One minute the teacher was speaking about math. And then the next minute she had been attacked by a student.
Rose was there, though drifting somewhere inside her mind—away from all the arguing, the crackling of gunfire, and the slamming of the classroom door.
Through the low ringing in the back of her head and the sharp intakes of air, she recalled what others around were saying: Dead. Gunshots. Bit.
Rose hadn't known how long she'd been slipping in and out of reality. All she knew was, no one was permitted to leave. That's what the military police had said after they drug Nick out, leaving a long trail of black bile behind. It had been hours since then. Hours and no word of what happened to Nick.
Of course Rose knew there were rivals and fights amongst students and teachers of Rogan high. But this, this left her eyes glued straight ahead, leaving her staring at their twelfth-grade teacher Mrs. Caine with an agape mouth. There she sat, right in front of the whiteboard with her wrinkled hand affixed to the arch of her neck where gray curls matted against crusted blood.
Her blue glistened over eyes made Rose's skin crawl. She knew she wasn't alone, and yet she felt as if she were as they stared one another down.
"Are you kidding me," Rose heard Jonathan's voice pierce through all the others, snagging her back from wherever her mind had taken her.
"It's Five o' clock and we're still sitting here waiting for what exactly?!"
Five o' clock? How long had she spaced out?
Rose rubbed at her temples while turning in her seat to study Johnathan and a few others who craned their necks this way and that.
"Sit down," Mrs. Caine snapped her fingers back towards a desk in the far corner of the room. "I've had enough of your lack in listening skills!"
Rose diverted her attention elsewhere, noticing a few others who stared out the large windows towards something she couldn't see. Whatever it was, it had to be far better than listening to Jonathan's temper tantrum. "Can't you lower your ego for once and listen?" Rose asked, brushing dark curls from her face.
Johnathan smirked. "Mind your own, girl kisser!"
Her jaw dropped.
The spark of spite in the depths of his hazel eyes made her fidget and curl her fingers against the palms of her hands. Rose's mouth twitched. Was that the only worn out name he could call her? So what if she kissed a girl two years ago on the account of a prank? People needed to learn to take things less serious and get over it.
In the time he took to peer around the room, she sent a glare towards the back of his head that could've burned a hole right through that thick skull of his. "As I was saying," Johnathan turned his back towards her and the rest of the class. "There's no fucking way any nerdy twelfth grader could've lifted you off the ground with one fucking hand. No offense. But you aren't exactly skinny!"
"Rabies," Rose interrupted, still holding back the anger that threatened to arise. "Maybe that could've been the cause?"
"That's a rare case in cities," Jane said from behind. "And you all know as well as I that Nick is too athletically challenged to go hunting. He never said anything about getting bit either."
Something about Jane's voice made Rose peer over her shoulder, and there she was, slumped over with her dark hair curtaining her face from view. Rose already knew she'd been crying for the past few hours. Who wouldn't after seeing their beloved get shot in the shoulder and drug out like some wild animal? That thought alone left her at a loss of words.
"Yeah. Jane's right." The corner of Jonathan's mouth twitched as he stared at their teacher.
Mrs. Caine shook her head. "I'm a math teacher. I'm not experienced with medical conditions Jonathan."
"Find out! Cause if you come at me like Chase came towards you, I can't promise I'll be the one catching a bullet." There was no trace of a joke in his tone whatsoever. Matter of fact, Rose couldn't recall a time that he'd been so solemn.
Things weren't right, and there was a voice in the back of Rose's head that sent a cold wave up her back and said nothing was going to get better as she noted how pallid Mrs. Caine's skin was.
She'd seen this before; many times at her mother's hospital when a patient suffered from blood loss. She bit down on her bottom lip and looked towards Jane with a shake of her head. Did he truly think acting thick-skinned would fix anything?
When Rose looked back at Mrs. Caine, she was slouched over with her face pressed against the wood of her desk, gasping for air. "Johnathan, Jesus Christ! Did you really have to yell at her while it's obvious there's something wrong?" She didn't give him a chance to explain before she bumped passed him and eased up beside their teacher.
Johnathan licked his lips, pacing. "Oh. Okay. Everything is always my fault. All because I want to get my ass home and in bed. Sure," he mumbled.
"Just shut up will you," Rose hissed out, tucking some stray strands of hair behind her ear. She rocked on the balls of her feet and tip-toed around the desk, occasionally glimpsing up at the others. Was it just her, or did the teacher stop moving?
"Did, did she pass out?" Jane whispered, slack-jawed.
"I don't want to touch her," Rose said, moving back.
"Fucking check her pulse and stop being such a wimp about it!"
Rose jumped, finding Jonathan's rounded eyes staring at her. He was right. She had to do it. She was the only one with that kind of knowledge, which she now regretted. Suppressing the voice in the back of her head and burying all her worries along with it, she moved a shaking hand beneath Mrs. Caine's neck, noting how cold she was. There was warmth—but faint. "She's a little cold," she said.
"Well?!" Johnathan rolled his eyes as if telling her to go on.
"There's a pulse!"
There were a few sighs of relief filling throughout the room. But the moment she took a step back towards the whiteboard, the teacher jerked upwards and collided against the backrest, rocking helplessly. She swayed and whipped her head all around until a hair-raising wail tore free from her throat. Rose swallowed hard, unable to tear her eyes away. The uprising fear stuck to her face didn't stop Mrs. Caine from clawing at the desk and biting into the flesh of her bottom lip.
Rose shifted her gaze between the whites of Mrs. Caine's eyes rolling in the back of her head, to her classmates charging towards the other side of the room, leaving her alone in that small space to watch their teacher die. Mrs. Caine kept repeating "I feel them inside me" over and over again as she convulsed while bloody bile spilled out the corners of her mouth, splattering all over the mahogany desk, carpet, and on the fabric of Rose's black leggings. There was so much blood—too much. And she hadn't known where all of it came from. The chair screeched with each rock, tilting on its legs until Mrs. Caine plowed against the desk stiffly.
Rose didn't move at first. Her hands were the only thing her sights could find at this time and moment, because they trembled more than they had in her entire life, more than when her parents fought in the middle of the night. And more than those creepy dreams with the blood chilling whistles.
Everything grew silent, and it'd taken every ounce of courage within her body to peer out towards her classmates. Johnathan was the first she focused on. And for the first time she didn't look away. This was different than all the other times when he glared and poked at her. Now, a twisted face stared back-not a taunting one, but a fearful one.
Next, she found Jane. Her hand was rested against her chest, eyes wide and void. The rest of the class had huddled up in groups against the corners and underneath desks. Cassie, who Rose had almost forgotten, was there too.
"I didn't do that!" Johnathan blurted out, shooting a wide-eyed look around the room. "She was already sick when Chase attacked her."
"I know! I know! A heart attack or seizure doesn't do this!" Rose said while she leaped over the puddle of blood, nearly tripping over the wooden leg of the desk. Her hands found the tabletop and she steadied herself with a rough pulse in the veins of her neck. She made sure she was careful as she crept up towards the front of Mrs. Caine's desk, one leg after another. It was ironic. No one had asked her to check for a pulse this time, but she had. She placed her fingers just beneath Mrs. Caine's jawline. There was nothing but cold skin rough to the touch.
"She's dead," Rose whimpered out, jolting back hard against the whiteboard. But a raking noise drew her eyes towards the dead body.
The teacher's hand flinched, then cleaved brown stained nails across the desk. Splinters tore away against the pink flesh beneath, peeling back until her nail hung from the nail bed by a string. Although her eyes wouldn't tear away from the sight, bile still rose at the back of her throat. "She's acting like him," she said slurred. Her legs were far from weak. But now they were weighed down and difficult to move.
"He didn't act like that!" Jane corrected through what sounded like clenched teeth.
Maybe Rose shouldn't have worded it that way. Jane was right. Nick only attacked Mrs. Caine. He didn't vomit a river of blood or melt down into a seizure. This was far from messed up.
Rose felt a hand against her shoulder, and she found Cassie giving her a half warmed smile. She found it nice, but it hadn't stopped the bumps that rose up on her arms. "We can't just stand around," Cassie said with a nod, her blonde hair falling against her slender shoulders.
"Fuck." Cory smacked his head, then began pulling desks from one side of the room towards the other.
Rose, Cassie, and Jane only watched.
"What?! Can I get a damn hand or what?!"
"Maybe if you acted like a gentleman and asked for once," Rose mumbled, gesturing for the other girls to assist. She couldn't stand him. All those damn years and one bad day he acted as if nothing ever happened. He was a—a loud boom reverberated from outside and shattered the windows. The floor moved beneath her feet, and if she hadn't thrown her leg out, she would've slammed right into a desk. Another one came, and then the lights flickered until a blanket of darkness fell, veiling their eyes.
"What was that?" Rose heard Johnathan say nearby.
"Someone, phone, lighter, anyone?" Cassie said over whimpers.
A faint light flickered in the corner of Rose's eye. It wasn't from a phone, but from a crack beneath the classroom door. "Shh," she said as her foot slid across the carpet, easing her forward. Finally, she stood by the door, pressing her face against the narrow window pane. Maybe someone had came to inform them that everything was alright.
Through the gloom, something blurred past. A face flashed before her; sharp, angular, and mutilated. Through the red strobe lights in the halls, she swore she saw other people moving within the distance. Fast, appearing in swirls of colors that ranged between a vibrant red and a ghostly gray. Her heart drummed in her ears.
"What do you see Rose!" Johnathan hissed right into her ear and she rammed an elbow into his side.
"Hold up," Rose said. Someone was there, right in front of the door. But through the thick smoggy obscurity, it was hard to tell who.
"Hello?" Rose spoke again, sending yet another elbow into Jonathan's side when he clamped a hand on her shoulder.
Rose whipped around towards the others staring at her. "Someone's here. It might be the paramedics. They did say they were going to send one, right?!"
"N-No. They just left. Besides, if that's the EMT's, where's the sirens Rose?" Cassie asked in a low chirp.
"Well. What are you waiting for? Open the damn door!" Johnathan grumbled.
Who was right or wrong? Rose thought. There weren't any sirens, and if someone came for them, why'd they remain silent? Rose gulped, reaching her decision. She placed a shaking hand on the doorknob and yanked until there was a small crack enough to peep through. When she peered through the gap, something slid through the crack she couldn't completely see. Maybe a note? It was white, contrasting a bit against the dark.
"Hand me a phone. I left mine on the desk," Rose whispered.
"Here." Johnathan slid his cell phone in her hand.
Sliding her finger over the lockscreen, the faint glow lit up a good portion of the area. She could see Cassie pressed against Jane's side. And just beside them, Johnathan was biting on his bottom lip with his brows lowered. Rose shifted back towards the door. Right in her line of sight was a fresh, partially gnawed off finger wiggling around, curling, seeking for something. And at the blunt cut off tip were fine tendrils lashing around like miniature vines.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
She leaped back, slamming into the others while the hall echoed with fleeing footsteps and screams. But what she heard most was the raspy moan coming from the other side of the door, and a wheezed voice that said: "Let. Me. In."
Something pushed it open wider, and Rose hastily pressed a shoulder against the wood. But it fought back stronger.
Screams filled the hall as another raspy moan came from the other side of the door, pushing it open even wider than before. Her feet slid as the seconds passed. "Help! Help god damn it!" She could feel her skin bruising, her toes burning on the inside of her shoes as she fought against the force.
Jonathan's hands came near her face, then pressed against the door. Then another pair. Finally, all three of them slammed it to a shut. The frame quivered as something banged against it. The wood groaned, but whatever it was, was no match for the three of them. After a minute, footfall became distant, then nothing-silence and their own heavy breathing.