Published in Fear and Trembling Magazine 10-30-2007/ with their original warning label/ Also, appeared in Infuze Magazine's 'Best of 2005' Anthology
...pray she never attends your school...
NOTE: This story contains content that may not be suitable for young readers, but it contains a message of caution for those who are mature. It is published as a warning, as an example of how dark some lives become when they ignore the Light.
The morning sunlight had barely touched her when Ellie awoke, a humorless smirk sliding across her lips. This was the day Molly Walker was going to get stoned. Ellie wouldn't miss it for the world. Today she left all seventh-grade resistance to school mornings behind and dove out of bed. On this school day, she dressed and headed for the stairs. She almost barreled down into the kitchen when the sound of her parents' voices brought her to a full halt.
"I'm going to be late again tonight," her father was saying. "The boss wants this project out ahead of schedule so the rest of us get to roll up our sleeves and build his good reputation."
Ellie backed against the wall and rolled her eyes. That was her father all right. Just a cog in someone else's wheel—a drone, an employed insect. He went to work day in, day out, and some day he would just keel over. Oh, goody, what a life. He was probably getting some on the side there anyway. Why else would he keep working late, really?
"Your boss seems pretty incompetent," her mother said.
Her dad chuckled. "Before I go, do you need any help waking up the princess?"
"No, but for my birthday, I'd like a helmet and body armor."
"It's just a stage."
"I know. I think they call it the 'turn Mom gray' stage. I'll live."
Ellie waited for them to kiss, or whatever it was they did when she wasn't around. They thought they were so cute, laughing at her, putting her down. Yeah, it's just a stage.
When she heard the back door close she raced downstairs. Her mother quit stirring oatmeal long enough to say, "You're up early!"
Ellie flipped back her long, blonde, beaded mane, and rolled her eyes. Her mother didn't get it; her father didn't get it. Ellie flashed her a petulant sneer. "What's it to ya? It's not like you'd ever notice what time I wake up."
"Lose the attitude!"
In response, Ellie showed her back and stalked away to get her book bag.
"Ellie!" her mother snapped. "You can't go on acting like this! Look at you! Your jeans are sliding down your rear, your shirt looks like it was spray painted on—don't they have some kind of dress code at your school?"
Ellie had picked up her book bag, but let it drop dramatically to the floor. "This is the code, Mom. I'm going to school. Later." Irritably, Ellie snatched up her bag again, threw it over her shoulder, and burst out the door.
As the screen door slammed behind her, she heard the sounds of her Mom fretting about what they would do with her, what her father would have to do—the normal stuff. Ellie groaned and wished parents just spawned and died like salmon. Mom didn't get it yet, but someday Ellie hoped to make her get it, plain as day.
From down the sidewalk she saw Moira Blackman scurrying toward her. "Hey, Ellie!" called the smallish girl.
Moira had dark brown hair, which was in the midst of a fading perm, leaving two inches of root area rail straight while the rest of it fuzzed around her face. Moira's long nose and thin faced caused Ellie to nickname her "rat-girl," but only behind her back.
"Hey," said Ellie.
"Is it true?" Moira asked as she came bouncing up. "Is Molly Walker really going to get stoned today?"
Ellie stared at her like a diseased insect, then dropped her jaw as if she couldn't believe the question. Moira was annoying, but safe. This girl would never be able to compete with her.
"Uh, duh," said Ellie finally. "About time, isn't it?"
Moira popped a hand over her mouth and giggled. "Oooohh! That is going to be SOOOOOO funny! Oh, I have got to be there! I've got to help! She'll be like, staggering around and everything! Do you think that kid, Darmen, is gonna do it with her when she's done?"
Ellie felt a cruel smile nudge her lips. "That would be funny."
Moira ran a hand through her hair and shook her head. "This day is going to be so freakin' slow now. I might just skip."
"Naw," Ellie muttered. "Don't skip." If she was going to school, everyone had to go to school.
Obediently, Moira nodded her head. "Yeah, I guess not. Why miss any of it?"
Ellie found herself feeling light and oddly thankful about Molly's little appointment today. Without the promise of fun and games, this was all one big, hideous drag. In home room, Mrs. Schultz bored them with her good mornings and mindless ode to the earth.
Ellie's first class was better though, because she sat by her boyfriend, Dave. The class was science, and the teacher acted like he never saw anything as long as the class stayed quiet.
This morning, they were to watch a film on Darwin's Origin of Species. So when the lights were off, and the clankety-clank of a reel-to-reel projector chugged to life, they crept in the back and began making out. And when that got boring, she tugged on Peggy Schotz's sweater, and Peggy slipped into the back row.
"Hey," she whispered in Peggy's ear. "Let Dave watch what we do."
Peggy shrugged. "Okay." And they locked lips and bodies as much as time and space would allow. Then Dave and his friends wanted in the action and science class turned into an orgy. That suited Ellie just fine. Flickering on the screen in front of the class were images of lions fighting to take over the pride. She smiled in the dimness. Dave had fought tooth and nail for the right to take her and had the scars to show for it. Natural selection, baby, she thought. Strongest male, hottest female.
Third and fourth period she spent drawing pictures of what she and Peggy had done to the boys and passed them around. Of course, the only one who didn't smile and laugh when they came her way was Molly.
"Molly," Ellie whispered to the quiet girl. "Look at what me and Peggy did. You do know what happens to boys when girls hang around, don't you?"
Molly seemed to try and duck so that the teacher wouldn't see her mutter back an irritated, "Yes!"
Spotting a chance to get a rise out of her, Ellie continued, "God made boys do this. Don't you want to see what God did?"
From behind her Peggy snickered.
"Ellie! Peggy!" The teacher, Mr. Thomas, caught them. "The bell goes off in one minute, you both stay after two minutes for talking."
Immediately, Ellie's hand pointed across the aisle. "Molly talked, too! I heard her!"
Mr. Thomas stepped over to her desk and glared down. She wasn't sure, but she had a strange feeling that Mr. Thomas was a psycho-serial killer in his spare time. His voice was dangerously quiet. "I heard you and Peggy. Not Molly. You two stay."
Ellie whined, "But that's not fair!"
"Three minutes," he replied.
"You can't do—"
"Four minutes. Your break lasts ten," he calmly explained. "One more word and I take it all."
Ellie fumed, but she said nothing. Thomas was such a major freak. She had a tiny fear that he just might go off on her if she pushed him too hard. Ellie shut her mouth.
When she was finally turned loose, her morning break in the girl's bathroom was as raucous as ever. The combination of cigarette smoke and pot left her feeling silly, and she began to bang on the bathroom stalls where she knew lesbian couples were making out.
The cat-calls and curse words flew through the air, and she laughed hysterically.
"Oh, it's a good thing you're popular!" A short black girl named Tana Buell spat as she stormed over to the sinks. "If anyone else did that, I'd kick her butt!"
Ellie couldn't stop laughing. "It's just funny! You guys all mad..."
Other girls began meandering out of the stalls, grumbling. Suddenly, the door opened, and Molly stepped inside. All conversation stopped, and the whispering began.
"Today? At the quarry?"
"She's really gonna get stoned?"
"Yeah, shut up and just show up—"
Ellie licked her lips and gave some lascivious thought to busting in on Molly and—
Crash! The bathroom door flew open so quickly all of the girls jumped. Mrs. Fortimer stepped inside. She was the vice principal, a big woman who vaguely resembled a dump truck. "All right! What's going on in here!" she bellowed. "When I was thirteen, we never would have acted like this."
Ellie grabbed her stuff and mockingly sneered. "When you were thirteen evolution was still trying to decide between men and apes."
"Ellie!" roared Mrs. Fortimer. "That's enough!"
"Oh, I'm sorry!" she mocked. "What I meant to say was, 'Are you still a virgin?'"
"GO TO MY OFFICE!"
Ellie eyed all the girls in the bathroom, then smirked. "No. My education is way more important." With that, she spun around and started to leave.
Mrs. Fortimer's hand gripped her. In one single movement she was hauled around and staring into the V.P.'s fat, ugly face. "I've had enough!"
"OW!" Ellie screamed. Then she realized it was a scream of pure joy and immediately changed her tone. She glanced at the hand clamped around her arm, opened her mouth and wailed, "She attacked me! Oh, my arm! My arm hurts so bad! She really hurt me!"
Alarmed, Mrs. Fortimer turned her loose. "I didn't hurt you!"
Karen Fullsom stepped forward and solemnly informed, "You're not supposed to touch students, Mrs. Fortimer. Not ever. I'm telling my parents tonight." And suddenly righteous cries of "Me, too!" volleyed through the air.
Ellie tried plowing out the door, but it was difficult now because her entourage of sympathizers came cooing along, asking if she was all right. She kept holding her arm, crying, "Mrs. Fortimer hit me! She hit me so hard!"
"Oh, Ellie!" Karen commiserated. "It'll be okay!"
Peggy came running up. "Baby, do you need ice? I'll make someone get it."
And as she stood in the hall holding court, Ellie noticed Molly sneak out of the girls room and hurry down the hall. Turning so the others wouldn't see, Ellie smiled.
Miss Rainbow, a sympathetic art teacher, came by and quickly directed her, along with Mrs. Fortimer, to Principal Peterson's office, where Ellie spent the next thirty minutes complaining about the VP. Dramatically, she explained how she only wanted to go to class when she was attacked. Then Peterson wanted to go into a bunch of paperwork, but Ellie wanted lunch.
"Mr. Peterson," she said stubbornly, "I'm hungry."
"Ellie," he said patiently, "you've made some serious accusations, and we need to process your complaint correctly—"
"Process it later. I'm going to eat," she said, and she rose to leave.
"Young lady!" Peterson exclaimed. "I will not put up with this attitude!"
She screwed up her face and asked, "What attitude? I'm someone you're responsible for and you're keeping me from getting my lunch. And I even said I'd come back later and do what you needed. I mean, I don't know why you have an attitude with me!"
And she stormed out the door. By the time she made it to the lunchroom, she was feeling angry. The stupid principal couldn't tell her what to do, and it offended her that he even tried. Frowning, she draped a leg over the dingy green lunchroom bench where Dave and everyone else was sitting and crashed her face into his shoulder.
"Ellie!" Peggy cried from across the table. "What did they do to you?"
"Duh," she snarled. "Nothing. They never do anything. I mean, what can they do?"
Dave shrugged. "When I get in trouble at school, my parents make big trouble for me."
Ellie gave a cold laugh and swatted his shoulder. "They only do it cuz you're a wuss."
Around the table, Dave's friends gave a low rumbling, "Whoa!" and "Dude!"
Dave frowned and glared. "Well, why don't you tell us then? Why don't your parents make trouble for you?"
Ellie slowly let a smile spread over her lips and waited until all eyes were on her. "I suppose you guys all believe in Santa Claus or something? You must, cuz this whole idea that someone is in charge of you is just like Santa...it isn't real. They give you all this song and dance about how God won't like what you do, or mom and dad, or the police, or whatever. It's just a bunch of lies to control you. But man, I have my own mind, my own opinions about right and wrong, and if those ideas don't match up with my parents', tough! They have to deal with it. And they'd better! You know, I could even kill someone and it would be the 'right thing.' Well, if it was like, something I needed to do, y'know. Adults can only yell, but you just turn around and walk away—"
A cheerful voice made them all glance up. "Hey, guys!" Vanessa Youngblood was standing near their table, a stack of flyers in her hand.
Ellie felt her lip curl. Vanessa used to be a good friend. Now there she was, still in her jeans, still wearing the safety pin in her ear, but passing out tracts for the school's biggest nerd group.
"Party on Friday," Vanessa said as she handed out directions. "Pizza everywhere!"
"Yeah, yeah," Ellie grumbled. "Pizza and Jesus. We know." Then sarcastically raising her voice, she said, "So, Vanessa, God is something you can't see, hear, smell, taste, or touch. How come you think he's real? Huh, huh? Please tell us—oh please." Looking away from Vanessa, she flashed the table a small, cold smirk.
"Good question, Ellie," Vanessa answered, arms folded, head cocked to one side. "Then again, you've never seen, heard, felt, tasted, or touched your own brain before. How do you know you've got one?"
Ellie felt her face flame. Taking a deep breath, she sat back and sneered, "Because I don't hang out with you."
"Oooh, good one, Ell," came Peggy's verbal high-five.
"Naw," countered Vanessa. "That just means if you have a brain, it ain't workin'. Have a nice day—try not to think too hard." Vanessa smiled and left.
"Man, why aren't we taking Vanessa to get stoned instead of Molly?" said Moira.
"Survival of the fittest," Ellie said calmly. "You pull down the weak ones first."
"What are you talking about?" demanded Dave.
Ellie saw he was becoming unhappy with her, so she smiled and told him, "We're talking about something I'm going to do later."
Dave's eyebrows shot to the ceiling. "Does it have to do with me?"
"I wouldn't want to scare you."
Dave grinned at his friends and laughed, "Oh, just don't hurt me."
Ellie purred, "I will." And she climbed into his lap and clamped her mouth over his.
The cat-calls and cheers that followed made her feel like a rock star.
By the time the day came to a close, Ellie was ready. This was the event they had been waiting for all year. Carefully, girls gathered along the way. Molly lived near the quarry so this wasn't a problem. Ellie and Moira leaned against a tree and watched, waiting, until Molly began to make her way home. Then they scooted up behind her and asked, "Hey, Molly! What you doing?"
Molly looked at them with large, brown eyes set beneath a shiny forehead exposed by the way she kept her dull, brown hair tied back with a headband. "Oh," she said in a tone of forced casualness. "Just going home."
Ellie sounded amazed. "Don't you know what day it is?"
"Yeah!" Moira enthused. "We were all going to go down to the quarry. You're coming, right? You do remember, don't you?"
"Hey, look!" cried Ellie. "There's Peggy and Karen and the rest of the gang. C'mon, this will be fun!"
The look in Molly's eyes seemed uncertain, and Ellie found herself angered that she really didn't seem to remember, but that was okay.
"You guys don't usually want to do anything with me," Molly said, nervously.
"Well, that's just stupid of us, then," insisted Ellie. Now the girls began to crowd around them as they walked, sweeping Molly off and into the quarry. Walking to the edge of the rock pit, Ellie had to be careful for all of the loose stones. You could twist your ankle here so easy.
When they reached a perfect spot, Ellie stopped and the rest of the girls became silent. Finally, Molly said nervously, "Wh-what are we doing?"
Ellie said flatly, "You."
Molly gripped her book bag to her chest and took a step back. "What?!" she cried.
"You. You never do anything with us. I mean, what—do you think you're better than us?"
"I-I-I don't think that!" came Molly's shocked reply. "I pray for you guys."
"Oooooh," mocked Peggy. "She prays for us! I know I feel holy!"
The circle of girls broke into taunting laughter. Moira leaped forward making kissing gestures in the air. "Ohhhh, do you have love for us? Isn't that what you guys talk about?" She opened her arms and came at Molly, "C'mon, baby! Where's my wet one?"
More laughter split the air.
Molly pressed her lips together and stood her ground. "No! I know what you're all into, but it's wrong!"
"Correction!" Ellie cried. "You think you're better than us!"
"I do not!"
"Oh yeah, you and Vanessa and the other losers, all of you," Ellie explained. "You think you have some sort of right to say who's good and who isn't. We're going to do something about that cuz we're not wrong! You just think you're right!"
"It doesn't matter what any of us think!" cried Molly. "It's what God thinks that counts! He loves you!"
"Yeah, you and your Bible..." Ellie sneered.
"Ellie!" she cried. "It's true! God loves you!"
Ellie blinked and shook her head. "LIAR!" she shouted. "THERE IS NO GOD!"
One glance around the circle told her the other girls were becoming unnerved. She dropped her voice to a low, dangerous level and said, "This is survival of the fittest, and you ain't fit. Time to get stoned."
Opened-mouthed, Molly sputtered, "I'm not smoking that stuff! You can laugh as much as you want."
"Oh, yeah?" Ellie said, raising her eyebrows. "At the beginning of school I told you to try our stuff. I said you'd get about six months, and if you didn't see the light, you were going to get stoned."
Molly said quickly, "I didn't smoke it then, I won't smoke it now."
"Not that kind of stoned, stupid." She seized Molly by the arm and violently shoved her over the edge of the pit. There was a startled cry that ended with a terrible, broken thud. Ellie peered down to see she had landed in a sprawled and dirty heap. Somehow, her shirt had ripped when she landed, and the headband had fallen off.
"Hey, Molly!" Ellie called waiting for the girl to look up. "This sound familiar? 'He who is with sin, pitch as many stones as possible!'" With a loud cry, she grabbed a rock and hurled it at the girl's face.
Molly stumbled to her feet, eyes huge with panic, and held her hand over lips as they dripped with blood. "What did I do to you?" she cried, trying to step back from the crowd above. "I...I never d-did anything to you!"
"YOU'RE BREATHING!!" Ellie shrieked and heaved another stone.
Urging the other girls on as Molly fumbled in the pit, Ellie yelled, "She doesn't like you or anything you do! Her friends hate us!"
She pitched another rock and caught Molly so hard in the ribs that she doubled over in obvious pain. Ellie swore at her friends to join in. "WHAT? ARE YOU AFRAID? KILL HER BEFORE I KILL YOU!"
With a sudden, blood-curdling scream, Moira rushed up with a huge stone and hurled it at the girl. Then the rest of them began grabbing and throwing until rocks rained from the air.
Moira was right. They did get to see Molly stagger and fall. At one point she was writhing all over the ground, twitching with every movement, but after one more good-sized rock to the skull, even the twitching ceased. Darmen hadn't made it, but Ellie would be sure and let him know where to find the body.
As the girls began wandering out, putting the quarry behind them, Ellie paused to look down at Molly one more time. She seemed so still.
She lived, then died. That was it.
No one was home.
"Looks like I'm God now," she whispered, still feeling disdain. Then she jogged to catch up with the others.
On their way out of the quarry, the girls were quiet but assured.
Peggy straightened her hair and said, "I'm really glad we did that. I'm so sick of people who think they're better than everybody else."
"Yeah," breathed Ellie. Now that she thought about it, Mom seemed to think pretty highly of herself. Maybe she should get stoned. The thought made Ellie smile. "Whoever tells is the next stony, got it?"
Around her, heads bobbed.
"Good," she said. "And don't forget. Pep rally tomorrow..."