Chapter 5:

Ring Around The Roses

School For The Mediums

The sounds of laughter were everywhere from high pitched giggling, heavy chuckling, and snotty throated snorting. Along with the laughter there was screaming and shouting, kids clapping and jumping, and feet pounding and running.

The playground was the literal definition of a human zoo.

I could see feet dangling from monkey bars and the other kids hollering as they ran down the slides and to the fields playing tag.

“Mommy! Mommy!”

I was almost knocked off the playground curb as something darted past me.

“Mommy! Mommy!” A crying sniffling 5-year-old boy yelled as he ran past me, playground wood chips from his shoes hitting my face. “Mommy! I want my mommy!”

Quickly, I defended my eardrums as the obnoxious noise travelled from me to an adult.

“Mommy! Waah! Mommy!”

“Darling, what’s wrong?”

I looked away from the mother and whining baby duo and back to my notebook.

This is why I didn’t like going to the park.

The noise, all the people, and the heat. It was all too much.

If I wasn’t only 8 years old and under the force of Mom and Dad, I would be at home sitting in my room right now.

I focused back to scribbling on my notebook.

“Hadi!” A familiar soft flowery voice and running footsteps neared me.

“What, Ko-tan?” I sat my pencil against the paper as I looked up to Aoko.

“Why are you over here again?” Catching her breath, she observed me.

I was at the farthest edge of the playground seated on a curb away from all the other kids.

“You should come play with us,” Aoko said, smiling.

“I’m good.” I went back to scribbling.

“Oh, come on Hadi!” She grabbed my free arm. “Come play!”

“I don’t wanna.” Quickly, I pulled my arm back hard.

“Why not? Everyone wants you to join.”

Ignoring her, I focused on drawing lines and shapes.

“…Haaah.” With a sigh, she dropped down next to me. “What are you drawing?” She peeked over at my notebook.

“Nothing.” I pushed my pencil harder into the paper drawing thicker lines.

“Doesn’t look like nothing.” She calmly tapped her feet. “It looks pretty. What’s it supposed to be?”

I looked from her and to my page. It was just random scribbles of shapes, lines, and shadows intersecting and meeting to create even more weirder shapes. “I don’t know.” I shrugged.

“Hmm?” She hummed, staring even harder. “It looks abstract. Like Picasso or Van Gough!”

I frowned at her joyful response. “I’m no Picasso or Van Gough. If anything, maybe you are.”


“Yeah.” My pencil was pushing down even harder. “You’re the one who’s good at everything.”


I didn’t have to look at her to see her frown. “And everyone likes you.”


“--Ko-chan! Ko-chan!” The kids on the playground were loudly calling her. “Ko-chan come back! Let’s play some more!”

I pushed the pencil down so hard a dark hole was forming on the paper. “They’re calling you.”

I felt her eyes on me. “Hadiza.”

“Ko-chan! Ko-chan! Come on Ko-chan!” It sounded like a crowd was cheering her on…as usual.

She sighed again, more deeply this time. “I’m coming!” She shouted over to them.

My scribbling was getting more sporadic as Aoko stood and dusted off her bottom.

“You should come play with us. You’ll have fun,” she said.

“I’m fine.”

“Hadi, I like your drawing. And you’re good at things too.”

I didn’t look up at her.


“On my way!” I heard her footsteps receding and moving away from me.

With a light exhale, I focused back on drawing. The dark hole on the paper was getting bigger with every push and scrabble of the pencil lead.

“Yaay! Ko-chan’s back!” I could hear their voices in distance as I scribbled faster and harder.

“What are we playing this time?”

“Ring around the roses! Let’s play ring around the roses!”

“Okay! Who wants to start?”

“I will! I will! Ring-a-round the rosies---!”


My pencil tip snapped in half.

“A pocket full of posies!”

With a broken pencil and gaping hole on my notebook page, I glanced up and looked to Aoko and the other kids.

Their hands were connected as they formed a tight circle ring. They spun and bounced with the biggest smiles and grins.

It did look fun.

I caught a glimpse of Aoko and she caught a glimpse of me from our distances.

“Ashes! Ashes!”

We held eyes as she mouthed me to me something far off from what the other kids were singing.






“…Fall Down!”

“Somebody call for help!” I heard someone shriek.

“What’s wrong with her?!”

There were voices coming from all around me. My vision faded in and out, the world like images flashing and fading out.

“Oh, my god! Hadiza!”

I heard sounds both unfamiliar and familiar between the dark and light of my shifting consciousness.


“Doctor, we’ve got swelling in the mouth, hives, dizziness, and fainting!”

There was shuffling, thumping, and pounding exploding around my fuzzy and faded world.

My mind felt like it was sinking, and my body heavy but weightless. The thunder of my heart against my ribcage and beating of my blood escaped.

“Heart rate dropping! Blood pressure decreasing! We’re nearing a Code Blue!”


With every weary breath and fading screenshot of the bustling action, I sunk below lucidness.

“No, no, no! That’s my child there! That’s my daughter!”

“We’re losing her!”

Melting ice. Was I becoming melted ice?

“Prepare the Defibrillation!”


Or was I in the Ocean? Falling below the waves?



Electricity zapped into my chest so powerful I felt it through my bones.

“Heart Rate?”


“Still decreasing!”

Or maybe it’s not the Ocean.


Power surged through me again.

“Heart Rate?”

“We’re still falling!”

Maybe I’m just….


Lighting went through me, and my body arched up and sunk back down.

“Heart Rate?”

Maybe I’m just….

I breathed out slowly feeling my weak breath dying.

“It’s stopped. The heart's stopped.”


Maybe I’m burning. Burning into ashes.

Shahi John
Hungry Sheep
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