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The First Day Back

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The loud, familiar beep of the alarm clock went off at eight this morning. It rang about six times before I hit it off. With a groan, I sat up in bed and stretched. I looked around the dark room, barely illuminated by the window. I could tell by the light of the window that it was gray out, and, judging by the light pitter-patter sound, it was raining out. Such a gloomy start to what should be a cheery semester. After all, it was my last one, and then I'd be off to the real world. Nothing excited me more; the world seemed filled with endless possibilities and nothing was out of my reach. I could almost taste the freedom.

I finally got out of bed and made my way to the kitchen of my small apartment. I set up the coffee pot and prepared the first of what I assumed would be many cups. After the coffee was ready, I poured it into a mug and walked back into my room. I took off my pajamas, and put on a t-shirt, jeans, and rainboots. I put on a small amount of makeup, brushed my hair, then got up and exited the apartment. I went downstairs and walked out of the building. I walked past the same dozens of flowers that were in front of my building last night, but I didn't give it too much attention as I made my way towards campus.

While walking to the campus, all I could feel was a burning pain in my head. It felt akin to a migraine, but distinctly unlike any I'd felt before. I tried to ignore it and focus on walking to my first class of the day, history 201. While walking onto campus, I noticed a CBS news van parked near the library. In front of it, a woman in a raincoat was being filmed, reporting about something or other. I hoped to overhear part of the story, so I crossed the street in order to walk past the reporter. While in the middle of the road, I heard a loud tire squeal, as if a car was slamming on the breaks suddenly. I immediately turned in reflex, but nothing was there. Perhaps it came from somewhere else and I only overheard it. I did not dwell on it long and I walked on. Finally, I was within an earshot of the reporter, and I casually slowed down in order to hear part of the story.

"No word on the specifics of the accident just yet, but this is of course a rapidly developing story," the reporter said to the camera. "The campus is still in mourning, and final goodbyes will be said at the funeral at 3 pm this afternoon. More updates will be reported once the campus and police release new information. From Thornwood University, this is Cynthia LoParo, CBS Eyewitness News."

Wow, funeral? I thought to myself. For who? What happened? I felt chills run up my spine. Nothing this awful had ever happened to Thornwood University. I was mostly surprise that I had not heard anything about it. Thornwood University was not exactly a small school, but something as devastating as a campus death was sure to be big news. People must be talking about this, I thought, so why haven't I heard anything?

I got to History and sat in the back of the class, scanning the room for people I knew. I did see a few acquaintences, but they did not seem to see me. If they did, they did not make much note of it. The other students were quieter than normal, speaking only in hushed tones, if they spoke at all. I sat in silence and waited for the teacher.

The teacher did eventually come, and class was uneventful. The professor went over the syllabus, the students were quiet, and the hour and eighteen minutes passed by. Once I was dismissed from class, I made my way back to my apartment. While walking back, I sent a text to my boyfriend. "Hey, how's your first day going?" I typed. However, after I hit send, the little red blinking light appeared at the top, indicating the message did not go through. My service seemed fine. I wasn't sure why the message did not send. I hit the button again, and once again the red blinking light appeared. I tried calling my boyfriend. Instantly, I heard the familiar, "Hey, you've reached Chris, I'm not here right now, please leave a message and I'll get back to you." His phone must be dead, I surmised. But... the text should have gone through anyway. I got on Facebook to message him, and I quickly noticed he was not online. Actually, he had not be online in a few days. Come to think of it, when did I last speak to Chris? I tried racking my brain to think of when we last spoke. An answer should have come to me right away, but it didn't; the only thing that came to mind was the searing pain I'd felt in my head earlier. We talk every night, so we must have talked last night. But why can't I remember it?

As always, my mind jumped to the worst conclusion. All the talk about the funeral, the quietness of the campus, his being unreachable. What if... No. No. I can't accept that. He's fine. He's fine. He has to be fine, I told myself. I was overreacting. I decided I'd keep trying to reach him, but I'd go to the funeral later just to check things out.

At about two o'clock, after being unsuccessful in my attempts to reach Chris, I got dressed for the funeral. I'd never felt such terror in my life. It's not him, you're paranoid. He's fine. Chances are you won't know the person at all.

I made my way to campus, and on the way I realized I didn't even know where the funeral was. However, considering the popular coverage of the event and the profound affect on the community, it wasn't hard to figure out that the funeral was at Mt. Carmel, the church a few blocks from the campus. I followed the sea of students dressed in black, the chilly wind brushing against us all. The sky had gotten darker, but it had stopped raining. The air seemed heavy, and with every step I took, I felt an increasing sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The pain in my head strengthened as I got closer to the church. When I walked through the doors of the church, the pain was almost unbearable.

I looked around the church and saw several students and faculty members. I heard whispers of conversations, phrases such as "car accident", "I can't believe it", and "so young, too." My eyes glanced across the room, seeking out familiar faces. Instantly, two very familiar faces jumped out at me: My parents. My dad was stone faced and my mother could hardly compose herself. Next to her, another two familiar faces: Chris' parents. Both of them were crying, his father holding his mothers, their faces the spitting image of suffering. Where was Chris?

Not even stopping to talk to my parents, I ran over to the closed coffin faster than I'd ever run before. I quickly looked for any photos of the deceased around the coffin, and my eyes stopped on the first one I saw. It was one of Chris and I at last year's Christmas party. A man was kneeling in front of the coffin paying his respects, but I could not pay mind to him. My boyfriend was in that coffin. No, no, no, he couldn't be. He can't be dead, he can't be dead. The pain in my head was the worst thing I'd ever felt in my life at that point. But, I didn't care. Despite the pain, I needed to know. With no regard to anything but my desire for the truth, I lifted up the lid of the coffin.

No. No.

I went numb. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. A scream welled up in my throat, but it couldn't come out. My whole body was shaking. And the pain, oh god, the pain.

It was only then I was able to take note of the man next to me. My skin covered in goosebumps, feeling nothing but cold and pain, I turned my head slowly to the man next to me. I looked into the eyes of Chris.

I turned my head back, looking into the coffin at my dead body, my pale, lifeless body with a large bloody gash on the side of my head. And then everything went black.

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