There was a kid named Noah in my sixth-grade class who was a bit of a strange case.
To begin with, he was really charismatic. He was one of those guys who generated all of the energy in a room - although we were all obviously pretty young, he still managed to earn the respect of the teachers. He quickly became star of the junior basketball team, and if I recall correctly his grades were really good too. I was jealous, obviously, me being one of the weirdos in the corner with his game boy and glasses. I was a bit surprised when he approached me one day at lunch. I don't recall ever having spoken to him before that, but what really weirded me out was the question he asked.
"Have you noticed anyone acting...strange?"
Noah looked shaken - he was pale, and his normally well-kept black hair was in a bit of a shambles. He bit his lip, not at all reassured, and left. I carried on with my lunch, and adjusted my glasses a lot for the next few minutes. Bits of gray kept edging at the corners of my sight. In retrospect, I probably delivered that line a little bluntly. I was surprised, that's all. What was Noah doing talking to me? I was still rolling that question over in my mind when he approached me again.
A bit taken aback, I asked him why. Noah just shook his head.
"People keep saying things. They slip words into their speech, calling me stupid, saying that I'll never amount to anything. Then they insist that they never said it. It's starting to freak me out, and I'm coming to you because you've never done anything like that." I frown in disbelief. "Nobody's saying anything like that, everyone likes you as much as ever."
Noah paled. "Forever?," he almost whimpered, and confusion flitted across my face. I never said forever, I said ever.
"You're hearing things," I added firmly. He backed up slowly, the other kids in the classroom ignoring the whole scene. Then he left the classroom - ran to the office or something, I guess. I notice something weird about his shadow - it's gray, and flickered away the second I caught a glimpse of it. I guess the lighting was weird. At this point I was concerned, so I filled out one of those anonymous bully slips saying that Noah was starting to act weird. He was called out of class by the school psychologist the next day, and I knew that she'd be able to handle it. She had been one of the few non-useless adults at my school. She stopped bullies that were messing with my best friend, so I was confident that she could help Noah with his...issues.
Everything was okay then for a while, after that. Noah was looking better, smiling more. Getting back to his normal self. It didn't last. A couple of weeks after, I was walking by the office on my way back from the washroom only to hear Noah screaming at the top of his lungs. The psychologist looked flustered, and I hovered by the door, captured by morbid curiosity. Not ten seconds later Noah opened the door.
"Stop it! You're not helping, STOP IT!"
Then he turned and quite nearly stepped back into the office, and shrieked in my direction.
I opened my mouth, and tried to tell him to calm down.
I told him he was a worthless little shit and that nobody had ever liked him, they'd just liked the sports games he had won and the influence he had. Now that he didn't have either of those, he was nothing.
Noah looked at me - no, beyond me, rather. He yelled something else incomprehensible before running down the hall, the school psychologist and another teacher in pursuit. I stood and watched as the realization of what I had just done crawled over me. Nobody noticed, nobody talked to me about it. It was between me and Noah, and the gray thing I knew was behind me. The last time I heard about him was on the radio - he'd been institutionalized. Noah had killed his mother by stabbing her in the throat with a pen when, according to his father, she'd been telling him that she loved him and that she would always be there, no matter what anyone said.