artwork by Graham Hardman — https://instagram.com/graham_hardman/

EXT. MITCHELL HIGH SCHOOL PARKING LOT —EARLY MORNING, SEPT. 24

Rows of beloved first cars sit rusting in the blue morning fog that has settled over the gymnasium parking lot at Mitchell High School. Shelly pulls up to an empty spot near the back of the lot in an old sport-sized pickup. As she puts the truck in park and hurries to throw necessary books into her book-bag, Rod condenses into being beside the driver’s side door.

ROD

And so, after a night they won’t forget,

our highschool heroes arrive to find themselves

trapped in everyday deceptions. The school

seems ever as it did before, despite

the subtle creep of electronic ghosts

into their fated lives. History,

biology — the structure of the day

is spread in front of them just like a picnic,

and ant-free, too. But it would be safe to assume,

in as strange a case as this, that such

tranquility is just a fantasy

as real as a woman trapped inside a phone,

or the dangers we ignore on our commute —

Shelly opens the door of her truck, dispelling Rod. She throws a heavy book-bag over her shoulder and walks to where Leo’s car is parked two rows away.

Leo is sitting in his car with the driver’s seat leaned back. He looks like he might be asleep, but the music rattling his windows suggests otherwise.

Shelly walks up to Leo’s car and taps loudly on the driver’s side window. Leo jumps, like he has been shocked out of a happy nap, and rolls down the window.

SHELLY
(speaking over the music)

We’re going to be late.

Shelly is right — the parking lot is dead empty. It seems that the other students have already made their way inside, checked their lockers, gone to the restroom, rummaged around the library, changed into gym clothes, settled behind desks, and altogether prepared for the first period of the day. The school itself, a monolithic limestone monstrosity, is eerily quiet.

LEO

Ok, ok.

Leo turns off the car, killing the music mid-righteous-bridge, and steps out into the parking lot. Together he and Shelly head towards the entrance to the school, with Shelly leading the way. Leo lags behind as if something is bothering him.

LEO

So are we going to talk about last night…

SHELLY

Hmm…?

LEO

…or just pretend it never happened?

SHELLY
(pointedly secretive)

We’ll talk later.

Leo stops.

LEO

But where’d you go after?

I tried to call — I even called your house.

Shelly pauses by the door to the school. She gives Leo an understanding glance, one that says she wishes they had more time, and opens the door. Leo follows her inside.

INT — MITCHELL HIGH SCHOOL HALLWAY

The inside of the school is as empty as the parking lot. A plastic-yellow mop bucket, complete with mop askew, languishes unused halfway down the hall. You might recall chemical smells of a floral flavor when you see it; maybe you will remember a time when, after a student has puked in the hall, the janitor came whistling to wipe the mess up. But where is the janitor?

SHELLY
(slightly panicked)

Maybe we’re later than I thought.

Mr. Kidderman, pressed into the open like a hunter startled by the sound of pheasant taking wing, comes veering around a corner at the end of the hallway.

MR. KIDDERMAN
(signaling to them, or
maybe to the rest of his
hunting party, with a wave
that would be soothing if
it was less enthusiastic)

Kids!

The preacher that Shelly and Leo spoke with last night, Mr. Brannaham, is tailing Mr. Kidderman.

MR. KIDDERMAN (CONT’D)
(still waving flamboyantly)

It’s fine — it’s fine. Don’t move! We’ll come to you.

Mr. Kidderman half-trots to where Shelly and Leo are standing beside the door.

Mr. Brannaham follows closely behind. When he gets close enough, he extends a hand to Leo and Shelly in a Sunday morning preacherly way.

MR. BRANNAHAM
(shaking hands)

Good morning, there…Leo…Shelly.

LEO
(a bit too sleepy to care)

Morning.

SHELLY

What’s going on?

MR. KIDDERMAN
(confusingly, especially
confusing to himself)

Oh, nothing really.

MR. BRANNAHAM

It was

a miracle, actually.

LEO
(concerned and waking up)

What was?

MR. KIDDERMAN

Well, Hannah Holland was in a wreck this morning —

SHELLY
(completely panicked now)

Is she ok?

Mr. Kidderman is perhaps persuaded to pause by the urgency in Shelly’s voice.

MR. KIDDERMAN

They told me she was fine.

MR. BRANNAHAM
(obviously sneaky)

Actually, I thought

that you could shed some light…?

LEO
(ignoring the implication)

Where is she now?

SHELLY

Is she in class?

MR. KIDDERMAN

She’s been

taken to the hospital in Bedford.

SHELLY

Who told you?

The onslaught of questions has done Mr. Kidderman in. His mouth clicks shut, and he can’t seem to open it. Mr. Brannaham speaks in his stead.

MR. BRANNAHAM

Her mother did. I was

on the phone with her all morning. She said Hannah

was fine — something happened to her car,

and it wouldn’t stop accelerating until

it hit a tree. She broke her nose and bruised

her face a bit when the airbag deployed,

but she’ll be back in school sometime next week.

After the preacher has finished delivering his good news, Shelly looks at Leo. Neither of them seem relieved. Mr. Kidderman, picking up on their discomfort, swings back into action.

MR. KIDDERMAN

Of course, the counselor can see you if

you’re still feeling worried about your friend.

I’m sure you’ll be excused from your home room

if you let your teachers know.

LEO

Thanks.

MR. KIDDERMAN
(with a sense of finality)

Good.

SHELLY

I think

I’ll see the counselor, then.

MR. KIDDERMAN

Right — that’s good.

Mr. Kidderman turns to leave, awkwardly and without closing the conversation. He starts off down the hall. He seems nervous, as if he expects more students, desperately in need of his guidance, to materialize.

Mr. Brannaham lingers. He smiles first at Leo, and then at Shelly.

MR. BRANNAHAM

I’ll be here too, if you need something more.

Mr. Brannaham looks up at the foam tile and fluorescent lights that form a type of divine geometry in the ceiling before smiling again at Shelly and Leo. He gives their hands another shake and passes on down the hall, trailing intently after Mr. Kidderman.

Shelly moves in the opposite direction. Leo chases the echo of her footsteps. They hurry together towards a half-hidden exit.

LEO

Hey! The counselor’s the other way.

SHELLY
(furiously intent, opening
the metal door)

We aren’t going to see the counselor.

CUT TO:

Coming Soon

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

Cole Hardman

Written by

I’m an engineer with a passion for poetry and literary theory. Find more at: http://poetwithnoface.com/

Lit Up

Lit Up

Welcome to Lit Up -The Land of Little Tales. Here you can read and submit short stories, flash fiction, poetry - in brief, your own legend. We're starting little. But that's how all big stories begin.

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