Contest #20 shortlist ⭐️



      He died two days ago. The time was 7:32 AM, and he died. He was alive for 16 years, 2 months, 5 days, 7 hours and 12 minutes. Don’t worry, I counted. His mom told me his exact time of birth the day before he turned 13 so I could annoy him right then. He was alive for 16 years, 2 months, 5 days, 7 hours, 12 minutes and it was very close to 13 minutes. He was alive though, I know he was. And then, just like that, after so long, he was gone. But life goes on, and that’s the way things are meant to be. Time doesn’t stand still if one thread gets cut; it has a whole other tapestry to worry about. 

      No one cared very much, except me and his family. No one at school said anything, because they didn’t know what to say. Loss is hard to deal with, but what’s harder to deal with is the aftermath. Trying, scrambling desperately to pick up the fragments of a broken life that just doesn’t fit together properly anymore. Like I said though, the world doesn’t care that Henry Thompson died on June 7th or that he was 16 years, 2 months, 5 days, 7 hours, and 12 minutes old or that it could’ve been 13 if he had just held on a second longer. It only cares that it will keep moving on, regardless of 12 minutes or 13.

      Yesterday my head was too loud, so I don’t really know what happened except for the lady who came in and treated me like adults treat children when they don’t think they’re capable of understanding things in a similar way, with soft coaxing voices and promises that they probably won’t be able to keep. I went into her office, and I remember her trying to talk to me, but I don't remember about what. 

      I do remember her tall bookshelves filled with books like “Retying the Knot” and “What Next? A Book about Post-Depression Depression” and I remember thinking about how when I'm not overwhelmingly sad I feel strange because I don't have any emotion to lean on anymore and figured that Post Depression Depression must really suck. Then my time was over and the receptionist gave me a lollipop which was very kind of her, but it was also my least favorite flavor but it’s okay because she had no way of knowing.

      Benjamin Baker died 5 years, 10 months, 1 day, and 23 hours ago. He overdosed after being force fed pills by his mom. Or maybe he got hit by a car. Or maybe he didn’t exist at all. I think that’s very unlikely though, as I looked at his school papers to see his birth certificate so I could count how long he had lived. I was too scared to ask his mom because of her pushing him off the roof, or something like that. 

      He was aware of his own existence, of his own body, of his surroundings, for 11 years, 1 month, 14 days, and 2 hours. He was there for so long and for so short, and then he was gone. I have not heard his name anywhere in 1 year, 2 months, and 26 days. I don’t have the hour because I was too tired to record the hours and minutes, but I do know the date. But we are not talking about Benjamin Baker, which means I won’t have to record a new time and count again. 

      We are talking about Henry Thompson who was very stupid and very smart at the same time, which was very strange. He could draw very well, and when I asked him where he had learned he had told me he had learned himself. I asked him how he did that and he said that he “just kind of knew what to do with my hands” which doesn’t make very much sense because the only way you would know what to do with your hands would be from muscle memory or following steps but he told me he learned from himself which would make both of those impossible. 

      Even if I thought he was smart, the teacher called him stupid when he was still alive because he talked with a stutter and didn’t know how to solve an algebra problem with the proper steps and because he got his b’s and d’s confused sometimes and couldnt spell armadillo or accident or dedecahedron or achilles.

      I don’t think he was very stupid, but my mom told me that I should always respect teachers because I’m the one learning from them. I’m not sure I want to learn from them if they were calling Henry stupid, because I do not want to be the type of person who calls other people stupid because they can’t spell awkward, but I’m not allowed to tell the teachers that calling someone stupid is mean or else they put me in the dark room on the side of campus where they don’t let me out even when I scream. 

Today I was at Henry’s house because his mom asked me to help clean up his things. I came over early because I used to help Ms. Thompson and she always made chocolate chip scones that stuck to the roof of your mouth and I was really excited to try them again. She asked me about what Henry was like at school, and I got confused because Henry didn’t like school at all and his mom had never cared very much about that. 

      I told her about how two days before he was gone, he tried to spell analytical on the board and started crying when the teacher called him stupid. He was going to be taken to the dark room but I tried to tell the teacher, Mrs. Amelia, that calling him stupid was mean and she put me in the dark room with him too. We were both let out 10 minutes till the bell rang, which was shorter than most times in the room, so I don't understand why she was crying.

      I can understand that adults do bad things when they get frustrated, like calling us names and putting us in the dark room, but they are still human and make mistakes. I think that eventually Mrs. Amelia will see that the dark room scares us too much, but she needs to figure it out herself because if we try to tell her she just throws us in there again. I told Ms. Thompson this and she looked at me sadly. I know she was sad because she was crying and told me that she was sorry. I do not understand why she was sorry, because the name calling and the dark room wasn’t her fault, but I told her “It’s ok” and patted her back. 

      Right now it is 6:15, 10 minutes after I went upstairs and Ms. Thompson gave me the keys to look after the house while she stayed with her sister in South Carolina. Henry died 1 day, 17 hours, and 3 minutes ago. I am in Henry’s room right now, and I know he was very smart for two very important reasons. Number one is that his walls are covered in art, both his and that of others. I noticed my own sketchy drawing of a cat that looked very bad, but Henry told me that even if it wasn’t a very good cat, it was a very good dog. Reason two is that, when I sat on his bed, I found a note under his pillow addressed to me. I'm writing down what it says after I fix the typos. 

“Dear Fisher,

      I’m sorry I had to go, I'm just really scared. It’s scary how the world works, if I'm going to die in the end I might as well go with less to hold on to. I wanted to tell you something though. Ms. Amelia sucks, and I want you to tell the school counselor about the dark room. I know Ms. Amelia told us it was normal but I don't think it is. One more thing, I love you. Take care of my mom for me, please. If you ever start forgetting what I look like, there’s a photo in the envelope, and if you ever start to forget what I sound like, there’s an audio recorder in here too. 

See ya on the other side Fish Man,


      I don’t think I ever told you how Henry died. He killed himself in the woods. He used a rope that we tied to a tree and made into a rope swing when we were really little. I went into the woods to see if he was there, and I found him swinging. I called the police and then Henry’s mom and I waited and talked to him. I’m not stupid, I knew he was dead, but I remembered two weeks ago when we had been reading about ghosts and Henry said he thought the soul would probably linger in the body after death. Even if it wasn’t true, it didn’t hurt to try.

Right now, Henry’s alarm is going off. His alarm clock is very loud and annoying, but I’m not touching it because it would feel strange to. It was still his, whether he was alive to shut it off or not. I knew he wouldn’t ever wake up again, and I understand he’s gone for good, but it feels strange that everything keeps running even when directly related to him.

      The photo is of him and I, around 11, along with two other kids who used to play with us named Lucas and Cameron. Lucas was ta and had brown hair and blue eyes, and Cameron was taller and had longer hair and green eyes. Cameron had his hand in my hair, ruffling it, and Lucas was doing bunny ears on Henry. I don’t want to get the photo wet because I am crying again, so I put it down and stared at the wall. 

      The walls are made out of a strange, bumpy material which made it hard to paint on. My tears tasted really salty, but I don’t think I made any noise. Mom always looked at me weird when I cried because I never made any noise, but I don't think it matters very much if you make noise while you cry. 

      The alarm is still very loud and annoying though. It looks kind of like a box, and you turn it around to see the time and tap the surface to turn off the alarm. I got it for Henry last year on his birthday and he told me he loved it. I was hoping it would make it so he could actually catch the bus on time. He did catch the bus a lot more, which was good.

      Henry was gone, and that’s the truth. He was gone, but it’s still very hard to understand that he was just not here anymore. For 16 years, 2 months, 5 days, 7 hours and 12 minutes he knew what it was like to breathe and in one moment it was all gone, no more. I am a logical person because I can understand math and do not lie to people and because I can accept that everything doesn’t have a beginning and will never have an end without needing to understand it, but right now, I am begging to anyone who will answer that I will wake up from a bad dream and go to school the next day and have Henry copy the homework answers for math class. If I leave the alarm on, maybe Henry will hear and wake up and we can catch the bus together. 

      But I know that it’s not true, and never will be again, so I just shut off his alarm and took his letter with me and locked the door to his house behind me. I knew I wouldn't see him again, and it was hard to know, but I'm starting to accept it. It will take a long time to fully understand that he will never be back and that I will only ever miss his antics, never seeing them again, but I've started. I’ve started and I will continue. 

      I will see Henry on the other side, sooner or later, so why not give him a story worthy of a long wait.

December 15, 2019 22:56

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