The Atom


By F.G. Anderson

The atom consists of three types of subatomic particles, the proton, the neutron and the electron. Positively charged protons and negatively charges electrons create a neutrally charged atom, or no charge. In the nucleus of the atom, the neutrons, fundamentally without charge keeps themselves and the protons there intact. Otherwise, protons would not have been able to reside all in a tiny, dense nucleus, for the same charged particles repel each other. The electrons and protons have equal and opposite charge, interestingly the proton is much larger, two thousand times larger than the electron. Circulating on the outskirts of the nucleus, the electrons seem lonely, isolated, and constantly in motion, going nowhere except round and around the nucleus, where the much larger particles are, and less alone.

On Monday, Bill and his guys cornered Alvinin the washroom and dunked his head into a toilet a few times as he screamed for help; it was not the first time this had happened. On Tuesday, Bill threw a baseball atAlvin’s crotch during gym class and hit its target. The teacher thought that it was an accident; not the first time it happened either. Then on Wednesday, they dragged Alvin into the gym lockers, surrounded him, and took shots at his head with basketballs. When Alvin crumbled to his knees, Bill kicked him in the stomach a few times, spat on him, and left.Alvinlay crying on that spot for more than half an hour and no one answered him. This had been the final in a long line of assaults on Alvin by Bill. He didn’t understand why Bill chose to use him as a punching bag, and he didn’t understand why he could never fight back – probably because he was puny, and why no one came to help him when he got beaten up. Afterwards, this injustice coupled with a sense of utter helplessness finally ignited a fiendish anger within Alvin.

Alvin refused to die in vain. He wanted revenge for all Bill had done to him; it would mean killing him.Alvinvisited his grandparents during Thanksgiving, who live in the countryside. People in the country always have a gun around their home, he just knew that. Sure enough, he found a 20-mm shotgun in the broom closet, long forgotten by his grandparents, who had no use for it anyways. There was a small box full of ammunition in the corner too, with mice nesting above it.Alvinstole the shotgun when his family returned to the suburbs, and he practiced target shooting in the woods near his home. He took only a few shots at trees, to conserve the few shells he had, though soon he discovered he was quite good at it. Whether a bulls-eye in the bark every single time was coincidence or not, Alvin had the image of Bill’s head exploding in a shower of blood every time the few times he took aim at a tree and fired.

Norbert was not brave; he was scared of the bullies at school, especially Bill. They followed and ambushed him often. While he walked home, they would gather around him, steal his cap, blow whiffs of bad breath into his face, and menacingly demanded him to surrender his pocket-money. Even so, they had never beaten him, never given him any wedgies…yet. Norbert became a nervous wreck since Bill’s guys started to torment him, psychologically, since the beginning of high school, and he found no one who would listen to him and hear his issue. He felt singled out even as the hallways are filled with people – every one of them seemed a light year away from him. Norbert realized his seeming insignificance in the world; nevertheless he kept the hope alive that he might just be able to do something heroic, anything, to get him noticed, to become significant. Who was he trying to prove himself to? Norbert did not have a definite answer.

Norbert knew his uncle kept a handgun locked in his desk drawer in the study. He didn’t know where the key to the drawer was; soon he gave up trying to open the drawer to obtain a gun, and instead settled for a small kitchen knife used to cut fruit. Norbert’s mind was all made up. The next time Bill tried to intimidate him, he would take out the knife, and it would scare them all.

Norbert was not entirely comfortable walking to school with the knife in his pocket. Instead, he hid it in his backpack, and heard it jingle in his nearly empty backpack, against a water bottle, the sound of the metals clinking had Norbert’s mind occupied for the duration of his walk to school. Miraculously, for the next few days Bill and his guys kept their activities low, minus a few pushing around in the hallways, they seemed to have stopped their torment of Norbert. Maybe he didn’t have to use the knife after all, and it would all fade into memory. He was upbeat for a few days, and his guard was down, until a Friday when he heard a loud boom echo from the crowded hallway where his locker was at, he glanced at the small pocket knife residing out of sight at the back of his locker. People were sprinting from the direction of the boom with fear written across their faces and cold sweat appearing around their foreheads, while the ones who did not know what was happening frantically tried to get a glimpse of what they thought was a fight taking place down the halls.

Another boom, Norbert recognized it as the sound of a gun being fired. By then the hallway had already cleared up rapidly, and he did not move but stared transfixed at the action taking place at the far end of the corridor.

Nobody had paid attention to his shotgun until he fired the first shot, they probably thought it was a prop since the drama department was nearby, and Alvin chuckled at the stupidity of the faceless crowd. Everyone was steering out-of-the-way of Bill’s troop, the most fearsome bunch of bullies at the school, feuding with themselves when they spared the rest of the school. They were arguing then, about a cheating that happened at a recent party, too consumed in their petty little lives to notice Alvin taking aim at their direction, literally five steps away. People began to noticeAlvin’s actions, and the blast of his shotgun deafened everyone’s ears.Alvinhad shot one of Bill’s guys; he did not know which one. Bill was unhurt yet, he seemed to have lost the ability to think, as did the rest of his troop of four, minus one. They simply gawked at Alvin, whose barrel was still level with their chests.Alvinfired again, hitting Bill in the stomach and watched bemused as he dropped to the floors with a scream caught in his throat. The remaining four guys from Bill’s troop bolted away like the crowd, screaming and crying as all were, while the wounded member of the gang, blood leaking from his leg attempted to crawl to safety, whimpering.Alvinstared into Bill’s eyes, which had yet to register the reality of the situation and remained in shock, staring back.Alvinsaw no soul in Bill’s eyes – all the better. He whispered, “Die, you son of a bitch.”Alvinblew Bill’s head open and out, brain tissue splattered him and the surroundings in a rich redness. All was silent, until a succession of stumbling footsteps broke the ice.

Alvin turned his head to face the source of the sound, he saw a kid, trembling all over, with a small knife in his hands which looked about to be shaken from his trembling hands.

Norbert went towards the kid. He had just witnessed the kid blowing Bill’s head open, and cringed when he did, but continued towards him with his little blade raised. Norbert’s body was clearly not thinking at all, he had lost control of it all together; did it think it could save the day with a switch blade against a shotgun? It most certainly did. Norbert had nothing left of him but look into the kid’s eyes, they were of the same age and grade, but did not know each other. The kid stared back while loading a single shell into the barrel of the shotgun. As sudden as a bolt of lightning, the kid turned his weapon around with the nozzle on his chin, and fired.

A final boom echoed down the empty hallway, except for Norbert, who witnessed it all, and the wounded member of Bill’s troop, with his eyes closed, crying and holding his bloody leg rocking back and forth.

Under immense pressure, the negatively charged electrons and the positively charged protons of an atom would fuse together to become neutrons with no charge, in other words, cancel each other out, and what is left in this world are a few more neutrons, joining the existing neutrons that have stood by unchanged, observing the creation of neutrons from protons and the much smaller and lonely electrons.

The end.

Alternative ending (the original which would completely change the title)

It was Friday, after school. Alvin stood around the corner at the end of the hall where Bill and his guys always prowl past. At the same time, Norbert was the only person in that hallway, unloading books into his locker. He heard loud swearing and glanced quickly down the far end of the hall, and sure enough, Bill and his troop were striding towards his direction. Norbert gripped the handgun which lay at the depth of his backpack (*in this version, Norbert does obtain his uncle’s gun by picking the lock), prepared to point it straight at Bill’s head if they try anything on him. Alvin heard Bill too. He sprung from around the corner with his weapon no longer hidden, screamed “die you sons of bitches!” and was about to blast Bill and his guys all to hell when he noticed Norbert in the hall. Norbert, upon seeing the shotgun in Alvin’s grip involuntarily drew the handgun from his pack. Instinctively, Alvin in his turn switched the aim of his barrel from Bill’s troop to Norbert, who flipped the safety off his weapon to fire without realizing what he had done. They both pulled triggers a split second apart and the entire school was silenced by the collective boom of two gunshots.

Alvin’s shotgun slug blew Norbert’s chest open in a spray of blood and organic tissue. Norbert’s bullet entered Alvin’s brain through a hole made just above his left eye. They both died instantly.

The next day’s news headlines read: “School Shooting; Two Assailants Cancel Each Other Out”, was this result the fruit of vengeance…or simply a tragic coincidence?

The end.

 

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Published on 2011/11/18 at 8:12 PM  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Very satisfying and truth-reflected story. It’d have been much better though if the endings for Bill and his gangswere clearly ended in tragedy( such as the death with several gunshots on their body). It’s just bizzare that both shot at same time and died of severe injuries on the body.
    And it gave me thoughts about Virginia Tech and Columbine High School shootings in previous years.
    Great job
    Henry Jeong

    • By “better” you mean more justified. This is the tragedy of revenge plus coincidence, a bad mix.
      Have you seen the movie Polytechnique about the Montreal school massacre?
      F.G.

      • Oh, so the bullies are not the main point. It could’ve been much interesting if the more justified endings for Bill then the Norbert steps up. Well, I neither know or watched thy movie, but I have heard about 1989 Montreal L’ecole Polythechnique massacre, when 14 women were murdered.


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