Chapter 16:

Is She Trying To Give Me The Slip?

I Know It Might Be Wrong, But...

“Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!”

In a dark room somewhere in the school where the morning sun could not reach, this chant could be heard. It was not as loud and deafening as a cheer, but it was recited in chorus like a prayer. Low, somber, and unnerving, especially if you were the target of it.

Despite being unable to see her surroundings as she had a bag over her head, Stacy was sure she was the target of it. Or, rather, it was because a bag was put over her head and she was taken to this place against her will that she one hundred percent knew it was aimed at her. What’s more unnerving is that, even without seeing them, she could sense there are more than a few dozen people participating in it.

She had given up struggling earlier because she could not escape the clutches of her captors, but she tried struggling once more after sensing immediate danger.

“Put me down! Put me down!” she pleaded to deaf ears.

Unfortunately, she still could not escape as the people who were carrying her had apparently yet to tire out from all the thrashing she had done earlier. What’s more is that each of them is evidently much stronger than her, which is why they were able to restrict her movements.

She would soon get her wishes, however. But first, her captors had bound her hands and feet before finally letting her down to sit on a chair then tying her to it.

“What’s the big idea? Why are you doing this?” she kept asking, but no one was answering. “Let me go, I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Finally, someone answered her. With a booming voice which stopped the chanting from the crowd, Stacy was asked “Nothing wrong?!”

Stacy tried to face the direction of the voice, which is forward, but as she still had the bag over her head, there was no way for her to look at the face of who it was.

The voice continued “You think you have not done anything wrong, but you have committed the gravest sin in our school.”

“And what would that be?” Stacy replied. She had an inkling of what she was going to be accused of, but she asked anyway.

“Remove the bag”, the voice said, but not as a reply to Stacy.

Stacy had not noticed (of course, how could she when she could not see?), but there was someone standing behind her. As soon as the voice said to remove the bag from Stacy, it was that person who was tasked to perform the order.

She was finally freed from the bag, but the view in her surroundings was not too different. The room she was abducted to was pitch black. But, it was not dark enough that she could still make out silhouettes of people in the room, and there were as many as she had feared.

“Show the evidence!” was the voice’s next order.

Next thing Stacy knew, there was a flash of light in front of her, rectangular in shape. She recognized it as a light coming from a projector, but for what purpose, she did not know as it was not showing anything but the white screen it was beaming at. The light was not bright enough to remove the darkness from the entire room, but it gave enough glow to let her recognize where she was, and it was the audiovisual room. Of course, as she was already in her second year attending the school, she had been there plenty of times that she could instantly recognize it even in dim light.

However, despite the room getting a bit of brightness, she was unable to recognize her abductors individually. Not because it was still too dark to see, but for reasons that made the hair on the back of her neck stand - her captors are all wearing black hoods over their heads.

Stacy was not part of any factions, but she knew of their existence as you would easily find a handful of members from each major camp in any class in every year level. It was an open secret to every girl in the school. Due to this, she instantly recognized she was up against the Extremists.

She also realized it was a lynching and she was the one being lynched.

Then, she cursed Steven under her breath as he was the indirect cause of the situation she finds herself in.

“You’re making a mistake!” she pleaded. “I haven’t done anything with Steven!”

“Haven’t done anything?” the voice scoffed.

As Stacy had guessed, the voice came from directly in front of her, but now the voice had a form, or more specifically, a silhouette of a girl wearing a hood over her head. Assumingly, she was the leader of the group as she sat importantly in the middle of a table alongside other silhouettes of girls.

The leader continued “If you haven’t done anything, then why have you two been so close recently?”

“I don’t know what you mean”, Stacy replied.

“Playing innocent will do you no good! The two of you have been spotted earlier today walking to school together.”

“So what? We just happened to walk together today!”

“The two of you were also spotted walking to school together yesterday!”

“Like I said, so what? Just because we’ve walked together to school for two days doesn’t mean we’re close!”

“Well, I wonder what you will say when you see the evidence we’ve gathered against you.”

“Huh? What evidence?” Stacy defiantly said.

“Show the evidence already!” the leader shouted, but the order was directed to the corner of the room where the teacher’s table was.

“Sorry, just a sec”, one voice replied.

“We’re having computer troubles”, another voice said.

“That’s why I told you earlier to do a test run first!” the leader, standing up and pointing, scolded the two who seem to be operating the computer to be projected on the screen.

“We’re really sorry, but there’s not much we can do on short notice”, the second voice replied.

The leader, realizing any more complaints would be fruitless, sat back down and grumbled.

Stacy, meanwhile, recognized the second voice as her friend’s. Not just any friend, it was even a classmate that she would eat lunch with every day. “If that’s who I think it is, then we’re going to have a real long talk later”, she declared as she glared towards her suspected friend.

“Ah! Uhm, you got the wrong person!” the second voice panickingly answered with an unnaturally high tone.

Stacy let the matter drop for now; she had a bigger problem that she needed to get out of and fast.

“Look”, she said to get the attention of the people in front of her. “If you don’t believe me, then just ask Steven. That should make some things clear about my relationship with him.”

“Oh, rub your relationship with Steven up our faces, will you?” the leader barked.


“‘Why don’t we just ask Steven’ said little miss Steven’s girlfriend”, the leader mockingly said.

“What’s so hard about asking him?”

“You see, only a person who is close to him would think it is easy asking him that question.”

“Like I said, what’s so hard about asking him?”

“What if the answer is ‘yes, I’m dating her’? Do you think any one of us could handle it?”

“Well, the answer would be ‘no’, so…”

“Silence!” the leader commanded. “I know what you’re playing at. You’re trying to take us all down by making us ask Steven about you two and have us suffer mental breakdowns after hearing the answer.”

“I mean, the answer would be ‘no’...”

“We’re not falling for that!” the leader declared. At that same moment, the people operating the computer signaled to the leader that the technical problem had been fixed, so she motioned for them to finally show the things that she wanted to show Stacy. She then pointed to the screen and continued, “We’re not falling for your tricks because we have this evidence against you!”

Then, the image was shown. Stacy feared that what they were going to show her was some out of context photo, but the picture shown on the screen only filled Stacy with disgust.

The screen showed the computer’s wallpaper with Steven’s head badly photoshopped onto some oiled macho model in speedos, which made Stacy gag a little bit.

The crowd were not silent about the photo either. There were muffled squeals, chuckles and some murmurs, which confused the leader because she was not expecting the reactions from everyone. So, she looked at the screen to find the same image everyone was seeing.

She quickly turned to the girls operating the computer to scold them. “Hey, you two! This isn’t the picture you’re supposed to show!”

“Sorry, the computer froze”, said one girl. It wasn’t Stacy’s friend, who seems to have remained silent. “Your laptop is really buggy, I suggest having this looked at.”

“Don’t just say whose laptop that is! Now everybody knows what I’m into!” the leader scolded again.

Except for me, Stacy thought to herself. Although, now, she is trying to think who among the people she knew had a muscle fetish. She was even beginning to think the situation she was in wasn’t as bad as she thought when her abductors were this dysfunctional, for better or for worse.

“Sorry about that, here’s the first slide”, the girl operating the computer said.

“Ugh, finally!” the leader exclaimed, exasperated. She then turned back to Stacy to ask “What can you say about this photo?”

At that point, Stacy realized the jokes were over. The image displayed on the screen was something that happened only some minutes ago when she was dragging a crestfallen Steven to school by the hand. They were not holding hands as lovers would, but they were still holding hands. She could not run away, so she can only try to reason by telling the truth. There is no incentive in lying anyway.

“He was depressed and refused to come to school so I dragged him to go”, Stacy explained.

“Is that right?” the leader reacted, unmoved. “Next evidence, please.”

The next picture shown was Stacy and Steven walking beside each other as they chat.

“This is from yesterday morning during your morning commute”, the leader explained.

“Like I said, so what if we were together yesterday?”

The leader did not entertain Stacy’s question with an answer and instead asked for the next picture. “What about this then?”

The third image surprised Stacy. It was of her and Steven leaving from her apartment building, meaning someone was staking out her place, which caused her some alarm.

“This photo was taken earlier today along with this photo”, the leader explained as an image of Steven walking into Stacy’s apartment building is shown. The screen then showed a couple more pictures with similar content as the leader continued “These two were taken yesterday”.

Stacy was speechless. They had been doing it for two days straight!

“There is even a rumor that Steven went to your place last Thursday afternoon and did not return to his home until Friday morning, but we have yet to find proof of that. But, that aside, aren’t these photos strong evidence that Steven has come to your house to pick you up so you two can go to school together?”

“No, you’re wrong!”

“Wrong? How are we wrong? Please elaborate.”

“Surely, you know how Steven has a crush on my mom, right? He’s just come over to my house to get to see her.”

“I knew you would say that, but how do you explain this next piece of evidence?”

The crowd had minimal reactions to the previous photos, but this time, they once again started chanting “Guilty” and louder than before.

By that point, Stacy genuinely started feeling sick. This time, the photo being shown is when Steven cornered her into a wall this morning. Her neighbors thought the two of them were flirting out in public, so she knew that anyone who looks at this photo would easily think the same. Even worse, the picture was taken at the exact moment she was blinking so her eyes were closed making it look like she was expecting a kiss as she faced towards the other person, plus the boy in question looks like he’s leaning in for it, too.

The leader continued with the questioning. “Why does this photo look like you two are about to kiss?”

Nerves were setting in for Stacy. She had not felt that nervous since Steven called her out two weeks ago. She decided that honesty would be her policy, but she was not sure if it would even be enough to convince her accusers.

She then started her defense stuttering “I-i-i-i-t’s a f-funny story actually.”