A girl named Linda was the first to find ‘the answer’.
We weren’t friends. I don’t think anyone would say they were Linda’s friend. She kept to herself to the point where even the students that would typically bully the weak member of the herd didn’t even know she existed. She was quiet. I think she liked it that way.
It was third period, Algebra II. Mr. Pinney was giving out today’s assignment when the relative silence of the room was broken by laughter.
Specifically, it was Linda’s laughter.
I think I heard her giggle a few minutes prior, but this was full belly laughter. I’d never heard the girl speak much louder than a whisper so hearing her laugh so raucously was borderline unsettling. No screw that, it was definitely unsettling. Mr. Pinney looked less than amused. “Care to share what you find so funny?”
“I found…” Linda cleared her throat before looking up. It was clear she’d been crying, lines of tears had made their way down their face, but she looked at peace. “I found the answer, Mr. Pinney.”
Mr. Pinney sighed and turned back to the board. “Then write it down on your sheet and try not to interrupt class again,” He said before the loud scrape of Linda’s chair cut off anything else he might’ve wanted to say.
“The answer’s up! Up, up with the ants and the flies!” Her laughter was now hysterical, bubbling out without her control. “Up with the ants and the flies! Goodbye, everyone! Thank you so much, Mr. Pinney! Thank you, everyone! Goodbye!”
And with that, Linda darted from her desk, out the door, and down the hallway. I heard stories about how she stopped at everyone to say thank you before running from the school, screaming and laughing. I think the one little security guard that was there didn’t even know how to react, she wasn’t exactly being stealthy about her escape.
I thought she was just finally snapped. Nearly four years at high school can do that to a lot of people, except most of the time they just shoot up the school instead of… whatever the hell you’d call what Linda did.
Linda was gone though, legitly gone. She never returned home. Her cellphone was found just outside the nearby woods, along with her shoes and her socks, but they didn’t find hide or hair of her. I really don’t think they searched the place as thoroughly as they could’ve, but I’ll get back to that.
It was just a one time thing, or so everyone thought.
Then it happened again a little over a week later.
I wasn’t in the class, but it was third period again, the art class. The shocking part was who it was.
Esther Hardy. She was the exact opposite of Linda. So bubbly, so outgoing. Not unhappy with the world at all.
And apparently in the middle of painting a cat she dropped her paintbrush and started laughing. Pretty much the same thing as Linda, she just wouldn’t stop laughing and talking about the ‘answer’. She ended up shoving aside the teacher to make her great escape. Poor Ms. Brady.
No one knew where she went. She was just gone. She didn’t even take her car, it was still in the parking lot when the police came to investigate what the hell happened.
Students began wondering what the answer was after that.
Lots of rumors sprang up. Some kids wondered if this was all a genius prank, I personally believed that the kids in question all wanted to drop out and decided to do it with style… and while creeping everyone the hell out.
Some kids began hoping to find the answer. There was a lot of theories on how to find the answer. Kids tried to transfer to classes where kids found the answer or tried to switch periods. Some others tried to sit in the same spots where the answer occurred, there was a few arguments about who could sit where someone found the answer. There was even a shoving match but that quickly ended with a teacher’s intervention.
I really think that finding the answer was just random. It didn’t matter where you sat or what class you were in when. Grade. Age. Social group. That was pointless. It was luck when you found the answer.
Two or three students found the answer every week after Esther did. Teachers started cringing whenever someone started laughing whether it was related to the answer or not. A few teachers tried to stop the students but it usually ended with them getting pushed to the side. Whatever the answer was, these kids really, really wanted to pursue it. We even hired two more rent-a-cops, which was a big deal for my rather small highschool. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered. Nothing could keep us inside once we found the answer.
And to be fair, I didn’t find the answer the same way everyone else did. Just waiting in their seats, some hoping that today they’d find it, others hoping they didn’t.
But after the mass exodus of twenty-five students in a single day, I decided to search for the answer myself.
The entire Algebra I class bolted after second period. Not just the students either. The teacher took off too. Seeing a grown man with tears fogging up his bifocals as he tossed student’s graded tests behind him screaming about the answer was probably the most ‘what the fuck’ moment I’ll ever have in in this highschool.
But that pushed me to go to the forest where some of Linda’s shit was found. No more evidence had been found there, but it was all I had. After grabbing some bug spray so I wouldn’t get ticks on me, I grabbed a flashlight and headed into the woods. I didn’t know how late I’d be out there, hence the flashlight.
Turns out I wasn’t out long at all.
I heard the flies first. There must have been hundreds of them, they were so loud. I found myself walking in their direction, feeling like I was being pulled by a string.
A few of them were farther out, big fellows, bigger than my thumbnail and loud. I had to brush a few out of my face and regretted not bringing out more bug repellent.
The smell was the next thing. It hit me like a wave, the horrible stench… my eyes watered and my nose burned as I yanked up my t-shirt to hide my mouth. It didn’t help. Or if it did it was such an inconsequential amount that it didn’t matter.
I was about to go ‘fuck it’ and get the hell out of there when a body fell in front of me and exploded.
I was covered with gore and I immediately vomited, the stench was so much fucking worse. Puke splattered on the rotting corpse in front of me and I ended up dry heaving, half bent over as I struggled not to fall over into the body itself.
I couldn’t have told you who it was. They were decayed past the point of a casual ID, I could barely tell they were a guy. What I can tell you was that flies were flying in and out of his mouth and his guts… his fucking guts.
Ants. Big, black ants. They’d made a home in his innards, flooding about. I could see the queen surrounded by tiny white eggs in the place where his heart probably was once. So many ants.
And then I looked up and I found the answer.
Bodies. Everywhere. Hanging high in the trees. Hung up by lengths of rope. Some I could recognize, like James Collins, one of the guys on the football team. His eyes had gone milky white, and the flies were swarming around his nose as well as his mouth.
The worst part is with the flies constantly flying in and out of their mouths… they sounded like they were still laughing.