“Damn Mr. Anderson, that test was harsh.”
“Language Eli,” his physics teacher grinned as he turned in his test.
“Sorry, but c’mon! That was the last test before break, and now my grade is down the drain.” The final bell has just wrung.
“I’m sure you did just fine, now go enjoy your break. There's no sense in worrying about something like that now.” Mr. Anderson smiled at the anxious looking student.
“Do you really think I have a shot at Caltech? They haven’t gotten back to me yet, and my I’m worried my SAT score wasn’t high enough”
“You know, for the star of the soccer team, you sure are acting like a nerd right now.” That was not reassuring. “But yes, Eli, I do think you have a good shot. Your GPA is perfect and you’ve been working your tail off all year.” Supportive was Mr. Anderson’s style, but Eli still worried. Yes there was soccer and everything else, but getting into Caltech was his future, and right now, that mattered more.
“You’re too supportive Mr. Anderson, it's not helping.”
“Is that how you talk to someone who helped you put your application together AND wrote your letter of recommendation”
“No, sir,” Eli rolled his eyes, “but thank you. Have a good break!”
“You too,” Eli bustled out of the room to the parking lot, where traffic was already beginning to thin.
The memory dissipated as Eli opened his eyes. Shit. His vision was blurry and red. Everything was different now. He crouched behind a chair in the library. Silence. The area was devoid of life. Time to move. Gun shots. He barely recognized the sound of his own breathing. Eli staggered down the hall, surprised to find that no one tried to stop him. They were all too scared, useless bastards. He turned the corner, heading for the science department.
An earlier memory. The first time he had ever walked down the halls of the science department, back at the beginning of freshman year.
“My name is Mr. Anderson. I teach physics, astronomy, and geospace, the class you’re in right now. You’ll be here with me until lunch most days, so get comfortable. Speaking of which, no food in the lab, unless you’ve brought me something to eat as well...yes that was a joke, yes you may laugh.” A few giggles spread through the classroom, but most of the freshman were too intimidated to crack more than an uncomfortable smile. “There are no assigned seats, but keep in mind that if it becomes a problem, I will move you. Please grab a syllabus from the stack that is being passed around, so we may begin going over it as a class. Hey! Soccer boy! What did I say about eating in the classroom?”
“Uhh, that I could keep doing it if I gave you some as well?” A boy wearing an FC Barcelona jersey replied, offering up the rest of his granola bar. The class laughed.
“What’s your name soccer boy?”
“Well Mr. Eli, I won’t have any problems with you eating in my class again, I presume?” Mr. Anderson asked with just a hint of humor in his voice.
“No, sir” Eli responded and sat down quietly in the back.
“Now, turn to the second page of the syllabus. We’re going to go over late work policies first.”
He was losing his nerve quickly. No, it didn’t matter. What was done was done. The next hallway was deserted as well. I’ll show these cowards. They don’t know. None of you know what this feels like. Gun shots rang out again and holes appeared in the wall at the end of the hallway. No more. It ends here. He turned the final corner. The door was slightly ajar, and through it he could hear the sound of voices and shouting, the people inside were panicking. The sickening stench of blood filled the air. Did they know he was here? Did they know how close to death they were? Once again he felt dread pooling in his stomach. Mr. Anderson I can’t do this to you. Anyone else, but please, not you.
“Four years in a row, Eli? I’m going to get real tired of seeing your face every day” Mr. Anderson chuckled.
“Sorry, sir, you're just so damn cute. I couldn’t resist signing up for your classes.”
“I’m telling your girlfriend you said that.”
“You wouldn’t!” Eli gasped in mock anger then grinned.
“I would, and please watch your language. I’m your teacher not your coach.” Eli just laughed as he went and found his familiar seat in the back of the class. For all of their banter, he knew that AP Physics was going to kick his ass this year.
“And, hey, one more thing Eli. I got your email about colleges over the summer. I really do think you have a shot at getting into anyone of those schools. Meet me at lunch and we can discuss it more.” His tone was cheerful, but Eli could see the concerned look in his eyes.
Eli opened the door, then he shut it again and ran. No more! Why was no one stopping him? He rounded the same corner again and looked back. Two people were running past the door he had just left. Two clean shots, two more bodies limp. A figure appeared in the doorway. Another shot, and the figure staggered sideways. Eli pressed himself flat against the wall. I’ve got you right where I want you. He sprinted away at full speed, toward the office. Shit, I couldn’t do it. It's over now. How many more people will die? There were larger crowds forming now, desperately trying to evacuate the school; the figure followed. Fuck it, It’s over.
“So you’re a state champion now, huh?” Mr. Anderson looked up at Eli from the stack of papers he was grading.
“Oh yea, no big deal. You can start calling me ‘your majesty’ now.”
“Wow, athletic, smart, and humble, how does he do it?” Mr. Anderson rolled his eyes.
“Uh, maybe we can leave the smart out of it. Mr. Anderson, senior year is fun and all, so is soccer, but the stress is really cracking down on me. I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
“Your mother took a turn for the worst.” It wasn’t a question so much as a statement. Eli started to tear up. “This isn’t about her though, is it?” It was an odd sight, seeing someone so confident break down so completely.
“Emma...last spring… she was only in 8th grade. She never told us anything. No one knew until she was already dead. I haven’t seen my father since June, and no child should have to take care of his own mother.”
“She’s grieving just the same as you, Eli, she’ll come around soon.”
“Why doesn’t she just leave too!” He screamed. “Maybe then I’d be able to move on, maybe I could just get out of this fucking school!”
“It's important that you have a support system through all of this, and I want you to know that I’m always here for you.” Mr. Anderson tried to look him in the eyes, but Eli only cried harder. “I need you to know, though, that I am not a counselor, and you need someone that can help you get through this, professionally. There is only so much I can do for you Eli.”
“Fuck it, Mr. Anderson. Fuck all of this. It's over anyway.” Eli dried his face on his sleeve and got up to leave.
I will be the last to die. Eli glared at the fleeing pigs in front of him any longer and turned to face his pursuer. When he realized Eli had stopped running, the man slowed his pace, began to walk, and finally, about 10 feet from Eli, he stopped. Despite the imminent danger of the situation, the man remained standing face to face with Eli. One final goodbye. He knew this was going to happen.
“Please Mr. Anderson. I need you. I can’t do this without you. You’ve always been there for me. I just want this to be over...” his voice trailed off.
“You were a special kid, Eli. I’ve always believed in you.” Mr. Anderson cocked the loaded handgun and aimed it at Eli’s chest. Searing pain, the warm taste of blood, a blurry figure standing over him. Red, then black, then nothing.
The screeching of sirens drowned out the voices of anxious reporters as students were met by their parents. Some were escorted off by police for further questioning. Footage of the chaos was joined by images of crying students and blood stained classrooms flashing across the screen. At the bottom of the footage, “High School Physics Teacher Kills 24, Injures 13”.
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