2: Roomies

“Hey, Stud.”

A juggernaut stood in the doorway, resting his arm on the frame. He was only in a pair of faded, red boxers and a necklace that held a circular, golden coin between his unnaturally large pecks.

Guess everyone and their mother can get their hands on steroids these days.
The edges of his shoulders were sharp and jagged. His pecks bulged at least four inches from his chest, and his arched biceps pushed out so that I could see several pronounced veins. Though he didn't have a six pack, his abs had a smooth line that divided two well-defined muscles. He had a thick, rough five-o'clock shadow, which led me to suspect that his perfectly smooth body was the result of an hour long shaving session every week or so. With a body like that, he probably didn't want any hair concealing his perfect curves and arcs.

His face was just as perfect as his body. He had baby blue eyes—the kind that had probably helped him get out of a lot of scrapes when he was little. They sparkled in the hall's fluorescent lights. He sported one of those annoying cocked grins as he revealed a row of perfect teeth. His dark-brown hair was just an inch longer than a crew cut. It laid flat, expect for the gelled front. He stood in the doorway, looking me up and down. He must have heard me slip my key in because the door had opened before I had a chance to turn the knob.

His "Hey, Stud" comment evoked some concern. I hoped that he wasn't trying to provoke me on my first day. How would Dad get me out of that one? Kicked out of one school after two months—kicked out of the next after a day.

Something in the juggernaut's gaze assured me that it was not intended as a threat, but as an invitation. I stared at him blankly.

“I’m Brad,” he said. He extended his hand. We shook. His biceps and triceps did a little dance. His peck bobbed up and down.

“Jason,” I said in my usual, conversationalist fashion.

Brad flashed an arrogant smile. A shimmer in his eyes evoked further concern. This one was different than the first look he'd given me. It was more like the one Father Daniels had given me—that look like he had something planned for me. Unlike with Father Daniels, I felt like I had a better idea of what Brad's plan was.

Guess I'll be sleeping with one eye open.

“Welcome to Hell,” Brad said. He winked.

“Oh…it’s not that bad,” a voice said from behind him.

Brad stepped aside and turned to a guy sitting at a desk, typing away on his laptop. Black t-shirt, jeans, and much scrawnier than mega-Brad. Not that he was a little guy. He just looked so much smaller than Brad. But then again, so did I.
His hair was jet-black against his pasty flesh. He had sharp features, and a large nose that stuck out almost as long as Brad’s pecks. His smooth face gave him an almost boyish look.

He didn’t look at me—just continued typing. The way that Brad stood by the door made him look like this guy's bodyguard.

“So you’re our new roomie,” he said. “Right side, bottom bunk. Bottom drawer. Space in the closet is yours.”

Brad waved his hand to invite me in.

I stepped in and looked around uneasily. I’ll admit to being somewhat claustrophobic, and the size of dorm rooms always make me a bit uneasy—at least until I got settled.

It was the typical setup. There were two bunk-beds. At the back of the room, a large window looked out at an oak tree that effectively obscured the room from light. The lack of light made the room appear even more cave-like. My pulse sped up.

On one side of the room, a desk was being used as a laundry bin, books were shelved on the beds, and a few dumbbells lied on the floor. The other side was perfect. Everything at the pasty guy’s desk had a place. The pencils and pens were all bunched together in a tin, the printer was set on a stand right beside the desk, and the papers were placed in a little bin that read: Homework. The bed was made, and the only article of clothing that was in sight was a stray sock that lied under the bed. I assumed the sock was an oversight.

I reached the bunk and dropped my backpack on it. I leaned my suitcase against the frame of the bottom bed.

The guy at the computer leaned away from the computer. His typing became frenzied. He turned his head to me but continued to look at the screen. He ended his typing fit with a deliberate key-punch, and then let his gaze follow the rest of his head. He took a breath.

“Hi. My name is Seth.” He enunciated his sentence perfectly. His demeanor and movements were calm, seemingly prepared. Despite his cool and seemingly sincere greeting, there was something unsettling about him. It could have just been the eeriness of his pasty-white flesh that reflected most of what little light was in the room.

“Jason,” I said.

“So where do you hail from?” he asked. He didn't strain to enunciate this time. In fact, it almost sounded as if he was trying to deliberately sound relaxed.

"Tennessee,” I replied.

Brad had already closed the door. He leaned on the bunk-beds on the other side of the room, almost like he was posing against the bed-frame. The longer his deep blue eyes gazed at me, they more sinister the gleam in them seemed to be.

Seth’s eyes wandered to the floor. I figured he was awkwardly ending our introduction. I turned to my backpack and rifled through it.

Seth leaped out of his chair and scurried to his knees. I jumped aside as he scrambled under the bed.

Brad chuckled into his hand.

Seth hopped back up, holding the sock from under the bed in his hand. His eyes were red—nowhere near as calm as they had been. He rushed over to Brad, getting his face right up against Brad's.

It was odd seeing this guy trying to challenge someone as massive and seemingly confident as Brad.

Brad was all smiles as Seth waved the sock in his face.

“Is this you’re idea of a joke?” Seth asked. “Huh? Dude, what is wrong with you?!”

“Oh come on, Seth. Seriously?” The smirk on Brad's face led me to believe that he was amused by Seth's reaction.

Seth threw the sock down on Brad’s side of the room and stomped back over to me.

His nostrils flared and his eyes were bright red. “Feel free to kill him if he steps on our side.”

Brad gave me a look like, “Yeah. Just try.” He wasn't someone that I was eager to mess with...unless I wanted to end up like Dax Leary. Still, I was far less worried about Brad than I was this OCD guy that I was about to share a room with for the next six months.

Seth climbed up to the top bunk.

“Whatever,” Brad said. He crawled up to the top bunk on his side.

It was on odd exchange. They were like an old married couple.

Brad hopped on top of his sheets. From the mess that was stacked around him, a page from a newspaper slipped down. It hit the cement floor and slid right across to my feet.

Brad and Seth simultaneously leaned over the bunks, looking down at the paper anxiously. The room was dead silent as all our attention was on the newspaper.

What a bunch of weirdos, I thought. It was ridiculous to see two people all worked up over a stupid piece of crap. I decided I should settle their your side/my side issue and leaned over to pick up the stupid paper.

6th LAWRENCEVILLE SLASHER VICTIM FOUND

A slasher? Great work dad. Find me a school in a town of psychos. Hmm…maybe that’s why it was the only school that would take me.

At least there was more going on in this town than Knoxville.

“Hey, what’s this—”

A hand quickly snatched the paper

Brad stood before me, his face stern, jaw clenched, and eyebrows narrowed. He looked like any second he might just start beating the crap out of me.

“BRAD!” Seth snapped.

That tone sent shivers up and down my spine. It reminded me of the way that I had heard my Dad snap at me after I’d been kicked out of St. Luke’s.

I turned to see an equally rigid look on Seth’s face.

They stared into each others' eyes. It looked like they wanted to have a conversation, but I was in the way, so they kept silent.

“Um…” I began, just to break the silence.

Brad’s gaze returned to me. He shook his head, as if shaking off the bizarre mood he was in. “Sorry man,” he said. He crumpled the newspaper. “Just not the kinda thing you want to look at first thing when you move in.”

I told you I could smell a rat, and this was a rat, but I wasn’t going to make anything of it. Whatever was up, neither of them wanted to talk about it, so I let them have their secrets. Knowing secrets, it would come out sooner or later.

“Whatever,” I said nonchalantly.

Brad headed back to his bunk with that crumpled up page. I looked around the room, hoping to change the subject.

“Who’s our other roommate?” I asked.

“We don’t have one anymore,” Seth said.

“Anymore?”

“He transferred.”

Another rat.

Seth leaned over the bunk so that his head was just over mine. “Don’t worry,” he insisted with a smile. “We’re not that weird.”

My eyes went right to a golden coin on a necklace that was hanging from his neck, jiggling midair. It was identical to the one Brad was wearing. Something was up with these guys, and with that newspaper. Something was up in St. Lawrence Academy.