• Published 12th Dec 2016
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How to Disappear Completely - shortskirtsandexplosions

Flash Sentry's world sucks. Maybe it's high time he left it.

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There was a time when Flash Sentry used to cry. He was currently at a loss to remember what it felt like.

Instead, he lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. The rough texture of the room grew more and more visible in the merciless morning light. He had felt the shadows of night slipping away between sighs. He glanced at the clock every now and then, counting the hours he had left to attempt sleep... the hours he was wasting—just like the hours he lost in the daylight. All a waste.

Now, he lay on his side, staring at his bedside clock with solid deadpan. He watched as the last hour melted into minutes. By the time it was thirty seconds until his inevitable alarm, he raised his hand—but let it hover just above the plastic apparatus. He waited for the bitter irony of the moment to finally fall across his skull like a sledgehammer. He always waited.

With a loud buzz, the alarm blared. He slapped it off within milliseconds, then swung his stiff body until he was sitting half naked on a gray bed in the gray shadows of a gray room. There, he hunched over, pressing his hands to his knees, delaying the first muscle pull of the day. He stared down at his feet planted limply against the carpet, feeling as small as those toes, almost longing for when everything else was smaller.

The red digits on the clock ticked once... twice. With a defeated sigh, Flash forced himself up and limped towards the bathroom. He took a shower; he didn't know why. When he came out, he ignored everything but his hair, and even that earned a few comb-swipes at best. He had given up on hair gel countless months ago.

Flash tossed on a jacket he had worn for the past six days—as well as a shirt and jeans he had worn the past three. Once that was taken care of, he made the quest for breakfast. He wasn't the first soul awake. His parents were up and about: shuffling, wordless bodies. They orbited opposite ends of the family kitchen, too tired to manage a single word—which was a good thing. Their wind caught up with them in the evening, as did their daily frustrations, and Flash couldn't wish for the walls of the house to be any thicker. He walked between them like a scalpel might wriggle through molasses, and once he had snatched a banana or two, he bolted out as quickly as he could. All that was left to do was fling a threadbare tattered backpack over his shoulder as he embraced the cold morning with a breath of relief.

That breath ended when he boarded the bus to school. There was a time when he sat in the center with four to five regular morning "travel buddies." In the months that passed—and beyond the most recent summer vacation that divided the mediocrity like a ravine—he had found the smiling faces growing fewer and fewer, and so he drifted away further and further until the muddled current placed him squarely in the very back. Very few students complained about the boy's presence; most were too young and skittish to challenge his seniority, as oddly-placed as it was. Everyone else was a freshman or sophomore, from Flash's count.

So it was that Flash Sentry enjoyed a tiny seat all to himself, situated beside the emergency exit with a large red handle that taunted him in the morning sunrise. He looked forward and saw nothing but the backs of many half-sleeping heads. So he followed suit, blissfully closing his eyes until the bus came to a halt, hydraulics screeching—and he was lurched back to the necrotic moment.

Flash wandered the corridors, and the shadows followed him. He kept close to the cinderblock walls, his eyes glued to their glazed seams. They led him to homeroom, where he sat in the far rear corner without mishap. He was early these mornings; he was always early. It would be a good twenty minutes before the rest of the classroom filled up. Flash spent the time ignoring the teacher and being ignored right back. It was fine.

Absent-mindedly—perhaps—Flash chose to pull his planner out. All of the days were empty, but it didn't stop him from flipping to the frontmost page. "Congratulations On Your Senior Year!" it cheered in faded economic print. Flash almost remembered a time when the phrase "Senior Year" excited him. Here, on the other side of such pretentious aspiration, all he knew was dread. It turned out to be a very dull, diluted thing, after all. Something he could time his steps to, even if they were all aimed downhill.

He flipped to the current day. He only knew it was "current" because there was a bookmark there. It was a note—a printout, folded up, jammed half-heartedly into place. His guidance counselor had sent him an "urgent" request for a meeting. No doubt it had something to do with Flash's poor attendance, his regular tardiness, and a myriad of sinking grades. The teenager felt a brief, sharp stab to the heart when he thought about all of the college applications he should have sent out months ago... but hadn't even started to peruse. There was a week or two when he relented to the necessary process, sacrificing a single afternoon to put in the minimal effort—if only to satiate half his nagging household. It didn't stop the arguments between his mother and father at night. Nothing could. One person blaming the other: an insipid pile of animosity and regret, vacuum-sealed in the sacred pretense of monogamy.

The breaths of the moment grew long, liquid. And before he knew it, homeroom had ended. Flash shoved the bookmark back in place—folded and forgotten—and placed the mostly empty planner back into his bag... where it nearly fell through to the floor due to a hole he had been too lazy to patch up over summer vacation. Nevertheless, he slung the thing over his shoulder, stood up, and joined the zombie shuffle of the crowd—making sure to take up the very rear.

Flash Sentry kept his head down. He had to. Every chance he took to look up risked noticing someone whom he once recognized from a past life, or—even worse—them recognizing him. He had experienced it before. The blinks. The squints. The abject glares of those he once braved talking to. And even though—with time—those stabbing expressions grew duller as his skin grew thicker, he still shuddered at the thought of experiencing the feeling... the only feeling he had any faculty to recall. Something deep-rooted and nauseating.

It was a period later—maybe two—while he was shuffling between classes... that he noticed a familiar flicker of flame. Yellow and orange and alive with empathy. Such an angelic aura was peculiar, haunting in its stark contrast to the past—and when her turquoise eyes flashed his way, he made sure to scamper past a row of lockers... away from her gaze... away from all of their gazes. Even from a distance, he could hear their giggling voices. The bedlam of a busy Canterlot High hallway virtually shrank to give room for the sacred seven: the saviors of the campus three times over. Their laughter rattled down the corridor with the grace of a flock of doves. Flash didn't look, but he could feel—he knew it—seven pairs of eyes glaring his way. Studying. Detesting. Ostracizing.

The teenager heard laughter. He looked to his left. A clique of fellow seniors standing at a juncture of hallways scraped him with sly, off-angle glances. They were smiling: devilish little smirks. Words were exchanged—muted and mischievous—and the chuckles doubled. The scraping eyes and tittering contempt. Then they turned his backs to him: revolving doors shut, a shroud falling. Forgetting.

Flash inhaled it all in, accepting whatever meager portion of emptiness he was allowed. What he was worth. He walked along in a slump as the world gathered dust around him.

That afternoon, the final bell rang. The denizens of high school left in droves, groups, and gossiping gaggles.

Flash walked alone. He found his spot on the bus: his body forming punctuation deep within the lethargic bookends of the day. Most students had afternoon activities, which left several seats empty between him and the driver. He was fine with it; he was fine with most things. He stared out the window and imagined that he was gliding on ice. If he squinted hard, the sidewalks and garbage flowed in both directions, and he could no longer tell if he was arriving in the morning or leaving in the afternoon.

He found out the truth the very moment he limped through the front door to his empty house, as he always did, and the utter desolation of the shadowed rooms baited the tinnitus from his ears. He took a long liquid minute in shuffling to his room. Taking his shoes off, he was greeted with the sour smell of socks worn well into their fifth day. It was the first sign in ten hours that something deep inside him was alive. He instantly washed it away with a long shower. Minutes outraced mildew. Flash knew that he was wasting warm water. He stared down at his soaking feet until the fog blinded him, and only then did he leave that humid domain of condensation and guilt.

Lurching back into his room, cocooned in shadows, Flash found himself at a crossroads. He could either do his homework or nap the afternoon away. Flash's grades had been slipping away ever since the start of his Senior Year. If he didn't shape up soon—get back on the road to diligence—he knew that his college aspirations would be completely and utterly shot to hell.

Flash fell into bed, curled under the covers, and beckoned sleep. The fact that it never came only drove the dagger of guilt even deeper, and yet he didn't move from that spot. He hadn't eaten since breakfast, which was fine. The ache of hunger would be a brief, merciful distraction from the prolonged silence.

Far across from him, a pair of eyes blinked, enshrouded in dust and gloss. Flash found himself staring at his computer monitor in the far corner of the room, at the reflection of a hormonal shell of a human being. He couldn't remember the last time he had turned the thing on—that he last gazed through the digital window at once-friends and decaying acquaintances. It must have been sometime in early summer—before the trip to Camp Everfree. Before he tasted of the great hush. Before the ravine had been ripped open. There could very have well been things in life that Flash deserved; all he knew anymore were the things that he didn't. Exhaling, he rolled over until his shoulder faced the corner, and he closed his eyes. He didn't know how long he would be "napping," for. In his head, he set the time to the yelling voices.

He only wished he was kidding. Seven o'clock sharp, once both cars had long arrived in opposite corners of the driveway, the bickering began. And the arguing continued—in roller coaster waves of mild threats and broken promises—until both Flash's mother and father had retreated to opposing rooms and network news channels to sit and sulk. That was when he knew it was safe enough to stalk the kitchen for a snack. He did so quietly; Flash had long learned the consequences of doing otherwise. Sometimes, all it would take was a simple glance that would cause one parent to do something and the other to take it as a mixed signal and the first to overreact and the second to dramatize and soon enough the argument had melted into a finger-pointing diatribe on who had "failed their son" the most—and Flash didn't even have to finish a single sentence. Those were the good evenings. Not once did his mother or father ever think to throw the blame at him, to shout at their teenage son and hurl insults at his laziness and incompetence. Flash often wished that they would, for at least then it would be something.

This evening, they were as silent as ever. Flash followed his breaths, low and stealthy and cautious. He yanked something from the kitchen, something unhealthy no doubt, but it would do. He returned to his room, and somewhere between the lingering and the nibbling, with the house settling in a gargantuan black hush all around him, he embraced slumber—and a very dreamless place at that. Flash couldn't complain; the blankness was more comforting than any pillow, and it was all over long before his regrets could form lines against the canvas. Soon, he awoke—hours before he meant to—and that's when the pondering began... and the true weight of terror that each meandering thought carried, with no hope of catharsis.

The morning peeked in, blinding as ever. Flash saluted it—and milliseconds after the alarm blared, he slapped the clock, rolled his stiff body up...

...and sighed once again.

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