William stood at the door. The building looked so different from how he remembered. The school had gone through several iterations of remodeling since the last time he set foot on its campus. It was understandable, considering that he graduated a decade ago. Today was the the reunion. Gosh, he couldn’t believe it’s been so long. He wondered how his old classmates had been doing over the years.
He should’ve asked more of them for their contact information prior to their graduation. He’s lost touch with so many close friends. Especially those that went to different colleges. This could be a good opportunity to reconnect. He smiled, as he pushed open the door.
Like the outside, the building’s interior didn’t quite match up with how it appeared, a mere decade ago. Though he had expected to see everyone gathered at the lobby, there wasn’t a single person there. Was there a specific place that they were supposed to go? He pulled out his phone, and skimmed through the email again.
Nope. Definitely no specified location mentioned here. No problem. Likely the office would know. Entering the office, he caught sight of a familiar face. He paused studying it for a moment, before recognition dawned upon him. Kensington. His old friend. His once best friend. But in an age without cellphones, emails, and social media, it had been too easy to lose track of even the closest ties.
Smiling up at the man, he raised a hand in greeting. However, contrary to his expectations, his once friend walked past him, without a smile, without looking up, and without even acknowledging his presence. Yet, he was certain that the man noticed him. They were too close in proximity for him to not have. Furthermore, the Kensington that he knew was always the observant one. That wasn’t a characteristic that one could simply wipe away.
Looking carefully at his once friend’s face, he noticed a sort of inexplicable darkness. A shadow that he hadn’t detected at first glance. Something was different about that man. Something that he couldn’t quite put a finger on. It was kind of like seeing someone as a young child and then seeing them again as an adult. One would know that he’d changed, and say he get older, but when it came down to it, would also struggle at describing the exact details that changed – at listing the exact differences between the two versions of that same individual.
As he watched the man leave, disappearing behind the office’s exit, he couldn’t shake the feeling that his old friend needed help. Without asking for directions, he immediately followed Kensington out of the office and talled him. If they were both here for the reunion, they’d both be headed in the same direction anyways. Furthermore, it’s not like he could abandon his friend after seeing him like that. In all the years that he’s known the man, he’s never seen a cold and uncaring side to Kensington. The man used to help every random stranger that he came upon. Even if they didn’t request it. He’d do anything in his power to try to make everyone around him happy.
Kensington suddenly paused in his steps.
“Stop following me.” He said coldly.
“Aren’t you going to the reunion?” William asked, tone jovial.
“No.” The response came, just as coldly as before. “Stay away from me.” And without further elaboration, looking back, or waiting for a response, Kensington continued walking off into the distance.
Now he was absolutely certain that something was wrong with his old friend. Disregarding the warning, he continued after the man. After a few moments, the man paused this time. He continued, expecting another warning. But instead, the man immediately turned around, and shoved him to the ground.
“I said.” Kensington growled, glowering menacingly. “Stay. Away. From. Me.” Then, turning, with a flap of his black coat, he walked off, leaving William staring dumbfounded.
That man was definitely not the same as the one that he once called his friend. Still, he couldn’t abandon him. Shaking his head, moments after watching Kensington disappear behind a corner. He forced himself to stand. He couldn’t abandon the man. Not after seeing how much he changed. Just what kind of trauma could cause someone that was so kind to change so much?
He needed to get to him. He needed to help him. His friend had helped him with his own problems so much while they were at school. He owed the man at least that much, if not in repayment, then at least to their friendship. Otherwise, he isn’t worthy to call himself Kensington’s friend. Following the man, he quickly realized that the man was hardly at the campus for the school reunion.
They disppeared behind walls, soon arriving at chambers that he was unfamiliar with. Did these places really exist while he was in school? Or were they a part of the many construction projects that took place since his departure? He couldn’t even say anymore. But Kensington certainly navigated the place with expertise. It was as if he had come here many times in the past.
He started, feeling a hnad on his shoulder. Slowly, he turned his head back in dread. The face that greeted him shocked him.
“What do we have here?” The owner of the face said.
William shook his head. No. Memories flashed through his head. He remembered then. There were already signs back when they were in school. Why hadn’t he done anything about it then? He had dismissed it. The occasional sadness that showed on Kensington’s face when they said good bye. The reluctance that showed on Kensington’s face whenever he had to visit the principal, despite his status as one of the office student aides.
Why hadn’t he seen it sooner? What had he done to his friend, never asking him about it? What had he done to his friend, by not asking for his address or some way to keep in touch over the years? Kensington turned, as the principal kicked the back of William’s knees, knocking him to the floor, and holding him there in a kneel. He looked up at his once friend, eyes pleading.
“What are you doing here?” Kensington asked with a sneer.
“I…” He tried. But he couldn’t explain himself. His friend did tell him off several times. He sighed. “I have no reason.”
His friend watched him, expressionlessly. He turned to find that the principal had somehow found himself a knife, and was holding it rather dangerously close to his neck.
“I…” He tried again, forcing a smile onto his face. “I was trying to find the high school reunion that was supposed to take place today. I had figured that you were heading in that direction, and followed you. I mean… it was my best bet, given that there weren’t any signs around.” Lies. And he could tell from Kensington’s eyes that the man didn’t buy it in the slightest.
“Let him go.” Kensington said, dismissing him. “A rat like him could hardly do any harm to our plans.”
“No, it is these very rats that threaten the viability of the plans.” The principal answered, bringing the blade closer. He could feel it’s tip stinging already.
A flash. A dark shadow passed over him, and he heard the blade clang against the concrete below him. Instantly, the principal was standing before Kensignton. With a single hand out of his cloak, Kensington held the man by the throat.
“Didn’t I say…” Kensington said, widening his eyes. “He. Would. Do. No. Harm?”
William watched the man that he once called friend. He could hardly deny that this man was frightening. Who exactly was it in charge here? Him? Or the principal? He shook his head. He couldn’t imagine the Kensington that he knew as the mastermind of all of this. But Kensington… he was hardly the same boy that he knew was he?
“Do you no longer need this month’s serving?” The principal asked with a tone that left shivers rolling down William’s back.
Without another word, Kensington let go of the principal. William watched. There was definitely reluctance written on the man’s face. Just what was the principal doing to him?
“I just don’t want any unnecessary trouble.” Kensington said, softer. “It’s already hard enough to keep things quiet as is. We don’t need any more reason for the cops to notice us.”
“You’re right.” The principal said, stroking his beard. “I suppose that as long as we can control this man well enough, his life isn’t worth the effort required to cover up his absence.” The principal stood there for a moment later, thinking, before waving his hand. “Go ahead and take him away. Don’t forget to wipe what he saw.”
Kensington bowed at the principal. Then walking over to William, began dragging him out of the tunnel via his collar.
Once outside, William mustered the courage to speak. “Do you need help?” He asked his once friend.
“No.” Kensington answered, continuing to drag him closer and closer to the part of the school that he was familiar with.
“Are you sure?” William tried again.
“Yes.” Kensington answered, before letting go. “Now I want you to promise to never go back there again, and to never come searching for me. Pretend that none of that ever happened.”
“And if I don’t?” William challenged.
“Then I will have no choice but to wipe your memories of the incident?”
“Please…is there anything that I can do to help you?” William asked. “Is there anything I can do to get you out of there? I’m sorry I didn’t realize earlier.”
“It’s too late for any of that now.” Kensignton answered with a cynical laugh.
“Please.” William asked again.
“Our friendship was the past. It’s over now. I can never go back.” Kensington responded.
“But what if I know of a way to cleanse whatever was done to you?” William asked.
“Then maybe, you would have the privilege to speak with me then.” Kensington replied in disbelief.
“Then I have the privilege to talk to you now.” William answered, standing.
A light cloaked him. Kensington widened his eyes in shock, before that very same light engulfed him as well. Things were going to change around here. He was sure of it. As Kensignton’s friend, and a member of the law enforcement team, he was going to make things right. And for the first time in a long time, he was going to satisfy the responsibilities that belonged to him as another man’s friend.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from the “Promptly Written” Publication.
You run into someone from High School that you haven’t seen for a decade. Something has changed about him/her. Set the scene (where do you run into them). Decide what’s changed. Write a scene or a full story.