One Shot. Literally.
In the quiet interior of the room the explosion was like a series of cannons going off in intervals. It shattered whatever silence had been contained in the room as various Salem-Kai private school students attempted to take their final exams.
Jeremy Johnson was off in his own world, glaring at the test with as much hate as possible, mean while Addy Petist was furiously punching numbers into her TI-89 calculator.
In the corner of the room, a row across from her best friends Patrick and Maddie; Zaydee sat with contempt, a pencil between her full lips, her fingers occasionally brushing over her calculator. Every now and then her eyes would roll and she would glance at the ceiling as if the answer might indeed be found there. Math was evidently her worst subject seeing as she was still on number twelve, compared to the others around her who were finishing the series of #30s.
Calculus, a creation intended to forever give her nightmares, was one thing she could live without.
The room was cold; it had a chilly feel to, almost icy. The little hair on her arms were raised like needles, anticipation something that was clinging to the air. She fought the urge to break her concentration and retrieve her hoodie. If she stopped now, she would lose whatever information she had recalled and miss the answer. Her arms were almost numb, bitter with the loss of a jacket. How was she supposed to think in this condition?
Someone coughed, a small distraction easily ignored if attempted. She bored her eyes into her paper, re-reading the question over for the seventh time. She seemed to think that if she read the question, spacing the words, concentrating on each one, the sentence before her would make sense. It didn’t work.
She sighed, giving way to the cold. There was no way she was going figure this problem. It was made to drive her insane and nothing more. She squeezed her fingers in one hand, rubbing at them furiously. She only needed a bit of warmth to keep her focused.
The clock at the head of the room tickled madly, a time bomb, set to mark the time she was losing every second. The little “ticks” grew louder, thundering her ears. If she could only stop time, life would be so easier. If she could stop time—slow it down even, she might actually be able to enjoy it.
The professor’s eyes scanned the room, a hawks eyes searching for anything out of place. Her face was hard, cold, like the room around her. She didn’t wear smiles, they weren’t for her. Ms. Haysworth was the kind of teacher that you hated upon meeting. She didn’t like kids; no one knew why she was there to begin with. She wasn’t very social, her glare made that obvious, and there was a rumor circulating that she actually did live with eleven cats in her little apartment, which was secluded far from the school. She was the type of women who avoided any intimacy, sexual or plutonic. Her hair remained in the same boring bun, knotted quickly at the base of her neck. Her blue jean skirt, falling just past her ankles was another version of the brown jeans skirt she had worn the day before.
Any movement in the room was crucial; her eyes caught it with ease. Casey Gilmer reaching for another pencil was watched with sharp eyes and Patrick, grinning like a fool to Maddie behind him was rewarded with Hayworth raising her eyebrows and loudly clearing her throat. Detention was predictable. Patrick turned around quickly, his eyes falling back to his desk. Zaydee smiled at this, careful not to let Patrick know she watching him.
Away, as if muffled, loud crashes and thunder sounded. They crashed into her ears with the force of fear and she set down her pencil, her brows furrowing together. The guy across from her named Spinner Carson, looked up from his work too, straining to understand the sounds.
Ms. Hayworth stood up immediately, making her way to the closed door and gave the class a look that instructed them to proceed working. Everyone looked around, they same blank expression crossing their faces.
As soon as Ms. Hayworth was gone Zaydee took the opportunity to turn to her friends and sigh. “This shit is hard, I’m going to fail!” She wailed, leaning back in her seat.
“No, you won’t,” Patrick assured her, throwing a balled piece of paper at her. She grinned at the gesture, turned away from him before he could see her reaction, and sighed dramatically again.
She pretended to glare at him, before throwing it back.
“Yes-huh, I don’t even pay attention in class! I didn’t even study last night!”
Maddie rolled her eyes. “So? That means you smart. How many people do you know who can sleep in class, forget to study and still pass?” Maddie was her best friend. She was everything that Zaydee was not and more but it never really made a difference. Love was love. Maddie was tiny and short with black medium length hair and pale skin. Her eyes were a vivid electric blue and her style was written all over. She was the scene. She was flirtatious and outgoing, completely alluring and surprisingly extremely sweet.
Zaydee was…well…she was Zaydee. She was short, standing about five feet, five inches. She was chubby, but not so much that people looked at her in the typical disgusted looked and sneered. She was cute, in that “dorky best friend” kind of way. Her Hispanic heritage blessed her with long, dark black hair and intense dark brown eyes.
Zaydee mimicked her, rolling her eyes. “I guess…yeah.”
“Yeah,” Patrick repeated, meeting her gaze. A small smile quirked his lips and Zaydee felt the warmth rise in her cheeks. She had met Patrick a whole two months ago and right from the start she had fallen for him. Of course, she hadn’t told him but well, it wasn’t like she had a chance. Amazing guys never went for chubby, dork girls. Either way though, she loved him. He was utterly amazing, and one he would be famous, she could feel it.
Before Maddie had the opportunity to point out the pink on Zaydee’s cheeks and tease her for it the door lurched open, making everyone turn hastily back in their seats. They all expected to see Ms Hayworth as usual: bad attitude, snappish and telling them to get back to work.
Ms. Hayworth leaped back into the room, a look of terror crossing her pale face. Without hesitating she slammed the door shut, grasping at the knob until she realize there was no lock from the inside. She shook with panic and pressed her back into the door, gasping for the words lodged in her throat.
Like many others, Zaydee sat up, noting the difference in her Teacher’s expression.
She shot Maddie and Patrick a questioning look, before her attention snapped back to Mrs. Haysworth.
“I—Go—g-get up, Every get up and- go now! And Leave imm-immediately!”
The student stared, frozen in their seats. Had she finally lost it?
Zaydee drummed her fingers on the desk, waiting for an explanation.
Someone whispered, “Psycho” and Maddie stood up. “Uhm, Ms Hayswo—“
“Someone one’s attacking the school and they have a gun! Take the window in my office and get out of the room, NOW!”
She froze. Zaydee had always read about things like this. School shooting always happened, making it on the news but she had never really expected one to happen at hers.
The air seemed to thicken in the seconds passing and Zaydee stood up just as screams outside the door filled the air. Movies lie. It did not all happen in slow motion. No, it happened so fast Zaydee could hardly realize what was going on.
All at once, everyone seemed to panic and stumble over their belongings as they headed from their seats. People shoved each other, trying to get to the office first and one girl even stood in the corner and wept.
Someone twisted the door knob under Haysworth and she squealed, leaning against it.
Zaydee’s mouth went dry, as her head snapped up. It felt like she had swallowed a bag of cotton balls.
“Ms Haysworth!” Zaydee called out, starting towards her. Like or dislike, she wasn’t going to just leave her. The teacher’s eyes flashed and she shook her head no, tears streaming from her eyes. “No, No, Get out! You have to get out!”
Someone pulled Zaydee down behind Hayworth’s desk where the swivel chair sat and they cradled her against them, moving the chair in front of them in hopes of not being seen. If the gunman didn’t round the desk they might have a chance.
The door made a crash as someone tried to open it, shoving against Haysworth’s weight and she sobbed, pushing back, her eyes dancing with fright. Sweat and tears matted her bangs to the sides of her head making her face shiny
Zaydee sucked in a breath, glancing back to see who had grabbed her and found Patrick, his green eyes glancing around wildly. She leaned back, and he put his arms around her; hugging her tightly just as the door busted open. “Madd--?”
“Shh!” He tightened his hold on her and she shut her mouth, pressing her lips together.
“I love you.”
The whispered words brought comfort to her, despite their situation.
Ms. Haysworth screamed and Zaydee glanced through the opening under her desk.
The gunman walked past her, firing a shot without looking. Hayworth fell, a rag doll in the way and Zaydee opened her mouth to scream. Patrick’s hand found its way over it, muffling her cry.
From where she sat, cramped below the desk she could see him. She had him in her science class, his name was Norman Hatkins.
The boys stood in front of the desk, his back to Zaydee and Patrick, facing the open Office.
“Don’t. Move.” He instructed the people in the room. He walked passed the various frozen in their spots and crossed the room to the office without a word. No moved an inch, afraid of what he was capable. Several gunshots filled the air mixed with screams of agony and fear.
Zaydee squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself not to make any noise. She didn’t want to know who had been in that back room.
Norman laughed loudly, maniacally as he stepped out of the office. “Anyone who plays a sport line up over there,” he instructed, waving the gun carelessly. “And anyone else line up over there.” He pointed the barrel of the gun to the opposite side of the room. Students hesitated to move, shuffling nervously. Trae Adkins moved too slowly.
Norman shot him in the back.
A girl screamed, raising her hands to her face and Norman pointed the gun at her, firing.
She dropped without a word, hitting the floor with a loud thud. Crimson blood spurted from her stomach, drenching the floor and anyone’s bag next to her.
Norman smiled his eyes vacant. There was nothing within them, not even mercy. His eyes were sunken in their sockets like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep and a bright red cut ran along his left eyebrow.
He ordered everyone to turn around, not waiting before he shot Nicole Davis. She screamed, clutching her leg and he shot at her again, smirking. “I never liked you,” He told her, bending close to her ear.
The desk above her was her savior in so many ways. Like Patrick, it held her, keeping her from danger.
She could feel Patrick, breathing hard beneath her then go stiff as a familiar person stepped forward. Zaydee gasped, forgetting where she was, and Norman stopped for a second, looking around the room.
“Maddie, Maddie, Maddie…” Norman grinned, a feral bearing of teeth.
“You were half okay.”
Maddie sobbed quietly, as he motioned for her to turn in circles for him. He nodded appreciatively as she moved.
“STOP!” He barked, causing her to jump. He smiled again.
Tell me…Would you rather I shot you in the front or the back?”
Maddie looked up, gulping down sobs and started to speak.
“BANG!” Norman cried, jumping at her. She jumped back, letting out a cry and sobbed harder.
“Question answered,” He commented thoughtfully. He nodded for her to turn around and sauntered up behind her, placing the gun at her temple.
Zaydee gripped Patrick’s hand as Maddie hung her head. For a split second there eyes seemed to meet, and Maddie smiled sadly, making both Patrick and Zaydee’s eyes go wide.
Zaydee blinked back tears. The single gun shot echoed through the room and her best friends fell forward, fell into the darkness. She hung her head too, debating whether life mattered anymore. Maddie was gone and she would never forget the sound of that shot.
Norman turned, scanning the room for anyone left other than him.
Zaydee squeezed her eyes shut again and held her breath, sending out mental wishes for him to leave.
Please be gone, please be gone. Her body practically trembled as she fought the urge to cry.
Someone slapped the desk hard and she jumped in Patrick’s lap.
“Peek-a-boo!” Norman screeched, pulling on whoever was under the desk. His hands found Zaydee’s hair and he tugged—hard, making her cry out.
She fell forward, pushing Patrick back so he wouldn’t be seen and tumbled out, landing in front of Norman. He smiled wickedly, cocking his head to one side. “Did you actually think you could hide from me?”
She sat back, her breaths coming out in uneven short gasps and he waved the gun at her to get up.
She jumped at his will, her body shaking. With one outstretched hand Norman pulled her close, gripping her tee-shirt. His breath was warm on her ears, making the hair on her neck stand up.
“Do you believe in God?” He asked, cocking the gun.
She contemplated the question for a few seconds, surprised she wasn’t already dead.
She had never really been sure; she had always considered herself Agnostic. She never went to church, and she had always spoken as if there were no God. Zaydee had done her research, this was a question she had given a lot of thought before.
The barrel of the gun caressing her cheek brought her back to reality.
Now as she stood here before Norman the answer evident because the gun against her cheek said it all.
“Yes,” She whispered, silently apologizing to God.
She shut her eyes, bracing herself for the impact and inhaled. He pushed his rough hands at her, knocking her to the floor.
It met Zaydee with a rush, stinging her hands and back as she lay there staring up at the fresh gun now drawn from his pocket. This one was longer and slimmer.
"Didn’t anyone ever tell you? God’s not real." He spat at her, the words icy. Zaydee’s eyes went wide as he smirked at her expression and he waved the gun.
“I Love you, too.” She said loudly, ignoring the fact that she was about to die. She just wanted him to hear it…she wanted Patrick to know she loved him back.
Norman gave her a look before shaking his head.
“God won’t answer you.”
"We always have a choice," She told him, ignoring anything else.
"Not you," He whispered.
Then he shot her in the chest.
The pain was there before she could even wonder if he had pulled the trigger. Her shirt was immediately soaked as her eyes traveled down to the dark spot forming at her chest.
With every breath she took her oxygen became more and more shallow until there was nothing left.
A similar shot rang through the air and Zaydee gasped, praying Patrick was alive—that was all that really mattered.
Instead Norman’s body landed next to hers. She shouldn’t have looked—his face—or what was left made her scream.
She heard some voices yelling—she didn’t know what they were saying but they were there.
Then everything went black.
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