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TREPIDATION: PART THREE
Ethan was visiting the graves of Natalie and Nathan when his brother left him to go home and smoke some of his forbidden secret stash of cigarettes.
Some mourner, he thought bitterly as he crossed over the graves to the grave of Nina.
Nathan and Mister Jacobs knew exactly who it was that killed them. They at least had that sort of comfort as they died.
Natalie and Nina, they were just left with nothing but the sounds of running water or walls collapsing inward.
He shuddered to think of it.
Nina didn’t really deserve any piece of mind, though. She was a shallow, self-indulgent beauty queen who used people to get what she wanted. Unfortunately, Toni never knew that the only use for her that Nina had was to increase her own popularity.
Shaking his head at the grave, he whispered at it, “I hope you’re a better person in death than you were in life.”
The sky grumbled as he looked up to see the sun gone, replaced by a sudden downpour and flashing lightning.
Running toward the funeral home for cover, he didn’t realize that it was empty.
He never realized the doors were not supposed to be unlocked.
And he had no clue of his pursuer, whose utmost intentions were dark at best.
And when he nodded off, supposedly alone, he didn’t realize it was the last mistake he would ever make.
The former pursuer left the graveyard wearing a sadist’s smile, an insane Cheshire grin.
“I told you! I told you! And you wouldn’t freaking listen!!!!” Lacey screamed at Eric, and he could only sit and stare at her.
When she finally stopped, she asked one question, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
“What are you talking about?” he asked softly.
“Ethan’s dead! And guess what! He was alone! You know how he died? He was at the cemetery when someone stuffed him in a coffin and put him on the cremation belt and turned it the hell on!”
Eric looked at Lacey in complete surprise. She had never been this angry before.
He picked up the phone, ready to call Mick, and the phone rang in his hand. The first thing that he heard was the three words, “We were wrong.”
The graveyard was dark and gloomy as Stephen stood with his brother.
“Ethan, you’re dead.”
“Then why won’t you let me go?”
Stephen just shrugged as he looked at his brother through his peripheral vision.
“You have to tell them what you know,” Ethan said, breaking the silence.
“How did you…I never old you…”
“I read your journal when it fell out of your backpack. I didn’t tell them because that’s your job.”
Stephen looked at his brother, and asked, “Am I crazy for seeing you?”
Ethan looked at him, smiling, “Stephen, with what’s happening, if you aren’t crazy you aren’t normal.”
Stephen waved at his brother as he faded off into the shadows.
He whispered one last goodbye as he rushed off into the night.
The moon pierced through the store’s windows, and Jeff stood alone in the dark, watching the clock.
Stephen came into the lonely store, and he approached his friend quickly.
“It’s one of us. The killer is one of us.”
Jeff looked at him with a questioning eye, and then rolled his eyes.
“And I suppose that Big Foot told you this, too, huh?”
Stephen looked at his friend in disbelief, speaking stubbornly at his unbelieving friend, “I’ll just go find Eric and Lacey then.”
Jeff smiled, equally stubborn, and watched Stephen run out the door and to his car, driving off quickly into the night.
Jeff smiled, shaking his head.
Of course it’s one of us, does he think I’m stupid? It’s not that hard to figure out, I mean everyone knows.
He walked into the back to check to see if anyone was in the store before he closed up.
Walking past the gas canisters, he could have sworn he heard a loud hiss, but dismissed it as his imagination.
Walking back up to the front, he saw a lighter on the floor.
He picked it up, and decided to make sure it worked before putting it back on the shelves.
He gave it a flick, and the flame rose unnaturally into the air before the air around him exploded.
Jane looked at Stephen, who had come over abruptly after he found Jeff’s house wall with the words, “Watch out for the fireworks,” burnt into them.
“It’s okay,” she whispered to him.
“I never knew how much this could hurt,” he said quietly.
“I lost my brother. Ethan reminded me of him. It was like losing him twice.”
Stephen looked at her, the two both with tears in their eyes.
He kissed her with a fiery, mournful passion, and she began to kiss him back. The world around them stopped as they began to tear off their clothes, falling back onto the bed behind them.
Lacey and Eric sat near each other on his couch. The local magazine sat across from them on the table in front of them, the two staring at the cover.
The cover of the tabloid was layered with pictures of the victims of this serial killer’s plan.
Mister Jacob’s hazel eyes were up in the upper left corner of the cover; to his right there was Nina’s laser-whitened smile, Natalie’s flirty lip-bite on her model-gorgeous face, Nathan’s unusually handsome face, Ethan’s twinkling eyes, the picture perfect parting in Jeff’s hair.
The school photos strewn carelessly across the cover, inadvertently in the order each person had died.
The two couldn’t stop looking at the text under the photos, asking the question that haunted them the most, “Who’s next?”
“Are you ready?” he asked, and she answered by opening the magazine to the page of the article.
The article read, “Over the past two weeks, people have died in a brutal serial killing series targeting a group of high-school summer art students, a teacher, and their newest teacher, who was intended as a student teacher.
“The first to die was the teacher, Mister Jacobs, who was found by two students, Eric Browning and Lacey Evens, killed when someone carved the words, “And so the student surpasses the teacher,” in his chest.
“Nina Ramirez, a pretty girl, went to check her make up when the water pipes exploded and the door locked shut behind her, the bathroom filled up faster than the underside of the door could drain it, and she nearly drowned. However, when the door broke open, her face smashed into the broken pipe, which had initially caused the accident. A new piece of information has reported that someone outside had turned the water pressure valve on full blast. The locked door and a metal plate that was somehow welded into the vent made her escape impossible.
“Natalie Rose Richman was closing down her father’s junkyard after hours and as she walked down her father’s mesh, elevated flooring that was at least five stories up off the ground, she slipped, and the railing broke, her shoe’s heel was then the only thing saving her from a fall when it snapped, and she fell into the empty crusher, where the electricity she had turned off earlier had come on and she was crushed by the machine.
“Nathan Alec Richman was attempting to locate his sister, whom he thought alive, when he entered the junkyard to find someone operating the crane machine, and the claw swung, knocking him into the rusted bottom of a platform, which fell, bisecting him at the waist.
“Leslie Andrews was in the school parking lot when a car exploded, and its wheel flew through the back of her head.
“Ethan Curtis died when he ran for cover from a storm at the closed funeral home upon paying his respects. He fell asleep during the night and was thrust into a coffin, which was then padlocked shut. The coffin was loaded onto a cremation belt, and the belt was turned on. It is unknown whether or not he saw his death coming, but it is speculated he died before he awoke.
“His best friend, Jeff King, a manager at Ultra Mart was closing down the store he was a manager at when he flicked a lighter to make sure it worked. Due to someone messing with the gas canisters in the back, there was a leak, and by the time he realized this, the flame exploded, killing him.
Our people here at LocalMag want to know on answer; who will be next?
“The remaining members of the class are the original student teacher and now teacher, Virginia Medusa. The students who are left in the class are Lacey Evens, Eric Browning, Mickey “Mick” Marshall, Calin McAndrews, Toni Williams, Jane Greene, Lynda Marx, and Stephen Curtis. Wishing them the best, we hope the authorities catch this killer soon.”
Lacey’s eyes were filled with tears by the end of the article, and the only comfort Eric could give was to pull her body close to his and let her weep into his shoulder.
He looked toward the article’s last page, a picture of the remaining survivors, and saw something.
Something about Jane.
Then he saw it.
A crimson slash of ink across her throat.
Lynda heard Jane’s footsteps falling back behind her, slowly spacing away from her.
“Come on, Jane. Remember what Lacey said. We have to stick together.”
Lynda didn’t like her very much. She thought it was probably one of those things where your sympathy causes you to hang out with this person, but it was okay, Jane was probably the most loyal friend she would ever have, even if she didn’t feel that close to her.
The two went into Lynda’s apartment, her parents gone, and looked out onto the balcony, where she saw two chairs.
Jane rubbed her thumb against the cover of the book she was holding.
“Can we go out there?” she asked, and Lynda nodded, putting her phone and keys down on the kitchen counter.
“Yeah, let’s go,” Lynda said in her soothing, alto voice, traveling out of the apartment and onto the balcony.
“What are you reading?” Lynda asked, knowing it would be something she would have to try later. Jane had great taste in books.
“It’s Carrie. Stephen King writes it. It’s about this girl that a lot of people can relate to, who is sort of the outcast, and you feel sorry for her. But then, just one more cruel prank cause her to snap and use these telekinetic powers against everyone, including the ones she loves.”
Just then, her phone rang.
Lynda left Jane on the balcony to answer it.
“Lynda, it’s Eric. Lacey and I are coming. Don’t let Jane out of your sight!”
As Lynda left to go answer the phone, Jane opened her book.
The words she read played with her mind as Jane looked at the edge of the balcony, and put the book down. She stepped up as she heard the cell stop ringing, then placed the other foot on the edge of the small ridge as well.
She looked at the only possible way out of this mess, five stories down, and she began to turn back, all thought of suicide leaving her mind, which was now wired on survival.
Lynda’s scream left her reeling, literally, and she fell backward, plunging into the swimming pool below instead of the pavement she had believed she would have landed in.
She gasped, then clenched her jaw, determined not to breathe until she made it to the surface.
Then she saw the shadows on both sides of the pool beginning to slide toward the center.
The pool cover was closing!
Desperation set in as she began to kick and claw her way out of the pool.
Her head barely made it out, her neck partially submerged.
The sensors on the cover would have to sense her, release her, but the cover instead pushed up against both sides of her neck.
Tears filled her eyes as her bloodcurdling screams filled the morning sky, Lynda by the closed gate, attempting to climb it, to save her.
Jane’s screams cut off with a sickening crack, and Lynda screamed as her friend’s eyes rolled back, and the water below the cover rippled scarlet.
Jane’s death was life changing for Lynda. She had lost her best friend, no matter how little she liked the girl.
Eric and Lacey had arrived to find Lynda screaming by the side of the pool and ignoring the police officers that were telling her it was time for her to leave. Tears were running down her face, her hair sticking to either side of her face from being wetted by the tears.
“Lynda?” Lacey asked gently, entering the pool area to find the gruesome scene left by the monster that had killed Jane.
“Oh, God,” Lacey gagged, choking on the smell of death. Though not as bad as when she had found Mister Jacobs with Eric, but it brought back the memories.
“It’s all my fault. She was coming back down when I surprised her, and she fell in. I got down here as fast as I could, but it wasn’t fast enough… it’s all my fault,” Lynda moaned, tears rolling down her face as she began bawling.
Lacey wrapped her arms around the distraught girl, convincing herself to stay strong; her own breakdown could push Lynda over the edge.
Eric stayed away, distant from what was going on.
In Jane’s fall, she had knocked her book over the edge of the balcony, and he could see the pages, the story gone, replaced by the haunting words written within it.
Jump! Jump! Jump!
Virginia was allowed to leave the hospital on the very same day Jane had died. She was now the only person who was not a suspect in the murders, for a few deaths had occurred during her stay.
She was still happy from the painkillers they had given her, and was oddly more cheerful than was the norm caused by the medications.
She called each student who remained amongst the living, telling them that class would begin after Jane’s funeral, in a week.
When the funeral came, the pain that one room could hold overwhelmed Virginia. Her stomach was grateful that Jane’s parents had requested a closed-casket ceremony, for what she had heard about the girl’s death was nauseatingly gruesome.
She had been beheaded in a pool cover malfunction. It was the simple fact that the killer had that much power that horrified the rest of the class.
There was no way out. To keep playing the killer’s game was death, but to try to stop playing was suicide.
The medication that had kept her painstakingly happy (her face hurt from smiling for hours before it had worn off) was gone and a ghostly desperation had begun possessing the woman’s being.
She was feeling the pain the others had been feeling.
She hated what she felt.
Lynda Marx approached her silently, tears streaming down her face. Her usually lightly made-up face was left at a natural state. Seeing that Virginia had made this observation, Lynda explained, “I figured there wouldn’t be a method to the madness to putting on make up if it was just going to run anyway.”
“I’m leaving the class. I’m leaving the city. My family decided to move. It was out of courtesy to Jane that we stayed for the funeral. She was my best friend. She was like my sister. I’m really going to miss her.”
“It’s not your fault she took her life, Lynda,” Virginia said.
Lynda’s kind, sorrowful eyes flashed with fury.
“She didn’t kill herself. She was getting down from that ledge. I surprised her. It is my fault. I killed my best friend. And if I ever hear you say she killed herself again, you won’t have to worry about this mysterious killer taking your life. You’ll know exactly who did it. Understand?”
“Lynda, honey, you’re in denial about what she did. I understand. You need to let go. It’s perfectly fine for you to hate her for what she did. She took her own life. She was selfish. She left you alone.”
Virginia suddenly jumped back as Lynda lunged for her, but her own reaction was delayed as the quiet, yet bubbly girl suddenly changed into something filled with hatred. Not hatred for Jane, which she had suggested, but for her!
“You B****!” Lynda screamed, taking the woman’s hair and using it to wrench Virginia down into her knee for repetitive headshots. The people paying their respects were beginning to stare as the teenager assaulted her teacher in rage.
Stephen had rushed over to the two, pulling Lynda’s arms back as he lifted her up, carrying her back away from the woman.
Her feet managed to kick Virginia in the face a few times as she was dragged away.
“Let me go! Let me get her! I need to hurt her! I need to hurt her for what she said about Ja-”
She choked on her friend’s name in bitter agony, the anger flowing seamlessly into unyielding tears.
The teacher wiped her bloody nose on her arm, looking around as the funeral goers looked at her accusingly.
She glared at every last one of them in fury as she turned toward the door.