October 12, 2001
He – he did it again, today. I – I can’t tell you anything about what it is… but it’s been happening a lot now. It’s too painful to explain – to describe what I’m going through. Why me? I hate what he does to me! I hate him so much! I want to see him suffer! I WANT HIM TO DIE!
Mrs. Cameron couldn’t deal with us bickering back and forth any longer. She kicked our butts to the curb, dragging me and Billy by the arm, right out of Economics class. If she really wanted to, she could’ve thrown us outside with those powerful, toned arms of hers. We were given pink slips for detention and ordered to stop being hostile towards one another, or we would suffer the consequences; either suspension or expulsion from school grounds.
Getting expelled was the worst kind of punishment, and it was not something you brag about. That kind of bad track record could follow a student wherever they went, and haunt them for the rest of their lives. Billy shook my hand after Mrs. Cameron stopped lecturing us on the subject of respect; we promised there would be no more fighting between us. She actually believed we’d behave ourselves, especially Billy.
“I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Let’s be best buds, once and for all,” he lied.
The bells rang. Mrs. Cameron allowed us to enter the room, once everyone was gone, so we could grab our bags. As I was packing my things for next period, Mrs. Cameron said her goodbyes, and then left in a hurry. This was Billy’s chance to get his revenge. I heard Billy’s heart beating loudly as he pressed his chest next to mine, and I knew at that moment he felt an even greater sensation below his belt.
He pushed me inside the old broom closet, beside Mrs. Cameron’s desk. It was no bigger than a bathroom stall. My face hit the side of the wall; Billy slammed the door shut, grinned at me, and chuckled. He licked the corner of his mouth.
Billy couldn’t keep his hands to himself. “You’re easy, ya know…”
He told me I was delicate to the touch.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
Too weak to get up, Billy blocked the exit––I couldn’t escape!
Slim waited outside the classroom for his girlfriend, Amber Reed, but she had stopped coming around these past few days. He leaned on the wooden side railings and wondered if she’d gone off without him. Wearing a purple hoody, he was dressed in beige khakis that reached this knees. He exhaled to himself. Slim gazed ahead of the basketball court, viewing the wide open spaces and the blue skies.
Maybe she’d been sick with the flu. He looked down at his feet, staring at the new black sneakers and realized his shoelaces were both untied. Slim was too lazy to even tie his own shoes, and had no reason to care now. Some afternoons, Amber would meet him right after class and other times they would hang out during lunch with her girlfriends. Amber had often arrived late and Slim hated when she stood him up; she would chat nonstop with her classmates, always giggling and gossiping.
Amber told Slim that she wanted to spend more time with him. Slim hadn’t refused her offer, and yet he wasn’t that eager to see her anyway. Frequently, whenever they walked in the halls together, Amber would boast about their relationship. He became frustrated with the way she treated him––as if he was her boy toy. A trophy.
A prize to be won. All the other girls were jealous of Amber’s popularity in school; however, Slim wanted no part in the bizarre contest of who was the richest and who was the poorest––the haves and the haves not. Glancing at his watch, he whistled a song.
She’s fuckin’ late again…he thought.
Two students darted past him in the hallways, looking afraid to be late for class. Slim decided it was best to get a move on, seeing that his time was almost up. The last bell would ring soon for next period. He made up his mind to turn around and start walking, but someone plowed right into him. Slim blocked with his arm, for the blow had knocked him against a pole.
“Watch it, nigger,” Billy said, pushing Slim out of his way.
Slim stepped aside; he narrowed his eyes at Billy Slate, knowing fully well who he was––the big, bad wolf himself. Slim noticed something off about his behavior. Billy’s shirt was soaking wet as if he dipped it in water, and his breathing sounded erratic. Billy was never in a rush to get somewhere, and his voice sounded tense, uneven.
“Fuck you, white cracker,” Slim said.
Billy ran. Slim was taken aback by this reaction. When did Billy Slate ever ignore him? Why had he backed down from a fight? What made him so anxious enough to flee?
“What a pussy…” Slim said under his breath.
Rubbing his injured elbow, he cringed in soreness. Going in the direction of the portables, he remembered Billy and another student had to remain after class, because Mrs. Cameron had told them to quit fighting. He realized he hadn’t seen the other boy with Billy on his way out. Heading toward the classroom, he saw the door gapping ajar.
Nineteen-year-old Billy Slate perched himself on top of the bleachers. Weighing two hundred pounds, he resembled a gorilla with his back arched and his dark, blue hood covering his face. Billy wanted a good view of the football field; he hadn’t seen it in so long, since he was kicked off the team. It looked empty and smaller than Billy remembered. A reddish, track course with white lines circled a grassy area in the center, where his teammates used to practice there everyday.
Coach Todd made sure his players had gotten their daily exercise, always making them run eight laps a day, the equivalent of two miles. Billy kept his hands in his pockets and daydreamed to himself. No one was here, since the gate was locked; he had climbed over it to get across. Billy was a rebel without a cause. Everyone, including Coach Todd, went home for the holidays…except for him.
Dressed in his white Van Halen T-shirt and a regular old pair of jeans, Billy stuffed a blunt in his mouth and lit it up. He shoved a small, red lighter into his pocket, and went back to doing what he did best: absolutely nothing. The strong wind ruffled his unkempt long, blond hair as he smoked onward. This was what relaxed him, just like any other drug he used before. He took the weed out and exhaled.
The sun was setting. Soon darkness would engulf him; it would be a thick black mask. A shadow crept past him. Billy turned his head, spotting something at the corner of his eye. It ran across the vacant lot and leaped the fence.
Billy didn’t act shocked by it, and began scanning for what could’ve been a passing car on the road or a wild deer. Not a vehicle nearby, and yet everything appeared calm and normal. Not one thing was out of place. Billy looked over his shoulders, and then rose from his seat. Another phantom moved slowly, far above him.
This time it was a random dark, cloud in the sky. Billy’s blunt still dangled from the right corner of his lips. He took it out of his mouth and flicked it off somewhere, in between the seats.
“Hey,” he shouted, in a delayed response.
No reply. Only silence. The echoes of howling wind made the hairs on his back stand upright. Billy stepped down.
What the fuck was that? He wondered.
It was probably gone by now. Why had it fled? What was it running away from? To Billy, there wasn’t any logical reason or explanation for what he saw. He shook it out of his mind.
It could’ve been anything really. Perhaps, it was a kite or a bird. For all he knew, it could’ve been some practical joke. Billy thought he noticed the shadowy figure once more, and this time, it headed in the direction of the gym. The men’s locker room wasn’t far from where he was standing.
School was closed. The soccer and volleyball games for this semester were officially done for, because Christmas and New Year’s Day were fast approaching. The Cougars team had more losses than wins this season; they would have to wait until next year for the playoffs. Maybe Coach Todd could get a better record. But Billy doubted it. It was a far-fetched plan, since everything had changed after that incident, in the restroom. For the most part, Billy didn’t actually believe it was his fault that the team hated his guts.
He also couldn’t stand Coach Todd and his constant shouting matches. Coach had an attitude problem, always telling everyone what to do. Billy didn’t enjoy being scoffed at, like some child, and yet Coach acted as if he was his father. That was what broke the camel’s back. Billy dropped out of the team. He stopped caring about sports.
He hadn’t been there for practice, and didn’t quit smoking and drinking alcohol. His favorite choice of drug was pot and cocaine; every morning he snorted the powdery white dust up his nose, whereas every night he smoked, until he eventually passed out. Billy was either high or in a drunken stupor; his appearance changed during the course of a few weeks. His stomach, once lean and trim with muscles, became flabby, even rounder. Billy cared less about his appearance and hygiene every passing day, transforming himself into a deadbeat slacker.
As he thought to himself, he reflected on his current situation. He had made a mess of his relationships. Billy had no real friends. Students were too afraid of him, and befriended him for the sole purpose of not getting punched in the face. He hated everyone: his father, his mother, Coach Todd, and all his ex-teammates.
Billy recalled being the team captain and once the quarterback. That was long ago. If only he could control his temper, and yet he kept getting into numerous fights with all all the other players on his own team.
I was lost in a fog, wandering for miles on end. The mist was so dense that I couldn’t see anything in front of me. My feet stumbled across something, blocking my path. It was a copper, yellowish color. The paint peeled off the moment I touched it, but it had black stripes. A school bus stood upward on its rear tires while the front part, the nose, faced the sky.
Going around the abandoned creaking bus, I realized there were rows of others in the same kind of alignment; a graveyard full of them. They formed a bridge, a lane that stretched out as far as I could see, to the greater unknown. Corroded in rust and thorny plant-life, each one had broken windows; they were ancient, deteriorating under their own weight as if they’d been here for millions of years.
Hiking toward a neglected and empty bus station, I could distinctly hear clicking noises coming from inside the building. Rumblings I couldn’t discern; they were chilling, unearthly cries. A black stop sign stood before me, hanging upside down, from a crumbling highway. It then tilted sideways as if by magic, as if it was animate. Trapped in a world of darkness, I didn’t know which direction to take.
What is this place? And where am I going?
My clothing was pallid, everything was covered in black, white, and gray. There was no color in this world. Not one shred of light, only blackness. Until, I saw a spot of red in the distance.
I didn’t sleep last night, because of a new nightmare; it was different from the previous ones in the past. I couldn’t remember much of it, only fragments, bits and pieces. There was a girl standing there––she looked just like––
A cell phone vibrated on the red, oak desk. My clumsy hand reached out for it. Flipping the top part up, I forced my eyes wide open. The number (407) 555-6656 appeared on the screen. I saw the name above it––it was Rue Chang! My thumb pressed the green symbol shaped like a telephone, and then I lifted the device to my ear.
“Hello?” I said, groggily.
“I kept my promise, Zander. Did you miss me?” Rue sounded so cheerful today.
I rubbed my forehead and yawned. “Is that really you, Rue?”
“How are you, my boy? I’m sorry I didn’t call sooner, but I’ve been busy lately. It’s good to hear your voice again. Did you sleep last night? You sound horrible.”
A knocking was at my door.
“Who are you talking to in there?” Mom asked. “Is someone with you?”
“No one!” I hid the cell in my lap. “I’m talking to no one Mom. Leave me alone.”
I imagined Mom, behind the wall, shaking her head at me. Her footsteps soon faded away to the next room; she was probably carrying a laundry basket full of clothes, like always.
“Is that your mother?” Rue asked. “May I speak to her?”
“I don’t think that would be such a good idea––technically, I’m grounded for the holidays.” I tried to keep my voice down.
“May I ask why you’re grounded? Is it because of me?”
I leaned back in my chair and stared at the busted monitor in front of me; my computer was still broken after that last fit of rage weeks ago. I took a deep breath.