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But Not Steven

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Author's note: It's been around three years since I posted Spoons, which got a little bit of success. I stopped writing for a while, but I read Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, which inspired me to start again. School shootings and the psychological illnesses behind them have been hot topics lately, so I wanted to write a pasta about them. Contact: metalheadisaac@gmail.com

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A loud bang rang out through the school, making all of the sleep-deprived college students bolt awake.

Steven’s eyes turned to the open door of the classroom, and then back to Mrs. Roberts, who had a concerned look on her face.

“The hell was that?” one of the other students muttered, through a sluggish voice.

“I think someone just broke a desk or something,” said Mrs. Roberts, “It happens all the time.”

Mrs. Roberts walked towards the door of the classroom as the students talked and joked among themselves about “what idiot broke their own desk.” All of them except Steven, who thought he had heard someone yell… just vaguely… right before they all heard the bang. As Mrs. Roberts was about to walk out of the classroom, another three bangs followed, almost deafening this time. They were accompanied by blood-curdling, agony-filled screams that made Mrs. Roberts stop dead in her tracks.

All of the other students jumped up from their desks – but not Steven. He was frozen like a deer in headlights, trying to keep breathing steadily. There was no doubt about what he was hearing – gunshots. He’d read and watched documentaries about Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Charleston AME, but there was no way that it was happening there – at a little community college in Greenville. Oh god, this couldn’t be happening.

“Shut the door!” screamed a girl on the other side of the classroom.

Mrs. Roberts slammed the classroom door shut and waved the students to the far side of the room, away from the door.

“Get over in that corner of the room and crouch down!”

Steven stood up and staggered to the far corner of the room, barely making it. He was trying to stop himself from blacking out. More gunshots rang off as the entire school started to fill with screams, cries, frantic shouts, and the footsteps of terrified people dashing through the hallways. Every gunshot made Steven jump in his place and breathe a little harder.

“Has anyone called 911?!” Mrs. Roberts shouted.

“Doing it right now!” said a girl to Steven’s right, punching in the number on her phone.

The unrelenting gunshots and screams were the only things Steven could hear as everything else going on around him faded. He was shaking and breathing rapidly. Who was doing this? How did it happen? Why did it have to happen here? How long until the police would be there? Would he make it out of this alive?

The sound of someone frantically banging on the classroom door jolted Steven and made him realize he had totally zoned out. The doorknob started rattling furiously as Steven pressed himself against the wall behind him as hard as he could, laying his arms across his chest to protect himself.

“HELP! SOMEBODY LET ME IN!”

Everyone in the room was dead silent, looking around at each with expressions of paralyzing fear. No one knew what to do – but everyone did know the campus rules. In an event like this, neither students nor teachers were supposed to open the door for anyone except police. If someone did break the rule, it would take a miracle to save them from being prosecuted in court, or at the very least, expelled and barred from coming back on campus.

“HE’S GOING TO KILL ME! I PROMISE I WON’T HURT ANYONE! JUST OPEN THE DOOR!”

Steven was more than happy to wait for police before he even thought of opening that damn door. He cared about other people, but right then, all he could think about was whether he would be okay or not. He was still processing the reality that this was really happening, and that the only thing keeping shooter from coming into their classroom was a single door.

“No… NO!” the man on the other side of the door yelled.

“Somebody do something!” shouted a man who was crouching a couple feet in front of Steven.

Everyone else wanted to open the door and fight the shooter… but not Steven. All Steven had was a pocketknife.

“OH MY GOD!”

The voice the man on the other side of the door dissolved into gurgling while bullets found their way into the man’s chest. The sound of gunpowder exploding shook the room while the man’s desperate pleas for help faded. Blood starting seeping under the door and into the classroom.

The girl closest to the door started screaming.

“OH GOD, HELP US, SOMEBODY HELP US!”

Just then, the fire alarm started going off.

YES, Steven thought, That means the police will be here soon!

Steven looked up as he was renewed with a glimmer of hope. He stared at the blood oozing under the door. Nothing happened for another minute. Just as everyone was starting to relax a little bit, bullets started to slam through the door. They took out desks and knocked over chairs. Everyone in the room started screaming and yelling… but not Steven. Steven was too busy listening to the wailing sirens and squealing breaks as help was arriving outside. He looked over at Mrs. Roberts, who standing close to the door of the classroom, wielding a stun gun she had just pulled out of her bag. Damn, he thought. He never realized that Mrs. Roberts was such a badass, nor did he know teachers were allowed to carry weapons. To Steven’s surprise, she looked calm, but she was laser-focused.

One of the bullets going through the door struck a teenager in the arm. He cried out, grabbing his arm, and wincing in pain. His wound was met with the dismayed cries of everyone around him as everyone scooted further away from the door. Mrs. Roberts stepped closer to the door, preparing to taze the shooter if they broke in to the room.

“Fuck, fuck, FUCK,” he kept saying through gritted teeth, each time a little bit louder than the last.

A nursing student hurried over to the man and started tending to his wound. Everyone else in the room ducked lower… but not Steven. He stayed exactly where he was, knowing help was on the way. Abruptly, the person on the other side of the door stopped shooting, and the deafening noise of exploding gunpowder ceased. No one could hear any footsteps, but everyone was smart enough to know that the shooter couldn’t have left that quickly. Steven thought that they were waiting for someone to open the door – which is exactly why students weren’t allowed to open doors in the event of a shooting. A gunman could make them think he’d left, and trick someone into opening the door for him.

Steven didn’t know why the gunman was so eager to break into his specific classroom, because most of the massacres he’d read about involved random violence. He was, however, too busy listening to the shouts of law enforcement outside to give it a second though.

Mrs. Roberts waited another a minute before she peered through the bullet holes in the door. One of the holes that the shooter made was big enough to fit a hand in and unlock the door – a chilling thought to Steven, though he knew that Mrs. Roberts would taze anyone who tried to unlock the door from the outside.

“The coast looks clear,” she said in a low voice, “Let’s wait until the cops come and get us.”

Everyone stayed crouched until they could hear the footsteps of the SWAT team and campus police pouring up the stairs and into the hallway.

“Police, open your doors!” yelled a man who sounded about thirty or forty years old, presumably the chief of the squad.

Mrs. Roberts immediately opened the door as all of the students stood up. Everyone hurried out of the classroom, including the young man who had been shot. The nursing student was helping him walk and cope with the pain. Everyone got out as fast as they could… expect Steven. No one noticed that he’d been left behind. He was still sitting against the wall, trying to bring himself to get up and go with them. He knew he was safe, so he was in no hurry to stand up. He had to bring himself to his senses.

“Has anyone been hurt?” said another voice in the hallway.

“Me…” whined the man who had been shot in the arm, through tears.

“Has the shooter been apprehended yet?” Mrs. Roberts asked.

“We haven’t found him yet,” said the voice of the chief, sternly.

“We could be shot any time!” said another worried student.

“We’re watching the school from all angles and we have about sixty officers looking for him,” said the chief.

“You’ll be alright,” said the voice of another officer, reassuringly.

The sound of the students and officers scurrying down the steps left Steven in almost total silence. He was almost ready to get up – but not just yet. He had to take a few more deep breaths before he was strong enough to get up again. He knew he wasn’t alone - he could still hear the buzzing of several radios in the hallway. He couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but he knew they were looking for the shooter.

Suddenly, Steven caught a description of the gunman from one of the officers in the Hallway.

“He’s a white male, about 6 feet tall. Short, black hair combed to one side, noticeable sideburns, and goatee. He was wearing a white t-shirt and black gym shorts.”

To Steven, that sounded like… no, it couldn’t be. There were a lot of people that matched that description.

He finally mustered the strength to stand up and walk towards the hallway. He almost tripped over the body of the man who had tried so desperately to escape death by getting into their classroom. He felt something sticky on his shoes, but he didn’t even have to look down to know that he’d stepped in blood. Guilt came over him like a sudden rainstorm. He wondered if anyone else had stopped to realize that saving a human life was worth getting expelled from a community college.

A few school policemen came into view as he stepped out of the classroom.

“Help! Help!” he cried to two officers who were standing one door down.

He fell to knees, leaning against the wall.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” One of the officers, who was wearing strikingly red glasses, asked.

“I’m okay, I just couldn’t stand up. I was going to pass out,” Steven said.

The other officer put out his and motioned for Steven to get up. Steven grabbed the officer’s hand and got to his feet again.

“I think I’m alright now, though,” said Steven.

The sight of bodies lying in the hallway and in the doorways of the classrooms made him want to vomit. The once white tile-floor of the hallway was almost entirely coated in blood.

“We need to get you out of here,” said a SWAT officer as he walked up behind Steven.

“The gunman is still in the building,” the other officer reminded them. “Watch yourself.”

The SWAT officer nodded. Steven turned with him and started jogging the other way, towards the stairs.

“LOOK OUT!” yelled one of the campus policemen.

Steven spun around to see the shooter coming out of one of the classrooms. In a split-second, he’d shot both of the officers right in their foreheads – incredible marksmanship. The SWAT officer with Steven pointed his M4 carbine at the assailant, but by the time he had raised his weapon, it was too late. The gunman had driven a bullet into the head of the SWAT officer faster than he could aim. Blood splattered on Steven’s face, turning his view to blanket of murky rose-red. He screamed and turned around, wiping the blood from his eyes, and bolted for the stairs. The SWAT man went down while firing at the shooter. He missed and hit the floor, but he had used his last breath to try and save Steven.

The gunman fired several times and hit the wall next to Steven. He dove for the stairs and just barely managed to make it around the corner before he got hit. The gunman had hesitated just long enough so that he had escaped unharmed. He didn’t get a clear view of the gunman, but he didn’t plan on sticking around to see if it was who he thought it was. He had to tell the police where the gunman was.

Steven hesitated as he heard the footsteps of the shooter come down to the end of the hallway where he was. Steven’s blood started boiling as he realized how many other people had been left without their loved ones because of this bullshit. He started shaking again, but not because of fear this time. Not because he was afraid. He was filled with rage and anger at the thought of how many lives had been stolen early, and how many people would have to go to sleep without their loved ones that night. He remembered his pocketknife as he felt it pressing against his leg. He took it out, opened the blade, and leaned against the wall, right next to the corner of the hallway. Everyone else had run from the gunman… but not Steven. He had to avenge the officer who had tried to save his life with this last breath. Someone had been left without a father, without a husband, and without a son because of this needless act of violence.

Just like that, Steven’s crippling fear transformed into an eruption of anger. If Steven would be the last person who died because he finally took down the gunman, he was totally fine with that. He would be remembered as someone who sacrificed his life to save everyone else. A fire of resentment was rising in Steven’s heart as he prepared to pounce and take hold of the man’s arm. He waited for the right moment as the gunman inched ever so closer to where Steven was hiding. The shooter thought he was long gone by then. He only had one chance to do this right, so he had to wait for the right moment. He counted down in his head… Five… four… three… two… one…

Steven jumped out from the corner and caught the shooter off guard. He grabbed the gunman’s wrist, pointing the gun away from them, and held his knife to the gunman’s throat. Steven gasped as he realized that his worst fears, something that he thought only to be a fantasy, were confirmed. He stood face to face with exactly who thought the gunman was.

“Funny seeing you here,” the gunman said, smiling crassly.

Steven scowled with resentment as he looked straight into the gunman’s eyes.

“You sick… son of a bitch…” Steven growled through his teeth.

The gunman kept smiling into Steven’s eyes as Steven gritted his teeth. Suddenly, the gunman pulled free and pointed the gun at Steven. He wasted no time, and immediately fired. Steven ducked and barely missed a bullet that grazed his shirt. He tackled the gunman and clamped his hand around the shooter’s wrist, holding the gun just far enough so that the he couldn’t shoot Steven. They slid several feet in the thicker layer of blood that coated the floor. The smell made Stephen gag, but it only made the shooter just that much more giddy about the sick act he had committed. Steven brought his knife towards the shooter’s throat as he tried to pull away. The gunman shot several more times while trying to shake Steven’s hold on his wrist. The bullets hit the wall and echoed through the long hallway as the knife crept closer to the gunman’s throat.

The gunman struggled to keep Steven’s knife away from his throat as Steven struggled to keep the gun pointed away. All at once, Steven elbowed the gunman in the stomach, making him groan, which caused him to lose his grip long enough for Steven to recoup and pull the knife back. Steven let out the loudest yell he had ever yelled in his life, envisioning himself as a warrior giving his last battle cry, and drove the knife into the gunman’s throat as hard as he could. Steven pulled the knife out as the gunman tried to scream, blood pouring out of his neck and soaking his shirt. He drove the knife into the gunman again, this time in the chest.

“You fucking bastard!” Steven screamed at the gunman.

The gunman finally broke free for half a second, just long enough to aim and fire the last bullet in the gun’s chamber – right into Steven’s brain. Steven collapsed on top of the gunman as the gunman closed his eyes. They were both satisfied with what they had done – they had both completed what they had set out to do.

The SWAT team poured into the hallway to see that they had made it too little too late. They weren’t able to reach the second floor hallway of that little community college in Greenville fast enough to save Steven’s life.

Steven felt his muscles relax as the sound of comforting songs become louder, every moment inching closer to whatever place came after this life. He heard the voices of his deceased grandparents laughing and celebrating as if they had never even died. He knew that whatever his reward was for saving lives, he would get it soon.

Thousands of people came to Steven’s funeral to honor him for his act of bravery. The chief of Greenville’s police force spoke, saying that if he had been faced with the same situation, he might not have even had the guts to do what Steven had done. His family and friends gave eulogies saying how inspiring Steven had been, how the world had lost an amazing person far too early, and how heaven had gained an angel that day. His mother, a talented pianist and singer, played her own rendition of Amazing Grace that she had put together just for the funeral.

That day, the front page of every paper and every popular news site read, “College Student Stops School Massacre By Stabbing Own Brother to Death.”

Everyone else was mourning that day… but not Steven.



Credited to Isaac Swett 

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