The Cold Inside (a serial novel) Chapter Twenty-six part three
The Cold Inside
By AL BRUNO III
Wednesday December 21, 1994
If only I'd stuck to the four year plan. Warren panted, If only-
It looked like his history teacher was right, history did repeat itself, but why didn't it repeat the good parts? Like the time he'd gone to a science fiction convention and met Babylon 5’s Claudia Christian and she'd called him cute. Warren could have relived that moment forever.
He'd run up this hill before, it seemed steeper than last time; maybe it was the snow and ice, maybe it was the fact he'd gained weight since then. Warren was exhausted, out of breath and shivering all at once. It was almost freezing cold and they had Super Soakers. It almost left him longing for the rancid eggs of last year. Warren stumbled and ended up on all fours, his fingers and knees sinking into the dirty snow. He was about to give up, to just lie there and let them beat him into a nice peaceful coma. Then a stream of cold water hit his backside.
Fred Trager shouted “I got him! I got him in his ass!”
That got Warren running again. He wondered what Solana would think about him when this was all over; if she would feel sorry for him or if she would laugh.
No not her. She's not like that.
Warren’s exams were over and he knew the Pretty Boys were out for blood but he'd stuck around because he knew Solana's ride would arrive late. He knew a lot about her life, about her comings and goings; maybe too much, but that was love wasn't it?
Another stream caught him in the arm as he ran, soaking his shirtsleeve and sweater. The three boys shouted and cheered at his back, sounding for all the world like a pack of hyenas. Warren had actually started up a conversation with Solana and she had been civil, almost friendly. Warren had actually started to wonder if his plan might take less than four years after all.
Then Fred and Kenny showed up with their super soakers and their jeers. Solana had told Fred to grow up but that had only made things worse.
They pushed her down. They actually pushed her down. Warren thought. That was enough to make him want to turn and start swinging. Sure it would have gotten him killed but it might have been worth it. But of course he didn’t stand and fight. He never stood and fought; he cursed himself for not really knowing why.
Warren was running on autopilot. There was never much of a staff at this hour of that day, that coupled with exams week made the school practically deserted. So there would be no rescue unless a nun spied them but the nuns seemed to prefer to keep out of the students' way unless they were teaching.
That meant the only way he could avoid a soaking and an ass beating would be to either tire Fred and Kenny out, or die of a heart attack.
Finally he reached the top of the hill, he was filthy and sweaty and his clothes were riding up in all the wrong places. Winter made the old chapel look more desolate than ever. The headstones were crooked and covered with snow, a black dress shoe was perched atop one of them. Bobby, Evan, Yvonne and Linda were there, passing a bottle of Wild Turkey between them as they huddled in the chapel's shadow. When they saw him their smiles changed from dreamy to cruel.
Shit. Warren tried to stand but Kenny tackled him, driving his face into the mud.
Evan said, “It must be a party, someone brought us a big fat piñata.”
“Yeah.” Kenny punched Warren in the kidneys, “A piggy piñata!”
Warren raised himself up. He started to bellow for help. What else could he do?
With a flick of her shoe Linda kicked mud into his face. “We should make him squeal like a pig. Like they did to that fat fuck in that hunting movie.”
“They stripped him too.” Bobby giggled, “Maybe we should strip him.”
Fred got off Warren and had Kenny do the same, “I've seen him in gym class, he looks like the Michelin Tire Man but pink.”
“I like it!” Kenny said, “We should leave him up here butt naked on the last day of school.”
Evan drained the bottle of Wild Turkey, “Or we could put him in the hospital like we did with Psycho. They could make an all-nerd wing of the hospital. You like that idea?”
Warren stood with as much dignity as he could muster, “Enjoy yourselves now because someday… Someday when you fuckers are going in for a job interview or a home loan I'll be there. I'll be the one in charge and I'll remember-”
They were laughing at him, mocking the way he spoke. Warren's voice trailed off.
Evan tossed the bottle aside, “I say kick his teeth in.”
The others gathered in a circle around Warren, grinning. He didn't know what to do, his karate lessons, his wits, they all deserted him. He wondered fleetingly what his D&D character would do now.
Luther isn't fat. Luther wouldn’t have run in the first place. Luther would have laid waste to the athletics department and made all the girls fall in love with him.
“There's my shoe!”
Everyone froze in place. Warren couldn't believe the relief he felt at the sight of Tristam standing there in his school uniform and gym sneakers. He didn’t think the son of a bitch was there to help him, but at least this way the abuse would be spread around more evenly.
“Better get out of here dogfucker.” Evan grabbed for Warren, Warren pulled away only to be shoved forward by Kenny.
Tristam walked over to the cross-shaped headstone and retrieved his loafer, “I think you better get out of here. Solana told Coach Benanati you guys are running around out here with water guns. Those are kinda banned aren’t they? Three days suspension I think. He's looking for you.”
Fred advanced on the other boy, “I have had enough of you shits.”
Warren couldn't resist, “Funny, we were saying the same thing about you guys.”
“You two are like disgusting.” Yvonne sneered, “One of you is disgusting because you kill things, the other is disgusting because he's fat. You are both disgusting.”
Bobby got Warren in a headlock, “I say we strip them both.”
Tristam said, “Look, I am giving you guys a choice. Leave us alone or else.”
“Or else what?” Linda laughed, “You'll cry to the principal? My Daddy practically paid for the library expansion. He wouldn’t dare give me detention.”
Fred darted for Tristam but the other boy was ready and swung his dress shoe. The heel caught Fred in the cheek. He yelped and stumbled back,
“You are both so dead.” Evan came at the boy from behind but Tristam was faster. Kenny was closing in on him too.
This is it. Warren gasped for air, Bobby was strangling him, Whatever Adelphos got we're going to get worse.
Tristam shouted something. To Warren it sounded foreign yet familiar, like Latin or Klingon.
The air seemed to drop in temperature. Warren felt his vision shiver and blur. It looked as though everything, the sky, the ground, the chapel, was somehow bubbling and writhing. A wave of revulsion washed over him. I'm hallucinating. I'm hallucinating because I’m suffocating. I must be.
“Evan-” A voice said, “What was in that shit you gave us?”
Linda screeched and ran headlong back towards the school. Yvonne doubled over and wretched, spraying her lunch over her white blouse and skirt. Fred buried his face in his hands, whispering to himself. Bobby's grip went weak and Warren slipped out easily. Kenny and Evan just stared, slack jawed and pale.
“Lets get out of here Warren,” Tristam said with a smile, “this won’t last very long.”