The thing about traumatic events is that they only persist in the head of those affected. The physical traces are removed or cleaned away, the legal matters settled, any sentences carried out. As the media frenzy dies down, so too do the memories of the event in the minds of everyone but those carrying the mental scars. Everyone knows this, yet regardless it is not possible to understand what phrases such as 'it becomes a part of you' and 'it makes you look differently at the world around you' mean until you actually experience such an event.
All of this flashes through Nick's head as he's sitting at school the next morning, trying to pay heed to the teacher who is trying to convince the students that the chapters listed on the blackboard are very important for the test next week. It all feels so... distant and bleak. The reality of life's fragility is what bothers him the most at this point. All it takes is a single action, a single hard surface, projectile or other source of impact and the shell containing an existence is breached, leading to its inevitable demise.
He feels powerless. His heart tells him to protect everyone, but his mind tells him that yesterday there was precious little he could have done for that one woman. Certainly not prevent her from suffering such a horrible thing. Yet he also knows that you can not be on the outlook for anyone suspicious every single moment. Is the only solution then to just accept that while living one's life in the happy innocence of a newborn lamb, sometimes a bird of prey will swoop down and steal away a lamb from the herd? What value does that give to life?
Yesterday's event has made his imagination construct scenes of Meril getting hurt. A single madman doing unspeakable things to her, or pushing her against something solid, cracking open her skull, or shooting her, with a bullet shattering bone and tearing through soft issues. Life and death are far too close for comfort. It's a maddening kind of frailty.
Sighing, Nick pushes these disturbing thoughts to the back of his mind and tries to at least make an attempt at following the explanations the teacher is giving to questions asked by his fellow students. Curiously the thought of failing next week's test still doesn't appeal one bit to him.
Drifting slowly in darkness, Meril clings to the soft, fluffy warmth of sleep for as long as possible until consciousness inevitably claims her again. As she opens her eyes her first thought is that Nick isn't there any more. He must have left after she fell asleep in his arms last night. Suddenly she blushes furiously at the thought of her lying there, nestled into his arms. It makes her think of... other things, things she'd rather not deal with any time soon. Things which are rough and unpleasant. Like yesterday's event.
The sole reason why she allowed Nick to come this close to her to the point of becoming her boyfriend is due to the comfort he offers her. Comfort and certainty. Someone who will protect her no matter what, and who she'll want to protect just the same. Someone who won't do anything until she's ready for it. Someone who can shield the pleasant bubble of childish innocence she has preferred for so long. Yet still said bubble got brutally shattered yesterday. She vividly recalls the memories and feelings of that moment as fresh tears well up from deep inside her and a choking feeling threatens to close her throat. She recalls standing there in abject horror while that woman got brutally assaulted and shortly afterwards the attacker subdued. Watching Nick interfere, not hesitating to jump into the fray and pull the attacker away from his victim, made her proud in a way, and yet it too shattered part of the illusion of innocence she had been clinging to.
With everything reminding her of this unpleasantness, Meril is glad her parents called the school today to let them know that she will be absent today. With no need to hold back her feelings, Meril starts sobbing uncontrollably until eventually the tears subside and she falls into a deep, troubled sleep.
During lunch Nick meets up with Sarah, Tom and Jake. All three of them look worn in some fashion, as though they didn't get much sleep. Sarah in particular has red-rimmed eyes, as though she has been crying a lot.
“Good afternoon, everyone.” Nick greets them. The others mumble back something similar. All of them appear pre-occupied. Even after they sit down to eat they say little, until at one point Jake suddenly shakes his head. “Doesn't anyone of you think this is odd? How everything changed just because of that one thing yesterday. Things like that happen a lot. Why would it affect us so much?” He bursts out.
For a moment it's quiet, then Sarah responds: “I don't think anyone is saying that it was a very unusual thing. It's just that it's probably the first time that any of us experiences such a thing from up close like that. It makes it harder to deal with. I'm sure we'll feel better about it soon; after all things did turn out all right.” The others nod at her words.
“True enough, I guess...” Jake says. “Yet it doesn't feel like that to me. I mean, I have seen violence before, yet there was something about this person which felt... wrong. Maybe he was just totally crazy, but... I don't know.” He tries to say more, but he fails to find the words to express the sense of unease he feels.
“I'm sure it'll be fine, right?” Nick interjects. Despite his own uncertain thoughts on this subject he feels that giving in to panic isn't the way to go here, thus the attempt to put up a brave or neutral face. Before he gets a chance to say more, however, a sudden series of shouts from the hallway gets their attention. Looking up at the origin of the noise, they notice other students busily communicating, before making their way into the hallway.
Looking at each other they all can see the same questions in each other's eyes. “Let's see what this commotion is about?” Tom suggests. In agreement, they get up and walk over to the hallway entrance where they catch up with a small group of students who are talking with each other.
“What's going on?” Sarah asks one of them, a dark-haired, bespectacled boy.
“Something happened outside, they say. Seems like a big fight.” He says, looking somewhat nervous. The boy next to him, fair-haired and freckled, adds: “It started with just a couple of guys, but the teachers can't seem to break it up and now it's getting bigger.” Both of them look disturbed at the thought of a massive fight breaking out.
“So what's the occasion for this fight?” Nick asks. The dark-haired boy shrugs and replies: “No idea, from what I just heard it seems like they just started fighting out of the blue.”
All four friends look at each other. An eerie feeling of deja-vu settles on their minds as they thank the two boys for their information and make their way through the hallway towards where the fight is. It requires a bit of elbowing to make their way through the densest part of the throng. Everyone seems to be trying to catch a glimpse of this in their eyes once in a lifetime event. Odd how violence and suffering seem to always attract crowds.
Despite the dense crowd it doesn't take them much effort to locate the location of the fight. By this time the number of spectators is massive, but they do keep clear of the fighters. Looking at the struggle in front of her, Sarah can't blame them. At least three big guys are doing their utmost to land blows on the others, while yelling incomprehensible phrases which get only partially drowned out by the exclamations of the spectators. The fighters are panting, sweaty and have torn clothing, yet seem still focused on taking down the others.
While the four friends are standing there, a number of teachers force their way through the crowd and attempt to restrain the fighters. Initially it seems like they are succeeding, but then, even with two of the adults restraining a single of the students, the latter have no difficulty breaking free again. One of the teachers raises his arms in defence as the now freed student turns on him. With unnatural rage he lands blow after blow on the man, until he breaks through the defences and multiple blows land on the man's head. With a gasp the teacher's eyes turn upwards into his head and he slumps onto the floor.
The other teachers are also being assaulted now, with a number of them carrying bloody bruises, cradling injured arms and featuring torn clothes. Facing painful defeat, they flee back into the crowd while yelling at the students to run as well and vanish. The fighters make no attempt to pursue them. The unconscious teacher just lies there, ignored by his assailant, as the three students turn around, apparently searching for something, before assaulting each other again. The students who are watching the spectacle make no attempt to flee or interfere.
Sarah suddenly realizes that she has been staring as though mesmerized at the spectacle in front of her when she feels Jake's hand tugging on her sleeve. “I think we should leave now.” He just says to her. With nothing more than a nod in response, she follows him outside the throng. The others are waiting there as well. Looking back just once more at the mess she's leaving behind, she suddenly sees another male student jumping into the fight. As the crowd shuts off her view she can suddenly hear the wailing pain from one of the students, until it is cut off in a gurgling noise.
Feeling beset by fear, Sarah nearly runs the last paces to her friends who quickly embrace her. “Those students... they're just like...” she starts, to cut off. The others just nod in understanding. “Let's go back to the canteen. We should be safer there than we are here.” Without another word they follow suit.
As they make their way back, their sense of deja-vu only increases as they hear police sirens rapidly drawing near.
It's quiet in the canteen, as apparently virtually everyone has left to observe the fight. Amidst the empty tables, with some still having half-eaten meals on them, they find themselves unable to shake off the feeling of surreality. Without a word they sit down at the table they were occupying before and await what comes next. The sounds from the hallway are becoming increasingly louder and more disturbing. Sarah finds that she has to keep a hold on her own thoughts to not give into a sense of panic. She would most of all want to run away to somewhere safe right now and curl up into a foetal position. As she looks up from the table and her eyes meet those of Jake, she feels both shocked and comforted as his eyes mirror her feelings.
Right then a screaming and series of loud noises start in the hallway. “Seems like the police has arrived.” Tom says. They all listen intently, as the next few moments will determine what they will have to do next. Will the police be able to get this situation resolved?
Suddenly students start streaming back into the canteen, their hunger for excitement apparently gone. In the throng Nick recognizes one of the boys they talked to before and draws him closer. “What's happening? Why is everyone suddenly rushing?” He asks.
“The guys fighting went completely mad when they saw the police officers... they rushed them and the officers started using their weapons against them. I think one of the guys got shot with a taser. I don't think he went down, though.” The boy says, while nervously adjusting his spectacles. After a quick look at the others behind Nick, he turns around and follows the others.
“I think we should be leaving too, maybe.” Nick starts. “Let's just go home?” He suggests, right before a first gunshot rattles them. A second follows right after it, before they have a chance to recover. Startled, they look at each other. Another gunshot sounds, and other. When the sound dies away, an eerie silence descends. Seconds pass before voices can be heard from the hallway again. They sound commanding, but not panicked or aggressive.
“Let's take a quick look at what is going on?” Jake suggests, his curiosity apparently winning out over his fear. Following Jake, they all glimpse into the hallway where only a single student can still be seen watching the scene, albeit cowered behind cover. A look at the place near the entrance where previously the students were fighting reveals why. One of the fighters lies motionlessly on the floor, with many trails of wire attached to him from multiple taser shots. Two others also lie motionlessly, one with a torn out throat and another with a growing puddle of blood around him. A fourth lies groaning weakly on the floor, clutching his bleeding legs. Four police agents stand nearby, panting and with their uniforms in disarray. One is clutching a seemingly hurt wrist. The unconscious teacher has been moved to the side of the hallway, probably by the on-looking students.
With the direct threat gone, Nick and Tom make their way to the police officers first, followed at some distance by Sarah and Jake. Upon their approach, the officers immediately take up a defensive stance, but relax when they do not detect any aggression from the four of them.
“Everything all right, officer?” Nick asks the officer closest to him. The man, about in his thirties, with a clean-shaven face and short, black hair, fetches his cap from the floor where it must have fallen during the earlier struggle. “I guess so.” He responds, curtly. “I have no idea what got over the guys, but they were on us in seconds. Mark over there got bitten by one of them, that one we had to taser repeatedly before he went down. One of them was dead already, the others we had to use our firearms on.” He sighs, then says: “I have never experienced anything like this before.”
In the distance more police sirens can be heard, rapidly closing in along with the wailing siren of an ambulance. “Reinforcements.” The officer says.
“We have seen something like this before, officer.” Sarah suddenly says. “Yesterday, at the cinema.” The officer looks at her. “I heard about that from some colleagues and saw it on the news, yes. You saw the attacker there and the ones here? Were they similar?”
Sarah thinks for a moment before she responds: “Not entirely the same, no, but similar. The one at the cinema was so focused on assaulting this woman that he couldn't focus on anything else, while being extremely strong and violent. These students were just violent... almost instinctive, while also being very strong. They beat up a number of teachers, including the one over there. They were brutal, but I do not know what their goal was.”
“I helped restrain the attacker at the cinema yesterday.” Nick adds. “He was strong enough that with four of us we could barely hold him. His skin was burning to the touch, almost feverish.” The officer nods briefly. “Sounds similar to these guys, yes. We tasered one of them, but he just kept running towards us, until we tasered him a few more times. The others weren't even afraid when we fired warning shots, so we had to use lethal force, sadly.”
All of them fall silent after that. With the wailing sirens approaching, the four friends all feel like they are merely repeating yesterday's events. Just with the added iron-like stench of blood in the air this time.
Viral Desire – Part 2, Day 1 Revision: 0
Author: Maya Posch Draft version Date: 2012/08/09