I am so unbe-fucking-lievably tired I don’t even have the energy to preface this post. Here’s my words. I’m going to bed.
Writing Challenge Day 9, Part 2 (continuation of Sunday Night Football from day 8)
By E. W. Morrow
Word Count: 1226
The rest of the first quarter passed without incident, unless you counted Alex ordering his third hot dog and scarfing it so fast Devon could hardly believe he had gotten it all in the right spot. The game seemed to be progressing in step with what the crowd had anticipated because it hadn’t risen to it’s feet in excitement again. In fact, Devon was close to convincing himself that he had imagined the whole thing, that the thronging mob didn’t share some twisted hive mind ready to take over at a moments notice. That was about the time the quarter ended, and when it went it took his uncertainty with it.
Devon didn’t notice anything special or unique, just a whistle being blown by one of the refs and a general relaxation by all of the players. He knew that the first quarter was over and that now there would be a quick break while the teams switched sides. What he didn’t know about was the chant.
It began suddenly but built slowly. A sound byte of a horn or a bugle of some kind boomed through the stadium speakers. Then the chant started like the droning of a beehive. Devon couldn’t make out the words. There didn’t seem to be any words, just a string of vowel noises punctuated by every member of the collective gasping for air together. Pete and his two friends joined in as well, but Devon still couldn’t make out what they were saying through mouthfuls of hot dog and nacho. And there were gestures. Chopping motions of the hand and points and waves. There even seemed to be a designated time to make a rude gesture of some kind, the only portion of the ritual that afforded the participants any opportunity for individuality. The effect as a whole was to turn the general static chaos of the stadium into a single mass that roiled and rippled as one like a stormy sea.
“I want to leave,” Devon shouted over the din. Pete was too caught up in the chant to notice. Devon shouted louder. “Pete! I want to leave!”
“What?” Pete shouted.
“I want to leave!” Devon repeated.
“Why?” Pete asked.
“This isn’t right!” Devon shouted his reply. “This isn’t natural! I don’t like this!”
“Course it is! Trust me, you’ll get used to it! Relax!”
Devon tried shouting his protestations again, but the chant began to reach it’s apex. The air crackled with invisible energy that passed from screaming fan to screaming fan like the firing of neurons in a giant brain. And if the stadium was a giant brain, Devon thought, then he was a cell that wasn’t doing what it was supposed to, which essentially made him a tumor. Devon knew how the human body reacted to tumors and was not interested in finding out if the analogy was perfect. Without another word to his brother he turned from his chair and sprinted up the forty-two steps behind him. Nobody else was moving through the crowd and he didn’t have to cut anyone off as he bolted for the only place he could think of that might offer some form of shelter. He did have to weave through the crowd as it stood and participated in the chant, ducking under waving arms and bumping into people whenever he tried to dodge a rude gesture.
The restroom was empty. Devon wasn’t sure why he found that fact so unsettling, but he did. He forced the thought from his mind and ran to one of the stalls in the furthest corner of the room. The sound of the chant wasn’t completely gone, but it had been transformed into mere background noise. He locked the stall door and sat down on the toilet, digging a finger into each ear and humming random notes to himself in an effort to drown it out entirely.
There was no reason he should be acting like this. That’s what he told himself as he screwed his eyes closed in concentration. Yes, it was strange to see such a massive group of people acting this way over what was, when you got right down to it, a game. A game he’d refused to take part in since he’d been in the fourth grade. It was strange, but it wasn’t sinister. At least it shouldn’t be. But whatever strange twist of fate had led Devon to view the world the way he did, to fear crowds of people and distrust anyone who worked themselves into a frenzy over anything trivial, was now leading him to question the sanity of everyone around him. It was either that, or question his own.
When Devon opened his eyes, there were a pair of shoes visible under the gap at the bottom of the stall door. A ratty pair of black and brown sneakers that had probably been black and white at some point in the past. They were standing so close to the stall door that they person they belonged to probably had his face almost flush with the cold gray plastic of the door itself. Maybe they had their eye pressed against the crack of the door. Maybe they were watching him.
Devon closed his eyes again and redoubled his humming. He couldn’t hear the chant anymore but he couldn’t bring himself to believe that it was over. After a few moments had passed he opened his eyes a crack. Two more pairs of shoes had joined the first. Again he clamped his lids shut and this time he waited nearly a fully minute before he opened them again. When he did, more shoes were visible, and beside those shoes fell the shadows of the ones standing behind, out of Devon’s line of sight. He kept on humming but kept his eyes open. Neither the shoes nor the shadows moved as he watched. He glanced to his side and saw that the stall next to him was filled with shoes and shadows as well. He was surrounded by silent watchers.
At least, he assumed they were silent. With his ears plugged and the litany of humming he couldn’t tell. He forced himself to stop the humming, but it was nearly an agonizing minute before he could bring himself to pull his fingers from his ears. They weren’t silent. Almost, but not quite. All around him he could hear the chant. It wasn’t a whisper, but a shout that had been turned into a whisper. It sounded so impossibly distant that he could almost believe that it wasn’t coming from the people in the restroom with him. Except it was. He didn’t know how it was, but it was. If it wasn’t coming from them it was coming through them. Somehow that made sense if he didn’t think about it too hard. He pressed his fingers back into his ears.
Fingers appeared over the top of the stall walls. They moved slowly but methodically, grasping the top of the walls with a firm inevitability. Devon could see the knuckles whiten as the unseen hangs tightened their grips, almost as though members of the crowd around him were trying to pull themselves up to peek over the top. But the shoes and the shadows remained motionless, as unchanging as the chant that he could still hear even through his fingers.