I watch from the bench I'm sitting on as my classmates chat away with each other. They're whispering, gossiping quietly to themselves. No one's telling me anything. But I already know what they're talking about. And it's not just me, who'd know. Every person walking past randomly – like the teachers – would easily guess what they are talking about.
"So, who do you think is gone this time?"
"I don't know, man. But I'm just glad it's not someone I know!"
"How many have died in total? Do you have an idea?"
"Honestly, I've lost count!"
"Who do you think is the killer?"
"Do you think we should just leave this wrecked place?"
"I don't mind it…at least this place is getting some fame!"
"Oh yeah, what if you're next?"
"Shut up, you idiot!"
"Why doesn't anyone do anything about it though? I mean if this keeps on happening, then this town will pretty much end!"
I stay silent listening to all of them babble when I realize that the last question was directed at me.
I look up to see Matt, standing there with a frown on his face. His brown eyes shooting questions all over at me.
I shrug. "I think no one cares about this place.
"Well, that's obvious!" Matt huffs, kicking at dirt as he sits next to me, "But why? Why aren't the police caring about all these disappearances?"
I had thought about that way before any one knew this kind of thing can happen.
I look at him, "Why would the police care? This place is basically trashed with criminals and frauds, the way I see it, this 'killer' is technically doing their job for them. I mean, so what? At least this guy is making it easier for us!"
Matt shakes his head, ruffling irritatingly at his shaggy blonde hair which were flowing in the wind. "Nah, man. You don't mean that."
Í sigh, "No, I don't…but they do."
Matthew Park, Matt. I've none the guy for over two years now. And all those times, he's the one with the most questions. He's the one who's drawn towards the answers. Unlike the rest, he doesn't talk about this just for some chilling fun. I can see it in his eyes. That determination for finding out the killer. People call it stupidity. They call him naïve.
I call it courage. I call him ambitious.
But it worries me. He's my best friend. Even though we're nowhere near similar, we still like hanging out. He does most of the talking for me. It's easier that way too.
Matt's quite a famous and admired kid of the school. The one who's too good to live in such place. But he completely ignores his glory, as I quote that he "doesn't give a shit" about it. I guess he's either too humble or plain ignorant.
Come to think of it, he wouldn't even get moved if someone decides to take over his fame.
"Who…who do you think it was this time?" He asks, hesitating a little.
It was a journalist-guy. The guy who came here to do that documentary. The one with the beard, who had asked me the way to the motel…
"Does it matter?" I mutter, "Whoever it was, they won't be coming back."
"Since when did you become so heartless man?" Matt scowls, growling, "Don't you care about the victim? That person had a life. A family! To think of what they'd be going through right now…"
My fists clenched, my heart thudding with anxiety and regret.
The guy had a family? Did he have a family?
Don't they all…?
I don't say anything to him.
I'm not heartless. I just don't let those feelings take over me. Because if I do, my life will become ten times harder than it already is.
"Joey?" Matt asks, staring at the boys playing basketball in the court.
"I was wondering something, you know." He explains.
"And what might that be?"
"What if…what if we-"
But before he could say anything further,
"Ahh! Matthew Park! What a coincidence to see you here!"
Oh, there is no coincidence about this.
"What do you want?" Matt snaps, glaring at the boy walking towards us.
The boy raises his hands in amends, grinning ear to ear. "I just want to talk to my bestie, is all."
William Turner. A real pain of the school. His hobby is to bully others who are weaker than him just for pleasure and mostly tries his best to fit in with the hardcore thug gangs of the street but that always never works out for him. I think him as a reject. A good for nothing reject.
He's also the type of boy who uses other kids like yours truly. He wants everyone to know about how *ahem* high and mighty he is. He wants people to be afraid of him but that doesn't work here.
I heard he came from one of the big cities, that's why he's having a hard time fitting in. His father got bankrupt in his business or something since he did some scams.
William and I have this sour heat between us. I really don't like him and by the looks of it he despises me as much as I do.
But an average city jerk won't make a difference here. Nope, you chose the wrong town to stay in.
"You got to be kidding." I scoff, "And since when were you ever his friend to begin with?"
"Shut up Joey!" He hisses.
I roll my eyes.
"To hell with you, Will, if you think I'm going to do what you want me to you bloody jerk!" Matt rages. "Why the heck would I?"
"Come on! It won't hurt ya if you do!" William says, cutting to the chase.
William is an attention seeker. He can go thorough all the limits. Once he tried to pick a fight with Matt but only got a big nothing from him in return. Matt can easily beat him if he'd want. But he's a mellow person.
So now, Will lurks around him all day in order for Matt to agree to fight with him just this once.
Idiotic as he is…
He thinks I'm the reason why Matthew doesn't agree. He thinks I'm the one to make him say no all the time.
But why do I even care what he thinks?
I get up, glaring at William, before saying to Matt, "I'll catch up to you later. I need to go somewhere."
Matt gives me a desperate look that says, Please don't leave me with this maniac.
"That's right!" William claps his hands together. "You go on ahead, Joey. You're not need in this conversation anyway."
"At least I'm needed somewhere else unlike you." I mutter to myself.
Matt snickers at that, grinning to see William going red in the face.
"What did you say, you messed up shit?" He hisses.
I roll my eyes. "You heard it well enough. How about I give you a piece of advice? You're trying too hard. And anyway, this town - or me, if I want to tell you the truth - have seen monsters and bullies worse than you. So you don't scare me a tad bit."
I can tell that I'm provoking him by the look in his eyes.
But all my anger with I've buried deep in my mind is clawing its way out, the anger I feel for 'him', all of it targeting the person in front of me.
And I know, that it's wrong of me. William, no matter how 'bratty', he doesn't deserve to be put in position like this.
Because anger can be dangerous.
I heard somewhere, that the one who bottles up anger inside, is the most dangerous person. When he bursts, no one will be able to stop him.
Does this theory relate to me in any way?
I find that out as soon as I land a punch right in William's jaw as he staggers back and falls with a hard thud on the ground. Every face turns towards us, Matt jumping on his feet, speechless, looking at me with a disbelieved expression.
I ignore them as a say, under my breath to Will.
I smirk at him, "Don't try and act better than me."
My eyes widen.
Maybe that's when this sudden strength breaks.
"Don't try and act better than me, Joey. You know that's not what's best for you..." These words keep repeating in my mind. These words that the monster says to me.
It makes me realize, with my hands trembling. Makes me realize how much I sound like him...
How much I act like him.
William looks at me, with blood leaking from his nose.
He's not mad though. I can tell he's as surprised as everyone else.
A crowd of kids form a circle around the three of us, thinking this is a fight.
But it's not.
I didn't mean to-
"Joey..." Matt raises his hands, as if he's calming down a wild and freaked animal.
I notice how my heart is beating, trying to explode out of my chest. Sweat on the side of my temple, goosebumps all over.
I don't care what William, Matt or the whole school thinks about this.
I'm scared because of what He will think. What Sir will think of this.
If the school report this.
He'll know that I'm not as weak as he wants me to be...
And he won't hesitate.
He won't hesitate at all.
He won't even think for a second and kill me.
These thoughts rushing in my mind, I start backing away.
"No, no, no..." I whisper.
I can't let him find out.
"Joey?" Matt asks, confused.
That's all it takes for me to make a run for it.
It's not even the end of school. But I run.
"Joey!" Matt yells, "Where're you going?"
I don't reply. Just keep on going.
What hurts is that even though I'm running now, there's no way I'll ever be able to escape the Shadow who follows me everywhere...