SEPTEMBER 23, 1996
There is one sound more beautiful than any other to the ears of a teenager - the sound of the final bell at the end of the school day. With this sound, Doberville High School's doors flung open, releasing a scholarly flood of Biblical proportions out into the parking lots and bus lanes.
Doberville's student body was made up of the usual suspects: sweaty jocks, vapid cheerleaders, trust-fund babies, pot-smoking artists, and future Ivy League alumni. You had your stragglers, sure, though none of them stood out more than Shea Washington. "Sawyer" Washington was known for her radically punk taste in music (even The Clash was pushing it for Doberville) and her downright debaucherous political stances - she was the one who (unsuccessfully) organized the AIDS fundraiser the previous year. To say her faux-leather pants and safety-pinned jackets put her in a fashion minority would be a drastic understatement. In fact, she found herself boxed into several minorities: black, bisexual, anarchist, and, in her own words, "not a complete fucking moron".
Her polar opposite was Cole Finley, soccer team sweetheart. Really, the only thing that distinguished him from the other blonde-haired blue-eyed jocks was his politics, which he held closer to his heart than most of his peers. Where Sawyer skewed left, Cole reflected to the right, and was the only one with the ounce of conservative passion needed to oppose the AIDs fundraiser.
After school, on the 23rd of September, Cole and his friends split away from the mob and headed towards the fields behind the building. Doberville High's sports facilities were comfortable - two whole soccer fields, a track, a baseball diamond, and a football field made a great habitat for the athletes to hang out and practice. As he and his company settled down on a patch of grass, Cole flung his backpack onto the ground and unzipped it.
He pulled out a pack of Morleys and, after taking one out, flung it on the ground. The lighter in his hands stuttered a few times before billowing up to light the end of the cigarette. Four other arms reached out to take one from the pack. The lighter made its way around the circle.
"Hey, check this out," said Richie Armstrong, sitting to Cole's left. Two cigarettes hung from his lips. He lit them both in rapid succession, then leaned back, taking a long draw and puffing it back out.
His audience responded with a chorus of "woahs". Only Cole kept his mouth shut, opting to roll his eyes instead.
"Nothin' special about that," he said. "You light up a whole pack at once and maybe I'll be impressed."
"Whatever, asshole." Richie lifted his hand to put one of the cigarettes back in his mouth, but stopped at the sound of footsteps approaching. He glanced over his shoulder to the nearby path to see which teacher was coming to bust them now.
It was no teacher. With militant stride, Sawyer came marching past, no doubt headed for the record store in town. She flashed the boys an obvious glare, as if she were flipping them the bird with her eyes, and continued on without a word.
Cole snickered. "Hey, faggot!" he called, cupping his hands around his mouth for maximum volume.
"One day, you're gonna be fucking sorry," was the response.
He turned back to his friends and took another puff of his Morley. As he inhaled, he glanced at his watch to check the time. "Damn, 2:30 already," he muttered. "Mom wants me home soon. Dentist's appointment or something." He took back the pack of cigarettes and stood up.
The others stood up too. "That sucks," said Max Budgey. "We were going to ask if you wanted to come to McDonalds, but I guess not. See you around," he continued, before turning to head in the other direction. After waving goodbye, the others turned and followed suit. Cole gave a half-hearted smile and started walking.
He didn't hear any footsteps behind him - it made no sound as it approached him. Suddenly, he felt his breath leave him, and everything went black.