By Blake Bettis
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She was the best of friends and the worst of friends. The best, because she told the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help her God. The worst because she, Sharon, never stopped. The truth could seriously chap one’s pride. And so it was with Rebecca McDaniel.
Rebecca McDaniel was the kind of girl who knew just how to walk down the halls of Sandy Creek High to make all the guys do a double take, and she did. She was the kind of girl who made all ‘A’s in her classes, but spent more time writing her name than she did studying. She was the kind of girl who, when she began dating another guy, made sure that everyone new about it. And she was the girl with Sharon Rea as a friend.
Becoming Sharon’s friend was not her most popular decision, after all, Sharon was the “Jesus Freak of Sandy Creek”. But she had made that decision before she cared, and once she did care, she could not just drop Sharon, that would have been an unpopular move. Popularity sure was an oxymoron.
The clamor of the first day of school greeted Rebecca as she walked through the front doors of the high school. Some of the talk translated into whispers and giggles as she walked by. Some of the less popular watched her strut through the hallway jealously, her other rivals in popularity rolled their eyes and spat insults at her. These she ignored easily, she had the majority of the school on her side. There was no way these wannabes posed any threat to her popularity.
She heard the fast approaching steps of Sharon, who ran up behind her and squealed, wrapping her in a hug. “How have you been? It’s been so-o-o-o long!” Sharon exclaimed. Rebecca returned her hug as she said “I know! Way too long!” Yeah right! I’ve got a rep., no need for you to ruin it more than you already have!
The girls arrived at their lockers and retrieved their books for math class. And so the year began. Their math teacher was the prestigious Professor Mark Saunders, a former college Professor who was kicked out for assaulting a student after class who had insulted his work. Obviously, his previous record meant nothing to this school.
Rebecca listened without really listening, storing all of the information from class in the recesses of her sub-conscious mind. The rest of her focused on the stream of notes that was steadily passing from desk to desk. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Rob Newman, her new crush, hastily yet discreetly scribbled a note and passed it to Laura, who passed it to Matt, who passed it to Pete, who in turn passed it to Rebecca while winking at her. Rebecca opened it up. On the inside was scrawled “Gym 3:45” She looked at Rob and nodded slightly. He smiled.
“Rebecca, it’s almost 3:40! Hurry!” Sharon exclaimed. “Rule Number One of Dates/Private Meetings: Never be on time! Be a minimum of five minutes late. Keep him guessing where you are. Have him thinking of nothing but you. It’s simple!” Rebecca answered as she made some last minute touches to her hair and make-up. “Okay, okay. I’ll remember that, you are the popular one! Either way, good luck!” Sharon began walking away, but stopped and turned around “Oh yeah, do you want to come visit my youth group Wednesday? We’re beginning a study on pride.” “I don’t know, I’ll have to think about it.” “Okay, bye!” Sharon left.
Rebecca pulled her phone out of her purse and looked at the time, 3:45. “Time to go!” She said to herself. She began walking towards the gym, wondering why Rob had picked it to meet her in.
She arrived five minutes later and burst through the doors looking for Rob. He wasn’t there. She heard a door shut, and, looking back, she saw Rob walking towards her. She grinned sheepishly at him, and he grinned back. Rebecca thought that she saw something else in that smile, like a calculating menace, but she quickly dismissed that thought. “Hey. You wanted me for something?” she said. “I sure did. How popular are you?” The question caught her off guard “Pretty popular. I try.” “Yeah, yeah, you are pretty popular. Have you ever heard of pride?” That question threw her off totally. “Pride? Of course I have. Look, is this all that you wanted me for? Cause, if it is, I’ve got to go. I have a doctor’s appointment today, I can’t be late.” “Can’t be, or won’t be? You see, I believe that the health of the body is miniscule compared to the health of your spirit. Sound familiar? It should, you’ve been ‘listening’ to it ever since you’ve become friends with Sharon.” Rebecca was awestruck by his apparent knowledge of her life even though he was new. “You know what? I’m leaving. I don’t have to put up with this.” “Oh, but you do.” Rebecca turned around and stared down a black hole. It took her less than a minute to realize that she was looking down the barrel of a gun. She screamed. “Go ahead, SCREAM! You forget that no one is here. Now, maybe you will listen to me. You’re not planning on going to church with Sharon Wednesday are you? Afraid that it will rattle your cage a little? Don’t want your pride to be hurt anymore than it already is? The truth hurts sometimes, but it hurts worse when there is something to hurt, your pride. Y’all make me sick, all you miserable people scrambling about in this school, thinking you’re so high and mighty, that your life is perfect! Well guess what, none of you really have lives! Your pitiful excuses for lives are nothing but costumes, you have different ones for each person you are with. At school, you’re the popular girl with the perfect life! But your real life, the one at home, isn’t so perfect is it?” When Rebecca didn’t answer, he yelled “IS IT?” “No.” She said, tears streaming down her face. Unwelcome memories flood her mind.
“REBECCA! I told you to take out the trash!” her mom yelled. “Okay!” Rebecca said as she hurried down the stairs. “Maybe you should just stay out there with it! It would take care of ONE of my problems.”
Her dad comes home, drunk, again. Rebecca tries to get up the stairs before he sees her, but doesn’t. “Rebecca! Come here you little worthless grub! Where’s my dinner?” “I thought…” “Well don’t!” he interrupted, “It hasn’t done anyone any good! Why don’t you just do as you’re told for once?”
Rob laughed, “I told you! You aren’t as perfect as they all think you are, are you, you worthless grub?” Rebecca was devastated by now, her tears washing away trails in the remainder of her make-up. She opened her eyes, ready to give Rob a piece of her mind. Rob was gone.
“Rob? Rob? Good, I’ve had enough of him already.” She muttered to herself. A door burst open right behind her, knocking her onto the couch. How did this couch get here? Popcorn flew in the air, and Rebecca was thrown off of the couch by Sharon’s parents. “Oh! Hi Rebecca! Sharon is waiting for you in her room.” “Sharon’s in her room? I thought she just came in the door!” “What would make you think that?” “She just opened the door on me!” “Nobody’s opened the door except you, and that was over an hour ago.” Rebecca decided to leave it at that. She bounded up the stairs to Sharon’s room, realizing that she was now in Sharon’s home. She opened the door to see Sharon sitting on her bed, reading a magazine. She looked up in surprise. “Rebecca! What are you doing here? Are you going to come Wednesday? Pride is a terrible thing. I bet you agree with me. Wednesday, we’re going to confront the pride in all of us! Don’t you think that will be great?” Rebecca didn’t know what to say. “On the other hand,” Sharon said, smile and all pretenses of happiness vanishing, “we could confront it now. How prideful are you, Rebecca? What do you take pride in when you’re all alone, left to ponder your worthless life away?” Rebecca was horrified. Sharon continued, “You know what, Rebecca? I’m sick of having to put up with your pride in everything you do. Did you see the way he looked at me? It must be my new hairstyle!” she mimicked Rebecca, “I think we’re going to have to put an end to it!” She pointed a gun at Rebecca. Rebecca screamed. Sharon pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Rebecca.
She was back in the gym, except, this time, a game was going on. She almost ran to get help, but then realized that she wasn’t bleeding. In fact, there was no evidence that she had ever been shot. What just happened? She had already found a seat in the bleachers when it hit her, There wasn’t a game when I was in here with Rob! She hurried out of the gym and into the halls in a daze. Sharon was standing with a group of girls talking and giggling. Sharon glanced over at Rebecca, and her eyes went wide with worry. She ran over to her “Oh my gosh! Rebecca, what happened? I didn’t hear a gun!” “What? What are you talking about?” “You’ve been shot!” “No I haven’t. I’m perfectly fine!” “You’re in shock from blood loss. Alright, wait right here, I’ll call an ambulance.” Sharon whipped her cell phone out and hastily dialed 911. “Hello? Hi, I’m Sharon Johnson, I’m at Sandy Creek High School, and I’ve got a girl who has been shot in the stomach. It seems that she’s gone into shock from blood loss, she denies that she was ever shot! Yeah. Alright, hurry!” Sharon rushed over to Rebecca, who was panicking by now. “It’s alright, Rebecca, your going to be alright! You’ve always taken pride in your perfect body, maybe they can fix this. It would be so tragic if they couldn’t.” Sirens were heard, and Sharon rushed Rebecca out the doors of the school. Two men carrying a stretcher rushed up the stairs and put a struggling Rebecca on it, strapping her arms and legs to the stretcher. “It’s alright ma’am, we’ll have you there in no time.” Rebecca screamed, “I’m not shot! She’s lying! If anyone has shot me, it was her! I haven’t been shot!” She kept screaming all the way to the hospital.
At the hospital, she was rushed into the Emergency Room, still screaming. A blinding light was turned on above her. A few surgeons gathered around her, prepared for surgery. She was still screaming and thrashing at her bounds. The two men who carried the stretcher walked in to make sure that everything was going alright. “Good thing we put her to sleep.” one of them muttered. The other agreed. That froze Rebecca. “I’m not asleep!” What are they talking about? A surgeon worked briefly, quickly extracting a bullet. Rebecca screamed at the sight. The rest of the surgeons went to work. Rebecca fainted.
She woke up in the gym, and saw Sharon and Rob standing there, talking. Rebecca leaped at Rob and began attacking him. “I hate you! Why are you doing this to me? I HATE YOU!” Rob desperately warded off her blows, “What are you talking about? I haven’t done anything to you!” Rebecca’s eyes went wide as she stared at Rob. She began backing away slowly, muttering “No! No! That’s not possible! THAT’S NOT POSSIBLE!” Rob and Sharon stared at Rebecca, beginning to get scared. They were watching Rebecca screaming at unseen things, turning around and jumping every time she saw something that was supposedly there.
But Rebecca was not seeing the same thing as them. When she looked at Rob and Sharon, she did not see Rob and Sharon, she saw herself. Where Rob used to be, Rebecca saw an almost mirror image of herself. Almost, because, instead of seeing a vibrant, beautiful girl, Rebecca saw a corpse. Her skin had lost all of its healthy color, and was instead a deathly, pasty grey. Her teeth had all but rotted out of her mouth. Her hair, her brown, beautiful hair was grey and brittle, and most of it had fallen out, leaving a few strands to fall down onto the rotting clothes. But that was not the worst. The worst of it was her eyes! Her eyes were no longer there, leaving gaping sockets staring at Rebecca. A small, white worm worked its way out of the empty socket and down, into her mouth.
Where Sharon used to stand, again, Rebecca stood. But this Rebecca was dressed in a long, dark green dress, which was three sizes too big at the stomach. She had blood red gloves on, and her hair was piled atop her head and held in place by a brown ribbon. Her face was covered in white make-up, and a smiling clown face covered that. It held a mirror, and was absorbed in touching up its appearance. When Rebecca screamed, its eyes left the mirror and stared at Rebecca with an evil glint. Its head turned towards her, and it spoke!
“Hello, Rebecca! I am Pride! I am what everybody sees when they look at you, a pitiful attempt at beauty, at popularity. I am part of everybody! I am what has done this to you! Not Rob!” Rebecca forced words out past a constricted throat, “But I saw Rob pass the note to me! So did everyone else! And Rob was in the gym, and he had a gun! He did this to me, not you!” “You still don’t see? I am Pride! I am the façade put on by every human being, I am what you see when you see Sharon.” When Pride said that, its features blurred for a few seconds, and then it cleared. When it did, Pride looked exactly like Sharon. Rebecca gasped, and felt her knees give out. She fell to the floor. “Understand yet? I don’t care, they say Pride comes before the fall. Well I’m going to show you what that really means.” As Pride said this, the school shook, and a chasm opened up in front of Rebecca, the flicker of flames barely visible at its bottom. “You see, I am Pride, and I have come, and since Pride comes before a fall, you have to fall now. I mean really fall.” Rebecca tried to move back, but was held in place by Pride’s evil stare. “You, Rebecca, are not worth anything. Anybody at this school would argue otherwise, but they only know you for who you pretend to be here. Ready to fall Rebecca? Ready to fall to a place where all pretenses are stripped away, and you are seen for who you really are, a filthy, worthless little grub? Are you?” Rebecca suddenly found herself standing on the edge of the chasm, staring down at the raging inferno that was barely visible at the bottom. No, no please, God, no! Don’t let it do this to me! Please! I’m sorry for being so prideful, I’m sorry! Forgive me, God! Help me defeat Pride, my Pride! The school began shaking again, accept, this time, the chasm began to shrink. It kept shrinking until there was a five foot gap separating Rebecca and Pride. Pride’s eyes were wide. Suddenly, and apparently against Pride’s will, Pride’s features blurred, and, when they cleared up, Rebecca was staring at herself. “What are you doing?” “I’m defeating my Pride.” With that, Rebecca leapt across the chasm, and onto Pride. She began pummeling the mirror image of herself. She yelled at it as she beat it.
Suddenly, strong arms wrapped around her, restraining her. She screamed and turned around, hitting her assailant in the face. They were surrounding her, yelling at her, telling her to calm down. Her eyes darted back and forth between the shadowy figures, prepared to attack.
Sharon stared at her friend. Rebecca was drenched in sweat, and her eyes were darting from one to another of her classmates who had formed a circle around her. Professor Saunders was holding a handkerchief to his nose, trying to staunch the flow of blood that Rebecca caused when she punched him. This had been going on for quite some time now. Sharon had tried calling Rebecca a little while after she had left school, wanting to know how her meeting with Rob had gone. When Rebecca did not answer, and her mom said “She’s not home yet, praise God!”, Sharon had decided to go back to the school. Her suspicions had been aroused when the door was unlocked, and the janitor’s car was still parked behind the school. Going into the hall, she had heard noise from the gym, and had raced in there.
She saw Rob standing there, watching Rebecca thrash on the floor, struggling against unseen bounds and yelling, “I’m not asleep!” She had fainted, but then woke up and, when she saw Sharon and Rob talking, suddenly rushed Rob, punching him and yelling at him that she hated him. But then, just as suddenly, she started backing away, trying to evade unseen horrors. Rob pulled out his phone and called everybody in class and Prof. Saunders, who in turn had called the paramedics when he arrived and saw Rebecca attacking an unseen foe. He had tried to grab her and calm her down, but was rewarded with a bloody nose.
The paramedics rushed in the gym, and three men struggled with Rebecca to keep her still. Another man approached her with a needle, and put her to sleep. They strapped her down and transported her to the nearest mental institute, where she would spend the rest of her life, locked in mortal combat with the Pride inside of her. Her parents were arrested for child abuse one month later.
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