A short story by Delanie Wampler
Walking down the hall of my High School, from eighth period to my locker, almost everyone greets me.
“Hey Jane,” “Hi Jane,” “Jane, Whats up!” they say with the occasional high five and a smile.
I know half the people in this school, and I’m friends with more than half of my senior class. Even if I don’t know everyone, everyone sure does know me. I mean who doesn’t want to be friends with the beautiful girl with bluish-green eyes, light brown hair with blond streaks, and perfect smile and body? Plus I’m fun to be around.
Only the total opposite of me, of course, doesn’t like me. Chuck Ryan hates me and it drives me insane when people hate me, because I’ve never been hated before. Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear. Chuck comes walking up the hall, tall and lanky, the only skin showing are his hands, neck and face. He dresses like its winter in New York when it’s October and we live in southern Texas. What a freak, I think. As he gets closer I see his face is slightly red, his eyes bloodshot. Why should I care that the school loser treats me like dirt? It doesn’t matter, he’s a nobody, and I can dish it out just as I can take it.
The few books I hold clatter to the floor as he finally reaches me, shoving me into the locker.It’s not a very hard shove but it’s still a shove.
“What a loser,” I yell at him.
“At least I don’t stare at people like some kind of weirdo, take a picture it’ll last longer,” retorts Chuck.
“Go find some friends,” I say, loud enough for him and everyone around to hear.
Travis Barnes has already picked up my books and hands them to me as Chuck makes his way down the rest of the hallway quickly. I turn my back to him to talk to Travis, but I hear books fall, that I know belong to Chuck, and a bunch of insults thrown at him. He deserves it, I think to myself. I also, however, do not hear someone help him pick up his books.
I’m walking into school with my friend Maci.
“Is it just me or does something feel off today?” I ask.
“Not really,” she replies, “Well except walking out of my house this morning, I got this weird feeling like it was the last time seeing it, but that’s probably just some déjà vu thing.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I answer.
“Shelby said that she heard from Dave that Chuck Ryan rarely showers,” she laughs.
“Well gross people smell gross I guess,” I say with a chuckle. Suddenly everything becomes eerily quiet. Three loud pops ring out, just screaming terror into everyone’s ears. Three people crash to the floor at the end of the hallway. The smack of their bodies hitting the tile is sickening. There are screams, blood, and people running everywhere. Chuck Ryan’s grimacing face appears at the end of the hallway. As I lock eyes with him for a half a second, it hits me that all our lives are in great jeopardy and I panic as I see two handguns in each of his hands. I turn and sprint in a panic but Maci isn’t as fast. I hear two more shots ring out behind me, and the third is the loudest. As the bullet hits her Maci screams like nothing I’ve ever heard, and it gives me violent chills that rush up my back. As she falls slowly, her hand grabs the bottom of my shirt, but her grip quickly goes limp as she reaches the floor. I have not one ounce of fortitude to stop running and look back.
I turn the corner and pass George Goode, a computer geek with hardly any friends. I look over my shoulder as he is hit in his back, closer to the left, closer to me. I wish I hadn't alienated him and for some reason I’m overcome in sorrow, but I rip my eyes away as he drops to the floor. I vomit in the doorway of the room I’ve reached and duck into the room across the hall.
Other kids are in here, huddled under the tables. I quickly join them. The two people next to me are shaking uncontrollably. Everyone becomes so quiet that you would be able to hear a pin drop. Outside the room two more shots ring out, a pause, then another one. I nonchalantly lookup at Ashley Parker huddled across from me. Chuck walks into the room, bringing with him a sense of fear and panic covering the room.
He yells, “How’s everyone doing today?”
Some people scream. I can’t remember if I’m one of them. I open my eyes slightly and peek through my fingers to see one of Chuck’s guns resting against Ashley’s head.
“So Ashley,” Chuck says, “how bout’ we tell everyone here about the time you took the poem
I wrote you, posted it online, and told everyone how I was some kind of freakish stalker.”
Ashley begins to softly cry, her whole body shaking in fear.
Chucks speaks again, “Remember when that entire week I was called names like softie, sweetie, and puppy dog? Do you remember when half the football team beat me up to ‘make me tougher’? It was all your fault!” he screams.
Ashley screams loudly.
“Are you scared Ashley?” he taunts.
Ashley starts to plead for her life. I am terrified at this point, in a cold sweat. I shut my eyes tightly as a horribly loud blast makes my eardrum bursts, and I think the blood covering my head, face, and arms is from my ear, but really it belongs to Ashley. Everyone under the table is trying to be quiet. I feel very close to passing out. Chuck tells everyone who he’s shot so far.
“So far we have Dave Fenton, Travis Barnes, Shelby Wright, Maci Clarke, George Goode, Sam Jacoby, Natalie Frost, Nate Sanders, Caleb Norris, and Ashley Parker all checked off my List,” he announces.
“Next up,” he yells, “Jane Williams come on down!”
I’m holding my breath, and I think to myself, if God is a just being, Chuck will think I’m already dead. But then again, if God was a just being I would've died before George. My eyes are squeezed shut but instead of my eyelids I see Chuck’s malevolent face. Chuck walks over to my side of the table and stands behind me.
“Well, well, well, here’s our shining star,” he says.
My body is shaking so bad, it’s what gives me away. Chuck grabs a fistful of my hair and pulls me out of the fetal position, so that now I am awkwardly sprawled out, my neck craned towards him, my head aching. He kneels next to me and starts talking to me, gesturing with his gun, which I can’t take my eyes off of.
“You’ve got a little something on your face, Janey,” he laughs.
I look into his dark blue uncanny eyes and see that he’s lost his sense of reality and judgment.
“Please,” I whisper, “Please don’t do this.”
I don’t remember thinking I would say this, however the words just stumbled out of my mouth of their own accord.
He barks at me, “Where’s all your friends now Jane? Don’t cry though you’ll be with them soon.”
He places the gun on my face right between my eyes, which I close, tears rolling from my lashes all the way down my face.
“Why did you let everyone but me be your friend? You wouldn’t be my friend when that was all I wanted, the soul thing I needed,” he says in a shaking voice.
He is losing control, his guise slipping away. I want him to stop harassing me and get it over with. I want to tell him I’m sorry, that I would take it all back if I could, but I can’t find my voice.
He screams, “Was I not good enough for you?”
His voice cracks in sorrow on the last word. For a split second his entire façade breaks, but he quickly pulls himself together again.
“I’m not good enough for anyone,” he whispers to himself.
It is the last thing I hear. Chuck fires his gun, and everything goes black.
Am I dead? Where am I? I think to myself. Then a bright light appears and at first I think it’s “the light” like the one you supposedly walk into when you die. I am wrong though, because it appears to be a screen like a TV screen and a video begins. Suddenly I’m sitting in a black arm chair. I can’t even call the place a room because I can’t distinguish any walls, it’s just empty space. I realize another arm chair is next to mine, about five feet away, and its holding a man. I can’t see his face through the darkness.
The video starts. The first clip is of a baby being held by its mother. The baby is adorable and smiling sweetly. The next few clips seem to be of the baby, but older with each clip. When the boy is around six I recognize him. It is Chuck Ryan. If I died, shouldn’t this video be a flashback of my life? In the next clip Chuck is sitting in the corner hiding, crying, while his mother screams unseen. His dad is yelling and obviously drunk. A clip comes on of him being beaten by his father, then another one where Chuck puts on a long-sleeve t-shirt to hide the bruises on his arm. The next clip is of Chuck being made fun of for wearing pants and long sleeve t shirts in the summer. In response the next clip is of Chuck bullying people smaller than him, his dad dying in a drunk-driving accident, and his mother is becoming addicted to pain medication.
I am sobbing uncontrollably and I want the video to stop. Clips come on of me and some of my friends bullying Chuck. A clip of him cutting himself, hiding his pain with long-sleeve t-shirts again and again. Clips come on of other outcasts at school going through the same kinds of things. It’s the most horrendous and heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever seen, but I am slowly being enlightened.
I always thought it was Chuck’s fault that he was a loser, an outcast. That he brought it on himself by bullying others and being outwardly weird. I thought that if he stopped bullying and actually talked to people, he might be popular. As I watched the video before me though, I realized that Chuck’s character had a lot to do with the actions of the people around him. I wish I was the one to teach him that you didn’t need to be a bigger bully than everyone else to get through life.
“Tell me who you are,” I cry to the man.
“I am,” he replies.
He looks into my eyes, into the depth of my soul, and the tiniest corners of my heart and mind. I just gape at him. He sees and knows me better than I do myself. I am overcome with a wave of warmth, love, and nostalgia.
He parts his lips, breathes, and speaks, “You are a sinner my child, but I still have unfeigned love for you. Charles Edward Ryan is also a sinner and I love him just the same. He and you are brother and sister. Love him as I love you, my daughter. Repent, and come follow me. Jane
Mary Williams, I have known you forever and I want you with me forever in my kingdom. Are you sorry for the sins you have committed?”
I was raised Catholic Christian, but my family never has never really practiced the Faith, in fact I don’t remember the last time we went to church. We were just Christians because it was my grandmothers dying wish that we grow up in the faith that she did. I knew in this moment however, that Jesus Christ was before me, and I would give my entire heart to him.
I am in awe as I drop to my knees and cry, “Jesus please, I am so sorry. Please forgive me for every sin. I need you and I love you. I promise to change my ways.”
“Walk into the world again and witness to the Lord my daughter,” he proclaims.
My heart is opened up, and my soul lifted. I rise to my feet as he opens his arms and I fall into them. Bright light and warmth fill my body and it is easily the best hug I’ve ever gotten.
For a second I think I’m going to heaven, and I’m immediately exhilarated by the thought. I open my eyes though, to see my bedroom surrounding me. I am lying in my bed my face wet with tears. It was a dream, I think. However, it was a dream in which Jesus appeared to me, so it wasn’t just any dream and I get a sense that the first part of my dream was a vision into the future, if I don’t change things. For the first time since my grandmother passed away, I kneel by my bed and pray. I pray especially for strength to change things once and for all, as I promised.
I walk into school in the morning and the first face I see is Chuck’s. I am terrified, confused, but still sure.
“Hi,” I squeak.
He faces me and says, “What do you want?” in a rude tone.
“I wanted to say that I’m truly sorry for all of the horrible things that I have done to you, I want to start over, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me because I would really like a real friendship with you, starting right now,” I explain.
I reach my hand out for him to shake. He just looks at me.
“Is this some kind of joke?” He accuses me.
“I swear to you it is no joke. Please Chuck, I know this sounds weird, but I had a sort of epiphany last night and I realized that out of all the friends I have now, none of them are really
true. I need you to be my friend, even though I never was one to you,” I beg.
Chuck starts to reach his hand forward warily.
“I don’t know why, but for some reason I believe you a little, and I guess I’m sorry too,” he answers.
Right then Travis walks up, shoves Chuck’s head and says, “Come on Jane, why are you talking to this loser when you should be walking with the hottest guy in school to class?”
“Actually, I think I’ll walk with my friend Chuck instead, but thanks for the offer,” I retort loudly.
“Whatever, just don’t come crying to me when everyone thinks you’re a loser, Jane. Have fun at the bottom of the food chain, Miss loser-who-just-lost-her-reputation-and-friends,” he laughs.
“Oh I will,” I say as I shake Chuck’s hand.
Chuck asks, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
“I’ve never been surer of anything in my entire life,” I reply with a smile.