Bullseye

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My heart beats faster than it ever has. If he sees me, I am dead, literally. I am curled up under the desk, but my shoes are causing me to slip out. The pain in my arm is insane, and I try to suppress my gasp, but it makes a sound. He freezes. Tears fill my eyes. I realize that, if he turns right around, I am right in his line of vision. I scream silently. He starts to turn. My heart skips a few beats. Adrenaline pumps through my beings. He is facing me, 10 feet away. I am going to die.



Eric Patterson and I have known each other since birth. No, before birth. Our mothers were roommates in college, best friends. Best friends, that is, until my mom moved away and married Walter Stevenson, my father. Years later, Fiona Holges moved into our upper class suburban neighborhood with the handsome surgeon, Daniel Patterson, and they married. On July 3, I was born. On July 5, two days later, Eric was born. We were really good friends, best friends in fact.

My first memory of Eric was when we were two and a half. We were having a tea party –he was rather girly- and we fought over who would sit on the ground and who would get the lawn chair, which we called the kind chair, and was a cherished possesion. I got angry because he won the chair in wrestling, so after screeching “I HATE YOU!” I stalked away to the swing-set and cried. A few minutes later, Eric wandered over, and with tears in his eyes, hugged me and in a trembly voice said, “Sorry Amber. You get the kind chair.”

When Eric lost his first tooth, he was convinced that his teeth hated him and were running away. I hugged him and told him that the other teeth liked him enough that they decided to stay.

On the first day of kindergarten, when I was afraid to get on the bus, Eric held my hand and sat with me. When he couldn’t find his class, I let him into mine, where we shared my desk for an hour, until a crabby teacher found him.

In third grade, I peed my pants because I was so afraid to give my report on llamas. Eric gave me his pants to wear and wore my peed on stretchy shorts. It took a few years for the taunting to wear off from that ordeal, but Eric said it was ok.
When he got stitches on his forehead from my trying to get him to skateboard, I gave Eric a balloon man, and a cookie. When I broke my arm from falling off the couch playing video games with him, Eric was the first to sign my cast.

When the popular kids were picking on Eric and I –which happened a lot- we were always there for each other. Whenever Eric got wedgies, I would kick the offender and cry with him. Whenever I got milk poured on my head, he fetched the napkins, and was the only person to calm me from my unbelievable temper tantrums. Even though we got teased and laughed at so much, Eric and I always were jealous. We wanted to be popular, and it just got worse as we got older.

In seventh grade, our happy friendship changed drastically. It all started in science class, when I got paired with the most popular girl in our grade, Jessica Reynolds. I went to her house to do some work, and Jessica hardly wanted to work. Instead, she merely gossiped and gushed about boys. Soon, I couldn’t work with her jabbering, so I just smiled and pretended to listen, because this was my big chance at becoming accepted. By the time it was time to go home, Jessica said to me, “Wanna sit at my table tomorrow at lunch? You are cooler than I thought.” And that was the beginning.

I was so excited about Jessica and the other popular girls being my friend, I barely noticed how I changed myself. I started dressing in preppy clothes from Hollister and Aeropostle. Makeup caked my face, and I started to resemble a raccoon with all my eyeliner. My mom redid my bedroom, after I threw a tantrum involving the death of one of her antique vases. Gone were the horse posters and mismatching bed sheets, now there were fuzzy purple rugs, and a matching set of furniture from Ikea. Even the way I talked was different. Talking to Eric slowly became lower and lower on my list of priorities.

For some reason, my new group of friends hated Eric with a passion. They went out of their way to pick on him and degrade him. I became their secret weapon, telling them things to use against him, Eric’s deepest fears, his ambitions, his likes and dislikes. Somehow, slowly, I began to realize how uncool and lame Eric was, and wondered what had possessed me to be his friend. He was a nerd. His gray eyes were hard to find behind thick, smudged glasses. Eric’s hair, dull brown and greasy. Always being inside playing Runescape didn’t help his pale complextion. It wasn’t smart to get me started on Eric’s fashion sense…

By ninth grade, Eric and I never spoke anymore. Our parents stayed friends, and had fun little gatherings. Sometimes, Eric and I would share the occasional memory from the old days, catching fireflies or making a fort in the basement, and our friendship would rekindle, although only for a fleeting moment.

But at school, we were enemies, and I treated my former best friend like a slimy grub. I put foul food in his locker, shot spitballs at him, stuck ‘Kick me’ signs on his back, taunted and teased him, and one time, broke his glasses. He would fight back at the other girls, but never me, so I treated him worse. Every time though, Eric would only give me this pathetic, pleading look, while I heartlessly tore him apart, bit by bit. All this made me more liked by my shallow friends, and I rose up to become one of the most popular of them all. But in the end, it wasn’t worth it.
***


I have wanted Amber to be my friend again for a really long time. But, she has... moved on. Found the friends she always dreamt of. The popular girls. I was happy for her, she was happier with them. I was just…holding her down. I was happy for her, until she changed. Amber wasn’t the independent, original, creative girl that was my best friend. She became like them. Her personality, once so accepting and understanding, became judgmental and hating. Everything changed, how she walked, how she laughed, how she smiled. Her smile. The very thing I loved most. I would give anything, anything to see the warm smile of hers once more. But I doubt she would ever smile like that anymore. My heart cracked at that very thought.
The new Amber was cruel. She played tricks. She was backstabbing, kniving, and it seemed like she didn't cared at all. The other girls were mean, but Amber was just a b****! She would tease me, and told the popular girls my secrets and weaknesses. The thing was, Amber never, ever got caught. She was relentless in her evil ways. I began to hate life, and I hated her for my hatred of life. Everyone else wanted to be popular too, so in order to get in the “In” crowd, they would torture me too. Even acquaintances, people from the math team, outcasts just like me were awful to me. I had absolutely no friends. The only person who smiled to me was my mom. My dad was disappointed in me for not joining the football team and not having a cheerleader girlfriend. I was disappointed at my dad too; he had no idea who I was, he just knew who I wasn't. My life became a living hell. And Amber was to only one to blame.
I only remember starting to be happy in tenth grade, when I got a friend. His name was Josh. When I was with Josh, I was happy. Joyous, even. Without Josh, I was alone. Nothing. Empty. Being with Josh made me feel wanted. With Josh as my friend, I automatically was into his group of friends. I got invited to parties. I was accepted by the outcasts. When I first got high, I was at a party with Josh and his friends. They offered me something to sniff. They said it would make the pain go away. I drank, smoked, and got high. They were right. I felt no more pain. But somehow… this wasn’t enough. I needed to get revenge on Amber, something that would make her regret what she had done.
My plan started formulating as half a joke. Josh and I knew what it was like to be teased by the popular kids, so one day we were just playing video games, and I started talking about Amber. He didn’t believe me at first about being friends with her. But soon Josh realized I wasn’t kidding. He was intrigued to hear what the real Amber Stevenson was like. When I completed my tale, Josh was quiet. “I say shoot ‘em all.” He grinned. I laughed along, yet seriously considering it.
The very next day, Amber made up my mind for me. During lunch, I was sitting at my table with Josh and my other friends, and Amber came striding by with her lunch tray. She had tomato soup and grilled cheese, a salad, and jello. Not that she was going to eat it anyway, she was on a special diet that involved eating only bread crusts or something. We made eye contact. She smirked. Then, Amber tripped and her tray went shooting out of her hands, food flying. Just my luck, the hot soup landed on me, scalding my skin. The lettuce shreds stuck to the soup on my clothes, while the sandwich hit me in the face then flopped to the floor. Her fork stabbed my arm, puncturing the skin. That wasn’t even possible! I was angry beyond words. I stood up to get some napkins. I slipped. On the jello! My head hit the grilled cheese sandwich on the floor. The cheese stuck in my hair. My glasses were spattered with random foods.
Amber failed miserably at trying to stifle a malicious snicker. “Oops, sorry. My shoes must have been untied.” Laughing obnoxiously, she sauntered off to join her friends’ at their table, wearing pink flip-flops. The rest of the cafeteria laughed and pointed. I grimaced. Even the rest of the people my table couldn’t help but snort and snicker. My anger flared. I slipped and slid off to the locker rooms. While I was showering off in the locker room, I made up my mind. This had to stop. The only way it could stop was if everyone was silent.
The rest of the week was spent formulating my plan. My entrance, my attire, the date. I broke into my own bank account and drained it of its money to buy the necessary equipment. The gun I desired was around $1000. It was a 9mm semiautomatic carbine. I bought it under my dad’s name and credit card number off of GunPalace.com. By some miracle, my dad never looked at how much money was missing from his bank account. Or maybe he didn’t notice, for he was so rich that he wouldn’t be able to tell. When it came in the mail, my heart pounded. This was real. I was going to get revenge. When Josh came over and I showed him my gun he turned stark white.
“Dude, are you extra high today? What the hell are you thinking?”
I was appalled. I thought he, of all people, would understand. “Just make sure you aren’t at school next Monday. Don’t tell a soul on this planet. If anyone finds out, I will personally find you and shoot your brains out.”
He swallowed hard. “I promise” He whispered, the fear completely visible in his eyes.
***



He clambers out of the car, dark blue duffel bag on his back. He strides with purpose across the lawn. A shy girl, Gail, smiles at him as she holds the door open for him. He looks into her eyes –a blue that reminds him, with a pang, of the place he will never see, Heaven. He pleads, “Gail, I hardly know you, but please, please, do not go inside the school. Get away from here now!” Gail is slightly nervous, but proceeds into the school. He grabs her arm, “Please! Listen to me! Get out of here! You don’t know what will happen to you!” Gail listens to him, taking in the duffel bag and the clothing, and scurries out of school, down the street.

He looks back, making sure Gail is safe. His only pardoned victim. He is inside the school. He takes the gun out of the bag, loads it, and continues down the empty corridor, until he stands at the entrance to the bustling Main Hall. The gun gleams in his hands. Everyone stops, watches him.

“Everyone, my name is Eric Patterson. I am here to kill you,” he fires the gun, round after round, in all directions.

***

I am in the bathroom, reapplying my makeup, when I hear many loud, rapid sounds like gunshots. What is going on? I hear shrieks. The door opens and people come streaming in. Many girls are crying. The noise is dizzying, voices everywhere, still rapid gunshots. I try to convince myself that its just someone shooting a video. I even giggle a little. Haha, stupid nerds. I start moving towards the doors to leave. High pitched screams.

“Amber! What the hell are you doing? He has a gun! He already shot a teacher!”

I laugh, although a little disconcerted by the hysterical pitch of their voices, and step out the door.

The hallway is deserted. There are papers and dropped books strewn everywhere. Lockers are open, contents spilling out. A trail of juice- Amber looked closer and gulped, blood, trails into a nearby classroom. It is smeared, like a body was dragged through it, and there are marks where people have slipped though it. Distant screams and shouts, and gunshots, echo up the hallway, coming from the gym in the west wing.

A sobbing girl comes running up the direction of the gym. She looks to be about 15, and her arm is bleeding heavily. She is getting paler by the second. “Help me! He shot my arm! And he killed Jamie…got her in the back…. Oh my God! He is killing everyone!” She crumples to the ground, still crying. “He was… It was… like….he didn’t even care….” The girl whimpers

A voice, taunting, vengeful, echoes up the hallway. “Wherever you are, I will find you! You cannot hide from me!” The voice is vaguely familiar. It’s the voice of the boy who collects animal footprints and excels at World of Warcraft. This voice is somehow different though. This voice… is full of hate and sorrow. Regret. Revenge. The truth washes over me. Slams me into the rocks. The waves are made to shock… to kill. This is real. He is here. He is getting his revenge. And I know exactly why.

A loud CRACK! brings me out of my epiphany. A metallic zing. The locker trembles. A small, perfect bullethole can be seen. It is only a foot away from my head. I run. The girl screams for me to stop. Another gunshot. The screams end abruptly.

I hear footsteps and glance back. The sigh its spetacular. The usual blue Crocs with the fuzz lining, replaced by heavy, black combat boots. A black sweatshirt and black tee-shirt instead of the International Comic Book Convention tee. The khaki cargo courderoys gone. Now the black jeans look strangely menacing. His light brown, greasy hair was dyed black, obviously home done, and badly too. The pale skin was flushed. His face has never been so emotion filled. Yet his eyes….so empty. He is coming up the hallway, walking, banging each door open and shooting random bullets.

I back into an open room. I slip on more blood. It trails deeper into the room. The lights are off. As my eyes adjust to the darkness, I can make out a crumpled figure in the corner. The trail of blood is heavier there, and finally pools at the figure. I look closer and recognize him as one of the teachers. Mr. Bates! He taught me in Algebra 2. I approach him. He is just curled in the corner, under the tall bookshelf.

“Mr. Bates? Are you ok…?” I trail off, expecting the worse but hoping the best. The figure stirs the slightest bit.

“Don’t…. hurt me….” He whimpers pathetically.

“I won’t. Don’t worry,” I reply, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.

“Don’t shoot me anymore! The pain is….fried chicken…”

“Fried chicken?! Mr. Bates, this is hardly the time for food. There is someone out there on the loose with a gun! Get up!” I start to scream. What is wrong?

“Go away…. Just… go on…. without me…” He gurgles, blood bubbling out of his mouth. He shudders, then goes quite still. I am afraid. Did he just…DIE???? I prod him with a meter stick. He doesn’t respond. Mr. Bates is dead.

A commotion from across the hall. I turn, my heart is pumping in fear. I run out of the room, not looking to see what is happening. A shout. I think I hear footsteps. Am I being too paranoid? Well, no one can blame me! I just saw my old math teacher die a bloody death!

A gunshot rings through the empty hall. My left arm is suddenly burning. I suppress my screech of pain just in time, and clamp my right hand over the wound to try to staunch the bleeding. A trail of blood would certainly lead to my death.

I turn quickly into another classroom. I look around at my Social Studies room. Its hard to remember normal class here just last Friday with Mrs. Mho. It looks same as always. The footsteps are real, following my path down the hall. I search frantically for a place to hide, totally forgetting about the door leading to the roof right on the wall opposite the door to the classroom. The cupboard is filled with books. Aha! The teachers desk will do! His combat boots clunk into the room. He walks up and down the aisles of desks, getting closer to me every step.

“I know its you Amber. I know you are in here.” He snickers.

I stiffen, and pull my legs to my chest.

“Come out, come out, wherever you are, and it won’t hurt a bit.” He taunts.

Whatever I do, he will kill me. If I try to run to the rooftop exit, he will kill me. If I try to run to the normal exit, he will kill me. Well, maybe he won’t? After all, we were best friends weren’t we? Nah, screw that. The boy hates me, that’s why he is doing this whole rampage.
He is not searching enough though. I start to think he doesn’t want to kill me. He is reluctant. Maybe he is being kind, giving me another chance! No. I hear him cock his gun.

“Ok Amber… you aren’t showing yourself. Cowardly b****.” He makes chicken noises. “Bok bok bok!” His cruel snicker gives me the chills. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. He starts heading for the rooftop exit, passing right by me, not seeing me.
My heart beats faster than it ever has. If he sees me, I am dead, literally. I am curled up under the desk, but my shoes are causing me to slip out. The pain in my arm is insane, and I try to suppress my gasp, but it makes a sound. He freezes. Tears fill my eyes. I realize that, if he turns right around, I am right in his line of vision. I scream silently. He starts to turn. My heart skips a few beats. Adrenaline pumps through my beings. He is facing me, 10 feet away. I am going to die.
He looks straight at me. The gun is pointed right at me. I sit, staring wide eyed. Our eyes meet. His stone face curls into a cruel grin.
“Well, well. Brave, nasty Amber is scared? Aww… poor wittle baby girl. Not so tough now, are you?” I grimace. He shoots the desk, not totally aiming for me, It his a draw a few inches from my head. The drawer rattles. I shiver and remember the girl and Mr. Bates. My fear shrinks a bit. Hear pounding, I get to my feet. Instinctively, he steps back half a step. He knows how bad my tantrums can be. His hesitation give me more courage. He lowers the gun a few centimeters, reluctantly.
“So you want to kill me? Do it then. See what I care. You know the world would be better off without me.”
He startes. His face flushes. The gun raises.
“I hate you.”
My mind races. “I don’t hate you. I know you. You don’t have to do this. Why are you doing this? I am your friend!”
“You were my friend. Until you started being popular and hanging out with Jessica. By the way, I shot her in the head. Twice. You can visit her brains splattered on the girls locker room door. I wanted you to be my friend gain! I loved you. I wanted you. I gave you a second chance. And a third. And a fourth. I was stupid to think you would come back. And now, this is how I repay you. After five years of pure torture.”
He aims. I lunge. He yelps, but only for a moment. I kiss him full on the mouth, and hold him in my arms. Hold him tighter. He gets limp in my arms. Then he returns my embrace, strong arms around me. The gunshot rings our ears. The pain is beyond pain. Someone is screaming. One last fleeting look at his face. Tears are streaming down it, leaving marks in the sweaty, grimy dirt. Darkness.
***

Her scream is bloodcurdling. Even after it stopped it is still there. In my mind. In my heart. Her expression is etched into my mind. I feel my heart literally break, all the previous cracks are now shattering, falling apart. I check my ammuntion. A few bullets left. I cock the gun for the last time. I aim. I fire. Bullseye.





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