“Ȋ̵̡̫̫͉̝͈̥͚͇̂ ̵̢̧̧̰̭͙͍̟͚͓͓̬̤͛̀͐͜W̸̬̪̽͋̾̐͛̅Ï̸̡̝͈̰͉̤̻͉̱̤̓͋͛̅̎̔̑͑̽͝͝L̴͕͈̦̲̲̮̤̐̍͊̋̿̕L̶̫̭͇̅̄̏̂̇̔ ̵̬̹̟̻̻̻͇͓̺D̵̛̻͎͌̾̈́̇̈̊̽͂̓̑̽̈Ę̵͚̩͖̦͂͂̽̓͗̓̇̚͝͝V̷͎̪̬̺̘͕̀̓̋͗̽̓O̵̧̜͍͈̩͌͑̆̊͐̉̚͝U̴͍̙̘̍̃̄̊̒̍͗̈́̊̓̑͘͝R̵͈̮͍̼͎͈͔̖͉̆̌̃̈́͆͋̈́͌̊͘͘͜͜͝ͅ ̴̡͉̝̮̼̫̺͙̱̟̯̠̥̆́̄͒͝Y̸̤̲̜͖̩̱̬̲̟͕͚̟̏͆̄͛͝O̴̡͔͕͇͂̔͐̈́͋̈̊̐̔͌͝͠͝͝U̷̡̡͔̩̻̟̖̅̎̿͐̃̀̽̓͋̃̈́͗̽̕͠R̶̙͆̑̈́ ̸̖͓͎͔͇̳̒̒͘F̴̤̹͆̊͆̎̈̽̍͑̓͘̕̕̚͝L̸̛͇͋̈́̏̔̇̕͘E̴̛͎͎͚̰̊̒̆͊̋̎͗͜͠Ŝ̵̰͇͙̮͙̾̽̏̄͌̈̋̓͆̋̋̏̃͜H̸̡͓̗͕͕̯͓͙͓̜̜̟̪͆̋̇́͑͂̇̋̾͂̑͗͜͝!”
“Holy shit, run bitches!” One of the girls in front shouted.
Jeremy gave them a (fake) bloody smile and popped back into his hatch. He watched a camera and thought of different phrases to say to the fools who invaded his haunted house.
Brighton Asylum was such a fun place to work at. Sure, it used to be an actually mental facility where people got lobotomized, but that helped sell the realism.
“Hey, little boy, ever wonder what it’s like to be a girl?” Jeremy asked as he popped down.
“I don’t want to be transgender!” The guy in front yelled. His friend behind him started laughing and I pointed at him.
“You won’t be laughing when I feed your man parts to the farm animals! Hehehehe,” Jeremy waved them goodbye. For reference, he wore a brown stringy wig and dressed in tattered clothes and had electrocution scars all over his body that weren’t fake.
He pulled himself back up to the little hatch with the camera and continued to think of phrases. He saw a cute Filipino guy and his eyes softened at him. Damn, he really didn’t want to scare him.
“Do you want your anxities zapped out of you? That’s what they did to me!”
The group of five screamed. Cute guy, tall athletic dude, short athletic dude, asian girl, and blonde girl ran away from Jeremy.
It was too bad. Jeremy liked him, but he had a job to do, and there were plenty of cute guys in the world. Besides, scaring teenagers his age was a catharsis of sorts. It felt like revenge against all the assholes in his school. Well, old school. For senior year, Jeremy got to move to Middleborough.
Wonder how that would go?
“Thanks for the ride, dad,” Jeremy said.
Getting a ride didn’t really matter to him. Who cared if he could drive, honestly? Just surviving with a 1440 on his SAT and his dream college accepting him was good enough. He realized last year that being cool was too much energy, and trying to waste energy on something so superficial would be the end of him. Not to say that he wouldn’t try to make friends, but popularity would likely escape him.
Besides, no one even batted an eye as his dad dropped him off. He got his schedule from the main office and locker combo.
“Ah! Watch it-”
Jeremy flinched. Some loud yet short person had the locker right next to him.
“Wait, who are you?” He cut himself off beforehand.
Only his (0) friends called him Jeremy. Jeremiah was geeky-sounding, so people called him that.
“Okay, Jeremy-” well, there went that rule, “Sorry about that. I thought you were someone else.”
“You’re still a tall ass.”
Jeremy raised his hands and let them fall to his legs. It wasn’t insulting to him, but it was super weird. The short dude left and Jeremy wondered where he saw him from before.
Either way, worse things happened to Jeremy, so weird was better than rude.
Jeremy had a chorus class first. He was a tenor, but despite being a guy, he couldn’t hit really low notes. He could hit some, but like, it wasn’t great. He once sang Christine’s part in Phantom of the Opera, though, so that was a good idea of how freaking high his voice went.
And oh my God, cute Filipino guy along with Asian girl, short dude, tall dude, blonde girl, and some purple haired girl and super hot girl were talking. That was where they were from! The haunted house!
Jeremy didn’t want to make conversation. They seemed to be super into musicals, and most of them were begging for Legally Blonde.
“I’m already blonde, Christine!” Blonde girl shouted.
“Brooke, I love you, but I’ve been in play and theatre for most of my life. I will be Elle and I will destroy you if you take her away from me,” Christine, assumedly, said.
“Ladies, ladies, you’re both as smart as normal blondes,” purple haired girl said. Brooke and Christine started complaining at her.
“Jake can be Warner, definitely,” Filipino man said. Oh, God, his voice was so cute.
“Who?” Jake asked.
“Oh, Jake, never change. Michael, I can’t see you as Emett,” super hot girl sighed.
“It’s because I’m dark skinned, isn’t it, Chloe?” Michael asked.
Chloe cackled while everyone else covered their mouths or snorted.
Jeremy went to sit in the corner and twiddled his thumbs.
“Eyyo, your first time in chorus?” A red haired girl with thick glasses and a 5SOS shirt on.
“Sort of? I used to do it at my old school,” Jeremy replied. Wow, he didn’t stutter? Jesus was on his side, despite him being Jewish.
“How high can you go?”
“Uh… not sure the exact range.”
“That’s fine. Mr. Reyes will just test your range. You shy?"
“It’s harder to be shy on stage. If I have to do something, I… do… it?” Jeremy replied.
She laughed, thankfully. “Honestly, we could always use new guys, so even if you’re bad, it’s okay. Most of the girls, even the older ones, suck at singing. Some of our best are in that circle of seven down there.” She pointed to hot guy’s group.
“Ah, I see.” Well, that increased the pressure. Jeremy really had to kick ass or he wouldn’t have a chance with hot guy, if he happened to have one in the first place.
“Hello, class! I’ll introduce the new student, that’s Jeremiah or Jeremy…?” Mr. Reyes came in, hot pocket in hand.
“Jeremiah’s fine,” Jeremy waved lamely.
“Getting straight into business, we’re testing your range along with the freshmen!”
As expected, most of the freshmen were okay or decent at best. Most of them were bad, but no one was critical.
Then, it was Jeremy’s turn.
“Usually, I just tell you to do scales, but I’ll give you the choice of a song if you want to do one.”
“Sure,” Jeremy said. They liked Legally Blonde, right? So, he might as well try one of Emett’s parts.
He cleared his throat. Everyone watched him. He calmed down a bit. He was used to it.
“Guess she’s got a chip on her shoulder. Maybe some wise man told her; that with the chance we’ve been given, we’ve got to be driven as Hell! She was something to see there. I’m just happy I could be there! First big test and she aced it! She’s so close we can taste it! She’s got a chip on her shoulder! Guess you never can tell~, ell~, ell~ with little miss Woods comma Elle~! So you never can~ tell!” Jeremy sang. It felt right, and he was sure he even showed off a little by going even higher on a few notes. No one spoke.
“Bravo!” Mr. Reyes clapped.
“I was a tenor in high- oh, okay, then,” Jeremy tried to say. Everyone clapped over his words. Filipino boy stared at him. Jeremy was about to pass out. He was obviously impressed, so did that mean he was going to talk to Jeremy!
“I’ll give you a hot pocket! I’ll be right back!”
Mr. Reyes ran out. Everyone started talking. A few people gave him the thumbs up and congratulated him.
“What the fuck were those high notes?” Redhead screeched. "How? That was amazing AF!"
“Uh… I can’t hit low notes as well?”
“Geez, I would hope so, or else I’d get really jealous,” she high fived him. Maybe being a senior wouldn’t be so bad.
“Excuse me, are you signing up for play?” Christine from before asked from her seat.
“Uh… yeah!” Jeremy decided. He planned on it, but he was definitely sure after that applause!
“If it’s Legally Blonde, I want you as my Emett!”
“I’m broken-hearted, Christine,” a boy who looked like Keanu Reeves said from the corner.
“Eric, after that stunt you pulled at the play last year, you will not get the lead. I literally will guarantee that he won’t let you,” Christine shouted at him. He did shut up, a small smirk itching on his face. Jeremy would probably have a crush on her if Michael wasn’t so damn cute. And tall.
Filipino boy met his gaze. He looked away, but not as quickly as Jeremy expected. He even gave Jeremy a smile! Holy shit, that smile literally made his day.
He almost felt bad for scaring him.
Unfortunately, it was lunchtime, and after ordering chicken tenders and fries along with sliced apples, Jeremy kind of wandered the halls. No one really jumped at the chance to be “nice” to the new kid in order to gain favor with the teachers, so that was a bit surprising. Then, he saw Michael’s group hanging by the leather seats near the senior lockers.
Best case scenario? They invited him over.
Worst case scenario that was realistic? They invited him over.
Jeremy decided that he needed to get his books for next period eventually, so he went to his locker, grabbed his binders, and didn’t look back. Hopefully, they would-
“Jeremy?” Christine shouted after him.
Was he supposed to cheer or silently stop or respond? He just turned around, a head tilt conveying exactly what needed to be said, thankfully.
“Do you want to sit with us?”
Jeremy didn’t want to reveal just how much of a big deal that was to him. They looked popular, and they wanted to hang out with him? Sure, he promised not to try as hard to be popular, but he just had to sing (which was required) and suddenly, friends? Woohoo!
Jeremy sat down on the farthest chair. That led to his next problem, however. Actually conversing and talking normally.
A few of them looked at him, as if they expected wisdom to spew out of his mouth.
“So, uh, humanity’s stopped evolving?” Jeremy tried. What was he supposed to say? Lovecraft’s cat had a racist name?
“Really now?” Chloe, right? Asked. It was pretty condescending, so Jeremy looked for an excuse to exit.
“Uh, I have to go make up a test.”
“It’s the first day,” Michael said. “What do you mean?”
“I meant… go check my schedule.”
“You’re holding it, broski” Jake added.
“Talk to the guidance counselor."
“About what? How we’re bullying you?” Rich teased, curiosity also in his tone.
Could God just please kill him? Seriously, Jeremy would accept all of Christianity once he, hopefully, ended up in Purgatory. He ruined everything. Seven people hated him already. Life was over. He ruined high school for himself.
“About transferring schools.” Jeremy didn’t mean for that to come out so loud, but it did, so he yeeted himself out of that hallway and waited for God to strike him down. He didn’t. Jeremy sighed.
He smacked his head and twitched a bit.
“Why am I like this?”
“Heere, Mell, Lohst, Goranski, Valentine, Dillinger, Caningula, and Rolan!”
“Thropp, Goodwitch, Sawyer, Dean, Hamilton, Schuyler, Hansen, and Murphy!”
The teacher pointed out who was who. Of course Jeremy ended up with everyone who already hated him.
“Can I be excused for the rest of my life?” Jeremy asked quietly.
“Nice Spongebob reference, but why?” Mr. Enttoe asked.
“They all hate me,” Jeremy murmured.
“Jeremiah, you’re exaggerating. How could they already hate you? It’s all in your head,” he promised. “If it’s a real problem, I’ll switch you.”
“Okay,” Jeremy nodded. He bit the inside of his cheek and took a deep breath.
“It’s an introductory project, with a twist! You have to find something that: you’ve all done at least twice that’s not stupid, like putting on clothes, and find five common interests and present them to the class!” He said. Everyone gave him blank stares. “Oh, come on, it’s fun. You also have to give a fact about yourself, individually.”
“What class is this again?” Green girl asked.
“Business Introduction?” Pink clothes girl replied.
“You psychopath, we have to introduce ourselves to the class?” Blue clothes girl slapped school shooter clothes wearer.
“Aw, Ronica? What’s so bad about that?” He gave her a cheshire grin. She pushed his face back.
“Okay, things we’ve all done twice!” Jeremy turned his attention back to Christine.
“Going to a spa!” Chloe offered.
“Nope,” Michael told her.
“Going to a football game!” Jake exclaimed.
“Jake, seriously?” Michael asked.
“Seeing a professional musical?” Christine shrugged.
Rich started laughing uncontrollably.
“A few nights ago, how about that haunted house?” Jenna suggested.
“Have we all done that twice?” Brooke wondered.
Everyone agreed. They all turned to Jeremy.
“Does working at Brighton count?” He asked.
“Wait, hold up, you work there?” Michael accused.
“That’s what I just said,” only Jeremy didn’t say that. “Yeah.”
“Which one were you?” Christine gaped at him.
“The electrocution victim with the stringy hair and pilgrim-clothes."
“Holy shit, you almost made me piss myself!” Rich exclaimed.
“Goranski!” Mr. Enttoe shouted.
“Sorry, I love you! I won’t do it again!” Rich flashed him a heart. He rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. “He adores me.”
“The jeebies in me got heebied because of you!” Christine explained. Everyone stared at her. “You guys like that? I made it up. Ba-boom.”
“Yeah, anyway, what else? We’re counting Jeremy’s thing,” Michael said.
Jeremy’s lips twitched upward at that last line. He said his name. Huh.
“And I’m Evan… I write. A lot.”
“Magnificent, Evan,” Zoe clapped it up for him. As it turned out, those two were dating and Zoe spent most of her time trying to make Evan less awkward. It sometimes worked but most of the time, she gave him sarcastic one-liners that made him fidget and turn red. Jeremy could relate.
The bell rang, and Jeremy sighed. He went to his locker as fast as possible and got to his dad’s car as soon as he could. He had a job to get to, and he really didn’t want to strain his already not-so-great relationship with the SQUIP Squad.
The Sassy Quippy Unique Interesting Party. Jeremy spent a while on that name.
“Hey, Jere! Good work!” Carlos took off the overalls. He humped a pig every night. Jeremy stanned a legend.
“You’re always the funniest. I love the kids who just say ‘same’ to you,” Jeremy said. He put on his shirt and ignored Carlos’s questioning stare. Jeremy didn’t want to talk about how he once got hit by lightning since it was just mortifying, but he was glad it gave him a job opportunity.
“Night, kid,” Carlos said.
It was ten at night, and Jeremy didn’t have any homework. He only ran on six hours of sleep, no problem, anyway. He waited for his dad to show up.
But instead of his dad, there was Filip- Michael. Hot, tall Michael. Suddenly, he was scarier than the nun in the elevator in the Asylum.
Jeremy briefly considered booking it, but to where? He sat still.
Michael sat next to him. “Haunted houses are cool to work at.”
Michael frowned. “Do we weird you out?”
“Yes?” Only Jeremy didn’t say that. “I weird myself out.” Okay, that statement was even worse.
Thankfully, he laughed. “Sorry if anyone made you feel bad or whatevs. My friends are nice, I swear. They just lack filters.”
“Okay.” Jeremy thanked God for the night sky hiding his blush. No guy ever talked to him (that was hot) without mockery in his voice! Feeling bad became his new normal! How sad was that?
“That all being said, can I tell you something?”
“Is it bad?” Jeremy murmured.
Michael laughed out, “No, it’s not.”
A quick clear of his throat. “Would you want to get coffee tomorrow? With me? Just us two?”
Woah, woah, woah, woah, if Jeremy didn’t know any better, that would sound like a date.
Michael flashed him a smile. He gave Jeremy his number and waved him goodbye.
Jeremy squealed like the pig that got twerked on in Brighton.
Michael didn’t show up. There was literally one coffee shop in town. Jeremy wasn’t late, was he? He said one in the afternoon, so Jeremy wasn’t in the wrong.
Five minutes later, Jeremy facepalmed. Someone must have been recording him waiting. Then, a video of a pining loser would be circulated around the school. Then, the door opened and Jeremy’s eyes snapped up. It wasn’t Michael.
Jeremy threw his coffee in the garbage, an embarrassed flush on his face. His first sort-of date and he got pranked? Well, fuck off, Michael Mell, asshole. Jeremy pulled his hoodie over his head and sighed.
“Boo!” A guy in a scream mask popped up from behind the wall.
Jeremy was used to that, so he didn’t flinch, but he recognized the hoodie he was wearing.
“Nothing?” Michael scoffed. Jeremy bit his lip for half-second and tried to slip past Michael.
“Woah, where you going?” He asked.
“I thought we were getting coffee?”
“So did I.” Only Jeremy didn’t say that. “I got coffee already.”
“I’ll get you another.”
Jeremy was still offended, but he gave in easily and went back inside. Michael got two caramel lattes.
“I really do think you’re cute. I’m sorry if you thought I stood you up,” Michael said.
Oh, God, he looked sad. Shit, Jeremy couldn’t handle the puppy eyes.
“It’s f-fine,” Jeremy gulped. SHIT, NOT THE STUTTER.
“You looked so adorable in that zombie mask and fake electrocution scars,” he joked.
“Haha, yeah, fake, totally!” Jeremy said. Wait, he didn’t mean to say that. Michael stared at him.
“Jeremy?” His voice was low and concerned. Jeremy bolted, but Michael grabbed his arm.
“Michael, let me go.”
“You don’t have to talk about it-”
“It’s just embarrassing, alright?” He whispered.
“You don’t have to tell me.”
Jeremy gave him a hesitant look. Michael grabbed their drinks and brought Jeremy to his car.
“Hey, man, do you want to show me or whatever?” Michael offered.
“It was from… lightning. I got unlucky ‘n’ shit. I wasn't a torture victim or anything stupid or whatever and make me stop, please," Jeremy rambled.
Michael put his hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and moved in to give him a quick hug. "Sorry about making you feel insecure and weird."
"Used to it," Jeremy said. "Wasn't exactly popular at my old school."
"I can relate. Until last year, I was resident loser. Don't worry, you're hanging with us now and we're a great crowd. Promise!" Michael beamed.
Jeremy snorted a bit. Michael was funny. He made him feel better. Jeremy took his hand and gave him an unsure smile.
“Dating’s the scariest thing I’ve never done, Michael Mell.”