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Erin didn’t cringe while looking at the brain matter and blood on the carpet. It was just a photo, she hadn’t been there. What did she know? Besides her new-found, sick curiosity of hunting for these sorts of things on the internet, nothing at all. She had no connection to Columbine. The day was running away from the sky, and in dim light, she sat glued to her wooden chair, eyes unable to detach from the computer screen.
A piece of brown hair tumbled over her eyes as she leaned in closer, peering at the footage from cafeteria security cameras. Squinting at the chaos, Erin searched through the blurry black-and-white faces, unsure of exactly what she was looking for. After obliviously letting it hang for a few moments, she pried her right hand from the mouse to sweep the hair away. It remained stubborn though, and fell right back to its position, as a curtain over her eyes.
Erin looked down at her sweatpants, stained with grape juice and butter. The hair in her face was stringy, and she knew she should abandon her post at the computer to clean up. Take a shower, change clothes, and get ready to leave the house.
Where was she going again? She couldn’t remember for the life of her. But she knew she had somewhere to be. She rubbed her eyes with the bases of her palms, enjoying the colorful bursts that appeared on the backs of her eyelids. Thoughts of fireworks, and the 4th of July crossed her mind. Was it summer? No, when she looked out the window, she saw dirty, leftover snow on the sidewalk. It must be spring.
Her hand had independently gravitated back to the mouse, and she was again clicking on images from the Google search she had started hours ago. She saw the two bodies of the boys, collapsed next to each other, one of them with only half of his head. Both with guns flung next to them. What a way to die, she thought, and hit the “back” button to more images. There were close-up freeze-frames from the security footage she had been watching, the killers’ senior photos, websites that turned them into heroes. It was strange to her that when she searched the word Columbine, the majority of the photo results were of Harris and Klebold. As if there were no victims. As if they were the only ones involved. How was it that she could see their blood-soaked bodies, their oozing head-wounds, but no pictures of victims popped-up? Not that she wanted to see victim pictures; she knew they deserved that respect. But how did death hold different media standards for the gunmen, and the gunned-down? Her head was spinning.
Erin didn’t know what to think anymore. She didn’t know how to think anymore. All of her thoughts were absurd, anyway. She knew that. A killer is a killer is a killer. A monster, whether they were breathing or strewn across a library floor.
Her mouth tasted like nickels, and when she touched her tongue, sticky, red liquid clung to her fingertip. She had bit it so hard it bled. It was filling her cheeks with a metallic and bitter taste. Her heartbeat sped up, and her fingernails were digging into her forearm. She began to click rapidly, pictures flashing, not getting a chance to share their 1,000 words. She was back on YouTube, watching the same videos as before, but not really paying attention. Her teeth began to chatter, when she started watching the cafeteria video again. Scouring the screen, she finally saw the thing that made her clamp her eyes shut. Vomit flooded the keyboard, and Erin bolted.
Her mother came running, and Erin watched her, peeking around the corner. Her mom saw what was playing on the screen, and shuddered, shielding her eyes. She was flustered, her head whipping back and forth between the puke-covered computer table, and her cowering daughter.
“Erin, what are you doing? You know you aren’t supposed to do that. Honey, why would you do that?”
Erin, without responding, sped up the stairs to her bedroom. She knelt on the floor, clutching chunks of her hair, and tugging. This is real life, this is real life. The words rang in her ears like Sunday’s church bells, and she saw red. She saw red everywhere.
Eventually, she became aware of her mother’s voice, stammering into the phone. She was warning Erin’s father, telling him what had happened.
“Miles, I just don’t get it. For almost a year now, she’s never talked about it. I thought she was fine! She seemed fine until today but…..yes, I know fine is an overstatement. But if only you had seen the look on her face….”
If only you had seen the looks on their faces. Erin couldn’t remember what day it was. She couldn’t remember her own name. Why had she looked up those things in the first place? Was it deliberate? Out of boredom? She honestly could not remember.
But she had stumbled across her own panic-stricken face, sprinting for safety in that cafeteria, her petrified eyes gazing back at her. And she remembered that.