The boy’s concentration shifted from his knobby fingers, wringing and writhing of their own volition, to long-faced newscasters at their early-morning posts. The school stood quarantined in predawn blackness, pecked with yellow ribbons.
The corner of his mouth curled upward. Look at the little sniveling snobs. They think this is bad.
Only hours before, messages had stopped sizzling their way from his brain stem; his pain had stopped. The cuts on his forearms, the callouses on his index fingers, the blisters on his feet…were now only visible reminders of the past weeks’ preparations.
He hadn’t slept. His stomach had stopped growling two days ago. Now his arms jerked, his fingers twitched. He barely recognized the sight of them, newly skinny and sallow. His mind slid to a time when he’d played Beethoven’s Fifth with those hands, trancelike, until he no longer felt the music, the keys, or even his own fingers. His movements had been automatic, rehearsed – the harmony mechanical, the notes just like breathing.
That familiar, dreamlike state fell upon him like snow.
Only got two.
Now was the time. For his final show, he would deliver a performance more than anyone would expect from a quiet boy of no consequence. Every talking head from LA to New York would know his name. They’d recite his age, the name of his school, his crazy-good, wasted talent…until the data fell off the lips of every spineless, table-diving suburbanite in America.
He would be a star; forever the quick-fingered kid with all the attention.
The boy pointed the remote at the screen. “Bang,” he whispered before blowing imaginary smoke from the business end of the remote. His mother called out that breakfast was ready. He smoothed his sweat-soaked comforter and chirped back, “I’m coming!”
Should mass tragedies be publicized? Does it breed more of the same or raise awareness?
This piece of flash fiction from the early 2000s (never published) was written after I saw coverage of the first highly publicized school shooting. Who was watching?