The tomato splattered across my face- ow.
“What was that for?” I shouted at the students in the courtyard.
“It’s the annual Winterford Tomato War,” one boy shouted. “I guess you’re our first casualty.”
I scoffed and wiped the tomato’s soggy remains off my face, thankful that it had not gotten on my sweater. I would need it today- I had felt a strange chill in the brief moment when I had exited the dorm before the tomato interrupted. I quickly made my way to the main building so I could start another day at Winterford Prep- the prestigious high school I had worked my way towards for years. I had taken on as many classes as I could and needed to maximize my time here now. So I, Corrine Bryce, junior debate president, student council representative, and future Winterford Prep valedictorian, entered the building with pride- a force no tomato nor all-nighter could reckon with.
The janitor’s runaway floor machine, however, could do what it wanted.
If I hadn’t been one to shun social media (it distracted from studying, and therefore, my future) I might have seen the panicked messages and alerts about how the janitor spilled cleaning fluid on the machine causing it to go haywire- now, at a surprisingly quick speed, it simultaneously cleaned and pummeled everything in its path. Everyone had evacuated until the problem could be fixed, but I had ignored my surroundings ever since being struck by those stupid students and that stupid, stupid tomato. I didn’t hear the maniacal vrooming of the machine as it turned down the hall and began to bounce off the walls, nor did I realize what was happening when I jiggled the metal doorknob of Mrs. Andersen’s AP English classroom only to find it locked (the teachers hadn’t entered the building, for obvious reasons). And as I stood there dumbly attempting to unlock the door, three things happened.
The deranged floor machine slammed into me.
I crumpled against the door. Hard. My head collided with the doorknob. I had no clue what was going on as I fell to the floor.
The machine rammed into me again and went on its way.
I lay on the floor feeling the worst pain in my life. I had likely broken several bones, although I couldn’t tell- I wasn’t able to move my limbs. I felt some sort of liquid on my face. As I saw the machine vroom away and finally looked up to see the metal, sharp doorknob covered in blood and probably, I was able to connect the events of what had just happened together.
And then I died.
I felt a chill in the air. What had happened. I had felt everything go black, slip away- and where was I now? Time seemed to be frozen. And now, a voice:
“TWO LIVES LEFT. CHECKPOINT SAVED.”
The tomato splattered across my face- ow.
“Why are you even doing this?” I screamed at the students. Dying and having no clue what just happened had dampened my mood
The boy who had shouted at me previously then spoke again.
“Because it’s fun. Because there are finals. Because it’s nearly winter break and there’s no snow to use for snowballs- an atrocity, I must say- ergo, we use tomatoes. Who are you, anyway?”
“I’m Corrine Bryce, and I have to get to finals-”
“Oh, you’re that one.”
“Always studying, never taking a break? You need to just… chill. Take some tomatoes.”
I rolled my eyes. “And who are you?”
“Dameon. Will you, Corrine Bryce, join the fight?”
I walked off without a word, determined to make it to English alive. Even though the door had been locked, my time wasted from my chat with Dameon had perhaps been enough for my English teacher to unlock the door.
I walked in. I saw the machine ram into the door and drive off. The fact that I had died there, albeit creepy, was the least of my concerns. I reviewed my list of fix-its mentally as I double-checked the doorknob. Still locked. I decided to head towards the library to study- surely that would be open. I began to run down the hallway, hoping to make it with enough time to re-review my flashcards. However…
…remember that spill that had triggered the Floor-Cleaning-Machine-Pocalypse from earlier?
Yeah. I fell on my back, my foot slipping out from under me, then promptly wedging in the library “book returns” cart. The cart rolled, inches from the stairs, and…
… it stopped. Thankfully. I would have fallen down the stairs if the cart had moved any more. I then began to try to free my foot- it was firmly stuck, but I couldn’t move it too much for fear of the cart dragging me down two flights of stairs. I wasn’t able to break free. And then I heard it. The sound I now recognized.
The machine didn’t hit me directly, although that would have surely been better than what did happen. It was like it was mocking me, just barely knocking against the library cart. The cart began its rapid descent down the stairs, causing me to fall after it.
“I hate you,” I whispered before the world went back.
And I was back. What was even going on? The world was still briefly frozen. And sure enough, there was still that creepy message:
“ONE LIFE LEFT. CHECKPOINT SAVED.”
I did the only thing I could think to do.
The tomato splattered on the door.
“Nice duck!” Dameon yelled. “Want to join the annual Winterford Tomato War?”
“You know what? Yeah. I’ll join.”
“It’s nice to give some people a break,” said Dameon as I grabbed some tomatoes. “Lots of people seem to be pushing too hard. Everyone needs a chance to breathe sometimes.”
I paused. “Agreed,” I said at long last, as I joined the fight, for the first time forgetting the finals and studying that awaited me.