Last Hope

Chapter 2

Andrew stared at the news report on his phone. It hadn’t been long since he’d woken up. He’d already been for his run, had showered, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he was still asleep. What he was reading just seemed so… strange: Reports show that the levels of crime over the entire world have sky-rocketed within the last three hours. It seems as if an eighth of the world’s population is committing some type of crime which ranges from being as minor as petty theft to as major as terrorism. Only an hour ago was there a brutal stabbing in Olympia, Washington, with twelve people having been either critically injured or murdered by one man who’s previously shown no signs of being violent.

 

There doesn’t seem to be any type of pattern as to when these crimes take place, but it may be too early in this event to be able to see one. It’s possible that patterns may emerge as time continues- if this horrible increase in illegality continues, that is- so it is advised for everybody to be extremely cautious while around other people as it is possible that you or they may be enticed into committing a crime.

 

Andrew sat on his bed, fully dressed in his standard-looking, blue and grey school uniform, unable to fully understand whether he was, in fact, awake or not. The level of crime was increasing? Who was committing these crimes? The article- which had been forced into the notification bar on his phone, showing that it was incredibly important and probably accurate, that being why he’d clicked on it in the first place- was saying that an eighth of the world’s population was suddenly committing crimes.

 

Andrew’s first thought was about Katie. Would she be in danger of the people surrounding her, her parents, maybe, if they’d be affected? Would she end up committing crimes? No, she wouldn’t. She’d resist any urge like that… but what if? What if she’d turn on him, attack him, kill him, maybe, because of an unexplained urge?

 

Andrew’s second thought was his own parents. What would happen with them? Would they be affected? Would they attack him? Each other? Katie?

 

No, Andrew thought, leaning back for a moment, letting out a slightly shaky breath. No-one I know would commit a crime- a serious one, at least.

 

But what about me? was the next thought, making a surge of fear flood his body, though Andrew very quickly dismissed it. He wouldn’t do anything like that. No-one whom he knew would do anything like that.

 

Still though. It was a troubling thought.

 

Only a minute passed before his father called for him, telling him that his breakfast was ready.

 

Andrew skulked down the stairs and into the kitchen. He was slightly suspicious of his parents. He truly believed that they weren’t capable of committing any crimes, but something felt off. It was like there was something in his brain telling him to be careful.

 

“Have you heard about the increase in… uh… crimes?” Andrew asked, struggling to think of the words as he slid into his seat at the dining table. He stared across the surface and at his father, Brian, then turned his gaze to his mother, Christine.

 

They both looked slightly uncomfortable.

 

“Yes,” Brian replied, tracing the inside of his bowl of cereal with his spoon as he spoke. “We’re… not really sure what to do.”

 

Andrew raised an eyebrow at his father, wanting him to elaborate, though his mother did so in Brian’s place.

 

“We’re worried about you going into school, about us going into work, you know,” she stated as if it was nothing, as if she and Andrew’s father had spent hours discussing the possibility of the three of them staying at home, adamant that it was going to happen and telling Andrew that it would, though the look on her face showed that they hadn’t come to any type of conclusion. “We can’t stay at home, though. You have exams coming up,” she put emphasis on the word ‘exams’ as if they were the most important thing to have ever existed, “and we need to work to make money.” She paused slightly. “But, then again…”

 

“No,” Andrew said once he’d realised that his mother wasn’t going to be able to come to any form of a conclusion. “We can’t stay home, so we won’t.”

 

Brian nodded lightly. “That’s what I said,” he let out quietly.

 

Christine looked between the two of them and nodded a little, too. “Yeah, we can’t,” she agreed, then sighed. “It’s worrying, though.”

 

Andrew nodded lightly.

 

“What if something happens to you?” She asked Andrew, not realising just how much fear she was funnelling into her son, though Andrew tried his best to hide it.

 

“Nothing will happen,” he replied. “They might close schools if it gets really bad,” he added, referring to the government. How could they see some sort of criminal apocalypse happening and sit back, not doing anything? Surely there wouldn’t be so many officials who’d be fine with the idea of forcing millions of under-sixteens, some under-eighteens, to collect in a building where they could very easily be killed by each other. Why would they let something like that happen?

 

Brian nodded again. He and Andrew thought about things in very similar ways, so it was likely that he’d been assuring Christine of the same thing since they’d heard the news. He was probably the reason why Andrew hadn’t heard his mother going crazy with the different, scary, possible outcomes of the situation which could affect them.

 

The three of them quieted, focusing on their breakfast and the TV which was airing shows as usual. Surely the situation couldn’t be so bad if TV stations were bothering to air the usual roster, right?

 

Andrew met with Katie at the end of his driveway when it was time to go. She’d sent him a text to tell him that she was waiting only a few moments before. Looking at his girlfriend while walking towards her, Andrew realised that she looked slightly shaken. He immediately felt a surge of panic, wondering whether she’d had an encounter with a criminal, though he shook the thought away, not wanting it to hang over his head. If she’d experienced something, she’d tell him.

 

“You okay?” He questioned, to which she nodded very lightly, seeming a little distracted.

 

“Have you heard the news?” She asked, her voice quiet.

 

“About the increase in crimes?”

 

Katie nodded. “Yeah,” she mumbled, beginning to walk in the direction of their school, Andrew having to rush to walk at her side. “What’s going on?”

 

“How would I know?” Andrew retorted, sarcastic, though he regretted it immediately. She was scared and searching for answers. He shouldn’t be pedantic.

 

Katie shook her head slightly. “I’m scared,” she almost whimpered. “I’m scared of my parents doing something and getting themselves in trouble, I’m scared of you doing something, me doing something-”

 

Andrew interrupted her by swinging her closer to him, pulling her into a tight embrace. “I know,” he whispered. “I know. I’ve been worrying about the same thing.” He paused, Katie pulling away, presuming that he’d finished trying to assure her that everything would be okay. “The people we know wouldn’t do anything like that.”

 

Katie stared at him, not moving very much until she turned to continue walking to school.

 

“I’ve been trying to think like that, but I can’t,” she explained. “Everyone’s probably thinking that about the people they know, but there’s so much crime going on…” She didn’t have to finish. Her point had been made. There probably wasn’t any way of controlling or fighting the urge to do something illegal, so what was stopping him or Katie from being just as maniacal as the other eighth of the world?

 

They continued walking in silence, scooting away from the overgrown park. Maybe it would have calmed them to have walked through it, but they didn’t bother. It was like a sacred place for them, somewhere of happiness and tranquillity. They didn’t want to taint it with the possibility of strolling down the path and witnessing a murder. How would they ever be able to return if something like that would happen?

 

Once they’d arrived at the school’s main building, they split-up as usual, making their way to their form classes.

 

Andrew entered his form class, took his seat beside Eric, and tried to think about the possibility of nothing happening that day. Maybe it was a singular surge which had occurred, nothing still ongoing? Maybe it just wouldn’t affect his town?

 

“Have you heard?”

 

“I think everyone has,” Andrew replied, not looking at Eric even though he was speaking to him.

 

“You look tense.”

 

“Ha, do I?” Andrew let out through gritted teeth, his head twitching the left slightly with the words. He didn’t like the constant reminders about what was going on. Three times, now, in the span of two hours had he had the words “have you heard” come from either someone or himself and drill thoughts into his brain. Everyone had heard, no doubt. The article had been forced into his phone’s notification bar, it had probably been forced into everyone’s notification bars, so it was likely that everyone knew about what was going on.

 

 Eric went quiet, prompting Andrew to glance at him, feeling slightly remorseful. He shouldn’t snap at him. He was just stressed. He didn’t like the thought of being stuck in a giant building with at least one-thousand other people who could be attacking him within an instant. And, what made that even worse was the knowledge of the fact that the person who could attack him could also be someone whom he was friends with. What if Eric would stand up, grab his chair and then slam it into Andrew’s head as a way to commit assault?

 

The registration period passed fairly slowly. For the entire duration of the fifteen minutes that everyone was sitting there, listening to their form teacher give them small updates about things- which oddly didn’t include the recent, incredible spike in crime, probably as a way to keep the students from either becoming frightened or disregarding the rules and blaming that on the event- Andrew sat, listening, tapping lightly on the desk, letting his eyes dart around the room, waiting for something to happen…

 

Nothing happened in the end, the tiny period ending and forcing everybody to head to their first lesson, that being Mathematics for Andrew and the majority of the year-group.

 

Katie was in Andrew’s Maths class and, as it turned out, seated fairly close to him. They’d always attempt to sit closer together with every lesson. In fact, a few months before, Katie had been sat on the opposite end of the row of eight, the tables broken up to seat two people, then a gap, then four, then a gap, then other two. Andrew was sat on the left end of the four-long, room-central table, and Katie had previously been sat on the right end of the two-long table to Andrew’s right, pressed against the wall. Over time, she’d managed to slide onto right end of the row of four, having swapped with a friend of hers, though Andrew was wondering whether it would be a better idea for Katie to just sit beside him now. Both of them were scared, so there’d be a level of comfort with sitting side-by-side during the lesson.

 

Andrew arrived at the classroom, having to stand outside with everybody else while they waited to be allowed in. They didn’t know why it was a rule, but it was. At least it gave Andrew some time to talk to Katie about his idea.

 

“How would you feel about just sitting next to me this lesson?” Andrew asked her, stepping closer to her in order to stand on her right side, having come-up behind her and, as it turned out, having scared her by doing so.

 

Katie jumped a little, realised that it was Andrew and caught her breath while giving a light nod before moving to ask the boy who sat beside Andrew if she could swap with him.

 

When it came time for everyone to walk into the classroom, they did so, Andrew and Katie taking their seats beside each other, both of them hoping that their teacher wouldn’t realise what was going on. He was a fairly laid-back man, he knew that Andrew and Katie were dating, he’d probably be able to tell that they were uncomfortable with what was going on and would, therefore, allow them to sit together, at least for one lesson. Andrew was fairly confident that they wouldn’t be split-up.

 

The lesson began as usual, something which slightly confused Andrew. It was strange that the staff weren’t acknowledging what was going on in the world, that they weren’t trying to comfort the students who were no doubt terrified. Unless they really did think that bringing it up would incentivise the students to use it as an excuse to act-up, but that seemed off. Whatever it was, it meant that they were going about the lesson as usual, that they were revising some of the hardest topics within the curriculum to prepare for the upcoming exams.

 

They’d been given a worksheet filled with complicated questions to really test them, and Andrew knew that he could do at least half of the questions, but he kept finding himself being distracted. It seemed as if Katie was struggling with the same thing, too, given that she’d finish a question, spend at least two minutes looking over it, then would erase everything which she’d written and would try again, and those were some of the easiest questions, questions which Andrew knew that she could complete given that she’d been the one to explain them to him previously.

 

“You okay?” Andrew whispered to her, conscious of the near-complete silence of the room. The only noise which Andrew could locate within the enclosure was the teacher explaining something to a girl at the front and the light shuffling of the boy behind him.

 

He couldn’t hear anyone in the room writing anything. They were probably just as distracted as he and Katie were.

 

“Yeah,” Katie replied quietly, giving a light shrug. “Just… Can’t concentrate,” she explained, confirming Andrew’s suspicions. “I’m worried about something happening-”

 

And in that moment, a table was knocked to the ground and the girl in the front row jumped up, grabbed the teacher by the throat, leaped over the table and slammed the man into the whiteboard.

 

The noise caught everyone’s attention, making them all turn to look at the source of the noise, half of the class jumping in freight before they became even more frightened by what they were witnessing.

 

One or two of the students shrieked at what they were witnessing, one tried to jump up and wanted to intervene, to stop the girl from attacking the man who’d been trying to help her until only a moment before, but they were paralysed with fear. It was like there was some type of wall blocking them from moving towards the scene, like the girl had some type of psychical hold on them which was preventing them from getting too close.

 

Everyone watched, eyes-wide, some mouths agape as their teacher of however long, two years, three years, four years, maybe even of five years as he was being strangled to death by one of his students.

 

The teacher collapsed to the ground, his hands wrapped around the girl’s, trying to pry them off of him. His face was losing colour, his eyes were rolling back in his head slightly. He didn’t have enough oxygen to be able to fight back.

 

Andrew tried to stand up, but he couldn’t move. He couldn’t bring himself to move. He didn’t want to put himself in danger. It was selfish- so selfish- but he couldn’t bring himself to move. He was just sat his desk, his book open on an empty page beside the untouched worksheet which he’d been given twenty minutes before.

 

And then the man’s hands dropped to the ground. He couldn’t fight back. Maybe he was still alive and had given up.

 

Maybe he was already dead.

 

The girl pulled away after a few moments, panting manically. She turned and gazed at the class, a few people behind Andrew whimpering slightly when she did, probably fearing that she’d turn on them next, but the look on her face quickly dropped as she realised what she’d done. Maybe she’d been acting on an adrenaline rush, maybe she’d just been unable to fight an urge.

 

She turned to look at the corpse of the man whom she’d known for four years and promptly collapsed. She hadn’t fainted, she’d just shrunken on the ground, she was curled into a ball with tears streaming down her cheeks, shaking a fair amount. It was as if she’d contracted a horrible fever within a second and was suddenly suffering from a disgusting sickness. Maybe she had. Maybe it was called remorse.

 

“W-Why did you do that?!” Another girl shrieked, a girl who was previously friends with the new murderer.

 

The sobbing girl didn’t reply, her deep, black hair becoming plastered to her face as the volume of the tears increased so much within only a few moments.

 

Then she threw herself to her feet, gazed at the class for only a moment, then turned and began to slam her head into the whiteboard, screaming constantly, her voice shaking more and more with every, loud thud of her head slamming against the plastic which cracked more and more, becoming jagged, stabbing into her forehead with every hit until she’d managed to break through and to the white-painted brick wall behind the damaged whiteboard.

 

Thud.

 

Thud.

 

Her head slammed against the bricks with increasing speed, slowly caving her skull in with every hit.

 

The drips of blood which had previously only been coming from the light puncture marks on her forehead began to expand. Blood started to come out of her ears a little. There was a sudden, loud and sickening crunch followed by the girl screeching as she broke her nose and began to hammer her shattered septum through her nasal cavities and closer to her brain.

 

Thud.

 

Thud.

 

Slam.

 

And then she collapsed, blood gushing from every hole in her head, topping it off by smacking the back of her skull on the upturned, metal leg of the table which she’d previously flipped.

 

The girl stilled.

 

Everyone stared at the two corpses in the room, nothing to say. One boy in the back of the room had thrown up at some point and was struggling to keep himself from doing it again. Another boy, the boy who’d been sat beside the girl, was shaking in his seat. He’d had a crush on the girl. It hadn’t been much of a secret given that he was terrible when it came to masking it. He was probably both grieving over the death of the girl whom he’d previously liked and struggling to figure out if he still liked her- or the idea of her- after what she’d done. He looked conflicted, confused, horrified.

 

Shakily, Andrew stood and began to slowly make his way to the door, wanting to get someone. He needed to get a member of staff to… deal with what had happened. But what could they do?

 

Katie jumped up from her seat, too, as did a few of the other students, probably catching onto what Andrew wanted to do.

 

Katie rushed over to Andrew and pulled the door open when he stopped, his back to it, staring at the two corpses. He just couldn’t believe what had happened. Well, he could. He’d been expecting for something to happen, anticipating it, had been almost counting down to some type of instance. But it was still the first lesson of the day. The first. This had happened in less than an hour of being in the building. What would happen over the rest of the day? They’d probably be sent home given that it clearly wasn’t safe to stay in the school, but it wouldn’t be any safer anywhere else. An eighth of the world was suffering from the urges to kill, to steal, to rape, to assault. Where could he go to be safe? How could he be sure that he wouldn’t also snap like these other people were?

 

Everyone who’d taken it upon themselves to find someone who could make something happen, whether that would be cleaning up or sending everybody home, split-up, Andrew and Katie being the only pair who began to search, storming into the closest classroom only to find that the teacher wasn’t there and that a fight was going on between two students.

 

They turned and moved to the next class, having to round a corner to get to it. The teacher was in there, but she was alone. She had a free lesson.

 

Andrew threw the door open and didn’t know what to say, so he simply motioned for her to follow him and Katie as they led her back to their class, pushed the door open and allowed the woman to see what had come as a result of regular activities having been allowed to continue.

Last Hope