Forward Warning: This is a work of complete fiction inspired by the recent tragedy of the Freeman High School Shooting and the Las Vegas shooting. This is a fictional character, a fictional school, and a fictional situation. What happens in this story is highly improbable. Written by Teagan D. And Lillian S. #freemanstrong
Dear future me,
Let me tell you a story. None of my friends are in my homeroom class, so they didn’t go on our field-trip to the bowling alley. We won that trip during a freakishly hard trivia game that we played when we came back from spring break. It was against every other homeroom, the whole school! But without them, I didn’t want to bowl, (obviously) it’s not fun when you can’t brag, or fake pout, or even scream in delight (which are things you really don’t do with random kids). I asked my mom if I could stay home that day, but she forced me to try and have fun anyway. So I sat on the sidelines and ate some delicious mozzarella sticks. Mozzarella sticks are like heaven– crunchy and gooey, burning hot! Of course like all bowling alley food, they were ridiculously expensive. Seven dollars! I bought them anyway. The alley had several retro arcade games, so I played some of those as well. By the end of the day, I only had like- a quarter. . . so I wasted it on one last useless try on the pinball machine. Needless to say, I lost.
Our class gathered in a tight bundle of human bodies and began to march away from the alley. (But not before we took an annoyingly hard-to-achieve class photo in front of the run-down building.) There were like 50 of us, and we had to walk about the streets for like, 30 minutes. I alone could walk it in 15, but with so many kids it was easier to keep track of each of us if we walked painstaking slow. Our school was, and still is- to this day, too cheap to buy busses for less than a 10 mile trip. People were complaining and talking and laughing, just like they would any other day. We didn’t know what was occurring less than a mile away as we play-shoved classmates into the street, as we made the honking motion to cars, as we played truth or dare and stomped on people’s lawns. I lagged behind purposefully, I was bored without my best friend, Jordan. Why did she have to be in Miss Borden’s class? A lot of people tease me for being a guy with a girl for a best friend, but I never thought it mattered in the slightest. I love Jordan (not in a girlfriend, boyfriend kinda way, but just as a friend). It’s kind of hard to be romantically attracted to the person you’ve had baths with as a little kid after being on a play-date and getting peanut butter all over each other; who came to you thinking she was dying when she had her first period. We’d known each other since birth; our moms were close in high school. We had a small friend group but we were always closer to each other than anybody else.
Eventually we came across a railroad, nothing special to anybody, just a train track. To our dismay, the candy-cane-striped things (that block the path when a train comes by) started gliding downwards. The red lights flashed signaling the cars to stop. Our groans of impatience were drowned out by the ringing (Dinging, clanging? What would you call the sound a train crossing makes?) of the sirens. We were going to have to wait for a long-ass train. We had already been out here for some time. (Which isn’t good, because recently the air had been filled with the smoke of nearby forest fires. Curse you global warming!)
The train took a good 6 (yes we timed it) minuets to pass and additional 2 for the candy striped things to go up so we could pass. Little did we know, the train had been the reason we’re all here today….
We continued our lighthearted ambling towards the school, until suddenly we came to an abrupt stop about five blocks away. Our teacher stopped and stood staring at her phone, mouth slightly agape. She lifted her head, and I could hear her shout at a couple of students who tried to pass in front of her. No, not a shout, more of a desperate plea, almost what you could consider a scream. Her eyes were wary and terrified, and a chill ran down my spine. I knew something wasn’t right. My teacher looked around, as if she was trying to find someone to give her direction. It was like she suddenly forgot the way back to the school (which was to take a left at the end of the block, go straight for two blocks and turn right until you hit the school). There was a good 7 seconds, where Mrs. O’Neill looked more helpless than anyone I had ever seen. Students began to go silent. And in this silence we could begin to hear the not-so-distant sirens. Something was most definitely wrong.
(Please note, future me, I am paraphrasing here:)
“The-e…” She cleared her throat. “There’s been, a-an” Mrs. O’Neill stuttered “An unfortunate shooting at our school just this afternoon.”
Somehow, the scene got even quieter. Is that possible? Mrs. O’Neill took a deep breath and continued. “We don’t know how many people were injured yet, or what has exactly happened.” A murmur swept through the crowd like water in a stream. I was suddenly very cold, the black around my eyes increased like I was seeing through a tunnel.
“Jordan…” I spoke to myself. I felt a panic rise in my system.. The images my mind conjured up still haunt me as they probably do you, future me. A masked man with a rifle, pointing it carefully at her, pulling the trigger without a care in the world. At this time I didn’t know if she was dead, but I couldn’t think positively. After all- the unthinkable had happened- had actually happened.
It is now a month later, and I know the whole story. How out of the 800 or so students that go to my school, only exactly 707 are alive on this day. 93 people all younger than 18 are dead! All because a group of people, (20 or so) students and citizens alike, banded together in what started as a support group. It grew and the need for vengeance overtook them all. It was the largest orchestrated school attack ever. Jordan is dead, shot straight in the stomach. It had to have been the most painful way to die, because your stomach acids seep into the rest of your body and slowly eats its way out. It can take up to 20 minutes for death to occur. The police arrived late to the scene. To late to help anybody. The suspects had decided to all commit suicide at the same moment at exactly 2:20 no matter how many people were shot. They all did it. We would all be dead if not for the train that made us late to school. Dead. Just 8 minutes is all it took. I am alive because of pure luck- Or maybe not luck. Maybe somebody or something was smiling down from above- but if that were true, than why us? Why not the 93 dead? The cops gained access to their emails which is why we know so much at all.—
I can’t enter the building, I keep seeing my imaginations version of Jordan’s death, I can’t stand to see her in pain. I can’t stand to be in the school. I now go to counseling as well as an entirely different school… In fact, the reason I’m writing this is for my counselor, she suggested it. The worst part is knowing that Jordan is dead- the very person I would turn to, gone. She always wanted her body donated to science but that can’t really happen now, with stomach acid burned through her skin, she’s buried under 7 feet of dirt. Closed casket ceremony. I can’t help but to see the maggots crawling out her eyes and her nose. Some of my other friends were killed (and of course their deaths are tragic) as well, but her death is what keeps my eyes cemented open at night, what causes me have thoughts of suicide. I am not brave enough to take my own life though, it is a cowardice that keeps me here. Not bravery to face the world- but cowardice. I cannot leave. I will not leave. Jordan would want me- you to live.
The pain makes it easier to think, but harder to come up. The blackness you’re falling into, future self, is something that cannot be denied, but it is harder to pull yourself out than to find your way in.
So dear future me,
Do not take life for granted! It is something that can disappear in the blink of an eye. Those students killed, the classmates you came to know through the years, arrived at school thinking they were safe (cognitively or not). And so did you. Yet they are gone, and you are here. Cherish each moment with everyone around you, whether good or bad. Because you could be gone the next time you blink. Whenever you consider leaving, think of all the people remaining to live for- that girl who smiled at you, she doesn’t want you dead- that boy who helped you pick up your books, he doesn’t want you dead. Your mom and dad, they most certainly not want you dead. Jordan wouldn’t want you to die. Memories are more important than anything else, no matter where you go, take them with you, just like life they may suddenly disappear. Life is awful, there is no doubt about it. You have to accept that. Things happen that you can’t change, whether through fate, luck, natural happenings, or an all-knowing deity things happen. People die young, people die old. Things change you as a person. I went from being happy, carefree, star of the baseball diamond to this, a walking, talking, empty eyed corpse. I write these lessons without truly believing them because I know they are true things to abide by. But when everything is over your head, and your swirling in the black water, and there’s just no way up. Sometimes you have to forget. Never forget! Forgive yourself, love yourself. Not everything is your fault! Stop blaming yourself! You can’t help but to forget, it’s not a choice you’re making. Hopefully each day, each time you read this letter- you grow a little, things get a little clearer, a little lighter, you get a bit closer to the surface of that black pool. Don’t give up! Do it for me. The boy that wants and feels these things. The boy that deep inside doesn’t want to die. Remember these things when you stare at the pills in your palm, when you force yourself to walk into your new school-each step like fire. Please remember.
Owen Nickolies, 2017