The girl looked up from her book and stood slowly from where she was sitting and gazed intently at the library doors. The world was muffled and distant through her headphones, but even so, she could tell something was not quite right. She could hear loud shrieking coming from outside of the library. Not the usual delighted shrieking and thudding of feet in the hallways from when outgoing girls were teased or chased by the overconfident guys flirting with them. This was different. This shrieking was inspired by actual raw fear. And it was that palpable note of fear, not the noise itself, that caught everyone's attention in the library. All around her, a ripple of unease and uncertainty spread as everyone stopped to listen to the commotion coming from outside the closed door. The sudden startled hush in the library was paired with disjointed movements as students ceased their conversations and reflexively moved to protect themselves.

What's going on? Is this really happening? Are you hearing what I'm hearing?

Scared uncertain eyes searched for confirmation from one another as the noise got louder and closer, when the sharp reports of two quick gunshots were heard, heralding true unbridled chaos. The girl watched the scene unfold in front of her with disbelief as the people around her full out started screaming and running in blind panic. An athletic-looking boy with spiked sandy hair dove under a table muttering a steady stream of obscenities as if chanting prayers on a rosary. Two younger girls in brightly colored miniskirts clung to each other desperately. One was sobbing very loudly in jagged hiccups while the other was murmuring "Oh God, oh God, oh God, Omigod, oh God…" with rising pitch, intensity, and hysteria. The girl recognized a bookish student from her English class pressed next to a bookcase frantically punching numbers into his cell phone. A plump woman in high heels curled up into a fetal position behind the book counter and rocked back and forth with her head buried in her arms. The girl remained a single focal point of stillness in the room as she stood by her chair in awe, hand gently resting on the worn wooden surface of the table. It wasn't that she was frozen in a panicked state and unable to move. She simply did not experience the urgent self-preserving anxiety motivating everyone else in their tumult. Instead, she felt a strange glow of detached curiosity mixed with dread. Her forehead was faintly creased with uneasy anticipation as she continued to intently watch the library doors.

This isn't a sanctuary anymore, the girl thought illogically. There's no talking allowed in the library. Or screaming for that matter.

Her lips parted slightly as the doors to the library crashed open with a resolute bang. Two boys made a dramatic entrance brandishing impressive-looking guns, causing all the students in the library to panic even more, if that were at all possible. Some people screamed even louder, while others fell completely silent, either out of utter shock or the desperate desire to go unnoticed. One girl with cheerleader's lungs cowered in the corner of the room screaming continuously. The girl wished that she would stop screaming; her voice was shrill and grating. The girl solemnly stared at the two young men in the doorway and realized that she recognized one of them.

"Are you fuckers ready to die today?" sneered the pale boy wearing an army jacket that was too big for his wiry frame. He had a shock of platinum blond hair and a pinched face, his eyes obscured by dark glasses. He took a few slow deliberate steps into the library, lazily trailing his gun around the room and smiling sardonically as people shrank away from him. The sensation of absolute power was exhilarating, and he savored the adrenaline coursing through his veins. He never felt more alive in his entire life. "Who wants to be first?" he asked mockingly. Nobody dared to breathe. Except the cheerleader still screaming in the corner. Everyone stared at him in petrified horror. "What, no takers?" he taunted.

The girl wasn't paying attention to him. Her eyes drifted to the figure behind him: his quieter companion still grimly standing in the doorway. John, the girl thought automatically, putting a name to a face. Then incredulously, John? Really, is that you? He looked like John, with his medium height and build, slight slouch, inky black hair, neat attire, and aura of aloof indifference. She couldn't see his eyes though, covered by the sunglasses he was wearing indoors. But still, she knew indubitably that it was him.

The girl's eyes shifted from John to the red liquid slowly trickling into sight through the open doorway. The realness of a solid metal bullet entered her consciousness, filling her body with a frigid tingling sensation. She had trouble pulling her gaze away from the blood slowly seeping from the hallway in its magnetically vivid color and significance.

That's too much. You can't lose that much. Put it back. The girl was hypnotized by the sight of the blood and involuntarily imagined what getting shot and collapsing would look like. Thud, dead. No, put it back. The girl was unable to stop the calm nonsensical thoughts rhythmically marching through her head. Put it back. Thud, dead. No, no, stop looking. Thud, dead.

"How about you?" the blond boy suddenly whirled and pointed his gun at a pretty petite girl cowering underneath a desk. He laughed harshly when her face went pale and she started stuttering and begging for her life, and casually pulled the trigger. She fell backwards with a gasp and her body sank against the table leg. Multiple students from other areas of the room involuntarily gasped and squeaked with horror, many witnessing death for the first time in their lives. Thud, dead, the girl thought involuntarily. No, no, stop thinking. Thud, dead. She had difficulty reconciling the image of the girl before and the girl after. Her head shouldn't be at that angle. Put it back.

John entered the room behind the blond boy, gazing impassively at the dead girl on the floor. He then turned to face the cheerleader hiding in the corner of the room who still hadn't stopped screaming. He raised a finger to her lips, almost as if in a tender gesture, and murmured, "Shhh," before shooting her through the head with a single shot. She instantly crumpled to the floor and the room was heavy with a sudden punctuated silence.

"Finally, some peace and quiet in here!" the blond boy declared rolling his eyes. "You should be thanking us!" He giggled, pleased at his own hilarity. He haphazardly pointed his gun at three random people hiding under tables and shot them all, cleanly, and with precision. The girl heard a muffled terrified sob from behind one of the bookcases. The sandy-haired boy who had just been shot looked disbelievingly down at his chest which was oozing too much blood as he started to slump over. His mouth formed words as he tried to speak but could not.

John and the blond boy split up and wandered around the room, and started methodically shooting people behind book cases and hiding underneath tables, with callous efficiency. The quiet was short lived. Some people were killed instantly, but others were not, and started to moan and breathe laboriously. The girl did not move from where she was standing. She felt as if she was floating outside of herself, watching dispassionately from afar.

There was a commotion from the corner of the room as a heavy-set boy with curly hair shot out from under a table and tried to tackle the pale boy from behind.

"What the FUCK?" the pale gunman growled as they went crashing into a bookcase. Several dusty books from the top shelves toppled and fell onto their heads in a loud thumping clatter.

"Fuck you!" the curly-haired boy sobbed, desperately punching the gunman and trying to wrestle the gun from his grasp. "You can't…you can't just go around shooting people like that!"

"I can do whatever the hell I want to, now get the hell off of me before I blow your brains out!" the gunman growled venomously as they grappled fiercely with each other. "Yo John, some help over here please!"

John turned from the mousey girl that he was just about to shoot who had already fainted in fear, and looked up. "Of course," he said agreeably, and shot the curly-haired boy with casual accuracy. The girl flinched involuntarily. The curly-haired boy fell backwards with a wail, and the pale gunman stood up and brushed himself off. He looked down at the fallen boy and shot him resolutely two more times, and looked wildly around the room.

"Don't anyone try to start shit with me again," he warned, his voice low and dangerous. "You start shit with me, you end up like him. Do you hear me!" The pale gunman's eyes gleamed maniacally, his lip swollen and face scratched and bloody. He gave the dead boy who attacked him a final cruel kick, and moved on.

He's just a baby, he was scared, but he was trying to be brave. Put him back, the girl thought uselessly. All around her, the killing continued.

"What do you want from me?" the librarian's voice sobbed from behind the desk. "Please, just tell me, I'll do anything you want! What do you want from me?"

"Nothing," John said, and shot her twice, quickly, silencing her pleading.

John turned from the dead librarian and faced the girl straight on. He can see me! He actually sees me! she thought incredulously. The girl suddenly realized in her daze that she wasn't actually floating invisibly about like a puff of transparent ectoplasm. She was still standing there, next to her chair, hand resting gently on the smooth worn wooden surface of the table. She was the only person in the room who wasn't hiding, the only one blatantly out in the open. This plain fact startled the girl, because she was so used to being invisible, unnoticed, unremarkable. And yet, here was John, standing in front of her. She couldn't see his eyes, but she knew that he was staring straight at her, considering her. Oh, she thought, here I am. The girl watched with detached wonderment as John pointed the muzzle of his gun at her, and time for her seemed to stretch and pause. She looked at the metallic blackness of the gun and then up at the face of the boy that she barely knew, his eyes hidden by sunglasses. And here you are. She sighed slightly. The girl removed her headphones and placed them on the table. She took a slow careful step towards him.

"You can see me," the girl said in amazement, stating the obvious.

"Yes, I can see you, Rheia," he affirmed gently, from behind the barrel of his gun.

"Hello, John," she murmured, gazing at him candidly, her warm brown eyes clear and unafraid. She took another step towards him.

"Hi, Rheia," he said quietly, "Are you ready to die today?" He didn't ask this question mockingly, as his pale companion had earlier. He asked her this thoughtfully, as if it was the most important question in the entire world. The girl considered his question carefully as she continued to look up at him, her head cocked slightly to one side.

"Yes," she answered truthfully, the answer startling even herself. But she knew at once that she meant it, the waves of muted melancholy crashing hollowly inside of her. Although the girl wasn't suicidal, she did not feel the slightest sense of loss or sadness at the idea of her life being terminated. "Yes, I am," she repeated with disarming simplicity, "Are you ready to shoot me today?" The girl continued to walk towards him as if in a trance, a dreamy wistful smile gracing her lips, until the muzzle of the gun was almost brushing her chest.

"What are you doing Rheia?" John asked calmly, a trace of guarded amusement in his voice.

The girl slowly lifted her right hand and lightly touched the tips of her fingers to his face, the probability of imminent death making her uncharacteristically bold. He had a slight stubble along his jaw line, and it was rough against her fingers. Physical contact, she thought. He's a real person.

"What are you doing, Rheia?" John repeated dangerously, the amusement gone. His voice was calm and deliberate, but held an undercurrent of icy warning. He stood completely motionless under the girl's light touch; his only reaction was to roughly increase pressure of his gun muzzle against her ribcage.

The girl heard another muffled shriek in the background as someone else was shot, but the sound barely registered in her mind. She felt the metal of the gun firmly and painfully pressed against her chest, but she ignored it and stood on the tips of her toes. The girl lifted the sunglasses off of his face with both hands, and shifted them carefully so that they rested on top of his head.

"Now, I can see you too," she said with a small smile, looking candidly into his frosty light green eyes. She didn't flinch as she felt the full force of the chill in his gaze, absorbing it into the blank loneliness inside of her. John furrowed his brow slightly as he considered the girl standing before him, ephemeral and serene amidst the cries of pain and terror, the bloodshed that he and his friend were inflicting. Objectively, she looked plain and unremarkable, with her straight brown hair, dark brown eyes, tank top and jeans. But somehow in that moment, her fragile mortal body glowed with a radiant otherworldliness. The girl saw the smallest hint of sad affection flash across his face before vanishing, and it warmed her.

"Is that all?" John asked almost kindly, the slight amusement back in his voice. He tightened his finger on the trigger.

"Yes," the girl whispered. Her eyes held a forlorn wistful glow. But her smile was brilliant and real. She trusted him, and did not feel any distress for what she knew was about to happen.

John nodded, accepting her answer. He gazed down at her, serious and solemn. "Very well, then. Goodbye Rheia." Their eyes locked, coldness and emptiness blurring and understanding one another.

"What the fuck is going on over there?" the blond boy shouted from halfway across the room as he stalked over, causing both John and the girl to look up, startled. "That weird bitch is causing trouble isn't she," he growled.

There was that sharp noise that had become so familiar over the course of mere minutes, and the girl felt the force of a small strong impact against her chest, causing her to fall backwards.

I'm shot, the girl thought matter-of-factly. She had seen the blond boy swiftly point his gun at her with methodical precision and squeeze the trigger, completing in an instant the action John had started minutes ago. She had felt the hard bullet hit her body. She suddenly felt cold, and her brain told her that she was falling. I'm shot, she thought in calm shock, her mind spinning like a carousel, churning the same thoughts over and over. I'm shot. It was a curious sensation, because the girl was already expecting to be shot and was ready for it, but the impact came from somewhere else just a moment before, throwing her off-kilter. I'm falling, I'm shot, I'm falling. The girl was used to being in complete command of her body, treading gracefully in the shadows, arranging her face carefully to mask her emotions, so she found it disconcerting when her body refused to stay upright. I'm falling, I'm falling. It was an unfamiliar sensation of utter insurmountable helplessness. She felt her disobedient body fall backwards and waited for the inevitable impact.

John looked down at the girl in surprise as he reflexively caught her crumpled body, which suddenly fell against him. He was still holding his gun. I didn't do this. I didn't shoot her. I didn't, he thought, perplexed for a moment. His finger was still resting on the trigger, and yet here the girl lay already bleeding in his arms. He looked up at his companion, realization sinking in, and nodded slightly.

"The bitch need another?" the pale boy asked, gesturing with his gun.

John looked down at the girl's pale face as she gazed at him wonderingly, without judgment, without regret. A continuous stream of blood trickled from the corner of her parted lips, stark and red across her cold and now deathly white skin. Even more blood flowed freely from the bullet wound in her chest. He tightened his grip on her damaged body to keep her from slipping to the ground as she shivered violently.

The girl saw John's face hovering over her in sharp focus, assessing her, a trace of resigned weariness in his otherwise neutral green eyes. She hurt. She felt inexplicably cold, but the warm liquid blood flowing out of her chest warmed her skin briefly before dripping to the floor. The girl wished that she could stop shaking and take a deep breath. Breathing was painful, and she gasped for air in quick shallow breaths. The girl felt scared by the unfamiliarity of her body. She couldn't see or feel anything except John, looking down at her tiredly, gripping her firmly as she futilely tried to stop trembling so hard.

"John?" she whispered uncertainly.

The girl unnerved him. Death usually didn't bother him. He shot people and watched them fall without revulsion, only a mild sense of callous curiosity. But this was different. This death was stiflingly close against his chest, invading his nostrils with its rusty scent, shaking perilously in his arms, staring starkly into his soul. She can see me, he suddenly realized, feeling uncharacteristically shaken and exposed.

"I hurt," the girl breathed to herself in amazement, as if awestruck by this epiphany. She felt, through her numbness. It was pain, but she felt alive.

"I know, Rheia," he murmured softly. John experienced a strange mixture of apology, of compassion, of weariness, seeping through his ordinary indifference as he felt the girl's dark blood starting to soak his shirt. He tore his eyes away from the girl's dying gaze, and looked back at his companion who was watching him from across the room, still waiting for a response.

"Well, does she?" John's companion asked impatiently, getting ready to fire another shot.

"No," John said quietly. "No, I think she's all right."

"Then leave the broad, and let's get on with it!" the pale boy said, gesturing at the students who were still cowering from their hiding places, watching the scene with a morbid fascination.

John nodded curtly. "Yes, of course."

He knelt down and carefully lowered the girl to the floor, meeting her clear trusting gaze with his own, troubled but uncompromising. The girl wished that she had the strength to tell him that it was okay, that she understood. John pulled his supporting arm out from under her, and the girl cringed at the cold hardness of the tile floor behind her back. She continued to shiver feebly. Her vision was starting to dim at the edges as she found it more and more difficult to breathe, but she could still see his calm almost-caring face hovering over her. She willed her stiff numb fingers to move, and brushed his hand clumsily.

"Don't go," the girl breathed, barely audible. "Sorry I bled on you."

John's mouth curved into a wry bittersweet half-grin. He gave her cold fingers a brief tight squeeze.

"It's all right," he said. The girl tried hard to smile back, but she was only dimly aware of her body now, with its coldness and its pain, and all she could manage was a slight upward twitch of her lips. John watched over the girl with the somber but compassionate reassurance befitting an Angel of Death, and lightly touched his lips to her forehead, as if sending her off. "Goodbye Rheia," he softly repeated as her head turned lifelessly to the side and her cheek touched the floor.

John stood up briskly, drenched in the girl's dark blood, and put his sunglasses back on. He nodded to his friend and carefully stepped over the girl's body without hesitation, gun in hand. "Okay," he said, his quiet voice hard and emotionless. "Let's go."