The numbers glowed in the dark, shifting from red to green. It was a new setting that she had discovered while scrolling aimlessly through her phone’s settings. 5:24. 5:25.
The screen opened immediately, greeting her with a familiar message.
“You have one new follow request.”
It was a girl named Amy from Westbrook High School, whatever, it’s not like she needed to know her full life story. Accept. The screen turned black as it hit the bottom of her bag.
The cafeteria was busy as usual, a mass of high-schoolers shuffling in after a tiresome morning. It was a crowd of people that she knew – she saw their posts everyday. There was Emilyxo13. There was jake.baron. It was their actual names that she didn’t know.
Making a beeline towards the middle tables, she jogged over to table three, waving to Abigail as their eyes met from across the room. Abigail Cress, or Abby, as she preferred to be known to Lakeview High, was already there, snapping a notable amount of selfies, her face contorting into a series of poses before relaxing momentarily in order to press send. They hugged as she sat down. She could smell Abby’s expensive perfume as they pulled away. It was too sweet.
The worksheets were spread around her – like one huge paper fan. Math. Science. English. Chinese. The list could go on and on. Her eyes were focused on the light. A video was playing beneath the glass, figures moving to an unknown beat. Next to her bed stood a nightstand, empty except for a charger. Her old paperback books were long gone, shoved under the bed and covered in dust. Her parents were downstairs – typing simultaneously on their computers. The house was quiet.
It was the screen’s light that drew her in. Something so beautiful yet so dangerous.
The song played distinctly in the background.
“So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble, bubble. So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble,
trouble. Aren’t you lonely?”
She brushed her teeth, watching in the mirror as the toothpaste foamed in her mouth. The lyrics got louder and louder until it was all she could hear.
The likes were increasing steadily. She counted the number of times a heart appeared on her screen. 5.67.125.
Classes were as usual, boring yet predictable.
As she opened the door she heard a soft sniffling. Peeking underneath the stall she could see a pair of ballet flats. It was Katie. There was only one girl in the entire school that wore the same pair of shoes no matter the season. It was hard to like Katie; there was just something so different about her. Katie walked through the hallway like a ghost, mumbling random words to herself before giggling hysterically. Abigail had deemed her a “fucking psycho”.
She washed her hands and left.
The new trend was green smoothies. She watched as pieces of kale, spinach, and cucumber whipped violently within the blender.
Halloween was today. She was dressed up early, a cat wearing as little clothing as possible. Her parents had gone out. The jello shots were ready, music was thrumming through the house, a beat that could shatter glass.
Abigail was making out in the corner; the third suitor of the evening was John Gate. John #crush.
She was so drunk that the floor was spinning. People, furniture, clothes, cups – the blur enveloped her as colors mixed together into a deep black.
The party was at its peak and the chandelier was on the floor. She was on the floor, staring up as her friends danced around her. The door slammed open. A pair of ballet flats walked in. She struggled to get up, yet managed to see the unwelcome guest. Katie was Katie – she showed up as her uninvited self. Abigail moved from the couch and joined her as they eyed the girl.
“What are you doing here? The asylum is that way psycho.” Abigail broke the silence.
Katie uttered a word under her breath. “Bitch.”
“What did you just say to me?”
Katie stood alone.
“You seriously thought you could just come here?” Abby kept pushing.
Abby loved to push, that’s how she got everything in life: John, followers, money.
“You are nothing to us.” Abby spat out. “You have no fucking friends, let alone followers,”
Abby gripped her red cup, vodka spilling over the edge.
Katie turned and fled through the door.
The elementary school was where she went when she was drunk. Its playground had a red horse, a slide, and some monkey bars. She sat on the horse, the cold metal pressing against her bare thighs. She hated the feeling of metal. She rocked the creature back and forth, finally, leaning over the side and vomiting.
Her phone was exploding. Pictures and videos of last night. Tagged with #PsychoKatie.
The bathroom stall during lunch was empty. She had checked twice that day.
She lay in bed, a faint glow on her face emanated from the phone.
Katie wasn’t in biology class. She was always there, a figure shrouded in the shadow of the blackboard. She couldn’t tear her eyes off the empty desk.
Lunch was a mix of yogurt and berries. Abigail had picked up lattes on the way back from study hall. They used to go out everyday, waiting till the teacher fell asleep to sneak out.
Nowadays, Abigail was busy kissing John in the back.
It was like a real life version of Gone Girl – Katie never missed study hall.
Abigail interrupted her thoughts.
“The party was amazing, Cass! You better throw another one soon. I can’t imagine another Friday night wasted at the mall when you have access to all that shit at home!”
“What do you mean what. Didn’t you hear what I said?”
“I didn’t sleep last night.”
“No shit sherlock, nor did I, I mean John came over… so you know what that means.”
She wasn’t listening. The latte traveled down her throat, burning every inch of the way.
She pressed play on the live video. It was the ghost of Halloween past. Katie’s movements were slow and deliberate. The feed was grainy, yet she could see everything perfectly. It was a long time until she closed the app. Her hands were shaking.
She woke up early and couldn’t fall back asleep. She tried to cry but the tears wouldn’t come.
The email came abruptly. A loud chime interrupting breakfast.
Dear Students of Lakeview High,
I regret to inform you of a classmate’s sudden permanent leave of absence…
She glanced over the page, her heart beating faster and faster with each recognizable word.
School was weirdly normal. The same couple was making out in the hallway, the same teachers talked about the same boring material. Even the spider on the wall of the English classroom was still there.
Abigail showed up to study hall laughing hysterically.
“We finally drove that bitch out of town.”
It took her a while to decide what to do. It had been a debate between the phone or the car. The car, although she knew that she could drive fast, was a predicament in itself. Her parents were asleep, but they would know something was missing.
She propped up her phone on the lightshade.
Alerts popped up all over the town.
“You have one new live video.”
She took a deep breath.
Abigail opened the screen.
“I remember that me and Katie were friends. I became popular and she didn’t. I remember picking up the phone and deleting her number. I remember the smell of our chocolate chip cookies, and I remember the countless sleepovers under the stars. I remember Katie…”
She ran to the playground. Her shoes were muddy and dirty from the remains of last night’s storm. Each breath froze in front of her eyes.
Arriving, she screamed. Spinning in circles, she finally collapsed on the red horse. It took her a while to figure out what the glass pieces on the ground were.
Somewhere in the internet an account by the name CassieSmith_ shut off.