Would you believe me if I told you I did not want for this life?
That I had, in fact, never sought to become what I am? A solider in His Never-Ending Hunt?
You hear such divine stories told by His Children through this Community. The epic tales of how they began their journey into His embrace. The hints of their true psychotic natures throughout their growing years which they look back upon with such fondness. Ever proud. Ever challenging. Ever taunting.
So, what manner of history do you expect me to lay before you?
Humor me. Just take one moment. Think about it.
How do you see me becoming as I am now?
Do you see me running through the back alleys of a small town as a devilish youth? Knife in hand? Searching for a new cat to take home to torture and dissect? Do you perhaps see me using that knife for other means as I experimented on my siblings? Naturally manipulative and naturally cruel? A born sadist, as it were?
Do you see me hiding in a closet? Hands over my ears as I try to block out the yelling and crying as my father is thrown into yet another fit of rage against my mother? Do you see me as the battered wife, finally having had enough of taking every bruise and fractured bone in stride? Or perhaps I am the husband of an untrue partner, the need for revenge bringing Him to me and me to Him?
Do you see a Haunted childhood? One where He was early involved? My "imaginary friend"? Having already picked me from the crop of youngsters as a future soldier? Or perhaps you peg me as a Cult Town native? One who simply... grew up influenced into the job?
Do you see me in a mental hospital, perhaps? Restrained to a bed for my own safety? Heavily sedated and on twenty-four hour watch? Or perhaps you just see me as once having to been tested - sanity questioned somewhere along the line?
Do you see a rebellious teen? In and out of prison as though it was a second home? Do you see me involved in drugs? Someone who slipped into a life of crime either accidentally or on purpose and found no way of climbing back out of the infamous Rabbit Hole? Do you see a Higher approaching me with an offer at my lowest point? Offering a chance to be so much more than what I was?
Do you see me receiving military training at some point? Battle-hardened with the sights and chaos of war? Apathetic to the pain and suffering of the world and just looking for a laugh?
Do you think I took magic lessons at some point? Practiced meditation exercises?
Or perhaps... do you just see a lonely soul... having slowly lost its footing in a broken, heartless world one shred of sanity at a time? One wrong choice at a time?
Thirty-one questions later, and your time is officially up. If you had answered "yes" to any one of them, I'm afraid I am set to disappoint you.
None of these situations apply to me.
My childhood was about as "normal" as any other childhood. Decent start. Caring parents. Growing up, I wanted to be the Littlest Hobo at earliest I can remember. That particular career choice swapping to several other typical ideas children get before an incident in my early teens made my decision for me. I suppose that could be categorized under "traumatizing," though I was far from traumatized.
There was a shooting at the school I attended.
And you may find it interesting to know... that I was neither the victim, nor the harasser.
I was merely a peer who did nothing. And got what I was due for it.
A boy by the name of Nigel Pickup had been the charlie bird of the school system for years. Nickname was "Half-Ton," as I recall it. Obviously, weight was an issue he struggled with. He was quiet. Overly polite. An amazing artist, as I remember. Never caused a problem for anyone any more than using oxygen to breathe and space to exist. But I suppose, for many, that was too much for him to ask for.
I cannot remember a time when he hadn't been the source of someone's amusement. That boy had it all done to him at one point or another. All of it. He spent his life as a punching bag. When he wasn't fulfilling that role, he was harassed to the point of exhaustion through destruction of property, name-calling or cutting remarks. It all wore on him. Year by year. Then, one day, it all became too much for Nigel. It happened during an event hosted by the school. Nigel made the "mistake" of stepping into a portable toilet.
It was then pushed over with him inside.
When he got out covered in human waste... the majority of the students were laughing. Some making pig jokes amongst each other. The loudest being the trio that did the deed:
They would each be staring down the barrel of a gun by that afternoon. One bullet each. Middle of the hallway. Nigel still covered in filth. He would then take aim at the rest of the student body as they all screamed and scattered in the halls.
I was one of the first to take a bullet.
It went into my shoulder. I remember screaming and falling. Before that point, I'd never felt that level of pain before. Sharp. Burning. I should have been able to flee, but I didn't. I simply laid on the floor where I had fallen. Bleeding. Crying. My young mind thought for certain I was going to die... especially when I saw Nigel walking up the hall towards me. My panic, however, turned out to be unneeded. He didn't turn to finish me off. He didn't even look down to me. He walked straight past. Kept going down the hall. Found some more students. I can remember the echo of the gunshots through the halls.
Nigel proceeded to shoot down thirteen more students and two teachers (reloading when needed, of course) before he swallowed a bullet himself.
I can still picture him in my head when he walked by me. He seemed so... calm. There wasn't a shred of anger to be seen. Perhaps it was because, at long last, he had things under control.
Nine died in that shooting. Seven students (Nigel included) and both teachers who had tried to intervene.
In the hospital, I knew then what I wanted to be when I grew up.
But more than just any teacher.
More than the cookie-cutter versions you see so often.
I wanted to connect to my students. To be aware. To be able to help students like Nigel before they snapped. I wanted to use my survived experience to have a chance of maybe stopping another tragedy from ripping a school and community apart. To speak of how actions have consequences. How we each own what we do in this world, good or bad. I focused on History for that exact reason. As those who are unaware of the past are doomed to repeat the mistakes therein...
I still have my scar. Since my career change, many more have joined it... but it'll always stand out more than the rest. Least to my mind.
I have no bitterness to Nigel for what he did. Nor do I despise the bullies of this little story. They each paid for their behavior with their lives. I don't see myself as a victim. Not even close. I did nothing to stop a situation I literally watched play out for years. Every day when I went to school, it was always the same thing. I could have done many things that would have perhaps changed the end result... but I chose to ignore it. I thought it didn't concern me. Thought a few of the jokes were sort of funny. I wasn't one of the bullies. But I might as well have been.
I earned that bullet.
Through not sparing a glance to another.
Through being too much of a coward to speak up.
I earned it.
When I last came to you with a question... I asked for torture suggestions. Many of you came through beautifully with your own twisted ideas... and only ONE of you nonchalantly mentioned that perhaps death wasn't entirely necessary. Not exactly what I'd call a convincing argument. Where were all the "Goodies"? I know some of you read this, so where were your two cents? Where were the hypocrites and hippies? Do I intimidate you all, perhaps? Or did you want to see Jerome tortured, but didn't wish to tie your name to such an "evil" thought?
Even you, Spencer.
My brother, you so passionately stood against my actions after they'd be carried out... yet, where were you when your protest could have meant something? Where were you when I laid the man's life in the hands of the Community? When you could have convinced me to end his life quicker? You had twenty-nine days, Spencer... and I heard not a peep from you. I know you were Following, so don't try to deny. You've commented before. You knew what game I was playing... and you know I wouldn't have ignored you. That I would have replied. Questioned. Perhaps even considered a point or two, if you could have made them...
But you still chose to do nothing. To stay quiet. To hide.
You might as well have been torturing him right there with me, Spencer.
Now... to all of you... I'm going to ask an old question:
How shall I kill him?
His name is Ronan.
Though, I would think... many of you would know him better as another name:
TMV. My dear friend: Venny. I must admit, it was rather fun tailing him for the last little while. Even as a functional alcoholic, he still caught onto my presence before I had intended for him to. Made the job that much more interesting. Of which you won't hear me complaining about. Of course, given his background, I had been expecting a challenge from the start. More or less looked forward to it. But most of you don't know about his history, now, do you? It's a shame that's the case really. Personally, I never like becoming involved with someone unless I know at least the basics of their background... and, I must say, Venny's is quite... colorful.
Watching without getting noticed proved to be more of a chore than actually picking him up. I simply waited for his beer to lull him to sleep. Then the only thing between me and him... was Derek. I actually made sure NOT to rough him up too much. I simply put him down for a nap so he'd stay out of my way. He cooperated like a saint. Came out to investigate a little noise outside the house with shotgun in hand. Gave me an opening to come up behind him. Gave him a little knock on the head as I did. He entertained me with a little bit more of a scuffle. Both of us earning a few bruises in the struggle as he flailed like a fish out of water... before I got the right pressure on the nerve in his neck. He dropped picture-perfectly. Barely a mark on him. I brought him back inside and put him in a chair. Leaving him to a nice, peaceful slumber... and then I gave Venny a bit of sedative to make certain he wouldn't be waking up before I was ready for him to. It all went very smoothly, if I do say so myself. Not a thing out of place in the entire house.
Now, it's been more than a few hours since their love note to me went up. I think I've left dear Derek and David long enough to panic, don't you? I'm sure David's been frustrated to no end not being able to pick up on my trail. After all... he's not the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve. I know what the man is capable of, but... he still won't find us until I want him to. As for you, Derek... my apologies you got caught in the middle. It was nothing personal. If it had been, David would have had to contact the Community. Not you. You should show a bit more gratitude.
For now, I thought I might as well let you know who had dropped in on their way by... and the state of your missing party member. If you've read some of my other tales, I would bet you could imagine all kinds of scenarios...
But, in reality, Venny is fine. For now. That much, I assure you. He panicked a little when he didn't recognize where he was. Grabbed the lamp to defend himself. I thought it was cute, really. He actually guessed who I was on the first try and, once I explained the situation at hand, he settled down just fine. He's a very understanding man. Very intelligent. Would be a shame if this was forced to get messier than it needed to be...
So, my friends... that is where we are. Dearest Venny is my guest of honor. Any ideas of how I should bid him farewell when the time comes? How I should present him to death's chilling embrace? Should I do it quickly since I like him so? Or draw it out to pain the heart of his dearest fiance? Though, I feel I should warn you... that your suggestions this time around will only be taken into consideration... if David doesn't answer his cell phone when I call him at exactly 7:05 AM. February 1st. We could speak earlier, but... Derek would have had to wake up to post earlier. It is only fair for the poor boy to be the one to choose the time since he feels so wronged for being taken from behind, right? My own little way of saying "sorry."
In other words, David...
7:05. Tomorrow morning. If you don't pick up. I'll be taking the pleasure of putting your fiance down.
Talk to you soon, sweetheart.