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Danny Lewis was in a pickle.

He was the only one who noticed it. He didn’t know how or why no one noticed the strange fog that was already creeping along their feet, but they were all too busy talking about Mr. Roach’s mad tirade.

It was understandable.

It wasn’t every day that someone busted out into a villain’s monologue. However, Danny had much more important things to worry about now.

He took a few deep breaths and calmly began thinking about the situation.

Fog? So what? Grand Junction gets its fair share of fog from time to time! Sure, it’s strange that it’s in a classroom, but a bit of fog would be nice. It’s starting to get a little stuffy in here anyway.

This kind of thinking would have normally succeeded in calming him, but it wasn’t the fog that Danny Lewis needed to be afraid of; it was what came with the fog. Those scaly creatures that Skyla had fought off were the true threat lying in wait within it – only he and the other students had no mystical bat of healing and pain to protect themselves.

That’s it! he thought. He looked out the cracked window to see if Skyla were still outside. If she were, he only needed to call her into the building to save them, but when he reached the window, he realized that something was terribly wrong.

The sky had turned from the normal untainted blue that he’d normally expect from a Colorado summer day to an eerie red haze. The streets had become completely vacant, the summer’s wind had stopped, the tree leaves remained silent, and the only people who now existed were the ones currently sitting in detention.

It was the same as the Friday before. It was as if they had been dragged into a world that was hidden from the real one.

Which meant that Skyla was nowhere to be seen.

While Danny continued to gape at what he saw outside, the fog rolled in so fast that it completely coated the room. Eventually, one of the students lazily asked, “Hey, is it just me, or is it a little cloudy in here?”

The students began looking around at the fog that had enveloped them. They continued to chatter amongst themselves, but Danny was now busy looking for something else: the bright yellow eyes that hid in the mist like they had that day. Unfortunately, he found them.

The eyes materialized right next to one of his classmates who had his back turned to them, and Danny screamed, “Watch out! Behind you!”

But it was far too late.

The child screamed, and Danny didn’t even get to see the beast’s figure before it dragged the boy into the fog, which had become so thick that Danny couldn’t see the beast or the child. The face that everyone in the room had was surely the face Danny had had the first time he’d seen the beasts.

It was the “Am I dreaming?” face.

However, as the yellow eyes appeared one after the other within the fog, their reality shattered, and panic swept through the room. A few didn’t even get the chance to get off their seats before they fell victim to the creatures of the fog.

Danny scrambled to the door and yelled out to anyone who might hear him, “We have to get out of here! We have to get outside!”

He heard the clattering of his classmates’ chairs as they hit the ground and their feet as they tried to follow him; however, that wasn’t all he could hear. He could hear the scraping of the creatures’ claws following them – and the fearful voices of children falling one by one behind him as they screamed for anyone to help them.

Their parents.

The teachers.

And Danny even heard his name as he turned his back to them.

He realized how utterly powerless he was to save even one of them. He had to fight his urge to turn around and do something foolish. He placed his palms flat against his ears until their screams of help faded.

Ignore them! he repeated to himself. You can’t do anything for them. Just focus on getting out of here.

He needed to get away from the fog. He didn’t know what the beasts were, but he knew one thing for certain – they always came with the fog.

He nearly rammed into the door when he got to it. His hands scrambled for the doorknob, and when they finally found it, he flung the door open, hoping to see his freedom, but his heart sank. The fog filled the entire hallway, and the beasts were surely waiting for him within it.

His classmates’ screams were growing dimmer and dimmer by the second. The beasts would soon turn their attention to him, and Danny had no desire to see what would happen when he got snatched up by one of them. His only option was to leave the school and get home as soon as possible.

As he sprinted down the hallway, his heart felt like it was nearly going to burst out of his chest. He could no longer hear anyone else behind him, but he could hear something dragging itself along the floor. It grew louder and louder, and even though his fear didn’t want to see what was chasing him, his very being demanded it. He had to see the creature that was hunting him before it was too late.

The beast was remarkably different from the one he’d seen the previous week. It no longer had any razor-sharp claws. In fact, it didn’t even have legs. It was more akin to a snake, but its length was far greater than any he’d find in Colorado. The scraping noise he’d heard earlier was not from its claws, but from its large, protruding fangs that cut into the floor like fine blades. Danny watched, horrified, as it slithered across the ground at a much quicker pace than Danny could run.

Danny braced himself. If he couldn’t outrun it, he’d have to outmaneuver it. He’d wait until the thing lunged at him, and then he’d jump to the other end of the hall. From the size of the darn thing, it’d have a hard time making a sharp turn in the small hallways of Holy Cross Elementary.

Okay, jump on three, thought Danny as he saw the creature’s long, three-pronged tongue kiss the air.

Two, tie your shoes, rhymed Danny’s mind. He needed to calm himself in any way possible before his legs jumped of their own accord, especially as the creature was still creeping closer. The beast opened its mouth, revealing more fangs.

One– thought Danny, but he never reached zero. Before he could even finish his countdown, a hand grabbed his shirt from another classroom and pulled him into it. He stumbled to the ground.

Danny refused to go down without a fight. He kicked his legs out hard, trying to stun whatever had grabbed him, and to his surprise, one actually hit its target. Danny heard plastic hit the ground with a clatter, and a pained voice soon followed.

“Ouch! What did you do that for? That hurt!”

Danny had his eyes closed out of pure desperation. He’d hoped that whatever the creature was going to do to him would hurt less with eyes closed, but he didn’t expect the thing to have a voice, let alone one that he recognized.

He opened his eyes, and much to his surprise, it was Arthur, who was now rubbing his right cheek where Danny had kicked him.

Arthur reached down and grabbed his glasses. He tried to readjust them, but they were now permanently slanted to the left. His gaze shot daggers into Danny, and when he spoke, he sounded slightly upset. “You’ve cracked them! My dad’s going to kill me when he sees them.”

Danny felt like jumping over to Arthur and hugging him. He’d never been so happy to see him in his life. “What are you doing here?”

“I was worried about you,” Arthur said, his face flushing a new shade of red. “I told you that you shouldn’t have gone to detention.”

“You’ve known about this the entire time?” asked Danny, in complete shock. “Why didn’t you say something before?”

“Yeah, right, like you’d have believed me if I’d told you that our school is home to giant snake monsters that attack the students. That makes me sound completely sane,” scoffed Arthur.

“You’d be surprised,” Danny replied flatly. “I’ve seen this fog before, although the snakes are a new one for me, I’ve seen something like them, or at least their eyes were the same.”

Arthur shoved Danny, and in some ways, he looked angrier than when Danny had kicked him in the face.

“You could’ve told me! I thought I was going crazy. I haven’t slept once this entire week!”

Danny didn’t even bother to answer. He simply raised his right eyebrow and gave Arthur a half-smile. Arthur looked to the ground and said, “Oh yeah, the whole crazy thing.”

Danny considered telling Arthur about Skyla but decided against it. Even if Arthur knew what Skyla could do, she wasn’t there to help them now.

“Is anyone there?” a panic-stricken voice from the hallway called out. “Please, if there’s anyone left, say something. Say anything.”

Danny looked at Arthur and made his way to the door of the classroom, but before he could help the kid, Arthur grabbed the hem of Danny’s shirt and said, “No, it’s too late.”

“What do you mean it’s too late? He’s right out there!” Danny said as he started to scramble to his feet, but he never quite got to standing up.

He heard it coming.

He heard the snake monster slithering just outside the classroom. The kid was so busy shouting at the top of his lungs for help that he didn’t even notice the monster sneaking up on him.

Danny crept his way to the door and cracked it open. Arthur begged him not to, but he needed to know what he was dealing with. Danny watched as the student noticed too late that the monster had already begun coiling around his feet. The kid tried to push himself free, but the monster was far too strong.

The beast stared at the boy as he struggled within its grasp, as if it were staring into his very soul. It had a human-like grin as it watched its prey squirm, and when it had grown bored of watching the child, it made its move.

 The snake’s pale brown scales began to glow a savage orange as if they were aflame. They radiated so fiercely that Danny thought it would catch fire at any moment, but instead, its body started to melt and slide off the child one drip at a time. As it did so, the child became quiet, and his body landed softly on the ground. Unmoving, he stared blankly at the ceiling.

Danny thought his eyes were playing tricks on him, but he was certain of it: the fog had started to flow into the child’s nose and open mouth. Suddenly, the victim arched his back as if something were pulling him from the ground, and he shook and twitched violently until what was left of the beast had completely disappeared.

The boy’s body fell back to the ground, and then there was silence. Danny waited to see the slow rise of the kid’s chest to prove that he was still alive, but there was nothing. The kid’s eyes continued to stare at the ceiling without blinking.

Danny couldn’t rip his eyes from the body. They were only children. How could this happen to them? This type of thing never happened to kids.

Arthur pulled on Danny’s arm.

“Come on, let’s get out of here before the same thing happens to us,” he pleaded.

“We just watched,” said Danny, his voice barely a whisper. “He was right outside this door, and we did nothing to help him.”

He was ashamed of himself. He could never look at himself in the mirror ever again.

Uber King? he thought, belittling himself. What a joke!

Arthur continued to pull on Danny, trying to get him to move. He was nearly dragging Danny along the floor when the kid both of them thought was dead sucked in a loud gasp of air as if it was the first breath he’d ever taken. The boy slowly got to his feet and looked down the hallway. He raised both his hands so he could see them and slowly opened and closed his eyes. A smile formed on his face as he watched them, and he repeated the motion so many times that Danny thought he’d never get tired of it. Finally, he dropped his arms to his side and began to walk down the hall.

“What is he doing?” asked Danny. The kid was walking with what was almost a swagger as the distance between them increased. “Did he forget about the things that just attacked him?”

Danny got back to his feet, and he was starting to make his way to save the poor sap from becoming a meal when Arthur stopped him once again.

“That’s not him anymore, Danny,” he said, the fear plain in his voice. The palm of his hand was sweaty, and it shook without restraint. “That thing…that creature is inside him. It’s the one that’s in control now.”

Danny thought he’d misheard, but before he could even ask what Arthur had meant, his friend continued his explanation: “I know you’ve noticed something strange going on in this place. People you’ve known for years showing up the next day with completely different personalities.”

“Ruby…” said Danny reflexively.

Arthur nodded. “It happens whenever someone goes to detention. They show up the next day with that fog in them. It looks just like those snakes. I can see it squirming around inside them, controlling them and making them do things they normally wouldn’t do. It eats who you are and takes your place.”

“How do you know all of this?” Danny asked, looking at Arthur with complete dismay.

Arthur pointed to Danny’s right side and said, “You have a scar there. Did you have your appendix taken out when you were little?”

Danny instinctively reached for his appendectomy scar. He lifted up his shirt so Arthur could see it, and he nodded. He had never told Arthur about it before. The only two people who knew about it were Ruby and his mother. Ruby only knew about it because he’d collapsed in front of her when it had gotten infected.

Arthur didn’t even wait for Danny to ask how he knew. He put a nervous grin on his face and stood up straight. He snapped one arm to his side while putting the other in a mock salute. “Sgt. Justice reporting for duty, sir. With my X-ray vision, I can see some really scary stuff.”

Submitted: April 27, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Patrick Borosky. All rights reserved.


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