by Makena Schick ’23
There’s a few things people don’t know about me, or don’t realize. First off – I see everything. Ok, well, not everything, but a lot. If you sit and stay quiet, people forget you’re there. To follow that up – I hear a lot too. I have something on almost everyone in the school. It’s not like I’m eavesdropping or anything…well, at least not intentionally! People tell me things because they think I don’t have anyone to tell. Like look over there, for example- Jeremy Briggers. Resident shy boy and long-time boyfriend of Erica Reeve. What you don’t know is that he’s been hooking up with everyone’s favorite cheerleader, Mylee Brook, for months. That’s another one, Mylee Brook. Notoriously popular, drop-dead gorgeous – the school’s perfect student. Aside from what she’s got going with Jeremy, she’s been in and out of rehab for months. I guess what I’m trying to say is, well, not everything is always how people perceive it to be. See the thing is, I’m the only one who knows any of that. I didn’t ever go searching for that information, it really just came to me. But now I’ve found myself sitting in a police interview room faced with the reality of being the kid who knows everything about everyone.
I’ve always kept to myself. Knowing things has never been an issue for me before. I quietly absorbed the world around me and stored the information away. I didn’t gossip. I didn’t start rumors (even though I very much could have). I didn’t interfere. Now everything – even the things I’d tried hard to forget, are being forcibly dragged back to the forefront of my memory. See, ok, sure some things that I learn are fine, entertaining even. I keep myself amused by puzzling over the complexity of the lives of those around me. But now my life is more complicated than I could have ever imagined it would be. The amusement I once found in other people’s drama is overshadowed by the weight of the situation I now find myself faced with. See, when kids start disappearing from parties… people take notice.
I’ve never considered myself a party kid. I haven’t ever been one to drink my problems away… although that isn’t sounding too bad right now. But that’s not to say that I didn’t ever attend any. See, I keep my relationships amicable. Nobody really knows me, but nobody dislikes me either. The parties here aren’t exactly… exclusive. I mean, you don’t need an invite or to know someone, or to supply the drinks to get in. Sure, people get kicked out, and from time to time aren’t let in the door, but I don’t ever have to worry about that. Most people don’t even notice I’m there, and those who do frankly couldn’t care less. It’s as I’m sitting in this plain room staring at the mirror (which I know is two-way glass) that I wish I hadn’t ever gone to a single one. I’m not being accused of anything- in fact, I’m being treated just fine. See, the thing is, the information that I can provide them is information that I wish I didn’t have.
See, it’s bad enough when six kids disappear seemingly without a trace. But when you’re the sole witness to anything – that changes everything. When the first girl, Brynn Cane – tall, slender, volleyball player, decent grades (good enough to play at least), a bit of a loner – disappeared, I thought nothing more than that she had run away. See, what I knew that other people didn’t is that she’d been having a lot of trouble at home. It didn’t surprise me to hear that she never came home. I figured she had enough and packed her bags. It was the same conclusion the police came to. That is… until the next kid disappeared. That time it was Jonathan (JJ) McCleod. Basketball player, decent looks, known partier, and not so predictably – astoundingly smart. The only dirt I had on Jonathan was his not so occasional drug use and liking for his best friend’s girlfriend. Now, of course, there could’ve been something going on I was unaware of. I don’t really know everything that happens in this school. But as the next two months went by and another kid disappeared every couple of weeks, it was abundantly clear that these weren’t isolated events. The fifth kid to go missing shocked me the most. Towhead blond and a shockingly clean record, Asher Declan was the last person I expected to go missing with this particular group of kids. It was when the third kid went missing that I realized that the thing linking them was parties. I kept that thought to myself and continued to watch the chaos unfold around me. See, Asher was one of those guys who never attended any parties, despite the fact that he hung around the popular, party hosting kids. Well, until November 5th, I suppose. It came out two days after his disappearance that he had been seen at a party that weekend, a fact I didn’t soon overlook.
I hadn’t gone to any parties that weekend. I’d been wary of any since I had made the connection to the disappearances. It surprised me to hear that in the midst of the biggest search for missing children our county had ever seen, Asher had chosen that as his time to start attending parties. Maybe it was a spur-of-the-moment choice. Or an obligation to a friend. But I couldn’t help but feel that there was something more that had happened that night. I have to admit my bias when it comes to this particular facet of the case. See, while I try to stay neutral in my observations – I couldn’t help but develop feelings for Asher over the last few years. He was always doing the right thing, even when nobody was watching- well, nobody but me. Not that any of that matters, considering that he will never ever know any of that. Anyways, point is, there’s a chance my own feelings were what was causing that feeling of “no that can’t be right- that’s not him”.
Since Asher’s disappearance, one more person has gone missing. It was because of that disappearance that I am now having my brain picked by detectives. It should’ve been me. I should be the one with my face on a missing poster right now. I was at the party Maleia Johnson went missing from. My curiosity as to what was happening to these kids had finally gotten the better of me and I decided to see if I could notice anything that provided answers. I did find answers. However, those answers prompted a million more questions. Starting with why was my long-missing mother taking kids from parties?
My mom left town a long time ago. I didn’t remember her much as a mother, but I’d recently stumbled upon a picture of her on Facebook, so I knew what she looked like. I hadn’t seen my mom in 14 years – until a week ago, when I saw her at that party. Well, I suppose she wasn’t at the party, but rather waiting outside. I was getting a breath of fresh air and clearing my head when I heard Maleia calling out from behind me. It caught me off guard. People don’t talk to me much, let alone follow me outside at a party. She seemed frantic and out of breath. I greeted her, a bit hesitantly, seeing as we hadn’t ever really talked. I had barely gotten out a “Uh, hi Maleia ” and started to ask what she wanted when she started talking. “The kids, they’re going missing because of the -” it was at that moment I heard someone behind me. Spinning around, I found myself staring right into the face of my mother. Maleia screamed and I, still utterly confused, moved to run, trying to grab Maleia as I left. Instead, I felt something hit me in the back of the head, hard. Pain flooded my body and just as I lost consciousness, I felt Maleia being pulled away from me, and I heard her panicked cries for help.
When I woke up, I was in the back of an ambulance with a police officer watching closely over me. At first, I was confused. I didn’t know why I was there or what happened. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch, everything came flooding back. The disappearances, Asher, the party, my mom, Maleia- oh, god Maleia. I remember the immediate feeling of needing to throw up when I realized what had to have happened. The immediate guilt. I was outside first. She came outside to talk to ME. She shouldn’t have been there. I learned later that in the time I was out, people had heard the screaming and came running. My mom was long gone, tearing out in her car which had been ready close by. The police were called, and considering that they were already on high alert, were to the house in minutes. Nobody had seen anything. The only two people who know anything about what happened that night are me and the now missing Maleia.
I’ve spent the last week being tirelessly interviewed. The local department, the county sheriff, the FBI- I’ve talked to them all. I’ve thought through everything I’ve ever seen at this school- begging my brain to give me something, anything that could help. I told them about the parties and what happened with Maleia. Obviously, not much of that was new information for them. For the first time in my life, I told people the things I saw. Any information I had on any of the missing kids was now in the hands of the police. It wouldn’t help much. Most of it was just meaningless high school drama. Obviously, the substance use was a factor that the police wanted to know, but, in all honesty, it wasn’t a surprise to any of them.
I continue to drive myself crazy looking for connections to pass the time in this cold, uninviting interview room. Why this group of kids? Why wasn’t I taken too? Were they even still out there? Why Asher – I mean, what did he have to do with all of this? Most of all, I had a million questions about my mom. I puzzled over these again, as I had been for the last several days. I can’t seem to shake the feeling of there being something that I’m missing. I know something. I have to know something… I just have to remember…
** Stay tuned for Chapter Two! **