The kid next to rich absentmindedly gestured a small cup of water to Rich, muscle memory filling in the rest.
“No thanks, I’m good.” Rich said, shaking his head. The kid shrugged and started drinking the water that was given to them by the band moms. Rich sighed, fanning himself. The heavy marching band uniforms always made him sweat too much.
Rich stared at the field before him. It was a Friday night, and Friday nights meant football games. Don’t get him wrong, Rich loved football games. He loved the high energy, the fun stand tunes they played, the jokes they made with their director about how bad their football team is, the high energy of the crowd when they play halftime, and how at the end of the day you’re tired but can’t stop laughing. Rich was so glad he decided to rejoin band.
But something felt off. Normally, the band was loud and chatty, telling jokes, yelling dumb chants, and even throwing around random toys that some trumpet player would bring. But today, they were eerily quiet. They were just sitting on the bleachers.
“Hey!” A voice called out. The voice belonged to Ami Lawrence, the head drum major of their band. She made a dropping hand motion with her hand, signaling that she wants the drum line to play Drop.
Rich sighed and picked up his sticks, positioning them over his tenor drum set. He noticed that the rest of the kids in drum line looked a bit more… attentive.
The drum line played their piece, which confirmed Rich’s suspicion that something was off. Normally when the drums played a tune, the rest of the band would go absolutely nuts, jumping around and yelling “Hey!” at specific parts of the tune. But they just stood still.
Rich jumped when he felt someone touch his shoulder and say his name. He turned to see Christine Canigula, wearing her bedazzled flag line outfit. She almost looked unrecognizable, because her hair wasn’t in her usual half ponytail.
“Have you noticed something’s off?” She asked, looking visibly worried. Rich let out a breath.
“Thank god, I thought I was going insane.” He chuckled.
“I can’t figure it out. You go get Jeremy and Michael, and I’ll go get Brooke. Meet near the concession stand on the home side. Maybe they can help.” Christine stated. Rich nodded.
Rich went up to their director, Mr. Goff, and asked if he can go use the bathroom. Mr Goff gave him the usual “Not too long.” Rich nodded and took off.
He ran towards the home side of the field, quickly bee lining to the student section. No one questioned the sweaty band kid running through the bleachers like a mad man, it’s a regular occurrence.
As he reached the student section, he frantically looked for the familiar boys. Finally, at the top of the bleachers, he spotted a boy with the famous patched hoodie, and the boy next to him wearing the large varsity jacket that belonged to his football playing boyfriend. He quickly ran up to them, stumbling over his own feet as he did.
“No, dude, Scarlett Witch is obviously the strongest Avenger.”
“Did you pay attention to Endgame? It’s obviously Captain Marvel. She split that ship in half using nothing but her powers!”
Jeremy and Michael were silenced from their nerd conversation, quickly turning their heads to the shorter boy. Michael immediately shot up from his seat, noting from his tone of voice that something was wrong.
“Richie? What’s up?” Michael asked, instantly at his side.
“Somethings up with the band. They’re acting all silent and not responding to people and it’s worrying me and Christine.”
“That’s weird. Let me go check it out-“ Michael was interrupted by a collective wince from the kids around him. They whipped their heads to the field to see which player got hurt.
Jake was injured. Bad.
“SHIT!” Jeremy yelled, barreling past Rich and Michael. The two boys looked at each other, and quickly followed the shorter, chubbier boy.
Jeremy sprinted through the crowd, and ran towards the gate, beelining to where the doctor was with Jake, on the bench.
“Rich!” A voice yelled.
Rich turned around to see Christine running up to him, Brooke following her, in her cheerleading outfit.
“The band has been acting weird too?” Brooke asked. “The rest of the Cheerleaders have been super weird too.”
“Wait, it’s not just the band?” Rich questioned, a look of bewilderment on his face. Brooke nodded.
“Dude, the opposite team has been stupid tough, too.” Jake simply said, causing the group to turn around to face him
“And it’s crazy weird. Westerburg usually sucks, like, more than usual. Maybe it’s because the linebacker and quarterback died.” Jake sighed. Jeremy softly placed his hand in Jake’s.
“I noticed that before the game, the other girls were acting like normal, but after that first water break, something seemed… off.” Brooke explained. That’s when it clicked for Rich.
“Wait. Was there something in the water? Is that what happened?” Rich asked. “Thank god I didn’t drink it. I don’t trust that water after Devon Sanderson pissed in it.” He wrinkled his nose at the memory.
“Same, Rich. We need to check that out.” Christine explained. Rich nodded, and they head over to the band stands.
Once they arrived, they immediately head towards the water. “What’s with the green tint?” Christine asked.
“They said they replaced the water with Gatorade.” A band mom explained. Rich grabbed a cup, but immediately recoiled once he touched it.
“Fuck! That hurt!” Rich yelled, who received a stern look from the band mom for swearing.
“What happened?” Christine asked.
“The water! It…” Rich trailed off, reaching an explanation.
No. It can’t be.
“I know what’s happening.” Rich said. He ran to where the others stood.
“What? Rich, you’re scaring me!” Christine yelled back.
Rich was out of breath when he reached his friends, tears starting to escape.
“Rich? Richie what’s up?” Michael asked, his voice laced with concern.
“I know what’s happening. I don’t like it.” Rich gasped, starting to sob.
“Richie, please, tell us what’s wrong so we can help.”
“The band, the cheerleaders, the team…” Rich started. “They’ve been squipped.”
“WHAT?” The group yelled. Jeremy started to hyperventilate, his grip on Jake tightened.
“We need to investigate the other side. See if they started it.” His voice still wavered, but spoke with certainty.
The group nodded. They ran back into the stands, dodging behind the bleachers. Their steps were erratic, and breathing jagged. It was all happening again. This is all too real.
As they reached halfway to the opposing team, they got a little sidetracked.
“Shit!” Two voices yelled, one belonging to Rich. Him and the stranger toppled to the ground. Rich looked up at the kid in front of him.
She had short, curly brown hair half tied up into a blue scrunchie. Her mouth was parted, revealing a gap tooth that matched Rich’s, and she wore a Westerburg High shirt tucked into a blue skirt. She store daggers into Rich.
Rich was about to say something, but was interrupted by the girl quickly grabbing the collar of his marching uniform and pinning him to the fence.
“Who are you and why is your band tainting our water?” She spoke.
“No! It’s not me, I swear!” Rich gasped.
“Bullshit.” She spat.
“HEY!” Michael yelled, pulling the girl away from Rich. He quickly ran to the shorter boy, helping him get back on his feet.
“You have no idea what you’re dealing with! I don’t know the source of where it came from, but someone from your school is messing with S.Q.U.I.P.s, and is threatening many people's lives, including their own!” Michael roared. The girl looked taken aback.
The group stayed silent, as they all waited with bated breath for a response from anyone.
The girl nodded. “The name’s Veronica. I need your help with whatever has been making my school act crazy. Those… Squid things?”
“Squip,” the group said in unison.
“Those. I want to know why they’re taking over Westerburg and Middle Oak.”