INTO THE JAWS OF DEATH
As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.
Liberty Falls High School
Liberty Falls, Pennsylvania
August 23, 1999
This terror, which still had two years remaining, began two years ago when they were fourteen. The beast chewed on them, some more so than others before they would be spit them out not completely unlike the beasts from a Japanese manga that wouldn’t debut for another ten years. However, not everyone would see these particular years as some societal horror. Some would see them as possibly the best years of their lives.
The overhead storm clouds, looking somewhat blue, spanned in all directions. Rain pounded the menacing one-story building on the hill that housed about six hundred some people five days a week.
Students stepped off their respective buses to file into Liberty Falls High School through the one set of double doors. The canopy extended straight from the doors to the edge of the sidewalk where the buses parked and then outward in a T shape but only for about twenty or so more feet. There was another canopied entrance next to the gym and that one was just packed. Many students at both entrances were unfortunate enough to have to stand in the rain while waiting impatiently to the point of pressing up against the person in front of them to get under the canopy. They didn’t dare step to the sides of the canopy as the water pouring from it was considered much more lethal. The only students who bothered with umbrellas were the ones living in walking distance of the school or walking from their cars from the student parking lot. Some didn’t want to use an umbrella as it would just hang in their locker and leave a puddle at the bottom.
The Tereshchenko twins, Ryan and Riley, sat together on their bus as it sluggishly moved up the hill past the football field on its way to the school. They sat on the side of the bus that faced the school. From the moment they cleared the tree line at the bottom of the hill, they could see lights of the school bursting through the windows as it penetrated the darkness. The bus slowed to a stop next to the sidewalk, but far from the canopy. The twins stood up with their backpacks in their hands, waiting for everyone to get off the bus. No one was ever considerate enough to stop and let them out into the aisle.
The twins finally stepped off the bus and into the rain. Ryan could see the glow of the flashing traffic light that marked the intersection of Johnson Road and the all so clever, unique and creative name, High School Road, which lead up to the school. To Ryan, that light represented freedom. The light was too far away. It might as well be on the moon. He begrudgingly marched into the school.
Students split into different hallways like cars in turning lanes. It was all dependent on where his or her locker was located. God help anyone if they needed to go against the crowd. It was almost as bad as changing lanes coming out of the Fort Pitt tunnels heading into Pittsburgh. The floor was carpeted so the air wasn’t filled with the sound of squeaking wet shoes. The twins found their lockers on one end of the school, next to a set of doors that faced the flashing light at the intersection. Ryan was still hungover from the freedom of the summer. He wanted to be back home and back in bed. He’d even willingly mow his yard on his own volition instead of his step-father’s orders if he could have more vacation time.
Once they were finished, they merged with the crowd of students to get to their homeroom. The room wasn’t far from their lockers. It was in the middle of a hallway that housed the math and computer classes. The bell rang only seconds after the twins walked through the doorway. Now summer was officially over.
“If the Bulls didn’t break up then they would have won the championship this year,” Ryan said.
“And if Jordan hadn’t retired the first time then they would’ve won nine straight,” Riley added pulling her lunch out of her backpack.
“The Bulls were old,” a student said from another table. “The Spurs are young and would have swept them.”
“Are you retarded?” Ryan asked. “Jordan wouldn’t have let that happen.”
“They wouldn’t win the championship,” he said.
“That’s also retarded,” Riley said. “They’ve always won with Jordan.”
“They lost to the Magic in ninety-five.”
“Oh you mean when Jordan came back in the middle of the year and they lost in the playoffs? Can’t expect them to mesh well when coming back so late. With the exception of Pippen, the team was new.”
“Why are you talking basketball when it’s football season?” Wayne Carter asked.
“Basketball starts up soon,” Ryan said.
“And it’ll still be football season. It’ll be football season until February then it can be basketball season.”
“Cowboys won’t make it to February.”
“Oh and you think the Steelers will?”
“Of course. They’re the best team around.”
“What happened the last time they played the Cowboys?” Wayne had a giant smile as he knew the twins couldn’t counter without lying. The Steelers not only lost to the Cowboys in the Super Bowl nearly four years before but also in the first game of the 1997 season. For once, the twins would like some bragging rights when it came to the Steelers.
“Hey, can I sit here?” The group looked up to see a kid who looked almost malnourished.
“If you want,” Steven said.
Ryan noticed there were plenty empty seats nearby and he wondered why this kid chose their table of all the tables in the cafeteria.
Liberty Falls High School Gym
August 31, 1999 – 9:03am
With a storm raging outside, the students played baseball inside. Ryan was up to bat with his sister pitching for the opposite team. Ryan’s crush, Ashley Harris, a volleyball playing brunette sophomore was the first baseman. Riley was going to try and make her brother look as good as possible in front of her. She lobbed the ball to him as per instructed by the gym teacher. It’s not like she could effectively throw a Wiffle ball anyway. He whacked the ball over the head of the third baseman and took off for first base. The outfielder missed the catch but caught it on the bounce. He threw it to first base. Ashley had positioned herself between the base and Ryan. The ball was almost in her grasp. Ashley snatched the ball out of the air just as Ryan dropped down to slide feet first. He slid between her spread open legs to touch the base. She knelt down to tag him. She knelt down too far and ended up straddling him. Ryan lost all awareness around him. He wasn’t sure if he was touching the base or not. The only thing he focused on was Ashley sitting on his groin. The shock of the situation had paralyzed both of them. Then they both felt something. Their eyes widened and faces turned red.
“Oh my god,” she said shooting off of him as if she had just been stung. Ryan rolled over so not to show everyone else what happened.
“What happened?” the gym teacher asked.
“He totally just got hard,” she said. The gym erupted in a roar of laughter. Ryan just dropped his face to the hardwood.
Liberty Falls High School Cafeteria
August 31, 1999 – 11:20am
Ryan sat down as Vince and Wayne were talking about football. He thought he heard Vince saying something about joining the team. He didn’t get a chance to figure that out for sure before Wayne sent a giant shit eating grin his way.
“What’s goin’ on there, Russian Red Rocket?” Wayne asked.
“What does that mean?” Vince asked.
“The Russki here popped a hard one during gym class.”
“Really? I guess girls in tight shorts will do that to ya.” It had only been a few days
“Oh it wasn’t seeing girls in tight shorts but one of those girls in tight shorts straddled him like a horse.”
Vince shot a surprised look to Ryan. “Damn boy, gettin’ it on in the middle of class?”
Ryan smirked as he put his stuff in his bag. “Not exactly.”
“I was only kidding,” Wayne said. “You don’t have to leave because of that.”
“That’s not the reason.”
“Where are you going?” Riley asked.
“To talk to Ashley.”
“How do you know where she is?”
“I saw her just walk by the window.”
“Ah, gonna go get her?” Vince asked. “You take her and give it to her good.”
Ryan didn’t say anything as he threw his backpack over his shoulder and walked off. He found Ashley at her locker that was just down the hall from the cafeteria.
“Can I talk to you?” Ryan asked.
“That depends if you’re gonna get hard again,” she said flatly while putting books in her locker.
“I just wanted to apologize for that,” Ryan said. “It’s not like I intentionally did it. It’s just...well I like you. I think you’re really cute and I was kinda hoping you’d go out with me.”
Ashley chuckled. “Are you kidding? You think I’d go after someone who can’t control themselves? I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life.”
In that instant, his crush for her disappeared. He could understand her embarrassment earlier but now it was uncalled for.
“The day is still young,” Ryan said. Ashley’s eyes slightly widened in surprise at the comment. Ryan fought back a grin.
“Get away from me,” she said. “Tch, pervert.”
She slammed her locker and walked off. Others stared at the exchange and some started laughing.
“Oh damn,” one black kid said. “He straight up got dissed hard.” Ryan dropped his head, flipped off the black kid and walked off.