You re-enter the party. The drinks haven’t stopped flowing. It’s turned into a full on grind fest, hormones raging like it’s the first high school dance all over again. Maybe not the best environment to interject in. But it’s now or never. You walk over to the DJ and ask him to turn off the music so you can perform the show you’ve just rehearsed for the last hour. He shrugs you off. You look back at Danica’s excited face, eager to perform, and reach into your heart (and wallet) and hand the DJ a $20. He thanks you, and continues DJing. You reach back into your wallet and grab a $100. He goes to grab it, you pull it away. “Music off”. The DJ takes a break. The party stops, and your fellow classmates look confused. You roll in the band gear from the teacher’s lounge, push a few cafeteria tables together to form a makeshift stage, and begin the show. Xavier uses a table lamp as a spotlight. Your classmates pay attention, for a minute or two. As the show goes on, they begin talking amongst themselves. This isn’t going as well as you thought it would. But you still get to kiss Danica at the end, don’t you? Quarterback Mike Johnston might have something else to say about that. He’s now a CEO, and would never want to miss a chance to upstage you. He hunts down the DJ and gives him $400 to turn the music back on. You try to push through, yelling out the lyrics you spent so many hours crafting over a pop song generated by an AI robot. But you can’t compete with technology. The crowd starts giggling, growing quickly into a raucous laugh. Your dreams drown quickly in a sea of embarrassment.
Get us the hell out of here. The windows are glued together from years of smoke and unless you want to break both legs, which may be a viable option depending on what’s on the other side of the door. The ceiling it is. You push up on the ceiling tiles and boost yourself through. You’re sure Danica is super impressed with you right now. As you start to crawl a path towards freedom, you notice the ceiling start to sag. Unfixed water damage (those damn budget cuts). You start to back away, as if treading away from a rattlesnake. But this ceiling bites. You fall through, clipping the electric wire on your way down, electrocuting you instantly. At least it was a quick death. After your failed escape, the rest of the gang is locked in the conference room, undiscovered for a weekend. Which wouldn’t have been the worst thing, if not for the moldy tuna sandwich left in the back of the fridge from summer school. They contract black mold poisoning and die a slow painful death.
Without power, there’s no way that giant oak door with the keypad is getting opened. THUD. Besides, you’ve taken a few karate classes. MOAN. If that thing on the other side gets in, you’ll get your chance to impress Danica. You hear some scratching on the door, and hold your breath as you sense a hand reaching down to the uncomfortably large gap between the floor and the door. Through the gap slides a note. Your hands tremble as you reach for the paper. This is not the kind of note you want to be reading in class. You unfurl it, and all that appears is a giant X in red. You gulp and back away from the door. WURR, the lights suddenly flash back on, temporarily blinding you. You hear the 4 digit code click, and the door starts to open. You imagine wearing your yellow belt as the sensei calls out Mae Geri, Gedan Age Uke! Hopefully, your front kick is as good as you remember it being. As the door opens, you let out a girlish scream a little too loudly to not be embarrassing. It’s just Xavier after all, trying to rejoin the group. You all hug and have a good laugh.
A loud squeaky door swings open with your heavy push. It looks like the gym hasn’t been used much in the last five years: it’s no wonder childhood obesity rates have been skyrocketing. There’s plenty of space in here to get rehearsal going. You guys get settled, and start rehearsing old songs. Everyone quickly sheds their professional facades and melts into characters of yonder past. It’s always easier to wear a mask after all, especially around Halloween. You’re just starting to get into the groove, when there’s a large CRACK of thunder, and the power goes out. Lucky for you guys, the state championship basketball team brings in more money than the teachers do, and the gym power is run on a separate generator (got to keep the bright spotlights on the banners.) You’re able to run a tight rehearsal, and after an hour, you have what you think is a very entertaining show for your fellow classmates. The lights in the rest of the school kick back on, and you give a rousing speech to rally the troops. This is it. Your time to impress your fellow classmates, and finally fulfill your high school fantasies.
You all approach the old teacher’s conference room. It still somehow smells of the lingering smoke of 50 years past. And it still has the same entry code, or so you think. You punch in 6969 and it opens. You internally thank JoBo, the one handed janitor (makes sweeping hard) who passed you the code. It’s musky, and you try to crack open the windows to breathe some fresh air into the smoke stained walls. They’re sealed shut. You guys get settled, and start rehearsing parts. Everyone quickly sheds their professional facades and melts into characters of yonder past. It’s always easier to wear a mask after all, especially around Halloween. You’re just starting to get into the groove, when there’s a large CRACK of thunder, and the power goes out. The rain is now coming in sideways, and you shut the windows to keep your eyeliner from running. Stumbling around in the dark, you’re able to find your flashlights and gain some sense of space. Seth needs to pee. Or so he says. You think he needs to poop and just doesn’t want to say it in front of Danica. He tries for the door, it’s locked. The keypad lock is hooked up to the electricity. Seth says he can hold it for a little while, and rubs his stomach ever so gently, in your mind confirming your # 2 theory. Suddenly, you hear the key code being pressed. You ask, who is it? THUNK There’s no intelligible response, just moans and loud banging. You ask again. THUNK. You’re starting to get nervous. You’ve seen a lot of horror movies, and even acted in a few indie ones just for the IMDB credit. But this is no movie.
You aren’t scared, you took a few karate classes in middle school after. The wind pushes you around as the rain soaks your face, but the shadowy figures are just that; shadows. They can’t hurt you, even if your paranoid brain is saying differently. You get inside and have a laugh once the warm safety of lighted walls envelops you.
You decide to take the knife. One too many shadowy objects has your nerves on edge. The storm swells all around you and Xavier as you walk briskly back towards the party. You don’t walk more briskly than the speed of light though. And that’s a bummer for you, because lightning goes that fast, and also loves metal objects, like the knife in your hand. Sure, the odds of your getting hit by lightning were low, (still better odds than the lottery though), but you just hit the jackpot.
Sure, it’s a little weird, but you’re generally into surprises. You follow Xavier as he walks towards his car in the parking lot. The wind is starting to pick up, and what had been a comfortable sprinkle is quickly turning into a storm worthy of naming. He gets in the car, and indicates you do the same. Still kinda weird, but better than braving the onslaught of rainy wind. You notice a rather large knife in the cup holder, but he’s a tradesman after all so you shrug it off.Especially after he reveals the reason he brought you out here. A rather large blunt, particularly for two people. He sparks it up as the rain patters the windshield. It’s a quiet smoke session, other than the occasional cough (side bar, can mute people cough?) You smoke until the horizon looks slanted. After giving yourself a second to recover, you suggest re joining the party. But the storm is nasty now, and you’re getting more and more paranoid by the second. The tree branches scratching the roof sound like demon’s nails, and you’re seeing shadowy objects appear in your periphery. You eye the knife, and suggest taking it. Xavier shrugs.
You go meet up with the gang at the bar. They’re somehow way further ahead of you in drink count, and you see this as the perfect opportunity to take charge. You make an eloquent speech about how art is the only truly beautiful thing left on this fragile planet, and you can see the youthful glint return to their eyes. That look that says I can make a difference. You know, the look that naive people whose dreams haven’t been trampled yet have. They’re eating out of your hands as you spoon feed them enough hope to fatten up a piggy. You reach the grand finale; we should put on a show to rekindle the love of art, playing our old songs from years before. But it will take some rehearsing. It’s been many years after all. Seth suggests the teacher’s conference room, which has a music set up as mandated by the local Teacher’s Equal Rights to Jam act of 1969. Friggin hippies, gotta love ‘em. Danica suggests the gym, which has great acoustics.
Sure, as a mute, Xavier doesn’t talk much. But the quiet is just what you’re looking for right now. Seeing youth slip into the abyss before your very eyes has your mind racing and nerves on edge. You grab two mystery shots off a passing by waiter’s tray, and toast with your new found old friend. Before the waiter has a chance to leave, you grab a second pair. You can see Danica giggling at Seth’s jokes, and you think maybe a second shot will push down the jealousy bubbling up. But it just causes your inner thoughts to spill out all over Xavier. He’s a good listener after all. After tolerating your whining for a while, he walks towards an exit, and motions you to follow.