"Oh Gosh, Kaycee, you’re wetter than a trout on a slippery Thursday!” Piper gasps, holding two steaming hot coffees in her hands. Her jaw falls open, ready to catch flies. Her eyes wide, looking over my soaked appearance. Wetness drips down my clothes and off the ends of my hair, dropping onto the floor. Causing a tiny puddle to pool around my feet, despite the paper towels I used to dry off with. Who knew dunking my head in toilet water would cause this.
Sometimes when Piper speaks to me, it doesn’t even register as bizarre anymore. It’s just her, I guess. “What happened?” She asks softly, pulling me out of the library now towards the dorms.
“I went swimming,” I say dryly, looking around the busy courtyard. Life buzzes around us, kids doing exactly what they did when I arrived here. Gossiping, fighting, throwing a baseball around; just kids being kids. Carefree. Living. Soaking in the remaining rays of the fainting summer of early September. Envy rears its ugly head inside of me, begging to join in on the fun. Fun. That’s all I want. Last week felt like a beautiful dream full of promise. Monday started my never-ending nightmare of my destruction.
“Why do you still talk to me?” My eyes stray to Piper’s joyful smile. Her body bounces happily when she walks, a smile ever-present on her face.
“There’s nothing on god’s green earth that could forcefully stop me from communicating with you.” Her smile beams like the sunshine above us, showcasing that whole beautiful, sparkly, sunshine personality.
“Thanks,” my voice comes out quiet, coming to a fork in the sidewalk. Piper looks back and forth along the path, gesturing towards another apartment building.
“There're movies playing in my building, you’re more than welcome to join us. It’s my birthday next week, we’ll have cake and ice cream.” She nods her head towards her building. Disgusting toilet water drips from my crisp uniform onto the concrete sidewalk, giving me the perfect excuse to decline. Movies sound wonderful right now. I could get lost in the other worlds someone has created for the big screen. Not tonight. Not with Piper.
“Sorry, I’ve got a lot of homework to do. Thanks for the offer, Piper, I truly appreciate it.” Heading off toward my building, I give Piper one last wave and push myself inside.
The hours have ticked by since I left, but it feels like a lifetime. Questions sit on the tip of my tongue again, but there’s no one to answer them. Carter gave me information. Only teeny, weenie, itty bitty snippets. A sliver of what I need to know about my situation and Magnolia’s. The same incidents that happened to her are repeating themselves with me. But the people behind these are shadows in the corners of everything. If Carter isn’t lying, then the camera’s around this school are in their possession. They view everything. They see it all. Hear it all. But why? Why do it?
I plunk myself down into my computer chair after a thorough shower. And I mean thorough. The wretched scent of piss and shit permanently wove into my nostrils. The same poor nostrils that had the great privilege of diving headfirst into a putrid toilet. Gross.
My computer’s fans whirl to life. Much like a heartbeat inside a human, my computer’s have their own life center sparking life into its wires. The screens emerge from the depths of their dark slumber, producing bright lights. I click through the manual tracing route of the mysterious camera and begin stage two of the process. According to Tristan, the last and final step of it all. With any luck, within two hours I’ll have the answers I need. My bets are on this Apocalypse person, whoever they are. Most likely the person in charge of this entire operation.
I check back through my mirroring software and grin. If Carter is so dead set on me being a computer genius, does he know what I’ve done to his phone? Not only can I track everything he does or says, but my computer records it too. I can look back and try to dissect every word. It’s times like this I wish I could get my hands on everyone’s phones.
Alpha: Is it taken care of?
Carter: For now, alpha.
Alpha: And the warning well received?
Carter: Yes, Alpha. The Troll understands.
My eyes widen at the name he’s given this Alpha person. Fuck me, he calls me troll to everyone! But—but that’s not what I said after he tried to drown me. I told him no; I wasn’t leaving.
Alpha: Then let the games begin.
Carter: Yes, Alpha.
Alpha: Move to Phase 2.
Pantylicker: Yes, Alpha
Slugeater: Yes, Alpha
Beta: Yes, Alpha
Omega: Yes, Alpha
Delta: Yes Alpha.
Alpha: I have informed The sheep of their duties. You, my most trusted, are to remember your duties. You’re the wolf, they’re the sheep, and our target is the rabbit. Make the rabbit bleed.
If I were in a movie, there would be some awful, ominous music going on right about now. The camera would pan in and out on my horrified expression, coming in from different angles. Turning my face into some rainbows with darkness behind my head for dramatic effects. My tongue dries like I’ve walked through the desert for 40 days. A sharp pain curls inside my chest, spending my heart into a frantic drumbeat. Make... the rabbit bleed? If they’re the wolves who prowl the schoolyard and the other’s are their sheep following them blindly into battle, then that makes me the most sought after creature on campus. The rabbit. The twitchy little bun-bun hopping around in the grass with innocents before the wolf snatches me by the fur, bleeding me dry.
Moisture coats my lips as my tongue pokes out. With my eyes closed, I count to 100 in my head repeatedly. I will not give up on my mission. I will not back down. Never. Ever. Magnolia deserves this justice. If I have to stand on the edge of the cliff, cut myself open, and bleed for her. I will. For justice. For retribution against these savages, who caused her death.
Forgoing my plan of breaking and entering, I hole up in my apartment. My B and E can wait until later. My fingers sweep over the keyboard in swift, relentless strokes. Every name. I trace every person in the chat. But much like Alpha, they’re all pinned back to the same damn person. The Apocalypse. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. Even Carter. It’s like they aren’t a 7 person cult, but one entity altogether.
My fingers glide against my forehead, frustrations mounting at the lack of anything. I may have cracked and mirrored Carter’s phone, but what good is it doing me? I know they’re going to up their games now. To what extent, though? They’re already killed once, will they kill me too? God, I hope not.
After checking the status of the camera trace, I go back to something easier. Something less frustrating than the nothingness of the Apocalypse crew and their untraceable asses. I wish my questions didn’t piss off Carter so much, because I have a million more for him.
Piper’s outbursts have been in the back of my mind for days. She goes from this sweet girl with odd sayings to a complete emotionless mess. With threats that could knock a weaker person down and a look in her eye that could send a grown man to his knees. There’s something about her. Not to mention Ainsley’s words about her mental breakdown two years ago. I’m desperate for more information. If I can manage to hack into her medical files, then I’ll get the answer’s I need. The keyword being IF I can. Medical files are tricky and require just a little more effort on my part.
Bingo. Two years ago Thomas Michael Hurst filed for an emergency divorce proceeding, sighting an unfaithful partner. In a matter of 30 days, they had their day in court. The judge, Forrest Cain, ruled in Thomas’s favor, stripping his former wife of anything and everything associated with their marriage. Which included the fortune Thomas had gathered during their 18 years together in matrimony. Francesca got nothing. Not a dime. Not a penny. Not even a car. He took everything as his and moved across the country to New York. Leaving his former family, penniless, homeless, and lost.
Wow, what a dick.
But from there, the paper trail turns cold. Nowhere in my data does it show Francesca married Carter’s father. Nor does it state anything about Piper. Nothing about her at all. There’s no custody agreement. For a lack of better words, it’s like she doesn’t exist. They had her together. She is Thomas’s child. So why is her name absent from all the formal paperwork?
Fuckkkk these people just get more and more complicated by the day. Here I thought looking in-depth at Piper’s family would be the easiest thing I’ve done all day.
I dig deeper into her parents. They met young, 18 years ago near Christmas, and welcomed Piper quickly into their family by Thanksgiving of the next year. Less than a year together and they already had a child, the only one the pair would ever have. No wonder it didn’t work out. They barely knew each other, had a baby, got married, and the rest was history. Until it was over, that is. According to the report, her mother got nothing. How much of a pull did this judge Cain have with Hurst? Her father is a shady guy. Never as squeaky clean as Piper likes to say. He could have sex parties and her mother cheated, and that was grounds for a divorce? It all didn’t add up. What was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back?
“UGHHHHHH,” I cry out like Charlie Brown, throwing my forehead against the desk. Every answer I need leads me back to one very violent offender, Carter. He’d know all about her.
Veering away from her family history, I go in search of her medical history. Two years ago, her parents divorced. And according to Ainsley, two years ago Piper had a mental break, hospitalizing her for who knows how long. I search through every patient portal I can think of, but Piper doesn’t exist there either. She’s a friggin ghost! Why doesn’t her name appear anywhere?
I move on again to her student records. Maybe the nurse has some notes I can go off of, sending me in the right direction.
Tristan: how’s the trace?
Me: still working on it.
Piper’s student records show nothing of significance. The nurse’s notes are vague, jotted down lines. “Doing better today.” “Feeling good on new medications.” Simple phrases like that. Even the counselor they forced her to see for a few months noted Piper as a respectable pleasure to be around, who showed no outer signs of previous symptoms. I even went as far as checking her damn birth certificate. Piper Francesca Hurst, born November 29th, 7 pounds 5 ounces. A perfect bundle for a perfect girl. Mother and baby, perfect in every way possible.
Fuckkkk. There has to be something I’m missing or not seeing.
I close it all up. I could research her until I’m blue in the face and I’d still sit here. Useless.
My computer pings, showing a new message on Carter’s phone.
Omega: the work is done. The rabbit will bleed.
Well, double fuck.
Despite what the weirdos said through text message, my Friday remained normal. I stayed invisible with a little taunting and teasing here and there. But nothing major. I tried my locker again, relieved to see maintenance had a heart. No shit remained behind inside my locker. The toilet paper no longer clung to the outside, poking through the holes. The smell disappeared, and it relieved me. Honestly, I expected a visit from Mr. Shaw again, but it never came. Apparently writing on doors is a no-no worth a $500.00 fine, but shit in a locker is cleanable? What’s their logic? Their logic probably grew a conscious after my father called and bitched Headmaster Shaw out for giving me a fine with zero proof I had committed a crime. Leave it to my big, bad, intimidating father to bark orders at a headmaster and get his way.
By Monday, my skin is crawling. Spiders tingle up my feet and legs, spinning their anxiety-ridden web. Deep breaths. Deep breaths, don’t be the damn rabbit they’re calling you. If they could just, you know, not be so cryptic in their text messages, I could have a head start. But I don’t. Even with AntiEyes, or I’m assuming it’s on all their phones, they’re cryptic as fuck. They didn’t text much over the weekend. Just the occasional “my part is done Alpha,” bullshit.
With sweaty palms and a heart about to explode, I make my way through the hallways. Everyone steers clear of me, some sneer, and yell snide comments. But that’s nothing new now from last week. Rage still pours from their beings at the simple sight of me.
When I stop in front of my locker, everything around me ceases to exist. “Dumbass Freak”, is cut into the metal of my locker, much like a tattoo to the flesh. It’s permanent, going nowhere. And it stings. Much like a wasp on the attack, digging its stinger in repeatedly. It burrows into the back of my mind, resurfacing memories and taunts from years ago.
Sometimes I doubt myself. Sometimes I want to curl up in a ball, because of my mind. I’m distant, easily distracted, and more often than not, I hyper-focus on things. Usually its movies or TV shows. I enjoy the classics like “Stranger Things,” and “The Walking Dead”. My mother even got me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy once. And I watched every season, knew every line, and scenario by heart. But it’s just how my brain works, it’s how I process life. These shows, these movies are home to me. A place to settle my anxiety and pain. So this name carved into my locker isn’t the first time it’s appeared.
At my old school, it wasn’t perfect. Far from it. I had friends—a friend — and a few tormentors. Girls who thought their shit smelled like roses and everyone wanted a whiff. And me? I was the shit beneath their shoes because I was different. And not that “I’m different from other girls”, type of situation. Truly different. Normally being who I am doesn’t bother me. I’m happy with who I am. I’m happy with how I cope with and process information. Proud of who my family is and how they support me. But I never jump on stage and yell I HAVE AUTISM HEAR ME ROAR. I’m not ashamed, far from it. They look at you differently. They pity you, thinking you’re slow or retarded. Bleh — I hate that word. And kids? Well, kids are fucking mean when they find out. Like now. They’ve carved it on my locker.
A manicured hand hits the locker next to mine, knocking me out of my thoughts. “I know it was you.” Harlow hisses in my ear, the malice in her voice raises the hair on the back of my neck. I swallow hard.
“What exactly did I do now?” I sigh, spinning the dial of my lock, pretending I need to get in there.
Harlow slams the metal again with a demon-like shriek. “You know what you did, you dumbass bitch.” She shrieks every word like a banshee, piercing my eardrums, and making them bleed.
“I’ve done nothing but try to attend classes.” Which is the truth, kind of. I mean, I hacked her personal medical files and show the world. But that bitch took a picture of me pooping AFTER poisoning me with laxatives. All is fair in love and war, or so they say.
She shrieks again, turning my body, and slamming my back into the lockers. Air rushes from my lung with an umph. “I know it was you, because your picture got taken down, and that BULLSHIT report was put up.” Her white teeth chomp in my face, rancid breath spewing in front of my nose.
“Ew—Harlow, I have a Tic Tac. I think you need one.” I try to wave a hand in front of my face, but I’m immobilized. Harlow’s heavy fist heaves into my stomach, crumpling my body forward. I gasp for air. She slams her knee into my nose, pushing me to the hard, unforgiving ground. Pain explodes in my skull at the force of her knee, blood-spewing down my chin. Tiny knives stab at my cheeks when I try to wiggle my nose.
“You broke it!” I yell trying to punch her, but several other girls grab my arms, pinning me to the ground. Four bodies lay across my legs. Even moving an inch becomes impossible. Harlow straddles my chest, looking too pleased with herself.
“I didn’t do a thing,” She mocks, uncapping a marker. My eyes widen a fraction, as the cool tip of the marker glides across my forehead. “And now the entire world will know all about your little medical condition.” Her gross tits hang in my face, pushing against my throbbing nose. Hands remain on me, forcing me to stay where I am. “Dumbass Freak is her name from now on!” Harlow shouts to the hallway crowded with onlookers enjoying the show. “Our little rabbit, the dumbass freak!” She says to me again, flashing a smirk from the deepest, darkest depths of hell.
Wait—rabbit? Bleed? Oh—shit. It clicks in my brain what their messages said. And if I’m right, I just found a weird cult member. If I’m wrong, well, I’ll be able to tell.
“You know, an Omega is the lowest hanging fruit in a pack.” I grind out, staring up at her. Her eyes widen, the marker dropping to the ground, and her skin pales.
She swallows hard, “what?” She whispers now, body rigid with fear sparking behind her evil eyes.
“I may be the rabbit, but at least I’m not the omega who takes orders from an alpha bitch who can’t even do his own dirty work.” Stupid. Stupid. I’m so fucking stupid. WHYYYY, do I say these things without thinking it through? They’ll know now that I spy on them.
She pushes off of me, snapping her fingers. Everyone in the hallway marches back to their classes after watching their entertainment for the day. Not her. She stands there like a deer in headlights, looking at me like I’m crazy. And maybe I am, but by her reaction, she is Omega. She’s part of that weird-ass Apocalypse cult and I just found her out. She should feel fear.
I wipe my nose with my hand, dragging blood against my palm. I stare down at the deep red pooling in my palm and smile. “Well---looks like you made the rabbit bleed. But know this,” I say, taking a step closer to her. “It’ll never happen again,” I whisper. “In fact, you can let him know that. I’m here. I’m staying and I will find out what I came here for.” God, why can’t I shut up? Maybe it’s the adrenaline making me word vomit all over the place. The last thing I need to do is taunt the alpha apocalypse guy. But here I am, doing it anyway.
“You’re so fucking fucked, Dumbass Freak.” She whispers finally, looking me up and down. Satisfaction roaring through her eyes as she settles on whatever she drew on my forehead. She flicks her fingers on my skin, grinning like a madwoman. “Soooo fucking fucked.” She whispers again, turning on her heel, sauntering off. Like she didn’t just assault me in the middle of the hallway with her knee and a permanent marker.
With my hand over my forehead, I walk into the bathroom. Needing a mirror to see what I’m stuck with for the rest of the day. Wow. Harlow sure is creative with what she writes. “Dumbass”. That’s it. That’s all it says. She could have at least picked “Freak” over dumbass. I scrub at the word with water and just like I suspected, it doesn’t budge. At least the blood scrubs off from under my already bruising nose. Deep pockets of purple form under my eye. Great. More bruises. More proof I got my ass handed to me by a fucking Omega.
The bell rings overhead, signaling I’m late for Calc class. My phone pings in my pocket. Pulling up the screen, I’m not surprised one bit when my medical file is on full display with my diagnosis for everyone to see. Tit for tat, I guess. I showed hers, now she shows mine. Fair is fair. That’s what I try to tell myself, which isn’t helping the anger building in my gut. If they wanted to make me ashamed to show my face, well they are doing a good job. With my hands on either side of the sink, I seriously consider skipping this entire day altogether. Fuck Monday’s anyway.
The door to the bathroom opens and shuts. I don’t bother looking to see who it is. Probably another girl to lay into me. “Kaycee?” My lips curl together, burning forming behind my eyes. I can’t let them see me cry. I can’t let them know they’re getting to me. Not today. Never.
“Yeah?” I ask softly, holding back my emotions. My body flinches when a hand softly touches my back, soothing circles on my shirt.
“I—I saw what Harlow did. Do you want to go to the headmaster about this?” I lift my eyes toward our reflections in the mirror, eyeing Zoe. I shake my head.
“They won’t do anything,” I whisper, shaking my head. “It’s not worth it. He’ll just tell me it’s my fault or something.”
“That’s fucking bullshit!” Zoe hisses, eyes drifting towards the ceiling. “All of this is bullshit.” She shakes her head.
“Why do they do it then?” I ask, looking over at her with weepy eyes. Her back stiffens instantly and I know she’s about to clam up. No one talks about why these people do the bullying. She stares at her shoes and then peeks under the stalls.
“They blackmail us into doing it,” she whispers. “But Harlow? She has no problems doing it to anyone. Especially you. She thinks you tried to steal Chase, just like that girl last year. Harlow made her life hell... I felt so bad for her, but….”
“Magnolia?” I ask without thinking. The pain in my face lowering my defense barriers. “I’ve heard about her,” I whisper, trying to recover my slip of the tongue.
“Yeah, yeah. Maggie. God—Harlow was such a bitch. She got Carter in on it. They fucking pushed her in the pond, fully clothed, and held her head under for like a minute. If it wasn’t for Ainsley, she would have drowned there. After everything she went through, I don’t blame her for how she ended it.” She rubs the back of her neck, eyes sinking into sadness. My gut twists at her words…..
“Wait—I thought Ainsley attacked her?” I ask quietly. Zoe meets my eyes and shakes her head.
“What? No. It was all Harlow. Ainsley and Maggie were friends? I don’t know. She taunted her, but never pushed her in the water. Ainsley’s not that demented. Why would you think that?” Zoe asks. “I mean—I witnessed it, I tried to help, but Carter.. well, he’s an asshole.”
“Can-can I trust you?” I whisper. She nods her head. “I thought because Magnolia told me so. She... she blamed it all on Ainsley and the boys……” I trail off, I don’t want to give too much away, even if I spilled the beans to Zoe, who seems like an ok person.
“You knew her?” She whispers, taking a step closer. I nod, confirming. “Holy fuck…… No... No... they were... cool with her. Well—kind of—you know how this school is. Let’s just say, they never tried to murder her.”
My stomach drops into my feet, a dizzy spell taking over my brain. But... but her emails. They all insinuated the same things. Chase, Seger, Ainsley, and Zepp were responsible for her bullying. What. The. Fuck.
Did Magnolia mislead me?
I need to find her journal.
So in this chapter we learn something very important about Kaycee and her quirks. Her Autism diagnosis sits very close to my heart. Her mannerisms and personality are no way, shape, or form putting anyone else with this in the same box. Everyone in the world is unique and themselves, and that's exactly how Kaycee is. The way Kaycee acts, is purely based on my own daughter who was diagnosed at 8 with the same: Autism Level 1, which they say is, high functioning. Back in the day the would have called it Asperger's, but they no longer give that diagnosis, at least around here.
Again, thanks for reading guys, I realllly like your theories and discussions about this story it makes my day. Again, join me on Instagram if you want tiny previews-- Mercifulmeh