(Congratulations to all the brave, dauntless seniors who have overcome this horrific task)
By AL SCHADE, November 30, 2021
It was a gray, windy day here in Westfield, Indiana, the sun cloaked in clouds and condensation. Although it was already October 12th, Westfield was getting its very first taste of fall, by far my favorite season, as demonstrated by my mild obsession with pumpkin donuts, coffee, muffins, and air fresheners. But what happened to me on October 12th was so terrifying, so bone-chillingly gruesome and paralysis inducing, that it’s hard to mention.
As a senior, I thought the most terrifying thing that could possibly happen had already happened. It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has everyone stressed, scared, and beyond anxious; however, I feel I’ve handled it pretty well, relatively speaking. Then as I entered my senior year, my last nine months in the hallowed hallways of Westfield High School, I realized that I was not any different from seniors of past generations.
The spookiest, scariest, most frightening beast stood looming ahead of me, its jaws dripping with the blood, sweat, and tears of all graduating classes before my own—college. The very concept of secondary education began haunting me the very first day I stepped into Westfield High School, but it wasn’t until this October that the beast finally took a corporeal form. As deadlines, looking suspiciously like zombies, slowly but surely crept towards me, their skeletal, spindly fingers wrapping around my ankles, grasping their way up my body until I felt their cold, brittle bones squeezing my chest and my throat, I saw it—a monstrous, gigantic, ghostly canine that looked ready to chomp my head off as the hands of deadlines held me frozen in place with something I can’t describe other than frigid, debilitating fear. As I stood in the newborn Union Wing of Westfield High School, on a no longer ordinary day in early October, I was sure the horrific collegiate ghost was there to crush every single hope and dream I’d ever had. There was no way I could fight the impending deadlines and my own mental blocks that had arisen in my path towards my future. I’m not strong enough, or smart enough, or quick enough, to defeat these creatures! At least, I thought I wasn’t. But suddenly out of the darkness, a heavenly glow descended the stairs and headed straight for me. Instead of feeling afraid, I felt warmth. I felt protected. Most importantly, I realized that I wasn’t alone. I realized that there are forces of nature that exist to help students like me battle deadline zombies and college ghosts. So who would save me? Who would deliver me from giving in to forces I deemed much greater than myself? Caffeine. Caffeine in any and all forms was my savior. The Monster Energy I decided to splurge on the last time I was at CVS, the ridiculously large iced latte from Dunkin’, every single milligram pumping through my veins, provided me with the strength I needed to rip myself free. Grasping the hand of the Goddess of Caffeine, I tore myself from the cold fingers of multiple deadline zombies, I jerked my ankles free from their grasp, I prepared myself to dart away to a safe space—a corner where I could catch my breath and plan my next steps. But once I was free, the remaining ghostly beast whimpered. The canine seemed to shrink in size, and it no longer towered over me; in fact, now it looked like an excitable puppy that reminded me more of my playful chocolate lab than the beast straight from hell that had been there a mere second ago. I froze and began to evaluate what could have possibly changed the ghost in such a drastic manner, and I realized for the first time this school year, I was...excited. In fact, I was thrilled. Once I had defeated the deadlines, college was just a new experience waiting to be explored. All the work I had put in over the past 12 years was finally coming to fruition. I stood there basking in my newfound positive emotions until I felt tension coiling in my body like a rubber band ready to snap. All the quick changes without any notice left me reeling, and I lurched back as if bracing for impact. Gone was my cute puppy; the hell beast had returned. I glanced around trying to find a reason for the return of this monster when I saw my laptop lying innocently on a table. With wobbling knees and shaky breaths, I approached my laptop. Finger trembling, I typed in my password, revealing a gruesome image. I will share a copy of my Naviance screen with you now, but be warned, it is sure to send a shock of dread through anyone, but seniors are particularly susceptible.
Every atom in my body froze simultaneously. As my eyes began to water and my skin began to sweat, I hit the refresh button only to be met with the same image. I began to panic in earnest now, the beastly canine snarling behind me as if it hungered for my terror. There was no glowing warmth to protect me now, no ethereal figure there to save me, just the harsh blue-light of my computer screen, mocking me, feeding the beast behind me. As I sat there wallowing in hopelessness and desperation, I found myself thinking I had reached the end of the road. Everything I had worked for, the deadlines I had fought victoriously, were absolutely worthless. I resigned myself to my fate. I sat there waiting for the beast to take its chance. I prayed for a quick conclusion to my pain and anxiety, longing for the suspense to end.
But then, out of nowhere my screen began to flicker. My hope jumped in time with the rising wifi bars on my laptop, and I realized: never in my life had I been as incredibly stupid as I was in this moment. I will never forgive myself for the minutes that I forgot the simple fact that school wifi never works on the first try. As my laptop reconnected to the wifi, my soul reconnected to my body. I had learned my lesson, and this time instead of waiting for the beast to change or disappear, I dashed out of the doors at the end of the cafe towards my freedom and my future.
I survived my encounter with the creatures that lurk in the halls of Westfield High School. I can’t help but feel lucky that I’m able to share my tale with all of you now. I hope my retelling of this account serves as a cautionary tale; in case it wasn’t clear, be warned of the supernatural beasts that reside in the fibers of our school, and absolutely, under no circumstances, should you ever trust school wifi with something as valuable as a college application.