Thursday, July 21, 2011
Roughly one hundred binary bells rang in a synchronized cacophony that signaled, at that time, the release of the internal springs of four thousand students. Boredom had acted to counterbalance their internal drive, priming them for outward motion. Their effects were bagged and their eyes watched clocks mounted on walls, phones, and wrists until that clarion call to the lunch room rang, and they finally filed out to follow the sirens song of what little freedom they had in the day.
One young woman with black hair cut no-maintenance short shouldered her backpack as she grew eager to replace the biting, moldy scent of trivial minutiae with the heady aroma of fried foods and sugary sweets. Her classmates rose as a hostile, antsy wave and choked the door out of her classroom. She pulled out her cell phone to distract herself from her stomach turning itself inside out from lack of nourishment. It was a poor distraction, and turned into an avenue of expression as her hunger seized control of her fingers.
'marc, get me 2 slices pepproni will pay u bak'
The clog budged, and progress was being made into that long circus. She capitalized further on the sloth of those in front of her.
'lin where r we meeting?'
She looked ahead and clacked closed her phone as her class picked up speed. She followed through and became swept up into the pulse of the arterial hallway. She could have picked up her feet and just drifted to the lunch hall were there any buoyancy to be had in the human stream. Her cell buzzed, demanding her attention, which she indulged quickly.
'Outside, center court. See you soon.'
Soon, but not soon enough by her measure. She had just passed into the blinding solar glare as her limbs started to feel hollow. Her jaw clenched, ready to snap off someone's head. She scanned for suitable prey and found the first member of her pack lounging at their table. She drifted over the looping, symmetrical pattern of pavement in the court.
“Handy dandy Randy. What's up?” she asked, taking the seat directly in front of her, opposite Randy. He rested his chin on his hands, fingers brushing the scalp stubble behind his temples. “Nothing much, mean clean Jean.”
She leaned over, then fell, onto the metal grid table. She rolled her head to the side as she spoke. “Mean? I don't think I'm mean.”
“Yes, you are Jean. Not often. But it's cool.” She remained still, reserving her energy for talking and keeping herself from eating the furniture. She suddenly felt significantly less clean as she realized what she was rubbing her face all over. She could almost hear the millions of cheering microbes thankful for a new home.
She pushed herself off the table as she continued talking. “Have you seen Marcus today? I texted him to get me pizza. I offered to pay him back with hot, sweaty bathroom sex and he's standing me up. Maybe he's gay.”
Randy's hands dropped into a fold as his face turned furtive. “If he's not, he will be. You've heard what happened, right?”
Jean's brow furrowed in curious confusion. “Why so serious? What happened, did he get an ultra butch muscleman stalker or something?”
She almost ignored the steps growing louder behind her before their origin spoke. “I sent you a message on [a widely used social networking site]. Didn't you read it?” Jean leaned back, body and head. A stranger was behind her, but seconds revealed features similar to those belonging to her friend Linda. They were obscured by the Clonifornian beauty standard, but Jean decided to run with the conversation anyway. “Apparently not. What's Marc's deal?”
Clonifornian maybe-Linda took the seat beside them both, setting down a tray populated by food in portions only fit to nourish the starving. Jean eyed her plate jealously. “Where's your food?”
“Marcus was supposed to get it, but since some mysterious event occurred he apparently isn't. What the fuck happened?”
“God, calm down. He got busted for possession and distribution, I think? Drug stuff.” Jean's eyes narrowed. “Bullshit. How do you know?” Maybe-Linda took a bite of celery before continuing, but was preempted by Randy. “His mom's been calling our parents, trying to find one of us to put the blame on. She even called the cops. I was questioned, locker searched, everything. So was Linda,” he finished by motioning towards her. “Nice tan by the way.”
“Yeah, I was taken to the campus cop office too. And thanks,” confirmed-Linda replied. “You haven't yet?” Jean shrugged, hands up. “Nope. But drugs? And Marcus? Why would he need to have drugs? Why would he want drugs? Dude has a cushy fucking life, always has bleeding edge tech. What more could he want?”
Randy sighed and shook his head. “I don't know man. I really don't. I hope he gets off easy for being a minor and it being a first offense, but I doubt it.”
“Yeah. God Jean, stop looking at my food and get your own, the lines are not that bad,” said Linda as she inched her tray away from Jean's advancing hand. “Oh fine. I'll be right back, unless I'm stopped by the S.S. For not wearing my yellow star.”
She left for the cafeteria, a measure of strength returning to her body as the promise of food became increasingly tangible. She passed through the open double-doors as her phone began to vibrate. She pulled it out as she found a place in line. 'Mom' was read on the small rectangular screen.
“I'm not doing drugs, mom,” she answered.
“That's wonderful, daughter. I'm going to have to travel for the weekend, but Victor is going to be at home. Is there anything you want from [a pretentious grocery store]?”
Jean felt black tendrils of fear flood her body and constrict her organs. Her joints flash froze and began to shake apart as the words broke through her skull. Memory and possibility wrapped around each other in a double helix of dread. Her throat seized, and the line progressed without her. She stood, alone in every conceivable way for reasons that tried to make themselves known to her.
“No,” she wanted to scream, but only whispered.