Authors: Carolee Dean
his arm around her waist.
He doesn’t look miserable
She was waiting for him,
To her I am dead.
To him I am dead.
It doesn’t matter.
going to leave
You can get to the roof of the FAB
by way of a fire ladder left from the days
when the building was a dormitory.
Or you can go inside the building,
find the unmarked door by the janitor’s closet,
and just walk up to the top. The door is
supposed to be locked, but the knob is old
and rusted and it doesn’t take much
to push your way through.
Bri and I opt for number two.
We don’t talk about it, we just walk
in silence to the FAB
when we hear the last bell ring.
When we get up on top, I look around
for hidden surveillance cameras. There
aren’t any, but I do see smashed beer cans,
a broken bong, and assorted condom wrappers.
I go to the edge and look down
at the yellow tape,
wondering why it’s there,
when the real tragedy
happened up here on the roof.
I smell something burning
and turn to see Bri sitting
by a metal box, lighting a cigarette.
“When did you start smoking?”
“What does it matter?”
“Seems like a strange habit for a health nut.”
“Just because I don’t want to consume
the rotting carcasses of dead animals
doesn’t mean I’m a health nut.”
As if to emphasize her point, she
picks up a tequila bottle and drinks
the dregs. She tries to look tough,
but her hand is trembling.
“We should have done something,”
I say, looking back at the quad,
where half the kids are scurrying to
buses. The other half don’t seem to be
in a hurry to leave. After all, this is where
the social scene is going down.
“What could we have done?”
“I don’t know. We should have been there for her.”
“I’m not the one who dumped my best friend to become a
“Were you jealous of her?”
She flicks her cigarette away
and joins me at the edge of the roof,
looking down at the yellow tape.
“There isn’t a lot of room at the top,
and the farther up you go, the more
you have to decide which friends
you’re gonna leave behind. I didn’t
bail on her. She bailed on me.”
She turns and looks at me.
“For that matter, so did you.”
I take a step back.
“You were better off without me.
I was pretty messed up after Frankie died.”
Bri shrugs. “You dumped your friends
to be pathetic and depressed. I’ll give Ally credit.
At least she did it for popularity.”
and I sit down on the ledge to
think about what she said
as I watch kids scurry
to and fro.
A fight breaks out
Two girls make out
A dead boy stands
yelling in the midst
of it all, and nobody
sees him but
The main campus is an octagon
of eight brick buildings
with the gym at one end
and Watchdog Tower at the other.
Humanities, the library,
and the cafeteria are to the north.
Sci-Tech, Vo-tech, and the
FAB are to the south.
The quad is a patchwork
of sidewalks and grass.
The dead boy stands on the circle
in the middle of it all,
on top of the big, black bird
painted on the concrete.
Seniors beat you up
if you step on the mascot.
They think they’re teaching
the freshmen school respect.
There are way more
buildings than necessary,
lots of empty rooms,
and half a dozen locations
where no one ever goes.
Kids make up great stories
to explain the reasons why.
that it’s because
those places are dead zones.
How can I explain to Bri
that I distance myself because
if I get too close, people will think
I’m crazy and I’ll get locked up again?
If the doctors knew the truth
about me, they might not
let me out next time.
I’m not crazy, but I can’t tell
anybody except for my new
best friend, Oscar Smith.
He sees dead people too.
This school is full of them.
There’s an abandoned football field
up on the hill that looks down
on the new stadium.
It’s filled with soldiers from some
obscure Civil War battle that didn’t
make it into the history books.
Day after day,
boys barely older than me
fight the same war.
Night after night,
they lie bloody on the grass.
Every now and then,
when one of them is ready
to cross over,
a raven comes
to take him
to the next world.
There used to be a courthouse
where the old gym stands.
They hanged murderers
and horse thieves
on the steps.
That’s where the
violent offenders go.
As for their victims,
they occupy the
dusty prop room
in the basement
under the theater.
There’s a dark corner
in the cafeteria
reserved for those
who starved to death.
from a family of early settlers
who didn’t store enough
food for the winter
and an anorexic cheerleader
from the nineties.
An abandoned ropes course
is home to the foolhardy,
and the weight room
at the back of the gym
is for the jocks
who still can’t believe
they died in their prime.
The administration building is
a melting pot
of those who succumbed
to fatal diseases,
broken hearts, and
people who just got stuck
for no apparent reason.
Not good. Not bad.
Just too mediocre
to continue on.
The Raptor Circle is home to the one person
who died from an act of God.
As for the H Hall,
I spent a week there last spring,
when I went up to the old football field
and swallowed that bottle of pills.
When I was in middle school,
Frankie used to take me
up on the hill
to see the games.
Now all I watch
are dead people.
From this perspective,
it’s like viewing
a theater in the round.
If it’s true
that all the school’s a stage
and we are merely players,
what’s the purpose of our plans,
of our struggles, of our prayers?
And is there any chance that
we might get to write the script?
Even just for one last scene.
To have a little bit
Could that have been your goal?
Reaching for the one last thing
that put you in control
of how the story ended.
If I could plan our lives,
it wouldn’t be a tragedy.
If I could pen our lines,
it would be quite different.
I’d give you another chance
to throw away the sloppy copy
and write a second draft.
But I don’t get to write your story.
I must leave that up to you.
I just hope you understand,
it isn’t through.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Ally . . . . . Me
Sister . . . . . Quiet Girl in Black
Julie Ann . . . . . Doomed Lover
Rotceo . . . . . Another Doomed Lover
Hangman . . . . . Ruler of the Hallway
I wake to the sound of birds cooing. Sit up. Look out the window at the awning to see the pigeons huddled together against the cold. Remember I’m still on the hallway. Must have stayed here all night, though I don’t remember anything beyond the last bell.
I wonder what would happen if one of the birds got pushed out of the flock. I see the raven sitting on the railing and I know the answer. The world is a cruel place for those on their own.
Slowly, dawn approaches and kids start arriving. I rub my right shoulder, stiff from sleeping all night on the tile bench.
You get used to it.
I jump, surprised to find a girl dressed in black sitting on the tile bench and knitting. She’s wearing a long-sleeved dress that looks like it went out of style in the 1960s, or maybe even the 1860s—if it ever was in style. There are flowers braided into her hair: white narcissus and blue forget-me-nots from down by the river. Something about the blue flowers tugs at my memory, but I don’t know why.
After a while you don’t feel a thing.
What are you talking about?
I’m irritated at the intrusion. The hallway is my haven. But I also get the feeling from her tone that this girl knows something I don’t.
You spent the night here too?
(without looking up from her knitting)
I spend every night here.
I wonder if she’s homeless. Am surprised to find I really don’t care. The hallway feels as cold as ice, but the cold doesn’t bother me. Nothing bothers me, not even the strange girl in black. Let her sit there. I don’t care.
A teacher hurries through the hallway carrying a stack of copies from the workroom. Almost runs into me. I have to jump out of the way to keep from getting run over.
To them we’re invisible.
Yeah. Tell me about it.
It reminds me of my father’s golden rule: Kids are meant to be seen and not heard. Preferably not seen, either. It’s why Dad built me my own entertainment room on the back of the house. He doesn’t care what goes on in there as long as he can’t see it or hear it or smell it.
A dozen teachers hurry through the hallway with their stacks of copies, and I sit on the tile bench to avoid getting trampled.
When the tardy bell rings, I’m irritated to see an ROTC guy and his girlfriend making out at the other end of the hallway.
Hey! Get a room. If everybody starts ditching here, security is gonna notice.
The ROTC dude doesn’t hear me. His girlfriend tries to answer but she can’t. The guy’s tongue is too far down her throat. And what’s with that outfit she’s wearing? Is the hallway some sort of hideaway for the social misfits of Raven Valley High?
I said . . . security is going to notice.
Nobody’s going to notice.
I turn to see a guy in a thrift store coat two sizes too big hovering over me. His jeans are full of holes. Not stylish Hollister holes. Someone has tried to patch his up, but even his patches have holes. If he’s embarrassed by his appearance, he doesn’t show it. He towers over me like he’s trying to intimidate me, which isn’t working.
Can I help you?
Yeah. You’re sitting in my spot.
Now I’m really irritated.
Do you own this hall?
Actually, I do.
He puts his hand on the wall above my head and leans over me like he’s trying to use his size to scare me.
I don’t see your name anywhere.
The girl in black looks up like she’s surprised to hear someone talking back to the Hulk. In truth, I’m surprised too. I’ve never stood up to anyone. Never sassed my parents. Never confronted the guy at Pizza Barn when he gave me incorrect change. Never told Brianna I wanted to play Guitar Hero when she insisted on DDR. I don’t even recognize the voice coming out of my lips. I like it, though. Something about the hallway has made me bolder.