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Both of them always wanted to just fit in. To stop being bullied. Neither of them was ugly, stupid or annoying. They even matched in height and style. In another life, Carmina Blaire (Girl #3) and Tyler Griffin (Boy #3) would have made the perfect couple.
But it was their choices that drove them apart forever.
Tyler came to Lewis High School in the middle of the first year, quite unusually. There were rumors that he was kicked out from his previous school for being a problematic boy, but they were soon discredited seeing how shy he was.
In truth, he was forced to change school after atrocious bullying nearly drove him to suicide and turned the once smiley, optimistic boy into an insecure, sullen one. He had to wear gigantic braces and thick-framed glasses, and his usual, plain clothing did not balance it well for the jerks found in every single high school. First it was only words, then a few shoves and punches, then notebooks torn apart, until he once ran home with broken glasses, glass shards around his eye, lips bleeding where his braces cut into them. He cried and vomited each time school was mentioned again – until he was convinced that in Lewis, everything would be better. He changed to contact lenses and night braces. Ready for a fresh start with a clean sheet. Too bad that, when he finally started to open up after about a month or so, he decided to make friends with the worst people possible.
"Girly" commented Harrison Rowley (Boy #6) to his best friend Peter Aarons (Boy #1).
"Maybe he's not that bad. He doesn't speak very much."
The two boys from class B (Tyler was in class A), who joined the art club just out of boredom when they needed more courses, eyed Tyler suspiciously. He did not even notice them, quietly drawing the still life of flowers in a vase that was the day's assignment.
"What if he was kicked out?" whispered Peter "maybe he dealt drugs…"
"Are you an asshole?! That… that thing?!"
Nevertheless, they followed him after school and caught up with him in the street.
Tyler froze, then realized it was not the old bullies.
"Oh… hi. Harry… and…"
"And don't Harry me. Harrison."
"Have some spare time?"
Truth was, Harrison and Peter weren't exactly the type of guys Tyler would happily bond with, at least not under normal circumstances. But it was they who approached him, seemingly meaning no harm. Maybe he would fit in; maybe he would bond. They seemed to be the big-mouthed, popular kind anyway. What harm could come?
A few minutes later, the three of them were already smoking cigarettes in a secluded dead end, Tyler listening, still a little unsure, to the other two talking dirty about girls, fights and sports.
I'll get accustomed to this, he thought.
Tyler would sacrifice his morals to fit in. For a while, at least.
It was a few weeks later that he started to feel that maybe hanging with Harrison and Peter, him by then being considered the third member of the gang by the rest of the students, maybe wasn't the best idea.
"Hey, braids and braces! Where's your lesbo bodyguard?!" shouted Harrison, at which Peter began laughing evilly. Tyler forced a smile.
The girl from Tyler's class turned around, blushing. Her chestnut hair hung in two pigtails that didn't suit her at all, her braces made her mouth constantly hang half-open, not to mention her plain clothing and glasses. As if she was wearing a huge neon sign saying BULLY ME.
Tyler never joined whenever Harrison and Peter took fun in shoving Carmina Blaire around, but neither did he take her defense. He preferred to fade into the background, as remorse slowly crept from the depths of his soul. For if somebody, he certainly knew what Mina was going through.
Except that Tyler never had someone ready to protect her, like Carmina. Christina Emerton (Girl #4) was always there to stand up for bullies, who could hardly find a grasp on her. She was also fairly strong for a girl, best friend for Mina since seventh grade, though just by looks she would seem more like a bully than a protector. Probably, though, it was her way of bullying - pretending to do it just to protect Carmina. She took an odd pleasure in humiliating others, but only ones who, in her eyes, deserved it. Pleasure, yes. Protecting Carmina could have simply been shooing bullies off, but oh, no, Christina wouldn't leave it at that. Her savage fury against anyone bullying her friend was feared by most – except obviously that obnoxious Janice Blackwood (Girl #2), who thought herself superior to most. Especially since Elias Wescott (Boy #11) once made her the centerpiece of a drawing, nevermind it was titled The Tyrant Empress.
Mina and Tina, the inseparable pair.
It was the summer break separating ninth and tenth grade that changed things. Tyler got a hold on himself on a vacation out of town, and decided to sever all ties with Harrison and Peter. Sure, he had some so-called "friends", but the drawbacks were worse. Having to become bit of a bully, or at least to tag along, cough a lot because smoking was "cool", drinking, and being labeled as just another jerk. Just for hanging out with them. He also quit smoking and denying his true self.
Carmina, meanwhile, was given a huge makeover. Her curly chestnut hair now fell loose down her back, her braces had been removed, and she tried to build up some self-esteem. Her glasses bothered her a lot, though, as she was the single person in the whole art club who wore them – everyone else near-sighted had switched to contact lenses.
Poor Tyler thought that a few kind words would erase the past. They wouldn't. Carmina loathed him, Christina always told him to fuck off, and he became the brand new target for Harrison and Peter. He found out the hard way that getting rid of bullies was nothing compared to trying to wash off the mark of "jerk". The feelings he began to develop for beautiful Carmina just made things worse.
The students were led off the bus one by one. Two minutes after Bradford it was Jessica Pauls' (Girl #9) turn, who wept and had to be held on the arm to be even able to walk. Never bullied, and red-haired and green-eyed, you might think she would face anything. But Jessica would never – she was way too used to fading into the background and being a nobody, which was just fine for her. Unlike her friend Janice, though.
Lukas Vale (Boy #10) had to be forcibly pulled from his seat, as he kept on repeating "art trip, wood houses, forest, where is this?" over and over.
Lobelia Valdez (Girl #10) would keep her stare on Jemima Zheng (Girl #12), who, despite being her friend, showed no sign of noticing her too much.
Elias Wescott tore his arm off the man in black's hand and walked out proudly, his head up. He did not wait for Janelle Wernick (Girl #11), one of his "snow fairies", coming next.
Most students, once inside the school, immediately ran in all possible directions, up or down stairs, hoping to find a quiet spot to hide – or just calm down and try to make reason of the unreasonable situation.
Tyler and Carmina came right after one another.
So the boy waited near the entrance, hoping the two of them could team up.
First, he thought however, he should ready his weapon. So he sat down, back to the wall of the bar room next to the entrance, and reached in his new backpack.
Bread… bottles… papers… a watch… a plastic bag…
"What the hell?"
Oh, great. So they're lying too! But… if there's no weapon…
Tyler held up the plastic bag incredulously.
Unless it was a sick joke, a very, very sick joke… that was his weapon.
The plastic bag.
He felt tears forming in his eyes.
As he pulled out the contents of the bag one by one, holding on to the vain hope he missed something, he didn't hear the soft footsteps of the girl coming right after him.
Carmina, careful not to make a sound, slid into the porter's office and híd under the desk, for she had noticed Tyler sitting in the corridor.
"NO!" Tyler backed away from Connor Lacey (Boy #4) "where's Mina?!"
"What…? She… should be inside or…"
"Aaah!" Tyler hastily threw everything back into the bag and ran down the corridor, towards the geography room, where he turned the corner and disappeared.
Connor, holding his machete, realized only then how threatening he must have looked. Shaking his head, he went off the opposite direction, steps silent.
You and me, Ditty, in the chairman's office.
This he whispered in his girlfriend's ear, without getting noticed. For there must be a chairman's office in every school. He will soon be with her, Meredith Lloyd (Girl #7).
"Tina!" Carmina looked out the small window in the porter's office.
"Oh, Mina, thank goodness!" Christina opened the door and embraced her weeping friend.
"Tina… Tina… the bullies…"
"They won't hurt you."
"He was waiting for me… to kill me!"
"Shush, Mina, nobody's there… now, come, we must find another place."
Carmina did not trust anybody any more. The school trip had turned into a horror. Tyler was there, undoubtedly just waiting to kill her. She felt stupid for even reaching out for Tina… but she went along nonetheless. She never, ever stood up for herself, only depending on Tina… maybe…
Christina helped Carmina to her feet and led her swiftly but silentl down the corridor, then up the stairs to the first floor.
According to the plan of the school, there were three of them – this was the one labeled "large library", but still smaller than the main one, located on the third floor.
Christina readied her weapon – namely, a tire iron – and opened the door.
No movement, no sound.
With bookshelves lining the walls and just a desk in the middle, there was no place anyone could hide.
"Come, it's safe."
Carmina walked inside, and they closed the door.
"Phew" Christina placed her tire iron on the floor and wiped away the remaining tears from Carmina's cheeks.
They sat silent for a while, more than half an hour in fact, the clock ticking inexorably, trying to make sense of this horrible "game".
"Yes…" sighed Carmina, forcing a slight smile "but the bullies…"
"They won't make it out alive" Christina grasped her tire iron and rose it up "only one can remain."
…so you will now whack me on the head with that?
But no, Tina would never do that.
Christina looked quite menacing, strong, determined, with that constantly angry spark in her eyes.
…or would she?
"Let me see what you've got" Christina pulled Carmina's bag to her without even asking.
Are you trying to take my weapon?
"What the fuck is this?"
Christina held up a closed metal fan.
I am a loser, you see it too!
Christina opened the fan – and noticed it had pointy spikes with sharp blades at each section, making it both a stabbing and a slashing weapon.
"This sucks, however. Looks scary, but sucks" she handed it to Carmina "but be careful with it."
You think my weapon sucks, but I should hold it? Do i suck too?
"Typical" sighed Christina, and stood up.
WHAT is typical?
Carmina, holding her fan, stood up too.
"Yes, very typical" sighed the taller girl, facing away from her friend "no luck, eh? You get something totally impractical, which cannot be used very well and…"
I suck?! I am always a loser?!
It was the work of a moment.
Then, in a split second, the razor-shard blades of the fan slashed across Christina's throat, blood staining her shirt and spraying all over Carmina's face.
"Wha… agh…" Christina dropped the tire iron and rose a hand to her throat; the wound was not immediately fatal.
"Bully…" hissed Carmina.
Red. Seeing red literally, as blood stained her glasses, Carmina felt she was turning into somebody else.
Only one can remain.
Bullies would die. Christina would just talk and talk, and talk even instead of her, and in the end…? One of them would have to die.
Let it be over quick!
Carmina wiped the blood from her glasses and picked up the tire iron too.
Christina, eyes wide with horror and pain, backed away, then reached for the latch on the door, managing to open it just before the first blow came down on the back of her head, not too strong of course, but making her dizzy. With the loss of blood from her throat wound, she was losing consciousness fast.
Carmina would not leave it at that, though.
Christina staggered to the window facing the inner schoolyard opening from the corridor, when Carmina delivered the second, final blow to the back of her head.
All the students inside the building rose their heads at the sharp sound of shattering glass, as Christina fell against the window, the last thing she saw being the wall going down and the yard.
"Uh?" Rachel Ferris (Girl #5), being sure that no one would hide there and that a vampire doesn't feel the cold anyway, heard the sound from some bushes in the yard, where she hid, sitting quietly in the snow, not even checking her weapon.
Nothing could have prepared her for the sight.
A girl's bloody upper body hung out of a shattered window, the red liquid flowing down the wall in several trails, ultimately tainting the fresh snow.
"Blood… blood… blood…!"
Somewhere up on the first floor, Wilhelmina Belle-Aire scored the first kill in this Training.
Girl #4 Emerton, Christina – eliminated
22 contestants remaining