Jenna stood backstage, her stomach a tangle of nerves. She fidgeted with the strawberry blonde curls that fell around her ears, twisting them around her delicately long fingers. She ran over the words of her upcoming speech in her head, letting the words echo repeatedly in her mind.
A Valedictorian and yet Jenna still felt as if she had achieved nothing. She had her whole life ahead of her and somehow it felt like the purpose of her life would end with the ceremony tonight. Hours of studying and studying to reach her goal and she felt not satisfaction, she felt as if there was nothing significant enough about her that would make her the one standing on that stage speaking to hundreds of college students who were just like her.
It seemed to Jenna that there was so much more to life than just the textbooks, tests, and achievements. That the world could be so much more than what it is. That the expectations people place on others as well as themselves didn't mean anything and that she could achieve so much more than what the world believed she could.
̈ ̈Imagine us in heaven.¨ Jenna muttered, ̈Would we be so quick to judge, evaluate, and make rash decisions?¨ She chuckled softly to herself,
̈ ̈What a silly thought. This is life and this is what I'm meant to do. Don't get all philosophical on me now, Jen- ¨ A horrid sound ripped through the air, ringing in Jenna ́s ears and ripping her thoughtful attention towards the shrieking cacophony beyond the red curtain of the stage.
She rushed forward to see mass chaos. A sea of panicking, charging bodies that rushed towards the exits. Several people pushed through the crowds, the doors their only focus. Others just stood in shock, unsure of what to do. Jenna was one of those people. She stood numb, uncertain to what was even going on, simply taking in the disarray around her.
Someone screamed as a quick succession of gunshots rang out, the crowd quickly dispersed around the body leaving several people to stare in horror at the scene before them. It wasn ́t until Jenna tried to look around that she realized that she had been the one who ́d screamed. She lay on the cold, univiting wood of the stage starring dizzily up at the ceiling.
Jenna ́s side burned, a merciless fire spreading throughout the left side of her body to her abdomen. A painting of red saturating her graduation gown as she lay there unmoving. Her throat itched and she couldn´t seem to keep her thoughts straight.
She felt lightheaded, her extremities turning to lead as the fire spread throughout her frame. She grimaced against the bite of the pain, crushing her eyes closed to distract herself as coughs violently racked her chest.. When she opened them again she found herself looking at the crowd of people, her angle and vision shifting in and out. The police had arrived. Someone was being arrested. Almost everyone had been evacuated, but she still lay there. A mess of red curls, black fabric and lost dreams deposited on the wooden planks of a stage that was supposed to lead her to her future.
The scene began to fade, her focus on the amphitheater around disappearing in a feeling of accomplishment. A feeling that made her smile because she could not recall the last time she had felt it.
Among the chaos she felt a hend gently touch her shoulder, a feeling of overwhelming peace washing over her as she turned to see an outlined face against the bright white luminescence. The figure gestured for her to follow him, moving into the light. Not looking back she walked into the light letting it overcome her whole frame.
Like a dream she had drifted from the room, and like a dream she seemed unreal, and like a dream she was gone.