5:31am, part 3

Everyone was talking about the hottest new metal band at lunch, called Pinkie Nail Throat Scrape. Apparently, it was the greatest swell of concentrated darkness since Tommy’s favorite band, Death&Carnage, had releases their last album. As Tommy handed his dirty tray to the nondescript lunch lady, he experienced a whiff of nostalgia. Death&Carnage had gotten him through a lot of difficult times, and would probably help him through many more. But maybe he would give PNTS a chance when things became stale with the old gods.

Tommy waved goodbye to Kevin and the gang. They were his “lunch friends” and after the last tater had faded, so to did their smiles and a broader camaraderie he had a hard time finding anywhere else, tbh. Kevin flipped Tommy off as he was leaving, he was pretty sure at least, but he didn’t mind. The way Tommy figured it, if you didn’t play football, you had to show that you were a man somehow. And what better way to do it than to flip someone off when their back was turned?

The post-lunch diaspora was quickly pouring into the rooms and leaving the hallways empty and lonely. Tommy kept his sights on the few stragglers left. He didn’t like it when the corridors were empty. As much as he found people mildly irritating, they helped distract him from his thoughts.

Tommy made it before the door to biology class shut everything in like a tomb. Mr. Zhang gave him a wry glance as he sat down near the window. Rain still blanketed everything in sporadic sheets, and wind seemed to rattle everything, as if the weather was trying to have a voice or something.

“Almost late again, Tommy. You like playing it close. I like that,” Zhang said with a wink. Somehow, despite being an elderly gentlemen in his early sixties, he managed to never come across as creepy. Still, what was it about Tommy that made older dudes wink at him?

“Alright, settle down, children,” Zhang said with a brilliant smile. “I have a surprise for everyone. I’ve been waiting for a package to arrive for weeks, and today it finally showed up.” Zhang walked toward what looked like a closet door and opened it. He disappeared for a couple minutes while the class whispered and chuckled to themselves. As Tommy was about to doze off, Zhang emerged with a wooden box trailing behind him.

“The morgue finally agreed to send this over today,” Zhang stopped in the middle of the room, rubbing the box theatrically. “I’ve been teaching ungrateful teens for over thirty years, and it occurred to me that if you want to get developing minds interested in science, in biology, you have to present to them a specimen that is relatable!”  Zhang opened the lid, revealing the corpse of a forty year old man. The class let out a collective gasp.

“But, Mr. Zhang, how can we relate to this. It’s dead!” the class clown, a boy named John, asked.

Zhang waved the comment away dismissively. “Sure, it’s dead. But one day at some vague point in the future, you will be too. And dead doesn’t mean inactive. Everything is in the process of decay, tissue is breaking down. Molecules disperse. What have you done recently that can compare with that?” at that the class laughed. John was no match for Zhang, it was true. Tommy admired the man’s scathing wit.

“Well, Tommy?” Zhang said, turning to him and holding out a scalpel. “Have you ever seen a human heart?” Tommy perked up a bit. Everything had been unpredictable and somewhat absurd lately, but this was truly something out of the ordinary. Tommy felt a shiver bounce up and down his spine. There was mystery here. What was the man’s name? Was the cause of death mundane or unusual? What color were his boxers?

5:31am, part 4

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