He Scares Me

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The story of the one most terrifying thought I've ever encountered.

Submitted: March 30, 2018

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Submitted: March 30, 2018



I was sitting in the hallway outside the classroom I was supposed to be in, leaning against the wall with the work I was supposed to be doing in my lap. My classroom at the periphery of the school was a few feet to my left, and down the hall to my right was the rest of the school--a cafeteria, the bathrooms, other classrooms, and so on and so forth. I actually wasn’t supposed to be sitting there, and neither were any of my friends. It's just that one day a few months ago, I followed my group into it because it was quieter than the classroom and a better place to work. Since nothing bad happened, we just kept doing it over the next few days. Wrinkly Mr. Bowens definitely noticed us slipping in and out of the doorway and almost certainly had seen us sitting against the wall one day laughing our heads off at something, but he didn’t care enough to say anything, so we kept doing it. We didn’t cause too much trouble and the work came and went, so I think that’s why we were allowed.

After a while, we had been there long enough to notice patterns. For example, the classroom on the opposite end of the hall turned their lights off every Friday, possibly because their teacher promised them a movie every week or something of that nature. We even made friendly conversation with the janitors who would walk by us towards the end of class every day to collect garbage. There were also some kids who ritualistically left their respective classrooms. A girl with blonde hair who always wore baggy sweats left class every day during the period at different times, most likely because she was tired of sitting there listening to textbook passages being recited and needed to take a walk for a bit. I wasn’t one to rat her out. Then there was this boy with long, flat brown hair who nearly always wore the same dark red hoodie and t-shirt. I’d had classes with him before, so I’d be able to recall his name if you told me the first letter, but I didn’t know anything else. I knew that I should have talked to him, but the food stains on his shirt and his tendency to keep to himself all the time worked to keep me away. Still, he seemed like a pleasant person. I didn’t see him at all for the first month we started hanging out in the hallways. Then he started making occasional trips down the hallway from the classroom nearest to where we sat only to return something like ten or fifteen minutes later. I almost asked him where he was going a few times, but the way he always kept his eyes on the floor straight in front of him made me veer away. After a few weeks, those weekly trips turned into daily trips. His breaks were starting to grow longer and longer, and I even asked the people sitting around me about him a few times, but none of them knew anything. None of them seemed to be worried, and I didn’t want to bring down the mood, so I stopped bringing him up. I shouldn’t have, but my friends were the most important thing in the world to me. I wanted them to be happy.

As Mr. Bowens finished giving us the instructions for the day and conveniently turned his back to the classroom towards his computer, the few of us slipped out with quiet giggles and crashed at the corner of our usual hallway. My friend sitting next to me, who always seemed to be the one to come up with fun ways to waste time, haphazardly decided that today’s would be throwing around a ball of paper that eventually turned into a paper airplane, and then back into a paper ball once the resident basketball geek got a hold of it. I went along with it, but all of us knew that if our teacher peeked out of the classroom doorway and saw us, we were all dead. I attempted to look like I was doing work to separate myself from the activity, but that didn’t stop them from chucking it at the side of my head. There was a moment of silence when the boy in the red hoodie slid past us down the hall, but then we were back to laughing like idiots. A few minutes later, as my suspicion that our teacher was going to check on us at any moment reached its climax, I decided to make a trip to the bathroom to avoid the shitshow that was inevitably going to go down. If I timed it right, I could avoid any sort of blame altogether.

So I got up and ran down to the bathroom to get myself out of any line of sight that a teacher could have from the doorway of our classroom. I only slowed down when I was in the doorway to the lavatories and the scent of cleaning chemicals and rusted metal rolled in from the ceiling. There was somewhat of a snake hallway from the doorway to the actual bathroom to prohibit people from peeking in. I realized that there was someone else in there the second I stepped into the final stretch of that and noticed the faint shadow that was peeking out. Someone was standing by the sink, and my eyes were already locked onto the floor in front of me, planning to ignore that person and just do my business in silence.

But then I noticed that it was that boy, and I couldn’t ignore him. I reflexively turned to him and just stared for a half second before I forced my line of sight back to the ground, but even then I was listening and watching his shadow on the floor. He was leaning over the counter with his red hoodie crumpled up into a ball next to him. I never noticed how skeletally thin he was. Through the fabric of his white t-shirt, his ribs brandished themselves through grooves that looked like scars. His face was in his hands, and those hands shook with the effort of keeping his head up. He wasn’t making a sound. He looked like he could be heard from the other side of the school, but it was like any waves of sound he produced died inches from his body. I didn’t want to ignore him.

“Hey,” I said. I spoke into his back. Even in the mirror in front of him, I couldn’t make out his eyes. “Are you alright?”

I almost jumped when he leaned up. In a swift, violent motion, he brushed his hands across his eyes and I could make out teardrops being thrown off his face and onto the countertop. He sniffled like he was inhaling a razor blade and spoke to me through my reflection in the mirror. “I’m fine.”

He wasn’t fine. His face was as pale as I’d ever seen and his eyes looked soaked in blood. He had to keep his mouth gaping open to keep his teeth from chattering, and so it hung from his face like its veins and muscles had shrivelled. I wasn’t going to let him say that he was fine.

I tried again, “It’s alright if you don’t want to talk to me, but don’t tell yourself that you’re fine when you’re not.”

He didn’t say anything. His neck gave out and his head hung lifelessly from his shoulders. If it weren’t for his bloodless fingers clutching the edge of the counter, I think he would have keeled over. He was just on the verge of shutting his eyes and I thought he wanted to be alone, so I was starting to head back out when I thought it was necessary to say one last thing to him in case I didn’t see him again for a while.

“I know I’m probably not the first person you want to talk to right now,” I said, “but if we see each other again, I’ll listen to you.”

From a just slightly transparent window in the back of his shirt, I saw something in him break--just a splitting of wires somewhere that destroyed him. So he turned back around and he told me everything.

He told me everything that was wrong. He told me how much he hated himself for it and how often he begged in the middle of the night for it all to stop. He told me why he spent so much time every day in that bathroom sobbing in the middle of class and then wiping his eyes and walking back like nothing was wrong. There was so much that was wrong. I didn’t know what to say because I had no idea how to make any of it better. I didn’t know what to do either. I just stood there with him while he poured his heart out onto the floor. After a few minutes, he stopped being able to form coherent words. I think he said everything he wanted to at that point. After that, I just held my arms out for him and I held him while he murmured and cried into me. Other than that, I don’t think I moved the entire time. We must have been there for something like twenty minutes, and class was nearly over once he decided to walk back to class. He gave me a quick thank you, but I didn’t accept it. I didn’t want one for doing nothing. Then, he wiped off his tears and rubbed the redness from his nose so he could walk back to class. It was like a magic trick. If I only walked in then, it would have seemed like everything was alright. With his hands in his pockets and his head down, he made his way back to class. I even saw him give a little wave of his hand to a teacher that he passed.

He scares me. He hasn’t spoken a word to me since then. I still sit there in the hallway every day for the duration of the period and I always see him walk by every single day with his hands in his pockets like he was just headed to the bathroom like normal. Whoever his teacher is must have screamed her head off at him dozens of times for disappearing. I badly wanted to say something to her, but I figured that if he wanted her to know anything, he would tell her himself. A few days ago, he started not making it back in time for the end of class, and that terrifies me most of all. I’d breathe a sigh of relief when I saw him again the next day only to be scared to death until the next time he walked past me. He has a gift for hiding all of the pain and the trouble and pretending that everything is alright. It’s scary to me that I wouldn't even know anything was wrong if not for that moment in the bathroom. It terrifies me that he might not have even told me everything and I wouldn’t know. And the scariest thing to me is that there might be a day where he finally shatters, and if that happens, I know that he’s capable of hiding that too.

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