Sam’s Creek High School. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last two years, the name probably makes the hair on your arms stand up. As it should.
Have you ever faced death? Been seconds, milliseconds away? I have. You’ve heard my story before, on the news—read it in the papers, maybe, if you still read the papers. I’m the one who survived. I’m the one who was in the room with Danny Alvarez when he took his own life.
This is my story.
Once that bullet flew through Danny’s head—in one ear, out the other, I like to tell people—the rest of the day was a blur to me. I was questioned for a while, released, and I went to bed early. When I woke up, I wasn’t even sure that it hadn’t all been a dream. The memories already felt a bit hazy. But sure enough, as I stumbled into the living room, my mother was sobbing as she watched the news. When she saw me, she ran to me. Hugged me. Again. She’d done a lot of that the day before, too. I looked over her shoulder, and sure enough, Danny’s face was plastered on the screen: TROUBLED TEEN KILLS 82 AT SAM’S CREEK, THEN SELF.
The deadliest shooting in U.S. history, they say.
Look, the media got some things wrong. About Danny, I mean. Yes, he was a bit troubled—he’d had a bad breakup with his girlfriend a couple weeks before. He came from a single-parent home; his mom worked two jobs and his family lived mostly on welfare. He experimented with weed and drank regularly. His wasn’t the ideal situation, but then again, whose is?
Where the media went wrong was their search for his influences, his motive. I was very young in 1999, but I’ve heard they ran through the same song and dance after the Columbine shooting. Was it violent video games? Bullies? Marilyn Manson? What—or who—can we blame?
Nobody could blame his ex-girlfriend, even though by all accounts she was a grade-A bitch to him, for she was numbered among the dead. Nobody could blame video games—he didn’t even own a console. Danny listened to Coldplay, had a tight-knit group of friends, and went to church. All his journals, school assignments, notes…nothing indicated this was coming. Nothing about it made sense. Every new boogeyman the media came up with, from gun control to the Taken films, felt hollow and empty. People were so desperately searching for explanations, and they were searching in vain. But the answer was right there in front of them.
Danny didn’t do it.
I guess you could say this is my confession. But to any law enforcement agencies reading this, keep those cuffs on your belt. You’ll never find me.
I thought I was fine with Danny getting all the credit for this shit. I’m not. Not at all. That sniveling idiot barely even had the guts to blow his own brains out, to say nothing of 82 other people.
Like I said—this is my story.
I fired the first shot at 8:16. It went right through a janitor’s head. Edgar whatever-the-hell.
That’s where the fun stuff starts. And don’t worry, we’ll get there! I just want to tell you a little bit about me first, because I got a lot of air time after the shooting, and I’ve got to be honest—I don’t like the way I came off. I looked like such a little pussy, whimpering to Anderson Cooper about how I was sure I was going to die, how I begged for my life, how the look in Danny’s eyes changed from rage to exhausted despair right before he turned the gun on himself and evacuated his brain onto the wall.
It’s what Anderson wanted to hear. It’s what America wanted to hear. But it’s not what I wanted to say, not about that moment, the crown jewel of my masterpiece.
But like I said, we’ll get there.
The truth is, I did think I was going to die when I walked into Sam’s Creek that day, even if I wasn’t overly concerned about it. As far as I’m concerned, there are things far less fun than dying. I mean, if you’re dead, you don’t even know you’re dead, right? There’s no “you” left to know. I wasn’t scared to die, exactly—I just wanted to make a mark before I left.
See, when those kids shot up Columbine all those years ago, they didn’t intend to commit a “school shooting.” Not a lot of people know this, but they actually tried to blow the whole place up. It failed spectacularly, of course, but if their plan had worked, the body count would probably have reached a thousand. They only started shooting when it became apparent their bombs wouldn’t go off.
There’s a whole subculture on the internet that idolizes Eric and Dylan, the Columbine killers. I’m not part of it. I couldn’t give less of a fuck about those two kids. I’m not even overly interested in the gory details of the shooting—what really fascinates me is how people reacted to it. Eric and Dylan would have been mortified to know that they killed so few of their classmates that day, that they were relegated to the common status of school shooters. They aimed to be so much more. But what they didn’t realize is that there’s nothing scarier to be. Bombs are effective, yes, but so unrelatable. They’re too far removed from the humanity they wipe out.
To stalk through the halls of a school, however—looking your victims, your peers, in the eyes as you rob them of their life—now that’s cold. That’s a headline that sticks with you.
And to be honest, that’s all I wanted. To get into people’s heads. To make them afraid to send their kids to school. To make them afraid of even having kids.
You’re probably asking yourself why.
The answer is simple: because I hate you.
If you’re reading this, I hate you. Know that. If you’re not reading this, I hate you too. If you’re already dead, if you haven’t yet been born, I hate the idea of you.
It must be hard for you, to comprehend people like me. To believe that we exist. People who don’t “love,” who aren’t “grateful,” who laugh in the face of “virtue.” But guess what? You’re stupid. You live, you rot, and you die, usually in that order, and you dumbasses spend most of your time trying to make sense out of it when there’s no sense to be made. I spend most of my time just trying to conceal how much I hate you all, and I’ve got to be straight with you—it’s pretty fun sometimes. Deceiving. Inveigling. Obfuscating. You people fall for any lie.
I was a straight-A student. A good athlete. Hell, I was a goddamn Eagle Scout. And I did it all so that when I stole shit, when I burned things down, when I killed cats and dogs and finally people, nobody would suspect me. Every last bit of it was a trick.
This—right here—this is the most honest I’ve ever been.
And I’m only doing it so I can hurt you all some more.
School started at 7:45, but I didn’t bother showing up until around 8:10. I pulled my old Malibu into the seniors’ parking lot…I was only a junior, but that didn’t matter today. This was the closest lot to the front entrance, and I couldn’t afford to spend time walking around the outside of the school, risking detection.
I looked a bit suspicious, I have to admit. A knee-length black winter coat, a ski mask, black gloves, two handguns in my pockets and a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle slung around my back. Yeah, it was in my best interest to be out in the open for as little time as possible.
I hung in my car for a little bit—rocked out to Breaking Benjamin’s “Into the Nothing.” Always liked that jam, and it seemed like a fitting “last song” for my life.
Watch—now Breaking Benjamin’s going to get blamed for the shooting.
Fuck that. Don’t blame the music I listen to, don’t blame the movies I watch, don’t dissect the emotional effect of that one time I played Call of Duty. That shit had nothing to do with this. If you’re looking for something to blame, how about this: blame me. Show my picture on the news, and let suburban moms shit in their yoga pants when they see my face, grinning like a boy scout and fooling the fuck out of every last one of you.
Parents won’t trust their own kids anymore. Good. They shouldn’t.
The song came to a close, and I turned the ignition off. I pulled the ski mask over my face and stepped out of my vehicle. No cars passed while I walked across the front lawn into the school. As I stepped onto the sidewalk path, I looked up at the security camera mounted to the front of the school. I flipped it the bird, knowing full well those cameras hadn’t worked in years.
I took one deep breath of fresh outside air, feeling quite sure it would be my last, then pushed open the door and stepped inside. Edgar whatever-the-hell had some headphones in, his back turned to me, and was mopping the front hallway floor. But before I get to him, let me just point out one more way in which you people are just intolerably stupid. Kids shoot up schools all the damn time. It’s a “national crisis,” as the politicians like to say when they exploit tragedies for votes and good PR. And yet…nobody’s doing anything to make the places safer. They’ve even got rules telling teachers to keep their kids huddled up in the classrooms instead of running for their lives (you’re about to see how well that shit works). I’m serious, you guys—you should probably get on this. After all of these well-publicized shootings…it is incredible what you can bring into a school. I carried three guns, one slung around my back, and a fucking hand grenade. I was dressed about as suspiciously as humanly possible. And I just…walked in.
So on second thought, I guess you can blame yourselves a bit too.
I strode up to Edgar, still jamming to his tunes, his back turned to me. I looked at the clock in the front hallway.
I didn’t bother to put a silencer on any of my guns—I wanted people to hear. To be afraid. After the first gunshot, I saw a secretary standing just outside the front office wheel around and gape at me, paralyzed with terror. I threw her a wave and walked quickly toward the classrooms. I turned the corner and saw a freshman girl stepping out of a bathroom, looking around nervously. She’d likely heard the noise, but didn’t know what it was.
“Hey!” I shouted at her. “Get back to class!”
She screamed as I shot her twice in the back. I stepped over her body on my way into Mr. Jasper’s classroom—Room 34, for those of you who watched the news. I could hear her crying softly over my footfalls. She didn’t make it, by the way.
By this point, a few people had started to figure out what was going on. Mr. Jasper’s class, a bunch of juniors studying Honors Lit, was feeling pretty panicked when I stormed into the room. One kid had stood up, perhaps to lock the door. I took aim and shot him in the head as he wheeled around.
It was bedlam. Everyone started screaming. I wasted no time and no bullets. I shot the girl closest to me in the spine. She’s the chick in the wheelchair that 60 Minutes did that special on a few months back. I hit Mr. Jasper three times in the chest, spraying red on the white board behind him.
Screaming. Sobbing. Begging. I have to admit, it’s a bit crazy watching everyone suddenly become so interested in life. Kind of inspiring, actually. If you acted like that all the time, maybe I wouldn’t hate you so much.
I’m pretty sure wheelchair chick is the only one who made it out of Room 34. It took me less than two minutes to beat the Columbine kids. Most people, I took down with one shot to the head. One kid stayed alive, screaming through what was left of his jaw. I aimed my gun at his head, then lowered it. No way would he make it. Might as well leave him to think about it for a bit. I was right, by the way—dude choked on his own blood. Jordan Barker. Went to elementary school with him. Kind of a bastard.
Oh, conveniently, Danny Alvarez’s girlfriend was one of the kids I offed in that first room. What are the fucking chances of that?
Room 32 was next door. The handle, of course, was locked. I could hear students crying and whimpering inside. I shot the handle and walked in. All the students were gathered on the far wall of the classroom, some standing, some crouching, with absolutely nothing to protect them. Even I was surprised they could be so stupid. The classroom had a ground-floor window, for god’s sake.
I think it was around then that somebody pulled a fire alarm. It only added to the chaos.
I started shooting immediately. My goal was at least 100, and I probably only had about ten minutes. Some cops would be in here before too long, of that I was sure.
No time to waste.
Blood was spraying from the people I’d already hit onto the people I hadn’t yet. I could hear some gurgling sounds over the fire alarm. One blond kid, who was either a football player or should have been, charged at me from the huddle of students, and I have to admit—that caught me off guard a bit. He got within five feet of me. I shot his fucking teeth out. I could see globs of brain sliding through his gaping jaw as he fell to his knees.
I felt the tiniest pang of guilt at that one, actually. Because I had some respect for the kid. While everyone else just cowered, trying to shield themselves with the bodies of their classmates, this guy took action. You know what would have happened if the rest of the kids had done what he did? They would have stopped me. I’d probably kill a couple of them, sure, but 35 people rushing you from close range, trying to take you down at any cost…no way do I come out of that alive.
Just something to think about, you know, for the next time.
I thought I’d killed everyone in room 32. Apparently three kids made it out by playing dead. Good for you—you earned it. Enjoy being disfigured, partially paralyzed, and half-retarded for the rest of your lives.
As I walked out of room 32, I saw three kids sprinting down the hall. I fired as they turned the corner—I figured I’d missed them all, but I’d actually caught one of the kids in the liver. He died a couple days later. What a shot!
I heard a noise coming from room 34, where I’d been earlier. I poked my head inside—just the jawless kid moaning, the sole member of a haunted choir. But holy fuck, it stank in there. I’d literally been gone for two or three minutes and the smell was already just unbelievable. I’m pretty sure most of the kids had shat their pants, either before or after they died. Pools of blood were congealing in the carpet; chunks of brain matter and skull were strewn around. It was humid as hell. I can’t say I found it as horrific as you would have, but I almost felt bad for the cleanup crew.
The sound of sirens wrenched my fascinated eyes from the scene. I didn’t have much time. I took a deep breath of fresh air from the hallway outside—I figured it would be one of my last—and sprinted toward another cluster of classrooms. I pumped a few rounds through the library window, taking careful aim at the students hiding under the desks. I shot open another classroom door and pulled the pin of my hand grenade. I waited just a second, then I flung it at a large group of terrified students. I recognized several faces.
The screams started instantly, then stopped just as quickly. I flew from the room as the grenade went off. The force from the blast still knocked me over. Onto my hands and knees. I think it killed eleven…or was it twelve? I poked my head in to check out the carnage—did not disappoint, by the way—before I moved along.
I could hear commotion outside the building—the police were here. It was only a matter of time before they entered the school. I scrambled to my feet and sprinted through the halls aimlessly for a minute, not sure how I wanted to spend my final seconds on earth. Shooting at cops, probably, even though I was sure I’d get fucking wasted. And that would be embarrassing. Better to go out on my own terms.
I stood for a moment, thinking about that. Now that death was imminent, it didn’t sound quite as fun. I was genuinely having a good time and was not overly keen for it to end. But I was too deep in shit by this point. A bit sadly, I accepted that my time would come in the next five minutes. It’s a lot easier to be cavalier about extinction when it’s off in the distance.
Finally, I decided to try some more classrooms. The lights were off in many of them—I could tell by looking at the cracks underneath the doors. That pissed me off, the level of underestimation. Oh, let’s turn the light off, he’ll never see us then! I tried one of the handles. It was open.
There were only two students in there. They had apparently been walking in the hallway when the shooting started, and both retreated into this empty classroom. One of them was a freshman girl, Allie Rasmussen. She was cowered against the far wall, holding hands with a boy, one who was built just like me.
I ripped my ski mask off. They eyed me, silently, in horror.
Allie began to hyperventilate. I held my finger to my lips.
“Sh-sh-shhh,” I said soothingly, as though she were a fussy baby. “If you both do exactly what I say, neither of you will get hurt.”
I was pretty sure that was a lie, but I was still formulating my plan. I had to force myself to even consider it—there was no way, no way, that this could work. Was there?
I trained my gun on Danny for about ten seconds. Then, I’d thought enough. It was definitely worth a shot.
“Let go of each other,” I whispered. “Alright, dude, step away from her.”
Once Danny was out of reach of any resulting blood spray, I shot Allie in the forehead. I could hear the bullet clatter against the overhead projector behind her.
Danny got ready to scream, but I aimed my gun at his kneecap. That shut him up.
“Did you know her?” I whispered. He shook his head.
“Then what’s the problem?”
I moved quickly, a bit closer to Danny, at a different angle so neither of us could be seen from the classroom window.
“Listen, kid. You’ve got two choices here. You can either do everything I say and walk out of this place with nothing more than a few mental scars, or you can die a death far more painful than your friend here. This is completely up to you. What’s it going to be?”
“Number…the first, the first one,” he squeaked.
“Good. Take off your clothes.”
“Did I fucking stutter? Your jeans, your shirt, your shoes. Go.”
He looked bewildered, but he did it. As he took his clothes off, so did I. Both of us stood there in our boxers (his had a damp spot on the crotch) and socks. I was still wearing my left glove.
“Kick them over to me,” I whispered.
He realized what I was doing. He knew my plan. He started to cry. I walked right up to him and pressed the gun barrel firmly against his kneecap. He winced, but didn’t seem to dare move.
“Do you have any idea what this is going to feel like, kid?” I said, laughing. “Imagine someone pounding a railroad spike through your bone. A white-hot railroad spike. You’ll never walk again, that I can promise you.”
I threw my clothes over to him, including my right glove, and he was still sobbing. But you better believe he put them on. I slammed the ski mask over his head, mussed up his hair in it, then wrenched it off and threw it on the ground, in Allie’s direction.
“What’s your name?” I asked him as I clipped one of my guns to his belt.
“D…Danny,” he sputtered through tears.
“Well, Danny, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re going to die today.”
He moaned. “But…but you said…”
“I know what I said, but you were pretty dumb to trust me. Still, you do have a choice here. You can do what I say and die quickly and painlessly. You won’t even know it happened. Like falling asleep. Or…” my voice trailed off as I pressed the barrel of the handgun against his dick.
He started begging through waves of snot. I pressed the gun harder and told him to shut the fuck up or I’d shoot. I wouldn’t have, actually. Not in his dick. That’s gross. But he shut up all the same.
I took a step back from him. “Alright, buddy. This is going to take some serious balls, but I think you can do it.” I walked around the room, near Allie’s lifeless body, careful not to step in the growing dark puddle beneath her head, still training my gun on Danny with my gloved hand. “Pick up the rifle and shoot yourself in the head.”
His eyes went wide.
“Dude, I’m serious. If you don’t kill yourself, I’ll kill you, and that’s going to be a lot worse.”
He took a step away from the table where the rifle lay. I was running out of time.
“C’mon, kid. Don’t think about it. Don’t freak yourself out. Do you want this to be over? Then pick it up and fucking do it!” I whispered harshly. I could hear faint footsteps down the hall. Probably a SWAT team. Shit.
I took a step toward him, training my gun between his legs. “I’m going to blow your cock off in five seconds, Danny. Four. A bullet right through your testicles, does that sound fun? Three. Do it now…”
At five, he looked panicked. At four, he steeled himself. By the time I’d gotten to two, Danny had blown his brains out.
I’ve always fancied myself persuasive, but…holy shit.
I didn’t have much time. That gunshot echoed through the room—I could barely hear anything. Surely someone was on their way over by now. I scrambled over to Danny’s body and jammed my handgun into his belt and my left glove onto his hand. Blood was pouring like mad from both his ears, and one of his eyes bulged comically from its socket. Some bloody grey stuff leaked slowly from his nose.
I ran back to a corner of the room and crouched behind a cabinet. I could see Allie staring right at me with cold, dead eyes. Then I realized I’d forgotten something. Was it worth the risk?
Without thinking, I pounced to my feet and grabbed a square of paper towel from near the white board. I grabbed Allie’s hand—which one was it? Right. Danny was holding her right hand. I rubbed it vigorously with the paper towel, then held her hand myself. As if it had been me in the room with her, both of us comforting each other and terrified beyond belief. I wasn’t sure how thoroughly they’d bother fingerprinting the scene, but it was too big a risk to take.
I pocketed the paper towel, clambered back to my hiding spot behind the cabinet, and waited.
The SWAT team arrived about twenty seconds later.
It wasn’t very hard to shake and cry as they rescued me from the room—that was some nerve-wracking shit. I was believable as hell.
Every time I woke up for weeks after that, I was sure police officers would be standing over me, that the jig would be up, that they’d have found something I’d overlooked. And every day I’d think of new things, pieces of evidence I hadn’t had time to take care of, things that could have ended all my fun right there. But they never did.
I pulled it off. Not only did I make Danny Alvarez kill himself, I made him kill eighty-two other people. To this day, I still chuckle when I think about it. Wow. Just…wow.
I did my police interviews, my television spots. My story was always the same. I was a bit late to school that day, so I was walking through the hallway to my first class when the shooting started. A girl was walking near me. Both of us heard the shooting and fled into the nearest classroom, which happened to be empty. We turned off the lights and ran to the far edge of the room, away from the door. She was shaking, so I held her hand. I asked her name. She said Allie. We didn’t talk other than that, though. We were there for a few minutes before we could hear footsteps outside. We breathed as quietly as we could, but then Allie let out a sob. She couldn’t help it. She clapped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late. Danny had burst into the room. He ordered me to step away from Allie, then shot her in the head. Then he trained the gun on me.
It was always around this point in the story that I stamped an expression of wonder and gratitude on my face, because this was the part where Danny lowered his gun. This was the part where he made eye contact with me and began to cry. I had no idea what triggered it. I couldn’t even offer a guess. He was mumbling to himself—I couldn’t make out what he was saying. Then he shot himself and I hid, in case there was more than one shooter in the school, until I was rescued.
Everyone believed it. And why wouldn’t they? Who in their right mind would think it’s possible for someone to go on a mass shooting spree…and then pin it on someone else? I didn’t even think it could be done. Until I did it, of course.
The hubbub, as it does, died down. I and a few other students involved—mostly the cripples—became minor celebrities in the community. One newspaper even called me “the boy who lived,” perhaps in an effort to persuade Harry Potter-loving millennials to read the newspaper again. Then, after graduation, I moved out and bounced around the country a bit, directionless.
Nobody’s heard from me in months. One day, I bumped into a guy a bit older than myself. His beard was heavier than mine, but otherwise we looked quite a bit alike. We got to talking, and I learned that he was also on the road, nowhere near home. Didn’t really have a home, actually. Estranged from his family. Seemed like a nice guy.
I killed him brutally.
Now, I’m him. It won’t last forever—I’m not a dead ringer for the picture on his license, but I’ve made it this far. Got an apartment. A job. I’ve even enrolled in college, and I don’t think I’ll tell you where.
Yep, that’s right—I’m going back to school! I start in the fall. I’m really, really excited. I haven’t been in a couple years; I guess I just needed a break. Someone actually shot up my old school, don’t you know? It was a pretty traumatic experience. The deadliest shooting in U.S. history, they say.