H, E, Double L, O! That's the way we spell hello HELLO! From up above to down below we say hello!
"More lights," radioed Brad Kwan. "Try five and six."
Chelsea brought up the lights. "It's like we're mission control," she said. Grade Nine, and they were established in the Booth, surrounded by old and new tech. To one side of the lighting board an old Atari monitor sat atop an older TV; resting on the Atari were a plastic sword and an AOL disc from 1997, a Lord of the Rings goblet, and an unidentified remote control. An oblong window gave an angel's view of the auditorium. On the stage, the cheerleaders pranced. Patti and Chelsea played the music, a mix with dead spots where the cheerleaders cheered: From up above to down below we say hello! Strictly speaking, Patti and Chelsea were up above and looking down, though perhaps the cheerleaders thought differently.
"They got over Rachel's death, I see," said Patti. "They were all acting like she was their bestest bff." Chelsea reached over, tapped the keyboard and brought up Rachel's Tribute Page. A student had been killed, and now her mysterious Killer lurked everywhere, in the town’s few alleys, wandering the shore at night, haunting the woods of Hillside Park. National news picked up the small town tale, and someone created the obligatory Facebook Tribute Page, where people who didn’t even know Rachel posted sorrowful syrup and pleas for justice and prayers of remembrance. She and Chelsea had known Rachel, a little: Chelsea maybe a little more.
The monitor lit their faces. A new message appeared at the Facebook Tribute, a drop of blood: Spoiled little ho gets killed giving bjs. Suddenly shes a femanazi heroine?
They stared a moment.
"RIPtroll," said Patti.
"Sick bastard. Oh! What if it's the Killer?"
Patti grimaced and they clicked through the name. The account belonged to one Tony Teerden. His photo was old black and white, a derelict found wandering Google images.
Brad's voice came over the system: "Music!" He stood in front of the stage now. His red-framed specs were visible, even from up above. Chelsea waved. Patti looked over at her friend and raised an eyebrow.
More flips and backflips, cartwheels and turns. We don't need no music! We don't need no band! All we need is Rose Point, jammin' in the stands! Jammin' in the stands! We’re from the Point and we be jammin' in the stands!
Patti snorted. "We be jammin'?"
"They be gangsta, yo."
"Drive-bys around here would be from a tractor." She regretted saying it right away. Chelsea's eyes hid sadness behind purple-tinted lenses.
The cheerleaders continued to bounce about the stage. They performed with the precision and freedom that came with bodies that behaved as the brain directed. The school wanted, after these dark weeks, the return of their small town, a place a Killer wasn't still creeping about.
Chelsea stared at the Tribute Page. And Patti said, "Let's have some fun with this douchebag." Patti tapped away, created a new account using a sockpuppet e-mail. They found a saucer-eyed Manga image for the Face. She was now Terri Teerden. Really, she sent to Tony. All that time alone in your parents' basement, and that's the best you can think of? And "bjs?" Seriously? You ten years old? A hiccup of a laugh from Chelsea.
The RIPtroller's post unleashed speculation, a new wave of unfounded rumors. Police weren't ruling out anything, and the settings for Rachel’s Tribute Page were changed, so that comments had to be approved. Facebook cancelled Tony Teerden's account, but not before he'd sent Terri a reply, an obscenity-filled request that she STFU; if he wanted her opinion, he'd tell her what it should be. Patti smiled and pinged the message. She got the IP and a service provider. Well, she thought. Her little worm lived down the shore in Lambton County.
She told Chelsea, but as a pair they took the matter no further. Chelsea was percolating over her upcoming dinner with Brad's family. Patti found Brad overly fawning, but Chelsea was even perkier than usual, bouncy-stepped in pink sneakers. She and Brad made a cute couple, until the spring, when they settled back into friendship. Through it all, they remained Tech Club. Only rarely, that first year of high school, did Patti feel truly alone.
Kirt's chance comes soon. The volunteer who runs St. LARP's website will be retiring to a condo in the Keys. "Now I know you'll probably be angry," says his ma, "but it's not like I committed you to it. I just mentioned that you do IT work. And you seemed to enjoy the variety show."
"You know what, ma? Maybe I will."
"Oh. Well. You know, dear, it might get you meeting people."
"Don't push it, ma. I already know enough old ladies."
"We're not all old ladies. I'm just saying, keep an open mind."
An open mind, Kirt tells himself, is the one thing he has.
Two years earlier he purchased a camera pen. In the warm seasons he heads up the Lake Huron shore, sits in public places, at tree-shaded benches or dockside patios, pretending to be some old-school poet or compulsive journal-scribbler. He shares the better shots at his site. A good many of his captures are in their early teens, and why not? Girls used to marry at that age.
Now he returns to the same shop with its window-blacked storefront. His new purchase has a removable harddrive and a timer. He pays in cash.
Kimberley comes to mind, for the first time in months. He wishes this tech existed when he knew her. What if he could send it back, through some wormhole, to his fourteen-year-old self? No one would know it existed, so no one could suspect, not her friends, giggling in the changerooms, or Kimberley herself, gymnastically fucking her idiot thug of a boyfriend.
He keeps his appointment, after work Wednesday, with the shiny, enthusiastic young pastor of St. LARP's. They meet under a high-arched ceiling and stained glass, by the flatscreen patched in from a newer tradition. Kirt tells him how much he enjoyed the variety show.
"It was good, wasn’t it? I wanted to hold it up here, maybe use the new screen a bit. The old ladies overruled me. Washroom and kitchen access. Mostly, though, I think they want the spaces separate. Come on down to my office, Kirt. We'll get a coffee." The Minister shows him the website. Kirt plays all the cards in a stacked deck. He's been IT for years. The company does printing and graphic design so, while, no, he isn't an artist, he can certainly change the visual if the church wants. And, he adds, he hasn’t been a church-goer for years, but he’s come to realize he's been missing something in his life. "I see," says the pastor, predatory gleam in his eyes. Sensing he may have invited a discussion, Kirt asks to use the washroom.
Once he's in the basement hall, he closes the door to the men's, and then crosses to the women's. He looks once more at the grate. He twists his screwdriver to the right setting, and turns the screws.
Subterranean footsteps echo down the hall. He waits and the sound passes. Each creak and shift of the old place unmans him, and he hates his fear.
He screws the grate back in place.
sweetiepet: I don’t know what it was like for you. I get lonely at school. My best friend’s seeing someone. She makes friends easier than I do. So I don’t see her as much.
Magus: What about her new bf?
sweetiepet: Gf. Bff likes girls. No, not *me*
Magus: Srsly? You hang with a lesbiette? You been holding out on us.
sweetiepet: Zip up your fly, Magus! No, look. Things got bad. You don't wanna hear.
Magus: Try me.
sweetiepet: What? You're just gonna post what I say for teh lulz.
Magus: WHat? How long we been talking together?
sweetiepet: Sorry. It's just, her gf's a total girl-jock. Afraid I'm going to out her to her friends, which Im totally not gonna do. Not like that even matters anymore. So her gf basically threatens to kick the crap out of me if I say anything. And my friend does nothing. NOTHING!
sweetiepet: Meanest thing on earth is the teenage girl.
Magus: I know they didn't make my life fun.
sweetiepet: Has there ever been a girl school shooter?
Magus: Your joking now, right?
sweetiepet: Relax. Listen, life's just shitty right now. Don’t worry. Im not gonna go all attention whore and suicide. Become a joke at places like this one. I feel like this is the only place I belong.
Magus: You'll get thru this.
sweetiepet: Feel sometimes like I’m in some bad American tv show about nerds n jocks.
Magus: Youre not American?
sweetiepet: Canadian, eh?
Magus: Srsly? Me too.
sweetiepet: Huron shores.
Magus: I'm nearby. WTF, eh?
Magus: It's fate.
sweetiepet: Where Huron? Georgian Bay? Gold coast?
sweetiepet: WTF. We're almost neighbours.
Magus: Fate, sweetiepet.
sweetiepet: You think?