Writers (in order): pasta, ET, Grace, Maya Ma, Lee, Lucy Zhao, Cherice, Andrea Esparza, Sophia Liao, Paige Scott, Irene Tsen. Editor: Ms. Ja.
It all started one hot sunny day. School was just let out across the city and anywhere you went, you could hear whooping and yelling from excited students, ready to throw out all their textbooks. The ecstatic chatter and energetic movement everywhere masked everything else for a few minutes. From the air conditioners running in the background, to the quiet, terrified, and shaking screams of other students as they watched their classmate devour the teacher whole. Quiet soon fell upon the nearby classrooms as the screams of the children rose above their excited yells. Someone called for the police, and that finally caught the child’s, no—that’s not right—the beast’s attention. What had once been a small child no more than five feet tall, naturally small and shy, now turned its hulking body towards the class. Everyone all at once froze in the classroom, and the people outside who had not heard the screams earlier stopped and turned their heads. A quiet stillness fell over everyone at Westerbrook High and to the people who were lucky enough to get out that day, it had seemed as if the world all at once had become quiet for just a heartbeat, and then... Chaos.
I was one of the lucky ones. The moment I recovered enough to process what had happened, I was out of the classroom, practically flinging myself down the long staircase. More and more students were crowding toward the classroom, curiosity and concern painted across their expressions. Teachers shouted commands with little effect. I shoved my way through the hallway and sprinted to the back of the building. Breathing heavily, I turned to face the looming skyscrapers across the road with a single thought drumming through my mind: my grandfather is to blame.
Since I was small, I have been trained to maintain a calm, clear mind in chaotic situations and have trained for physical combat. This is heavily influenced by my father’s fear of my grandfather. My father is cautious around my grandfather, for he views Grandfather as a maniac who is thirsty for power. More specifically, a desire to find a way to achieve immortality. Grandfather performs his testing dirty. He would bribe kids with fame, money, and luxuries and test it on them.
Barely even crossing the street, I heard glass crash behind me. Quickly glancing behind, I could see a limp body flying through the air, with the beast’s shadow flashing behind the broken window. The body landed with a thump on the gravel. Blood painted the floor red. Please don’t let that be Ollie, I begged silently.
The screaming increased while the sun shined cruelly on us.
• • •
The rhythm of my footsteps blurred with the sound of my pulse rushing in my ears. Blood appeared black as it splattered against the shifting gravel, staining it dark and glossy. The sound of what seemed like thousands of screams pierced my ears in an agonizing harmony. I ignored it, willing myself to think logically. My mind raced through countless possibilities and solutions until it screeched to an abrupt stop. Grandfather’s basement. He enjoys his experiments, but he always keeps some sort of reversal method for his own twisted curiosity. His lab is for the experiments but the basement... Bracing myself, I took off, leaving behind me a choir of manic screams and the melodic roar of a crazed beast, once human.
The two-story lab looked more like a prison than anything else, with cracks lining the edges of its gray walls, cobwebs that had built up over decades, a tall chain-linked fence that encircled the building, and a singular window on the top floor, placed so that no one could see the inside. The rusty hinges let out a series of squeals as I pushed the door open. As I stepped inside, my nose picked up a strong rotting smell. With each step, dust rose from the ground and left small clouds behind me. Not even ten steps into the house, I heard a faint noise coming from behind a door marked with the words: subject fifty-one. Being careful not to make any noise, I tip-toed towards the door.
Clearly this was a bad idea. Why else would some unnamed experiment be locked up right at the entrance of a house? As if there would be guests to greet to begin with! The room—the entire building—appeared as if it sat untouched for decades. Caught between the sudden uproar of an uncontrollable and the desolate experiment lab of a house, my legs moved towards the door before my mind processed anything.
Disgust boiled in my stomach when I peered through the foggy yellowed glass bolted to the door.
Someone had turned the room into a massive toilet. Enough streaks and stains decorated the walls and floors that one wouldn't have known they were meant to be white without the help of a slightly cleaner ceiling. Empty syringes lay scattered on the floor in pools of brown and red. The cleaner, newer-appearing medical equipment paved a path towards the door. Right where the scratching came from.
From the warped viewpoint the glass provided, I could see a yellow-stained lab coat, a sufficient amount of balding spots along a hairline of gray, and wrinkled hands littered with sun spots... or something else I didn't want to name. But, I also didn’t want to name the deformed, wrinkly bag of bones as my grandfather.
The scratching increased. Some unknown creature locked somewhere inside the room let out a keening wail—close to a child’s cry, tinged with desperation and anger and confusion. My grandfather turned, shuffling towards the sound.
I waited, soundless, unmoving, breath I feared to exhale held inside. I had to act. It was now or never.
I couldn’t get my body to move.
A crash. Metal screeching. A hoarse scream. Blood splattered the walls.
I forced myself to look at where the scream had come from, half-knowing what I would see already: my grandfather, dead at the hand of a monster of his own making. A monster, similar to the one now rampaging my school, had emerged. If anything, it was more horrific than the one I had seen.
My eyes were tugged towards my grandfather’s limp body. The monster had gouged a gaping hole in his chest. My grandfather, who I had despised and feared for sixteen years, was dead.