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Author's note: Dedicated to all of those who have faced the terrifying grips of medication and school violence.
Alex Morris, a man of 37 with thick, dark brown hair stepped briskly into CVS on the morning of October 8, 1993. Like every visit, he passed the plethora of candy, magazines, and stocking stuffers that lined the shelves displayed before him, and bee-lined to the desk of the pharmacy. Nine pills, twice a day. Ativan, Prozac, Valium, Xanax, and a collection of varying pain relievers such as Percoset and Loritab danced their way down his throat and into his acid-filled belly in those installments. It was not certain; however, coming from the doctor, Morris suffered from extreme schizophrenia and anxiety. It can be amounted to his family, all but one deceased, that caused his nerves to dance like electrical circuits doused with water. They had died simultaneously on a seemingly open road last year. Alex, not-too-thankfully had not been with them in the car as their lives were crushed and shoved out of their cadavers by the sheer force of an 18-wheeler truck smashing their tiny Honda Civic to bits. His wife, beautiful daughter, and first son had all been nothing but a grease spot on the ashy interior of the Civic by the time the coroner arrived. Kaden, Alex’s youngest son survived. To this day, no one knows how he avoided his fate, unlike the rest of his family, but he did. Perhaps it was Alex’s higher power giving him something to live for, dissuading him from shoving the cold barrel of his .45 into the back of his throat and pulling the trigger. After a man’s family is gone, what else has he to live for?
The line was short, thankfully, as Alex approached the desk. A nod and wink from the pharmacist prompted Alex to sit in the miniscule waiting section, free of standing in any line. As Alex waited for what seemed like hours, though it had only been 60 seconds, he thought intently about his life. Sure, he had his son, Kaden to live for, but what will happen when he grows up and paves a life for himself? That thought keeps Alex awake at night battling the bastard that is Insomnia. Never could he remarry. That’d be a stab to his deceased wife, wouldn’t it? He’d feel too guilty to date or make any more children. He’d be alone, and he would just have to face it. There’s surely a pill on the market that will cushion that blow, he figured.
Mr. Morris, pickup desk 1.
He continued to sit, drowned in thought. Pondering the many trials of life and wondering if there was a pill to cure them.
Mr. Morris, pickup desk 1.
Pills can solve any problem, he concluded. Got a pain? There’s a pill for that. Got an ache? There’s a pill for that. Sad? Take this pill, you’ll be happy! Hell, too happy? Take this pill and you’ll calm down!
Mr. Morris, pickup desk 1.
The few people surrounding Alex looked at each other, making sure none of them were Mr. Morris.
“Sir,” a little old lady whispered. “I think they’re calling your name.”
Alex spiraled up from the deepest corners of his blackened mind and jumped up from his seat.
“Thank you,” he whispered back. He let out a sigh of relief as the pharmacist handed over his doggy bag of regulated drugs. As Alex let out a deep yawn, he heard something in the distance, radiating from a television set cradled safely in the corner of the store. The newscaster was live from the newsroom and eager to spew the breaking news out of her pronounced mouth. She told that Danall Middle School, the school just down the road from the pharmacy, is under strict lock down due to suspicious activity within their educated walls and two deaths. Kaden’s there. Alex thought this, and nothing more. The bag of drugs was ripped from the pharmacist’s hand as soon as the news report was over, and Alex headed straight to the school. He ripped the bag of pills open, and scattered a mix of them into his mouth. Without liquid to soften the swallow, Alex gulped down the pills, each one grinding against his trachea. It was safe, to him, to do this because he knew exactly which pills had been thrown down his throat. Alex sped away from the pharmacy and made his way to the school, not minding stop lights or signs.
As he approached the school, it looked perfectly normal. A beautiful building filled with enriched minds and curious brains, nestled in the middle of town. He whipped his tiny car into the first open spot he saw and ripped his keys out of their keep. As he opened his door, he made sure to grab the bag of pills and shove them into his jacket pocket which seemed to be as deep as Mariana’s trench. They’d be safe there, he assumed. He locked the door and ran toward the school.
Alex passed teachers, the lunch room, the janitor’s closet, and the janitor himself before he finally reached the main office. The school didn’t seem like it was on lockdown. A lunch session was taking place, the guidance office was filing papers, and the janitor was sweeping the floors and talking to himself as he did so many times before.
“What’s going on??” asked Alex, oh so feverishly.
“Sir, I’m not sure I know what you mean,” replied the office attendant, a woman of 45 with a helmet of red hair on her head.
“The news, I saw on the news…lockdown.” Alex was out of breath.
He withdrew the crumpled baggy filled with drugs and ripped it open. A plethora of his round buddies spilled onto the floor, while the other half spilled into his dry, crusty mouth. He choked them down, as he did before, and stared at the attendant.
“I saw on the news. You guys are on lockdown. Two dead. ” explained Alex.
“Sir, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I think I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” replied the attendant.
“LEAVE??” shouted Alex. “You want me to leave? What about the lockdown? The dead children!”
An officer approached Alex and grabbed his arm. Alex was able to break free, and fell to his knees before the officer. It was not to beg him; Alex just needed to get the extra pills that had soared to the floor. One by one, Alex picked up each and every pill, popping them into his mouth like his favorite cherry-flavored Pez candy.
“Sir, we’re leaving now,” said the officer. “You are now a threat to our school.”
Alex continued to fish for pills and chew them up as he found them.
“Sir,” the officer asserted. “We’re leaving now. Get up.”
Pills continued to crunch.
“That’s it,” concluded the officer. “We’re on lockdown until I can get this psycho out of here.”
The office attendant nodded and threw her voice over the loud, obnoxious loudspeaker. Her voice crept into each classroom, more potent than the smell that had crept in from the unfortunate student’s teacher’s tuna salad he/she had heated up for lunch. She explained that a lockdown would be organized, prompting all students to huddle in the corner of their classrooms, away from the door. As would be expected, the children let out a sigh, and complied, hesitantly. Just another drill, they thought.
The officer grabbed Alex by the back of his shirt and yanked him up from the floor. Alex collected as many pills as he could on his way up and shoved them back into his pocket.
“Any way to find out who this guy is?” asked the attendant.
The police officer concluded that Alex was carrying no driver’s license or form of personal identity.
“What about that bag over there?” asked the attendant.
It was the prescription bag, and yes, it would have a name on it. The officer snatched it from the ground and read.
“Looks like it’s Michael Howard.” concluded the officer. “Search him in the directory, see whose kid is his.”
The attendant did so, but found nothing.
“Strange,” she uttered.
The officer raised his head, waiting for her to explain.
“Seems there’s nobody in our system with the name, but there’s a picture that matches up with his face,” she announced. “It’s Mr. Morris. Alex Morris, father of Kaden Morris.”
“Is Kaden here?” asked the officer.
Alex listened closely, now slouching on the counter of the desk.
“Looks like it,” she said. “Room 214. Mrs. Rainer’s room.”
Alex was off. He leapt through the office door and sprinted down the hallway toward the 200 hall. It seemed as if every hallway had a different color. Hall 900 was colored purple, 800 was colored green, 400 was colored yellow, and 200 was colored…red.
The officer caught up to Alex as he approached the entrance to the 600 hall and knocked him to the ground. Pills fell out of Alex’s pocket, which prompted Alex to pick them up and gulp them down. The officer struggled to get a handle on Alex’s squirming body. Years of hard work and dedication to the police force boiled down to this event, and he was struggling. What a failure he was, he thought.
Alex was able to wiggle his way out from underneath the officer’s tight grasp and sock the officer a good one on the side of his head. Quite a shiner the officer would be able to show his fellow comrades at the station, if he braved to go back. Maybe he’d quit the force if he couldn’t apprehend Alex and shove the barrel of his .45 into the back of his throat. He couldn’t live with himself if anything happened to these children.
Alex stood himself up and kicked the officer in the side of his now-limp body. The sound of the officer’s ribs cracking could be heard down the hallway. Hell, from where Alex was standing it could have been heard 12 miles away from the school. The officer’s gun was wrestled out of its holster and pointed directly at Alex’s chest.
“Give me one reason,” shouted the officer. “Give me one reason!”
Alex smiled and reached into his pocket. He’s got a gun too, the officer thought. Before the officer could move, Alex’s hand was leaving his pocket. It has to be a gun. The officer raised his gun to Alex’s head in response to his moving hand. Alex’s hand was now completely out in the open, gunless. No gun, instead, four pills. They tumbled down Alex’s throat.
“Listen, man,” groaned the officer, lying on his side. “Just stop, you’re not getting anywhere.”
Alex kicked the gun out of the officer’s hand, sending it onto the floor. Fatefully, Alex was the first to it. He picked it up from the ground and sent a bullet into the officer’s right temple. The officer’s groaning stopped.
Screams echoed out from each room, and the cafeteria was in a state of uproar as the gunshot resonated throughout the stale air of the school. The officer lies dead, surrounded in a pool of blood at Alex’s feet. Alex continued on toward the 200 hall.
Calls from each corner and suburb throughout town flooded into the police station exactly 3 minutes from the first gunshot. Frantic mothers, angry fathers, and concerned grandparents/guardians all calling to be reassured of their child’s safety. As the police could not answer any questions, the guardians made their way to the school. The police followed.
In a matter of minutes, the school found itself completely surrounded by police cars, caution tape, and frantic screams of crying mothers. Alex was making his way still toward the 200 hall. He was drawing closer, closing in on the end of the 500 hall.
The office attendant found herself struggling to explain exactly what was happening to the school. The only intelligent string of words she could spit out was, He went that way. She pointed toward the collection of hallways that were housing the children. Shock can do wonders to people, even make them forget about a gunshot they heard only minutes before. That shock caused the police/concerned parents not adhering to the police’s order to stay back, to be unaware of the fact that Alex was armed and dangerous.
They soon found out, however, as they dragged the dead officer’s body away from his pool of blood and into the corner of the room, next to the trophy case. It was Alex’s first victim from minutes before. They continued down through various hallways, unaware that Alex was already four hallways away from them.
Alex continued to soar down each hallway, passing rooms that were filled with disembodied screams and yelps. He didn’t bother peek into the rooms, for that would waste time, plus he knew Kaden was in 214. As he turned the corner around the 500 hall, he heard something that was not a scream or yelp, but blues-y soul. It was the janitor. He was singing to himself, headphones glued to his thinning hair. He had not heard the gunshot or utter hysteria, in response to the stylings of Robert Johnson moaning in his ears. Alex approached him and ripped the headphones off of his head, sending the bustle of “Dead Shrimp Blues” into the air. The janitor cracked his mop onto the floor and raised his fists to Alex’s crazed face.
Alex swallowed three more pills and shoved the janitor to the floor. The janitor’s bucket of water spilled onto the linoleum and soaked the janitor from head to toe. Alex took one look at the pathetic pile of human waste that was the janitor and smiled. He stepped over the wet body and continued away from it. Not looking back, Alex sent a bullet traveling into the top of the janitor’s head, killing him instantly. Moments later, the group of police and parents found him. Alex was two halls away from them.
Coursing throughout his veins was a mix of chemicals Alex was unfamiliar with. He realized this as he reached into his pocket and withdrew yet another pill. This time, instead of shoving it into his mouth, he held it in his hand and examined the writing carved into it. The tiny letters showed themselves to be ‘STX’. Saxitoxin.
Alex did not recall being prescribed this medication, he was only aware of the mix of painkillers and anxiety meds that was being corralled in his belly. Saxitoxin, he supposed it was a new anxiety med.
To the trained brain, Saxitoxin is another word for death. Saxitoxin, when ingested in large amounts, leads to paralytic shellfish poisoning, or complete paralysis. Many unlucky ingestors of Saxitoxin in high quantities face certain death and respiratory failure. It can be surmised that Alex has taken more than what anybody should be prescribed.
The hoard of police and parents rushed down the hallway, after seeing the janitor, and made their way toward the sound of Alex’s footsteps. Along the way, one of the scared mothers caught a glimpse of her child. The child was being held back by her teacher. The mother and daughter looked into each other’s eyes and ran toward each other, blocked by the locked, wooden door. The mother was not let in, due to the harsh lockdown. She sat down by the door near her child and waited. The rest of the hoard was long gone.
As both Alex and the hoard of people rounded the corner to the 200 hall, a helicopter could be heard soaring above the school. The hoard of people gained on Alex, making themselves feet away from him. The police fired shots at Alex’s head, but each one missed him by a few inches. Alex’s eyes moved to the doors. He counted off the room numbers. 220, 219, 218…and so on. 214 was in sight, only an arm’s reach from Alex’s grasp.
Alex’s shaky hand latched onto the handle of 214’s door. The hoard of people approached Alex as well, throwing him down onto the cold, dusty floor. Alex’s gun was apprehended by a police officer and placed in a plastic baggy. Evidence.
Before the handcuffs could crawl their way around Alex’s bony wrists, a child started to scream. It was Kaden.
The glass window to the classroom was filled with chaos either way you looked into it. On the outside, a maniacal intruder was being apprehended and abused, while on the inside, a child was being held by his throat in the grips of his teacher.
The police noticed the struggling boy and tried to make their way into the darkened classroom. Alex was screaming for Kaden, but was hushed by his throat growing puffy and closing in on him. The police managed to kick down the door. As they did so, a flood of police officers grabbed Kaden from the grips of the teacher. The officers wrestled the teacher down to the ground and snatched the wallet from his pocket, in order to identify him. It was Michael Howard.
Kaden rushed over to Alex’s side, brushing off the hands of police, trying to keep him away.
“Daddy!” screamed Kaden. He was crying.
Alex tried to say hi back, but was silenced yet again by his throat collapsing in on itself. He could feel his legs start to seize up and stop working, as he did with his arms and chest. Lying limply and frozen on the ground, he could not hold Kaden’s emotional body and comfort him. The police grabbed Kaden and escorted him away from the scene. Inside the classroom, Michael Howard was being arrested while trying to explain himself. In the pocket of his pants was a bag of pills prescribed to Mr. Morris. Anxiety and pain relieving pills. Those seem like pieces of candy passed out on Halloween to children compared to the deadly chemical that was actually prescribed to Mr. Howard. Michael Howard was lead out of the classroom, stepping over Alex’s body. Alex was internally writhing on the floor as the police escorted Mr. Howard toward the police cruiser. His lungs were collapsing. Within a matter of moments, Alex took his last, seizing breath and died.
Later that night, after Kaden was taken to his grandparent’s house two counties away and Mr. Howard was sent to a very cold and damp jail cell, the evening news came on. The newscaster, a woman in red, explained the horrible instances that occurred earlier that day. She explained that it started with the school being on lockdown and ended with two being killed. She also went on to explain that a medical recall had been announced earlier that day on a medicine called Saxitoxin.