Flash: Fifteen Minutes

Image from dreamtime (paid for)

Trigger warning: shooter

I hate my life.

My name is Ymir, which means, roughly, Cry Havoc, a suitable Viking name for an Irish lass. I have a lot of things happening in my life. Several of which were happening right now, hence why I hate my life times ten at the moment.

First, school. High School. On a Monday. Morning. First class. History. International history.

Second, something observing the class. Not someone, something.

Death held up a finger to his lips. Teeth. His face was a skull, but I’m so used to people having lips. Was he, it, a person? Or just a concept, a manifestation of a collective energy? Too much thought. I didn’t want to be caught staring off to nowhere again.

I dropped my head down and pressed my lips together, taking Death’s warning to heart but otherwise ignoring where it darkened a corner of the classroom. Ms. Taylor had no patience for my eccentricates. The math and English teachers work hard to meet my IEP, but Ms. Taylor said history showed society had no time for coddling.

“I-mere, tell us about the Battle of the Budge.”

Slouching down in the desk, I tapped my desk with my red pen. Sometimes I just can’t talk and my IEP said I could indicate this by tapping the desk. I did three clear taps, looking at her under my red curls, my chin against my chest, knowing she will take it as defiance, and maybe I wanted her to challenge me. She had mangled my name again. I was used to it. But I’m named after a Norse god.

How hard can it be for her to learn it considering all the geographic and historical names that bounce around in the empty space between her ears?

“Imert Sullivan, if you don’t want to answer at your desk, maybe you can tell us from the front of the room.” She waited until I grudging stood and started heading to the front of the room, before she addressed the rest of the class. “Open to chapter 49, section 5. You should have read chapters 46 to 50 over the weekend.”

We are teenagers. Only the bloodthirsty would have wasted their weekend, now that the snow had melted, reading about World War II, which mean about a third of us sucked the marrow out of those chapters.

I was one of them.

At the board I wrote on the white board in red: 79,258.

“What does that number mean?” the teacher asked after she helped Jason find his place in the book. She paid attention to his IEP for dyscalculia.

I wrote under the number. “Dead.” Underlined it three times, and stared at her through my bangs with my black eyes.

“And where did you come up with that number?” She flipped her asymmetrical Karen cut out of her eyes.

My attention drifted to Death sitting behind her and focused on his hollow orbs. They held proudness in the deep shadows.

The teacher stepped into my line of sight, blocking Death’s vanity, and said, “The causalities were much higher.”

If you included the injured and disabled, sure. But dead in the ground, never to breathe again. Those whose death needed to be sung during those five weeks, 79,258. Death doesn’t break his collection between Allies and Axis no matter how carefully humans keep the numbers separate. I put the cap on the pen and crossed my arms.

“If you are so sure, tell us about it.”

I signed “no”, snapping two fingers down firmly on my thumb. Death doesn’t want me to talk, I will not be talking.

“Fine, I will just mark your participation down today as a zero.”

I shrug and walked back to my desk. If Death was here personally, waiting around, something was about to go down. I hoped it wasn’t one of the kids.

After she turned her attention to another victim, the first notes start forming in the back of my throat.


I would need to harmonize my banshee cry, that means more than one.

I didn’t smell a fire.

My mind went to the most common thing children think of when in school and they know death is visiting. Our classroom is nearest the back staircase. The one with the fire door kids and teachers alike propped open to sneak out for smokes. I signed at Death “shooter?” as small as I could, since finger guns would look really bad in the direction of the teacher.

He raised a hand with five bony digits extended.

Does he mean hold up? Give him five?

Nope, he curled one phalanges unit down.


The second finger curled down quickly after the first.

Music filled my head. I could feel my vocal cords warming up. Four songs.

The most I ever sung. Too many, especially with all the notes so short and sweet. Even with the brief songs I will be at it for nearly a quarter hour.

I can’t imagine how long it would take to sing 79,258 dead.

Death closed his hand into a fist when a senior recently expelled, dressed in camo and carrying a StG-44 and a Colt M1911 as backup, slammed through the door, kicking it close behind him. As a banshee, I can feel the wails still associated with these weapons. Someone had plucked them from a battlefield as souvenirs.


“Down, down!” the man demands.

I dive behind the metal cabinet the teacher has at the back of the room, grateful I don’t have to sing yet as none of the kids about to die are leaders. Jason, bless him, jumps in front of Ms. Taylor and dies first. She will live, but the bullets from the assault rifle leave her a red mess, Jason’s blood spray plastering her short hair against her head as she drops screaming.

Melissa and Angie managed to hide their cell phones from Ms. Taylor. She never challenged the straight-A class president and her best friend too hard, and their unconfiscated phones send out texts alerting the school of the danger. Jason Edgar, we call him Eggie to help differentiate between the six Jasons in our sophomore year, is crawling to the fire extinguisher.

No, no. I know your song. Don’t do it.

I wanted to ask you out on a date when I turn sixteen next month. You are brave and nice. Smart and protective.

I curl into a ball as the rifle goes off again. The weapon adds wails twenty-six and twenty-seven to its noise.

Silence cuts the noise into sobs.

Only one song left to learn.

It slides between options, like the end of the weapon moving between targets. A trill for timid Chloe. A light scat for Jelani. A run up and down the scale for Genesis who would never transition.

Genesis’ song gets stronger. The shooter has a special hate for them.

No. no. Only one song is acceptable among those around me this day. A growl rumbles deep in my chest. I tap a hand against my leg setting a beat while slowly rising behind the filing cabinet.

Melissa and Angie look at me as if I am crazy.

I am.

Banshees always are.

If not to start, at least by the end.

Stepping into view, I let the wail tear out from my throat even as shooter shifts his weapon from Genesis to me.

Too late motherfucker.

The sound hits dead center. And by dead, I see Death grab the senior’s face and pull his essence from his body. I duck sideways, still singing, as the assault rifle sprays the wall behind me when the trigger is set off one last time.

I don’t stop singing, I can’t.

But I sign to Angie to get everyone out. Now. Both hands dropped firmly, thumbs and little fingers out.

Listening to banshees sing is a quick way to crazy.

We are not immune to our own songs. Ask my grandma. Someone has to hear and understand what we sing, if only ourselves. The life and hopes and dreams cut short.

They move.

Leaving me with four bodies and an unconscious, bleeding teacher.

I’m singing Eggie’s ballad, he loved his country music to the depths of his soul, when the EMTs arrive with earplugs. They get Ms. Taylor out with the police’s help. Then they wait.

Not the EMTs, but the police and the ones with the black bags to zip around four children whose lives I could lament in less than fifteen minutes.

Death leaves as the last note escapes me, cutting my strings. An officer, a werewolf by the scent, catches me before I hit the ground. The school councilor closes on my right side, pulling me into her arms as I shake, crying silently.

It’s hard to hold back. To not make sound, but the magic is still too close. I must remain silent.

I hate my life.

(words 1,487, first published 11/21/2023)

Ymir’s Songs series

  1. Fifteen Minutes (10/09/2022)
  2. Song for Rosalyn (11/26/2023)