21 Sep No Name November
“No Name November”Written by T.J. Lea Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on CreepypastaStories.com are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 12 minutes
“Sorry, new kid, but you’re last in today so you’re our candidate this year!” The kid in front of our classroom door relaying this to me looked a mixture of pity and relief, his nose taped over and a black eye, an immediate standout feature. I was later told his name was Frank and the damage was a result of a fight with a kid in the grade above us for calling his mom a slut. He didn’t make eye contact with me directly, instead drawing his attention to my shirt, a Legend of Zelda fan art piece adorning the center.
“Man, this sucks…we could have been friends!” The slight hurt in his voice was not even remotely close to how shut-out I was already feeling. First day in a new school, desperate for a fresh start and doing my best to make a good impression, totally out the window.
“This doesn’t seem fair.” I protested, knowing this may just be an elaborate prank on the new girl, I wasn’t about to deal with being a joke on day one. “Look, let me introduce myself, my name is Zoe Hartw–”
He shook his head, some of his friends seated in the class behind him leaning forward, genuine shock rippling across their faces as if I’d bitten the head off of a small animal.
“No, this isn’t how it works, new kid. This isn’t just a class thing, it’s a community thing.” He looked back hesitantly and the class nodded, no semblance of glee or cruelty on their face. I daresay for a bunch of 12-year-olds they were downright forlorn at the prospect. He sighed and continued. “Our town has this every November and the rules are simple; the last one into a community function is No Name for the month.” He leans in and speaks quietly “Just bear with it and we’ll be friends afterwards, okay? I’m sorry, I really am…”
With that, he takes his seat and I shuffled into the room, a sea of completely apathetic faces staring straight ahead. I’d made an effort to look my best self in spite of a new environment, hoping it would make a good first impression, but instead of being invited to speak by the teacher, the room fell silent until I sat down at the back, next to a fogged over window and a small supply cupboard. I was in disbelief that the teacher joined in on it, not glancing in my direction or checking her register to see if I was present. Even after the bell rang and we went to recess or lunch, I was a non-entity. People didn’t walk through me or shove me out of the way, but they didn’t go out of their way to assist me if I fell over or give me alternative food when I brought up that my file says I have a deathly allergy to peanuts.
Every fiber of me wanted to cry, to scream that I was desperate to be acknowledged and that I wouldn’t hurt anyone, but I choked back the emotions piling up in my throat, slung my bag over my shoulder and resolved to just read or play some video-games on my recess if this is how it was going to be. Different schools, different traditions, same bullshit.
My parents had jobs in the journalism industry and moving around for promotions or alternative contracts was their forté; by the time I was nearly 13 I had moved to five different schools and I’d become accustomed to the changes. Most kids become jaded and try not to make connections with others, knowing they’ll just be gone in a year or less anyway. But I had this innate desire to connect with people and make the most of my situation, I couldn’t help myself. That’s what made this so much harder.
I probably would have caved in after day two if Phil hadn’t shown up.
It was the beginning of what already felt like a lifelong routine. I sat down at my desk and began to let my mind wander, focusing on what I’d enjoy playing when I got home, making some comfort food and joining my mom at the gym after so I didn’t feel gross. I idly doodled a sketch of me holding the master sword high, a bolt of lightning striking at the hilt and electrifying me in a comical fashion.
“Ha, that’s awesome dude! What’s your favorite game in the series? I’d say mine’s the newest one, my mom got it for me last Christmas but I haven’t had a chance to play in a while…” The jubilant voice cut through the air as if a firecracker had been let off by my ear, his positivity irradiating through me and borderline making me jump out of my seat with excitement and confusion.
Startled at the notion of someone talking to me, I snap my pencil and the entire room freezes. The boys at the front next to Frankie turn to him and whisper, the slightest of side glances in my direction and they shake their heads at the both of us before turning back.
I turn to look at him and I see a mess of spiky black hair, a dusty red flannel shirt with sleeves underneath, the sweatshirt logo a Dark Souls reference. He looks like a kid completely out of time, but very comfortable in himself. He smiles at me and seems to be waiting for my reply, but for that brief moment words had failed me.
“Uh…T-Twilight Princess,” I stammer, my hands fumbling over one another. “I…I really like the dark plot and Midna is so…so cool…” I’m confused, but the joy of conversation overtakes me and I decide that if I’m going to be ignored for tradition’s sake, I may as well get it over with now. “I’m Zoe, by the way, Zoe Hartwell.”
But instead of being repulsed, his eyes light up. He beams at me, offering out a hand adorned with various faded concert tags and festival markers.
“I’m Phil Fawlty, good to meet you, man!”
He gives me a fist bump before leaning back on his chair, the hinges squeak as he puts the rubber of his pencil to his lips, tapping it contemplatively as he studies me. The lesson around us seems to continue without any notice of our discussion.
“You’re the new No Name, aren’t you?” He says after a few moments. My face sags and I feel the inevitable rejection imminently approaching.
“Yeah, I guess you don’t wanna be friends now, huh?” I say, my body language matching my face as I hunch over my work, preparing to just draw silently for the rest of the day, a friendship dead on arrival.
To my surprise, he leans forward with a satisfying thump and turns towards me, still smiling.
“Nah, I was the No Name last year, I know how it goes.” He declares almost matter of factly, the positivity refusing to leave his voice once.
“But…Frank and his friends said that this is tradition…” I replied, nudging my head towards him as he took notes from the class. He didn’t seem like a nasty kid so much as just one caught up doing what was asked of him. Phil made an audible acknowledgment before turning back to me.
“Well he’s not wrong, this IS tradition. But…well, I always wished I had a friend throughout that shit and I guess I just wanna do it for you, y’know?” I immediately felt more comfortable around him, and the more he spoke, the bolder I felt.
“Won’t they, like, cast you out again permanently or beat you up?”
He laughed, shaking his head.
“Nah, nothing like that! But even if there were punishments, it wouldn’t matter. I’m not really all that acknowledged around here lately anyway. So, no harm done!” he patted my shoulder before the bell rang and the class shuffled out for lunch. I saw a chance to bond and decided I had nothing to lose.
“Phil, I brought lunch from home since the stuff here I’m allergic to, wanna split it and play some Animal Crossing?”
He smiled so sincerely, nodding silently as I grabbed my stuff before heading for the door.
“What happens if you eat the food here? Does your head swell up and burst?” He asked, imitating the sound of a popping balloon with blood chunks spraying everywhere, I laughed for the first time since I got to this town.
“Nah, nothing like that, I just choke and die without an EpiPen. Come on, let’s go, I’ll even let you visit my town if you promise not to dig holes in the garden?” I say, teasing him with a jovial grin.
“I wouldn’t dream of it! There’s never anything good to find in secret holes anyway.” He dryly replies before shoving me and laughing at his own terrible joke.
The next two weeks were comparable bliss to those first few days, while the rest of the class refused to acknowledge me and even some store attendants around town would only take my money and nothing more, I felt it to be tolerable with Phil by my side. He’d show me around the school and tell me all the best hiding spots, sharing legends I was 99% certain he made up to impress me, but I didn’t care. He made me feel like I mattered and it was something I steadily realized very few people had done in my life to that point. I took it to heart and made a point to ask my parents and my older brother in college about their days, spend more time with them and learn things I’d have never thought to ask before.
As we reached the end of the month, I’d decided to make him a drawing of the two of us hanging out in a treehouse filled with treasures and weapons. Some days before, he’d confessed Adventure Time was one of his favorite shows to me and how much he missed it since he didn’t get cable anymore. As the final days of No Name November were in sight, I was determined to show my gratitude to him and remind him we were best friends after this was over too, even if that meant he was stuck with me.
I made my way down the hall, I was running late thanks to a doctor’s appointment and the silence was as unsettling as the details you often ignore when your mind is occupied by conversations, drama, and the walk to your next lesson. Now, I was conscious of the echo my footsteps made, the tributes to someone on the walls across the lockers, flowers and spikes covering one person’s locker further down the hall from my room. I decided I’d take a look later on and maybe Phil could shed some light on what happened.
I came into the sound of utter silence, the entire group already deep in reading time and the teacher herself perusing what looked like an Edgar Allen Poe novel; I sheepishly made my way to the back where Phil sat, his back against the supply closet and anxiety painted across his face.
“Dude, what’s wrong? Did the girl you like look in your direction? Dork.” I said, playfully punching him and smiling, something he did not reciprocate. In the years following this, I have never seen such a paradoxical expression. He was anxious, miserable and accepting all at once, as if each face was jostling for the spotlight on his face and he was powerless to control which one came out. He flashed me a smile before a grimace replaced it, his knee twitching incessantly.
“Zoe…I’m leaving today. I’m being transferred.” He looked so ashamed of himself, but didn’t break his eye contact with me. “I knew from the moment we spoke that I’d be leaving at the end of the month, but I wanted so…SO badly to stay with you and be friends that I…I just…” his eyes welled up and he sniffed, wiping them with his sleeve. “I’m sorry, I was being selfish. I just didn’t want you to think I’d abandoned you when everyone else is still ignoring you.”
I didn’t know how to respond, I wanted to yell at him for keeping it from me, to slap him even.
But I knew how important this last day was and I took a deep breath before flexing my fingers on the table in front of me, grabbing my textbook and putting the drawing I made on his desk. The tension in his body ceased as he held it up and stared at it. For a moment, I couldn’t see his face but I could hear him whimpering. He held it to his chest and with his eyes closed simply said “Thank you, Zoe.”
We spent that final day making terrible jokes at each other’s expense, making plans to stay in touch that we knew we could never truly keep, and sharing a hug that lasted a little bit too long, his arm draped over my shoulders as we sat in the hall and waited out the last few minutes before the final period.
“I meant to ask, I saw something in the halls and it looked like there was a kind of tribute on one of the lockers? What’s that all about?” I asked, knowing I’d probably forget if the school really did start talking to me soon after.
“Oh, that? That’s my locker.” He said, matter-of-factly, twirling his spikes with his free hand.
“They heard I was leaving and I guess they wanted to give me a good send-off. Pretty sweet, right? I’ve come a long way from the kid in the crawl space!” He laughed heartily and I chuckled, not sure what he meant and assuming it was an embarrassing time in his life, not wishing to pry.
The bell rang and we made our way to the door, everyone else had already shuffled in as we lingered outside, preferring to go in once the class had settled.
“If you don’t mind, Zoe, I’m gonna dip here.” He said, the positivity now with an air of reluctance. “I’m not big on goodbyes and I don’t want the class to sing me out, don’t need anyone seeing me in tears as their last memory!”
I felt my heart sink, but I nodded and wrapped my arms around him.
“You will always be my best friend, Phil. No matter what else happens. ok?!” I said through muffled sobs, he chuckled.
“I know, you too. And hey, if you ever need to be reminded of me, you can just go to my hiding spot, you’ll always be able to think of me that way!” He took me by the shoulders and wiped the tears away, kissing my forehead. I felt a surge of butterflies as he smiled at me. “Check the crawlspace, you’ll know what you’re looking for. You’ve got a bright future ahead of you, Zo. Just make sure you’re never here studying alone, ok? You never know what kind of weirdos will try their luck and you’re too cool to end up with one of them.” He flashed me a grin before backing off and running down the hallway, turning the corner and disappearing from my life once and for all.
I took a few moments to recompose myself before going back into the class to the sound of thunderous applause and smiles. Every student that I would have once described as a grey shell of apathy now all full of their own vibrant colors. Freckles and curly hair jutting out at me, accents and body types I was oblivious to before now suddenly became immediately obvious. At the front, the teacher and Frank stood with smiles on their faces, Frank outstretching a hand that I took on autopilot.
“Congrats, Zoe. You made it to the end of No Name November and you didn’t crack once! You’re officially a member of the community now.” He leaned in closer. “And I’m honestly so sorry about this, I really did..uhh…do want to be your friend, you know? I hope I can make it up to you!”
I looked at them with such confusion, happy but utterly bewildered by the display they’d put on.
“This is…this is great and I’m glad we can all talk now. But…isn’t this for Phil?”
The room’s atmosphere changed in an instant, some students looked at me with terror while others looked away. One girl began to tremble as her friend held her. Frank went pale and looked at me with a look I couldn’t immediately place.
“Zoe, where did you hear that name?”
I half-laughed, the prank obviously still not over.
“Dude, his locker is adorned outside and he told me himself he was leaving. I assumed that’s what all this was for?” I waved my arms around the room, laughing. The room felt so cold as the teacher stood up, shaking as she approached me, kneeling down to my level and speaking in a low voice with an ungodly amount of severity.
“Zoe, this is really important. Where did you hear all this?”
I felt immediately on edge, I was obviously old enough to know something was wrong and I wasn’t the type to lie.
“If Phil is in trouble for skipping, I don’t wanna be the one to get him into crap before he starts his new school…” I began, her eyes widening as she motioned me to go outside with Frank, instructing the rest of the class to stay in there as we spoke outside. I could see Frank shaking, holding back tears as the teacher tried to calm him.
“Zoe, that locker isn’t for Phil leaving, he went missing a year ago.” Frank’s voice was trembling and his composure was rapidly failing him. “He…he’s my brother. I don’t know what happened to him, but if you know anything…anything at all Zoe…please…”
I never heard the register being called out in class, so I never noticed the last name.
My knees felt weak.
I never looked at the posters adorning the locker rooms that said “MISSING SINCE 2010”.
My stomach turned over and every emotion was turning into bile.
I never inspected the locker that was covered in tributes from classmates and teachers.
My vision began to blur as I leaned against the locker and began breathing heavily, the teacher trying to keep me calm as Frank looked on, confused but distraught.
“Supply closet. Crawlspace…” I breathed over and over as I felt my body give out and the sounds of rushing filled my ears before a series of frantic bangs, screaming and alarms rang out to black.
Phil had gone missing during his own nomination of No Name November. He’d been silently working away for the first couple of weeks, walking home with his little brother Frank every day while their mom was working a double shift to pay the bills. One day, he simply didn’t meet Frank to walk home and it took Frank nearly 12 hours to report his brother missing due to his mother’s second job working nights at the bar.
I was cleared very quickly of any suspicion since I had only come into the state a month prior and I wasn’t mentally able to deal with the conversation of Phil not being real. They chalked it up to hearing from someone else at school and launched an investigation. This of course yielded nothing.
Phil had been stuffed into a crawl-space behind the supply closet in the class, they still don’t know how he got there or if someone put him there. Rumors spread that he’d simply fallen asleep and gotten stuck, I wanted so badly to believe them and so did everyone else.
But the look of abject horror on his mummified face, half caved-in skull and tear marks on his trademark flannel betrayed that theory entirely.
I moved schools again soon after and went a few miles south to an all-girls school; socializing became something I struggled massively at, but Frankie helped with that.
Understanding one another’s grief brought us close and inevitably we ended up together, now looking at starting a family of our own in this town that still carries on the tradition of No Name November.
I think about Phil’s fate a lot, how someone who was forgotten by the town at the age of 13 was able to successfully vanish overnight.
I think about how powerful a name and an identity can be to someone in a world where it’s so easy to slip under the cracks through your own volition or someone else’s.
And as I look over at a sea of unmarked graves in my town, I think about how lucky I am to have had someone like Phil guiding me.
To ensure I survived my own No Name November.
To ensure I wasn’t forgotten too.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None AvailableCraig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A