1 2 3 4 5 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Personally, I always thought that Groundhog Day was scary not humorous.

Ye olde table of contents:

1. Drysdale, Kira and Company, Repetition, the Great Outdoors
2. Kira alone, History, Crying, the West Hall, the Honorable Locker War
3. Repetitions, Mural, Somba
4. Christiana, Nadia, Kira Kuriah, Dead cold failure
5. Rigor, Songs, Flicker, Roam
6. Final

Chapter One

The town was built around a cross road in the desert. It was a place that existed for no discernable reason except maybe as a suburban retreat many miles away from the City. It wasn’t by a highway or river, there wasn’t a railway, it didn’t grow up around a mine, and there wasn’t even a factory to anchor the place there. It was a strange driving down the dusty dirt road and to top a hill and suddenly see this suburban utopia sitting like a giant emerald in the middle of the desert. It didn’t look like it belonged there. You could scratch your head wondering if it was really there at all, or if it was just a mirage cooked up by a brain that had spent to long in the sun. But it was there and the desert’s powers of dry death seemed to stop at the start of the lawns, each unnaturally green; though this might be because of the recent rain fall.

As unnatural as the town looked out in the middle of nowhere, the rain was even stranger. Over the last six days the town had received several inches of rain and this was the first day that it had stopped and the sun actually had come out. The desert plants had benefited and the large yuccas and prickly pears were leaning toward the town as if to invade the moment the residents let their guard down.

Puddles shown on the large sidewalks and roads as bright glints of light, almost gelatinous in their radiance as the sun’s light shown off of them on this late August morning. There was a chill in the air but as the sun rose higher the heat would drive away all evidence of last night’s downpour. The temperature might reach ninety or even a hundred.

Standing on the top of a cinderblock fence an old roadrunner watched three teenage girls with backpacks coming up the walk jumping over the large puddles, rounding the medium, and breaking apart the small with their shoes.

The middle girl was a devastatingly cute black girl with the most agreeable umber skin and hair, bright eyes, and white straight teeth.

The girl to her right was redheaded and pale. The girl to her left had golden tan skin and dark hair with a single streak of gold in it. Their names from right to left were Jamie Green, Kira Nightingale, and Brook Trujillo.

Brook knew the roadrunner and waved at him, calling, “How’s it going Papa Gris?”

The roadrunner cocked his head at her but stood still except for his tail bobbing up and down.

“Papa Gris?” Kira said tilting her own head at the bird so that her hair swung down into her face. She straightened and looked at Brook. “Friend of yours?”

“Yep,” Brook said. “He’s the oldest roadrunner in the entire town.”

“He looks like it,” Jamie said pushing red strands from her own face.

“Looks like he’s been through roadrunner war,” Kira said. “Look at his leg. Looks like it was broken.”

The leg did look like it had gone through trauma. It was bent in an odd way and looked like it had healed poorly.

“Roadrunner war?” Brook said turning to Kira. “Mrs. Aniya says humans are the only animals that have wars.”

“Lies,” Jamie said stepping over an extremely nasty puddle filled with a few earthworms and slugs. “Ants have wars.”

“Ants aren’t animals,” Brook said.

“What? Are too,” Jamie retorted. “What else would they be?”

Brook was almost going to respond but couldn’t think of anything to say, so she simply waved at Papa Gris as they passed him. He stoically watched them go.

Kira adjusted her jacket and then her backpack straps. She was always fussing with the jacket because it bunched up when she threw on the backpack. It was uncomfortable.

“How do you stand wearing your backpack so high?” Jamie asked.

“Better a high backpack now then lower back problems later,” Kira said as if she were reciting an old bit of wisdom.

Humbug,” Jamie said lightly.

“Wait till you’re forty,” Kira said. “You’ll be bent over double and you’ll be like, ‘Shit, she was right’.”

Brook laughed, “Better having a bad back than being an uncool dweebanaut.”

“Pah,” Kira said. “I’m black so whatever I do is cool— whoa! puddle!—,” here she jumped. “I could be playing Dungeon and Dragons, wearing a pocket protector and flip-flops, coke bottle glasses covered in dandrufff, and have hair from 1982 and I’d still be cool. I could pick my nose and I’d be cool.”

“You were cool jumping over that puddle,” Jamie said.

“Except for the expression,” Brook nodded.

“And the way your legs spazzed out, sort of scissor-like,” Jamie said demonstrating with her arms.

“Shhh,” Kira said. “Don’t tell anybody. I’ve got an image to protect.”

They had reached a small intersection (there were no cars) and met up with two other girls, Chelsea and Nadia.

Chelsea was a tall girl with brownish-blonde hair and rimless glasses. She carried herself in a way that suggested an aloof and airy attitude, but she didn’t come off as snotty or stuck-up.

Her friend, Nadia, was much shorter and had dark brown hair. She was carrying her backpack; a strap had broken.

“Hello,” Kira said as airily as she could, closing matching Chelsea’s way of speaking. “I was just telling everyone how cool I am. Would you like to hear how cool I am?”

“Not particularly,” Chelsea said. “I’m more interested in what you think of the new kid.”

“The dentist’s kid,” Nadia said as then continued walking.

“He’s hot,” Brook said.

“He’s kinda strange,” Jamie said.

Strange can be cool,” Nadia ventured.

“Strange can chop you up into little bits,” Chelsea said.

“ ‘Cause you’re the most normal!” Nadia said.

“Girls!” Kira said. “There is only one way to solve this debate.”

She sped up and turned to face them several paces ahead.

“One of us must ask him out on a date!” she pointed skyward.

They stared at her.

“Take him out where?” Chelsea asked. “There’s no restaurants or movie theaters or anything else here.”

“You could take him to Grove,” Kira said.

The girls tittered. Chelsea raised an eyebrow, “You suggested it. Why don’t you take him to the Grove?”

“Because I’m a lady,” Kira said falling back into line.

“And every lady should have a man to take to cottonwood groves,” Jamie said.

Male chauvinist propaganda,” Kira said. “Besides Chelsea’s the one with the crush.”

They turned a corner and the school came into view. It was built on a utilitarian over aesthetic mindset and was ugly and low on windows. It had a single parking lot far too large for it and a baseball field far too small. They crossed the baseball field and passed other students, often they said, “Hi.”

“So, are you going to ask him to the prom?” Jamie asked.

“I don’t know,” Chelsea said. “I’m afraid Rob will be hurt if I don’t go with him this year.”

“Just dump him,” Brook said.

“I can’t do that,” Chelsea said. “That would hurt him even more. I should though… Well, see y’all.”

“See you. Bye Nadia,” Kira said as the two peeled away toward the science building.

“Chelsea’s a bitch,” Brook said pushing the door open to the main building. Inside were a few students. It could be said Kira’s group had a problem with time, but it would be more accurate to state that they took their time; they were always late.

Kira knew most of the students that were in the hall: There was Robert Collin, Chelsea’s boyfriend talking with Sam Maestas, a stocky kid in a football jersey; Kimberly Actin flirting with Sean Shea, both a storm of grins; Karen McLloyd not talking to anybody, just shoving books into her locker angrily as if she wanted them gone, never to return; and a few others.

“I like Chelsea,” Kira said. “She’s so dry, it’s hilarious.”

“She thinks she’s better than everyone else,” Brook said.

“Maybe she is,” Kira said.

“You shouldn’t talk shit about her,” Jamie said. “When she fought Jennifer she beat the crap out of her.”

“I’m not going to fight her,” Brook said with a look of horror.

They came to Kira’s locker and Brook left for her own while Jamie leaned against the wall.

“Does it seem different here today?” she asked Kira.

“What do you mean?” Kira asked.

“It’s darker,” Jamie said looking up at the windows far above.

Kira glanced up, “Well, it’s overcast.”

“But it’s not,” Jamie said. “It’s sunny outside.”

Kira thought about it.

“Probably just a passing cloud,” she said. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Jamie said. “Maybe I’m just nervous about the history test. I didn’t study.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Kira said.

“Okay, okay,” Jamie said. “I won’t. I’ll see you in class.”

“See you,” Kira said and watched her go.

Shutting her own locker, she listened to the ambient sound. Two girls a few lockers down were talking.

“And he took off his pants and I said ‘No.’ Like he expected some with my parents downstairs!”

Kira dropped her backpack on the floor and leaned on her locker. The bell was about to ring. She tapped her foot. Jamie was right, the hall was dark.

The girl kept talking and Kira recognized her and her friend, Clara and Jessica.

“What a dick,” Jessica said.

“I know,” Clara said.

Kira tried to remember their last names. She had Jessica in P.E. her freshman year and Clara might have been in an art class or two

“So, I pushed him away and told him to fuck off and called him a bastard,” Clara continued.

“Good for you.”

Kira frowned. Karen McLloyd was staring at her locker now and looked furious. Kira crossed the short distance and tentatively said, “Karen?”

Karen snapped around, “What do you want?”

Kira raised her hands, “Nothing. I thought you might need some help.”

“With what?”

Kira stepped back, the other girl’s eyes blazed with anger.

“I thought you might need some help with your locker,” she said.

“I don’t,” Karen said turning her back.

Irked, Kira went back for her backpack. Clara and Jessica were still talking.

“What a dick!”

“I know. So I pushed him away and told him to fuck off and called him a bastard.”

“Good for you.”

Kira frowned and turned to look at them. Clara was standing with her back to Kira and one arm in her locker. Jessica was brushing her hair out of her face.

“If he doesn’t want to wait he can date a whore,” Jessica said.

Kira turned in place and looked at Karen. She was still looking into the locker. Unnerved Kira crossed the short distance and tentatively said, “Karen?”

Karen snapped around. “What do you want?”

Kira’s gut did a funny twist and she looked back at Jessica and Clara.

What do you want?” Karen growled.

“Didn’t I just speak to you?” Kira asked.

“No,” Karen said.

“Well, never mind then,” Kira said and walked back to her locker.

“What a dick,” Jessica said.

Kira’s jaw dropped. She swooned into her locker and rested heavily against it.

“I know,” Clara said. “So, I pushed him away and—.”

Kira backed up. The two girls continued talking and Kira continued to back up until she reached where the south hall formed a T with the west hall. She stopped here because the two talking girls had become invisible; she could see the lockers, she couldn’t see them. She realized that she was alone in the hall and that it was very dark.

Panicking, she rushed back to her locker and the girls were still there and still talking. She couldn’t say exactly when they had come back into being, the fade was so gradual, but by the time she reached her locker they where there again as solid as herself.

“What a dick!”

“Who’s a dick?” Kira asked walking toward them.

They turned.

“None of your business,” Jessica said.

“Hey,” Kira said raising her hands. “I was just curious.”

She stopped a passing junior.

“How long until the bell?” she asked him.

The junior, a small kid with sandy air, looked at his watch: “Two minutes.”

“Thanks,” she said. “Does it seem a little dark to you?”

“It’s overcast,” the kid said.

Clara and Jessica, who had watched her go and perhaps though that there was something unusual about the way she carried herself, approached. They were more careful about their approach then they otherwise might. Kira looked a bit unsteady on her feet.

“Are you all right?” Clara asked.

“I’m fine,” Kira lied. The words were tough to say. It was like her chest was being crushed.

She walked away from them, they followed.

“Kira,” Jessica said voice filling with alarm. “Kira, you look— What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, nothing,” Kira said turning and backing away. “You stay there.”

Both girls looked concerned but they were already fading. Kira could see the hall behind them through their heads.

“Kira you—.” Clara said.

Kira took a step too many and both girls disappeared as if a curtain had been dropped over them.

Kira sunk to the floor and scooted back until she hit a wall. She gasped for breath. The silence of the empty school yawned at her. Every ragged breath she took echoed back. The lights weren’t on in the hall and they should have been, but she couldn’t remember if they had been on when she first came in. Jamie had said the hall seemed darker but she would have noticed if the lights were off. In fact, if the lights were off then the hall should be even darker than it was. She looked up at the cylindrical bulbs above her. They were definitely off, but why then could she still see?

Calm under pressure,” she whispered. She usually said this during hard tests, but the words didn’t seem to carry the same weight. The words echoed back to her.

She stood up on weak legs and noticed that her hands were shaking. She tried to steady them but they wouldn’t stop and then she had to vomit.

She stumble toward the restrooms but couldn’t get very far because she became too afraid to continue down the dark hall. So, she just leaned over and yarked on the floor, losing bacon and eggs and a bit of toast with butter and some chocolate whole milk because orange juice made her sick. She got splatter on her shoes and she was glad for the rain because she would have been wearing sandals otherwise.

Feeling weak, but still better, she tilted away from the mess that was now dominating the east wall and went back to the south hall and her locker, hating how her footsteps echoed.

“What a dick!”

Kira walked past them to the school door. She couldn’t stay in the hall, she would go mad. Escape was necessary. At home she could think of a way to get out of this mess.

She threw open the door and stopped aghast. The world was mind bending. The concrete sparkled and the variations on its surface seemed to burrow around in it like over active worms. Trees and plants seemed to blow about as if by strong winds, their limbs describing circles in the air. The light from the sky wasn’t like anything she had every seen before, it was an absolute neutral gray and it sapped the world of color. She could see stars in the sky shifting their positions and colors as if they couldn’t make up their minds as to where and what they wanted to be.

Kira screamed and fled back to her locker and then beyond it, throwing open a classroom door and collapsing in one of the desks.

This is part of a longer story that I plan to publish periodically on E2, this first chapter is an entry for Fear Quest 2006. The rest will be put up once I edit and format them. Don’t expect them soon. Maybe I’ll wait until the 2007 Fear Quest. That’s not likely as I’m likely to get impatient before then…

All names and characters are fictional… meh.


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