Aidan Lerner ’22
Bringggg. Bringggg. Bringggg.
As a unit, over eight hundred kids arose and walked toward the wing of classrooms. The full mass of the entire student body was not something which Eddie had ever taken for granted, given his claustrophobic instincts and fear of crowds. But on the list of triggering things in a high school, the morning scrum was relatively low and something to which Eddie had grown more accustomed.
Eddie’s first class was Spanish III and he was dreading it. Señora Mafrey demanded that no English be spoken from the beginning of her class to the end and the results were mixed, to say the least. Eddie slumped into his seat next to his friend Anthony.
“Hola Anthony. Como te weekend?” Eddie sputtered. “Tú escribes el homework? Eso sucked.”
“Hola, el homework made me hate my vida,” Anthony replied quickly and with much less effort.
“Solamente Español!” Señora Mafrey yelled.
Eddie sighed, exasperated. He grabbed the bathroom pass, a miniaturized mariachi-style guitar, and walked into the hall. It was during walks such as these when Eddie came to appreciate the simple design of his school’s hallway. The white brick and purple streaks were so much more appealing when observed alone.
Eddie took care of business in the first-floor bathroom. The smell of vape lingered as always, but Eddie counted himself lucky to not have encountered a squad of vapers. He washed his hands, considering how he could prolong his time outside of the classroom by taking a drink from the water fountain, when he heard a bang and the lights cut out.
Eddie was thrust into total darkness. Only the very edge of sunlight lingered around the corner where the hallway windows gave way to the outside world. Eddie felt his way along the wall and stumbled into the hallway. He had always hated the noise of hundreds of students, but now the silence was disconcerting.
As he looked out into the sunlight, Eddie saw something that thrust a chill into his stomach. There was a hole in the window. It was small and round and broken glass lay underneath it. The glare of the sun hurt Eddie’s eyes as he stared at the hole, wondering if it was the source of the bang he’d heard.
He walked towards it slowly, aware of every deep breath. He thought he could see something just beneath the glare. Maybe he saw someone dressed in so much black he might just be a shadow. Eddie stopped, and the shape did too. The lights flickered as Eddie reached the hole, staring into a shapeless, colorless thing. He was paralyzed by fear.
Against the black, a pop of yellow crawled out and multiplied. The sun was blinding him, but he heard the buzz of a hornet. Eddie could feel the air pouring through the hole.
“Attention students. This is a lockdown,” Principal O’Shaughnessy’s voice announced over the intercom.
Eddie jumped. The beekeeper, clad in all black, sealed the hole closed and backed away. The first hornet sting surprised Eddie more than hurt him, but his move to slap the bee away disturbed another. The second sting elicited a yell and freezing in place was no longer an option. Eddie wheeled away taking sting after sting all over his body, on his arms and legs.
Eddie sprinted around a corner, yelling and slapping the air. Eddie found the nearest classroom and dashed inside, nursing multiple nasty stings and gasping for air. For several seconds, the only thing Eddie was aware of was the absence of pain. Then, he became aware of the darkness as well as the sound of breath.
“Hello,” Eddie said into the silence. “Who’s there?”
Out of the shadows, a reply breathed into the empty room.
“O–okay,” Eddie stammered, unnerved.
“I kissed a girl just last night. It smelled nice.”
Eddie was reaching for the doorknob, wincing with every creepy whisper that punctuated the dark.
“So, some of us are normal. We’re not all weird. We’re not all alone.”
Eddie found the doorknob. He asked, “Who’s ‘we?’”
The darkness laughed. “We’re you, you aren’t. I’m the punchline to her joke.”
“I’m going to do it to you now,” he said. “I want you to know why. It’s because—”
Eddie leaned on the door and fell into the hallway, sliding and slamming the door behind him. He shot to his feet and ran. Adrenaline was failing him now, and he felt his stomach open up to a new level of fear he had not previously known. Instead of butterflies in his stomach, it felt like, well, hornets.
Finally, he saw light emanating from a classroom and burst inside, screaming for help. The violinist continued playing undeterred while a minster shuffled his notes.
“Welcome, welcome, welcome!” a girl in an elaborate dress greeted him. “Are you here for the bride or the groom?”
“What? No. Th-there’s a man with a you-know-what. We need to hi—”
“Oh, Cassie, don’t be silly,” a woman’s voice interrupted. “Eddie is the groom!”
Eddie turned to his right and saw his date to the prom, Allie, adorned in a full-length wedding gown.
Eddie was floored. “Allie, what the—“
Allie smiled wide. “Eddie, please marry me. It’s time to take the next step in our lives.”
“No, you don’t get it. There’s a guy out there with a thingy.”
Allie waved her arm dismissively. “Oh, I’m sure there is. No point worrying about that right now. The ceremony is about to begin! Look, I wore my prom dress!”
Eddie stared, mouth agape. “Allie, that’s a wedding dress.”
She laughed hysterically. “Eddie, I know you like me. Let’s just do it. I mean, are you really going to find anyone you like more than me?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” Eddie replied, “Couldn’t we just date first? Also, I’m a little distracted at the moment.”
If Allie was disappointed, she did not show it. “Okay! I’m going to go marry that guy then! Take a seat!”
“Alright,” Eddie said, baffled.
The music swelled as Allie walked towards the minister and her new groom. Eddie took a seat and tried to listen to their vows. Allie got a laugh from the attendees when she asked the minister to remind her of the groom’s name. Then, the groom died.
He fell like a bag of bricks, and the sound echoed through the classroom. No one moved or made a sound except Allie, who turned to face the audience. Her face was half-covered in red, but she was smiling as radiantly as ever.
“Okay, folks! Looks like we are going to switch gears here and have a little child funeral!” Allie turned to the minister. “Minister, I assume you packed your child funeral materials?”
“Yes of course,” the minister replied. “I never leave home without my child funeral toolbox. Before we begin, does anyone wish to say a few words about the deceased?”
Eddie craned his head and recognized the shape of the man walking forward. He walked to the front and placed his thing down carefully behind him. As he spoke, Eddie realized that the man was really a boy.
“Why I did it,” the boy said slowly. “You arrogant little tyrants. You grow up here all fat and happy, sucking the life out of people with real problems. No. You don’t know true adversity, true pain, until it arrives without warning. It strikes from the dark and makes the continuation of your life feel unfortunate. You should thank me. All of you have everything one can have except suffering. And now you have it.”
Eddie stared into the eyes of a boy, brimming with pain.
The shadow continued, “So, why did I do it?” The boy grinned. “I did it because it was WAY easier than solving derivatives in AP Calc!”
Everyone, including the boy, devolved into hysterics. The sound of laughter drowned out all else; even the minister had tears of mirth streaming down his face.
Eddie shook his head. He had had enough. Still clutching the mariachi guitar bathroom pass, he left and began the walk towards his Spanish III classroom. Behind him, the lights flickered on and Principal O’Shaughnessy announced that the lockdown was over.
Eddie opened the door and walked towards the desk with his name on it. He joined his classmates in standing with his hand on his heart..
“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”