Mom told me, back in the good old days, kids would get detention for slipping handwritten notes to each other during class. My older sister told me kids would get detention in her classes for texting. The kids my age have gotten in trouble for texting too — but they mostly get in trouble for airdropping.
If you’re not technologically savvy, airdropping is like sending a mass text — except you’re sending a photo and you’re sending it to people outside of your contact list. Whatever picture you choose gets sent to everyone within a certain radius. Everyone.
Kids would airdrop memes in the middle of assemblies, making fun of our principal. Or they would airdrop a snapshot of an important test so everyone in the cafeteria could see the questions ahead of time.
One day, a picture went around of the class bully. It was a black and white yearbook photo. Someone drew red exes through his eyes. They drew blood drops trickling down his cheek and chin.
Nobody thought much of the picture at first. Unfortunately, airdropping was known for bullying. Angry exes would airdrop nude photos of the girls who dumped them. Jocks would airdrop pictures of penises in the locker room. Boys would airdrop photos taken from the second story, looking down girls’ shirts.
That’s all to say, the picture of the bully with bloody red exes wasn’t the worst we’d seen. Not by far.
No one even really talked about it until sixth period. An announcement went out across the school speakers. The principal herself spoke into the screeching microphone. She cleared her throat every few sentences, stumbling through the news that Barry Mulaney, our class bully, had passed away.
There were gasps and shrieks and murmurs about the airdropped photo. A few kids who saved it to their phones showed the principal, just in case it mattered. Just in case there was some kind of murder and the photo was a clue leading to the killer.
It wasn’t a murder, though. Barry died from a car crash. He started the day with spiked orange juice and a joint, drove above the speed limit, and crashed himself into a tree. He was dead by the time the cops showed up.
The school held an assembly in his honor. It didn’t matter that it was supposed to be serious. Some kids airdropped Spongebob and Kermit memes anyway. It didn’t really bother anyone, not even the teachers. Barry was a known bully after all. No one cared about disrespecting his pseudo funeral in the smelly auditorium.
Aside from an RIP sticker plastered to his locker, school went on as usual. Everyone forgot about what happened. They stopped speculating about his death and the bizarre photo sent hours before we heard the news. They stopped caring…
…until someone airdropped a new yearbook photo with exes on the eyes and blood trickling down the cheeks and chin.
This time, the photo was of me.
The whole class shifted in their seats, turning toward me. They waited for me to have some kind of stroke or heart attack, but I flexed my arms and told them I was going to live forever. They laughed and went back to their work.
On the drive home–no one in twelfth grade took the bus–I heard a rattling in my car. My brake light flashed. I tried to switch my foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal, but it clicked against the floor without slowing my speed. The yearbook photo flashed in my mind. The red exes. The blood. Dying up against a tree just like the school bully.
I managed to compose myself enough to use the emergency brake. I skidded to a stop in the middle of the highway but the other cars swerved around me. I had stopped. I had made it out alive.
The police assumed it was an accident with no one to blame — until I showed them the airdropped photo from that morning along with the old airdropped photo of Barry. They reopened the case after talking to me.
It turned out his death was a murder after all.