It was such a very normal day. That was the surprising thing
about it all.
However, that very normal day became a very extraordinary kind of
day, and that very extraordinary kind of day led to some very
extraordinary kind of nights. Time became a word rather than a
state of mind, and life became that journey you hear of in
adventure movies and silly rom-coms- however, it didn't end with
any great deal of satisfaction. My life continued for while, but
something, something huge inside of me, had ended.
I had been such a very normal person, until that day.
Until that day, I hadn't lived.
It began with my everyday breakfast of burnt and buttered toast
in our old Jeep as my mother, a fretty old woman, scatted around
the neighbourhood to collect the other kids of St. Andrew's for
the carpool. An awkward ride-a-long, some would say- I knew for a
fact that at least a third of them disliked me and that the tall,
gangling one, Stephen, he had it in for me for sure. I had this
awkward stumble-through-life quality that grated upon them and
company had never been a friend of mine. I was rather incisive on
the matter that my mother had arranged the carpool to elbow me
into friendship rather than to help out the parents that actually
had careers. As for her, she was a stay at home mum, ever
grieving over my brother George (he had left for the navy three
years ago and she still wasn't quite over his absence), my father
a gynacologist, which was not an occupation I liked to share with
my classmates. I sensed it would provoke ridicule and perhaps a
level of perversion.
My mother seemed to think that all of the St. Andrew's boys
fancied after her, but they didn't. Perhaps they would have,
"You bring out these little blighters, Oliver," she had griped at
me after finding her sixth grey hair and pulling it out, "You and
your navy seal brother worry me sick."
She liked to drop in the fact that he was in the navy, even if
only I was listening- it was a winning line at parties. For
countless years I had been labelled as 'the other brother' in the
shadow of his brilliance.
"All I do is stay in my room, Mum. Hardly a dangerous lifestyle
choice," I deadpanned.
"Staying up all night on that silly console of yours. I don't
know what to do with you!"
The school was set out in such a funny little manner. St.
Andrew's took proud ownership of the left side of the grounds and
the sister school, St. Bernadette's, stood a little limply to its
right. Limp being the appropriate word- development of the
property was hardly underway due to the low staff to student
ratio and funding had never been great. The buildings were just
as old as each other (in fact, at one time it had been a mixed
school) but it was almost as if they were two different places
altogether. You couldn't see over the gate that separated them
but a year twelve had told me that if you found the right spot in
the little staff-only connection bridge between the two
buildings, you could see into the girls' changing rooms. I had
laughed nervously but shrugged away his perverted lies.
To me, there was only one girl worth half the effort of leering
at, and her name was Elizabeth Barrett.
Elizabeth wasn't like the others, and not in a desirable way. She
was partially the reason as to why the sister school had flopped
and the staff resented her for it, but it would be cruel to turn
her away after eight years of teaching, especially with GCSEs set
to begin for her.
One thing about the St. Andrew's/St. Bernadette's union was that
education began from primary rather than secondary, and as a
society they housed over 1500 students from the ages of seven to
eighteen- approximately three boys to every two girls. Elizabeth
hadn't been 'just another seven year old' in the year below,
dwarfed by my whole extra year of obvious experience. I knew my
way around the school about as much as the ofsted, who had been
driven away by disinterest.
Elizabeth had been violent, and that had troubled the ignorant
lake of innocence within the mothers of the St. Bernadette's
clan. She had told their children secrets and showed them how to
crucify insects and pulled the hair of anybody who told her
different than her own law- her quiet, whimsical presence would
suddenly escalate into a horrific display of childhood cruelty,
all at the snap of a finger. That was word of the horse's mouth,
anyways. I didn't believe it, although I had every reason to with
our given history.
See, I had known Elizabeth, once. She wasn't what the mothers
thought- she was schizophrenic. Not that her father had cared for
a moment. I had helped her take her pills with imaginary tea (hot
blackcurrant- although not too hot, in case it burned her tongue)
and put up with hours of imaginary friends and imaginary stories
spouting out of that pretty little mouth of hers- in her world,
everything was nothing more than a game. I put up with it because
she was alone, and the friends we couldn't see were the only
things real to her.
Jane was her favourite friend because she read her stories and
told her things that made her feel powerful. She also told me
that Jane hated me for telling her to be cautious with the
knowledge she was given.
Nines was her least favourite. He made her hit, and mothers no
longer wanted to send their children to St. Bernadette's.
I didn't know how many other friends she had, but the odd name
popped up here and there. There could have been thousands, all in
her mysterious little world of Galna Hus. That was what I had
heard her call it a few times. A fantasy land with an eerily
childlike feel to it.
I stopped playing with Elizabeth after she had hit me on her
eighth birthday. She had eaten too much cake for her tiny little
belly, I had warned her not to be greedy and she had pounced on
me, her fingers clawing at my hair and eyes and mouth until I was
bleeding and she was crying. Her father had batted his hand
dismissively and sent everybody home from the tea party.
"Stupid idea anyway," he had grunted, paying the caterer what he
"I don't play with girls who hit!" I had shouted at her from the
car, and she had folded her arms and scowled at me.
The news of Elizabeth and her temper had spread to St. Andrew's
like wildfire, and now, she was truly alone. Her friendship was
wasted upon reckless idiots who wore too much make up and people
who liked to poke fun at her for being such an insolent little
year 10 air head.
I had thought of her as fragile, all up until that very
Due to my late arrival at school, I had been put into lunch
detention for tardiness. I hadn't originally been late, of
course, but after almost ten minutes of debating what to do due
to my missing school bag, my mother had eventually settled upon
driving me home to pick it up before rushing back with me before
the bell. I had missed the bell, evidentally, which Mr Hewitt had
fervently reminded me throughout the entire day. One thing about
detention at St. Andrew's was that unlike the usual routine, we
were meshed with the students of St. Bernadette's, just to remind
us that we couldn't blame our gender or age for our bad
behaviour. The isolation room lay directly within the heart of
the all boy's side of the school, and so female students were
allowed to pass over the staff-only corridor for that purpose
Eight other students resided with me there, but only one had been
killed that day. Her name was Hannah Fields.
"I need the register."
Elizabeth. It was the first time I had seen her in almost a
month- she was as radiant as ever, of course, with a forest of
brown waves down to her waist and sea green eyes that were
currently in a state of tired pleasantries. Her vision flickered
to me once, twice, before returning to Mr Hewitt and attempting a
"Elizabeth. I see you found your way here," he greeted her
gently, before rising from his seat at the computer desk and
approaching her with the register in hand, "How come you're on
duty at lunchtime?"
"I'm all too familiar with this place. It doesn't help anything.
They say they'd rather have me doing something productive.. I'm
quite good at errands, you know. Unless I get lost."
"I don't doubt it," he nodded with a tight lipped smile, handing
the black file over before turning his back to her and facing us
all, "Hey, you lot. Take this little rascal as an example. You'll
be working every lunchtime if you don't start getting your act
"Don't worry, sir. I'm not going to be here all the time. I'm
going on an adventure one day."
I didn't have time to wonder what her adventure was because the
quiet was broken with a bang and then a scream and then a
commanding voice. I recognised it.
"What the hell.." Mr Hewitt began, jogging to the door before
poking his head around the frame of it, "Stay here. All of you."
And so, we stayed there, all of us.
Four bangs and screams later, we heard a message on the tannoids
from the head of the Andrew/Bernadette union, telling us to get
under the desks and stay there. To lock the doors if we could, or
to barricade them. To keep very quiet and hide. To surrender.
"I'm kind of scared, Oliver", she whispered under the table we
had accepted as our protection. She held my hand very tightly,
her eyes ghosting with fluid, "I wonder who's doing this. I
wonder who's dead."
"It'll be okay," I kept saying- although I wasn't sure whether I
was saying it to comfort her or my own palpable nerve, "It's all
going to be okay."
"This is stupid!" a brunette girl had piped up, "Why are we
staying here when we could be running away?! We've been here for
almost an half an hour. Nobody's coming for us. I've heard at
least fifty gunshots and if we don't move, we'll be dead next."
"What's even happening?" another kid wept- Stephen, the gangly
guy from our carpool. He was in on account of bullying. It wasn't
like him to cry. "Why are they doing this?"
"My life's been pretty boring. I deserve this shit," a girl named
Jade complained ardently through tears, "A school shootout.
That's what this is. I assumed they only happened in America-
"I'm moving. I don't care."
I slowly released Elizabeth's hand before crawling over to the
year eight girl they called Hannah, my eyes desperate, "Don't do
She ignored me, and after unblocking the door and storming out of
the room, a bang ended her complaints.
"I'm looking for a girl," the masked boy who entered had chided,
"Barrett. Where is she?!"
Elizabeth backed into the shadows in response, tightly shutting
her eyes and muttering some form of prayer under her breath.
However, I patted her palm lamely, and edged out from under the
table a little to stare into his hard eyes- familiar eyes.
"You just killed her," I said gravely, and he frowned a little
before sending a satisfactory gunshot into the air and swaggering
out again. He stepped on Hannah's head as he left, and we all
winced before the girls (and Stephen) collapsed into tears again.
Hannah's detention friend got up from the ground and went to her,
weeping into her lifeless body and cursing tearful obscenities
under her breath.
Elizabeth was still praying, but opened her eyes for a moment to
break the silence, "Jane told me this would happen. She told me
that I would cheat death one day."
Nathan Russo. He had killed them before killing himself just
outside of the school grounds. Twenty-two innocent school kids
and two teachers. He had been in my year- my pastoral, even. I
had helped him revise for that calculus exam back in year ten.
Blake Roberts, 13.
Ashley Hammond, 14.
Beth Wilde, 17.
Hannah Fields, 13.
Craig Matthews, 15.
Alison Smith, 34.
Gregg Hewitt, 28.
Louisa Matthewson, 7.
Grace Matthewson, 9.
Toby Warnes, 15.
Jessica Jacobs, 16.
Lisa Wong, 12.
Constance Morgan, 17.
Hannah Montgomery, 10.
Rebecca Lye, 13.
Adam Hobart, 18.
Megan Pritchard, 14.
Adam Cowell, 7.
Paul Veitch, 11.
Craig Veitch, 11.
Jennifer DiLaurentis, 15.
Lisa Partridge, 14.
Daniel Lyons, 16.
Eden Smith, 12.
They were all just names, now. Lost. They had once been brothers
and sisters and nephews and nieces and daughters and grandsons
and fathers and mothers. Now what? Their adventures had ended.
As for me, they were just about to begin.