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The air was thick with a metallic smell. You could taste it in your mouth... feel it on your skin. The floor was slick and it made you nauseous knowing what was causing it. The cedar and coffee colored walls looked like someone had taken red paint balls and unloaded their gun at the wall. It was everywhere. It coated the linoleum floor, the one you didn't like anyway. It was smeared on the black plastic chairs, the reddish brown tables. It splattered the white spackle ceiling.
A place so normally full of noise, laughter, of life, was now weighed down by silence. Not a peaceful silence. A dead silence.
You were there when it had happened. You and your friends, competing to be heard over the noise level of the noon hour. The Asian group chattering loudly in their mother language; the African Americans yelling arguments peppered with expletives, drawing the campus police officers' wary eyes; the Hispanics joking with lightening fast speed. And you and your mix of friends, laughing at jokes only you know, letting loose after hours of sitting in lectures. It felt good to laugh, to relax.
There was no warning. Even you, who had planned what you would do if something of the nature ever happened couldn't pull out your phone fast enough. You could only watch it happen, the panic and fear building.
They went for the most threatening present first. The cops. It happened so fast, the two didn't have time to react, to pull their own weapons, to call for backup. A shot to the head was all it took.
Panic took over the moment the shots were fired. It was a mad dash for the doors, but they were smart. They were stationed at the only three exits from the building. It was mad chaos, windows were being broken to escape this now turned slaughter house.
The noise was deafening. The shrieks of the living, the screams of the dying, the snap of the guns. The crack of breaking glass, the clatter of overturning furniture, the thud of bodies hitting the ground.
You're crouching, trying to duck the flying bullets, avoiding the limbs of hysteric victims. Your friend lets out a groan, his head snapping back and as he falls into your arms, you know he is gone. Your group scatters, some through the windows, others around the corner. Others, not so lucky.
Anyone who tried to take down the shooters was riddled, gone in a moment. There were three, one for each door, a couple more amongst the crowd, shooting at will. And a single shooter, aiming at the ceiling. It takes you a moment to realize he is shooting out the security cameras.
The noise level is dying down, not because the killers are leaving, but because the victims are dying. Cries and screams can be heard, but faintly, as the wounded flee through the windows.
You struggle to free your cell as your friend's blood seeps through your clothes, causing it to stick to you. As you hear it dial, something metal clatters near you. Just as you hear the beginning of a calming voice on the other side, something explodes.
Your eyes are on fire, you close them tight with no relief. Everything is white, burning. You attempt to open your eyes but that only causes more anguishing pain. You know you dropped the phone to protect yourself when the explosion happened. You grope along the floor, feeling for it. Your hand slides along the now slicked floor. You feel your phone and pull it back to your ear.
You can't concentrate on what to say, the burning is taking over. The voice asks again what the emergency is. You are crying, the tears spilling over, but still not helping your eyes. All you can say is your location, over and over. The voice tells you help is on the way, to stay on the line.
You force your eyes open. Your vision is blurry but you can see, if you fight the pain. You can hear laughing. In all of this, after all that has happened. Laughing.
It was them. Applauding their handy work as though it was a game. As though the lives they've taken were nothing more than birds out in the country side. Analyzing their shooting. Congratulating each other for taking down not only dozens of lives, but that of two cops. Two of the finest officers in the campus PD. Dead. Dozens of siblings, friends, roommates wouldn't be going home that night.
You crouch down again. Now that things have fallen silent, it is only too obvious. There isn't anyone else crying out, no one else moving. They were fast and effective to their purpose. You can hear footsteps falling fast on the concrete outside. You hear fast moving people leaving the building.
Someone swears. You hear radio static and then a series of numbers, letters and words that have no meaning. You rise to a sitting position slowly and you hear a gun cocking and the voice shouting for you to freeze. You quickly raise your hands in the air, you identify yourself. Pain rips through your side, your chest. It hadn't been there before. Your friend's blood continues to soak through your clothes. You can feel it, still sticky warm against your skin. And you can't stop crying. It is not just because of the burning in your eyes.
Footsteps approach, you look up. The officer's face is horribly pale, but his voice is calm, authoritative. He is asking questions, wants to know if you are hurt. But the tears are still coming, you can't take a breath for the sobs that wrack your body. You hear sirens, becoming louder as they draw close. Hands, strong yet gentle, lift you up. Then, everything goes black.