Chapter One

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I'm standing in the hallway, books in hand, pushing my way to my next class. I don't remember which class it is, just that it's at the end of this long hallway. Classmates are all around me, talking, opening lockers, laughing, making their way to class. I know quite a few of them, no one looks like they don't belong. Here comes Fredo Ricardo, my best friend, just getting out of Algebra. I've known him since he first moved here from Puerto Rico seven years ago. Even though we're in the same grade, he's a year older than I am, just like all the rest of the juniors in our school. He walks by, slapping me on the back, nodding hello, and rushing to his next class. I catch just the slightest whiff of the draft he creates walking by. That's when it happens... again. His mind opens up within mine.

"oh, it's tommy. i wonder how that english 3 test went? i forgot to study last night, and he never seems to have to. i'll make sure i ask him at lunch, and if he still..."

Then I breathe again, and his endless prattle is gone. I'm luckily alone in my head again. The sudden invasion of his thoughts into mine had stopped me for a moment, leaving me startled, but class still awaits me. I push on, wanting to get to class as quickly as I can. I bump into Mary Heise, the student aide in my Algebra class. I am not expecting it to happen again so soon, usually it happens only once or twice a day, but her perfume, and something under it, attacks my nostrils.

"...one more time i'll... damn it! can't these stupid underclassmen watch where they're going?... but if mr. wright tries that again during our "tutoring lesson" i don't know how i'll push him off this..."

I stumble through a doorway on my left, into the empty Biology lab and take a deep breath. I decide to wait here for the crowd to thin out and to give myself a chance to calm down before I go to class. I wish I could have a cigarette right now, but I left them in the glove box so I wouldn't get caught with them. I might be able to sneak out and grab one real quick...

The late bell rings and I'm snapped back to whenever now is. I look at my books and realize it's my psychology class with Locke that I'm going to. That's ironic, because I feel like I'm going crazy. I stick my head out and see the hallway is almost empty now, with only Mr. Feeney, the janitor, sweeping up the usual mess that teenagers, rushing to class, leave in their wake. I head in his direction, towards class, and try to give him as much space as possible, so as not to have a repeat of earlier. His work seems to take him directly in to my path, and I try to hold my breath as I go by, but to no avail. My brain almost splits in the strongest attack of foreign thoughts yet, as an odor only I can smell seeks to drive me mad.

"...amn kids think they know everything. hehehe, if only they did, they wouldn't be so easy to pick off. it's been at least two years since i had any from around here, and i'm getting tired of the homeless bums and hookers in atlanta. they're not as clean and tasty as the little punks here. the last one was great and screamed for two days before i got hungry enough to kill 'er. i haven't eaten in two months now, and its just about time..."

This time images of horror, rape, and murder rip through me along with overwhelming feelings of hate, violence, and mad glee. I fall heavily to the ground as these purely alien thoughts ravage my consciousness. As I scramble to get up, I feel a hand on my shoulder, helping me up. There is no doubt to who it is, as I can hear him asking me if I'm alright.

My mind is screaming at me not to turn around, to run, but my body refuses to cooperate and my gaze slowly turns to focus on Mr. Feeney behind me. I first see an impossibly hairy and huge hand, topped with three-inch long razor talons, grasping my shoulder. My eyes trace the path of his arm to a face that couldn't be a face, but a glistening maw with eyes above it and a dog-like nose on the end. I know I am truly staring into the mouth of madness. This thing is wearing Mr. Feeney's coveralls and hat, asking me what I slipped on, with Mr. Feeney's voice. I can only scream...


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