8.22.2017

The Guy-In-The-Hallway Show

Another creepy short story for ya.  I wrote so many recently I figured I should parse a few out before Halloween, because nobody'd want to read a huge glut at once.

This one's pretty weird.  Don't read it in class. 

If you like it, we have plenty more on this website, so here's a handy table of malcontents:


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                                                The Guy-In-The-Hallway Show


                Tom was trying to imagine a real life situation in which he’d need to determine the area of a hexagon and he was coming up with squat.   And not-quite-squat was the answer he was getting for the geometry problem Mr. Hasselbach had scrawled across the board.  He knew how to find the area of a triangle so he thought about dividing the damn thing into those like some wonk-edged pizza, then adding them together, but Mr. Hasselbach would probably view that as cheating rather than ingenuity so he gave up and started waiting the problem out.  His classmates all seemed to be tackling it, but most of them were probably bullshitting as much as he was.

                Fidgeting, his eyes wandered toward the classroom door.   A kid was standing in the window, peering in.  It wasn’t anyone Tom remembered seeing before, a skinny guy with longish hair, very straight, either light brown or dark blonde; it was hard to tell with the bad lighting in the hall.  Often, Tom could barely find things in his locker, so, shades didn’t have much chance in the gloom.  Still, it was strange to see an unfamiliar kid in such a small school.  Must be a newbie, trying to find his classroom.

                The kid spotted Tom looking at him and suddenly crossed his eyes and made a feeding-fish motion with his mouth, and Tom had to stifle a laugh of surprise.  Making a face like he was screaming, the kid reached up and lifted pieces of his hair, like his brain was exploding, and Tom looked back at his paper and snorted.   He coughed to hide a laugh, but still wanted to giggle.  He could see the kid still standing in the window and refused to look up, knowing he’d start braying with laughter, whatever the kid did.  If Mr. Hasselbach happened to glance over and see him, that kid’s ass was grass.  He didn’t seem to give a damn, though.  Tom scanned the room and nobody else seemed to have noticed the guy, who was now standing very straight, one eyebrow raised, the eyelid of the other half-lowered, his bottom teeth stuck out like a bulldog’s.  He swayed back and forth for a second and froze again, and Tom snorted and looked away, fake-coughing again.  It was bizarre and hilarious, but it was going to get him in trouble.

                Why wasn’t the kid in class?  Was he ditching just to clown around and make faces at kids he didn’t know?  Weird.

                He glanced up and the kid was making the same face but opening and closing his mouth like a ventriloquist’s dummy.  Then he winked at Tom, pointed emphatically at Mr. Hasselbach with a big smile, and started moving his hand in front of his mouth and poking his tongue into his cheek, miming a blow-job.  Tom looked away, biting his lip hard, wanting to fall out howling but also starting to get mad.  He’d look like a fool if he suddenly started laughing, and maybe get detention.  Mr. Hasselbach was a humorless hard-on who had no patience for interruptions.

                Tom snickered to himself and refused to look at the door, although he could still see, on the edge of his vision, that the guy was still standing there.  The red shape of his shirt started moving like he was doing some shuffle-off-to-Buffalo dance and Tom snorted and coughed again.  How was Mr. Hasselbach not seeing this?  He’d murder this guy when he caught him.  Thinking of how angry Mr. Hasselbach would be only made it all funnier.

                Then Mr. Hasselbach called for pencils down and Tom looked back at the door.  The window was empty.  Mr. Hasselbach started explaining what Tom had missed the first time about finding the area of a hexagon and even though Tom didn’t give any more of a damn about it than he had the first time he tried to pay attention.

                                                                  *                     *                  *



                Two days later, in English class, the kid showed up at the hallway door again.
                               
                Tom was far more interested in MacBeth than he was in hexagons, but his eyes still wandered, mostly toward Suzy Watkins, who he had a crush on.  She had her light brown hair tied back with a fuzzy blue ribbon and it made her look so adorable it was practically cruelty on her part.  He was letting his eyes soak up the image, memorizing it, when he noticed movement in the window past her head.

                It was the goofy guy again.  He saw Tom looking and started marching in place, then threw an exaggerated salute and stuck his tongue out the corner of his mouth.  Tom struggled not to laugh, mostly from surprise and the memory of what had happened in geometry.  Good lord, did this kid never go to class?  Did he even go to school here?   Tom had never seen him before except in the windows.  He was even still wearing the same red tee shirt.

                The guy started a mime routine with a big wide-eyed smile on his face, staring right at Tom.  He pressed his hands at the air, doing the old trapped-in-a-box bit.  His big smile faded and twisted into a soundless scream of exaggerated horror, and he pounded frantically at the air, so violently that Tom was amazed no one else was noticing it.  It was disturbing but so surreal that Tom wanted to guffaw at it.  He looked back at his book and tried to focus on what Mrs. Jameson was saying about Burnham Wood, but he knew, in that window, something ridiculous was happening.

                He glanced up again and the guy, with the laughing face of a maniac, seemed to be throttling someone just past the edge of the window, and Tom blurted out a laugh and covered it with a cough.  Mrs. Jameson glanced at him and he tried not to look guilty.  She was a laid-back sort and didn’t miss a beat, though he imagined she was wondering what Tom Waters found so damn funny about plant imagery in MacBeth.

                He made it three minutes before he looked at the door again.  There, right behind Suzy’s beautiful profile, the guy was crosseyed and tongue-outthrust.  Seeing he had Tom’s attention again, he raised a finger like he’d had a “Eureka!” idea, and mimed pulling down his pants, crouched, and made a straining face like he was taking a shit.  Or maybe he was actually doing it, who knew?  The kid was crazy.  Tom squeezed his eyes tight shut and ducked his head, shaking with silent laughter.  That was too goddamn much!  Why was nobody else seeing this?

                He looked up and the guy fanned a hand at the air like he was waving away stench, then grinned at Tom and gave him a triumphant thumb’s up.

                Tom burst out laughing, and the class turned to look at him.  “Something funny, Tom?”  Mrs. Jameson asked.

                “Sorry,” Tom sputtered.  “Sorry, I just thought of something funny.”  He didn’t want to fink on the joker in the hallway, even though he didn’t know him.  You just didn’t rat on people, even strangers getting you in trouble.  And anyway, he was gone now.

                “I hope you’ll laugh as hard when we cover Much Ado About Nothing,” Mrs. Jameson said, smiling.  “At least that one’s a comedy.”

                “Yes ma’am.  Sorry,” Tom said, wondering if he was blushing, because it felt like he was.  Suzy was smiling at him, but not for any reason he welcomed.   Great, the pretty girl thinks I’m a headcase now.

                Mrs. Jameson nodded and got back to business.  Tom composed himself, still wanting to laugh, but also angry at the damn kid for getting him in trouble.


                                                                  *                     *                  *


                The next day, in geometry again, he was back.

                Oh shit, Tom thought, wanting to nudge someone.  He’d told a few friends after English class but none of them had noticed any guy out in the hallway, although they admitted they’d have laughed, too, had they seen it.  He wanted someone else to see the idiot, just so he’d know he wasn’t crazy.

                Mr. Hasselbach was lecturing, and the kid in the hall was mocking him, frowning and moving his mouth and making “professorial” gestures in the air, crossing his eyes and brandishing his fist in a “by jiminy!” motion.  He held up one finger and shook it while making the jerk-off motion with his other hand.

                Good lord, Mr. Hasselbach would kill him if glanced over and saw it, Tom thought, biting his lip and holding in laughs.   He’d probably get fired because he would physically assault that kid.  The image of Mr. Hasselbach chasing him down the hall made it even harder not to laugh.

                Out in the hall the guy was silently ranting, worked into a frenzy like Hitler before a Munich crowd.  He must go to school here, Tom thought, because some of the kids referred to Mr. Hasselbach as Mr. Hitler’s Back, due to his authoritarian approach to class.  The guy in the hall  curled his fists into his chest, then raised them and shook them and silently screamed, beseeching the gods of geometry for some trapezoidal blessing, then threw up a seig-heil salute and marched back and forth.

                “Oh shit,” Tom whispered, lowering his head, trying to think of the time his dog Lucky had gotten run over by a truck to stifle the need to laugh.  But even that seemed funny now.  The damn dog’s name had been Lucky, for god’s sake! 

                The guy in the hall had his nose pressed to the window, making a pig-snout of it.  He licked the glass.  He hooked his thumbs in his ears and waggled his hands like moose antlers.  Then he pointed toward Hasselbach and held his nose and waved a hand dismissively.

                Tom lost it and laughed, hard.

                Mr. Hasselbach, barely missing a beat, made out a detention slip and handed it to Tom, then continued with class.  The kid in the hall was gone.


                                                                  *                     *                  *


                Tom had only gotten detention once before, and that time he’d deserved it – he’d shot off a couple of firecrackers he’d found in his coat pocket after Christmas break – but still hated it.  Not that they had to do anything, particularly, it was just humiliating, being singled out.  And this time it was all that joker’s fault.

                This detention, thought, might not be so bad.  Kaitlin Ross was the only other person there, and she was almost as pretty as Suzy Watkins, and much more dangerous.   She had thick brown hair (which she’d gotten in trouble for added pink streaks to once) and impossibly light green eyes, which, if she wasn’t cutting scornfully at someone, she was usually rolling in contempt of some school rule or other.  She was the nail that stuck up and the school’s success at hammering her down had been woefully limited.  If you were looking for a damn, Kaitlin was always fresh out.   She was gorgeous but didn’t seem to give the slightest damn about that, either.   He didn’t know what her home life was like, but always imagined that must be one hell of a story, and probably not a happy one.

                Kaitlin was kind of a badass, and Tom had always wanted to know her better.  And since Coach Tate kept detention this week and didn’t seem to care much about his responsibilities, he soon told them “Ya’ll study now,” and went away, leaving them alone.

                Kaitlin shoved her book aside and put her feet up on a neighboring desk and gave Tom a gunfighter squint.  “So, who’d you murder to get here?” she asked, like she couldn’t care less but needed to pass wearisome time.

                “Nobody.  Although I’d like to murder Mr. Hasselbach,” Tom said.

                “With a wrench in the conservatory.  Shit, get in the fucking line, brah.  Everybody wants to kill that douche-dribble.”   Even her voice was hot, edged low, a little husky, like everything she said was some dirty secret.  Yeah, the hell with Suzy Watkins and her cute little ponytails, Tom thought.  “So what’d you do to piss off Assholesbach?  Breathe too hard?  Look like you were enjoying life?”

                “Pretty much.  I laughed.”

                “Laughing’s the best thing to get a D. T. for.  That’s what got me in here.  So, what set you off?  Show you mine you show me yours.”

                Tom settled into his desk, happy to be actually talking to Kaitlin Ross. Those eyes were amazing, and those cheekbones.  She’d gotten sent to detention once, he’d heard, for carrying a knife, and that gave her a mystique that Suzy Watkins could never manage.  Suzy was gorgeous, yeah, but she wasn’t trouble.    “There was some guy in the hallway.  Some kid I’ve never seen before, but he’s shown up at the doors to classrooms three times now.  He does all this hilarious shit.”

                “Oh my effin’ god, I can’t believe somebody else has finally seen him!”  Kaitlin said, sounding awake now. 

                “You saw him too?”

                “Hell yes I did!  A couple of times.  He’s what got me in here, too.  I was in biology and this dork shows up, like this tall skinny blonde guy, hair kind of like Johnny Ramone?”

                Tom wasn’t sure what Johnny Ramone looked like but he said, “Yeah, that’s him!”

                “Gotta be.  I mean, how many guys can be running around the halls doing this junk, right?  None in this chickenshit school.  So he’s up there making these stupid faces at me, and he starts doing this dance, like he’s a puppet with strings on him?   Stupidest thing I’ve ever seen.  Embarrassing to watch, and it’s like he knows it.  So I’m about to crack up.  Then he starts mocking Mr. VanCleig, right behind his back, all waving his arms around.  Then he acts like he’s pissing all over everything, with this boy-do-I-like-pissing look on his face, and oh, fuck, dude, I fuckin’ lost it.  Lost.  It.  I’m just fuckin’ howling, I can’t even help it.  I ‘bout ta peed.  And Mr. VanCleig hates my ass, anyway, so he gives me a D.T. and a lecture on maturity.  He’d been lecturing about frogs mating, and the jackass thought I was hee-hawing over frog sperm.”

                Tom laughed.

                “Now, frog cum is a pretty funny-ass thing, I’ll grant you, but it takes more than that to make me wag my tail,” Kaitlin said.  “Maybe if you had a film strip of a frog jerking off on some eggs or something, another frog’s face, maybe, then, okay.  While looking at a frog Playboy or something.  That might do me.”

                Tom laughed harder, and Kaitlin seemed pleased.

                “So what’d hallway boy do when you saw him?”

                “Oh, god, he’s been doing all kinds of stuff.  Making faces.  He did that trapped-in-a-box mime thing but went way overboard with it, like he was buried alive.  He pretended he was taking a dump outside English class.  And he was imitating Mr. Hasselbach and turned it into this Hitler thing, goose-stepping up and down the hallway with his arm up.”

                Kaitlin snorted.  “Hasselbach deserves it.  Wish he’d seen it.  Guy’s uptight as a Baptist at a damn-near-anything.”  She reached over and put her hand on his arm and looked seriously at him.  “Oh, if you’re a Baptist, I’m sorry.  Not if I offended you, just that you’re a fuckin’ Baptist.”

                Tom laughed.  “No.  Episcopalian.  Or my parents are, I don’t really buy any of it.”

                “Good man.  It’s horseshit.”  She did a crucifixion pose and made a face, then waved it off.  She swept her hair back and leaned back in her chair.  “Wow, so somebody else saw the guy in the hallway.  Righteous.  Sorry you got a D.T. for it, but I’m glad I’m not the only one.  Nobody else saw this guy in VanCleig’s class.  I asked around after.”

                “In my classes, either.  I was starting to think I was crazy.”

                “Me too.  Well, crazier.  I’ve known I’m crazy for a while now.  Ever since that thing with the baby ducks and the hammer.”

                “What?” Tom laughed.

                “Christ, but you’re easy,” Kaitlin said, rolling her eyes.

                “You know, we should hunt this guy down and beat the snot out of him for getting us in trouble,” Tom said.

                “Oh, naw, dude, he’s hilarious!  That guy’s like my hero.”

                “Yeah, he’s funny, but, detention.”

                “I’d have found my way here somehow or other, anyway.  The teachers all hate me.  Fair enough, I hated them first.  Bunch of watered-down cops.  I’m just glad this guy’s skipping class and disrupting.  I’d like to shake his hand.”

                “Does he even go here, though?  I’ve never seen him in any classes.  And it’s not that big a school.”

                “Yeah.  I don’t know him, either.  Maybe he’s some homeless kid who sneaks in to make fun of the place.  Which would make him the most awesome dude in the universe.  This school needs to be mocked so bad.  I don’t care if he got me in trouble, I love the fucking guy.”

                “I guess it is pretty funny.  Also a little creepy, though.  I mean, he must be crazy.”

                “Crazy plus creepy equals funny.  You sure you aren’t a Baptist?”

                Tom laughed.  “No, I swear.”

                “Loosen up, then.  Got no excuse if you aren’t Baptist-damaged.”

                “I’ll try.  Promise.”

                Kaitlin smiled, then bit her lip in a way Tom found unbearably sexy.  “Prove it.  Let’s leave.”

                “What if Coach comes back?”

                “He won’t.  Every time Tate’s got D.T. duty I leave as soon as he does.  I’d’ve been out outty five minutes after he was if I wasn’t having fun talking to you.”

                “Thanks.  I like you, too.”

                “Hey, I didn’t say I liked you, I just said it was fun talking.”

                “Oh.”  Tom poked his lip out in a sad face.

                She laughed.  “You’re okay, I’m just yankin’.  I yank.  It’s a bitch thing.  So, we leavin’?”

                “You sure he won’t come back?”

                “No.  Would it be fun if I was sure?  Gamble a little.  You’re a Baptist, you’re a fuckin’ Baptist.”

                He laughed. “Am not!  Man, you hate the Baptists.”

                “Only because I know so many of ‘em.  And all of ‘em but maybe three are cinched-up buttcracks.  So tight-assed you have to be a dog to hear ‘em fart.  Anyway, Tate doesn’t give a hang, trust me.  I’ve walked past him in the hall on the way out and he didn’t say boo.”

                “Okay.”

                “And that’s where many a boy went wrong, trustin’ in girls,” Kaitlin said, gathering up her books.  Tom followed her out, hoping he wasn’t doing the wrong thing.  Good lord, her butt was cute.  Suzy Watkins didn’t have such a butt.

                He’d hoped they’d hang out in the parking lot a while, but after a see-ya-around Kaitlin jumped into her old Datsun and was gone.



                                                                  *                     *                  *
 


                It turned out to be the last time he ever saw her, because over the weekend, Kaitlin Ross was stabbed to death and left on the side of the road by persons unknown.



                                                                  *                     *                  *

 


                The school was still shocked about Kaitlin’s death and talking about little else when the guy showed up in the doorway again.

                Tom was back in geometry when he saw him, and this time he felt nothing but a wave of dread.  Not now, he thought.  God, not anymore.   It was fun when the guy was something he shared with Kaitlin, but now Kaitlin was a murder victim and it was just painful.  He thought maybe he was even friends with her, because of this guy, and then she was gone, like that, like a big cheat.

                The guy was making faces like Mr. Bean, eyes wide open, mouth in a wide, simpering smile.  He held up his hands, made a circle with one, then slid the index finger of the other in and out of it.  He frowned at his fingers disapprovingly, the shook his head at Tom, like, “This is terrible, but what can you do?”

                Ordinarily, Tom would have had to laugh at that, but now he refused.  He felt cold.  He wasn’t going back to detention and sitting in a room where he’d bonded with Kaitlin.  It was too creepy.  There was something wrong with this guy.

                The guy pulled his finger out of his circled fingers, sniffed it, then stuck his tongue into the hole.  He made a face and scraped his tongue with his teeth, and pretended to pick a hair off of it.  Tom hoped Mr. Hasselbach would look over and see him.

                The guy smirked at Tom and pretended to peel a banana, then took a bite.  He made a disgusted face, pretended to spit it out, then mimed stuffing the banana up his ass.

                It wasn’t funny, just obscene.  Tom wondered again why the guy was doing this.  One time was a joke or a prank, but all the time?   That was a job, like working a shift.  How was he never caught?

                Tom looked away.  From the corner of his eye he could see the guy waiting.  As soon as Tom looked, the performance would resume.

                The hell with you, Tom thought.  The longer you stand there, the bigger your chance of getting caught.  So wait your damn ass off.

                Fifteen minutes passed, and the guy didn’t leave.  Finally Tom looked back up at him.

                The guy grinned, BUGGED HIS EYES OUT OF THEIR SOCKETS, AND THEN HIS TONGUE CAME OUT AND LICKED THEM.

                Tom froze and a cold wave went through him.

                That was physically impossible.  What the guy had just done could not be accomplished by human anatomy.

                One of the guy’s eyes grew twice as large as the other. His jaw unhinged and dropped to his chest, and his ears – suddenly three times their size – stuck out and waggled.

                I’m hallucinating, Tom thought.  I’m crazy.  I can’t be seeing what I’m seeing.  Nobody else is seeing it. 
               
                Kaitlin.  Kaitlin had seen it.  He wasn’t crazy if Kaitlin had also seen this guy.

                Was he the one who’d stabbed her?

                The thought hit Tom like a fist.  God.  Could he be?

                How was he making those faces?   That wasn’t human.  Anatomy wouldn’t ---

                “Tom, pay attention,” Mr. Hasselbach snapped.

                “Uh?  Oh, sorry, sir,” Tom said.  The window was empty again.

                Mr. Hasselbach grunted and continued his lecture. 

                What if he’d sent me to the principal?  I’d be out in the hall with that guy.  That thing – it wasn’t a guy, nobody could make their face do what his had done.  He was bait, to lure him out there.

                Then what would happen?


                                                                  *                     *                  *



                Two days later, in English, the guy showed up at the door, and Tom felt a dark wave of dread, like recognition of a hated nightmare about to reoccur.  No. No.  I don’t want to see.

                The guy smiled at him and went into a mime routine, hauling on an invisible rope.  Straining his face, he pulled hard, hauling in the rope, pulling something into the window with him.

                At the end of it, acting like her hands were bound, was Kaitlin Ross.

                Tom’s vision went grey and he felt his blood pressure whine in his ears.

                NO.  NO NO NO NO NO!

                Kaitlin smiled big and waved at him.  Then she and the guy went into a dance step, an old-fashioned running-in-place thing, both grinning like goons and swinging their elbows.

                I’m not seeing this, Tom thought, I’m not, I am not.

                Kaitlin stopped dancing and mimed a crucifixion pose, as she had in detention.  The guy pretended to pee all over her, then stabbed at her, and she made agonized faces that knotted Tom’s guts.  Then she bent over, silently laughing, slapping her knees.

                Tom squeezed his eyes shut, forgetting to breathe, trembling.  The terror was absolute, all encompassing, overwhelming, but there was also pain, choking pain, a sadness like lead.  He’d liked her, a lot it turned out, and she was dead and it was unfair, unfunny, and he would not bear it mocked.  He would not see this.

                WHY DO THE OTHERS NOT SEE THIS?   WHY ONLY ME?

                He looked up and Kaitlin and the guy were miming sex in the doorway.  Kaitlin’s eyes bugged out in cartoonish imitation of orgasm.  The guy’s hair stood straight up and his tongue stuck out of his mouth a foot and a half.  He had a grip on her neck, the other poised to stab.

                Insane.  I’m insane. 

                He looked back down, staring through his book.  He refused to look up again until class was over.




                                                                  *                     *                  *

                As the day went on Tom tried to convince himself that he’d only dreamed what he’d seen.  He must have.  Not only had they done physically impossible things with their faces, Kaitlin was dead.  Unless there was some huge lie, she’d been murdered, and thus could not be in the hallway.

                But during geometry class, they came back.

                Tom had been watching the door with dread – he always did now – and once when he looked up, Kaitlin was standing there.  Coldness uncurled inside of him and Kaitlin mocked him by making a sad face and wiping at her eyes.  Still looking bereaved, she put a hand into her armpit and cranked her arm, miming armpit-farts.  She stuck her tongue out at him and did a little dance.  Then she made a surprised face, then a happy one.  Then the guy rose up from behind her, as if he’d been kissing her ass, and waggled his eyebrows at Tom like Groucho Marx.

                They bobbed up and down, making faces.  They went through several Three Stooges moves, eye-gouging, nose-slapping.  Kaitlin made a face like she was horrifically dead – probably the actual face she’d had when they found her on the side of the frontage road near the county line.  The guy mimed necrophilia with her, and Tom’s eyes stung.

                Again, he looked down and refused to look up until class was over.  He couldn’t take it.  Not anymore.

               
                                                                  *                     *                  *


               
                Depression settled in like a change of season, and Tom seldom felt anything but sadness and dread.  Kaitlin and her “hero” didn’t show up every day, but they showed up often enough.  Sometimes it was just one or the other, but usually both.  They did all sorts of silly things but Tom wasn’t laughing anymore.  If anyone else saw them he never found out about it and he didn’t dare talk to anyone about it, because no one saw dead girls doing slapstick unless they were crazy.

                Tom didn’t think he was crazy.  Kaitlin had seen it too, so, no, he was afraid he wasn’t crazy.  He was afraid he was singled out by something horrible.

                At night he dreamed of them, and woke and, sent by the dream to his window, saw them in the darkness of his yard.  They hid, but he saw them.  Heard them giggling.  He thought of running out and confronting them, getting this all over with, but maybe that’s what Kaitlin had done.  Maybe she’d gone out to shake the troublemaker’s hand and found a knife in it.  Still, Tom wanted this to stop, but his fear always won out, kept him from running out into the night and into the ranks of the missing and presumed.

                He dragged the secret along behind him like a weight chained to his leg and came home weary every day from the effort of it.  He learned to fake smiles for his parents because it was easier than explaining things

                And every day at school was one long wait.  It was nearly as bad when they didn’t show up as when they did.  He felt drained, weak, fading.


                                                                  *                     *                  *


                Kaitlin and the guy were standing straight up in the geometry room door’s window, at attention, as if reporting for duty.  They saluted.  Kaitlin smiled at him and waved.  God, she was still pretty, even dead.  Who could stab someone like that?  It seemed impossible, too much for anyone to do.  She’d been a “bad girl” but as far as Tom could tell most of the “bad” she did was just a refusal to fall into rank like the rest of their classmates, who Tom was increasingly viewing as cattle.  They conformed, without an original or brave thought in their heads, and what was the point of them?  They couldn’t see what was going on in the hall, too dialed-in to what they were supposed to do.  The “bad” Kaitlin had been guilty of didn’t seem like it was bad at all.  And then she was gone.  Not gone enough, but, taken away.  Sent into the hallway.

                While the guy beside her shadow-boxed and took punches from an imaginary opponent – each of which changed his face into something more impossibly cartoonish – Kaitlin mocked Mr. Hasselbach, crossing her amazing green eyes and silently ranting.  She drew triangles in the air with one hand while pretending to jerk off with the other, and for the first time in weeks Tom felt himself starting to laugh at it.

                Kaitlin winked at him and pretended to shove the imaginary dry-erase marker she was drawing the figures with up her ass, making ooo-that’s-good faces.  She had her Mr. Hasselbach imitation down, and Tom grinned.  Why did she have to be dead?

                He’d known her ten minutes.  Long enough to really miss her.

                The guy beside Kaitlin rode an invisible pogo stick, went down the hall a second, then returned and began miming pulling on a rope.  Kaitlin joined him and they hauled hard.

                Tom felt something inside him move, and cold, heavy terror gripped him like a fist.  No. He knew they were going to pull something into that window that he must not see.  He couldn’t bear it.  No. NO!  He wanted to rush the door, to scream for them to stop, but he was all numb, couldn’t move.

                Kaitlin smiled at him again and winked and they yanked the rope.

                And then Tom saw himself out in the hall with them.  He wanted to scream as he waved at himself in the classroom, and stuck his tongue out at himself.  Kaitlin and the other guy joined hands with Tom and danced.  They linked elbows and the three skipped away down the hall, into the darkness.

                When the bell rang, Tom was the only student who didn’t leave his seat.  No one ever knew why, exactly.  The autopsy was inconclusive.





                                                                                THE END


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