Do you hear it? Because I do. It's sobbing. A pained, isolated cry. At first, you think you heard nothing at all. But the more you sit and wait, the more real it becomes. The more distinct, the more demanding. Soon, it'll be all you hear. Soon, you won't hear anything at all.

I let out a breath. The paper rustles as I set it down on the dusted table. The sounds of distant laughter echoes in the halls outside the empty classroom. I inhale. A sharp sound that startles even me. I exhale slowly, attempting to calm my breathing. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. It fails. My breathing starts to sound ragged and desperate, as if I was choking on something. I wish I was. From what I had learned during my freshmen year, once anxiety kicks in, the adrenaline that fills your bloodstream will only continue to flow and circulate and make it even harder to tame your anxiety. Why am I anxious?

It all began 4 days ago, when Anne Marley went missing. Truth be told, I'm not the only one anxious. We all are; parents and students and families and children of Oldemeadow town alike; maybe anxiety is a mild word for it. Here, allow me. We were all terrified. For our lives. For what would happen to the next person in line. For who was next. The words hang in the air, and my head begins to spin. My ragged breathing fills my ears and the classroom, and soon it becomes the only living thing in the sudden emptiness.

The paper rustles again, and I realize I've been scratching at it for a while. Withdrawing my hand with a quick motion, I stare out the window onlooking towards the lake. The water's a dark, never-ending hole in the ground, swallowing the earth into itself little by little. The forest right behind it; Cultis Park, it holds a whole different meaning now. I watch the leaves on the trees rustle against the cold.

The calm before the storm.