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Teens & Young Adult Thriller Suspense

CW: Bruises, dead bodies, blood

“C’mon, man,” Jenna mocks, laughing over the phone. “It can’t go that bad.”

“It will definitely be ‘that bad,’” I mumble, looking at the vivacious classroom ahead of me.

You may be wondering why I’m using a phone in a classroom, let alone calling my girlfriend. To most people, that’s unheard of. That’s not like my school, though. In short, it’s more like a university.

I thought getting sent to a private school would be a bad idea. At first, it definitely was. Leaving all my friends to go to some random fancy prep school down in California? It was definitely for the better, though. A ninth grader living in a dorm with two other friends is basically a dream. The school didn’t turn out to be some weird preparatory school, either.

Meeting Jenna was quite a weird experience. We got sent on a blind date, which was something I was not into. My friends were talking about how nice and pretty she was, and how I had nothing to worry about. On the first date, nothing clicked. I don’t know if that was my fault, since leaving for private school put me through a severe breakup, but she didn’t seem that into it either. About a month later, we were at the school arcade when we started playing a game together, which is when it clicked.

That was all the way back in October, and we’ve been dating for six months now. I found out she lives in Texas like me, so for spring break, she’s gonna meet my parents for the first time. I’m not exactly “thrilled” about it, as she has been saying for the past three days.

Don’t get me wrong, I want her to get to know the family. We’ve dated for six months with little issues, and meeting the parents is a necessary evil. My parents aren’t exactly the most progressive, though. May sound like a stereotype, but they’re what you’d expect in a conservative south family. They’ve never really discussed dating with me, so I’m not exactly sure how they’ll react. They sounded pretty indifferent over the phone, but hearing anything from them gives me a sour taste in my mouth.

“Have an open mind,” she says, making a smacking sound. She’s an avid gum chewer, and I don’t doubt she has a stick in her mouth right now. Need a piece? She’s got it. Need a certain gum brand? She’s got it. She even managed to win the gum chewing contest at our school, getting a picture of her plastered on the school achievements board.

“You haven’t met my parents, though,” I remind. I can hear a scowl on her end. “Not to be mean, but they’re not exactly the most open minded. I’m still dumbfounded why they sent me here over some Christian private school.”

“Maybe they’ll like me,” she says. “You’ve said before that I’m charming. Maybe I’ll be different.”

“Charming isn’t good enough for them,” I say, wanting to pace around the room. I’m unsure if I should be talking about this in the small classroom, but everyone else, including my friend Lee, is occupied. “If I mentioned that you have a nose piercing, you can’t come. If I mention you’re bisexual, you can’t come. Heck, when they see the blue streak in your long, brown hair, you’ll be crucified by them.”

“What are they gonna do, kick us out of their house?” 

She definitely has a point, even if I don’t want to admit it. It’s not like I live at home anymore. I’m still pretty dependent on my parents, though, even if I don’t like to admit it. “They’re still paying for me to go here.”

“The school offered you a scholarship for sophomore year,” she reminds me. “You have high honors already. You’re on the sports display case. I think they’d do a bit more to try to keep you.”

I smile at the compliment, but it makes me feel empty inside. Other people trying to decide my destiny for me, even if I’m said to be a good sports player, makes me grind my teeth. What if I don’t want to be a star athlete? What if I wanna be a physician? Or a writer? Accountant? Therapist? Lawyer?

That same question rings in my mind, like a song that won’t get out of your head. It’s been attacking my brain ever since I started playing Lacrosse in seventh grade. I stay still for a second, not noticing the persistent calls from Jenna. “Danny? You good?”

I freeze, and try to get my focus back. “Yeah, sorry.” We remain immobile for a second, me having no idea what to talk about. I stare across the room at Lee, my roommate and best friend for the past couple months. “Wanna say hi to Lee?”

She agrees, and I call him over. His tan skin and curly black hair is really noticeable, especially on the really humid days. He sits down, greeting Jenna. “How’s it going, Jen?”

We exchange feelings for a while, engaging in small talk. We chat about how one of our teachers just got fired for making racist comments towards an Asian student, which definitely upsetted Vanessa. She’s half white half Asian, but her family more primarily celebrates Asian culture. We talk about how a guy on the lacrosse team got in a fistfight with another kid at recess, who happens to be in the classroom. We don’t mean to gossip, but we love it. Every new information that comes out about the school is music to our ears, since the school newspaper is so crappy this year.

“Alright everyone, settle down,” Mr. Pino yells, walking back into the class. Even when everyone stops talking, he’s still waving his hands back and forth. “It’s time to learn.”

Everybody groans, but reluctantly puts their phones away. “Gotta go now,” I mumble to Jenna, as Lee trudges over to his seat. “Teach will definitely get mad if-”

Suddenly, a huge shake erupts in the room, and the majority fall out of their seats, including me. I slam to the ground, hitting my knee. The pain is excruciating, but all I can do is focus on the other classmates. Sofia is not so fortunate, slamming her head against a chair. The phone hangs up immediately. I know what’s happening. It’s an earthquake. “Get under a desk! Cover your head!” Mr. Pino screams, rushing under his table.

I quickly rush under the desk, trying to avoid the massive pain that’s throbbing in my knee. I cover my head with my arms, but I can’t help but peek. All the students are rushing under their tables, quickly covering their heads with textbooks or their hands. Sofia still hasn’t arisen. I shiver at the thought of what happened to her.

Pencils are falling to the ground, picture frames falling off the teachers desks, posts slipping off the wall, everything. The ground feels like rough waves below me. I see Mr. Pino, who’s praying, and Lee, who can’t even look. This is his worst nightmare. He’s never been able to handle tense situations, let alone an earthquake. I can’t see his face, but I can’t imagine how he looks right now. I mirror him, grabbing a nearby textbook and covering my head. Earthquake, please go away. Please go away…

It seems like forever until the shaking stops, and everyone uncovers their heads. I stand up, and immediately sit back down in my chair, trying to tolerate the pain. It has to be sprained at the least. Everyone slowly rises up. I glance at Lee, who looks traumatized. A tear is streaming down his face. 

We can only stare at Sofia, who hasn’t gotten up. She lays there, motionless. We all stand there in shock. I feel like I can’t breathe. What the hell just happened? I get it’s California, but there were no earthquake warnings today, even if those aren’t that common.

Mr. Pino starts to pace towards Sofia, but we immediately stop when we hear a rumbling nearby. We all look towards the door, but see nothing. The rumbling gets louder and louder, and my heart starts beating extremely fast. I try to back up out of fear, but that’s interrupted by the huge wave that crashes through the windows.

***

I open my eyes, feeling horrible. The sky is dark, and my face feels dryer than ever. I scream, looking at the mess around me. I try to make sense of my surroundings, but everything is wrecked. The nearby building, which I assume is a school, is a huge wreck. Some of it remains up, but not that much. Trees are dented into the ground. Water puddles are everywhere.

I’m panting like a dog, as I only see one person around me. I try to stand up, until the pain feels even worse in my knee. I shriek in pain, clenching my fist. I hear a buzz of my phone, and take it out, only to find static everywhere on the screen.

I see a person in the distance, completely immobile on the ground. I can’t make out who it is, but I see tan skin. Lee? I stand up, hopping on one foot in that direction. I try to avoid debris on the ground, but it isn't easy. Pieces of trash are everywhere, and an entire piece of the wall is spread out on the ground.

I finally make my way over there, and I recognize the face right away. It is Lee! I shake him, and feel for his pulse. A slight heartbeat is present, which makes the pressure in my throat go away. He’s alive. His face is covered with dust, and his sweatshirt is completely torn. His hair doesn’t have its distinct color anymore.

He eventually opens his eyes, and starts screaming, looking around. I put my hands on his shoulders, trying to calm him down. “Lee! Lee! You’re fine. You’re alive. Take a deep breath.”

We take a deep breath together, and the fear on his face somewhat dissipates. “What’s happening? Why was I lying here?? Where are we??”

“I have no idea,” I stutter, trying to stay relatively calm. “I think a tsunami burst into our school. We somehow survived, I guess.”

“That can’t be true,” he says.

“What else could have happened?” I blurt, my voice shaking. “Why is the school torn to pieces? We can’t just be lying out here for no reason.”

He looks terrified, and I can’t help but feel bad for him. His biggest fear is being in a natural disaster, and I can’t blame him. I’m not exactly the most calm right now. We don’t say anything for a while, until I remember. I shriek. “Jenna!”

“What about Jenna?” he asks, curled up in a ball.

“We need to find her!” I stammer, putting my hands on my face. “What if she got killed by the disaster? What if she’s dead right now?”

This time, he’s calming me down. All that level headed mindset I had before has completely gone away. I can’t imagine if she’s dead or not, but I can only think of one thing to do. “We need to find her.”

“What??” he says.

“We need to go looking for her, and check if she’s alive! What could have happened to her?”

“What about us?” he blurts.

I try to come up with a response, but I can’t. I can’t just let Jenna die. She has to stay alive. “I’m gonna go search for her. You’re welcome to come if you want to.”

“Danny, don’t do this,” he starts. “You could-”

“No!” I shout, making him wide eyed. “She can’t be dead! I have to go look for her!”

I start hopping on one foot, trailing the school. From what I can tell, I’m on the east wing. She has the majority of her classes on the west wing. I go right, knowing I can go around what’s left of the school. I hear a big sigh from him, until I hear some soft footsteps behind me. “Fine, I’ll come. I can’t just leave you be.”

I let out a slight smile, but nothing can mask my fear. He begins to help me around the school, holding me with my leg. You ain’t never got a friend like Lee. As I look through the windows of the wrecked classrooms, it makes me wince. Everything in each room is completely destroyed, and some bodies lay on the ground, completely motionless. Some have dust over their face. Some have blood. It forces a tear through my eye every time I see someone.

We finally make it to where Jenna’s classroom would be, and I stare through the window. The ceiling is partially caved in, and the rest of the class has around seven bodies in it. None of them are Jenna. “Wait, does this mean-”

“She’s not there!” Lee exclaims.

He tries to make this sound like a good thing, but I question if it is or not. She could have gotten blown into the hallways, but I see nothing in there. That means she probably escaped.

“Where could she be?” Lee asks.

I stand there for a second, but I remember her favorite spot outside of campus. It’s where she always goes on weekends, whenever there’s an emergency, a serious conversation, and anything else of that matter. It sparks an idea in my head, as crazy as it may be. “Lee, we gotta go to John’s cafe.”

Something feels weird about saying that, but even after everything that happens, a smidge of hope remains in my mind. Something tells me she knows what to do. She’s too smart to not have a plan. So, after some banter, we set off.

Into the ruins of California.

October 16, 2021 02:23

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