Just because they’re taller than me, it doesn’t give them the right to do these things.
My nighttimes are a cold sweat. I can’t sleep in fear of it happening all over again. I can’t risk going back to that moment, yet it has never left me.
The clawing inside my brain, the rattling of my jaw, they never stop. Except sometimes they do because mom and dad give me sweets to mute them. But, they’re always there, persistent as a Covid cough.
The grownups never ask us how we feel or what we want. And, when they mess up, they pass the buck to the next person until it floats away for the aliens to find.
“Get to the ground, all of you. Today’s the day, your last.”
I remember my limbs and eyelids jolting in fits while I clenched, trying not to wet myself. Cassie wasn’t so lucky, and she puked all over the classroom floor—I could see my crying reflection in the bile.
For a moment, everything went numb and a ringing filled the space between my ears until a chorus of sobs jarred my senses back into focus.
Jack was saying no, no, no, please mister, and Miss Simmons was jabbering into the blackboard.
The shot wasn’t so much loud as it was final. It hit Tommy in the chest, and his life was over.
Then the gunman shouted, “drill,” and Tommy was reborn, smug, shaking, and uneasy.
I died that day; we all did.