Short Story Contest - Second Place Winner: Abbi Kam
It was 9 am on May 12th, the day after Willow Kemp had been released from the hospital. Her mother, Sylvia Kemp, was forcing her to talk with “the most prominent child psychologist in America” named by the International Journal of Psychology, Dr. P. Lotor about the events that lead to her hospitalization. His office sat on the highest floor of one of the biggest skyscrapers she had ever seen. Willow internally lamented not only due to the fact that she thought it was a ludicrous idea but because she would rather be at home playing video games. So there she sat as Dr. Lotor asked her questions one after the other about what happened on May 7th. Her eyes scanned the room, noticing a big, floor-to-ceiling window on her left, where she observed the sombre setting for what was forecasted to be a sunny, spring day. On the adjacent wall hung a blank, jumbo T.V., with the accompanying remote on the coffee table in front of her, just an arm’s length away. Her nose could smell the unpleasant mix of aromas that were emitted due to various scented candles that were lit on the desk behind Dr. Lotor. Willow’s body kept moving from side to side on the big, leather couch searching for a spot that felt comfortable. Her tongue was holding onto the bitter taste of the black coffee that Willow forced her mother to get her. She desperately tried to focus on anything else as Dr. Lotor relentlessly repeated the same set of specific questions about her emotions which she didn’t even know the answers to. After 10 minutes of repetition, Willow became fed up and just wanted to leave. It was then that he had broken the pattern. This time he asked her “are you okay Willow?” but she obviously was not okay. Dr. Lotor followed up with “can you tell me what happened?” “Fine.”
Willow began recounting what had happened “The day started off like any other. I slumped out of bed, got ready and actually left for school on time. As I was walking I pulled out my phone, trying to check Instagram but I accidentally clicked on ‘The Update’, one of those news apps. I saw some articles in the breaking news section and was kinda curious so I stopped and clicked on a couple of the headlines. The first one was about some rabies infection going on with the animals on Staten Island, that’s where I am from. But I didn’t care because it was not like a little bunny or rat was gonna hurt me anyway. The next article though, that one kinda scared me. The headline said that there was a serial shooter on the loose who targets schools and the useless police had zero leads. I was seriously considering ditching again and going back home to play video games, but the last time I did that my annoying principal told my mom that if I ditched 1 more time then I would be suspended. And even though there was a chance I could die if I went to school, my mom would have definitely killed me for getting suspended. So I continued walking again, and I got a text from my childhood best friend, actually, my only friend, Jai. She wanted to know where I was but I was confused because I left for school on time. But I guess when I stopped to read the article I kinda paused a little too long. And knew my extremely boring and irritating Math teacher would just mark me absent if I was even a second late. So I started to run to class and because I am so damn lucky, the sunny skies quickly started to pour down rain.
I got in through one of the side doors and was about to make my way up the stairs when someone came flying down and crashed into me. I mean I was glad to know
I wasn’t the only one late. But they were going so fast that I fell back and the trash can behind me toppled over into the doorway. It spilled trash both inside and outside of the door frame. I got up and looked at the kid but I didn’t recognize him. Which was lowkey
weird because Jai is like the school president and really popular so she knows everyone. And because I am her best friend, I kinda know everyone too. I didn’t make much of it though, because he was wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and this really ugly turtleneck sweater that basically covered his entire face. He seemed really agitated though and was murmuring to himself about something, then grabbed his bag as if there were a million dollars in it. He adjusted the collar of his sweater and I noticed a tattoo on the left side of his neck. I couldn’t tell what the exact image was but it was definitely in the style of Trash Polka. It was cool to see some Trash Polka on a kid like me because it’s a style not many people know about.” Thump! Willow is jolted out of her memory by Dr. Lotor’s pen slipping out of his hand and hitting the ground. He grabs his phone and furiously starts messaging someone. She looks at him and his panicked face urges her to continue on.
“I brushed off the trash and rushed up the stairs and through the halls trying to avoid getting caught by the teachers. When I finally got to Math class, Jai smirked at me and said “and she makes it into class with a second to spare.” Our teacher, Mr. Alpin rang his dumbbell to get the class’ attention and then started our boring review before the test tomorrow. So I sat through the dull lesson as everyone’s heads were dropping as they fell asleep. I prayed for some sort of break from this dead 3-hour class. Then, as if someone was answering my prayers, the bright, white emergency light started flashing on the yellowish classroom wall and our school’s principal, Mrs. Moreno’s monotone voice came through on the P.A. system saying ‘We are in a lockdown’. She didn’t elaborate much, leaving the class to wonder. I hobbled over to the cramped lockdown corner and saw my best friend showing me a seat next to her. Mr. Alpin quickly rolled down the blinds and locked the door. I thought to myself ‘Sweet finally, a break from Math’.
Strangely though, after 20 minutes, the lockdown was not over. It wasn’t long before the class started to become anxious, whispering around, quietly asking why we were still on the floor. Jai asked, “This is a drill right?” I nodded unsurely. Soon, a panicked murmur began to spread that a shooter was in the school. I immediately remembered the article, and then that weird kid from the stairs. That is when havoc wreaked in the classroom. My class was beginning to lose their cool. Some people were even hyperventilating! I tried to remain calm but there was a shooter in my school, how could I? I glanced at the emergency light. It was blinding me as my life flashed before my eyes! All I could think about was how I hadn’t beaten Minecraft in under 20 minutes yet, I knew this was it. I heard something outside the door, like rapid footsteps and they were getting louder and louder: thump, thump, thump in the hallway outside my classroom. My class started moving closer to the walls, trying to protect themselves as if a couple of inches closer to the wall was going to save them. We braced ourselves for the shots that were to come. As someone in my class backed up further to the corner there was a “POP”. The person next to me fainted after the gunshot. Who was the person that got shot? Are they alive? Did someone call the cops? There were so many
unanswered questions, but I couldn’t focus on anything. Everything became a blur. The only thing I could think about was our monotone principal saying “we are in a lockdown” and the “POP”, that just repeated in my head. Then Jai whispered something in my ear
“No gunshot, Hannah backed onto some random bubble wrap.” Just when things started to look up, I could hear the door of the empty classroom next to us creak open. I thought that the shooter must have heard the bubble wrap pop and was trying to find where it came from. I was desperate for answers and just wanted to know what was going on.
Then, I noticed that some of the tape holding the paper over the window on our classroom door was starting to peel. I wanted to get up to go and fix it but Mr. Alpin told me to sit back down. I stared at the tape hoping that it would hold up, otherwise the shooter would for sure know where we were. The top corner of the paper fell down but most of the window was still covered. I couldn’t take it anymore, I knew that the shooter was coming and I was not going to let him see us. I watched Mr. Alpin make sure he was looking away, then I stood up and lept over the other kids for the door. I reached my hand out to push the corner of the paper back up and re-stick the tape. I was almost there but I looked down and realized my shoelaces were untied and before I knew it I started to fall face-first onto the cold, hard, tiled floor. My hand was still holding the paper over the window so as I went down, so did it. Everyone watched as I not only exposed the entire window but made a loud noise when I hit the ground. I lifted my face up off the floor and peered out the bottom of the window where I saw a trail of the garbage along the halls, then something appeared out of the corner. It was brownish-grey and I could only assume it was one of the shooter’s shoes. My memory flashed back to the run-in I had with that mysterious teen earlier this morning. Was he the shooter? I started to panic even more, as I thought he was probably looking for me as I pissed him off by bumping into him. I was frozen to the ground in shock.
I closed my eyes and accepted my fate when I heard hissing coming from the other side of the door. My curiosity took over. I opened one eye slightly when the most ferocious, creepy raccoon looked directly into my eyes with a desire to kill. It lept right at me, its long, sharp claws and mouth wide open showing me all its teeth. That moment I passed out as the rabid raccoon tried to jump through the glass window.
I woke up in this strange hospital bed with no one beside me. I looked at the table to my left and I saw my phone. Scared for the sake of my school and my friend, I grabbed it and searched up “Littlewood High shooting” and hit the news tab. I clicked on the first article I could find and started reading, but nothing made sense. It said that the shooter came in at the end of the day but we went into lockdown in the middle of the first period. I scrolled to the top of the article and found that it was dated 20 years ago. So I searched it up again, “Littlewood High shooting” and all the information was still 20 years ago. I thought to myself if there was no shooting, then what in the world caused the lockdown? Just as I was thinking, a doctor, a nurse and my mother walked in. “Willow, you’re awake” my mother squealed with excitement. “Hi Willow, I am Dr. Kaur and you are going to be just fine. You suffered some injuries from the fall and we want to monitor you for a couple of days.” “That means no phone until you’re better. You will
need the rest Willow” my mother chimed in as if she is just knowledgeable as the real doctor. “In addition, the raccoon definitely gave you a scare and I recommend that you see a therapist” concluded Dr. Kaur. Oh the raccoon, I thought to myself.
Knock, knock knock, the door creaked open as a faint female voice whispers “sorry to interrupt but Dr. Lotor is needed urgently on line 2.” “I’m on my way,” Dr. Lotor tells the secretary as she quietly closes the door. He then tells Willow to sit still and that he will be back in a minute. She tries but Willow very quickly gets bored and finally decides to turn on the T.V. She picks up the remote and the first channel that pops up is the news. She can see on the screen that the latest story is about another school shooting. Intrigued, Willow grabs the remote and turns up the volume so she can hear what the news anchor is saying. “We are live in front of the police station with police chief Cooder who says that after multiple school shootings and no arrests, the police have a break in the case. Police Chief Cooder, what new information do you have about the school shootings? ‘Well, evidence from the latest shooting shows us that the once stealthy shooter has now entered what psychologists call a spiral. Most likely due to an added stressor causing the shooter to lose focus and become sloppy but most importantly, more dangerous. This has caused them to make mistakes that can help us identify who they are. We found footage from the school shooting that took place less than 24 hours ago, revealing that the shooter is a young male, dressed in all black clothing with a, umm, Trash Polka style tattoo on the left side of his neck. We are asking that if anyone has any other information to please contact our tips hotline.’ “Thank you so much, Chief Cooder and we will be back after a short commercial to tell you all about the rabid animals roaming our city.”
Willow’s breathing was getting heavier as she started to panic. Just then the door creaked open once again, and Willow quickly turned off the T.V. thinking that Dr. Lotor had returned. Instead, a younger, almost identical man wearing dress pants and a turtle neck walked in. “Sorry, I just need to grab something from the safe under my father’s desk,” he said. “Oh yeah go ahead,” Willow responded as she watched him reach down to the safe. “Hey, have we met before, you look familiar” the boy pointed out, “No I don’t think so, this is my first time coming this far into the city, I actually live on Staten Island.” “Oh, near the shootings?” he questioned, “yeah but my school wasn’t attacked, well we were but only by a raccoon and well a, you know what nevermind” Willow responded. “You know the point of therapy is being honest,” “It’s just something I saw on the day of the lockdown” she replied. “I knew it was you,” he thought to himself as he entered the pin numbers into the safe. Beep, beep, beep, beep! As she curiously waited to see what Dr. Lotor kept in his safe, Willow couldn’t help but notice the Trash Polka tattoo on the left side of the boy’s neck. He stood up and smiled directly at Willow as he pulled out the fully loaded handgun and pointed it right at her….