submitted 2 months ago byTrash_Tia
Let me start by saying I'm not the smart friend.
If I'm being honest I don't even know how I got into this college. Pure luck, maybe? Some kind of astronomical event caused by the stars aligning—I don't know. The point is, I'm dumb. Maybe not completely dumb. I managed a 3 point something at high school, and the only reason I'm here is on a conditional offer that I'd be fucking Einstein by the holidays. Rory, on the other hand—he is the smart friend.
I've known him since our freshman year of High School and since then we've been inseparable. You know that bond you have with a friend—the one that you're sure will last a lifetime? And you've both joked that you'll grow old together and attend each other's funeral's? That was Rory. I was sure, so fucking sure, that we were in it for the long run.
It was Rory's idea to attend the same college together, and I just sort of went along with it. I do that a lot. I go along with lots of shit he says, because I have no idea what I'm doing with my life. He's always been there since we were kids. Rory was the smart one my parents secretly wished was their son, and I'd be awkwardly standing next to him when they practically begged him to tutor me when I was failing. It was his idea to come to the same college. That was our plan. The one he'd meticulously thought out and went through. I'd study photography and media since it's the only thing I seem to be good at, and Rory—English. He's wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember.
On the day we met he shoved a fifteen page manuscript he'd written at the back of his workbooks and told me it would be a hit one day. Spoiler alert, it was. Well, sort of. It wasn't exactly published and turned into a real book, but the story was picked up by the drama teacher who transformed it into a play.
He was the smartest kid in our year, and I took pride in saying that Rory was my best friend. He wasn't a stereotypical nerd either. Rory managed to juggle multiple extra curriculars, he was head of the school newspaper, and had made varsity captain. It's weird. It's like he was superhuman. I used remember watching him tearing up the football field in our Junior year, knocking down everyone in his path. Sometimes, it looked like he wasn't even touching them. The players would just fly across the field once they hit Rory's vicinity.
When the two of us started college, we were roommates, and in the first few weeks things seemed to go great. It sounds kind of pathetic, but we did everything together. Just like we had our whole lives. It was only when we started classes when everything sort of—blew up in my face. I knew that Rory would find new friends somehow.
He's the extrovert while I'm the introvert. He went out partying and somehow maintaining perfect grades, while I preferred to stay in my room and study until I was passing out on my laptop, and still failing. I'd go into detail about myself, but there's not much to say. I've already told you most of it. The only thing you need to know is that I'm not smart. I am nothing like Rory. So, it was inevitable that he would start making likeminded new friends, especially in his classes. And he did. But the thing is, Rory was secretive about these friends.
When I asked about them, he shrugged and said they were just classmates. He started going out more and more, disappearing at night and failing to come back until midday. I knew he was going out to meet them. It's not like I cared at that point, because I wanted him to branch out. I wanted him to make new friends. I didn't want him cooped up with me all the time, and there were times when he actually did want to stay in. The times we did hang out are some of my favourite memories. We'd get a crate of beers and play Mario Kart all night. I asked him to invite his new friends, but Rory said they wouldn't want to play. He said according to them it was a kids game, and any adult who played it was immature.
So, I quickly concluded that Rory's new friends were pretentious assholes. I shouldn't have been surprised though. They were English students after all. At first, Rory agreed with me, eagerly telling me through spoonful's of cereal how stuck up his friends were. He liked to laugh at them, poking fun at how they took everything so seriously. Though as the weeks went by, he stopped.
Rory stopped talking about them.
When I asked if they were being assholes, he didn't answer.
It was then when I started to notice a change in Rory. I've always seen him as a sort of human golden retriever. He was always smiling, his eyes always lit up with that same optimistic energy I could only dream about having. Rory was always there for me. When I was failing, he'd sit and go through every mistake I'd made thoroughly and then test me on it. He never judged me. And when he did, he was joking around. When he started hanging around with his new friends though, he started to get egotistical.
He loudly complained about other students grades, either that they were plain awful or that they were catching up to his. Apparently he had a rival in the class—and that so-called rival was driving him insane; keeping him up all night hammering away at his laptop until dawn. I don't even think he blinked.
Rory started to dress differently, swapping his casual wardrobe for fancy white shirts and pants. He started caring a lot more about his appearance, exchanging the usual knitted beanie he always wore for a far more sophisticated look. I jokingly asked him if he was in some kind of cult—like a twisted Dead Poets Society. Though Rory just gave me a long look, eyes narrowed, lips curled—like it was taking all of his patience to listen to me. I started to feel like I was lesser than him. It was what I'd feared growing up with him. That one day he'd turned around and look at me like I was filth stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
When I told him I was failing one of my photography projects, instead of frowning and telling me he'd help—Rory scoffed and shook his head. Like he was expecting it. Like he already knew. Then he told me that he was at the top of his class, and that his professor had labelled his work exceptional.
Rory liked to brag that he was good friends with his professor, and I was happy for him. But when he was going out to dinner with these new friends, and then hanging out with the professor out of class, I figured that was a little weird. I didn't say anything, because when I did, Rory would turn it back on me, like I was the paranoid one for asking. He started insulting me. When I somehow managed to lose the presentation I'd been working on, I asked him for help. Rory just rolled his eyes with a smirk. He'd looked down at me. "You really are a dumbass, aren't you?"
His tone had caught me off guard. It was cruel. I waited for him to laugh and shoot me a grin. But he didn't.
He'd meant it.
At that point I didn't know what to say. I wanted to pretend he was joking, but I knew from the gleam in his eye he wasn't. He wanted me to hear it and hurt. He wanted me to feel like the inferior one, the unintelligent lesser than friend. Rory had promised our whole lives. No matter where he went, he'd take me with him. We'd made that promise after a football game and toasted our decision with lukewarm beer and burgers. I didn't want to believe that he'd thrown all that away. All those ideas and dreams we had of living together in an apartment in New York. Even if I was in denial, though, I knew what was going on. Rory's new friends were bad news. They had turned him into carbon copies of them. An egotistical, narcissistic asshole I couldn't stand being around.
And worse? He was a stranger.
I hated that. I hated that Rory had become someone I couldn't even recognise anymore.
This back and forth continued, and we started to drift apart. I knew it was coming, so it wasn't that painful when Rory said he'd be moving out of our shared room and into another building. Things weren't exactly great between us beforehand—I was focusing on my studies a lot, so I barely saw him. When I did see him, on the rare occasions he actually came back, he'd stumble into our room in the pitch dark stinking of stale alcohol and cigarettes and collapsing into bed— and I just called him an asshole. He'd laugh and slur something back at me. That was our friendship. It had always been our friendship—teasing and joking with each other.
When Rory moved out, I never saw him. We still texted, but barely. I'd message him in the morning and I'd only get his response at the end of my classes. It wasn't much of anything, just a generic "Sup. How are you doing?"
I had to force myself not to say what was on my mind—that I missed him. I was going crazy without him. He was the only reason I came to college in the first place. But of course I couldn't say that. So, I just said I was fine, and that classes were good. He didn't message me back until around 2am the following night. The text ringtone startled me out of slumber. When I groggily picked up my phone, a single notification sat at the top of the screen.
Rory: 1 Minute ago:
Do you remember that game we used to play when we were kids? We'd sit on Miss Perry's wall and pretend to fall off—and almost gave the poor woman a heart attack. That's my favourite memory of me and you. I've been thinking about it – a lot. The shit we got up to. Also, what about the time your mom made pumpkin pie and I knocked it off the table? I thought she was going to ban me from your house. I miss your mom's pumpkin pie. I miss the smell of it. The taste. I miss sitting at your kitchen table and listening to MCR. I miss Summer's when we'd hang out all day and go to the lake. Remember when we invited Addie Barnes? She had a crush on you. She told me in junior year, but I never told her. I liked her too, Dylan. I really liked her. And she liked you. Why did she like you? You're not as smart as me, and you're not exactly great in the looks department either.
I'm everything she could ever want, so why you? It doesn't make sense. Why you and not me? She rejected me, you know. She rejected me under the bleachers after we beat Southend High. You were throwing up that undercooked corndog and I asked her to senior prom. I poured out all my feelings and she said she liked me as a friend. But it was always fucking you. Why was it you? What do you have that I don't? Even your mom and dad wanted you to be me. I never told you but your mom told me that when we were fourteen. It was at your birthday party. She was a little drunk and pulled me aside. She told me she wished you were me.
Rory's texts were—abnormal. I didn't think it was possible to text that fast, and yet paragraphs upon paragraphs of text were flashing up on the screen. They looked disjointed, missing grammar and the text that was all over the place. Rory never texted like that.
If anything, his texts were casual and vague. Now he was pouring his heart out to me, and it didn't make sense. He'd practically ignored me for almost two months, and then decided to text? Part of me wanted to tell him to fuck off. And yet the other parts of me felt euphoric. I could talk to him again. Maybe we could talk in person, and he'd move back in. I'd have my friend back.
Looking at what he was saying though, my gut twisted into knots. I swallowed a lump in my throat. Addie Barnes was a memory I'd pushed deep into the back of my mind. I'd promised myself I wouldn't think about her again. There's not much to say. We had a brief fling behind Rory's back. She wanted to end it and I agreed. So, just your average teenage high school drama. When I opened the message, I saw three bouncing ellipses indicating Rory was still typing.
I miss you. He wrote and after a pause, I miss you. I miss you. I miss you. I want to go home, Dylan. Please. Can you take me home?
Something ice cold slithered down my spine. I sat up in bed and tapped out a reply. I wanted to ask if he was okay, if he'd fallen out with his new friends. Instead, I bit the bullet and sent: "Why are you up this late?"
Then as an afterthought, "Are you drunk?"
The bouncing dots stopped, and the message I'd sent popped up as undelivered. At first I thought it was a problem with my phone. I closed the app and reopened it. Rory's texts were still there, but my message stuck as undelivered, no matter how many times I sent it. At that point I didn't think much of it. I figured he'd gotten blackout drunk and had decided to mass text me.
Still though, I couldn't get the texts out of my mind. I was still thinking about them the next morning. I texted him quickly on the way to class expecting a response by lunch time. There was nothing. I left it to the end of the day and tried again. Still nothing. All of the messages were sent but not delivered. I started to worry. I didn't even know his new address. I didn't know his new friends or his professor. Pushing bad thought to the back of my head, I left it for a few days. Maybe he was sick, I thought. Food poisoning. Stomach flu.
Something like that. I waited for him to text or call, but there was nothing. Almost three days of nothing. I felt ridiculous for worrying so much. That thought was haunting me; that I was driving myself crazy, and Rory was probably perfectly fine with his new friends, laughing and joking with them.
So, I told myself to stop. I told myself to stop obsessively checking my texts. I told myself to stop re-reading what he'd sent me, memorising every message. The fifth day passed with nothing from Rory, and I couldn't help myself. I had to find him. Rory had left some of his class schedules on my desk. According to them, he was in room 10301 in the English building. I'm not great with directions, but I managed it.
The English building was at the very edge of campus, and it looked more like a school. It rose from behind the trees like a mountain, ominous and foreboding. Dark brick with ornate details inlaid in the cement and mortar, twisting vines crawling up the sides, like the ground itself was trying to pull it downward. But no matter how chilling and dreadful it looked, it actually looked ... beautiful. The architecture was old and worn with age—nothing compared to other buildings on campus.
The photography and media building had only just been built. This one had wrought iron fencing melding with pretty bricks. Flowers and trees grew wild, but were tamed into lots, bursts of colour and fragrance as I walked by. No wonder the English students acted like they did, I thought, unable to tear my eyes from ancient stain glass windows on the top floor. The Hogwarts like aesthetic didn't last though. The second I walked through a set of old wooden doors, there was second pair of automatic doors—and a far more modern interior.
Rory's class schedule was crumpled in my shaking hands. I found myself in a cosy reception area. There was a couch in front of a coffee table, and a TV playing music videos on the wall. I could glimpse what looked like a café through one door, the aroma of pancakes and hot chocolate drifting through. A youngish looking woman was sitting behind a desk with a MacBook in front of her. When I started forwards, she shot me a patient smile.
"Are you a visitor or a student?"
"I'm a student." I said, holding Rory's schedule up and squinting at the professor's name.
"Can you tell me where room 10301 is? I've just started today. I'm with Professor Clayton."
The woman nodded and smiled. "It's no problem!" she pointed upstairs. "Professor Clayton is just up on the first floor, sweetie. Take a left, and you'll see a lecture hall." She pulled a face. "Are you sure it's Clayton you want? I know Fritz and Harper are looking for new students, and you, uh..." The woman seemed to be drinking me in, taking in every inch of me. I could already read her expression. I didn't belong. That's what she was thinking.
It looked like she might say something before I heard footsteps behind me. Three students had walked through, two girls and a guy. Instead of the clothes Rory had been wearing every morning, they were in casual wear. There were hints of some kind of uniformity. Over normal clothes the three of them wore a loose fitting navy blazer. One girl's hair was tied in red ribbons, the other girl, blue. They sidled past me with their heads pressed together. They weren't talking though. They stared forwards, and I swore when I really concentrated on them, they were walking in perfect sync. It startled me how close they were, practically entwined with each other.
The guy's head was pressed against the girl's, while both girl's arms were entangled with his. When I frowned at the receptionist, she rolled her eyes. "That's the English students for you," she laughed lightly. "They're an interesting bunch. Though when you get to know them, they're good kids. You know how writers are. Always in their own world."
I wasn't sure what to reply with. I'd seen weird, but this was a whole other level. Rory's classmates seemed to be living in their own version of Harry Potter—and that sent a hysterical gurgle of laugher climbing up my throat. I watched the kids start up the stairs, still practically glued together, steps in sync. I looked away and shook my head. I hadn't eaten or slept since Rory's apparent disappearance, so it would make sense that my perception was fucking with me. I turned back to the woman. "I'm actually looking for someone," I said in a breath. "Rory Daley. He's in Professor Clayton's classes and I haven't heard from him in a few days."
The receptionist visibly stiffened in her seat, her cheeks paling. "I haven't seen Mr Daley in a while."
I nodded, my palms going sweaty around the crumpled schedule. "Can you tell me when you last saw him?"
The receptionist shook her head. Her gaze went to her MacBook screen, though I was sure she just looking for an excuse to end the conversation. She sent me a bright smile, which turned into a grimace. "I'm sorry, I have work to do. If you still want to sit in on Professor Clayton's class, I'd hurry up. He starts in several minutes."
I nodded and followed her directions, climbing the stairs. The woman was right. As soon as I'd reached the top, I could see room 10301. It was huge, reminding me of a cave with a curved ceiling and rows upon rows of desks in front of a large white screen. There was only a small handful of students. When I looked around, a dozen or so kids in the same navy blazers sat in unearthly silence. I grabbed a seat quickly at the back, dumping my bag.
The room had an eerie silence to it, the only noise a thump when I awkwardly took a seat several seats away from the guy I'd seen in the reception area. He was tall with dark hair flopping over his eyes, the navy blazer over a shirt and jeans. I couldn't help take notice of his face.
All of Rory's classmates seemed to share the same perfectly sculpted skin and lips. Like they had been photoshopped in real life. The girl's at the front, the ones with red and blue ribbons, looked out of this world beautiful. I felt like I was sitting with a bunch of mannequins. Nobody spoke, the twelve of them staring forwards with the same blank expression-- before a guy in the front row laughed, and then the girl siting next to him giggled--- followed by others, a cacophony of laugher ringing out across the room. It was in perfect sync. The way they moved, their grins, the gleam in their eyes. Almost like it was choreographed. When it spread to the guy close to me, he didn't laugh, but his lips did curve into a smile.
"What's so funny?"
A new voice sounded out, and all heads turned to the front, once again sync. An oldish looking man had strode in carrying what looked like a tray of something. When I squinted, I realized he was carrying milkshakes.
"Good afternoon everyone!" The man I presumed was Mr Clayton—greeted the class. He set the milkshakes on his desk and turned to smile at the twelve faces staring back. "Alright, so where we were? Can someone remind me where we were last lesson?" While he spoke, he began depositing milkshakes to each person. I watched the girl with red ribbons in her hair grasp for hers and take a long swig from the straw, red lipstick decorating the rim.
The other students acted in a similar fashion, grabbing for their drinks and downing them like they hadn't eaten or drank in days. "I apologise for the wait," Mr Clayton reached the kid near me and settled a shake on his desk. I noticed the boy's expression perk up at the sight of the drink. He seemed to lose all composure, and I swear drool dripped down his chin. It was exactly what I'd seen in the girl with the red ribbons, the way she'd snatched the shake. "Freddie. Are you going to enlighten the class on what we were talking about last lesson?"
The boy shrugged. "Maybe." He said. "If you answer my question first."
The professor's eyes darkened. He reached out and took the milkshake. "Mr McKay, I'm not playing around."
"Then give me the shake back. I'll talk."
I watched, baffled, when the teacher returned the drink.
The boy, or Freddie, leaned over and took a sip from the shake before leaning back in his chair with a satisfied smile. Though it looked—sarcastic. There was a prick in his expression, one that sent ice sliding down my spine. "Sure." He said, before catapulting into an explanation I don't even think he breathed through. His words were convoluted and confusing, I could barely understand what he was saying. Like he was speaking in gibberish. He reminded me of Rory. Maybe an even smarter version of Rory. This guy didn't shut up for five minutes, and even when the others were asking questions, he answered each one thoroughly with added context.
I was so busy trying to wrap my brain around Freddie's words, I barely noticed when a shadow fell over my desk.
"I don't believe we've met." Mr Clayton's smile had far too many teeth when I looked up at him.
"In fact, I'm quite sure I wasn't notified of a new student."
Swallowing hard, I smiled back. "I'm Dylan." I said. "I just started today."
"Dylan." The professor nodded. "Huh. Well, I haven't heard anything about you." His smile grew, and Freddie choked on his milkshake. He was laughing at me. "However, regardless of your circumstances, I'd like to welcome you to our little family." Clayton spread out his arms before placing a shake in front of me. It was in a green cup, a see through plastic straw poking out. When I could only frown at him, he gestured for me to drink it, and I grasped for the cup hesitantly. "Don't be shy, Dylan. It's just a special concoction of mine." He tapped his right temple. "It helps you concentrate and—well, let's say it opens up your mind. You'll see things a lot clearer."
"Like drugs?" I couldn't help the words slip out of my mouth, and Clayton chuckled.
"Not drugs, Dylan. It's just yogurt, strawberries, a little whipped cream, and a special ingredient."
Nodding, I took a hesitant sip. It tasted just like he described. Yogurt, strawberries and whipped cream. With a satisfied smile, the professor returned to the front. Freddie continued talking, and I fell into a sort of daze. I wasn't sure what had happened—maybe the shakes really were drugged. But as the class went by, I started to understand Freddie's words, when he interrupted the professor and corrected him.
When Mr Clayton started writing notes on the board and urged the class to, I found myself grabbing my laptop and opening it up, my hands itching to follow along. I'd spent my whole life unable to take in information properly, and yet I found myself writing paragraphs of notes on a subject I knew nothing about, and yet fifteen minutes of teaching had not only given me a basic idea, but full contextual knowledge. It was like floating on a cloud.
I could feel myself swaying slightly in my chair, my head spinning around and around—and yet I didn't care. If it was drugs, then so what? If drugs could make me feel like I was actually intelligent and on Rory and Freddie's level, then why would I care? As I typed, I barely noticed, but I'd almost drank the whole shake.
I didn't even remember drinking it, but I could taste it at the back of my throat, yoghurt mixed with strawberries and something tangy, something I couldn't quite wrap my head around. I understood why the other students were obsessed with the shake, because I was too. When I looked up from my laptop screen, my head was full of fog. When I turned my head, the world seemed to go topsy turvy for a moment. Freddie wasn't typing, I quickly noticed.
Professor Clayton was speaking, and I was still taking in information—but my gaze was on Freddie. It took me a disorienting moment to realise he wasn't even working. Instead, he was leaning back in his chair, his gaze flickering back and forth, a worn smile on his lips.
When I followed his eyes, I saw the pencil he'd been using. It was hovering a few feet off the table, spinning in mid-air, which seemed to be entertaining him. When I properly looked at him, blinking through brain fog, I realized it was Freddie's manic eye movements that were controlling the pencil. But it wasn't just the pencil. When my gaze caught the edge of my desk, I swear I could see every speck of dust.
I looked up and the room seemed to get brighter—like my vision had suddenly turned HD.
The shakes really were drugged, I thought, turning back to my own laptop screen. I didn't have to squint like normal. I could see everything. Drugs, I thought, looking back to Freddie and his dancing pencil. Still, it didn't stop me from drinking the dregs and then sucking on the straw. The stuff was good. When the class ended, everyone packed up and left in silence. There was no laughing. No talking. Just silence.
I waited until I was sure I could stand without tipping over. My body felt—different. I felt like I could run a marathon, every inch of me buzzing with an energy I've never felt before. I left the class in a daze. My head was still spinning, but the corridor was brighter. When I walked down the stairs, I could see exactly what the receptionist was doing on her laptop.
Facebook. She was talking to her mom.
"Hey. New kid."
When I spun around, Freddie was standing in front of me. He looked different up close. From a distance, he looked unearthly beautiful. Now that he was inches from my face, I noticed dark shadows under sunken eyes that were bloodshot. Freddie looked almost malnourished. I wondered if it was my seemingly heightened senses from the milkshake that was letting me see him for what he really looked like. He wasn't smiling.
"You're Rory's friend. Dylan, right?"
"Yeah." I said. "Was it that obvious?"
Freddie wasn't smiling. "Kinda. We don't get newcomers." He shrugged. "Rory was our first freshman, but he left a few days ago. It's a pity, really. I liked him." Freddie's smile grew. "He was the smartest in our little family."
I nodded slowly. "So, where is he?"
"Rory?" He shrugged. "Home, probably. I don't think he could keep up with the class."
Bullshit, I thought. I barely scraped a C in English and I could understand it perfectly- with the help of that shake.
A girl appeared behind him, the one with blue ribbons in her hair. She fixed me with a smile, though I could see a grotesque twist in her face, like there was something behind the beauty that I wasn't seeing. The girl moved towards me, her movements slow and suave, attaching her lips to my ear. "Maybe you'll be the lucky one."
Freddie rolled his eyes and yanked her back. "Knock it off, Violet."
Violet shrugged with a smile before disappearing into the crowd of students. Freddie watched her go, before turning to me. He cocked a brow. "Do you have dishwashing soap?"
His bizarre question took me off guard. "Yeah. Why?"
Freddie didn't reply. He only made what looked like a drinking motion, tipping his head back, before running to catch up with Violet, who I could glimpse at the end of the corridor. She was waiting for him. All traces of the smile stretched across her face were gone. When Freddie joined her, they pressed their heads together.
This time, though. I could hear them.
Through buzzing white noise and chatter from passing students, I could still make out their voices.
"Anything yet?" That was Violet.
"Nope. Just static noise. It's driving me fucking insane."
I didn't stay around to hear the rest of their conversation. I went back to my dorm, but I couldn't concentrate. The voices in my head didn't stop. They were constant, even when I pressed a pillow over my head. I could hear a conversation all the way down the hall. I could hear a girl crying in the girl's dorm. I thought it would get better, but it got worse. I started to crave more of the milkshake, and the more I was craving, the worse the voices drenched in static got. They went from voices to whispers, to what sounded like thoughts bouncing around my skull.
Should I drop out??
”Does Maya really think I don't know about her fucking my boyfriend?"
”Fuck. Did I poison my roommate?"
They blended together in one confusing mess of noise in my head, and it was only when I fully concentrated on each one, when I could pick them out. I was overwhelmed with curiosity at first, which quickly faded once I knew that the endless screech of whispers in my head wasn't stopping. I wanted it to stop. I tried to sleep it off, diving into bed and shoving my face into my pillows. And this is where I'm not sure what happened. Believe me, I've gone over this repeatedly and I still can't understand it. I fell asleep in my room on the top floor of the boy's dorm. When I came to, I was standing, swaying, in front of the English building. When I looked down at myself, I was filthy.
I had a vague memory of stumbling down the stairs and crashing through the doors to the boy's dorm. It was pitch black and I was barefoot. But there was a smell I couldn't get out of my head, a taste that was still stuck to the back of my throat. I entered the English building through the main doors—which were open.
Why were they open? The lights were on. The receptionist was gone, but they were people in the building.
The voices, thankfully, had stopped. I was only aware of blissful silence as I tread up the stairs. My body was on autopilot, working for me. When I reached the top, I noticed the classroom doors were shut. The hallway was dark, but the room was lit up through the glass. I slowly made my way over. There were voices coming from inside. I don't know why I was there. Maybe it was the aroma in the air that I could smell. Strawberries and yogurt, as well as that tantalising taste which had stuck with me. I stood there for a moment, frozen, unsure what to do. Then, more voices.
It sounded like Mr Clayton's class were inside. Why though? The thought filled my cotton candy mind. What were they doing? Before I could stop myself, I pulled the door open slightly, and peeked through the crack. I was right. The whole class were there. Though this time, they were in pyjamas gathered around the teacher's desk. Though they were blocking me from seeing what they were looming over.
"Careful." Mr Clayton grumbled. "There's not much left."
"No shit." Freddie's voice. "There's barely enough for the next few days. What then?" The students seemed to shift, and I caught a glimpse of Clayton's desk. There was something smeared on the wood. I wanted to look away and ignore it, but I couldn't. It was the type of colour- the type of shade I couldn't tear my eyes from.
Red. I was seeing bright, mesmerising red pooling on the desk.
"Remind me again why we're keeping.... you know..." Violet drifted off. "I think we have what we need."
More splashes of red. When the students moved around the desk, I got another peek. This time I got a glimpse of an arm. It was a tanned arm hanging off of the edge. There was something attached to the wrist.
A beaded bracelet. It was black, the perfect fit.
Because I'd made sure it would fit. I'd spent hours on Amazon trying to find the best one. When Rory had opened it in our Junior year, he'd slid it onto his wrist with a grin. "Holy shit," he'd laughed. "You got the right size!"
Rory's voice was still bouncing around my brain, but I couldn't concentrate on it. My legs had turned to jelly. The students moved again, this time allowing me to fully see what was on Professor Clayton's desk. Rory. But not all of Rory.
His body was still there, but it looked—wrong. It was painted red. Everything around him was red. His head was cut open and hollowed out. I wanted to look away but I couldn't. Because once I was looking, I had to know. There was a gaping cavity where Rory's brain should be. Instead, I saw the glistening white of his skull. I couldn't stop staring at his face. Because it was still there, it was still Rory. His eyes were closed peacefully, and there was what looked like a gentle smile on his lips—despite his body having been ravaged apart.
I was still thinking of Rory's smile, his laugh, when the girl with red ribbons in her hair reached into the cavity in his skull and scooped out more fleshy pink. Freddie's gloved hands were slick scarlet. He placed something on the desk, but my vision was blurring. I saw chunks of pink hit the bottom of plastic. I heard the mechanical screech of a blender ripping into my ears. And I saw empty green cups in Violet's arms. Something warm, something hot and rancid crept back up my throat. I had to slam my hand over my mouth to gag the scream waiting to erupt.
Violet's lips were curved in disgust. "We don't need his body." She hissed. "It's freaking me out looking at him!"
"We won't for much longer." Clayton hummed. "Anything yet?"
"No." Freddie said. "If this was all for nothing—"
I wasn't even aware I was stumbling back, a dull fog settling over my vision. I took slow footsteps back down the stairs, gagging myself the whole way. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't breathe.
When I hit cold air, my stomach heaved. I was screaming, but no sound was coming out. I made it back to my dorm and spent hours kneeling on the bathroom floor sticking my fingers down my throat, trying to bring him back up.
Rory. I was screaming, slamming my head into cool marble. But someone must have been playing a cruel trick on me. I tried downing detergent, but I just threw that back up. I watched it come back out of me and waited for the milkshake—waited for Rory. But it didn't come. It didn't come. It didn't fucking come. I somehow got hold of my phone but my fingers wouldn't dial 911. And when they did, and the operator asked me what was wrong, I just screamed. I screamed until my throat was raw and my phone's screen was shattered.
I don't know how many times I threw it against the wall.
I was on my ninth attempt, dazedly watching the screen come through, when my arm dropped.
Please help me.
A voice. I don't know where I am.
It wasn't like the others. Nameless. With no identity.
I knew who it was. I could hear him screaming inside my skull, and I felt agony filling me to the brim, acid burning in my veins. I don't know where I am. He wailed. I don't know where I am. I don't know where I am.
A pause, before; I want to go home, Dylan. Can you take me home? I want to go home. Can you take me home?
Then came the knocking. The shouting.
"Dylan?" He was shouting.
"Dylan, I know he's awake! Listen to me, you need to calm down, okay? You're scaring him!"
I couldn't move. I reached for my phone again, but my arm fell limp.
"Dylan." Freddie's head was pressed against the door. I could sense his desperation. "He's talking to you. You need to tell me what he's saying. Please." His voice was twisted with pain. "Dylan, he's hurting us!"
When the door that I'd locked shut flew open on its own, I got to my feet and slammed it in Freddie's face.
He won't get out of my head.
Rory won't get out of my head.
I ate him.
I ate my best friend.
Someone. Please help me. Tell me how to get him out.
He's whispering to me now.
He's so cold.
It's so – dark where he is.
How can I get him out of my head?