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17 mins 166 17 mins 166

Have you got any secrets?

 Are they good?

 Or should I tell you one?


 “A few days back I read a report on a website called that talked about a study conducted by NASA, almost proving that humans are made from stardust. What do you think?” said Zach to Riz, sipping on his coffee at the only café in the Hillford town; the Bean Bag Café. “Maybe that’s the reason we burn inside and shine outside,” replied Riz. “Do you know the human heart has an abundance of sulfur which is highly inflammable?” said Zach. “But we all still live,” Nida replied. 


Before we go any further, let me introduce the three secret carriers of our story. Beginning with Zachary Ballabon a.k.a Zach, a Jewish boy, quiet, reserved, with loner tendencies. Has trouble describing feelings, tends to be unemotional. Not very affectionate. Can be insensitive to the misfortunes of others. Isolated and not influenced by others. Disorganized and messy. Uncomplicated desires. Fears drawing attention to self. Dislikes leadership and tends to be submissive. Interested in how and why things work. Antisocial. Zach never considered being the only child in a rich family a privilege. His love for the weird and the unknown is beyond imagination. He could interest you in facts thoughts that can lead to an endless discussion. The only thing bad about Zach is that he wants to die too young. Moving on to our next carrier of the unspoken, Rizalia Santiago a.k.a Riz. A Filipino, Riz is quite a serious kind of a person. Enjoys solitude and tends to sit back and observe. Well-organized and hard-working. Focused, with well-developed powers of concentration. Not adventurous or spontaneous. Realistic. Dutiful always follows the rules. Prepares for worst-case scenarios, cautious. Interested in security and believes in working hard for a peaceful life. Would rather be friendless than jobless. Riz lives with her parents who own a garment store in the Hillford town. You’d never find a person as sweet as Riz; at least not in Hillford. And finally the last musketeer Nida Arshia. Nida is an Indian girl who moved to Hillford with her parents when she was four. She loves her life. Outspoken and assertive. Enjoys people and is stimulating company. Outgoing, social, open, a center of attraction. The life of the party. Creative, resourceful, and intellectually quick. Good at a broad range of things. Enjoys debating issues. Talented at presentation. Gets excited about new ideas and projects, but may neglect the more routine aspects of life. More likely to support the legalization of drugs. Adventurous. Aggressive. Experience junky. Not easily offended. Emotionally stable. Spontaneous. Improviser, player, wild and crazy, dominant. Nida’s father works for a daily newspaper. She’s not the only child of her parents, but having siblings doesn’t make her life any different from Zach’s.


 “What’s the best thing about your life?” asked Riz, as she looked surprisingly at Nida’s big eyes. Nida never wanted people to know much about her. They waited for Zach outside their school; the Summerville High. Nida said with a sigh “You”. The three friends have been going to the same school together since they were six. You may call it fate but these three were meant to be together. Even after belonging to three totally different countries they were identical. Finally, Zach arrived, carrying another fact on his mind. “Do you know if there was no moon then the rotational speed of the earth would increase by four times due to the lack of moon’s gravitational pull? And a day on earth would end up in six hours only.” Riz and Nida looked at each other. “Won’t that be great?” Riz said. “God, I could totally sleep for two straight days,” Nida added. Every evening after school they would stop by the Bean Bag Café. Zach always begged them both to go hiking but Riz would cancel the plan every time due to her fear of heights and lack of adventure spirit. While Zach was a student of English, Nida studied Animation. Riz, on the other hand, was more of a Social Sciences and Civics enthusiast. It’s time for the secret I was about to tell you. But there’s something more you need to know before I reveal the big secret.


 It was Thursday. Nida texted Riz and Zach "Meet me at school, ASAP. Urgent". It was seven in the morning. Nida jogs at six in the morning, and passes by the school at 6:45 AM every day. There was something she saw that Thursday, something haunting, terrifying; unbelievable. The morning never felt so blue. Magic isn't the perfect word but not inappropriate either to describe what Nida saw outside the Summerville High that Thursday at 6:45 am. By the time Zach and Riz arrived, it was impossible for Nida to stay anywhere near the school. When they saw what Nida saw, they went running to the Bean Bag Cafe` hoping she was fine. They found Nida there. She was sitting on her favorite red bean bag. While Zach preferred the green, Riz always went for the blue one. They sat together, looking at each other’s faces. Nobody knew how to start the conversation, but all three of them wanted to share the horrible feeling they had. "We need to tell somebody" Riz broke the silence. "But who? Nobody's gonna believe us" added Nida. "It's wrong, it's so wrong. We weren't supposed to be there. We shouldn't be there. This should have never happened." Riz panicked. "It's alright Riz, nothing's gonna happen. We'll be safe." Zach confronted her. "But how? What if somebody saw us there?" Nida said. Zach whispered in anger "I told you, we'll be safe. Just don't talk to anyone about it."

They went home. Zach's mom was surprised to see him get back home at the time he was supposed to leave for school. "What's the matter Zachary? Where have you been? Is everything alright?" she asked arranging the breakfast on the table. "Nothing, I just went jogging, I’m okay," he replied as he rushed to his room. It was Monday. They met in the school cafeteria. "You guys didn't tell anyone, did you?" Zach whispered trying to avoid eye contact with the weird kid. Everybody called him Draco because of his teeth. His real name was Carter. He was the most bullied kid in the school. Nobody ever saw him talk to anybody in or outside the school. People avoided eye contact with him, coz every time you looked at him he would smile back at you. And that was the creepiest smile in the whole Hillford town. "I didn't. I don't know about her. She's the scared kid here. Talk to her." Nida mocked pointing at Riz. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help. I was scared." Riz cried. "WTF! Who did you tell?" Zach shouted in anger. To which Nida replied "Her mother. And the weirdest thing was what her mother said when she told her." "What did she say?" Zach asked. "She said, I know about it. You forget what you saw." Riz said, terrified. Then entered Chad, the most popular guy of Smallville High. His father owned the school. Chad was really fond of Nida, but she never liked him because of the fakeness he carried in his perfect smile. "Hey Nida, wanna hang out after school?" Chad smiled. "Quit it Chad," she replied. He started walking away, but then suddenly stopped. Took a few steps back and whispered "I know what you guys saw." The trio was surprised and shocked. "How does he know?" Zach whispered. "Oh my God, this is so bad." Riz started crying. They rushed to the Bean Bag Café and thought about it all day, trying to figure out what to do next.

Struggling to find a connection between all those things they came to a conclusion that they’d go to the Sheriff and tell him all about it. Even after Riz’s mother warned her, she still agreed upon informing the police. When they were about to leave they heard a voice saying “The Sheriff already knows about it. You guys weren’t the first ones to see it that morning. Peter Quill saw it too. And he’s been missing since that day. Keeping it a secret was a good choice, let it stay that way.” They turned around and saw that the lady behind the counter Mrs. Lewis was the one speaking. “Mrs. Lewis, how do you know about it?” Riz asked. “No, I don’t know what it was, and I’d prefer not knowing at all. Just keep me out of it,” said Mrs. Lewis. Dropping the idea of telling the Sheriff, Zach and Nida confronted Riz that it was better to find out themselves what actually happened. They went looking for the missing Peter Quill. Riz resisted at first saying that it wasn’t safe. But they began their search anyway. One more interesting thing about Peter Quill was that he was the Sheriff’s son. They wondered how it was possible for the Sheriff’s son to go missing. He must’ve tried everything in his power to find his kid. And if the Sheriff himself couldn’t find Peter, then maybe he went into hiding because it was impossible for somebody to get away from the Sheriff Randall Quill. Nida’s father published news of the missing Peter Quill in his newspaper the next day. When she saw the newspaper, she went running to her father “What is this? How do you know about it?” she asked; confused. To which her father replied “Sheriff Randall asked me to publish the news. He’s pretty worried about his son. Do you have any idea where he might run off to?”. “No, we never talked,” she said. “Wasn’t he your project partner for that animation stuff?” he asked. “Yeah, but that was six months ago. We never talked after that. Please stop going all journalist on me in the morning.” she argued. “It’s okay. Don’t be mad. I was just asking. By the way how are Riz and Zach?” he calmed her down. “They’re fine. I need to go. Late for school.” she left. The trio bunked school and sat with a lot questions at the Bean Bag Café waiting for Mrs. Lewis to arrive with their answers. Hours passed and Zach finally asked the cleaning boy “Hey man, do you have any idea when might Mrs. Lewis be here?” He looked back at Zach and said in a low tone, avoiding any kind of eye contact “Never!” Zach was surprised. He asked him again “Why? What happened?” to which the boy replied “She died, last night. Had an accident.” Zach went running towards Riz and Nida panicky. “We need to leave. Right now!” He told them everything on their way to the Sheriff’s house.

Upon their arrival they found that the cops were arresting the Sheriff for Mrs. Lewis’s murder. Zach couldn’t resist jumping in the middle of the situation. As always. He tried telling the cops what he heard from the cleaning boy. Nobody believed him because they found Mrs. Lewis’s dead body in the Sheriff’s house. Nida pulled him away before he got himself into any kind of trouble. They had faith in the Sheriff. They knew that no matter how upset he was with the disappearance of his kid, he would never do something to harm an innocent soul as Mrs. Lewis. Zach’s family was one of the renowned and respected families of the town. Probably one of the founding families of the town too. He went home to his father and told him about the situation. He asked his father Mr. Mathew Ballabon, also the owner of the famous Ballabon Wine Industry to look into the matter. But he refused. Instead he offered Zach to stop hanging out and wasting his time with friends and start working for the company. And in return he would bail out Sheriff Randall out of the jail. Zach didn’t agree to his term and left. He never wanted to work for his father, or even go near the family business. On the other hand Riz was so scared that she started avoiding Nida and Zach both. She wouldn’t take their call or respond to their messages. So they went to her house to see if she was okay. “Hey Riz, remember me?” Nida taunted. “I’m sorry, I was scared. And my mom didn’t allow me to talk to anybody.” Riz replied. Things were finally getting normal at school. There were no more arguments about Mrs. Lewis or Peter Quill and his father’s arrest. One Friday after the school the trio was sitting at the Bean Bag Café looking at the counter where Mrs. Lewis used to stand and smile at them.

Suddenly Riz started crying, blaming herself for Mrs. Lewis’s death. “We shouldn’t have come here. If we never came here she would be alive today.” Riz kept on crying. Nida hugged her and said “It’s not our fault Riz, we couldn’t have done anything. We were scared.” The day ended and they decided to walk home. Riz and Zach stood outside Nida’s house saying good night when they all heard a loud and painful scream from inside the house. It was an impossible thing as Nida’s parents were out of town. They ran into the house and found blood stains on the floor that led them to Nida’s room. The door opened and they were shocked to see Chad lying dead on the floor. Riz screamed. Chad was stabbed in the back. They had no idea what to do next. Nida for the first time in her life was so scared that she stood there numb. Zach decided to get rid of the body. While Riz was regretting meeting the friends once again, Nida was afraid that people will accuse her of murdering Chad because he liked her and she didn’t feel the same way.

It was a collective decision to hide the body and act normal as if nothing happened because they were already in enough trouble. “I think we should talk to Sheriff Randall,” Zach said. “What? Are you fucking crazy? You buried a dead body an hour ago and now you want to go to the fucking cops? Have you fucking lost it?” Riz shouted. “There’s only one way to find out what’s going on and that’s Sheriff Randall,” said Zach. “We’ll go” Nida said in a trembling voice. “Fine. Go. I’m not coming with you guys. My mom needs me.” Riz argued. Zach and Nida went to the police to talk to Sheriff Randall. “You’ve got five minutes.” said the cop in charge. “What do you kids wanna know?” asked Sheriff Randall. “We have questions,” said Zach. “Shoot” said Randall. “What happened to Peter? And Mrs. Lewis. We are in a great trouble and we desperately need your help.” said Nida. “I don’t know where my son is. And I didn’t kill Mrs. Lewis.” cried Sheriff Randall. “We know you didn’t kill Mrs. Lewis, but please tell us something. Anything useful.” pleaded Zach. “Peter saw something,” said Randall. “Yeah we saw it too,” Nida added. “So you know. Then you guys too should’ve gone by now. Disappeared. Anybody who was there Thursday morning around 7 am is in the missing list right now. Why aren’t you guys missing yet?” asked Randall. “We don’t know,” Zach claimed. “Anyway, thanks for your help sir,” he added. And they started walking away. “Riz” Sheriff Randall shouted. “She said she knows something about my son. I went to her house but her mother won’t let me talk to her.” Nida and Zach went into a state of numbness.

They never even thought Riz would betray them. Rushing towards her house there was a stream of emotions going through their minds. Finally reaching there, the anger in their eyes was enough for Riz to figure out that they knew her secret. “Why didn’t you tell us that you knew about Peter? What happened to him? Where is he? What else have you been hiding from us?” Nida charged at Riz. “I’m sorry.” Riz cried. “Peter and I were in a relationship. We’ve been together for a year. He was worried about me getting too serious with the relationship so he dumped me. Later I saw her a few times with Mrs. Lewis. That’s why I went to meet Sheriff Randall when Peter went missing; to tell him about Mrs. Lewis and Peter’s relationship.” Zach shouted in anger “WTF! How can you not tell us that? Even after knowing what we went through; after what we saw. Two people are dead Riz and God knows where is Peter.” “I was scared” Riz cried. “It’s okay” Nida said. “What do we do now?” Sitting outside Riz’s house they were all confused and terrified. Nobody knew what was going to happen next. And that was the time when I entered the story. My name is Glynn Anton. When the trio first saw me, they were sitting outside Riz’s house and I was running towards them, drenched in blood, wounded, almost dead. Nida was the one who saw me first. She called the others and they took me inside the house.

I was in the same school with them but none of them ever knew much about me. Riz remembered my face from somewhere but the rest didn’t even know I exist. I was aided by them. They stayed with me until I was back to my senses. About ten hours later when I opened my eyes they were standing in front of me waiting to know what happened to me. “How are you now?” Riz asked. “I’m fine Riz,” I replied. “You know my name?” Riz asked surprisingly. “I’ve seen you in civics class,” I said. “Glynn Anton. You’re Glynn Anton right? The one with the pet turtle.” “Yeah, that’s me.” I agreed. “Who did this to you? What happened?” asked Nida. “I don’t know. Somebody attacked me from the back on my head. I was down. He just took my phone and wallet.” I replied. “What? That’s it?” asked Zach, surprisingly. “Why? You expected more?” I asked. I started walking away and so did Zach and Nida. Everyone was off to home, when suddenly we heard a gunshot. We ran into the woods to witness the mishap or maybe try and stop it. By the time we reached there it was too late. Another one down. And this time it was the most popular person of the town; the missing Peter Quill. Yes, someone just shot Peter in the heart and now he was dead too. We called the cops. Few days later Sheriff Randall committed suicide in the prison. The whole town was mourning for the loss.

The Summerville High was silent on the deaths of two of its most popular students. Chad’s father wanted to find out who killed his son. He did everything in his power to figure out who committed the crime. Nida was interrogated a dozen times, but she stood at her statement like a rock. She proved to be clean and innocent. Her strong-willed attitude brought her out of the trouble. Riz on the other hand confessed all she knew about Peter and Mrs. Lewis to the police. It was time for me and Zach to do our part. Riz was sent to her grandparent’s while Nida got a scholarship and decided to leave for Australia. We wanted to figure out what exactly happened and between whom? Zach told me everything. And the things I told him were unbelievably shocking. Something nobody ever expected to happen in a town like Hillford. “I saw Mrs. Lewis and Sheriff Randall together.” As I said these words I had all of Zach’s attention. He wanted to know more. But that was it. We went to poor Mrs. Lewis’s house in search of something. And there he was. The guy we were looking for. All the mysteries started unfolding in front of our eyes when we saw the crazy Draco there. The weird Carter Lewis. Just sitting there so calmly with a pen in his hand and a picture of Chad on the wall that had been crossed out. “Carter, what are you doing here?” Zach said. Carter tried running away but we managed to catch him. “So tell us from the beginning,” I ordered. And then he started telling the most horrible story of the Hillford town ever. Carter was Mrs. Lewis’ son. His father left them when he was born. Last month he was out with Peter Quill when he saw Peter’s father Mr. Randall with his mother Mrs. Lewis. Since that day he started hating Peter and his father. He wanted it all to be over. He also talked to his mother about it, but she ignored him.

Then one day in the cafeteria he saw Chad flirting with Nida, and he was raged. He couldn’t stand the sight of Nida being with anybody else. He threatened Chad and the same night Mrs. Lewis met an accident and died. It was Chad’s car. Then he took advantage of the opportunity and placed his own mother’s dead body in Sheriff Randall’s house. Peter was away because he liked Mrs. Lewis too and was upset at the sight of her and his father together. But Carter was still unaware of that. With Sheriff Randall in prison and Peter away it was the best time for Carter to take his revenge on Chad and get away with it. So he followed him to Nida’s house and stabbed him in the back. His life was easy now, but he had no idea that Peter would return after knowing about his father’s arrest. So he decided to talk him into the forest and kill him. He stole Chad’s gun from his car after the accident and shot Peter Quill with it. Eventually Sheriff Randall committed suicide. Carter’s fear made him commit multiple crimes and ruin his life along with several others.


You must be wondering how I know all these things.

I was there too, Thursday 6:45 am outside the school. I know what they saw.

It’s a secret. Would you like to know?

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