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Location: Old School House
Item: text book
Donald L. Pitsiladis
Barry pulled his car into a parking spot and closed his eyes. He didn’t need to see the shattered windows or the broken door to know what they looked like. The decayed building had been a recurring place in his dreams for many years, but he never believed it to be real until just then. Fear and guilt flooded his mind when he opened his eyes and saw the building stare at him from the rear view mirror.
He stared at the school, unsure of what to do. The building reached for him and, before he realized it, Barry found himself at the foot of the stairs. “Come inside,” a little voice whispered, and he climbed the stairs without another thought. Once through the door, it slammed with a bang that sounded a lot like a gunshot. It knocked him to the ground hard enough to throw dust into his face and he began to sneeze uncontrollably. He tried to open the metal door to get some fresh air, but no amount of force got it to move. The only option left was to venture deeper into the school and look for another way out.
The further into the school Barry went, the stronger his feeling of excitement and dread became. He remembered attending the school when he was the poor fat kid and the torment and torture his classmates inflicted. Tears welled in his eyes at the whispered insults when a door opened and the voices beckoned him. “Go inside. See the surprise we have for you. You really need to see it. Go on in.” Barry entered the room and saw a gray haired man in a bow tie and white lab coat pace the room with a smile. It was his favorite teacher, Mr. Jenson, the only teacher to treat him with kindness. When the gentle man’s eyes met his, the smile fell away and an explosion of red blossomed from his chest. He fell back in slow motion with arms flailing like a kite tail, while the students erupted into motion when they realized what happened. Then, two bigger boys sprawled to the ground with similar wounds in their backs before things faded to the empty, dust-covered classroom. Barry felt the rapid beat of his heart as he tried to make sense of what he saw. A chilled hand gripped his left shoulder, but nobody stood next to him.
A sound of shuffling feet drew Barry into the hall where he found only undisturbed dust and debris on the floor. “Keep moving,” a disembodied female voice whispered, so he walked on. Not long after, a bright flash and muffled boom drew his attention to a dented locker a few feet to his right. A blond girl with a large gaping hole between her once perky breasts slammed into it. Her confused eyes met his for a moment before she slid down the length of the door and her head sagged to her chest. “I loved you,” the female voice whispered and he felt arms envelope his body in a cold embrace. Barry tried to wrap his arms around the girl, but found empty air instead. Tears welled in his eyes and he moved on to the next room in his spree.
He found himself in the cafeteria after a short walk. There he pulled up a chair and looked around the room full of unaware students and teachers. His best friend Jamie entered the large room from the far door and, with a look of disbelief on his face, ran towards him. “Don’t shoot!” he shouted. “You don’t need to do this!” The pleas drew people’s attention, so Barry pulled the trigger. Three people fell before a football player grabbed Jamie and pulled him in the line of fire. Before the first clip emptied, both boys lay on the ground.
“You killed us,” Jamie said and appeared next to Barry with blood oozing from the holes in his chest. “Why?” the dead boy asked as his face drew near Barry’s. “Why did I die, Barry? I was your best friend.” The blond girl appeared with her arms still around Barry’s body, “Margaret wanted to be your girlfriend. What did she do to cross you?” The middle-aged teacher gripped his shoulder tighter as he materialized. “What about Mr. Jenson? You were his favorite student. He treated you better than any other student in his classes.”
Barry’s bottom lip quivered and he stammered, “I… I don’t know.” He looked at Jamie and said, “I didn’t mean to shoot you. It was that stupid football player’s fault. He pulled you in the way.” When he looked at the other two, his eyes squinted in thought and admitted, “I don’t remember.” Margaret pulled away from him with a hurt expression that stabbed into him. “The hospital I went to after made me forget a lot.” He took a step toward her with an apologetic smile, but the look on her face remained unchanged.
“That’s quite all right, my boy,” Mr. Jenson said in his jolly way. “We’re here to help you remember.” He led Barry to a desk in the middle of the cafeteria and gestured for him to take a seat. Jamie plopped a textbook in front of him and opened it to the first page. “I’m sure this will trigger some of your lost memories,” the teacher said as they looked at his body in a pool of blood. The gaping hole in his chest and the empty eyes drew Barry’s attention to the photo, and then he noticed how a small trickle of blood from the corner of the teacher’s mouth led to a caption which read “Victim Number One”. As Barry paged through the book and saw the lives he either ended or destroyed, Mr. Jenson walked behind the counter and returned with the same gun used so many years ago. “This will be your final exam.”
Margaret sat down next to him and pulled Barry tight against her. “We want to make sure you’re ready for your afterlife when it is time for your Judgment,” she said with a comforting smile. Barry felt the comforting grip of his best friend’s hand as it grasped his right shoulder. The whispers of the dead beckoned him to study.
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