clinked under the force of Andrew’s onslaught. The blitz lasted until Lou managed to drive his knee into the instigator’s stomach and pushed him back. Lou Pasteur grabbed Andrew Wakefield and tripped up his feet while pushing him back. The two crashed to the ground with Lou on top, pinning him down.
Wakefield shielded his face and Pasteur rained punches down on him. He frantically tried to protect his head while looking for an opportunity to counter. The blows made Andrew’s vision grow blurry. His perfect opportunity arose when his aggressor leaned back to deliver a strong punch. His hand struck out and caught Lou in the space between his shoulder and chest. His thumb dug into the stab wound that Lou had sustained in his fight with Geraldo. His thumb probed and tore deep into the wound and re-opened any of his bodies’ attempts of closing over the injury. He grasped at Andrew’s hand, but found he couldn’t knock it away of dislodge it.
The pain was so sudden and intense that he tried to lean away from the injury. Andrew sat forward and brought his free left hand to the left side of Lou’s face. He cradled his cheek for a second before twisting his body and swinging his left hand down with all of his strength, slamming Lou’s head into the pavement. He quickly moved on top of the stunned man and straddled his stomach so he couldn’t wriggle free. His hands laced around his throat and he slammed Lou’s head back against the pavement. When he was sure that he was stunned, his grip tightened on his throat and he began to throttle the life out of him.
Andrew ignored Lou’s feeble attempts to push him off and free himself from his enemies’ grasp. The blows were ineffectual and Andrew tightened his grip on Lou’s throat, emboldened by the feeling that victory was so close at hand. Lou’s hands sank down to his waist. Andrew was too focused on Lou’s reddening face to even feel him striking at his stomach. He continued choking him for a few moments until he was sure that it was over. He felt the moment when his body stilled beneath him and the blood stopped pumping through his carotid arteries. He continued choking him. Lou was dead.
Andrew studied Lou’s purplish face and blood-shot eyes where vessels had ruptured while he was choking him. This was the first time he had killed someone at such close range.
The instigator shouted, “You stupid son-of-a-bitch! You could have helped me over the fence and then we would have gone our separate ways, but you had to play the role of the military's marionette.”
It wasn’t until Andrew Wakefield tried to stand up that he realized that something was horribly wrong.
He stared down dumbfounded at the crimson stain slowly blooming through his shirt. It took him a few seconds for the intense pain to register. It felt like there was a ball of fire in his belly. He was confused until he saw what Lou was clutching in his slowly cooling hand. The butterfly knife peaked out from the musician’s clenched fist. It wasn’t until his mind connected the pieces that were before him that he gave an impotent roar. He gingerly lifted his shirt and gaped in horror at the three stab wounds in his gut.
He shakily rose to his feet and walked towards the barricade. His hands clutched at his stomach in response to the morbid thought that his intestines might slip out from his belly and begin flapping obscenely against his waist if he didn't apply pressure. When he was close enough, his fingers gripped the chain-link fence and he tried to pull himself up. He had the sudden horrifying thought that his intestines would get caught in the fence and he would disembowel himself during his attempt to escape. Pain flared up in the core of his body at his attempt to scale the fence. He dropped back down to the pavement below him. He felt sick to his stomach and tasted copper. He pressed his back to the fence and sank down to the ground. He numbly realized that there was no way he was going to climb the fence in his condition.
He spoke through gritted teeth and a pall of tears, “So close to the gates of Heaven only to find them barred.”
He told himself he was weeping from the pain of the multiple stab wounds in his stomach, but it was something more than that. He was dying and he knew it. It wasn’t the thought of death that made him break down, but the fact that he was so close to escaping. He cried and through misty eyes, he watched the blood slowly drain out of him and pool below. The world was slowly beginning to dull and turn monochrome. Andrew Wakefield’s last thoughts were slightly re-assuring to him.
At least the government isn’t going to strap me down to a gurney and vivisect me.
He died with freedom a few feet away.
Edward Jenner “The Brainiac”
“Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences have theorized that oxytocin can stimulate feelings of affection, but can also trigger interpersonal conflict and aggression.”
Edward Jenner sank into a chair as soon as Andrew and Lou left the room. Punching that asshole in the face had taken more out of him than he realized. His adrenaline was working overtime and it wasn’t making the starvation pains in his stomach feel any better. He knew that if Andrew had started a fight, he probably would have been thoroughly trounced. It was his lucky day. That thought came out sounding ironic. He blew out a deep breath and was about to ask Harriet Patricia Vognert how she was when she broke down in tears.
Her body seemed to sag like a massive weight had been dropped onto her shoulders. She covered her mouth and eyes and wept into her hands. It stifled the noise a little, but it was still a heart-rending sound. Eddie tried to remember if he had ever seen Harriet cry. He thought back to all of the horrible things they had seen: their teacher shot to death in front of them, Patrick Finnegan’s death, and Mikela’s execution. He realized that she hadn’t cried that entire time. Now that it was practically the end, she couldn’t help, but let out her pent-up hopelessness.
He thought that it would be best to give her some time to herself, but something made him step forward. He had never really tried to comfort someone so emotionally distraught before. The thought of saying or doing something wrong was typically a strong enough motivator to dissuade him, but at this point, that thought was a dull buzzing buried before a wall of starved delirium. She was so wrapped up in breaking down that she didn’t notice Eddie until he was a few feet away. She looked up at him, her eyes bloodshot and tears streaming down her face. His words caught in his throat and came rattling out of his mouth:
“Just let it out.”
Harriet caught Eddie off-guard when she buried her face into his chest and wept. Unsure of what to do, Eddie just stood there and let her weep against him for a few minutes. He could only mumble words that he thought were re-assuring, “Let it all out.” The floodgates broke and deep sobs racked her body.
“You’ve been so strong and optimistic for us all, just let it all out.”
He raised an arm and wrapped it around her shoulders unsure of what else he could do. She continued to suppurate and Eddie continued to hold her. The crying subsided after a few minutes. Harriet slowly pulled away and stared down at her feet. Eddie realized that she was doing the same posturing he himself exhibited when he was in an awkward situation.
She spoke softly, “Sorry about drenching your shirt.”
Eddie looked down and realized that her tears had soaked into his shirt.
He responded, “Don’t worry about it. I think it was pretty dirty to begin with.”
She laughed at the slight joke. They had worn the same clothes for over two weeks now and there was little anyone could do to make them smell worse than they had already smelled. There was a long pause in the almost empty classroom before she asked him.
“Why? Why did you stand up for me? I’m probably infected.”
Eddie shrugged and said, “I guess it was because you’ve done so much to keep everyone’s spirits up that to not help you in your time of need just seemed like a stupid thing not to do. You’re a great person and I knew that I couldn’t let him kill you. Besides, it's not like there's anything le…”
He let those words trail and felt them die in the air. He didn’t want to finish that train of thought. She already knew that it was over. He didn't need to re-state it.
Harriet straightened up and asked with a cracking voice, “What have we become? We watched Andrew kicked Mikela out a window and Jennifer fall to her death and we just let it happen. So many people have died and we just-”
She was on the verge of breaking into a fresh set of tears so Edward said the only thing that he felt comfortable saying:
“We did the only thing we could do. Nothing. There was nothing we could have done and we can’t keep looking back at our mistakes.”
She looked glumly at her him before responding, “Thanks for everything.”
She closed the distance between them and kissed his cheek. He flushed at his first exposure to any form of affection from the opposite sex. He should have panicked at the thought of getting infected, but at this point, he couldn't muster up that fear and fervor. He was alright with this. Edward’s face began to feel hot and he desperately wished she wasn’t looking right at him.
She jokingly scrutinized him for a second before asking, “Are you blushing?”
He hadn’t realized that he had begun to blush from just a peck on the cheek.
He quickly started to rationalize in a stammering staccato, “N-no, I’m j-just-”
She interrupted, “That is just adorable.”
There was a pregnant pause in the classroom. The somber mood had been replaced by something else entirely that he hadn’t experienced or known before. Harriet looked at Edward who stared back at her. He sensed that there was something between them. He shut off that questioning voice in his mind and did what he had wanted to do since he had first met her a few years ago. He reached a hand up and brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face before she leaned in and kissed him. It was his first real kiss. It was romantic.
Harriet Patricia Vognert “The Girl-Next-Door”
“The grass will always be greener on the other side.”
Harriet just let the moment sweep over her like a wave and guide her along. One moment she was passionately kissing Edward Jenner and the next she was pushing him onto his back. He gave slight resistance, but he was also caught up in the moment. She was surprised by how sweet his breath tasted against her probing mouth. He kept rising to meet her, but she kept pressing him back down. It wasn’t until her hands found his belt buckle and started to undo it that he finally spoke up.
He pulled away from her and said, “I don’t think- Maybe we should hold off for a bit.”
Harriet pulled him into a quick kiss and cooed, “There is no time like the present. I want this. Don’t you want the same thing?”
She studied his face and read that he wanted the same thing, but was just a little more hesitant. There was something holding him back.
She asked, “Are you a virgin?
He looked at her for a few seconds as if he was trying to decide before saying, “I am.”
Harriet asked, “Do you want to stop then?”
She slowly began to lift her weight off of him, but found his hands at her waist, pulling her back down against him.
Edward said, “There is nothing more that I want in this world than to be with you right here, right now.” She leaned forward and swallowed him up in a wave of kisses.
The moment was extremely ephemeral. She knew it would be. It didn't matter. She still wanted this, she wanted that moment of connection, even if it was the last. He looked into her kind and gentle eyes and was about ready to apologize when she began to cough. She coughed up a fine red mist that spattered on Edward’s cheek and into his eye.
Both felt their breath catch in their throat from the shock of what had just happened. Harriet had just coughed blood in Edward’s face. If he wasn't infected before this moment, he sure was now. He wiped the crimson stain from his face, which only succeeded in smearing it on his face, and tried his best to smile.
She cried out, “You got to get away-”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Harriet asked, “What are you talking about? You have to get out of here before I infect you!”
Edward looked her in the eyes and said, “That doesn't matter anymore. It stopped mattering the instant Patrick died if he was infected. All that matters now... is choosing what we do with our time left.”
He hugged her tight to his body and she could feel his heart beating through his chest. It was a comforting sensation. When he pulled back, her eyes were misting up. He planted a kiss on her forehead. She brought her hand up around the back of his neck and pulled him into another kiss. They made love for the second time that day.
They spooned in the afterglow. The sensation of Eddie’s hot breath puffing up against the back of her neck made her hairs stand on end.
She coughed and asked, “So what now?”
He paused a second as if weighing all of his options before saying, “I have no idea. I guess we wait and make the most of our time.”
They held each other until they both dozed off.
Harriet woke up some time later coughing. She brought up more blood. She was glad she wasn’t facing Edward. She didn’t want to think about waking him up by coughing blood into his face. He was still sleeping. She savored the silence. It was one of those moments that didn’t come along too often in life. She had had sex a few times, but this really felt like the first time she had made love. She could count her experiences on a single hand, but somewhere along the way, the stories and gossip about her grew. She shut the thought out of her mind and focused on the tranquility of the moment. She ruined that moment by coughing again.
It hurt to breathe. She knew her time was running short. Her breath came out in ragged rasps. She felt something wet trickling down her cheek.
She wiped at the blood and spoke softly, “Eddie, I’m scared.”
He whispered back to her, “I know, but you’re not alone.”
Her worst suspicions were confirmed when he began coughing. She felt something spatter across her shoulder. She wanted to turn around and confirm whether or not it was blood, phlegm, or saliva, but realized that to do so would reveal her dire condition to him. Instead she closed her eyes and listened to him cough.
Harriet’s voice cracked as she spoke to no one in particular, “I didn’t want this! I had so much I wanted to do, so much!”
“Why haven’t you left?”
He spoke without mincing words, “You shouldn’t die alone. I'm scared to-”
It felt like she was breathing underwater in a viscous red fluid. When she coughed, she hacked up more blood. She felt weak. Eddie turned her towards him and looked at her in the last stage of infection.
She croaked, “I don’t want to die.”
Eddie returned in a cracking voice, “I don’t want you to die. I love you.”
She looked at him through the tears of blood and whispered, “I love you too.”
He leaned in and kissed her on the forehead as she coughed, cried, and choked. Even if it wasn't love, it was at least comfort. He pulled her closed to him when she began wheezing. She hazily thought:
As far as endings go, I guess it could have been much worse.
She wanted to tell Eddie something, but found she didn’t have the strength to speak. She was so exhausted. They held each other and waited for the end to take them.
Jonas Salk “The Loner”
“Most likely we are all infected, myself included. Not much left to do now, but wait. There is one more thing I want to see.”
Jonas couldn’t bear it. When Harriet started coughing, he knew that that had spelled the end for them. The group would fracture and crumble in on itself. His only solace was to leave. He had been with them for so long and he could think of nothing more peaceful than finding solitude. He turned and left them without saying goodbye.
I was never good at saying goodbye; in all honesty, I was never good at saying anything.
He walked the hallways aimlessly. The school had changed so much since the quarantine had begun. One floor below them was a classroom full of corpses. A classroom to his right was filled with trash and excrement from when they were too frightened to leave the third floor due to the military's retribution. He opened the janitor’s closet and pulled down the ladder to the roof. He knew the janitor snuck up onto the roof to smoke due to how he smelled after his breaks. He slowly ascended. He was dizzy and his stomach was a tidal pool of sloshing gastric acids. He climbed up onto the roof.
He stood on the edge and looked over the small community. There weren’t any people moving around in the city limits, but he could see cars driving around on the highway.
Life goes on.
That thought which should have disturbed him brought him comfort.
Good. Being a wallflower was always my best skill.
His stomach growled in agreement and sent a horrible cramp throughout his core. He clutched at his stomach and fell onto his back.
Jonas knew that his body was in the process of shutting itself down. He had expended too much of his energy and starvation was taking its toll. He had probably burned through all his reserves and the body was beginning to tick down the hours he had left. He wondered what was going to kill him first: the sickness or starvation. He realized that thoughts like that were pointless. Now was the time to reflect on his successes and failures.
He lay all the way down on the school roof and looked up at the sky. He wondered if Lou, Andrew, Harriet, or Edward were going through the exact same thing. He knew Harriet had been infected, but he kept telling himself that she would be all right. He knew that he was deluding himself with those kinds of thoughts. He remembered sipping a bottle of cheap vodka with them. It was a pleasant memory. It may have been the fact that he was looking up into the sun, but his eyes started to well up with tears. He rubbed them away and vowed to think about other things. He couldn’t change what had happened. He desperately wanted to thumb his nose at God and shout blasphemies into the void, but he knew it was pointless.
Life goes on.
He had tried so hard to prevent horrible things from happening, but he had failed. He watched the clouds drift by. It was quite peaceful. He let the sun warm his body. For the first time in a couple of days; he actually felt content. Jonas realized that he really wanted to see the sunset more than anything. The thought of waiting for it seemed like such an insurmountable task. He was so tired. He thought of closing his eyes for a second, just a second, but knew that he probably wouldn’t wake up after that. He forced himself to stay awake as he watched the sun trail across the sky. It felt like an eternity, but he refused to give in. Not yet. He watched the sun sink into the horizon and be swallowed up.
His last words were: “That was truly something.”
He closed his eyes. Around him, the world continued spinning as if nothing had happened.
The Black Death (Removed Characters)
The social butterfly: He is quick with a smile and is generally well viewed among his classmates. He is well-versed in conversation and is attuned to the needs of those around him. He confronts the world around him with an optimistic pragmatism.
The token: The only black student. Born to a well-to-do family and sent to public school as a means of interacting with the ‘lower folk.’ His families’ misconception has resulted in his happiness. He has many friends, but is always living under the shadow of his race.
The poor: He was born into an impoverished family. He has a few friends. Due to his lack of money; he is constantly picked on by those around him. His father recently abandoned his family and he is worried of becoming an addict like him.
The Jesus freak: She speaks to others around her with a slight air of superiority. She is more than willing to let all the burden fall on God’s shoulders. Her deist approach to the world allows her to delude herself into thinking of the benediction of God.
The goth: She is typically ignored by her classmates. She has a perpetual scowl and gravitates towards the macabre. Her attitude is a form of pessimistic nihilism. In spite of this fatalistic stance, she is quite vehement about survival.
Written by EmpyrealInvective