This is the big night, one I’ve been dreaming about for years: senior prom.
And my twin brother Corin and I made it, even though we wouldn’t have given ourselves even a chance of reaching our front door a couple of months ago. We got the mother of all groundings when we didn’t comply with the terms of the preceding grounding, and so for months, it was simply home and school, with absolutely nothing in between, and no gadgets at all. Until a few weeks ago, they wouldn’t even give an ear to our pleas, but eventually, our parents finally caved, because they too know that senior prom is a night that only comes once in a lifetime. They let us come out, only on the condition that we call them to come and pick us up as soon as the prom King and Queen are announced.
So here we are, trying to make the most of the night. The gym hall looks enchanting with the decorations, and although the flashing lights are a bit of a distraction, they make the event come alive and create the perfect party mood. Still, I have to admit – prom is nothing as magical as I dreamt it being.
Here’s the thing. Corin either couldn’t, or didn’t want to get a date (I really believe it’s the latter because, with my help, he could have had his pick), and since we didn’t have time to do much about it, just when he was about to decide to stay at home, I talked him out of it and told him that I would go with him as his companion, or date, if you will. I couldn’t have him putting all that work into organizing the thing and not going for it in the end. He didn’t like the idea, but he eventually acquiesced. Some may see it as cute, but for me, it doesn’t help in getting me the prom queen crown. Not that ornaments made of plastic really matter, but it would have been nice. That’s all I’m saying.
“At least the punch is good,” he shouts over the loud music.
“What?” I ask.
“At least the punch is good!” he shouts again, and says something else that I’m too lazy to ask him to repeat. I just nod my head in agreement and smile, before taking another sip of punch. We’ve been standing near the punch table for a while, staring at the other couples dancing and trying not to look awkward ourselves. Corin isn’t much of a dancer, and I don’t want to leave him here alone; I wouldn’t be a very good companion if I did.
“You don’t have to babysit me, you know,” he shouts after a while, “Go out there and bust a move!”
“Nah, I’m good. Leave no man behind, remember?” I look around for the nearest exit and then signal toward it. There really is no point in shouting like this, I’m not trying to lose my voice tonight.
The night is warm and pleasant, and the stars have really put on a show. There are a few other couples outside here too, and now that Corin and I can hear each other, we can have a blast making fun of them. Just when I was starting to think that we made a mistake by coming to the prom in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, Corin is a great companion, but the whole prom thing just isn’t his scene. He certainly looks the part; we went shopping with our parents a few days ago, and they found this awesome charcoal black tux and some sleek suede Italian shoes, and with a little grooming he did with my dad, I wouldn’t be being biased if I said that he is one of the best-dressed guys at this event. He even finished the look with a violet boutonniere, something that I can recall him saying he’d never be caught dead wearing. But he is largely an indoors kind of person, and apart from being on the school council, he really doesn’t get around much. Maybe I shouldn’t have made him come after all. And to make it worse, not too long after we go outside, he comes down with something, so I suggest that we call it a night.
“What can I say? We came, we saw, and we laughed. How about we just call the parents and get out of here?”
“Yeah, I suppose. Prom is overrated; I bet we can catch the last minutes of The Daily Show and hang with Trevor if we hurry-“
“MADDIE! CORIN! COME QUICK!” My friend Latoya interrupts, running toward us from the gym hall.
“What on Earth……“ I say. I have never seen her this excited about anything.
“You won’t believe it: he won!!!”
“What on Earth……“ Corin says. The look on his face mirrors the one on mine, in more ways than one. Maybe we’re a bit….too identical. Latoya reaches us now and is able to explain herself while struggling to catch her breath, as you would expect.
“Guys, you have to come inside right now! Corin has just been announced Prom King!”
This is a humungous moment. I’m still coming to terms with it as we go through the bustling, energized crowd and reach the stage. There’re lots of people clapping and cheering, and as we get closer, I realize that it’s actually happening. One-half of this ‘dynamic’ duo is actually in a moment of crowning glory.
I know I should be over the moon right now, and I am, but the only thing that seems to be occupying my mind is that if Corin won, how come I didn’t get anything? We are identical twins, after all, and as much as he is dressed to impress tonight, I’m not doing too bad myself. My mom and I picked out this stunning royal blue and silver gown with an encrusted bodice, and she even lent me some of her jewelry to match. I also deepened my hair color and had my make-up done by one of the best artists in town. So honey, I am killing it. I should at least have some recognition too, right?
“Sorry Maddie, only he’s allowed on stage,” one of the organizers, Oliver Woods, I think, tells me before I can climb the stairs.
“Yeah, sure.” I take a few steps back, then move a little closer to the center of the hall so that I can see clearly. Corin goes up and stands next to Rosaria Garcia, head cheerleader and newly announced prom queen (figures), and the master of ceremony, Mrs. Ross, while the school’s top point guard, Chester Greene, finishes what seems to be a concessionary speech. Apparently, he was first announced as Prom King, but he’s stepping down to someone more deserving, as he puts it.
“……..I can’t be happier to hand the crown over to someone who’s worked so hard this year, not only in making sure that this night was possible, but also expected nothing in return. Ladies and gentlemen, Corin, Brooks!”
Corin walks up to take center stage as Chester places the sash over him, pats him on the shoulder and takes a few steps back. I can’t even recall that ugly, yellow monster I was turning into just a few moments ago; my heart is filled with delight as I am clapping and screaming for my brother, who is gleaming. I have never seen him this happy in my life, and I couldn’t be more proud of him than I am now.
“My word, I don’t know where to start……….I just want to thank……..” His eyes search the crowd for a while until they connect with mine. “I just want to thank my sister Madison; I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for her.” He gives me a smile and a wink and then turns to continue. Yeah, you know what? Even though I didn’t win anything physically, I have vicariously, and there is a triumphant, effervescent feeling in my tummy. “I also just want to thank-“
Oh, my, gosh.
I can’t and don’t want to believe it, but it’s starting to look like this whole thing was just a prank.
The feeling of triumph that I was just feeling is quickly being consumed by rage, and I feel it like fire, rising up in me from my stomach all the way to forehead. Only a person with a truly ugly heart can take someone who has never done any harm to anyone and humiliate them like this in front of everyone. My heart breaks for my brother, who is wiping this slippery brown sludge – I hope it’s only sludge – from his glasses as he tries to maintain his balance. My gaze then turns to Chester Greene, who, with the rest of his basketball buddies, has gone hysterical with laughter. Oh, I’ll give you something to laugh about.
Fired up with a fervid ferocity, I lift my dress to give my legs more freedom and then rush to the stairs that go onto the stage. Avoiding the spill of brown stuff, I charge toward Chester, and my fingernails are just inches away from lodging themselves into his throat when someone, Oliver, I figure (I’m not even sure; all my eyes are seeing right now is red) throws his arms around my waist and lifts me off the ground. Chester is only noticing me now, has a bewildered look on his face.
‘Let, me, Go!” I struggle to break free from Oliver’s grasp, kicking and swinging my arms and legs until I feel my elbow connecting with his face, which is soon stained red with the crimson stream flowing from his nose.
“You-you broke my nose!” He shouts, as he runs away into the bedlam that is taking over the stage and the rest of the hall. As far as I am concerned, he could have just as well been involved in this prank, so I spare him not even a shred of sympathy. I fix my eyes back on Chester, a tall, beefy fellow who could probably crumple me into a ball and slam dunk me through a hoop as he has done with the real thing on countless occasions. But I’m not afraid of him, not even a bit. Storming toward him, fueled with a frenzied fury than which hell hath not, I am only stopped from carving his eyes out when I see Corin in the corner of my vision, fall to the floor. It’s more than just a slip; he seems to be getting worse than he was when we were outside. My first thought goes to the kidney operation he had not too long ago, and I worry this could be connected. I’ll deal with Chester later; this is way more important.
I give Chester and icy look then turn to go and help Corin (Chester actually seems relieved, and he better be – he just dodged a bullet, albeit temporarily). But as I approach the spill, I suddenly stop feeling so well myself. Maybe we just had too much punch, or even worse, maybe someone spiked it. I still have to see how Corin is doing, so I lift my dress and start treading through the pool of sludge.
“Maddie, it’s the rock!” The Rock? What’s he doing here?
“Huh?!?!” He sees my raised eyebrows and, adding that to the way my head turns as I look around the hall, understands my confusion.
“Not The Rock, the rock!” The rock? I get even more worried; he must be losing it already. I pick up my pace and rush to him faster, well as fast as anyone could, given the circumstances. He has now got the attention of Mrs. Ross, who is calling for medical assistance.
“Just hang in there, buddy. I’m coming to get ya,” I say.
“Maddie, wait! Don’t-“ Before he can finish something weird happens. All the lights in the hall go strangely dim as a large, collected gasp fills the air. They return to normal a few seconds later.
“What on Earth…….”
I just have to hold that thought, because it doesn’t end there. This time, when it happens again, a few of the light bulbs pop like balloons, and the entire room goes black; the only light coming from an object in one of Corin’s pockets. Oh, now I get it, the rock! He was referring to this meteor rock he and I found some months ago after a spectacular meteor shower. Investigating it is actually what got us into trouble with the parents in the first place. He takes it out of his pocket, revealing a deep blue glow that it radiates. But what does it have to do with anything that’s happening now? Wait, I shouldn’t have asked because it seems like my question is about to be answered.
Before anyone can illuminate the room with light from their camera flashes, an eerie, fuchsia aura appears out of nowhere in the middle of the dance floor (no one is about to start dancing now), and like a glowing stroke of a paintbrush, it stretches until it’s about halfway to the roof. The hall is pin-drop silent until a chilling scream breaks out, and has every hair on my body standing on end. In the blinking of an eye, that narrow aura thing widens just enough for three shadow like objects, or beings, rather, to slip out, and then the hall goes black again, but this time in calamitous pandemonium. I hear my heart thumping as if it’s moved to my brain, and now start rushing toward Corin with a renewed sense of urgency.
In the dark, it’s not long before I slip and fall, and I’m scrambling back up to my feet, struggling to move with any speed at all when I hear Corin’s scream. That eerie light has reappeared, and I can now see that those shadow people have got their claw like hands on Corin’s legs, pulling him toward the thing from which they came.
I’m not about to figure out any of what’s going on, but something tells me that they have what they came after.