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One of Them

by Gwen Mintz

"Freaking out?" Kara asks from behind me.

Yeah, I am. I didn't think the coffin would be in a real grave dug in a real cemetery - but I don't tell her that. I just turn and smile into Kara's beautiful face.

She is everything I think I'd like to be. Her crowds the envy of the eighth-grade class, no matter how much we say we hate them. She's way cooler than the poms and the group of them, way cooler than the jocks.

And I am about to become one of them.

Last week, during lunch my friend Samantha looked across the lunch room and scowled. "Why do they get away with everything?" she asked.

I turned. Kara and her group had pulled a table away from the rest and moved it into a corner. No way the cafeteria monitor wasn't aware, but she probably wasn't going to say or do anything about it.

"I can't believe the way they behave. Like they're so better than us."

I laughed. "But we do treat them like they're better than us. I'm afraid to even look them in the face sometimes."

"I dare you to say something to them."

I looked over at Samantha. "Yeah, right."

"No, just go over and say hi or something."

I glanced over at Kara and her friends. I looked at Samantha. She'd really owe me if I did. I rose and made my way over to their table.

For a few moments, I just stood there, then, I said "Hello."

They ignored me.

I glanced at their meals. Half moon slivers of honeydew melon and cantaloupe fanned across a plate. Sliced bagels, sides frosted with cream cheese. Scarlet strawberries rested in a bowl of sugar.

"You know cafeteria food really is gross. You guys are smart to bring your own.

"I've never seen this bottled water before," I said, turning it around to look at the fancy label. "Is it imported?"

Kara didn't look at me or say anything. She simply rose from her chair, picked up the bottle I'd touched and walked over to a trashcan. The plastic container dangled from her fingertips for only a moment before it fell with a thud into the can.

She returned to the table and without a glance toward me, continued with her conversation.

"Look," I whispered, leaning in, my fingers gripping the edge of the table to calm my trembling. "Just talk to me for a minute. I'm just trying to win a bet. You don't have to like me or anything."

"Easily done," Kara said to the blonde across from her. The girl giggled.

"You know, you don't have to be so rude," I said. "You're always acting like you're so much better, but you're just like us. All of us." I gestured around the cafeteria. "And, like I said, this was just a dare because I wouldn't want to be your friend. And I certainly wouldn't want you as mine," I said directly to Kara. I imagined myself as snobby as them and turned away.

The bell rang, ending lunch, and as I was making my way with the crowd towards the door, I felt a tug of my arm. I turned.

It was Kara.

"What do you want?" I asked in my nastiest voice, yanking my arm away and swiping at the part where shed touched me.

Kara hadn't seen the way I acted like she had cooties, or she didn't care because she smiled at me. "To be your friend," she said.


"She wants something or she's up to something," Samantha told me.

"I know that. I'm just trying to find out what." I glanced over my shoulder at Kara and her group. She was looking over at us and she smiled and wriggled her fingers at me.

I turned back to Samantha and rolled my eyes.

For days, Kara had been calling me. She said hi to me in the hall. Once, she'd invited me to eat lunch with them.

My plan was to try to find out their secret and expose them to the whole school.

Samantha eyed them for awhile, then, she turned to me. "You'd better be careful," she warned as she took a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


One night on the phone, Kara asked what I was most afraid of.

"Why?" I asked in return.

"Because were ready to make you one of us, but before that you have to face your biggest fear. That's your initiation."

I was quiet.

"Well," Kara sighed. "You don't -"

"Closed places," I blurted out, afraid of letting my opportunity to crush her slip away. "I'm terrified of closed places."

And that's why were here in the cemetery. With the coffin, and me, about to get in it.

"I'm not freaking out," I tell Kara. "I'm ready -- ready to be in your group." My heart pounds with anticipation. I'm so close! I can't wait to tell Samantha what I went through to get in.

Kara looks at me and laughs. Her eyes dart to the guys approaching on either side of me.

Suddenly my arms are yanked behind me, my wrists hastily bound with tape.

"What ?"

Kara accepts the roll of duct tape offered, strips a piece from it and leans toward me. I turn my head away, but then my face is turned back towards hers and she slaps the tape over my mouth.

She shakes her head. "How stupid of you to trust people you don't know with the secrets of your heart just to be accepted."

She tells me, "You are. One of Them. And there are way too many of you in the world."

The hands holding my arms move backward, but I dig my feet into the ground. I wrench forward, but I can't keep myself from being dragged back, my feet tangling, as we moved toward the grave. Off balance, I'm shoved into the coffin.

Just before the lid is slammed shut, Kara looks at me and shakes her head. She tells me, "bye" and then she laughs.

And I hear her laughter long after the sound of shoveled dirt has ended and some kind of darkness begins.

Copyright  Gwen Mintz 2004

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is a fiction writer and poet.  Her work has appeared in various journals, though this is her first horror tale.

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