The Soldier

"What do you mean—what happened?! Did Adam—oh god, Danny!! Shit, hang in there, man—"

“Spencer, what should we—”

"Call Miss Summers now! Here, lay him down, I need pressure over this wound, keep this closed—”

“Oh god, he’s fainted. Miss Summers! Miss Summers!!”

"He said they were in the Art Hall, come on, let’s go!! Everybody out of here, everybody move, now! Move, move!"

"Spencer—Spencer wait, we should call the cops, we should—"

"Go call the cops, Jeff, go on! Tell them there’s a ten-twenty five and and multiple ten-seventeen with a ten-thirty-three-A holding hostages in Dalton Academy in Westerville, we need the fire department over here, need immediate assistance, lights and sirens—I’m going in there!"

"Spencer, no!"

"Merril, I have to—!"

"Justin! Are you— Just breathe, man, stay with me, breathe!"

The coughing increased. “I’m—I’m okay, are the others—”

"They’re out, they got out fine—"

"Houston! Houston’s still in there, we’ve got to—"

"Firemen are coming, they’re getting him out!"

"Look, listen to me, Spencer. Inside Hanover—in there—in his room—the evidence!"

"What is it? What’s in Hanover? Tell me, Justin, I’ll do it! What do you want me to do?"

“Wait—Houston! It’s Dwight!”

Spencer stood over Adam’s form, the younger boy still groggy, sprawled on the grass, with Hanover boys surrounding him. He was far less harmed than the other students, at first glance. The actor who had burst out the third floor with him had taken the damage.


There was something inside his own body that frightened him—he had never felt it before. It wasn’t the adrenaline. No, he knew what adrenaline was like, he had it now, pounding through him. It was welcome, most times. It made him act, move forward on instinct, telling him what to do before he consciously knew—he’d always been indecisive, he didn’t know what to do a lot of the time, he could never be a leader the way Justin could, the way his perfect sister could. He was a grunt, a bully boy, the one who took the orders. Adrenaline made him feel—for just a little while—that he could be a leader.

It wasn’t fear, either, no, that would have been too easy. He knew what fear was too. In moments when he had this kind of adrenaline, he remembered what fear felt like with the a blinding clarity. Fear was the touch of hot metal, handle pressed into a soft palm of a little boy. Fear was shadows larger than you advancing, with aim to hurt, and kill. Fear was cold, wrapping into your lungs and your chest, stopping your breath and forcing you to operate without oxygen, draining your brain and in that last moment when you truly fear you will die, it will make you act.

Fear was every motivation he had for pulling the trigger.

So no, this wasn’t fear. He looked down at Adam’s form and knew what he felt wasn’t fear. It was something so much worse that he had never in his life felt before.

It was rage.

When you go deeper into Hell, it doesn’t get hotter. At the very last circle, it’s coldest beyond human imagining. This cold he felt, it wasn’t the cold of fear. It was the cold of so much rage that he struggled to keep standing still. He struggled to hide it from his face, to hide it from Merril who was keeping watch over Justin, to hide it from his schoolmates, his housemates, who now and again glanced at him as though he had their answers as their leader while Justin was in full view right there why can’t they ask Justin, why are they looking at Spencer, why do they want him to be the leader now when everything in him screamed to let someone else be the leader, be the responsible one, be the bigger person and just allow him let go and give into his anger—

Spencer felt his hands shaking and he stepped back, away from Adam. He was getting so angry that he knew if he stayed still one more second, he was going to be charged for serious assault and he would be forcing his housemates to decide to either get in his way or to help him and this wasn’t the way this night was going to go.

No, there was more than enough blood around him.

Fuck war, he can’t do it, not when this was enough to throw him off-kilter.

“Spencer, where are you going?” Nicholas asked breathlessly, very afraid of everything right now. “We should—”

“I want you all to stay right here,” Spencer snarled between his teeth, starting to stalk away. “Stay with Justin, stay with the others, your families. I’m going back to Hanover, I’ll be back.”

“But—” Jeff glanced back to Adam, “what do we do about A—”

“You keep him the hell away from me and everyone else!” Spencer yelled.


He looked up. Merril gazed at him with big, brown eyes. She was standing just nearby, staring at him in concern. She didn’t indicate fear at all, which surprised him, because he thought that with the anger raging in him, there was a reason for everyone to be afraid.

But she reached out, her small hand folding over his own. “Be careful,” she murmured, still staring at him. “Come back soon, the ambulances…”

Spencer stared at her, blinking like he had awoken.

…how does she do that?

Merril made the faintest smile and glanced to Justin. “We have to stay with him and Danny, right? Come back soon.”

The anger curled into itself, hardening into a ball buried in him. His hands stopped shaking so much, he felt like he had a wall of control building, faint but growing, and much needed. He nodded once, and again, squeezing her hands a little.

“I will. I’ll be right back.”

She nodded, understanding. She didn’t ask to go with him, she didn’t ask why, she didn’t say anything about how his hands felt like they would burn. But when she walked back to Justin, it was like she had pulled the bite of fury from where it had Spencer, and threw it into the night.

Spencer watched her a moment, grateful to have her, before he squared his shoulders and ran around the building, heading to Hanover, ignoring the yells of the people around him, the spray of the water from the firemen. 

Drenched, and grateful for the numbing cold, he blinked it out of his eyes and felt like he was in for a fight.

Laura said to him, as she was ushered out of the house, “In his room. All of it. Don’t touch anything, the police officers might—”

“I won’t.”

It was still dark. He told the policemen he had the keys to the door and they didn’t have to break it open. Spencer stood outside the room that was Adam’s, the same spot where he found him menacing Merril, where he’d sometimes find a rose petal.

It was dark in the hall, and he could barely see the door. He wondered how Dwight and Laura must have felt, to figure this out all alone. He heard the lock click.

He let the door swing open, into the darkness. The floodlights of the police blasted on outside, the glow of them casting into the windows, diffused. Spencer’s mouth fell open in shock as he saw everything in the room, shapes and shadows, puddles and broken glass, so many roses and the wall of victims.

He felt fear again, clawing at him. His adrenaline surged, beating back the cold with heat.

The ball of rage inside him stayed quiet.

Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the room, with every intention of documenting everything and unearthing what else he could find.

He was in for a fight.

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