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He is the Lord of the Flies
I walk through the bookstore, feeling at home among the many volumes of dusty lands and heroic characters. Names and places, smells and familiar summer afternoons spent lounging by the stream with a book come flooding back as I gaze at the familiar titles. Then one in particular catches my attention. Oops. I hadn't realize that I've gotten all the way to "G". I always avoid the Golding shelf nowadays. The memories are too painful. But like it is an addictive drug that is too strong to resist, I pick it up, pull it closer, run my finger over the spine. The title stares back at me, taunting me, reminding me. It bores a hole in my brain. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. And then I'm back..the last day of school, eleventh grade; the day of the shooting. The hallways are full of loose papers that students are all too happy to finally get rid of. Lockers are hanging open to pass inspection, locker shelves and old textbooks lay in heaps in the black garbage cans at the end of every hallway. It's second period, but I don't rush to class; teachers aren't particular about tardiness on the last day. Stephanie waves to me on her way to Physics and I smile back, tossing an old workbook into the garbage can at my right. Mike walks by behind me, slides his hand across the small of my back.
"Hey, Tiff. Wanna leave early, get ice cream or something?" he asks as he kisses the back of my neck.
I frown, considering this. I'm a good student. Straight A's. I've never skipped school before. But it's the last day. And it's hot.
I sigh. "I'll leave last period," I tell him, "but no earlier."
He throws me a smile and heads to class. I laugh to myself and shake my head. The hallway starts to clear and I begin rushing to empty out my locker. The bell rings. C**p. Oh, well. Mr. Fischer will be too busy collecting textbooks to care that I'm late. I shove my English textbook into my book bag, zip it up, and slam my locker shut. Then I hear the shot. It rings through the hallway, reverberates up my spine, echoes in the part of my forehead between my eyes. I hear the screams of freshmen girls behind me.
I spin around and see three skinny girls huddling together by the water fountain. Other than the four of us, the only other person in the hallway is Freddy Miller, and he's pointing a black gun at their heads.
He's sweaty; I can see beads of perspiration trickle down the sides of his temples and collect at the collar of his sweatshirt. It's a baggy green sweatshirt, and even in that moment of frantic shock, I understand that that is where he hid the gun.
He screams for us all to get away from the windows and crouch together in the middle of the hallway, with our hands in the air.
"Whoa, Freddy," I say slowly, my voice shaking.
"Shut up!" he screams at me, the gun shaking in his hands. "I said move!"
I do as he tells me. A teacher comes running into the hallway to see what the noise is. It's Mr. Fischer.
"Son!" he yells. "What are you doing?" He curses under his breath but I can't hear what words he chooses. I have a whole string of them running through my head right now, and I'm not sure which ones are his and which are mine.
Freddy's voice rises an octave. "Get into the middle with the girls!" Freddy yells.
Students from Mr. Fischer's class crowd in the hallway and let out a stream of profanities when they see the gun. I watch the beads of sweat on Freddy's collar grow larger.
Mr. Fischer gestures for the students to go back inside. "Close the door immediately," he says in a tight, soft voice, "and PA the office now."
Mr. Fischer is a nice guy. He jokes around a lot with us, and is always sarcastic in a funny way. For some reason hearing him this serious scares me more than the gun.
The students close the door. I hear the click of the lock and watch the lights go out. Then they flicker back on. I guess the students realize that there's no use following every lock down procedure when the guy with the gun already knows you're in the classroom. I hear the beep of the PA from the other side of the door. Two frantic voices, a guy and a girl, talk over one another in their agitation and have to repeat themselves into the speaker. I can only hear murmurs but I catch fragments of words. Something like "gun" and "Fischer". I even think I hear my own name.
"Son," Mr. Fischer says again as Freddy herds us into the middle of the hallway with his gun. "Son, put the gun down."
"You don't even know my name," Freddy replied, still shaking. That's one of those sentences that will haunt me forever. I still hear it bounce around in my head some nights if I wake up late and the sky is cloudy.
"I'm sorry," Mr. Fischer says. "You're right, I don't."
"No one knows me," Freddy says. "I'm invisible."
Mr. Fischer's voice becomes whiny. "Son, I'm sorry, I never -"
"You had me freshmen year!" Freddy yells, shaking the gun at Mr. Fischer's head.
"Freddy!", I yell. "You're name is Freddy Miller. I know your name, Freddy," I say desperately, my arms still raised above my head.
"But you don't really know me!" he says again. "I know you." He comes closer with the gun and the freshmen girls shriek. Mr. Fischer yells for them to shut up. "You're Tiffany Edwards. Prom Queen. President of the Drama Club. Voted best smile. Everyone loves you."
"Freddy," I plead, "people like you, too!"
"Oh, yeah?! Who?" He takes another step closer and now the gun is inches from my face. "You mean the guys on the football team? Like Mike, your boyfriend Mike? The ones who beat the c**p out of me every gym class? Or maybe the other jocks, the baseball guys...the ones who flushed my head in the toilet first day of sophomore year?!"
One of the Freshmen girls starts to cry. The PA crackles above us. It's about time.
"This is a lock down. Repeat, this is a lock down. This is not a drill. All students remain in a locked classroom." The principal's voice is shaky. He turns away from the PA before it clicks off and his voice is muffled. "Tell me that you got 9-1-1 on the phone, Linda."
And then he's gone with a click of the button.
Freddy wipes the sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. One of the freshmen girls passes out and hits her head. A thin line of blood trickles down the side of her cheek bone, washing away a thick layer of foundation and blush. Mr. Fischer and Freddy curse at the same time. I hold my breath. Another freshman starts to cry.
Mr. Fischer leans over the girl who passed out even though Freddy yells for him not to.
"Freddy, this girl needs medical attention. She's bleeding from her head."
"No one leaves!" Freddy yells. I can hear the fear pulsing off his vocal cords.
"Freddy, she'll die," I say.
Freddy wipes off the sweat again and rocks back and forth from one foot to another. He takes turns pointing the gun at me and Mr. Fischer.
"Ok, you take her out," he says to the other two freshmen. They cry and shake and unsteadily lift her between them, carry her outside. I hear sirens.
Freddy curses and waves his gun at me and Mr. Fischer, the only two hostages left.
"Why are you doing this, Freddy?" Mr. Fischer asks slowly.
I take a step closer to my teacher and he stands in front of me.
"Because I'm sick of being called names...and being pushed around...I'm sick of being invisible or a target, either one, but never liked!" The words come out in a stream, like they were well rehearsed, like he had said them often.
"Freddy, this isn't the answer," Mr. Fischer says. "There are better ways to handle your feelings."
"Shut up!" Freddy yells, "You didn't even remember my name."
"I'm sorry, Freddy," Mr. Fischer pleads, raising his arms above his head as Freddy moves closer. "But I get so many students every year.... I always forget names!"
"Stop!" Freddy yells, he lowers his gun for a moment to rub his forehead with the palm of his hand, and Mr. Fischer charges him.
I scream when the gun goes off. Freddy got Mr. Fischer in the shoulder, and my teacher breathes heavily on the floor directly before me, letting out small groans of pain as blood red as wine spills from his white collared shirt.
I bend to help him but Freddy yells for me to stay still, and I obey. The shiny round gun is pointing at me again. Freddy starts to cry because Mr. Fischer's moans get louder. I don't know that I'm crying until I feel a tear drop off the bottom of my chin. Even then I don't know if it's a tear or sweat.
"Freddy!" I plead with him, plead with the shiny gun in his hand, plead with his shaking trigger finger, poised and ready to react.
"I'm not the monster here, you know." He says to me in a bitter voice. "You are. You and all the others like you."
He pauses, shaking. "They like you because you're beautiful and funny. You're so popular, Tiffany. Everyone loves you. Well did you ever realize that the fat dork with the glasses and BO loves you, too?!"
"You're not a dork, Freddy," I say before I even register what it is he just told me.
"You don't love me back." His voice becomes a whimper.
I take a deep breath, not sure what to do. "No, Freddy, I don't love you. I won't lie to you. I don't love you in that way. But I can love you as a friend, as a human being."
Freddy sniffs. "You can't love someone you can't see."
I try to bend down to check on Mr. Fischer again, but Freddy doesn't let me.
I look at him, try to remember anything about him. Then it clicks. He was in my English class last year.
"Do you remember when we read Lord Of the Flies, in Mrs. Kinsley's class last year?" I ask him. Freddy nods and looks down at Mr. Fischer. I don't even try to take the gun. I know I can't. I'm not fast enough.
"Well," I continue, "One of my favorite lines of the book is one of the last sentences. 'And in the midst of them all,'" I say slowly, "'With unwiped nose, matted hair, and filthy body, Ralph cried, for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the wise, true friend called Piggy.'" I know that I might have missed a few words or scrambled a couple, but I know I got it mostly right. "Well maybe you're Piggy. Maybe you are the kid who is made fun of and beaten and called names. But Piggy is the character that everyone always loves best. He had unwavering integrity. And right now, holding that gun...You're Jack Merridew. you're the villain." I pause. "I love you, Freddy. But I hate that gun in your hand. That gun isn't you."
Freddy breaks down and sobs. He looks up at me and there are dark circles around his eyes. When he speaks it is in a whisper.
"I hate myself more than they hate me," He says. And then he turns the gun to face his right temple, and before I have time to react, his finger tightens over the trigger and Freddy falls dead to the ground.
I stand in the hallway, alone and afraid. Mr. Fischer is passed out beneath me. Someone watching from a classroom window tells the cops that the gunman is down, and a bunch of men dressed in black with big guns come rushing through the hallways.
They rush to Freddy, to Mr. Fischer. For the moment I am ignored because I am not bleeding.
I am an island. An island of fear with relief lapping upon my shores. I am alone because only I heard the last words of Freddy Miller. The palm trees on my island are his story, their leaves are his words. The rain is his beady sweat. And there is a round cave that is his gun, in which a monster black as night resides. I stand alone; I am an island.
And Freddy is taken away on a stretcher by the men dressed in black. He is the Lord of the Flies.
I blink and slip the book back onto its shelf. Then I leave the bookstore.