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The sudden jolt of pain was enough to make him think, for a mad second, that he’d somehow jammed his pen through his hand. The boy just barely suppressed a shout, clenching his hand tightly shut and sitting up abruptly from what was a half doze. Eyes wide, he looked down at his fisted hand, then, seeing no obvious injury, tried to surreptitiously look around for some cause, or culprit. The room was silent, save for the mild drone of the teacher tapping out graph points. Everyone was hunched over their desk, hard at work or attempting to look as such. The pain started to ebb, not vanishing but smothering to a dull, pressing ache. He blinked, trying to affect an air of normalcy as one of his nearby classmates gave his wide-eyed, pale fidgeting a suspicious glare.

One breath, two, in and out. There wasn’t any blood, but he was nearly too scared to look. His dad had told him pressure was the key, maybe if he let go it’d start gushing or something? His mind whirled around like a rabbit in a cage, scrabbling between fear, confusion, and embarrassment. Should he just look? What if he actually was hurt, somehow, it felt like he’d been stabbed or something. But if it turned out to be nothing, the embarrassment might actually kill him. The teacher turned, the class rapidly assuming poses of legitimate and mock attention. The boy started, sitting bolt upright in panicked reflex as the teacher’s eyes held his, eyebrow cocking at the behavior, but gliding on to the next bulletpoint. The boy slumped, released. He leaned forward, feigning a search for paper, covering his throbbing hand with an arm, slowly uncurled his fingers, and looked.

The class was suddenly raked by a sharp, choking scream.

Heads turned, mouths agape, a startled mumble of “what the fuck?” wafting from the rear of the class. The boy sat, one hand clamped over his mouth, the other thrust as far from himself as possible, eyes as wide and rolling as a spooked horse. The teacher, glaring a warning in the direction of the swearing, swung his gaze at the nearly comical figure of numb shock pinned in the middle of the room.

“Is there something the matter, young man? Bad dream, perhaps?”

A rill of laughter, snickering teeth, swapped gazes. Never mind the paleness of his face, the trembling of his hand. The teacher minded, eyes narrowing. Seemed a good sort, but drugs, maybe? Something was off.

“Are you alright? You seem a little-“

“MAY I…ahh…may I use the bathroom? Please?”

The teacher’s eyebrows raised, a patronizing smile playing across his lips. The last resort of the put-upon student, the bathroom pass. Still, he did look a bit off, and if it came down to vomit or worse, he’d rather it in a designated facility. Still, something was off. Why was he staring at his fist so much? Why the shaking…

“I suppose it could be arranged…what’s that you have there? Yes, there, in your hand. Come up here, let’s see it.”

The boy’s eyes rolled, flickering between the staring, mocking eyes of his fellows and the accusatory gaze of the teacher. He rose, shivering, his eyes drawn unwillingly down to the fist clenched low, away from his body, trying to ignore the odd pressure inside, the pinching, almost shifting sensation against his trembling fingertips. The teacher cleared his throat, extending a hand as the boy arrived at the desk. Giggles laced with schadenfreude skittered behind him, his wide, staring gaze fixed on the teacher’s face. His fist trembled, raising with a dreamlike slowness a few feet before freezing. No. There was no way, not here. Not in front of everyone. His mouth worked bonelessly, a creaking squawk eliciting a fresh rill of chuckles.

“Come on now. Let’s have it.”


And he was running, bolting from the room, the shouts of the teacher and laughing jeers snapped off as the door swung shut behind him. Feet pounding down the empty, wide halls. The grey tile, the dented lockers, it all seemed mocking in its normalcy, a panting whine escaping his lips as he scrambled to the bathroom. There was noise somewhere down the hall, shouts of command, but all he could hear was blood slamming in his ears as he all but fell inside, tearing open a stall door and collapsing on the toilet lid, gasping. He was vaguely aware of a voice very much like his own, but too high and laced with weeping, muttering “nononono” like some nonsense charm. He looked down at the fist in his lap, shivering like some spooked animal. The fingers rolled open, slowly, as if pried open by an unseen force. Voices outside, questioning, confused yet commanding. It meant nothing, not now, as his palm finally came into view.

The skin of his palm split bloodlessly, bulging at the sides, as a poisonously green, watery eye rolled forward to stare with broken pupil at him from the prison of his flesh. As his screams elicited a matching reply from outside his stall, the oozing pupil dilated with pleasure.

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