Continued from: With Drawn: Part 37 — An Early Start
Mr. Barney walked into the Mystic Island Middle School’s gymnasium. It was early. The kids were still in homeroom. What Mr. Barney found in the gym was Jacob Grist standing on the scaffolding. Jacob had a paintbrush in hand and he was putting the finishing touches on his mural.
Mr. Barney called to Jacob, “Jesus, Grist, what the hell are you doing here? Get down from there.”
Jacob continued to work on his mural, ignoring the gruff voice of his gym teacher.
Mr. Barney called, “Hey, Grist, do you hear me? I said get down.”
Jacob made a final brushstroke and then he climbed down from the scaffolding. “Done,” Jacob said.
The bell for first period rang.
Mr. Barney was now staring up at the mural. He noticed that Jacob had made some very noticeable changes to it.
In the mural, the football player was now some kind of rabid-looking giant ape, tufts of thick, black hair spilling from its uniform. The thing’s huge hands were gnarled and ready to pull someone apart, and it had giant fangs visible behind its helmet’s facemask. The basketball players in the mural were now skeletons, their lipless teeth stretching in grins, their black eye sockets staring down from the wall. The baseball players were zombies. They had staring, droopy gazes, and drool dripping from their mouths. One zombie was pitching a screaming, torso-less head, the other zombie ready to knock the head out of some horrific ballpark. The wolves that had been leaping from the top of the mural were now all claws and teeth, looking very much like the cougar-wolf that had chased Tommy Rogers the night before. The lettering above the mural now said this: MYSTIC MIDDLE SCHOOL. HOME OF THE ASSHOLES!
Mr. Barney mouthed these words as he read the statement, and then he said, “What the hell is this, Grist?”
Jacob walked past Mr. Barney, and he headed toward the hallway. Jacob called over his shoulder, “It’s my mural.”
Mr. Barney tore his gaze from the mural and turned to watch Jacob walk away from him. Mr. Barney called after Jacob, “Hey, Grist, wait, we aren’t done here.”
Jacob turned and said, “I am done here.” He motioned toward the mural, saying, “See? It’s done.”
Mr. Barney said, “That’s not what I meant. I meant, we aren’t done talking here. This mural isn’t what we agreed on.”
“We never agreed on anything.”
“Jesus, Grist, this is really messed up.” Mr. Barney motioned toward the mural. “When did you even do all this?”
“Came in early?”
“How did you get in here?”
“Window in the boiler room is unlocked.”
Mr. Barney stared at Jacob for a moment. Then he glanced back at the mural. Then back at Jacob. He was trying to think of something to say, but all he could think of to say was this: “Jesus, you really are a freak, Grist.”
Jacob was now looking past Mr. Barney. He was staring at his mural. Mr. Barney thought Jacob was admiring his work. But the way Jacob was staring at his work, he wouldn’t have been able to admire it. He was staring at it in a hyper-focused-unfocused sort of way. Jacob said to his gym teacher, “You know, Mr. Barney, you’re no better than the rest of them.”
“What the hell are you talking about, Grist? Hey, look at me when I’m talking to you.”
Mr. Barney thought Jacob was not looking at him because Jacob never looked at people when talking to them. But the real reason for Jacob’s not looking at Mr. Barney was because Jacob was still staring focused-unfocused at the mural.
Jacob said, “I’m talking about you, Mr. Barney, and how you’re no different than the rest of the bullies.”
Mr. Barney said, “All right, Grist, fine. It’s time you headed to your class. I know your family has been through a rough patch lately, so I’ll forget today even happened. And we’ll figure out what to do with this—” he waved his arm toward the mural “—thing later.”
What Mr. Barney hadn’t noticed when he waved toward the wall was that the giant football player up on the mural had begun to move.
Jacob said, “I don’t think you’ll ever forget today happened, Mr. Barney. You and the rest of the assholes here.”
“Excuse me? What did you just say to me, you little shit?” Mr. Barney started toward Jacob, Mr. Barney rolling up his sleeve. But he hadn’t noticed that behind him, the giant football player was climbing down off of the wall.
Now, as this was happening inside the gym, in the hallway passing the gym, two eighth grade students, Alison Mandel and Samantha Hawes, were walking to class. The two girls, passing the closed wooden doors leading into the gym, stopped in their tracks. The reason these girls stopped in their tracks was because they had heard the screaming of a man come from inside the gym.
The two girls looked at one another to confirm that the other girl had heard the screaming, and to see if the other girl knew what they should do about it. Neither of them had an answer as to what they should do, which was okay, because their decision became easier when a giant gorilla dressed in a football uniform smashed through the gym’s wooden doors, and both girls decided to run away, screaming.
Continued in: With Drawn: Part 39 — Never Cry Wolf
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