Friday came quickly, two days after the disappearance of Damien. Everything was so different. Strange. Unbecoming. Without my two best friends by my side, I felt alone. Afraid. Desperate for some familiarity that clearly wasn’t coming any time soon.
Lunch rolled around, and I was going to head to the library again after getting my food. Once in line for some Asian chicken, I tried not to think about it. I couldn’t think about what might have happened to my friends. If I did, I was going to spend all my time worrying, which would distract me from school and my writing.
A girl I never met before came up behind me in line and grabbed a tray. She was wearing all black, with her long black hair put up behind her with a pencil to hold it up. I tried my best not to look at her. Something about her was very off-putting. Not only that, but I spent the last couple of years in the popular crowd with Haven and Damien–
Damn it. I was thinking about them again.
“You don’t have to do that,” the girl said.
Surprised, I looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t have to pretend I’m not here,” she said. “I know that I look scary. But I’m not really. It’s just my style.” Then, the girl actually smiled. “My name’s Eden.”
“Uh…I’m Josh,” I said, feeling a little unsure about the conversation. Why was she trying to talk to me? She must have been new. I hadn’t seen her the last few years, not that it didn’t mean anything. “Are you new here?”
“Yes, sir, I am,” she said, grabbing some chicken to put on her tray. “I’ve only been here about a week. I’m still adjusting. I haven’t really made any friends yet, either. Not that it’s anyone else’s fault but my own.”
“Well, you certainly came at an interesting time,” I said. “With kids going missing and all…” My voice trailed off. Why the hell did I just say that?
“Right? It’s so strange,” she said. “No one knows where they went. I’ve listened to the rumors in the hall, and some of them aren’t pretty–”
“Or true,” I added. “None of the rumors are true. They can’t be.”
Eden’s eyes widened as the two of them got out of line. “Wow, you seem sure about that. Is there something you want to tell me?”
“They were my friends,” I said. “My…best friends. Especially the guy, Damien. I’ve known him for a long time.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Eden replied. “I didn’t know.”
I started to walk off, then stopped. “Hey, do you, uh…want to come sit with me? With the two of them gone, I haven’t really had anyone to eat lunch with.”
Eden smiled. “Of course. With me being the new girl, I haven’t really made any friends that I could eat lunch with.”
The two of us walked over to the table where Damien, Haven, and I used to sit. It felt a little strange, but it was the only empty table in the cafeteria. For a few minutes, the two of us ate in silence. Finally, Eden spoke.
“Can I ask you a question?” she asked. “Without you thinking that I’m really weird?”
I actually laughed. “If you’re asking whether I’m gay, yes. I am.” Whoa. Did I actually just say that out loud? Something was seriously wrong with me today. I hadn’t admitted that to anyone. “But it’s kind of a secret. At least, it is for now. Unless it’s really obvious.”
Eden laughed, too. “No, that’s not what I was going to ask, and no. It’s not obvious. I wouldn’t have really thought.” She paused, leaving me hanging. Then she said, “The other day…on Wednesday…I was waiting out in the parking lot for my dad to pick me up. And something kind of…happened.”
Happened? Whatever it was, it didn’t sound good. “Eden, did someone do something to you?”
“Well…sort of,” she said. “I was the only one left in the parking lot when someone came out of nowhere. I don’t even really knew if they were a student or not.” She stopped again, as if she wasn’t sure whether she should continue. I urged her to, and she nodded. “They were wearing all black. Black shoes. A hoodie. Pants. The hood was on over their head, but their face was covered.”
“Covered?” I asked. “Like a ski mask?”
“No,” Eden said. “Like a masquerade mask. Have you ever seen anyone like that around here? They kind of…attacked me. Pushed me against the wall. But they didn’t rob me. Or do anything else. It was almost as if they just wanted to scare me.”
What she said was definitely strange, and somewhat scary. But she did have a point. It was possible this person tried to scare her, and that’s exactly what I said to her. “Not only that, but I wouldn’t worry.”
“Well, there was something else, too–” she started, but the bell cut her off. “I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow then.” Before I could say anything else, Eden left, and I couldn’t help but wonder what else Eden had to say.
At home, I said my hello to my parents and hibernated upstairs in my room. The last few days, the only thing I wanted to do was sleep, but I knew I had to be functional. They’d find Damien and Haven. They had to.
Walking over to my computer, I woke it from its sleep and began to work on my novel. And by work, I mean looking at the computer and not typing anything. My mind was blank. I couldn’t think. Sighing, I closed off and went onto Facebook. Seeing that I had a friend request from Eden, I accepted and about a moment later, it dinged, alerting me of a message. It was from Eden.
Hey, sorry I didn’t get to tell you the rest of my story, her message said.
It’s okay, I typed back. Is everything okay? Do you want to talk about it?
Her reply took a little bit longer than I expected. Finally, she sent her message and I read it.
It was so weird. After that happened, I went home and got an email to a website. http://www.whoismasquerade.wordpress.com. I clicked on it and there was a video of me being attacked by the masquerade. It wasn’t security footage or anything. It was like someone had been watching. And I heard these bangs on my bathroom door and it really freaked me out. I haven’t seen anything sense then or gotten any more emails. Do you think it was just a prank?
I wasn’t sure what I thought. On the one hand, it seemed like a pretty elaborate prank to pull on a new girl. But what else could it have been? Was someone really after Eden?
That’s when the realization occurred to me. Could this have anything to do with Haven and Damien’s disappearances? Were they being tormented by the masquerade before they disappeared? It seemed unlikely, as they never said anything to me, but was it a coincidence that a mysterious person was trying to scare Eden around that same time?
My phone dinged. My email. Heart pounding in my chest, I pulled it out to look, and fear swept over me at the sight of the email.
I clicked the link, and it led me to the site’s home page. The newest post was a video. It automatically started playing, and I knew what it was. Eden and I at lunch. Someone had recorded our conversation.
Looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t being watched and that someone wasn’t in my room, I sent a message back to Eden. Just got an email. Same website. Go look. The first video there is of us. Someone was watching.
But what did this mean? Were were next? The thought of Eden and I being the next two to disappear sent chills down my spine, and I hoped that this was a prank. I could handle pranks. Something as scary as this couldn’t be real. It couldn’t be.
The sad thing was, I knew in my heart it was true. Someone was watching us. Someone wanted to hurt us. To scare us. And that was the worst realization I could have ever had.