Miseria: a mystery

The first chapter of our ongoing short story

Layla East and Josie Furst

A piece of paper flutters out of my locker and lands at my feet. My face twists in confusion as I grab it and examine it. It simply reads, “Hello.” Such a common greeting feels ominous. The lack of a name doesn’t calm my nerves. I shake my head, clearing my thoughts. This is probably a stupid prank. My shaky hand reaches into my locker, taking out my history notebook. It’s way too quiet here.
If I didn’t want to be stuck in these halls alone, I probably shouldn’t have left my notebook here. A slight breeze ruffles my ginger curls as I thumb through the pages of my worn notebook, my awful handwriting decorating every page.
I close the book and shove it into my backpack. As I zip my backpack, I feel a presence behind me. I turn around to scan the hallway, then my locker door slams and I jump.
“Feeling artsy today, loser?”
I sling my backpack onto one shoulder and let out a sign of annoyance. I turn to face Eris, my best friend for as long as I can remember.
“Nope, just irritable.” I reply, crumbling the note in my hand.
“Hey,” Eris whines. “I’ll always be the irritable one. I claimed that title years ago.”
His smirk only widens when I stomp away from him, dropping the note.
“Whoa, whoa,” Eris says behind me, “I got one just like this.”
I stop abruptly. The bell rings loudly and the hallway crowds with people. I slowly turn on my heels to face Eris, who’s already caught up to me, both notes in his hands. He stares down at me, letting his greasy black hair fall into my eyes. I find that both notes are written on the same type of paper. I reach out to grab them, but Eris yanks them away from me.
“Ah ah ah, what’s the magic word?” Eris says in a condescending voice. I roll my eyes and he takes that as a cue to continue his melodrama. But then someone walks by him, bumping his shoulder, and a note floats out of his hand onto the floor in front of me. On the front of the note I see my name and as it flutters open, the words make my heart stop. I’m coming for you, it reads.

CHAPTER 2
“Calm down. I can’t be seen with some freak,” Eris seethes, eyes darting to the students surrounding us.
“I have bigger issues than your reputation,” I whisper. “Someone’s threatening me.”
As he lowers his eyes to meet mine, he states in a sickly condescending tone, “You overestimate your importance. You’re not the only one who got a note.”
I bite my lip in an attempt to silence an oncoming insult. Turning on my heel, I head towards my next class. My ginger curls whip around me, and I hope they hit Eris in the face.
“Since I care about my grades, I’m going to class.”
He doesn’t respond. I shift my weight to the side, uncomfortable by Eris’s silence.
“We can talk later.”
The silence persists.
I can’t take it. I spin back around and Eris is standing there with the note in his hand. But he’s not the only one. Everyone else in the hallway has a note in their hand on the same lined paper I got. Soon I hear them talking. Looking at the note. Staring at me.
“Aries.”
“Who’s that?”
“Why is she writing us notes?”
“What kind of egotistical…”
“Does everyone have one?”
Eris snatches a note from a girl next to him. He tears it open, eyes widening.
“Are you gonna let me in on your little secret?” He asks, handing it to me. The same handwriting glares up at me, except my name signs this note. “There’s someone in this school I’m coming for. Because I’m the best, and there’s only room in this school for one of us.” it reads. “Signed Aries.”
I feel everyone’s eyes on me as people read the note with my name on it.
“Don’t worry, we’ll figure this out. I mean, you know one of the smartest guys in your grade,” Eris says with a smirk. Of course he takes a moment to make himself look good. I spin around and more eyes meet mine. Some are confused. Some are judging me. None are friendly.
“Shut up for once, Eris,” I say quietly.
He creeps closer to me, clumping the note in his hand.
“What was that? Sorry, with everyone talking about you, it’s hard to hear.”
I face him. My anxiety went from zero to a hundred and I can’t take it anymore. I open my mouth to respond, but I never get there.
Everything goes black.

 

CHAPTER 3

Last issue, Aries fainted when she realized she was framed for passing out the mysterious notes. Here’s where the story continues:
I wake up in the nurse’s office.
“Hey, crazy,” beams Eris. I lay my eyes on his smiling face.
“Why are you here, Eris? Do you have a purpose?”
“Besides making sure you’re not dead and checking out the new school nurse, not really.”
I absentmindedly look at his feet, noticing his backpack with lined paper sticking out.
Paranoia clouds my mind. Did he frame me? I reach for his bag and his hand promptly slaps it away.
“What are you doing, Aries?” He says. He never uses my real name.
“What’s in your bag, Eris?” I say back, mimicking his question.
“Maybe it’s my homework, did you think of that?” Condescension was clear in his voice.
“You don’t do your homework,” I argue, taking this moment to snatch his bag.
He reaches for the bag, too, but I’m quicker. Hundreds of pieces of paper spill out and I stare at him in disbelief.
“Why?” Is all I can think to say. I thought I knew him.
“Please. Don’t act like I kicked a puppy.”
His demeanor turns from snarky to aggressive. His jaw clenches and his fists ball up. “I played a joke, which you clearly didn’t get.”
Still, in shock, I mutter, “What is wrong with you?”
“The same thing that’s wrong with you.” He answered coldly.
“And what would that be?” I questioned, venom lining my voice.
“Arrogance.”
“Wow,” I say, in shock.
“I truly find this amusing. It’s one of my best ones yet. You would be all paranoid, wandering around being like, ‘who wrote these notes?’, ‘I’m so scared’ and I would be sitting back watching the whole thing.” He chuckles.
“You’re insane,” I growl.
“Oh, really?” He says. “I think the word you’re looking for is clever.”
His grin widens only to be tucked away when the nurse comes in.
His demeanor changed so quickly, it was unnerving. As he backs up and saunters away, my mind races.
As soon as he rounds the corner, my instincts take action. I turn to the nurse.
“M-miss? I have to tell you something.”
Her face lights up with confusion as the words start tumbling out of me.