Ecila in Normalland - Chapter 2: This Is Madness
Ecila in Normalland
A Whateley Tale
with help from trusting, Diane Castle, and Bek D. Corbin
Chapter 2: THIS IS MADNESS
After lunch, I headed to my next class. I admit it, when the student counselor had told me that this high school had a martial arts course, I think I might have drooled a little.
How freaking AWESOME is that! No boring old P.E. class for me, no awkward stinky gym clothes, noooo sir! They were going to teach me to be a Bruce Lee! I was going to learn DEATH GRIPS and how to break stacks of bricks with brain bullets forged of pure will power! To turn the lights off halfway across the room with a punch that made the air quiver like a fat man in front of a McDonalds! Oh man oh man I wonder if they teach ninjitsu here. It wouldn’t have surprised me in the least, this school was so great! I was going to learn how to be a ninja and dash around in shadows, and… and go like “nin nin nin!” before I stab someone in the back with my exploding death palm strikes! I wonder how soon it’d be before they’d teach me the exploding death palm strike… I wonder if they’ll teach me how to hadouken!
So, yah, I TOTALLY signed up for the Basic Martial Arts class the moment I heard of it. If there was one way to prove I hadn’t lost my masculinity to myself, this was the place.
There’s no way I was going to pass up the chance to learn kung fu at a school where they train people with super powers! Hey, if I couldn’t have super strength, fly, or shoot laser beams from my butt, I was going to learn how to throw around people who could! Batman was all about the training, after all. I could live with being a god damned Batman.
Nearly skipping in my step I made my way towards the locker room attached to the gymnasium the class was held in, and I grinned to myself a little more.
Judging from what I was told about this class in my schedule, we were to change into a gi in the locker room and be waiting on the mat in the gymnasium itself for the class to start.
There was a perk to my situation right there that I was looking forward to taking full advantage of, and if you’d told me back at my old school that I’d have been regarding the chance to go to a place like this in a positive light, I would have called you a madman. Locker rooms! More specifically, the GIRLS’ locker room. The boys’ locker room I would not miss. I might be stuck forever with the body of the girl approximation of my old body, but it didn’t seem to have changed the way I thought of, nor had it affected how I adored the female body in the slightest. Sure, the plumbing and building had changed, but I was the same occupant! Take away my red mustang and make me drive a pink Mazda Miata, but damn it all I was the same driver behind the wheel!
Once I found myself standing before the imposing entrance to the locker room, I felt my bravado failing me. My hand hesitated at the door, and I gave it a little experimental push.
Hm, nothing had jumped out of the shadows to beat me down viciously for trespassing in forbidden places yet. Nervously, I pushed it open a little more, and peeked inside.
Still no righteously deserved thrashings for daring to cross the threshold! Swallowing down my fear, I clutched by backpack tight and stole inside.
Disappointingly, the girls’ changing room wasn’t all that different from the boys’. Somehow I’d expect it to be a little more… I don’t know… sexy. Or pink. With the scent of roses in the air, and fancy lockers of gilded bronze. There hadn’t been nearly as much giggling, or booby grabbing as my pubescent male fantasies had led me to believe, either.
Awkwardly I made my way towards an empty locker, accidentally brushing past a few women that, while not completely naked, were still wearing enough (well not enough really) clothes where I think if I had my old gear little Josh would have been standing at attention and giving them the full 21 guns salute. There were times lately where I came to appreciate not having an obvious and somewhat embarrassing flag on my crotch that popped up to alert everyone looking that I was having dirty thoughts.
Not that a bunch of amazingly hot girls in scantily states of dress were anything to scoff at. Not that THESE girls were anything to scoff at in any state of dress, because some of them went beyond my normal standard gauge of what was hot and ventured into new territories of hotness and sexy that were like comparing bicycles and Ferraris. I think if I’d actually cared about my body as it was in comparison to my fellow females, I’d have been insanely jealous of some of the bodies these other kids had! Sure, a good amount looked relatively normal, but the rest… Looking around (inconspicuously) I had to wonder, were they all really my age, or had they been held back like 5 years for causing far too many involuntary wet daydreams in the panting male populace of the school? Even the girl who looked like a naga was gorgeous. Nineteen feet of giant python topped by the torso and head of a hot girl who was covered in scales, but way too built to be my age.
A quick glance towards the back of the locker room told me that the showers were empty at the moment, which made sense. Who’s going to shower before a workout, right? I couldn’t help a goofy grin imagining coming back in here after a rousing hour of sharpening my body into a tool of unstoppable destruction and awesome to come back and share a shower with some of these ladies.
I stole another secretive glance past my shoulder, eyes widening at the porn star body on the perfectly tan skinned girl with the blackest hair I’d ever seen, and she was right next to me, currently putting on a clean white t-shirt over a tightly fitting sports bra without even using her hands. The clothes just kinda pulled on all by themselves. She moved like a cat! A big sexy kung fu cat putting on a gi with crazy magic!
Maybe having my body savagely forced into womanhood wasn’t going to be as dreadful as I’d initially thought, especially if I was going to get free peep shows like this! Then again, the downside was that I couldn’t do anything about it… I’d gone from having the appetite and the fork to eat and no food, to being forced to watch a parade of steak dinners from behind a window.
Oddly I found my attention straying to a few small books the girl next to me had stashed in her locker, Asian writing on it of some kind… it looked like manga?
Just then, she looked at me with the sharpest, deepest chestnut brown eyes I’d ever seen.
I swallowed hard, and faced forwards as fast as I could, feeling like a soldier that had just snapped to attention.
Nonchalant. Think nonchalant!
Wondering if I’d been caught oogling things I knew I shouldn’t have been, I tried recall if the rules in the women’s locker room were anything like the rules in the men’s. That is, you don’t look around in the men’s locker room. You don’t really acknowledge anyone else, if you can help it, it was much like using the urinals. Jeebus, I didn’t even know the rules in here! Oh gods, were there telepaths here? Could they read my thoughts?
A small laugh caught my attention, and I found she was smiling at me when I tentatively peeked back around the edge of my open locker door.
Helling hell, she was even more gorgeous when she was looking at you! She looked ravishing, her features gorgeously feminine with a feline lilt to them, and with an exotic mix of something Hispanic, or Latino, or whatever it was, and something else that I desperately wish I could put my finger on (over and over). Her hair was long, styled to be wavy, and raven black, her bosom near face level with my current height, or just under my chin and ample the way we think of gods as big!
Then, she said something that turned my guts to ice. Something that turned any joy I could have garnered from my position into terrible innards-twisting fear.
“Don’t worry, yours will grow in one day, too. Promise.”
I looked back, a crooked, awkward smile on my mouth when I realized she thought I was just… jealous, or something, and felt myself hugging my possessed backpack to my chest, suddenly self conscious. “O-oh, you think so?”
“Oh sure.” She observed with a wink. “You’re a growing girl. It’s just most of the girls in this place grow a lot faster than others… you know, normally do.” Pausing to eye me over, she smirked. “You’re a bit mousy, aren’t you? You remind me of an old roomie.”
“Eh-heh…” I turned my attention back to my locker, hoping she wouldn’t continue the conversation about my development, and got the gi I’d purchased at the student store out of my backpack.
“Hey, you’re the new girl, right? My name’s Rachael.”
I found myself stuttering. “J-Josie. I’m Josie.”
I then froze.
This was not the gi I’d purchased at the student store.
My first thoughts, as I slowly withdrew the yellow gi with the black stripes down the sides could be summarized simply as “Awesome!”
For ONCE things had gone my way! I wasn’t sure how Schroedinger had done it, but he must have been bored while napping in my backpack all day and decided he’d upgrade my stuff! When he’d been fooling around with my textbooks back at my old school I’d been freaked out, but this was a totally different matter! This was just what I was hoping for, too! I was going to so fit in, now!
“Thanks so much, Schroedinger!” I whispered into the backpack, which purred contently back at me and I rushed to dress myself in the newly colored gi, and sling the backpack the cat was stashed in over one shoulder so I could bring him into class with me. I was fairly certain no demons were allowed on the mat, but I thought I could just set him off against a wall to watch, there was no way I was locking a space cat in my locker for an hour. What if it had to get out for walkies? It could trash the whole place! “I’ll get you like a dozen dinners for this, this is the greatest thing you’ve ever done! A gazillion blessings on you!”
“Curse that cat!” I hissed in a whisper.
My face was hot with shame as I sat down amongst the row of students all wearing clean white gis. I could feel their gaze on me, and distinctly heard a few people snickering down the way. I’m not sure why I thought they’d all be wearing different, fancy gi’s, all spiffed out or whatever. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that not a single student here was wearing a cobra-kai uniform. There were more than a few snide comments thrown my way, in hushed whispers the words “new kid” uttered over and over like an insult, but the second the teacher walked onto the mat they all died down.
The squat little Asian man that was apparently the instructor here had a small smile of amusement as well, and he didn’t have a problem singling me out. “Ms. Gillman. I appreciate your enthusiasm, but in the future, I would appreciate it more if you came to class wearing the same gi as everyone else. I understand that you are new, and joining us late in the semester, however that only means you must try all the harder to catch up. Also, you should see about procuring an MID card and codename as quickly as possible. The new class roster I received did not provide you with one.”
Some more laughter broke out amongst the class, and I dipped my head down to avoid making eye contact with any of them. This was not initially going as great as I imagined it would.
His voice was gentle though, and I thought maybe he wasn’t trying to make fun of my little error in judgment. I might have to stash my fighting clothes somewhere else from now on, where Schroedinger couldn’t fiddle with them.
“Since you are new, Ms. Gillman, and so enthusiastic to show off, I wonder if you can describe to me, approximately, what level of experience you have in the martial arts?”
I looked back at him feeling my expression turn blank. “Ah, experience?”
He smiled gently. “Yes, if you would.”
Feeling a bit flushed, and certain everyone was staring at me still, I confessed in a small voice. “Well, not a LOT, I… I just thought I’d join because the priest said I had to take either this or some survival class, and this sounded, I don’t know, really… cool…?” What the heck, I was supposed to know some coming in? Isn’t that what the class was for, to teach me to kick ass?
“Ah, I see.” I felt his attention intent on me, and he continued, “Perhaps you could demonstrate whatever you do know, so I might better assess your skill level. Please stand and wait on the line of tape in the sparring circle.”
I immediately noticed that the strip of tape being referenced in the nearly perfect circle was one of two, one exactly three millimeters shorter than the other and 6 degrees short of being perfectly parallel to the other. For some reason that bugged me a little.
He looked down the rows of students as I got up to comply, feeling a little more humiliated than I thought I would have, walking up in front of them all in bright yellow and black, glasses still on my face.
God, I looked like a complete dork! There was no way they were going to teach me the exploding palm trick NOW!
“Hm. Less than Three.” The possible mathematical composition of the phrase caught my attention, but it turned out to be the code name of one of the kids in class. “Please stand up and join Ms. Gillman in the circle, would you?” He looked at me. “You may use any powers you feel would help you, please don’t feel shy showing us everything you can do, it will help me in deciding how best to instruct you. Keep the strikes below the face, though, and above the groin.” He then turned to ‘Less than Three’, and I looked down to see an adorable little blonde kid in curls who was even shorter than I was, wearing a smart pair of goggles. She looked kind of like a Shirley Temple playing the part of Daniel-san in the Karate Kid movie. “Less than Three, in this match, please do not use any of your devices.”
“Hai, thenthei Ito!” she said so primly, though with an adorable lisp, that I felt the urge to mimic her and repeated it shortly after, somewhat sloppily, and without the lisp.
“Very well. Take your stances, and… begin.” He made a chopping hand motion in the air, and the adorable little curly haired girl suddenly snapped into a trained fighting stance that had me drawing back in a jerk.
I looked down hesitantly at her, weakly raising my hands in a vague mirror of her stance. Wait, I was supposed to hit this little kid? I can’t hit a girl! I especially can’t hit a small, defenseless little-
My line of thought was abruptly interrupted as the tiny ball of cute had suddenly stepped towards me, grabbed my outstretched hand, turned, and flipped me across her back and onto the mat so hard that I felt the wind leave my lungs in one impact.
I lay gaping up at the ceiling for several seconds with my glasses on crooked before my breath finally returned, and I gasped meekly, rolling on my side. To make matters worse, the cute little girl knelt by me and patted my shoulder, looking concerned. Which was just peachy. There was nothing I liked better than having my ass handed to me by a ten year old, who then promptly pitied me just after. I didn’t even really care so much that the whole class had been snickering at me, and I tried to concentrate only on getting back to my own two feet.
Sensei Ito looked disappointed in me, his face creased in a slight frown, his hands folded behind his back. “Ah. I see we will have to start you out on the very basics… very well. It is easier to build a house from the ground up than to have to wreck one and create it from the scraps. Everyone else, please take a partner and begin sparring. Ms. Gillman, I believe some basic physical exercises and perhaps practice in a few stances would serve you best for, now.”
Basic physical exercise, it turned out, was like taking a whole week of P.E. back at the old school all in one hour. Compared to the rest of the class who were all sparring, jumping ten feet in the air, flying, pulling out crazy psychic swords and teddy bears with laser beams (the little kid I sparred with apparently had a few tricks up her sleeves) during matches with one another, I felt I’d somehow gotten stuck in the remedial corner, as occasionally the teacher or the lady instructor teaching would come over, show me an exercise they wanted me to do, then left me to it while they tutored the really exceptional kids.
By the time the class had been excused, and I was nearly crawling back to the locker room, every muscle in my body felt as though it was on fire, and I didn’t have the presence of mind to enjoy the view. Shoot, I didn’t have the ego left to enjoy the view! I didn’t deserve to look at super hot naked bodies showering themselves down! I was a dork! A failure!
And I hurt in places that up until a few weeks ago I was almost CERTAIN I didn’t have. It was all I could do really to retreat to one of the corners of the showering area and just stand there under the hot water, staring at my feet, hoping it’d take the numbness away from my sweat soaked body.
I moved like a zombie when I shuffled in a towel back to the locker area to change, and I don’t think I’d have enjoyed all the soaking wet freshly showered flesh around me just then, even if I had the strength to look.
“Hey, you did pretty good for your first day.” A hand patted my bare shoulder just then, and I winced when it touched a sore spot. I think my whole body might have been a sore spot just then, come to think of it.
“Ah, sorry,” she said, and I realized that gorgeous girl with the impeccable, perfect, skin and dark hair from earlier was talking to me again. Gosh, she didn’t look the least bit worn out, she stood confident with some shampoo floating patiently behind her, even her hair still looked perfect!
Sadly my own wit hadn’t survived in as pristine a condition as she had, I grunted at her noncommittally, having the strength to do little more than that as I tried to dress myself.
Her attention was still on me, her gaze burning a hole in the back of my head, and I reluctantly turned to the side to look at her lamely, wondering what she could possibly say to make the greatest disappointment of my life worse than it already was.
Tentatively, she bit her plump lower lip, like she wanted to say something but wasn’t sure she wanted to. “Ah, kiddo, there was just one thing that might help…”
I could barely move or say more than a pained sounding,”Wha’?” noise. While it was true everyone else was having an easier time than I was, I assumed it was because they all had more experience, and were just more kick ass than me. They did have like a week or so of classes on me… and the previous semester. If there was a simple little trick or something I wasn’t doing that would make things easier, I sort of wanted to know it.
She smiled gently, and leaned in a little closer, until her sweet smelling breath was warm on my cheek. “You… may want to wear a sports bra next time you come to class… a t-shirt doesn’t really cut it for us girls.”
My thoughts were a wash of confusion and humiliation. What was she hinting at? It hadn’t been cold in there at all, and having to run circles around the gymnasium over and over made pretty certain that I wasn’t going to like, get… pointy, or anything… while I was running… in… circles.
All my thinking came to a horrible screeching halt as my brain tripped into fatal system error mode, the blue screen of death flashing in my mind.
“Oh… oh.” Blushing hard enough that it showed even through my exhausting flushed face, I could suddenly imagine why some of the boys in the class were giving me funny looks all through the class. A t-shirt didn’t have nearly the suspension power of the bra I deigned to start wearing around school, normally. It felt more natural not having to wear it, so I didn’t think twice about the shirt under my gi in class.
Gah, they’d been watching me jiggle! I mean I still wasn’t anything… IMPRESSIVE… especially in this crowd, but apparently I still had enough jelly to jam.
I stammered a quick thank you to the girl and thought about hiding in my locker for the rest of the day.
Half the class was probably still laughing at me behind my back, and I was pretty sure most of the girls in the locker room were still stealing amused little looks back my way while they talked. Luckily, none of them decided to stop and try to talk to me, so I gathered my remaining strength to sloppily dress myself and drag my cat in the backpack out, relieved that the next class I had was with Ecila, as I figured it wouldn’t involve near as much running and mindless repetitive exercises as the last, and I’d get a chance to sit and not move for like, ever. I hoped.
“See ya next time, new kid.” One of the girls said to me as I left amid giggles.
Okay, my enthusiasm for this place was beginning to dim.
“Mathematics of Quantum Neutrino Fields?” the teacher frowned as he looked at me, “No, I’m afraid you have the wrong class. This is History, kiddo.”
“B-But…” I stood in front of a class of snickering, staring kids. “My schedule, it says… it says THAT’S what I’m supposed to be taking, and it’s supposed to be in this very room.”
The teacher sighed, taking the piece of paper I’d clutched so firmly in my hands from me and glanced over it. “Ah, it certainly does say that. Just one problem.”
“Oh, lay it on me. I’m collecting problems today,” I replied dryly.
He held the piece of paper up, and I could swear his eyes flashed with something as it started to not be… paper, and be a strange goo that was in paper shape briefly before it started to droop and evaporate. “This is ectoplasm. Seems you were the subject of a rather elaborate joke, Ms. Gillman. Worry not, you’re on my roster, and you’re in the right room. Please take a seat and get ready to take notes. Today’s lesson is going to be…. Historical.”
I left the history class with my jaw set.
Okay, nothing horribly humiliating other than that rather memorable introduction had occurred, but this really wasn’t turning out to be my day.
I had one last hope, one chance to make the day worth while and prove myself to my fellow students, to salvage the last shredded vestiges of my masculine pride. The Introduction to the Whateley Ranges class. The gun range. Where a man could prove himself a man! I was more than confident with my digital mastery of the gun, and was certain the days’ worth of psychological training such games provided a youngster as myself with would give me the sort of edge I’d need to show everyone what’s what. If there was a single chance for me to turn things around, this was it. I girded my loins, straightened my shirt, and made off for the range building with a determined, set scowl. They weren’t going to believe how manly I was!
Staff Sergeant Wilson was no mere man, he was an unswerving iron boot of law. The law of the gun range.
He stood intimidating and tall, built like a conglomerate of every marine you’d ever seen on the television in advertisements, a mountain of imposition, impossibly good looking like he was carved from granite by a Roman sculptor brought back from the dead and polished by years of military training into a person, or a machine, that you instinctively just did not want to cross. Especially if you were a young and impressionable teenager who’d just stumbled across the genetic lottery and ended up with the rug of what you thought was your life yanked out from under you, and thought “hey a class where they teach me to shoot stuff, cool! Pew pew!”
Because if that was what the kid thought walking into the class, within the first thirty seconds of a safety lecture that was spoken with the precise linguistic skill and volume of a drill instructor, that dream was crushed under that iron boot of law.
Apparently being the new kid in class cutting a week and a few days late into the class meant I had some catching up to do, which was to be expected really, so for the benefit of apparently the entire class and the rest of the kids who just hadn’t been listening to the first time the speech had been given, he’d decided now was a good time to repeat the safety lecture and really grind it into our heads.
Glancing around, I noticed a fair share of serious faces, along with quite a few curious looks in my direction that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, but I think perhaps I wasn’t the only kid who’d joined the class with the hopes of, well… having fun!
“This is NOT the place for fun,” insisted Wilson in as unforgiving and clear a way as he could, his dark eyes intent on the class under his heavy solid brow, scouring the crowd for one spark of humor, for that glimmer in a child’s eye that might imply that child wasn’t taking him completely seriously and might have been entertaining thoughts of goofing off.
I wasn’t one of those kids. By the thirty minute mark into his rather emotional instructional tirade all my hopes of standing out and making a star out of myself were crushed and ground into the floor like one of those placid California cows just before they hit the meat grinders when their cheesemakers went out.
“ONCE AGAIN,” Wilson shouted clearly, his arms folded across his chest like twin pit-bulls resting before a hearth, as he surveyed the satisfying mix of disappointment and seriousness in the faces of his class. He repeated for like the third time in the past half hour, “The rules of the range are as follows!”
He gestured towards the sign he’d been ranting in front of. No, I knew it was the third time he’d mentioned it, exactly, but hearing it over and over had been like hoping to order out for pizza, and being told over and over that you’re going to be getting a salad with cashews, and that you WILL like it, and if you don’t like it, well, nuts to you. “Number one rule, you are to treat ALL weapons as if they were loaded, at ALL times. Your weapons should not be loaded until you walk into the firing booth.
“Rule two, DO NOT point a weapon at anything you do not intend to shoot!
“Rule three, you are to keep all weapons on safe until you are ready to fire them!
“Rule four, keep your finger STRAIGHT and off the trigger until you are ready to fire! These are your new commandments whenever you set foot onto my range, and you all may feel free to consider them your new religion! If any of you so much as THINK of breaking any of these rules, in spirit or act, the least of your punishments will be a permanent banning from ALL ranges that only a devil damned act of god will be able to counterman, the most of which you can hope for being detention the likes of which none of you have ever seen nor imagined. Are any of you unclear on any of these points?”
Wilson glared at the group until their silence assured him of their compliance, then gave a quick nod. “Good. I will now walk you through the procedure for firing weapons in the range. I’m sure you’ll all appreciate the refresher.” The way he looked at a few of the kids after saying that had me thinking maybe some of them had needed a refresher.
“While firing on the ranges, at all times, you are to be wearing either a pair of shooting ear muffs, or ear plugs. This is because guns are loud, and they WILL screw your ears up if you do not wear proper protection! Luckily we’re at Whateley, and that means we get the very best. These ear muffs will cut out all loud noise, but still let you hear me when I’m telling you what you’re doing wrong. You will also at all times be wearing protective eyewear. This is because shell casings and guns HAVE been known to misfire in spectacularly horrible ways, and a good pair of shooting glasses can save you from living your life blind because a hot piece of shell flew into your eyeball! If you own either of these two items you can bring them as long as either I or the other range instructor approve of them. Last and most importantly, everyone will be expected to be wearing a bulletproof vest while on range. Misfires can, and will happen, and when they do you want as much protection between your own body and a bullet, which was designed to put life-span shortening holes in your body, as possible.” He nodded towards one of the larger kids in class. One that could have been two professional wrestlers and a sumo wrestler all smooshed together. “We will have a size that fits you, and everyone here. There should be no excuses for not wearing one. We’ve been at this for longer than any of you have been around and have prepared for just about any size and shape you little folks can grow into. Now follow me.”
I looked around once the class had started to move again, and did a quick and mildly suspicious headcount. Ah, good, most of the kids were guys! There were a few girls, most of them lookers, but a part of me was satisfied I’d picked out a sufficiently masculine choice of classes, since so many other guys seemed to agree with me by their being there. Not that I was trying to stand out and broadcast that I used to be of the less fair sex, but it didn’t mean I wanted to absolutely snub that part of me out and lose who I used to be completely! I’d decided that if I could prove to myself in small ways like this that I was still a man deep inside, it’d be enough for the time being.
He walked over to a cage in the back of the range, gesturing towards a man sitting behind a window. “This is where you will check out your ammo and weapons. As we are on range two, all you are permitted to fire here are small arms. That means pistols, rifles, and small machine guns. If you aren’t familiar with using firearms, you’re probably better off starting with a single shot rifle.”
I as well as a few others of the students perked back up at the mention of the weaponry. It wasn’t bazookas and super duper plasma death rays, but it was still something. This may not be all that bad, really! Sure, this guy was a total and complete gun Nazi, but maybe they needed that sort of thing here. We were teenagers, and we were handling the kind of things teenagers tend to kill one another with when not properly schooled.
“You will NOT be firing your own weapons, gadgets, or devises on this course. This is not the range for it. If you want to fire your ray guns and bazookas, take them to range four or five.”
A few of the other kids let out sighs, and I started to wonder if maybe I was one of the sane ones in the class for once. Well, granted, I was perhaps a little disappointed they weren’t going to let me start off with plasma cannons and rocket launchers, but I could wait!
“After you check out your weapon and ammunition, you will NOT immediately start loading your gun with bullets! You will take them, separately, to your arranged booth and set them down on the table waiting. You are not to walk around with loaded weapons!”
Gah, this guy was taking all the fun out of shooting guns! Still, I watched him, anxiously waiting for the chance to show off my knowledge in the subject, to prove to the rest of the class I wasn’t just some weak little stupid girl.
“Now then, everyone get a pair of noise canceller ear muffs, vest, and safety glasses, then follow me.” The range instructor took a pair of guns from the guy behind the fence and a few clips of bullets, then walked the class over to an empty firing booth where a pair of shooting glasses and a pair of noise mufflers were hanging. The class all lined up to wear the protection gear, some with more familiarity than others, and followed.
Well, I did, until the instructor stepped in front of me. “Everyone but you, Gillman.”
“Since you just joined, you haven’t taken the safety test, nor watched any of the instructional videos.”
Aw… awwww maaan! After all that BS I didn’t even get to shoot anything?!
He smirked. “You’ll get your chance soon enough kid. For now I’m going to set you up in the test room with the videos and a quiz. Once you pass THAT, I’ll let you test fire. Next time. Under supervision.”
I resisted the urge to grumble. My disappointment was no doubt already showing, anyway. Then again, better to get all this boring stuff out of the way so I could really show off next time. Oh yes, gun range… you haven’t escaped Josie Gillman just yet.
Whispers and mad giggles bouncing between two girls huddled in one of the empty classrooms lining the hallway as they spied out the partially cracked door heralded the conspiratorial atmosphere of a poorly laid trap, the sort which only teenage girls could have thought would be effective. Their amusement had just been far too loud to be secretive, the lengths to which their mischief was to be elevated far too high for two high school children to keep their conjectures and amusements silent. More than a few of the students walking the hallway to get to their various rooms had cast nervous glances their way and hurried their pace to avoid whatever trouble they were up to.
“This is going to be the greatest prank ever!” giggled one of the two girls.
The other agreed most eagerly, her soft brown braided hair falling about her shoulders in twin tails as she crouched before the door, peering around it with squinting grey eyes. ”Oh my god, the new girl is going to MESS herself once we pull this off! Are you ready, Multiplex?”
Positively giddy, a long haired Asian student crouched just behind her friend, producing a small piece of ornately decorated paper the size of a bookmark with a small red bow glued to it. “Totally ready, I did just what you said! I talked to Charmer and bought this hallucination trap spell off of her! She says all we have to do is rip the bow off and toss it at whoever we want it to work on! Um, but Hardcase, should we really be teasing the new kid like this?” she asked, hesitating. “It seems a little excessive”
Hardcase scoffed quietly, turning around to give the Asian girl a grey eyed glare. “How many times have I been over this with you? This is totally all right, it’s just a little hazing ritual, and as fellow housemates it falls upon us to welcome her properly.”
It took a few seconds for Multiplex’s hesitation to wear off. The teasing was fun really, as long as it wasn’t her, after all. She shrugged the earlier sense of guilt off and finally she giggled a little more, whispering, “This is going to be soooo cool.”
Nearly hopping in place at the excitement, the brunette, Hardcase, stifled another excited giggle. “What’s she going to see? What’s she going to see?”
Multiplex grinned practically from ear to ear. “Oh, it’ll be enough to make her lose what little control she has over her faculties.”
Hardcase looked suddenly worried. “Huh? What’s the faculty have to do with this? You didn’t tell them, did you?”
Blinking at her, the Asian girl paused long enough to make certain her friend wasn’t joking with her. ”Err, no Stacy, it means… well, Charmer said it’d do what we wanted, it’d give her some freaky nightmare-like visions and stuff and lose her lunch.”
“Oh, ewww!” Hardcase grinned menacingly at the thought.
Grinning back, Multiplex nodded vigorously. “You had such a great idea… Hey, why aren’t we trying this on that blonde girl she was with?”
Hardcase winced. “Um, she looked… I don’t know, kind of angry like. But the other kid looked like she could take more of a joke, you know?”
“Yah, she did look kinda geeky.”
“Right! Besides, it falls upon us as both members of the Martial Arts Cheerleading squad and Dickinson girls to give our fellow Dickinson chicks a warm Whateley welcome dontcha think?”
Multiplex tittered in excitement, stroking a hand through her long black hair over and over. “You’re so right, Stacy. This is going to be the BEST prank on a new kid all year! She won’t be able to look herself in the mirror once word of this gets out!”
Hardcase hissed at her, “Shh! She’s coming!”
And their collective giggling and snickering subdued into quieter chortles as their intended target stalked angrily down the hallway with a particular sore and sour gate to her step. Multiplex then picked the little red bow off the rather expensive illusionary charm she’d purchased, and with a flick of her wrist flung it at their target.
At first, I’d thought my glasses had slipped off again. I thought I’d caught some weird movement out of the corner of my eye, then there was a flutter of a slip of paper blowing towards me, and suddenly everything changed in a flash. The regular plain white hallway I was walking in to get back to the dorms had changed from a boring and pale color with the occasional doorway to another a classroom, or storage closet, into what looked more like the sickening purple colored fleshy throat of, I don’t know, maybe a four yard tall razor lined space vagina, or perhaps a snake whale’s throat lined with venomous fangs. But it was sort of like it was all half there, partly transparent and fading in and out as my vision tended to be when I was eyeing two overlapped worlds, or like it was an entirely unconvincing suggestion.
That was not all, either. It was filled with monsters.
Giant hulking decomposed zombie football players, fat zombie Elvis eating a handful of brain sandwich, Frankenstein lumbering over them all and growling my way, Dracula in the corner hiding behind his cape and hissing, a wolfman wearing naught but torn pants and beating his hairy chest, snakes hissing as they slithered on the floor in great sheets, a small pale girl with blonde hair and a white dress staring at me with hollow eyes, a bald white bondage freak with nails sticking out of his head. All of them kind of half here and half there when I had my glasses off and all there with them on, though the creepy little girl in the white dress seemed more there than the others.
A few students following behind me let out startled screeches and went running in the opposite direction quickly, away from the monster mash scene.
Stopping in mid step, I cautiously, patiently removed my glasses, polished them on the corner of my shirt, and looked around again, considering the possibility I’d gotten something unsavory stuck on the lenses.
Nope. It was all still there.
A tense frown crossed my face. There was something off about this. I suspected Ecila was pulling something over on me, even though I’d recently finished with my so called class with her, and I was way too tired for all this. It wasn’t enough that in addition to seeing her at times in my dreams, I got the pleasure of an hour taken out of my day to have her insanity shoved down my throat, but now she was bothering me in what little time I had away from her?
Touching a finger to my chin thoughtfully, I walked up and poked at the quivering fleshy wall at a point that the hallucination felt most solid. Odd. It felt… soft. Squishy. Not meaty at all. I was pretty sure if this was Ecila’s doing, she would have come charging in at some point asking me why I was trying to get myself digested so badly. More so, the slime from this wall didn’t feel quite as nutrient filled or thick as any monster slime I’d seen these last few weeks. And while I could feel the snakes at my feet, the monsters themselves weren’t really advancing, just kind of looming and growling. It felt sort of… Hollywood.
A voice thundered from the walls, and my fleshy prison quivered, “Weeeelcome traveler… to HELL! And now you will NEVER leave, Mwahahah!”
“Pfft,” I replied, peering at a particularly suspicious looking pair of bulges in the wall that seemed to be talking to me, or maybe looking at me. “If this was hell, you wouldn’t be so happy about it.”
The two girls squealed behind their hands in excitement, peering down the hallway when the dark haired geeky kid in the glasses had stopped, obviously at exactly the moment that Charmer’s hallucination had struck her. The hallway still looked absolutely normal to them, but they hadn’t been in the target area of the illusionary charm.
“Is it working? Is it working?” giggled Hardcase, and she bubbled with excitement.
Multiplex reasoned uncertainly, “Well… I don’t know. She’s just kind of standing there. Now she’s cleaning her glasses…. now she’s walking this way.”
“Wha?” questioned Hardcase, and she peered more closely out the crack in the door, leaning in on it. “Why is she walking this way? Did we scare her into a walking coma? …I’m pretty sure we can get in trouble for turning the new kid all catty tonic!”
Multiplex gave a slow and uncertain smile, as she was in no real hurry to go around correcting her friend. It felt kinda rude, and she’d loose so much of her lifetime if she insisted on doing it every time. “No, Stacy. I’m 90% sure that doesn’t exist. People don’t coma walk.”
“Really? But my dad coma walked all the time at home, that’s what he’d say he was doing when mom caught him eating cookies in the kitchen at night and-” Hardcase started to say before she leaned a little too far, and she and Multiplex who’d been trying to get a better look by leaning too far as well went spilling into the hallway.
“Tiffany!” scolded Hardcase, trying to get back up and scramble back into hiding. “You nitwit!”
“That new kid is looking this way.”
Hardcase sounded a little frightened. “She looks pissed!”
“Why didn’t it work!? Mission abort! Mission abort!”
Maybe it was because I’d seen the kind of things that would make Winston Zeddemore turn white in just the past several weeks, but somehow this whole monster thing hadn’t fazed me in the slightest. It just felt so… fake. Unthreatening. Unimpressive. Shit, I’d walked inside the stomach of a titanic monster on the chipped and shattered bones of my ancestors.
This wasn’t all that.
So when I heard the loud giggling from behind the partially open classroom door, I just calmly walked over the snakes and shouldered my way past the zombie football team and pardoned myself past fat Elvis, then kicked the door open the rest of the way, when two rather average (for this school) girls tumbled out at my feet.
In a way, it was kind of satisfying to finally get the heads up on one of these people trying to prank me. More so when they scrambled to get up in a hurry and make a rather… acrobatic escape.
Ack, wait, I finally one-upped someone else and didn’t get a chance to throw a cool line at them!?
I started off after them before I remembered how tired my legs were still, and just before they suddenly vaulted through a partially open high window like crazy skirt wearing ninjas.
“…B-but I didn’t get to say anything cool…!”
This school was so very different from anything I’d ever experienced before at public school. You could tell they’d actually spent some money in the location and construction of the campus, for one thing. Our dorms were like real college dorms, like the kind you saw on TV and the movies where they smoked lots of pot and ditched classes all the time. Here they called them ‘houses’, but they were like no houses I’d ever seen. There was a comfortable lounge room near the entrance that people tended to congregate in and study, or even watch TV.
I was somewhat worried, after my earlier run-ins with classmates that looked like they were interested in me, when I saw three girls in Whateley uniforms about my age all waiting inside.
Not that girls scared me! Well, at least, not most girls. But they all seemed to have been talking about something together when they saw me and all conversation stopped the way it did on Westerns when the bad guys walked into the saloon. After some of the trouble I’d had earlier that day, and well, my life time spent at public schools, this made me understandably cautious, and I was tempted to follow my life preserving instincts and give the three girls a wide birth of space when I walked past.
This, however, was not to be.
The second I took a step to avoid violating their personal space, I found my own space very rudely cut into as I was immediately staring right at the rather cheerfully eager expression of one of the plumper girls that had been standing on the other end of the room.
I had to stop to think about that, and to look back at the two other girls that had been accompanying her right where I’d seen them last, though they were both getting up and approaching me and not cutting across time and space to corner me. Not that kids in the past had ever needed to use those methods of cheating to corner me, usually all they had to be was on some kind of sports team, I was not what most would call an athletic child.
Well, I was ready for this! I know how it is in schools being the new kid, and I’d been half expecting it all day ever since I’d found out how very much like every other school I’d ever been to this one was, and after I’d put up with all the somewhat harmless hazing and pranks. These kids were going to jump me, try to put me in my place, beat me down with their obvious superior mutant powers, now that all their pranking was over with! I may have had a radical change in my genes and jeans of late, but Josie Gillman was no one’s bitch (anymore)!
“Now just a minute you, I-”, I started to say, my temper flaring and my alien cat writhing in his sack to burst out.
“Hey, welcome to Whateley!” the somewhat thick girl that had appeared right in front of me said with a cheerful smile, hands folded behind her back.
Ah, a ploy to put me off my guard! It worked better than I’d thought it might have. “Whodawhat?”
She sighed a little, but still smiled, and extended her hand as the other two girls gained proximity to me, all beaming that apparently friendly smile that looked so damned suspicious to me.
“You’re one of the new girls on the floor, right? The ones that just moved in?” a darker skinned girl with her hair up in a ponytail said, though with a hint of a French accent.
My attention shifted to her, and I found my resolve faltering. I did notice that none of these girls were the kind of supermodel playboy bunny hot I’d seen so much of, rather they just… cute. Normal highschool girl cute.
I swallowed and said, “Uh, y-yah…?” What was this? What kind of ambush did these kids have planned? Put up a friendly act, then slap a sign on my back, or push me on the floor and take humiliating photographs they could blackmail me with? Where was the attack going to come from? Which direction?!
“Geesh, you’re scaring her, Lightweight!” chided the third one with short blonde dyed hair and a band aid on her cheek. Obviously, she was the muscles of the group, no doubt the one that would strike first! “Hey, my name’s Zoom, the girl with no respect for personal space over there is Jaunt, and this is Lightweight.”
Nervously, I looked from one of them to the other. It was three against one, and at least one of them was way too fast for me to track. If I could keep them talking maybe I could make a break for it long enough to hide and find a crack between dimensions to escape to, then sneak back in when they’d all gone to sleep.
“Oh, sorry about that!” the one called Jaunt said, still smiling that bright cheerful smile. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you like that, we were just saying how we should greet the new kids so they wouldn’t feel so out of place, and there you were!”
“Eh-heh, yah, there I am,” I muttered under my breath, trying to grin back at them. I felt the corner of my mouth twitch upwards, so I assume it was a success.
Lightweight rolled her eyes. “Pay no attention to her, Jaunt’s kind of… jumpy at times. So, what’s your name?” she said with a smile that I didn’t believe for an instant.
I glanced back, at the front door, making an effort to be nonchalant about it. That wasn’t going to be a good escape route, there was someone approaching from the outside. Maybe I could get past them and into my room if I surprised them, and ran. “J-Josie. Josie Gillman.”
Zoom snickered at me. “You the shy type, Josie? Nice name, but you really should pick out a code name before someone else picks one out for you. For your own protection, ya’ know. The walls have ears around here.” She made a waving gesture in the air.
“Hey, there’s some people that use their real names around here,” pointed out Jaunt.
Looking back at her friend, Zoom sneered. “Sure, but most of them are either the ‘big guns’ or just not the kind of type you want to mess with. Jobe, for instance. Speaking of which, Josie, if you don’t mind me calling you that-”
I felt my guard slowly lowering when no sneak attack came. But what else could it be, a whole group of girls wanting to talk to me at once? Why, they’d practically surrounded me. It was only a matter of time before they grabbed me by my hair and dragged me off into a bathroom where they could throttle me in private! Drown my head in the toilet or something like the guys back at my last school threatened to do! I mumbled again, “Err no, s’fine.”
“Right, so what do you do?” she said with an impish smile.
Confused, I felt for the strap of my backpack to grip lightly for comfort. “Do…? I’m… um… school, I guess? Student? I do… studenting.”
“No, no,” said Jaunt. “She means what’s your power? Around here it’s kind of like asking ‘what’s your major’.”
Lightweight leaned in. “You look a little nervous, Josie. You know you don’t have to worry about impressing any of us, we’re all sort of low key about the power stuff. I can lift stuff without using my hands, but not much, Zoom here moves really fast and usually into stationary objects, and Jaunt here teleports a short distance. Usually into other people’s rooms.”
“Hey!” Jaunt yelped.
Zoom scratched at the band aid on her cheek and smiled at me. “Right, so that’s us, what’s your deal?”
I squeezed the backpack strap tighter, feeling my face flush. God, if they thought THEY’D gotten the short stick when Raptor Jesus was passing out powers, hearing my schtick should really cheer them all up. At the same time though, I was outright telling them my weakness, which I knew was a bad idea, but with them all in my face I couldn’t come up with a convincing lie, and after word of my first school day got around I didn’t think they’d believe me if I told them that I could shoot laser beams and fly like a load bearing African swallow. “Well, um… I sort of am really good at math, I guess.”
There was an awkward silence filled with odd stares diverted my way that Zoom broke. “Oh, that’s actually kind of useful, when you think about it. I’m kind of jealous, if I had that I wouldn’t be getting a C in Geometry.”
Lightweight considered me with a look. “Suppose it could be worse, your superpower could be being a super bitch or something, or you turn into some unspeakable hulking super skank that tears all her clothes each time.”
They all laughed at Lightweight’s joke, and I found myself trying to go along with it, but found myself barely able to form more than a couple light hearted ‘ha’s. Actually, what I’d gotten stuck with wasn’t far off from that. I hadn’t been turned into a female dog, exactly… well, not the dog part. Still, if I had to imagine someone who’d got stuck with being a super bitch as their power, I couldn’t help but to think guiltily of…
“So I’d be interested in meeting them, new girl and all” I heard Suzan’s voice saying behind me.
“Oh fer sure Suzy, I’ll introduce you to my friends!”
“…That’s Suzan. Stacy, my name is Suzan.”
“Fer sure, cool!”
I glanced back, and saw Suzan walking in alongside… wait, was that one of those two chicks who tried ambushing me with some kind of monster illusion? The girl with the twin braids blinked, looking in the same direction Suzan was looking at me, and almost tripped.
“Ah-hah well nice meeting you, Suzy, I gotta… get going… to somewhere… else!” Hardcase laughed easily as she backpedaled and made a wide quick scampering walk for the dorm rooms.
Of course, the ice queen herself hadn’t done more than raise an eyebrow at the odd behavior, before approaching me. ”Josie, what’s going on?”
I was sort of surprised to see her right then, and gave an uncertain wave. Was I allowed to be friends with her, even? She’d been talking with me, and we were the only two people who sort of knew one another before this place, was I allowed to wave at her without getting snubbed?
Suzan walked up alongside me with a quick stride, her pale blue and somewhat unsettling softly glowing eyes glancing over the three girls with a hint of suspicion.
“Oh! We were just welcoming her to the house!” Jaunt said quickly, offering her hand to Suzan. “You must be the other new girl, my name’s Jaunt! And this is Zoom, and Lightweight.”
“Suzan,” the blonde said with a perfect smile, politely shaking the cheerful kid’s hand. “This is a warmer reception than I’d thought we’d get.”
“Well, we figured showing up a week late and in the middle of the year like you guys had would have been rough,” Zoom said with a shrug. “So we thought we’d at least say hello.”
“That’s very sweet of you all,” Suzan noted, folding her arms. “Maybe we’ll get a chance to talk again later? I’m sort of busy with school work, now. Most of the instructors here seem to think I need to catch up on all the work I missed.”
Jaunt nodded. “Sure, but don’t be a stranger, Suzan! If you need help finding anything on campus any of us would be happy to help.”
Nodding, Suzan said, “That’s nice of you all, I appreciate it. Hope you all have a pleasant evening.” Then she waved and calmly trotted off to the dorm rooms.
“Well, she was friendly,” Lightweight commented, watching her leave. “Sorta. And I love how she did her hair… Josie, you know her, right? Where does she get her hair styled?” queried the tan skinned girl, peering at me.
Up till that point I’d realized I hadn’t said a word, and had gotten swept to the side of the conversation the moment Suzan had walked in. I shook my head clear of the cobwebs I’d gathered from just standing there and watching them talk. “Oh, uh, I… I’m not really sure.”
“But you two come from the same town, right?” Lightweight continued to speak, looking curious.
“Um, y-yah, I suppose, I mean, yah, we do, sure, but we don’t really-”
I blinked, looking back at the hallway where Suzan was standing like she’d been waiting for something, her hand on her hip and her finely sculpted eyebrows both raised. I continued to look, and felt confused once more. There was something I was missing here, because absolutely none of this made any sense to me! Could they actually have been friendly enough to just want to welcome me without any weird ulterior motives? Was Suzan actually being… nice, and friendly, with me of all people? The hell was going on here!
Hesitantly, I answered, “Yah?”
“Are you coming, or not? You’re not going to tell me you don’t have just as much homework as I do to catch up on,” she said to me, looking impatient and leaving one eyebrow arched upwards at the end of her question.
Stupified, I looked between her and the three girls. “Oh, she’s got a point, I guess I should get going. Thanks… for… saying hi to me?” I offered, the words sounding kind of lame even to me. I tried to smile back at the three before hurrying over to meet with Suzan, who was looking more impatient the more I tried to excuse myself politely.
Why was I rushing to do what some girl I barely really knew asked, even if I knew her slightly better than every other kid in this school?
Oh! Riiiight. She’s really hot!
Lightweight, Zoom, and Jaunt all stood together watching the two new girls leave, when Zoom leaned in towards the other two girls, raising a hand to the side of her mouth to hide her whisper, “Say, were either of you getting like a Peppermint Patty and Marcie vibe of those two?”
Lightweight narrowed her eyes, watching the empty hallway Josie and Suzan had already vanished into. “You know, with those glasses, she even looks the part.”
Jaunt considered the idea with one hand on her chin. “And the blonde girl had the ‘take charge’ sort of tomboy personality when she hauled the other girl off.”
They stared after the two long departed girls in silent thought, until Zoom broke the silence with a conspiratorial whisper. “You don’t think she’s…”
Lightweight and Jaunt looked back at her questioningly.
Almost at once, the slightly thick girl and the dark skinned one shook their heads slowly. “Know what…?”
Zoom let out a huff, folding her arms. “You know…!” She swiftly looked from side to side, then leaned in to a huddle with the other two girls and explained her theory in a low whisper, ”Leeeesbos?”
Shocked, Lightweight and Jaunt stared at their bandaged friend, before they all three broke out into giggles.
I heard her sigh. “It doesn’t have to be this way, you know.”
She looked back over at me. “You don’t have to be the one the whole school picks on if you don’t want to, I could help you if you wanted.”
The offer had me stumped, and I just stared at her stupidly.
“The kids here being just about the same as the kids from our old school is a good thing, Josie. I had a handle on the old school until all that… mess happened. You’re a good kid, and we’ve been through a lot together.” She glanced down at her feet absently, maybe admiring the perfect way she’d pulled her socks up over her gracious looking calves. “I could take you under my wing is what I’m trying to say, I guess.”
“R-really? I… I mean, I guess, it could… the bullying isn’t so bad, really, I…”
There was something in Suzan’s sudden smile that made me regard her cautiously. It was as though she’d been expecting me to come around the whole time, and had just been waiting for me to have my hopes crushed so she could sweep in.
“Good! So, here’s my proposal. Both of us are new here, and groups are harder to mess with than a lone kid on her own, right?”
I stared at her in confusion, trying to comprehend what she was getting around to saying. “You… want to hang out? With me? Together?”
She gave a casual shrug. “Sure. We come from the same school, I know you’re a dependable girl, and, quite frankly, I feel a little guilty for some of the stuff I’d done to you…”
That seemed odd. What had she ever done to me? Hadn’t she even tried to save me from that creepy math teacher a while back? And hadn’t I been the one that dropped my lunch on her that time? I wondered out loud, “Huh? What sort of stuff did-”
“And you probably feel more than a little guilty for some of the things you’d done to me, and we’ve both helped each other out in the past, so all I’m saying is we should keep that up, and keep watching one another’s backs.”
I must have looked like a complete knob sitting there, blinking at her owlishly. The concept just seemed so terrible foreign. Me and Suzan Chylds… friends?
She smiled at me patiently. “I’m sure there’s lots of things we can offer one another. I, for one, can make you presentable in public.”
I felt my face heat in embarrassment. ”Now just a second, I can-”
Sighing sharply, she shook her head. “No, you really can’t. You were cute that time I saw you at the… department store…” she spoke the last word with a singular distaste I didn’t quite understand. “But it was sort of obvious someone else had dolled you up, and gone a little overboard.”
Grumbling, I nodded, studying my shoes in distraction and mumbled, “Sister and her friends…” Then I realized she’d said I was cute, and felt my cheeks color more. Was it okay for girls to call each other cute without there being any weird meaning to it? I know guys didn’t compliment one another like that, at all. In fact, we did the opposite, we called each other douchebags and slapped and punched. Though, we also did that when we were being mean, so it was at times hard to tell the difference if you weren’t looking for a grin.
Something about the honesty in her tone made me profoundly uncomfortable.
“Yes, that would do it. I think you’re cute, but you don’t really take care of yourself. You’re a real tomboy, and guys do sometimes like that, but at the same time you have to know how to be a lady when it’s needed.” She turned to face me in the hallway, looking me over studiously. “For instance. Those glasses… they work in a Peter Parker, or sexy librarian sort of way, but have you considered contact lenses?”
Protectively I adjusted my thick rimmed glasses I’d gotten from Ecila a while back. “Um, not really… they’re custom made, sort of… it’s part of my, ah, ‘condition’?”
“Hm. Well, can you do without them?”
“Not… really. I get really distracted when I don’t have them, it’s part of my-”
“Right, your condition.” She sighed briskly. “I suppose no one here is without their issues. Alright, I think you should just suffer now and then and take them off. In certain situations. I’ll try to let you know when.”
“I GUESS I could, now and then…” I ventured hesitantly, taking a nervous peek over the edge of my glasses and looking around the room without the benefit of a dimensional filter. A shudder and I pushed them back up to block off the hazy visions I was having of the room being half submerged in a dark liquid, unsightly glowing eyed creatures that looked like a cross between a swarm of centipedes and an indecisive cuttlefish filling the void between us. I’d learned the hard way that if you stared at those kinds of things too long, they could stare back at you and more, and wasn’t as yet willing to discover the extent of which they could interact with me.
Bulldozing ahead in the conversation, Suzan breached yet another topic I wasn’t comfortable with considering. “Next, personal hygiene.” Judging from the way she said the word, paused, looked over me sharply, I surmised my level of personal care wasn’t up to her standards.
Self-consciously I drew myself up on my side of the room, sitting up straight on the bed. “H-hey! I shower once a day, and I use soap, and shampoo! And I brush my teeth! What else am I supposed to do!?”
“See, that’s the first problem, Josie…” she observed, critically, the brunt of her judgmental attention focused on my somewhat scrawny self. “You take care of yourself like you were a boy. I can lend you some conditioner, and maybe some lotion. Your hands are a little rough and manly feeling, if you’ll pardon me for saying so.”
Oddly, I felt a strange and misplaced swelling of pride when she had commented on the state of my hands, and felt no need to pardon her on that observation.
“And you need to take way better care of your face… I guess I’ll have to walk you through that in the morning, too, but first things first; when’s the last time you shaved your legs?” She asked pointedly, her gaze sharp and accusingly towards my lazily spread legs.
Remembering suddenly I was wearing my usual pants, I flustered and quickly said, “S-shave… I, I mean, it’s been… I don’t think, I’ve never really HAD to…”
“Far too long, I know. You’re working the tomboy thing a little too much, if you ask me. Well just don’t go out for the rest of tonight and I’ll give you some pointers on that in the morning, too, so you don’t end up slicing half your legs up. Bloody bandage covered legs are not generally considered attractive.” Sighing, Suzan looked down at her manicured nails. “If I had the money, and this school wasn’t in the middle of a forest, I’d bring you with me to a salon… I suppose we can plan that later after we save up some cash…”
Ah, lovely, something else in my future not to look forward to. Still, I think she was trying to do me a good turn, even if she didn’t realize how traumatizing it was, so it wouldn’t be polite to turn down her help just yet. She might have been right, too… it wasn’t something I had thought about a great deal in the past, but it seemed like a girl’s body involved a lot more maintenance to it that I hadn’t quite understood. Or thought about. On purpose.
Thinking, she looked at me some more, until I was more than a little self-conscious about the many faults she was no doubt picking out, saving for mention later, and categorizing by their level of severity. “It’s a private school, and we have uniforms, so your style isn’t something we’ll have to worry about just yet. Though you could stand to tuck your shirt in, you look like a tired dog. I’ll expect you to eat lunch with me, and walk with me between classes whenever you can. Maybe we can even shift your schedule around some so you can take a few of the more general classes with me. Show me your schedule, later.”
“Hey, why can’t we change yours to meet-”
“I’m helping you out, remember? Oh, well, I suppose that’s all I can think of at the moment.” She shook her head at me, “You’re going to be a lot of work, Josie. I hope you appreciate all the effort I’m giving to bring you up to speed.”
“W-well, yah, it’s really nice of you and all, but I wanted to talk with you about-”
“Great,” said Suzan, with all the satisfaction of a professional who’d just closed a business agreement, and she produced a cellphone from her purse, casually flipping it open. “We’re friends, now. So let’s trade cellphone numbers.”
I nodded, and patted down my back pocket, my hands coming up empty. Oh, right. “Uh… one problem.”
Rather than answer, she raised an imperious looking eyebrow my way.
Faced with that sort of a response, my voice shrunk as did my confidence. I admitted rather sheepishly that, “I don’t got one.”
“You don’t have a cell phone number…?” she ventured to ask skeptically.
I felt myself fidgeting and instead grasped my hands together on my lap. “Well, yah. That, and I don’t have a cell phone.” I didn’t have to look up to know she was staring at me in disbelief, like I’d just grown an extra head (god I wish I could), but I could sort of tell from the corner of my eyes.
“Wow, a teenager in this day and age that doesn’t have a cell phone…” she wondered out loud, looking at me like I was strange exotic creature that had wandered out of a mythical legend, and trotted my single horned four winged equine ass right up into Times Square.
“I-it isn’t SO weird!” I protested quite quickly, looking up with what I’m sure was a flush to my face, as I was experiencing a certain incremental increase to the warmth of my features.
Suzan snickered at me, leaning back on her own bed comfortably and softening her hard stare into something more amused. “No wonder you didn’t have any friends back at the old school.”
“That has NOTHING to do with it - wait I had a friend! I mean, I had friends!”
She shook her head in disbelief, and said knowledgeably, “A cellphone is an integral part of the social structure of today’s teenage interaction. Without one you’re just asking to be an outcast. Okay, so you don’t have a cellphone, we can work with that, I suppose. It’s a small campus and we do share a floor. Maybe I can set you up with one somewhere down the line, Roanoka makes some cheap knockoff models… anyway, at least friend me on Facebook.”
I stared back, my expression a shadowed imitation of the funny look she’d given me earlier in the conversation.
“…Don’t tell me…”
I admitted again, getting that feeling that all my little social faults were getting picked out and made fun of, and that previous to this I hadn’t really realized just how many of those faults I had. Which might explain my status as an outcast of sorts. “Yah, I don’t really have one of those, either, I’m afraid… um, but I got a forum account on counterinsurgentfirstpersonshooter.com!”
Groaning to herself, she typed something out furiously with her thumbs on her phone. “I’m going to do my best to pretend I didn’t hear that last part, Josie. Now, I’m going to make a note to set you up your own Facebook account…”
“B-but I don’t really need-!”
She snapped before I could finish my sentence, giving me the impression that I was being more expertly schooled at that particular moment in time that I had during the entire day of being schooled, at super school. ”No ifs ands or butts, shorty. You can make do without a cellphone for a while, I guess, if you stick close to me, but you absolutely cannot go without an account on as big a social networking site as this. It’s like a paraplegic joining an arm wrestling competition.” She stood up regally, her thumbs flying on the mini cellphone keyboard as she typed. “If I’m going to set this up, I’ll need your email account. You DO have one of those, right?”
Smirking at me she cut my protest off again. “Good. Now I’m also going to be friending myself for your convenience after I set it up for you, make a point of checking this at LEAST once a day, and try to comment on other people’s pages as often as you can, alright? Especially mine.”
Sulking, I allowed my explicitly hot dorm-mate to drag me into the social scene with a minimal show of kicking and almost no screaming at all. “Alright, alright… but I’m not making those silly little smiley faces. That’s where I draw the line.”
The look she gave me made me pause in my thinking, and I was starting to wonder if hanging with her was really going to be as great as I’d originally thought.
“Um, but… I guess the line can move…?”
Wunderkind sat on the corner of her bed when I finally freed myself of the amazingly hot blonde to get to return to my new living space. She was tinkering with a strange turtle shaped electronic device and poking a screwdriver into it over and over.
I collapsed on the edge of my own modest bed, the sheets made from this morning still, and was on the edge of exhaustion. Having a roommate was great, and I really did have to check out that tinkering business she did to see if I could get her to make me some James Bond type stuff, but it also would have been nice to have my own room so I could check in some shirtless time with a full length mirror, and see how many jumping jacks I could do. You know, see what all the fuss was about.
“Guh… well THAT was an exciting day...”
“Hah, I hear you had an interesting time. I trust my classmates provided you with a warm welcome,” my new roommate said with a bitter tone in her voice.
Yes, most of the people in this school were typical assholes. There were people in this school that had hit the mutant jackpot and who had perfect memories, or could read twenty times faster than me! I was shown up in English class, the class that was specifically tailored towards my skills had Ecila as the teacher and myself as the only student, I was utterly lost in the Introduction to Mystic Arts, karate class had worn me out to the point where I could hardly move, and all the other classes hadn’t been much better. I’d been pranked at almost every turn, too. This wasn’t better than the old school where I was getting picked on and bullied and chased around campus, this was ten times worse! It had a few nice kids, but I wasn’t sure they could make up for the rest of it. This place had the exact same kids, except now they could all fly and leave me stranded on top of a tree by the elastic of my underwear!
But on the other hand, compared to getting beaten up for looking at a girl wrong back at the old school… well, maybe I’d been looking at this wrong. “You know what… it really wasn’t so bad.”
Greta started, looking at my incredulously. “What on earth are you talking about!? I heard how you were made fun of in martial arts, got kicked around at lunch, pranked all through the day. They were absolute monsters to you!”
I shrugged barely, my sore muscles wanting to do the not moving thing for a bit. It was strangely easy talking to Greta, too. Or maybe I was just so tired right then that I didn’t have time to be amazed by how much better off she was than me.
I said indifferently, “It isn’t any worse than what I had to put up with back home, treatment wise. Actually, this is a laugh. Sure, people’ve laughed at me, sure, I got pranked some and pushed around a little, but compared to what I’m used to? This is a cake walk!”
Well, maybe guy bullying and girl bullying was different. I guess I was so used to actual physical abuse and nonsensical curse words shouted at me as I had my stomach kicked in or got to wear black eyes to school days after to let everyone know I’d gotten my ass kicked, but after all that and visiting dimensions that most people would have described as hell? A little back talking and harmless pranks that didn’t leave me limping around or stupid rumors being spread behind my back was water off my back.
She was still looking at me with that disbelieving stare, and turned to glare at the window.
Turning my head to look at her, I added with a smirk that kind of hurt, “It wasn’t all that bad, really… no one hit me once, and I didn’t get my head stuffed in a toilet or anything. I can deal with humiliation, and teasing as long as it doesn’t leave bruises. Besides, I came here for a new start. Well, I was FORCED here, but same difference.”
Greta shook her head, smiling reluctantly. “You are not so bad a person, Josie. I do not think I mind you as a roommate anymore. But if you touch my things I will be very, very angry.”
My hopes of having my very own James Bond gadget girl were diminishing…
Suzan allowed herself the smuggest of smiles once the lights in the room had gone out, her roommate’s sound even breathing implying she’d dozed off. This had worked out even better than she had hoped. It couldn’t have gone better if she’d planned it from the start!
Not only did she get sent to the same school as that girl who owed her a few favors already, but she got roomed with a complete pushover! She might have been named Hardcase, but she sure didn’t live up to the name. And with some training, and prompting, Josie could be the perfect lackey down the line too, and her hair didn’t even clash with Suzan’s bright blonde mane.
She’d need to wait a bit before she could figure out who was approachable and who she can work on campus (and possibly get some dirt on them), but Josie, maybe, if she was kept under thumb… oh, she had watched the way they’d treated her that day. Watched in silence as one after another of the mutants and super dorks on the campus had proven time and again that the only difference between them and the kids at Russel High was that when these ones threaten to kill you, they might just do it by accident. However, they were still just normal kids under it all, and they could be used, inspired, turned on one another, and possibly controlled if one were inclined to do so.
Well, first things first. Work had to be done, foundations laid.
Languidly she turned her head to watch her new roommate sleeping, and found herself still uncomfortable with the idea of sharing her room with another girl on a regular basis. But Hardcase had potential too, she was all in all a sweet girl, and a faithful follower. She’d already told her about her great friends on some “Martial Arts Cheerleadering” squad, which was a bizarre name for a club, in Suzan’s opinion, but it beat the “Jocks” or “Capes” or “Masterminds”.
There was so much she needed to work on with the Josie girl, first. It was hard to believe she didn’t own a single stick of make-up, and that she’d never even shaved her legs before! What a chore. Then again… the tomboy aspect of her was endearing in a way. It gave her some spunk. With that kid’s personal hygiene and style of dress it was no wonder she’d been mistaken for a guy so many times. Thankfully, the school was doing half her job and making her wear a dress with the school uniform. Hopefully she wouldn’t get the idea that she could wear the guy half of it if she wanted to wear pants so badly.
Then there was that obsession with video games.
Why a girl her age was so much more interested in games where you went around shooting other people and not trying to get her own ass in the crosshairs of some cute guy was almost beyond comprehension. But, maybe that was another habit Suzan could wean her geeky little toy off.
Her head a melting pot of plots and plans, Suzan drifted off to sleep with a content and happy smile.
I knew I hadn’t fallen asleep outside in the middle of March in a strange school, but that’s exactly where I woke up. A violet light and a sudden jarring from a pleasant dream involving flying fourth dimensional shapes of varying complexity and half fish women (sadly the fish part was on top). It wasn’t even light out yet, and I was staring at a strange half decayed stone wall almost as tall as I was that I’d stubbed my foot on and ran into with my nose while in my pajamas. It still took me a while to get my bearings, and for my lack of sleep to wear off before I started to freak out. As my eyes focused, a glistening wall of light that did nothing to illuminate the ground around it shown from the wall, and before a dozen different dimensions of energy and matter started to cross my eyes, I quickly grabbed my glasses from the case I’d stuffed into the breast pocket of my pajamas before I’d gone to sleep.
Well that helped clear things up. Yah, just a normal wall and lots of cold that my sleeping clothes did little to combat. Where was I this time!? Ireland? Some planet where the people were grass and they grew people on their lawn and cut them down once a season?
Swiftly I spun around and let out a sigh of relief. Somewhat familiar buildings stood in the distance, a few of the cottages I didn’t recognize as my own, and the large and reflective Doyle Medical Complex I’d visited the previous morning.
So I was still at the school. Well, that was a relief. At least I wouldn’t have to try to hit this place again from halfway across the country, or some other planet. At least I hadn’t woken up on a different planet!
Counting what few blessings I could, I marched off towards the Medical Complex to get my post-jaunt decontamination wash. On the upside, at least I’d have someone else to scrub behind my ears!
…It’s just a shame the nice helpful nurse does that, it burns like fire.
The answer was simple when he’d thought about it. All it took was a small amount of research, a few quick searches on the internet to find out just what young teenage girls were giddy for these days. It was convenient, when he thought about it, the style played into his own personal look far too perfectly. And once it worked on the Josie girl, he could use this trick to haul an unimaginable amount of female tail, to tap the hidden resources of repressed teenage girl sexuality that was… the vampire mystique!
And so, it came to be that Nephandus came rushing into Jobe’s lab with a copy of the latest Twilight book clutched to his chest, and said with his eyes maddened with promise and his cane swung widely to emphasis his words, “Jobe! I need a favor. MAKE… ME… SPARKLE!”