I apologize for being gone for so long, I’ve had a hectic couple of weeks, but things are starting to slow down, and I’ve been able to delegate my time more efficiently. This post is an idea that I’ve been working on during the break, and my goal is to post a chapter from it routinely until it’s completed. With that being said, this is Within the Leaves.
Chapter 2 can be found here!
June 4th, 2018. 4:25 P.M. Highland University. Study Room 204.
The camera slowly booted up, the pixels forming into bright pictures. A man showed up on the screen, staring slightly impatiently towards the camera. His hair was dark and his olive skin popped against the white walls and the overhead screen behind him. A young woman stood beside him, looking more cheerful, her smile a welcoming contrast to her companions stoicism.
“You all good, Sam?” the man asked, a deep voice entering the camera’s speakers. He somehow managed to look older than his real age, but still had the lingering features of a teenager in his face. A few days of scruff had formed around his face, and combined with bags under his eyes, he had spent the past couple nights on a computer instead of in a bed.
“Yeah, it’s recording,” a voice said from behind the camera.
“We haven’t even started the damn film, and we’re already having technical issues,” the man on camera sighed.
“It was a dead battery, we’ll be fine, David,” the woman beside him with a voice that calmed like water as it passes through a gentle stream. She gave a smile to the faces off-screen.
She walked over to a laptop on a stand just in front of her. Her fingers danced across the keys in precise movements. As she worked, David took a couple steps forward.
The camera was moved and adjusted, now showing the rest of the study room. Sam walked into frame, taking a seat at the long table in front of David and the unnamed woman. Sam sat amongst two other young men and three women.
“Gemma, could you get the lights please?” David asked. One of the women got up and walked just out of frame, her red hair resembled Autumn leaves at the point just before they fell to the ground. A clicking sound coming from the same direction she walked towards and some of the lights turned off, the cameras momentarily adjusted to the new lighting.
“Thank you, now, Cora, how about you start us off?”
“Gladly,” she cheerfully replied and stood at the front of the room as David took a seat nearby.
“Now, all of you know while we’re here, so I won’t take too much time getting to the point. Starting on October 7th, an internet troll emerged through various social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit, amongst many others, but only three I’ve listed have been stated to be official accounts. Using the username ‘HoldenCauliflower,’ the accounts were used for gaslighting random conversations but were mostly inactive, that was until January 14th, 2018,” Cora clicked a button on the laptop, and a slide emerged on the overhead.
The screen was littered with a variety of social media posts, some with photoshopped images or using derogatory and offensive language. No profile picture was attached to the posts, only a void in its place.
“Starting on January 14th, ‘Holden’ as we’ll call him for the duration of this project, began to target the students, alumni, staff, and administration of Kreese High School.” Cora went to the next slide, revealing a new set of insults. The volume was in much greater quantities this time around. “The posts from this point on were no longer targeted towards strangers but were instead centered on those with relations to Kreese High School between the years of 2012-2016. Anyone enrolled or attending Kreese before or after this time span have not been targeted by Holden.”
This got a few murmurs from the small crowd. It doesn’t take long for the theory bug to sink its teeth into someone and begin the rumor cycle. The voices eventually died out, and Cora started again.
“We’re well aware of how odd it sounds, but we haven’t found any credible leads to point to any targets outside this specific time zone. Regardless, no one paid the account much mind, until the attacks started to become more personal. Holden’s attack’s went from baseless statements to methodical, thought out attacks. He or she was targeting relationships, family issues, anything from drug use to gender identity issues, they were unleashing onto the students and beyond,” Cora explained, stepping away from the computer and taking a place at the front of the classroom. “He went from a simple internet troll to the gatekeeper of this school’s secrets, and he had no reservations about releasing this information.” She looked over her shoulder at David, who stood up from his seat and walked to the computer.
“The school took steps to delete these accounts around the beginning of March, and that worked for a short while, until the night of March 23rd.” David switched to the next slide. It was the screenshot of a local newspaper, The Cadet. It read “Hacker reveals student-teacher relationship at local high school.”
“Obviously, the school was not happy to learn via leaked images about this affair, and on March 24th, Kreese High School filed a police report with Kreese Police Department. Holden didn’t look kindly on this, now taunting the police with his sporadic posts. Holden believed he couldn’t be caught, and he was right. The police hit dead end after dead end, all while being taunted by the very person they were trying to find,” David paused. Everyone in the room what came next. David went to the next slide.
“‘Kreeses’ most prestigious family decimated by new scandal'” David read slowly. “On April 2nd, Holden released his most devastating attack yet. They targeted the Gardeners family, revealing patriarchs Ray Gardeners extramarital affairs and money laundering, the mother, Christine Gardeners, opioid addiction was revealed publicly, and all-star athlete and 4.0 student daughter Elizabeth Gardener was revealed to be Cam girl and had starred in some adult content within the past couple months.” The Gardeners fall from grace was a popular conversation topic.
“This is where things become very interesting. Holden becomes a folk hero at this point to those who aren’t his victims. Ray Gardener was using money to sway politics, so this revelation turned Holden from bully to idol. Elizabeth was viewed as the finest that Kreese had to offer, and her downfall was met with odd joy from the community.”
“It’s also a this point that Holden stopped all communication. On April 3rd, one day after his expose of the Gardeners, Holden released one final tweet. “‘We Are All Holden,” David said. Some of the attendees shifted uncomfortably. Holden said it as if everyone should understand his final message, that it would result in a lightbulb forming over their heads and it would all come together at the moment, but it never did.
“Gemma, could you get the lights for us?” Cora asked, the same smile still on her face. A dark figure stood and walked over to the side of the room, and the lights came on once again.
“We’re all here because we believe that there’s more of this story to be told. Who is Holden? What created the being that Holden became? And where did he or she go?” Cora said as she stood next to David.
“All of you are here because you too want to know these answers. To do that, we will need each and every one of you,” David said, sharing eye contact with everyone in the room.
A silent pause filled the room, nothing but quiet breathing and the squeak of a chair under Sam’s bouncing knee.
David leaned over slowly, “We killed the presentation,” he whispered to Cora.
“Hell yeah we did,” she replied with a prideful smile.
“Alright, does anyone here have any questions regarding Holden or the film we will be producing,” David followed up, having shed the emotionless face and now producing a glowing smile.
A hand rose up slowly from the back. His skin was pink, almost as if he was always sunburnt, and his blond hair was combed back and pushed down with copious amounts of hair product. “Is Holden’s name a reference to ‘The Catcher In the Rye?'” he asked sheepishly.
“A good observation, Luis. For those of you who don’t know Luis, he will be one of our editors alongside Sam, and yes, it’s theorized that the creator of Holden was a fan of The Catcher in the Rye and based this identity on Holden Caulfield. Some of the interactions and mannerisms resemble those of the character from the book,” Cora elaborated.
“Is it possible that it may be two separate people who have taken on the accounts of Holden? It seemed like the style really changed when he began to target the people at Kreese High School,” Sam asked.
“That’s certainly a possibility. At this point, we’re still not completely sure what to expect. Holden has surprised just about everyone at some time or another, so we’re treading with as much credible information we can secure,” she explained.
“Any other questions?” David asked and quickly looked around the study room. “If anything comes to mind, you can Cora or myself. We will be co-leading the project will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.”
“As all of you are aware of, we begin interviews at Kreese High School on June 6th. The school has graciously allowed us to enter school grounds, but we’ve also been limited on what we’re allowed to ask. We’re going to sow the seeds, so to say, we want to make our presence known. David believes our presence alone and the goal of our film to seek the truth will likely cause a re-emergence of this conversation surrounding Holden, and this conversation can be used to our advantage. When people talk to a camera, they’ll say things they never thought they’d reveal,” David explained walking over to the computer and bringing up an overview picture of the high school.
“The goal of our film is the examination of cyberbullying and the use of the internet as a social weapon. We want to find out Holden managed to become this feared, faceless entity without ever revealing their identity, possibly find the source of the being that has become Holden,” he said looking back at the picture.
Cora stood up from her chair, “I’m gonna be completely honest with you; I have no idea what we’re going to find, but I believe that our group can do it’s best to determine the identity of Holden, and bring down this individual and their hold on their community.”
“So,” David said turning back to his colleagues, “we’re it. I say we all introduce ourselves, most of us know each other from school but not everyone has met. From this point we are the Hunting Pack. That’s our codename, because it sounds badass and I suspect Holden has a thing for theatrics, so baiting him with this might encourage some interaction, at least we hope so.”
“We’ll be recording all our meetings as well,” Cora said pointing at the camera stowed away in the corner, “both for footage and accuracy. Any concerns can about recordings can be taken to David or myself, and we’ll try to find a way to make things work. So, let us begin the hunt,” and she flashed that smile once again.
June 4th, 2018. 7:36 P.M. Applebees Bar and Grill. Corner Booth.
“So, you think they’re ready?” Sam asked. Cora and David sat at the rounded table, sipping drinks. Sam acted as a confidant and middleman between Cora and David, and the other members of the group.
“We’ll see,” David answered as he stirred the water around in his cup. He hadn’t touched his food yet, the burger slowly embracing the cold air of the restaurant.
“They’ll do just fine. We went over the applications for weeks,” Cora replied, covering her mouth as she nibbled on her fries.
“The pickings were admittedly slim,” Sam replied with a shrug. Cora shot him a warning gaze. She didn’t need Sam to encourage David’s ability to overthink.
They sat in silence for an uncomfortable period. “So,” Sam said breaking the silence, “who do you think it is?”
“We don’t have much to go on. It’s still an open case, so the police aren’t giving us any information, but they’re also pressuring us to provide any info we encounter during our documentary,” David looked unenthused. “I’m still deciding what we’ll do with that. The individual interviews should help to clarify the kind of individual Holden is.”
Cora interjected, “people act differently when placed in front of a camera. We’re also not authoritative individuals. They’ll be more likely to share more information with us than they would with someone such as the police.”
Sam looked at them with wide eyes. “You two are a little bit on the crazy side, aren’t you?”
“We’re artists, Sammy. Sanity is boring, beauty requires a little madness,” David said. Sam was never able to tell if David was joking or being serious. He chose to laugh either way.
“You’re not allowed to speak for the both of us. We don’t need everyone thinking we’re both odd. I need to keep some respect on my name,” Cora demanded, giggling at the end.
David cracked a small smile at Cora’s cackling. He drummed his hands quickly on the wooden table, “Alright, two days from now we tackle one of the most difficult challenges any of us have encountered. You both ready for this?”
“I was born ready, homie,” Cora replied.
“I suppose so,” Sam said with a shrug, “not like we have much to lose.”
David looked at Sam intensely, “Hopefully, Holden appears to have the ability to dig up information people never thought would come to light. Don’t expect a walk in the park, expect for the dog to bite back.”
“You really know to lighten the tone, don’t ya?” Cora replied taking a sip.
“Alright, I get it. Be careful, tread carefully, all that bullshit, but are you two ready for this?” Sam challenged, locking eyes with David.
He looked back at Sam with that stoic look, with a hint of eagerness lurking in his eyes. “That’s yet to be seen, hasn’t it?”