Prelude – P.1

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The sun hadn’t fully risen when I woke up to the chiming of my phone alarm. The red and purple rays illuminated the clouds nicely, which provided enough of a boost to get me out of bed. I regretted it the second the cold October air hit my exposed skin.

Walking to my dresser, I glanced over at my desk. Shit. No homework done. The realization never fully hit until the morning. I’d just have to stagger it and do it the period before the class it was due in.

I opened up the top drawer in my dresser, and grabbed the necessary undergarments, then remembered there was gym today. In that case I needed sliders, those spandex short things that go underneath slightly looser shorts. I took a pair of those out, got a shirt from the drawer below, then shorts from the one below that.

Supplies collected, the next step was a shower, which was a good place to think. I had gym today. It was always one big pile of shit. I had managed not to get killed so far, but there was no guarantee that would hold up for much longer. They, Emma in particular, were relentless, and not going wasn’t an option. There was no solution, but that didn’t stop me from dwelling on it. At least I didn’t have to use the showers in the locker room at school, I’m pretty sure that if that happened… well it wouldn’t be good.

After finishing up morning tasks and wishing my parents quick goodbyes, I hitched my backpack up higher and bent my shoulders, hurrying to catch the bus. It was freezing outside. I had worn the shorts for gym to school today, because that meant a minute or two less in the locker room. Damn it. I had to sacrifice being warm for being safe. Well it would hopefully be worth it in the end.

In the cafeteria at school I found Jacoby, enthralling his friends with what was undoubtedly another story of his amazingness. I started moving towards him, and he noticed me before I got too close. He hopped off the table, and joined me over by the lockers.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” I replied, looking out at the assembled herd. Nothing noteworthy happening. “Did you finish the Chemistry lab write-up for today?”

He frowned down at me, the five inch difference in height seeming much greater. “You didn’t do it, did you? I guess you can copy mine, but that’s the last time.”

Sure it was the last time. I didn’t make a habit out of copying, but sometimes, like last night, I just couldn’t work up the energy to do homework. The lab was easier to copy than do in another period, since it had to be in the notebook.

I tried to sound earnest as I said, “Thanks a ton, I promise it’s the last time.”

I guess I didn’t do a good enough job, because he rolled his eyes. I glared back. He had no right to be berating me on my study habits. It’s not like he was the perfect student. He was trying to make me do the “right” thing, but there was really no harm in copying. Half of the lab was writing down the procedure and materials, then making up a vague conclusion. It wasn’t worth the time that had to be put into it.

“So did you do any of your other work last night?” he asked.

“Yeah, the lab was the only thing I didn’t finish.” The lie came out easily. He wasn’t in any other class where homework was due, so he wasn’t going to discover that I wasn’t telling the truth.

I tried to smile while waiting for his reply. Lying didn’t bother me too much. I wouldn’t have a problem lying to a complete stranger, so I shouldn’t have a problem doing it to my friends. He just looked at me, an unreadable expression on his face. He could know I wasn’t telling the truth about the completed homework, or he could just be wondering why I only had one class not done.

Jacoby sighed. “At least that’s good. Sorry if I sound naggy. So, what are you going to do about gym?”

“Uhh,” The change of subject caught me off guard. “Let me think.”

I felt a little bad, since I knew he hated it when he was ‘forced’ to act like a parent. I was glad about the change of subject though. Gym was something there was no messed up moralizing associated with.

I collected my thoughts, and continued, “The main problem is the locker room. I’m stuck in there with the rest of the girls, and I can’t avoid it. We get graded on whether we dress out, and though I wore shorts–“ I gestured down at my bare legs, “I still have to change my shirt or else Coach will get mad. I think I can get my shirt off and the other one on fast, since I don’t have to switch bras. I could get a bit quicker with it though, if you want to come behind the school and watch me practice?”

I wanted to lighten the mood. Jacoby blushed and shoved me backwards. He laughed, a little high pitched, and said, “You know that however much I’d love to, I can’t. Committed relationship right here.”

“Fuck exclusivity, it takes the fun out of everything. Though you’d have had to pay to see the show.” I winked.

He calmed down a little, and smirked back at me. “Fuck you, I don’t want to see that flat chest anyways.”

That one brought some flush to my cheeks. My boobs weren’t as small as before, but you couldn’t tell much since I wore t-shirts most of the time. He was pointing at them too, and I tried to puff out my chest to make myself look bigger. We both started cracking up, holding the pose.

Of course, Sarah, Jacoby’s girlfriend, showed up at the most worst possible moment.

She took in the scene, and almost shrieked, “Jacoby! Why are you touching Elie’s tits?”

He instantly retracted his hands, and I felt a slight pressure leave my breasts. Whoops. I guessed after he made that flat comment and I was trying to make myself look bigger, I stretched a little too far out. As I shrunk back to a normal standing position, Sarah turned her glare towards me. Shit, this wouldn’t be good. As much as I hated possessive bitches, I took Jacoby’s happiness into account. He wouldn’t want me to start a fight with her. No. His feelings shouldn’t matter more than a random person’s.

I still said, “It was my fault. I got too close. Sorry.” I rationalized what I said as just being honest, but it still felt disconnected from my previous thought.

“Can we have some time alone?”

This was Jacoby. Gone was the lightheartedness of moments before; this was serious time. I felt a moment of loathing towards Sarah for interrupting us. I had no problem with her having time with Jacoby, but why did it have to be now? This was the problem with exclusive relationships: someone being able to demand your time no matter what you are doing. An obligation that was constant and unending. The anger in me increased, and I stalked off without responding.

Jacoby, even though he had brought up gym, had done a good job of distracting me from my fears surrounding it. He played along with my joking, maybe flirting, which I mostly did to avoid actually talking about the class. I felt a surge of gratitude towards him, and even more disgust directed at Sarah. We had something great going, and she ruined it.  She had no sense of situation or appropriateness, just like the rest of the people in this school.

I trudged to my first period class, feeling deflated once again. Nothing would go right today. First I had no homework done, then Sarah barges in while I was in the middle of a nice, distracting moment with Jacoby, then I have to do homework during every class, then go to gym and face everyone and that awful situation.

Thankfully, Ava ran up from behind me and jumped on my back before I could descend into the abyss of History and my depression.

I almost tripped, but caught my balance and let her down gently. “Wow, you’ve gotten stronger,” she exclaimed.

I crossed my arms and said with a frown, “Nothing new here.”

“Oh, that’s bull and you know it. You would have fallen over if I’d done that last year, instead of catching me and then almost dropping me.”

I flipped her the bird, but she just laughed it off. “Don’t be mean, that was a compliment.”

After I growled in response, she laughed once more, then moved off farther down the hallway.

I knew History was going to be an awful experience; it always was. It would have been better if I had someone to talk to, someone to share the misery with, but I was alone.

The people in the class were all so stupid. They might have been average intellectually, but in one way or another, they were infuriating to be around for too long. The insanely wrong answers my classmates could come up with were physically painful to sit through.

Mr. Parr was droning on in the front of the room. He wasn’t so bad when he actually taught, but his stares were awful. I didn’t even like thinking about that two week period in September, the 15ththrough the 27th. Teachers shouldn’t be allowed to have infatuations with students. He didn’t only ogle, he blanked out whenever you spoke, if you were his target at the time.

He hadn’t said anything important while I was reminiscing, judging by the looks on my classmates’ faces. Of course, they usually looked slightly stupefied and uncomprehending, so that wasn’t that strong of an indicator. The better one was the white board, which Mr. Parr wrote on so he didn’t forget what he’d just said. He must have spent a good deal of the time staring at Janine and her green sports bra, peeking out from under her tight t-shirt, as well as listening to her honey-like voice. Sickly sweet.

Just that moment, Janine was spouting off something supposedly profound, and most the class had turned towards her.

“I’m just saying, Monsieur Parr, the French Revolution was the culmination of hundreds of years of pent up frustration within the French people, and indeed in the whole of Continental Europe, at the tyranny of the absolute monarchs. France, with its weaker lords and nobles, was naturally the first to have a true revolution of the petty bourgeoisie.”

It was such bullshit. Not that what she said was factually wrong, only that it was idiotic. She most likely had no idea what it meant, and had probably got it off a Spark-Notes like website for history. Janine wasn’t the worst though. Everyone else seemed to come to class knowing less than the day before. Maybe if Mr. Parr actually taught instead of just stared… God, he was annoying, but better he was interested in Janine than me.

My apprehension about Gym made the rest of the period pass quickly. Just English, then it’d be here. The bell rang, and on the way out I heard two of the buffoons talking about her.

“She’s so hot dude. Imagine her in spandex,” one said. It’s not like she didn’t wear leggings every other day or anything, those were just as sheer and tight.

“I don’t have to imagine, I have gym with her,” his friend leered, leaning casually against the lockers lining the halls.

“Aww, lucky. Wish I could see what was under it.” They were missing out there; I knew from the girl’s locker room.

“Fucker,” the other replied and gave his friend a shove as they peeled off to their respective classes.

I didn’t know why I’d just listened to that. I was just as sexy as Janine, but everyone liked her. They described me, on the other hand, as ‘abrasive’. Personality overcoming looks, you didn’t see that every day. Not that she as great in that department either.

I left the history classroom, after seeing Janine was the only one left. She was bending down, Mr. Parr staring at her butt. I had no idea why she relished his looks, but she did. I wanted to puke every time I saw his jaw slack and eyes wide. They would be fine in the room alone, though, because he was too afraid he might lose his job if he made a move, and then he would also lose his only chance at eye candy.

The five minute passing period was barely enough, but I somehow made it from History down to my locker in the cafeteria, then back up to the next classroom. I grabbed a desk somewhere in the middle, in the so-called ‘learning T’. God knows it was the only reason my grades were reasonable.

Claire came in alone, clutching a sweater in her arms. Her hair was a somewhat mousy brown, with a constant frizz, freckles dotting her nose: pretty, in a shy sort of way. She took the seat on my right.

Ava entered a minute or so later, with a boy metaphorically on each arm. She was talking to two people at once, not that her conversation partners were complaining. As she walked across the room I gestured to the seat behind Claire. The boys following her looked disappointed, since there were no adjacent seats for them to take.

Ava flashed me a grateful glance, and said, “Thanks for organizing the seats like that, I don’t want to spend a whole class talking to those guys.”

I rolled my eyes. She definitely could have made it clearer she wanted them gone. With her enigmatic personality, as well as the physical attractiveness, people couldn’t help themselves from falling all over her. The good thing was that she didn’t act like the rest of the popular people; her natural charisma more than made up for it.

The teacher, Mrs. Gissard, entered, even later than Ava, and tried to get the class to be quiet. We three were practically the only ones who shut up. I was quiet since I didn’t have anything to talk about, Claire was quiet because that was just how she was, and Ava was quiet out of solidarity with us, a moment of separation between our group and the rest of the school.

After everyone had calmed down and stopped gossiping, the teacher introduced the assignment for the day.

For in-class work today, we were supposed to analyze how the book 1984 exemplified American values. There were so many things wrong with the question that I stopped and stared when the teacher wrote it on the board.

That drivel was simply a symptom of the main problem with this town. The people here had no independent intellect, other than what their parents told them, and their parents before them, on and on ad infinitum. Claire and I were only different because we had moved here, and Ava was just naturally an outlier.

I guess I was staring so long that Claire had to say, “Elie, are you alright?”

I rolled my eyes, and replied, “Do you see what’s on the board?”

I went on a long tirade about Orwell and socialism and 1984, which some people near us heard snatches of. They were the type to agree mindlessly with whatever the teacher said, and started responding. Given a dearth of past experiences with them, I knew they wouldn’t have anything good to say, so I tuned them out. Claire tried to fight back, but they overwhelmed her in volume and she gave up. Ava didn’t get involved with these types of things; she was too nice and conciliatory. Not that she was cultivating an image; there was no subterfuge, it was just how she acted.

Claire turned to me after failing to get a word in edgewise with the rabble.

She asked, exasperated, “Why do you always have to do that?”

“I don’t mean to antagonize them, it just happens,” I shrugged. “Pretty much because there’s no reason to try not to, and it’s sort of fun to have a good argument every once in a while.”

She glared at me. “But you never finish the arguments, just start them. It’s annoying when I’m left cleaning up your mess.”

With that, she went back to the impossible task of defeating the relentless enemy, while the teacher and I looked on in amusement. I didn’t like Mrs. Gissard very much, since she gave us prompts like that, but at least she let us do our own thing every once in a while.

After ten minutes or so, she stood and broke up the ‘productive discussion’, as she termed it. I snorted a little too loudly at that, and she shot me a look. I put my head down and quickly got to work with my friends, writing down some BS and finishing with some time left.

The rest of the class went by much too quickly, and I became more brooding as it went on. At one point Mrs. Gissard actually asked me whether I felt sick and needed to go to the nurse. I considered using that as an excuse to get out of gym, but I had to face my fears. Soon after, the bell rang, the toll of a sentenced woman.

The hallway loomed, stretching onward. One last walk as a free person, then through the doors and into hell. The hallway could be purgatory, while the rest of the school was heaven, but that was ridiculous. I almost broke out laughing, but realized the demons were close behind me. The alcove with the doors to the cafeteria was on the left, so I ducked in there and waited for the people to pass. Their incessant yammering was already starting to pound on my brain, forming a backdrop for any other thoughts. None of them turned their heads, and I chanced a peek out after they were past. I was still going to gym, just taking a break first. They went through the doors, and into the gym proper.

Looking the other way, back down the hallway, I saw Jacoby come into view and rushed up to him. He seemed startled by my sudden appearance, but it didn’t matter what impression I made, only that I was safe for a little while longer. I restrained myself from clutching him; it wasn’t that bad. I could face it by myself. He wrapped his arm over my shoulder anyway, which I was grateful for. We walked together down the rest of the hall, and I closed my eyes and clenched my fists as we stepped through the doorway.

The smell of stale sweat, and what I thought of as the smell of fear, hit me like a wave.

Jacoby turned to me and said, worry evident, “You’ll be okay, right?”


I hurried away before I could say anything else, or run out of the building and never come back. The girl’s locker room was on the far side of the gym, and I made my way over there, trying to compose my facial expression. No use letting them see my eyes wet, or face otherwise out of the ordinary.

The door of the locker room was propped open, and I took a deep breath before entering the pit of doom. My muscles were tensed as I rounded the first corner, and saw the three red stacks of lockers before me. There were a few people in here, but none of the group I was really worried about.

Janine was in the back, flaunting herself as usual. She was in the midst of changing, and was stretching, arching her back and thrusting her chest in the air. Not nude of course; she still had that bra on. It was completely unnecessary since everyone was already envious of her, and Mr. Parr wasn’t here to stare. Her friends were sitting on a bench near her, and I overheard one of them say something about a how hot a guy was.

Janine interjected, “Oh he’s so fucking hot, when he took his shirt off I think I had an orgasm!”

That was abrupt.  A few of the girls started when she said that, but one of them broke the silence before it could fully set in. “I wish I could have seen him. He’s so juicy.”

“You’d like to juice him? Okay, but I don’t think it will taste very good.” She smirked.

“Fuck you, that’s nasty!”

Janine just laughed, but then her eyes caught me, like a deer in headlights. Shit, I should have at least gone behind the locker partition before listening. But then I wouldn’t have seen Janine stretching.

“Elie, I bet you want to do that to Jacoby, right?” Everyone’s eyes turned towards me. I wasn’t prepared for anything from her, only Emma and company. With Janine, the best thing to do was beat her at her own game, namely shocking everyone by being sexually forward. I could do that, though the depths that she sunk to were normally a bit far for me.

So, I said, “No, his black dick is a bit too large for my hand, but I think it’d fit perfectly in your big mouth.”

Her eyebrows raised for a second, but then she responded, “I don’t think I’d like something that big there, necessarily… but I might not mind it somewhere else. Like you and Emma and her toys?”

That left me with my mouth hanging open. What the hell? I had no idea what she was talking about. I guess she thought she won because she turned back to her friends with a self-satisfied smile. I backed up and went towards my locker. Emma? Did she think that Emma did something sexual to me or something? Because she definitely didn’t, at least not overtly. She might have a crush on me or something, but that would be pathetic. And fucked up, given how she acted towards me. I’d thought of it before though, but it just seemed so unlikely.

My locker was in the first section, closest to the door. I only had to change my shirt, then I could be out. If the bad girls didn’t come in until after I was gone, well, sometimes people got insanely lucky. I had started turning the combination lock when I heard the telltale chattering in the background. It was as if the noise was being made by rabid squirrels, coming to eat me. The steady drum of footsteps came closer, until the sound changed. I wasn’t going to turn around, but I knew they’d be at the opening for this group of lockers now.

I willed my hand to start moving again, and the lock spun to the required second number. As I made it to the final number and the locker clicked open, I heard Emma’s voice, and it felt as if ice had been poured down the back of my shirt.

“Hey Elie. How are you today?” she asked, edging closer, still surrounded by her gaggle.

Maya, the only not awful one, stayed near the back, but others were trying to get as close as they could to the action. Emma’s locker was on the left side of the section, while mine was near the rear. She ostensibly moved towards hers, but I could still feel her eyes bearing into my back. One of the other girls ‘accidentally’ bumped me as she went to her locker. I shrank back towards the wall, not daring to pull my shirt over my head and be blind for a second. Nothing to do to advance the situation but respond to Emma’s question.

“I’m good, how are you?”

I tried to keep my voice steady, but didn’t manage completely. I turned around a little bit, putting my back more towards the wall. The incessant clanging of metal on metal, the opening and shutting of lockers, set the mood perfectly.

“Good. You excited for what we’re doing today?” She would always toy with me, before escalating. I couldn’t do anything but play along.

“No, I hate this class. You know that,” I said, hoping to speed up the process.

No such luck. She adopted a hurt look, and almost whined, “But it’s your only class with me. Don’t you love me?” She sounded like she was trying to be lighthearted, but failing. No idea what she was going for with that. I knew the worse was still to come, so better to appease her for now.

“I… like you,” I said grudgingly.

“Oh, good. But why aren’t you changing? Afraid?” She looked at me curiously, like someone would normally look at an insect.

“No, I need to open my locker. My shirt’s in it.”

“Well go right ahead. Maggie! Get out of the way.” The command she had over the rest of the girls was frightening. Maggie scurried backwards, and I reluctantly turned back to my locker. The combination lock shook in my hands, but I got it open and my shirt out. Tie dye, from some old soccer thing.

The fabric was rough in my hands as I laid it on the bench. I then reached down, and took my shirt off. Just the sports bra on now. A few of the other girls glanced at me, but I wasn’t embarrassed; that was the least of my issues. I noticed Emma staring. That was strange, since it wasn’t like this didn’t happen every other day. Maybe Janine’s comment had just put me in a mindset to notice the wrong things.

“Ooo, you’ve grown some. Nice,” Emma smirked. “How do you think she’s doing, everyone?”

“Looks good,” chimed in Maya, with what I hoped wasn’t a serial killer smile. Some of the others made similar comments, and my face stared burning.

Emma looked disappointed at my reaction. I didn’t know what she was hoping for, but it couldn’t be good.

She said mischievously, “Aren’t you going to put your shirt on?”

I grabbed it, and tried to get it over my head, but one arm got caught in the rush. I felt hands on my waist, then my shorts being pulled down. A voice gasped “Emma!” and I got the shirt over my head without managing to fall over. I reached down, more resigned than anything now, and pulled the shorts up. Thank God I wore the sliders today.

Looking up, Emma at least seemed a bit remorseful. She muttered, “I just was wondering why you wore the shorts to school today, maybe you had a thong on or something and didn’t want to show that off. Sorry…”

I rushed out without saying anything. This was how it always was. She took the remarks and other things farther than anyone else, every single time. It was weird. The rest of the people played along, but they didn’t take charge. There might have just been a few teases and accidental bumps if Emma wasn’t there. But she was, and since she was, everyone joined her in a vendetta against me. It never got worse than that in the locker room, but going through it every day was awful. I didn’t know why she was so mean to me. Maybe she was jealous of my athletic prowess, since her friends and she could barely run the length of the gym. That was probably fantasizing by me though, since she seemed happy to be the head of the popular, immobile girls.

I was standing by the wall, watching a few of the boys mess around. I wasn’t the first girl finished changing, but the few who were out here were unimportant. Just two more examples of the mediocrity that this place was filled with. My train of thought turned from Emma’s motivation back to what Janine had said. Janine wasn’t a trustworthy person in general, but there’s usually a grain of truth behind her perverted comments. Like, I had for example, extremely rarely, imagined doing things with Jacoby. And she probably had as well, much more often. So, it wasn’t likely the thing she said about Emma was completely false. Maybe she just said it because Emma did stuff like pantsing me almost every day.

I had a pet theory that Emma was in love with me, like the lesbian or gay bullies in movies who took out their anger at their target. I know it was improbable, but I was pretty good looking. would have liked myself. I didn’t want her to like me like that, since that would mean she wouldn’t stop if I ignored her. I didn’t care about her at all, but confronting or asking her could hurt me in the future. With the remark from Janine, it seemed a little more likely, but still not very probable.

My pondering was interrupted by Coach calling us to come in to the center. I moved to stand by Jacoby, and nodded at him, trying to suppress the grimace. It must have worked somewhat, as he smiled back, looking relieved. Nice to have someone who cares.

“Okay everyone, whoever wants to play dodgeball, go upstairs, and if you want to play basketball, stay down here,” the coach announced.

I knew Emma’s group would stay downstairs and stand around talking, and I couldn’t handle being around them anymore.

I turned to look at Jacoby. “I want to go upstairs; basketball’s boring.”

“No its not,” he said indignantly, “I’m staying down here.” That was fine by me. I didn’t need allies, I could take on the whole school in dodgeball and win.

“Okay. See you later.”

I started walking to the stairs, but then he shouted after me, “Yeah! Good luck, wipe that smile off of Janine’s face!”

That made my lips curl up a bit, and before disappearing into the stairwell I yelled back, “I won’t mess up her face too bad, she wants to fuck you!” I’m glad I wasn’t around to hear the fallout after that. It would make Janine mad, that’s for sure. Well, I was going to be facing her anyway. Work out some of the frustration with the Emma situation.

The wresting room was up the stairs. Red mats covered the floor, and three were rolled up, forming thigh high barriers between the two teams. There was a railing on the side of the room that overlooked the main part of the gym. Everyone else was filing up and picking teams. Two groups formed, and like normal, no one called me over to their side. It didn’t really matter, since I was going to kick all of their asses. I moved to the far side of the room, and reluctantly was joined by one of the two blobs of people.

When the two sides were marginally even, the balls were dumped out in the middle. Janine was on the wall across from me, ready to run as soon as the balls stopped moving. I was ready too, crouched down, eyes intent on one green and one orange ball.

The last ball finally bumped into another and stopped, and off we went. I ran and leapt over the first rolled up mat, before ducking down behind the middle one, and grabbing two balls. I looked back towards our wall and saw two of the best throwers standing there. Good. They knew the strategy. The green, slightly smaller ball I threw back to them, while I picked up another one and tossed it too. Okay, enough time in the danger zone. Those people covered me while I sprinted back to our side and slid over our sides’ mat, lying down behind it in one smooth motion. I saw a few of our weaker teammates on suicide runs, pushing all the balls back from the center towards our side. The center roll didn’t provide enough protection, and they were quickly knocked out.

At least our side had ample ammunition now. I held a ball in each hand, for defense. The other team was mostly milling around, waiting for someone on our side to fully break cover. Our two best throwers were building up piles around themselves. They were still crouched next to me. A few of my other teammates were kneeling down in the open but near the back, presenting as small a target as possible. When the two throwers looked like they were ready, I nodded to them, and they nodded back. Time to go.

With the signal given, I moved forward, presenting an easy target. Everyone on the other side warily aimed at me. When no one else on my side appeared, they started throwing. I ran parallel to the center mat, then jumped, tucked, and rolled, all the while blocking with my two balls. Their throws all missed, and I turned to face them. Now the opposing side’s attention was fully on me. I stood up, and a few more people threw their balls, all of which I blocked. They were exposed, watching me. This was when our team’s best offensive weapons started firing. I did as well, moving to the far side of the room. Pick up ball, aim, fire. Simple as that, with a few jukes and ducks here and there. Our team quickly demolished them. Janine was one of the last to go down, but finally fell when she was running forward to reload. Victory was ours.

After a quick celebration, the balls were all placed back in the middle, for the next round. When they stopped moving, the game was supposed to start. The problem was, the balls didn’t stop. My concentration was broken, and when I glanced up, everyone looked bewildered. It was then I realized the floor was shaking. A few other people noticed it around the same time, looking down at their feet. Oh shit! I saw the two small windows on the side of the room were vibrating as well. I knew what it was right away, but some complete idiot shouted, “Earthquake!!”

We were on the second floor, so of course everyone stampeded down the stairs. I tried moving towards the front to stop them, which was a big mistake. An elbow to my ribs, a shove in the back, and I was next to the wall. Then it felt like a bulldozer rammed me. My head snapped backwards, but I could still see the brick wall approaching way too fast. I barely felt the sharp pain of impact before everything went black.

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