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The Haunting of...

A S U P E R N A T U R A L T H R I L L E R
G M (s) : Lord Wraith, Roman G E N R E: Horror, School, Slice of Life, Superhuman, Urban Fantasy T Y P E: Linear with Sandbox Elements
"He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

▼ S U M M A R Y:

► S E A S O N O N E: N E M E S I S

EPISODE 01.01.0 || Pilot

The bell has rung kicking off a brand new year at Mather Memorial High School, the largest secondary school in the sleepy city of Crestwood Hollow. This school year signifies the start of Jonas Lehrer's career at Mather Memorial, a recent addition to the school's staff. An ambitious young teacher, Jonas arrived at Mather Memorial with plans to inject new life into the school, starting a pioneering after-school study program. Seemingly recruiting students at random, Jonas has put together a group consisting of students from all grade levels. Due to this, it seems the students aren't necessarily going to get along as cliques and rivalries quickly form on the first day of class.


Currently ongoing...
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N O R T H O F C R E S T W O O D H O L L O W:

Three Nights Ago

The wind howled outside of the house as long branches tapped against the nearby window. The uneven rhythm gave the noise an eerie quality, as though it were a someone desperately trying to get the attention of those inside. Stirring from his slumber, Sebastian Scott groaned as he rolled over, pulling one of his pillows over his head as he begged whatever celestial being controlled the winds to stop.

And suddenly there was silence.

Sebastian slowly pulled the pillow off of his head, the pale moonlight managing to pierce through a small gap in his curtains created by the wind outside. With a yawn and a stretch, Sebastian climbed out of bed, slowly dragging his feet towards the window as he reached for the curtain. Pausing, Sebastian stared out the window into the brightly lit night. The trees were still, the wind having ceased. Satisfied his slumber wouldn’t be further disturbed, Sebastian trudged back into his bed, flopping down before wrapping himself tightly in the blankets.

Feeling his chest tighten, Sebastian coughed as he fought the blankets to gain some freedom.

Only they wouldn’t come loose.

The smell of wet wood invaded his nostrils as Sebastian’s eyes opened wide. A scream threatened to escape his mouth before it was suddenly silenced.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:16am | Teacher’s Lounge

The morning sun shone over Mather Memorial Park as the American Flag blew proudly in the gentle Atlantic breeze. A new day had dawned on Crestwood Hollow and a new academic year upon Mather Memorial High School. The gentle lull of birds gleefully chirping was broken by the steady roar of an older motorcycle as it made its way towards the school. Pulling into the school parking lot, the rider made his way into the faculty parking spots before dismounting.

Removing his helmet, Jonas Lehrer ran a hand over his smoothly shaved head, tucking the helmet under his arm as he moved to the rear of the bike. Unclasping a pair of buckles, Jonas freed his leather messenger bag, swinging it over his torso before entering the school.

Students lined the hall as they checked the numerous postings on the walls for their name and assigned homeroom class. Though none of them seemed to be in any particular hurray as those who had found their names, stood in the ways of the others while catching up with their friends that they hadn't seen over the summer.

The hallways buzzed of the recent death of Sebastian Scott. The body’s petrified state being severly understated in the news due to the actual gory details of his death. Buzzwords floated around about it being a Hyperhuman attacks while some referred to it as ritualistic, hinting at Crestwood’s darker past.

Unzipping his leather jacket, Jonas noticed several of the students giving him a strange look. It was to be expected however, he wasn't a returning teacher, this was his first term at Mather Memorial. Turning into his office, Jonas took a seat at his desk, placing his messenger bag on the desk before gently running a hand over the embossed leather.

Opening the bag, he reached inside, pulling out a rather new laptop before logging into the school’s network. Loading the daily schedule, Jonas noticed he had an assembly to attend. A soft groan escaped his lips as he leaned back in the chair. 'Welcome Assemblies' were hardly exciting, and as a teacher, he didn't look forward to them anymore than the students did.

Standing up from his desk, Jonas moved into the Teacher’s Lounge, the earthy smell of a fresh pot of coffee immediately drawing his attention. Pouring a cup for himself, Jonas took a sip from the sharp, black liquid before returning to his desk. Time seemed to have flown by as the bell rang suddenly, signalling not only the start of the day, but the start of a brand new school year.

Taking a deep, final swing, Jonas swallowed hard before putting the mug down and standing up again. Rolling up the sleeves on his collared shirt, Jonas straightened his tie as he left the office and made his way towards the auditorium. The dull roar of students chattering to themselves filled the halls as the student body proceeded towards the auditorium. Taking his seat on the stage, Jonas looked out over the gathering crowd, his abilities flaring up, the abilities of so many Hyperhumans burning into the back of his skull as he closed his eyes and gently massaged his temples.

With such a large gathering of people, there was no doubt in his mind that they'd be more than a few Hypes among them. In fact, Crestwood Hollow's significant Hype population had been among one of the biggest draws for Jonas when he applied at Mather Memorial. Now he had a program built specifically to allow him to recruit and train Hyperhumans all without the principal knowing or even suspecting the true purpose behind the 'Social Conscience' Program.

Not that there was any reason to suspect 'Social Conscience', Jonas had pitched the group program as a way to encourage individuals to grow and develop within their community, finding a way to contribute to society with their own gifts in their own way and become the leaders of tomorrow. Though to be honest that was exactly what Jonas had in mind, if only while operating slightly outside of the law.

"...And please give a warm Mather Memorial High School welcome to your new faculty member, Mr. Lehrer!" Principal Fitzgerald's voice echoed out through the auditorium. Leaving both his seat and thoughts, Jonas stepped forward replacing Fitzgerald at the podium overlooking the student body.

"Greetings Mather Memorial. I think we can all agree this year, the school will truly spread its wings."] Jonas' gravely voice dictated, a slight chuckle appearing midst the traveled accent as he elicited a combination of groans, cheers and laughter from the students with his reference to the school's chosen mascot.

The Mather Memorial Ravens.

"It's a pleasure to be joining the faculty here, this year. To some of you I'll be teaching physics, to others I'm sure I'll meet you later this year on the court as the new basketball coach. Still more of you will be participating in my advanced calculus class but there is a specific handful of you I'm really looking forward to meeting." Pausing for effect, Jonas flashed a smile as he extended a hand towards Principal Fitzgerald.

"If it wasn't for the generosity and open-mindedness of Principal Fitzgerald I wouldn't be able to have founded my pioneering Social Conscience Program here at Mather Memorial. Those of you who were recruited show truly great potential and I can't wait to work with each of you on an individual level. Again thank you to Mr. Fitzgerald and my new home here at Mather Memorial High School!" Jonas finished, raising the microphone into the air. The student body exploded into cheers as Jonas returned the microphone to the Principle. As he turned away from the student body, a smile appeared on Jonas’ face before he took his seat.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 10:40am | Physics Laboratory

The rest of the assembly went by rather quickly, which was surprising given the events that followed his speech. The student council performed a rather awkward skit on the dangers of unprotected sex and the meaning of the word no. This however, was topped by a closing rap performed by the school’s elderly librarian. Thankfully it didn’t go beyond that and Principal Fitzgerald sent the students onto the rest of their day and the start of the new year.

Checking his watch, Jonas inwardly groaned at the agonizing wait he was still faced with until he could meet the Hyperhumans he had handpicked. Leaving the auditorium with the rest of the teachers, he took the stairs to the upper floor of the east wing, the air immediately becoming cooler as he entered the school’s newer addition. Heading to the physics lab, Jonas entered the room with the rest of the students before standing behind the podium and addressing the seated class.

"Welcome to introductory physics, take your textbooks out and turn to page twenty. Notes will be posted online so please follow along and the first person caught on their cellphone…” Jonas stopped mid sentence, his eyes surveying over the room with a steely edge as the excited students fell quiet.

“Will, regret it.” He concluded before his eyes fixed on a girl in the corner, her head hanging over her lap as a small smile crossed her face as the subtle clack of manicured nails against glass echoed through the tense room.

"That said..." Jonas paused as he ran his hand over the top of his bag before reaching inside and drawing forth a small object. Throwing it, the object ricocheted across the room until the girl in the corner cried out in shock as her cellphone clattered to the floor, the eraser Jonas had thrown landing exactly on target.

"There is always one who doesn't listen." Jonas said with a cross smirk. "Now then, as I have all of your attention, I should explain that physics can be exciting. I can teach you how to do what I just did and we can do a lot of lab work that you will learn from and excitedly explain to your friends no matter how nerdy it makes you sound." Jonas took a breath, placing a hand on the course textbook in front of him. "Or, physics can be incredibly dull. Even painful to sit through and you'll dread coming to every class.”

“But that decision is up to you.” Jonas said as he extended his arms towards the class. “You respect me and my rules, I'll respect you. Disrespect me, and you'll do the time." Smiling, Jonas placed both hands on the podium as he looked at the class.

"So what will it be?"


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:20pm | The ‘Loft’

As the bell sounded signalling the last break of the day, Jonas packed up his things and leaving the calculus classroom behind. An eager smile crossed his face, it was time to make his last introduction of the day, but it was also the introduction he had been most looking forward to all day.

Walking the aged hallways of Mather Memorial, Jonas made his way to the top of the main building. Unlocking the door to a musty, old classroom, Jonas coughed slightly as a cloud of dust met his nostrils as the door swung open. Entering the room, Jonas placed his bag on the antique desk as he turned and looked towards one of the school’s last operating analog clocks.

Within the next fifteen minutes, the Hyperhumans, his Hyperhumans would be coming through the very door he had just unlocked. Uncovering the old one piece desks, Jonas opened the pair of windows at the other end of the classroom in an attempt to make the room breathe. As he moved through the room collecting the discarded covers, Jonas placed a passcard on each desk. Bundling up the table clothes, he opened the storage closet in the back corner before returning to the head of the room.

Turning to the blackboard, Jonas reached towards the ledge and picked up a piece of chalk, quickly writing out a question on the faded blackboard. As the bell rang signalling the start of class, the students began to file into the class, taking their seats as Jonas stood leaning against the desk with his arms crossed as he studied each and everyone of them. They didn't know how or why they ended up being chosen for this group, but they would find out soon enough.

For the time being however, Jonas believed it was best the students believed this class was exactly what it appeared to be and so Jonas took upon the facade of a teacher once again as he cleared his throat.

“So I know most of you are wondering how exactly you ended up in this class, I know some of you are probably upset that this class has taken the place of your requested academics. Well, let me be the first to relieve in saying that this credit will count in the place of any course it may have taken. Principal Fitzgerald and I have already worked that out. Furthermore,” Jonas moved towards his bag, running his hand over the top before opening the leather satchel.

“Upon completion of this semester, I will be happy to provide each and everyone of you with a letter of my recommendation towards any school, apprenticeship or job of your choice. Consider it my thank you for allowing me to intrude in your academic careers.” Jonas stated before moving around to the front of the desk.

"Now then, allow me to welcome you to Social Conscience. As you should all be aware of by now, I am Mr. Lehrer but that’s far too formal for my liking.” Jonas stated as he shook his hand beside his throat.

”You can call me, Jonas." He said as he boosted himself onto the desk, taking a seat on the edge while alternating between rubbing a hand on either of his wrists.

“On each of your desks, you’ll find a passcard. That card will allow you access to this room should you ever need it. I hope you’ll come to find this room to be something of a sanctuary.” Looking over the class, Jonas could see their minds at work, curiosity was a driving trait among them. They were just as interested in studying him as he was them.

“Now, as some of you might have already noticed, I’ve wrote a question on the board that I want to use as an ice breaker and to begin to get to know what our course here, is really about. A basis to discovering what Social Conscience really is.” He said pointing over his shoulder to the chalkboard behind him.

“What separates man from animal?” He asked quoting the question behind him. “As I’m sure many of you are aware, there was a suspected murder here in Crestwood Hollow a few nights ago. Humankind built society, they put laws and governments in place, exchanging a degree of freedom for safety. Yet-” Jonas stopped to look at the students. “Bad things still happen. You can’t turn on the news without hearing about humans hurting one another. So I ask you, what separates us from the animals?”

Jumping up from the desk, Jonas began to pace to the classroom as he extended his hands in an open invitation. "Who wants to take a crack at answering that?" He asked turning the floor over to the class.
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M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:55am | Mather Memorial Parking Lot

The serene morning's peace would be broken by the roaring engine of a street racer pulling up to Mather High's parking lot. "This is your stop, kid." From the front passenger seat, an over-dressed Eddie would step out and take a deep breath. It wasn't the first time he had been here at the school with this exact same car but the empty hallways and faculty offices made it less intimidating. A new sensation of fear and excitement started to take hold of him as he stood in awe of the school. However, as he stepped away from his ride, his uncle Joel would speed away while blasting classic rock and waving goodbye. "Heh. Lucky that traffic patrol hasn't had their morning coffee yet." Eddie remarked with a smirk, as his uncle clearly violated the school zone speed limits. This small act of defiance against the law was enough to jump start his confidence once more.

As he entered the school, he would shoot a few glances to his left and right before proceeding to the locker area. Some members of the busy student body would take notice of Eddie's eccentric wardrobe but he paid them no mind as he kept his head high while not making eye contact. However, as he reached his locker, he would initially struggle to get the combination right and would make a minor commotion as he tried to pry his assigned storage open. It would take him a moment to regain his composure lest he simply try to kick the lock off. In the end, he would overcome this unforeseen obstacle with only a few moments before the assembly started. Hastily leaving his blazer inside the locker, Eddie would try to blend in with the mass of students as they funneled into the auditorium.

Throughout the presentation, he would maintain a stern face but applaud when appropriate. While school spirit was apparently popular among the students, Eddie merely felt awkwardness from the skits. Specially the rapping librarian's. He didn't have plans to visit the library at all and that merely cemented his decision. The only announcement he had taken genuine interest in was Mr. Lehrer's Social Conscience Program and only because he had to take it. Being the new kid and a late enrollment didn't leave much in the choice of classes, he figured. With the start of the year assembly firmly behind him, it was off to his first class: Biology.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 11:35am | Outside Mather Memorial Biology Lab

His first class was pretty much a blur but Eddie would like to think he did okay. After all, he somehow managed to make two friends along the way. Not too bad, specially since it was first period.

"Edd! When are you bringing around that Challenger from last week and this morning again?! It's not in the lot, I checked, but don't think you can hide it from me, brother. I know you too well, haha!" exclaimed one of his new acquaintances. Tall and loud but somehow charming in a way. This was Frederick.

"I don't think that was his, Fred. Like he said, his uncle is Guy Garvin so that must have been a supercar that they were working on. The owner is most likely from Burberry Heights since you obviously can't afford to even ride in it!" Snide yet well-intentioned, the other was Richmond. The two would boil down to an argument while Eddie would utter a quick farewell under his breath, excusing himself since he couldn't afford to be late to any of his classes. After all, this new school might as well be a maze. Before Eddie could leave though, Frederick would tell him one more thing.

"Meet us at the school lot during lunch. We're gonna get burgers or something since the cafeteria menu sucks."

A man of his word, Eddie would show up at their designated spot during lunch time but somehow expected a catch from the delinquent duo. Once he got there, it was all too clear when he saw the souped-up Civic with Frederick in the driver's seat and Richmond in the front passenger seat. He would reluctantly get in and strap himself as they exited from the school grounds. They would then speed off to a drive-thru and get burgers, with their Chinese compatriot ordering with a thick accent on purpose to sate their crude humour. As they pulled up to the pay window, Richmond would switch over to a more refined cadence as they held back their laughter, Eddie with his eyes closed and facing away the entire time. Afterwards, the trio would race around the block while eating lunch as if they were at a racetrack. This day was perfect.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:25pm | The Loft

With directions from his new friends, Eddie would find himself at his last class' designated room. He would await for a few others to take their seats before taking one himself but made sure he wouldn't be last to sit either. None of the faces seemed familiar but he could tell that they seem to have a lot on their minds. Even Jonas looked like he had a hidden agenda in mind. When the promise of equivalent credit came up, Eddie suspicions rose up once again. Just like before, there had to be a catch.

As the question was posed to the class, he would raise his hand to answer. With the murder and his past experiences in mind, he would state the initial response to the question: "Man tries to justify his crimes. Animals don't care."
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Ryan Mendoza

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:34 am
As always, Ryan had risen bright and early in anticipation of the incoming school year, though her approach was made with just a little more trepidation than usual. Honestly, her enthusiasm had been dampened lately, and while she'd hoped the break would give her a chance to shut down some of the more inconvenient anxieties, her thoughts didn't seem to have cleared up any. It was frustrating, to say the least, and a distraction she didn't need. She paused, frowning uncomfortably as she fidgeted with the cord around her neck.

It really was confusing, though. She had no idea what she was actually doing wrong, only that she was failing to keep on track. Not that she would talk to anyone about the whole mess, of course.

At least she was getting these worries out of the way now, as she made the long-ish walk to school. Her dad could have given her a ride in his van, of course, but he had to work, and they certainly couldn't afford a car of her own. So, walking it was. Only a few miles, at least, and by now she'd gotten used to it. Like most things, it became part of the routine.

And routine was the word for it, first day or not. She'd already pretty much mapped out how things would end up going. She'd arrive maybe twenty minutes before the bell, enough time to find her classes without having to rush about it. Then there'd be an assembly, first day of school and everything, and she'd smile and nod and soak up whatever faux-inspirational speech they happened to come up with this time. It had never stopped her from playing along, but she'd always felt the time spent on assemblies would be better used doing something productive. Her classes would either be interesting or boring, but either way she'd appear enthusiastic and engaged like a good little student.

Lunch, well, she'd spend sitting at the corner of a table, head down and ignoring everyone else around her in favour of scribbling notes in her diary. If she kept her head down, she doubted anyone would pay her much attention, and even if they did she'd studiously ignore them. Not looking at anyone at all seemed like the best bet, honestly. Right now especially, people seemed unnecessarily distracting to deal with. Plus, she didn't want to go discussing murders. As far as she was concerned, it made sense for it to be a hyperhuman attack, so there was no point in letting herself worry all too much about the whole thing. After that, it was simply a case of returning to her good student role until the day ended.

Then she'd go home to recount the whole thing to her parents, and her mother would stand beaming in pride before suggesting she go to her room and and read ahead on everything she'd been introduced to. So she'd sit at her desk, on a chair that was broken, but not broken enough to use what little spending money they had on a new one, and study until her eyes hurt. Get called down for dinner, which would at least be good, mom being a pretty stellar cook, and if she was lucky she'd have time to read a few chapters of a book before falling asleep.

Either that, or she'd stop by the Harborview and do her studying there, depending on how stressful today turned out to be. Not that it'd ultimately change the routine all that much.

Rinse and repeat for the rest of the year. Easy enough, really.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:26pm | The Loft
And sure enough, that was basically how the day had played out. Utterly unremarkable, the only slight break coming from the assembly - which had at least been somewhat interesting. Something to do with seeing a new face, she supposed, though she had been interested to see who else had been picked out as having so-called exceptional potential. The people actually here were... a mixed bag, she'd say. Exceptional seemed to be stretching it just a little. She'd appreciated the praise in the spirit it was meant, but her initial impression had left her slightly unsure whether being included here was actually a compliment.

Beyond a slightly bemused expression, though, she hadn't felt any temptation to speak up. Like it or not, she was here now, so she'd just have to hold back her judgements until she'd experienced more of the class. And Mr. Lehrer - or Jonas, she supposed, although being informal with teachers had never come naturally to her - at least seemed interesting enough to hold her attention, rather than the type to drone on and leave them all half-asleep. The subject of the class was also intriguing, even if she wasn't entirely sure what it meant.

Nonetheless, a letter of recommendation and credit for her replaced classes was enough motivation for her to pay close attention. She glanced at the keycard, uncertain whether she'd ever actually use it, but grateful for having access to somewhere private. It was hard to find room to collect her thoughts around here. Whatever this class was, apparently it came with a few special privileges.

Smiling to herself, she finally turned her thoughts to the question on the board. Her classmate's answer was to the point, but also way too cynical in her mind. After a couple seconds' pause, she tentatively raised her own hand. Better to answer as well as she could, if only to gain credit for making an effort early on. Teachers liked it when you answered their questions, right? That was what you were meant to do, so with that thought in mind she spoke up.

"I guess... people have control over whether they obey their urges. Or, um, the capacity for it. We don't have to run on instinct, we can think about how our actions affect the wider world." There was a nervousness about her, unsure whether she was saying something wrong somehow, and her initial confidence quickly dissolved into worried clarification. "What I mean is, uh, people do bad things, and just about everyone wants to do the wrong thing sometimes," she winced a little at that, "but we can decide to do the right thing too. It's being able to make that choice at all which makes us different, I think."
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Jason McKinney

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:30 am
Having hobbies could really suck at times. A huge yawn threatened to split Jason's face in half as he trudged up to the school, watering his eyes and causing him to pause his walk for a moment so he wouldn't bump into anyone. He rubbed at his eyes, wishing that he'd chosen sleep over his end-of-summer movie marathon that ended about three hours before he was supposed to be up for school. Too little, too late, he supposed. Maybe if he was lucky he could sneak in a nap during the assembly that was sure to happen. Then again, he had tried the same thing the previous year, and ended up being the last one to make it to class. Not a great way to start the school year.

He pushed past his exhaustion and made his way through the bustling crowd to check his homeroom assignment, before tugging his phone out of his pocket to jot it down. There was no chance he could trust his memory on this little sleep.
Despite his sleep-deprived state, he caught mumblings here and there about the current events that he'd missed out on. Apparently there was a murder? He hadn't heard anything about that, but then again his summer was mostly spent in his room, binging his favorite shows and eating way too much snack food. Just the way he'd planned to spend his summer. He figured he'd be hearing more about the incident, so he didn't dwell on it much.

He filed into the auditorium with the rest of the students and sat through the assembly, and though it went just about how he thought it would he was surprised to see a new teacher. Though, all it took was one look at the man for Jason to realize that no, he wasn't going to be able to sneak a nap in his class. He also didn't seem like the type to appreciate his humor. Then again, he could be wrong, so he figured he'd give it a shot when the time came.

As the assembly drew to a close and the school year started in earnest, Jason got up and headed to his homeroom with the rest of his class, his face buried in his phone. Had he been more awake, he would have actively looked for any of his friends he'd made the previous year, but his lack of energy meant that he wasn't his usual chipper self. Another yawn threatened to bifurcate his face, and he began to wonder if binging all three seasons of his favorite sci-fi show was worth it.

Of course it was.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:23pm | The Loft
The day went about as he figured it would. He staved off sleep during his classes, thankful that it was the first day and they weren't required to memorize anything important. Lunchtime came and went, and he managed to catch a power nap and somehow not sleep through the bell. After lunch he was much more active, cracking jokes and getting yelled at by the teachers like usual.

What he wasn't expecting was to be chosen for the 'social consciousness' class. Hell, he didn't even know what that meant. Still, it seemed like it would be an easy class, and getting free credits and a personal recommendation for the school of his choice was a good bonus. He was looking at several technology-centered schools, all of which were fairly difficult to get into.

The question on the board was certainly an interesting one, but as two of the other students answered, he soon realized that everyone was going to take this much too seriously. Jason never liked taking anything seriously. He raised his hand before giving his take on such a philosophical question.
"Well, I can't speak for anyone else in this room, but I certainly can't whip around and bite my own ass if it itches." he said, a smirk pulling at his lips.
"Oh, and we've got opposable thumbs too. Can't forget about those." he added as an afterthought, extending his own thumbs and giving them a flex.
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B U R B E R R Y H E I G H T S

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 7:20am | Carlyle Residence


Winter awoke to the sound of birds chirping outside her window. She didn't really need an alarm anyway. She often got up early in order to ensure she was properly fed before school. It wasn't like her parents would be home anyway. Often times the house was empty, save for their butler, and he often had his own chores to deal with.

Winter threw the covers off her bed and walked to the bathroom, where her clothes were already picked out from the night before. She looked into the mirror. Bed head and sleepy eyed, she checked herself over. Even her father agreed that with every passing year, she looked more and more like her mother. The thought along choked her up. She couldn't remember her mother very well apart from pictures showed during holidays. Her father tried his best, she knew that. Even her step-mother did what she could to be there for Winter, but the two of them were often away on "business trips". She used the words loosely, as often these trips were in tropical locations she was sure no business of her father's.

Yes, Winter was often used to being alone. Hell, she was used to it at school, surrounded by people she called her friends. She knew better. She had precious few people she actually liked, the others were there for status only. Winter would have to be blind to not see that people glommed on to her in the hopes of grasping any ounce of popularity they could manage. It sickened her that people would act like that, but it sickened her more that she perpetuated it. Was it out of fear that she would lose one of the best things going for her? Or was she actually enjoying it?

She shook her head. No, she hated acting like that, but she couldn't stop. Popularity was like a drug. She took off her clothes and stepped into the shower for a quick, hot rinse off before getting ready for school.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:16am | Parking Lot


Winter drove her car into her spot, ready to face the day. She got out and locked it before she heard the screaming and cheering of a nearby group of girls she couldn't bother remembering the names of. They squealed as if Winter had been gone for years, hugging her, asking where she went to get so tan and if that outfit was new. She answered questions as they came. No, she had this outfit forever. No, she didn't go anywere. Henry was dumped two years ago (you freaking idiot). Soon, the herd scrambled inside to find out their homerooms. Winter was not concerned about that so much as the new class she saw when she got her schedule.

Social Conscience.

She had never heard of the class before and she sure as hell did not sign up for it. Her father immediately called the school, asking why his daughter was placed in such a class. He hinted at all the funding he provided for the school in the past, but the principal would not be moved, highlighting it would be beneficial for Winter as it would look good on college applications and would provide real world experience for her she would be unlikely to get anywhere else. Plus, it was already put on paper.

So she was stuck with it. Some new hotshot teacher thinking he could come in and change the school? She thought not. High school was a minefield. You had to be careful where you stepped because, one wrong move, and boom!

She walked into the hallway and perused the list for her homeroom class. She knew her schedule already, but she was curious to see what else she got. She made a beeline for her locker, avoiding as many interactions as she could. Some girl saying they should hang out later (not likely). Some jock dude wolf whistling at her and saying she had a, quote, "nice ass" (not gonna happen jackass). She made it to her locker without much pain until she heard her voice. "Oh. My. God! Winter? How are you?" There was only one person in all of Mather Memorial High School that could sound that perky and hostile all in one.

Trinity Sandwell.

The viper in Prada skin shuffled over to her and gave her an air hug. Winter fought the urge to vomit. Trinity! So good to see you? Have you lost weight?" The subtle dig would hopefully drive the girl away quickly. Trinity and Winter had a long-standing rivalry that went on years. The two often clashed in most things, mainly on Trinity's side. If Winter tried out for the school play, so did Trinity. If Winter wanted to date Bradley Farmer, Trinity wanted to date his older brother. She always wanted to one-up her. Her attempts often went south, but so long as it got under Winter's skin, Trinity was happy.

"Oh Winter, so sweet as always! Actually, daddy bought me a new nose and a boob job! I'll ask him for the number of the guy I saw for you. Thank me later!" Trinity walked away, thankfully, because otherwise Winter would have punched her.

Bitch.

The school assembly came and went as the new teacher got up to speak a few words. She listened to him intently, ignoring the commotion around her as other students made crass and rude comments about the man. He was interesting, to say the least. She was looking forward ot seeing how he taught.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 10:40am | Physics Laboratory


Winter didn't like science too much. Truth be told, she loved math. However, she was not expecting to have the new teacher be her physics professor.

As he spoke, she could respect his confidence. She put her phone away before class started. After all, if she wanted to talk to anyone she could easily do so in person. Plus, she had gotten in trouble for it in the past. The girl behind her though, seemed not to listen as she could hear the clicking of the buttons being pushed down.

Before she knew it, the teacher was throwing something and the girl behind her screamed. Her phone dropped and Winter fought the urge to laugh. It was justice served cold and she could appreciate that. The girl blushed and picked her phone back up and put it away.

Now she was intrigued.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 2:20 PM | The Loft


Winter made her way up the stairs. She was sure there was nothing up here apart from dust, but an old classroom awaited her. She entered and saw other students sitting around. She recognized a few of them, others not so much. It seemed this class' attempt to put together those from various social circles would be in vain. She was sure that those in the room would not get along with the others.

She eyed the teacher, wondering if he remembered her from Physics class. She picked up the passcard he mentioned, studying it as she studied him. And then he mentioned Scott.

She hadn't interacted with Scott much. She noted he was cute, but he seemed like trouble. It wasn't all too surprising he got himself killed. She heard rumors. Run in with the law. Drug deal gone bad. Ex-lover got revenge. It was so easy to spread rumors. She felt sorry that he was gone.

Still, the question intrigued her. She thought on it for a bit before answering. "Man has morals. Animals don't. Granted, our morality can be skewed in our own interests. A serial killer may feel he is doing God's work when he strangles countless women. Animals do what is in their insticts. They attack and defend themselves as nature has taught them. It could be argued that man does that too. But we also feel guilt. Remorse. Love and hate."
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Melissa
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Melissa There's a 30% chance it's already raining!

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T H E W A R N E R R E S I D E N C E:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:16am | Anneliese’s Room
Anneliese was running. Sprinting down a cobblestone sidewalk in the pitch black night. Who was after her? She had no clue, but whoever or whatever it was seemed to be nipping at her heels. The petite girl wasn’t strong and sure as hell wasn’t too fast, so as she crumbled to the ground almost instantaneously, she knew it was over. Her abilities were useless here, and she was rendered powerless in the presence of the offender chasing her. As the dark figure loomed over her, having nearly won, Anneliese let out one last defensive effort, an ear piercing scream that cut through the night like glass. The man reached out towards her-

The brunette gasped for air as she abruptly sat up in bed, eyes wider than a deer in headlights. It was only a nightmare… only a nightmare she thought to herself, attempting to calm down her tense and rigid frame. Her lungs were on fire, breathing as if she had just run a marathon, and her pulse was rampant and raging. It felt so real. Clearly, she had been reading too many articles about the murder that occured only days previous. Taking some more deep breaths, she managed to slow her heart rate down just enough in order to achieve normalcy. Squinting from the rays of sunlight emitting from her window and wiping her palm across her damp forehead, Anneliese managed to turn her head just enough to catch sight of her alarm clock. The red LED numbers read 7:17, and that meant she was already running late on the first day of school. Fantastic.

“Liesey, I’m leaving in 30 minutes, and that’s either with or without you!” Her brother Louis yelled from the hallway, pounding on her door and chastising her with the nickname that she hated more than anything. Rolling her eyes, she shakily climbed out of bed, still in shock from the frightening dream she had just experienced. She could attribute it to current events all that she wanted, but deep down Anneliese truly knew what the nightmares were about. Throwing the thoughts aside, as she needed to focus on making it to school on time, the petite girl began the process of getting ready for the first day.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:56am | Mather Memorial Parking Lot
Louis Warner pulled into his usual parking spot-closest space to the football field- with Anneliese in the passenger’s seat, music blaring loudly. She luckily had gotten ready in time, and was able to ride with him, saving her from the mile walk. The car left when Louis left, and if his sister wasn’t ready, that was too bad for her. Usually, she’d make it in time, but this morning was touch and go, as the nightmares clouded her mind and her productivity flew out the window. Turning to his sister as he cut the engine, Louis spoke while a toothpick hung out of his mouth. He was trying to cease his summer smoking habits, since that impaired him from performing at his best on the field. “I have practice after school, so you know the drill.”

The drill was that she could either wait in the stands until practice was over, catch the bus (which was a terrible form of transportation), or walk a mile back to their house. More often than not, Anneliese chose to walk, but sometimes she enjoyed staying and watching the team practice. A majority of the time she’d sit there and sketch the players, working on capturing art in motion. She never took the bus. You wouldn’t catch her on that yellow death machine with wheels anyday. “Yeah, alright.” She replied carelessly, and Louis hopped out of the car almost immediately to greet his two friends who had gathered by the side of the car. Unseen, she stepped out of the passenger seat as they bantered about their Senior year, and headed into the familiar school building.

Anneliese’s day went off without a hitch. Her classes were somewhat tolerable, and she even got to reunite with her favorite teacher, Ms. Henshaw. Everything was going smoothly until she looked at the very last class listed on her schedule...

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:24pm | The Loft
If she was being quite honest, Anneliese thought that “Social Conscience” sounded like a load of crap. In fact, she was a little irked that she was enrolled in this class instead of an additional art elective. What was she going to get out of it anyway? Plus, if this room was supposed to hold the best and the brightest, why not choose her brother instead of her? Maybe this was all one big mix up, and they meant to put Louis’ name instead of hers!

With a sigh, Anneliese filed into the classroom alongside the other students. Most of them she recognized, others she did not. What she did realize, was that this was a huge grab bag of people from Mather Memorial. Not just one type of person was in this room- in fact, she believed they represented almost every stereotypical archetype found in these halls. Some sort of screwed up Breakfast Club, this was.

As Mr. Lehr-Jonas spoke, Anneliese decided that she would give him the benefit of the doubt, and not completely count out this course from her other ones. Besides, he seemed nice enough. Also the promise of a letter of recommendation was too good to pass up- she would definitely have to hold him to that. In her mind, the more allies she had, the better.

Tuning out the rest of his speech, she pulled out her sketchbook and her pencils and began to scribble a rough sketch of the classroom in all of its dusty glory, wanting to capture a moment in time. Inspiration was everywhere, and Anneliese never turned down an opportunity to capitalize on it. Jonas’ question piqued her interest, though. She listened to her classmates, and even managed a small laugh at one of the boy's comments about opposable thumbs. It wasn't until her memories flashed back to the nightmare from this morning that the mere recall of being chased sent shivers down her spine. It was animalistic- being chased and preyed on. While she never volunteered to speak up in her regular classes, the small class of no more than 15 intimidated her into saying something. Mumbling an answer to the question, she continued sketching while speaking.

“I see no difference half of the time. High school is a great example of humans acting like animals- there is a clear and obvious food chain.” Anneliese chuckled, dropping one of the pencils against her sketchbook resting on the table. Looking up and making eye contact with Jonas, she continued. “But if there’s one thing that makes us different, it’s that humans study themselves- they self-reflect and try to make meaning of everything. Animals couldn’t do that even if they tried.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Prosaic
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Prosaic Local Ghost

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Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

Summer break was over and that meant that it was time for him to stop messing around again. He had spent his vacation as actively as possible, going anywhere that he could and seeing everything that he could. He wasn't busting windows or smashing mailboxes anymore but he was kicking back at pools and visiting parks. He was going to miss the loose schedule of doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. There was a growing discomfort at the idea of being in school again, at listening to teachers direct him around again.

He had never been a model student, he wanted to do things his way or not at all. Teachers liked structure though and that meant that he had to be on his best behavior, his therapist had been telling him throughout summer break that he had to adjust to authority. She understood that he had problems following direction and she was trying to work with him on it, he just couldn't follow why it was so important that he should spend eight hours of his life listening to people lecture him on what skills he'd need in the future. It was all so tedious and boring.

When he finally rolled into the parking lot, he was even less excited if that was possible. The sight of his fellow students was enough to sour his mood but he had to maintain face, he had a reputation to withhold and "angry angsty teenage boy" was not that reputation. He pulled down the sun visor, noting that his hair was doing that floaty, staticky thing again and that he had the expression of someone who's cheerios had been throughly pissed upon. He spent a good moment trying to twist that frown into something more amiable.

When he was sure that he got it under control, he made his first beeline to the auditorium. From there he preceded to sit through a huge waste of time and breath. New faculty, woohoo. He zoned out about halfway through the guy's speech and became lost in picking out pictures in the grain of the wood flooring. It was the bell that jolted him into awareness and he blinked around in confusion as people started filing out the door. This was common for him, of course, but he had missed an entire chunk of the orientation speech.

When he looked beside him, he could see that Cameron had joined him. He must have missed the other boy joining him completely, like he hadn't even been there at all. It was easy to get lost in his head when he didn't care about what was going on, that was another thing that his therapist wanted him to work on. Clearly, he was making progress.

Cameron was gathering his stuff together to seek out his first class, Baron was staring at him dumbly instead of moving. "I- Have you been there the whole time?"

The other boy arched his eyebrows. "You zoned out, man. Sometimes I think you're the spaciest person that I know. We gotta get going or we're going to be late."

"Do we have the same first period?"

"You only wish," said Cameron, shaking his head. "Come on, man. I don't want you to be stuck scraggling on the first day."

"Too late for that but I appreciate the sentiment."


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 | The Loft

The school day had gone by as school days often do, he was bored and irritated. There had been a few good points, he found that he really liked his Geography teacher. There were other not-so-good points where he'd gotten into a small tiff with a teacher over answering a question that he hadn't wanted to answer. It hadn't got too out of control but it had made a slight ripple in how he approached the classes that followed. He had missed an entire lesson in one his classes by doodling an abstract rendition of the teacher, he was going to be paying for that one later when there was a test.

He ate lunch with Avery, who he found to be more companionable than Cameron at times. Avery was the type of kid that just made you feel at home. He had been happy to tell him about how his summer had gone and Avery had been happy to hear about it. Though they hadn't discussed much about Avery, they had happily talked about him and he prefered it that way. It had probably been the best part of his day, mostly because he wasn't learning anything and there was food involved. He had been sad when it ended, Avery had hurried off before he could even say that he'd see him later.

Weird kid.

It wasn't until someone gently reminded him that he had one more class to go to that he lost all bearing on pretending to be in a good mood. It was aggravating that he'd have to sit through something that sounded as ridiculous and useless as "social conscience". He didn't have great grades or a great track record, there was no reason that he should have been hand selected for some fancy-smancy psychology class. When he arrived, he realized that the reacher was that new guy that he'd ignored during the orientation.

He sighed loudly and took his seat, folding his arms as he listened to the guy introduce the class that they had been forced into. He hated this almost immediately, he'd never been very good with psychology and he didn't expect that to change any time soon. This place was extremely old by the looks of it and the dust was already agitating his sinuses. Jonas would be lucky if he didn't start sneezing erratically.

The only thing he was feeling conscious of was how much his nose was starting to itch. He tried to answer though, maybe if someone got the right answer then they'd be freed sooner from this dust hell. "Everything animals do is just their nature, they don't understand the consequence of action. Uh cause and effect, it doesn't really matter to animals, not in the way that it should matter to humans."

What had they taught him in therapy about the importance of cause and effect? "I mean, obviously that's what marks a bad person, right? Someone who knows that their cause can have a negative effect but they do it anyway. Animals, they just, they don't have that moral conflict."
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M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 — 7:30 am | Auditorium

“Look, Morgan, you have three lines. Three. So if you can’t memorize them in twenty minutes, don’t bother getting onstage,” Brynn said to the wide-eyed girl she’d cornered behind the curtains. Morgan, the flaky sophomore class representative, had experienced “technical issues” during the summer, conveniently causing her to not receive the script sent out to all student council members. Unfortunately for her, though, Brynn had been the one who’d sent the email, and Brynn wasn’t feeling particularly generous on the morning she was to participate in a skit detailing the rights and wrongs of unprotected sex and consent.

“Do you want me to hold your hand as you read your script or something?” Brynn snapped when Morgan didn’t move. Taking the cue, the sophomore darted off, disappearing backstage as Brynn pressed a hand to her temple in an attempt to ease her coming headache. It was too early in the morning for her to be dealing with dimwits who couldn’t even come up with half-decent excuses, and on top of the ridiculous skit she was being made to participate in, there was the matter of—

Brynn snapped up as Makayla Hall appeared at the doorway with another member of the council.

“Hey, Brynn! Sorry, were you using this room?” the council member asked.

“No—go ahead,” Brynn said, making for the door.

“Oh, okay,” the boy said as Brynn exited without looking back. Unlike Morgan, Brynn needed no second warning.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 — 12:31 pm | Main Quad

“No way! He chucked it at her—just like that?”

“No!”

Brynn shifted as her table devolved into cries of disbelief. Jonas Lehrer, the new teacher on campus, had apparently thrown an eraser at a student. The exact truth had been muddled after multiple retellings, and though Brynn knew better than to believe anything that came out of Adrielle’s mouth at face value, she also knew that there was no faster way someone could get a run-down of the latest happenings at Mather Memorial. In this case, though, believing in what she heard also meant believing her final period was liable to be led by an eraser-chucking wild card, which—in addition to the fact that she’d tried and failed to get excused from the class even after speaking to the principal—was beginning to sound like it couldn’t get any worse.

“And what’s that new class he’s teaching? ‘Social Conscience?’ Sounds like some depressive shit right there,” someone else added. “Are they gathering the loners for group therapy or something?”

Adrielle met Brynn’s eyes from across the table, and Brynn shook her head. No, she wouldn’t be sharing that she was slotted in the aforementioned class—not after that comment.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 — 2:23 pm | The “Loft”

Social Conscience—the class had been a total mystery when it appeared on Brynn’s schedule, and Brynn didn’t take kindly to mysteries. A few dozen interrogational emails and phone calls to the school later, she came up with a few facts that she was grudgingly forced to accept. The course was mandatory, was only held at the end of the day, and would take the place of Brynn’s scheduled history class. While she would receive credit for the said history class, Brynn didn’t like the sound of “Social Conscience” one bit. For all the reassurance she’d received about the class, it sounded more like some sort of pseudo-philosophy class than anything, and that could mean that grades were determined by how much one agreed with the teacher. Sure Brynn had written her fair share of English essays specifically tailored to bias teachers, but English was a mandatory requirement listed on all college applications. “Social Conscience,” on the other hand, sounded like a possible time sink that yielded no specific benefits other than the credits it would replace.

The students making up the class itself, though, were a spread of knowns and unknowns. Consisting of various faces from the junior and senior classes, the group looked like a bad survey of Mather Memorial’s upper-class population—which was exactly what the school office had promised Brynn, really. The variety of students reassured Brynn that the class would be no grade-breaker, and she took a seat by some familiar faces before turning her attention on Jonas Lehrer, who seemed just as interested in her as she was in him. There was no trace of the bight hope present in many new teacher’s faces; rather, Jonas seemed to stand like a tenured instructor, confident in his continued employment despite whatever might happen during the year.

After he’d finished the usual run-down, Jonas opened up with an icebreaker—something teachers always seemed to insist upon doing on the first day of class. Granted the icebreaker was inspired by a topic many teachers would loathe to broach, but that didn’t make it much more compelling.

“Humans no longer feel the same pressures of natural selection,” Brynn said after the first round of volunteers had gone. “In the process of changing our priorities, we've managed to change how we're selected for."

Brynn fell silent, opening the floor again. Her eyes trailed to Jonas, watching for a reaction: how had her answer fared?
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Tyler
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Tyler Me. I Am Tyler... / The Elusive Auteur

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E M O R Y J O N E S
ORLAITH PASS:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:24am

It was a welcome day in Crestwood Hollow. The summer vacation was officially over, and today the kids would finally be returning to school and giving their parents some much-needed relief. It would seem that the sun was feeling similarly optimistic that morning: its rays bathed the Orlaith valley in warmth, and bounced dramatically off the black paintwork of a pick-up truck that sped along the empty stretch of road. With its windows down, the loud music being played on the vehicle's stereo was audible all across the valley.

Inside, Emory and his younger sister were singing enthusiastically, the latter giggling her way through the current song's abrasive chorus. This was their morning routine, yelling and air-guitaring through the scenic mountain pass, and in some ways they took this privilege for granted; the pair could have been speeding through the grimiest alleys of the Tracks and had just as much fun. Emory leaned forward and turned the stereo down just enough for his sister to be able to hear him.

"You sure you got everything, Ellie?" he called back to her, glancing in his rear-view mirror.

"Yep!"

"You sure?" he interrogated, raising an eyebrow.

"Bobby! I said I got it!" she laughed, in mock-annoyance. Her brother smiled wryly.

"Well, y'know, we're already super late," he chided playfully. "And that third rendition of the Moana soundtrack this morning didn't help. Did you pack your lunch?" The panic that swept over Eleanor's face said everything that she didn't, as she shot Emory a worried look in his mirror. He just laughed and shook hid head. "I guess it's a good job I spotted it on my way out, huh? It's in the trunk."

"Thanks, Bobby..." she said, both relieved and embarrassed at the same time. Emory winked at her, turning the music back up loud. They still had time for one more song before they would arrive at Ellie's school, and he intended to make the most of it. In truth, he needed the distraction. With his return to Mather Memorial imminent, he knew this would be his last chance to enjoy himself before those school walls brought him back to reality. Soon enough, he'd be back to thinking about physics and calculus, about homework and assignments... And of course, about Sebastian Scott.

MATHER MEMORIAL HIGH SCHOOL:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:28pm

Emory's first day back at school was less disastrous than he had anticipated that morning. Sure, he'd been over half an hour late after dropping Ellie off, but thanks to a 'welcome assembly' his tardiness had largely gone unnoticed. The hall was pleasantly empty (a welcome break in the tradition of fighting his way through the mass of students), allowing him to collect information about his homeroom and term timetable with comfortable ease. As he scanned the document, he was surprised to notice the absence of Philosophy on his timetable - and, in its place, 'Social Conscience', whatever that was... Perhaps the class had been cancelled? It had notoriously low attendance in previous years. Or maybe it had just been renamed? As the bell rang, he resigned himself to the fact that he would just have to suck it up and wait until this afternoon to find out.

The rest of the day had gone slowly, with Emory having gotten used to the leisurely pace of the summer. Fortunately, the classes themselves had not proved too taxing, and they were a welcome distraction from thoughts of Sebastian. Still, the school seemed determined to provoke him: the empty desk, the lonely lunch hour, the bleachers... They all echoed Sebastian's absence, refusing to let Emory forget. It was more difficult than he'd expected, but he was determined to block it out. He had to focus on his studies... Being kept behind an entire grade was humiliating enough, and he had no intentions of allowing himself to do poorly. It just wasn't going to happen.

Before he knew it, the afternoon had rolled in. He was trying to find the 'Social Conscience' class, but it was proving difficult. The class was located in an area of the school that was largely disused, and as he wandered the corridors he couldn't help but imagine his friend hiding away in one of the forgotten corridors, evading whatever trouble he had gotten himself into this time. He smiled meekly to himself.

"Ah, Bobby," came the familiar voice of Music teacher Mr. Lindsey. Emory nodded apprehensively; Lindsey's tone was tinged with concern, and he knew it would echo the countless other conversation he'd endured throughout the day. "How are you, uh... How are you doing, son?" The teacher shifted his stance uncomfortably.

"Fine, sir. Just trying to carry on as usual, y'know?" Emory replied, trying not to sound too invested in the conversation. He had a class to get to, after all. Mr. Lindsey nodded.

"Well, if you need anything, just let me know. I'll do anything I can to help."

"My band could use a new bass player," Emory said, with a calmness that startled his teacher. "Sorry, sir, I gotta bolt. I have class." With that, he proceeded past the man, letting himself into a dusty classroom nearby and leaving his stunned teacher silent in the corridor. Emory wasn't a cold person by any means, but damn... Everyone seemed determined to make this difficult for him.

Inside the classroom, Emory found a group of familiar faces that he recognised from across the campus - albeit, some more than others. As he took a seat, however, he spotted a face that he most certainly did not recognise. The man at the front of the classroom was tall and imposing, his bald head a home to two eyes that were currently fixed on Emory. They seemed to bore into him with a fierceness that made Emory feel as though he were a suspect in an unspeakable crime, being interrogated only by the man's two eyes. And then, the tension dissipated, and the teacher smiled. "Welcome, take a seat."

Emory obliged. As he sat himself at the nearest desk and began to unpack his things, he noticed the question scrawled across the board: What separates man from animal? It would seem like Emory was in luck, perhaps this was a Philosophy class after all. He listened to the other students' contributions half-heartedly, whilst scribbling his own theories down in his notebook:

There is an argument for morality being the key distinction between man and animal. The problem here is that this relies on the (mis)understanding of morality being something innate to humans rather than a social construct. And of course, social hierarchies are prevalent in almost all species ... The focus should be directed away from sociology and towards biology when looking for distinction between the two. When we discuss cumulative culture, we are talking about the ways in which humans make modifications and improvements over time. Some animals build structures (beavers/dams), some animals will even use tools (crows), but these are not actively improved on... Cumulative culture allows for successful innovations to be maintained until they can be improved, and it is within this type of learning and understanding that the difference between man and animal can best be observed...


When Emory looked up from his notes, he found the rest of the class still discussing the question proposed by the new teacher, who had identified himself as Jonas. He chewed on his pen, hoping nobody would notice that his enthusiasm for the subject was perhaps a little excessive this soon into the class. And so, he listened...

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C R E S T W O O D C I T Y:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 06:03am | Crestwood Downtown

The hour was late.

Or was it early? Starting work at midnight messed with Aiden’s head in a way he was not used to yet. But he needed the money, and this was the only way his foreman at the railyard could compensate his busy, upcoming school year. Between football practices, homework and any maintaining the semblance of a social life, working the wee hours of the morning was the only way he could ensure a steady revenue. The bonus of those hours was, Aiden took home pay for eight hours even if he finished early, provided the work was completed properly.

Pedalling his bike, Aiden crossed over the Valley Bridge as he left the Northside and the Tracks behind, before beelining it for Vanessa’s apartment in the heart of the city’s downtown. Ducking into the alley that ran behind the building, Aiden raised his feet off the pedals before slinging his right leg over to the left side of the bike and hoping off as he coasted beside a fire escape. As he scrambled up the cold, damp steel, Aiden heard his bike come to a rest against the brick wall below before it collapsed to the ground.

Rounding the fire escape, Aiden climbed another four floors before shimming open an unlocked window and climbing inside.

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”

Suddenly Aiden felt his heart sink as he finished closing the window before turning around slowly to face his sister.

“It is six in the fuckin’ morning, you have been gone since midnight.” His sister’s face looked like it could explode at any second, the vein in her forehead bulging as her cheeks practically glowed a bright crimson.

"So, where the hell have you been?!?” She demanded as from behind Vanessa, Calvin peeked his head in the door. Rubbing his tired eyes, he suddenly realized what was going on before disappearing again.

“Start talking, Roth!” Vanessa stated, her arms crossed, foot tapping impatiently as a sheepish Aiden rubbed the back of his head.

“I-” He began, thinking the words through carefully. “I took a job at the railyard.” Aiden stated as Vanessa shook her head, rubbing her temples before exploding again.

“In the Tracks? Aiden, that’s Sons’ territory. You can’t be caught there.” She said calming down. “What do you even need a job for anyways?”

“I need to pull my weight around here.” Aiden replied solemnly. “I don’t expect to stay for free.” He continued as Vanessa stepped forward and hugged her younger brother. Releasing him, she tousled his hair before slugging him in the arm.

“I appreciate it, Squirt, but you need to focus on your studies and stay safe.” Vanessa reprimanded her brother softly, stepping back. “Now then, to more important matters,” Vanessa paused, pulling an envelope from behind her back. “Happy birthday, Squirt.”

“You really didn’t need to do anything, Nessie.” Aiden replied, reluctantly taking the envelope from his sister.

“Oh please!” Vanessa deflected. “Well, don’t just stand there. Open it!” Vanessa insisted as Aiden slowly dragged his finger under the flap of the envelope, antagonizing his sister with a smirk. Lifting the flap, Aiden reached inside as he pulled out two tickets to the upcoming Clamfest. A smile crossed his face as he looked at them, Clamfest was a night of live music held in Crestwood Hollow featuring some of the biggest up and coming bands from the East Coast. It was an opportunity for Aiden to see some of his favourite independent bands before they were snatched up by a label and their ticket prices soared with their success.

“Thought you could maybe take you-know-who. Vanessa said in a sing-song tone as she elbowed Aiden playfully before he brushed her off, his cheeks slowly turning a bright red.

“Thanks Nessie, I really appreciate this.” Aiden said, before hollering over his sister’s head. “Same to you too, Calvin!” A thumbs-up in the doorway let Aiden know that Calvin had received the message.

Suddenly Aiden’s phone began to vibrate as he realized the time.

“Shit.” He muttered as he began to pull off his sweater. “School’s today.”

“Keep your clothes on until I’m out of the room at least.” Vanessa balked as she backed towards the doorway. “And take a shower, you stink.”

“Love you too!” Aiden hollered as he ripped his pants off while Vanessa covered her eyes and ran out of the room.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:10am | Bleachers

Aiden had missed the bus.

“Happy birthday to me.” He muttered looking around as he spotted the vehicle in the nearby distance. Watching as the yellow cesspool on wheels rolled away, a sigh of exasperation escaped his mouth before he turned around and ran back towards the apartment building.

Hopping Mrs. Gimble’s fence, Aiden ran across her terrace before racing around to the rear of the building. Pulling his bike off the ground where he had abandoned it prior, he jumped on it and took off towards the school, pedaling as fast as he could.

Cutting through alleyways and backyards, Aiden managed to only be sprayed by one sprinkler as he raced the autonomous machine towards Mather Memorial High School. Arriving at the school just ahead of the bus, Aiden jumped the bus lane as he hit the curb with all his momentum. Riding his bike around to the rear of the school, Aiden high-fived several of his teammates on his way past before he came to a stop beside some of the athletics field bleachers.

Tucking his bike under the aged wooden platforms, he reached into his jacket, pulling out a small carton of cigarettes before drawing one and lighting it in one motion. A slight twinge of guilt forming in his stomach as he put the smoke to his mouth.

He had told Vanessa he quit.

Three months ago.

But the truth be told, the addiction was getting stronger every day. Three months ago, he wouldn’t have needed one for this level of stress, now all he had to do was fumble the ball once and the cravings started. Taking a long drag, Aiden blew the smoke up into the air before a cough behind him caused the teen to turn on one heel.

“You know those will kill you?” Thomas Clark stated rhetorically as the Coach pulled out his own pack of cigarettes, tilting one towards Aiden for a light as the teen obliged. “I see that Vanessa didn’t convince you to quit after all?”

“Yes, she did.” Aiden responded, taking another drag before coughing slightly. “I quit three months ago.”

“Your sister isn’t stupid Ace, you’d do well not to lie to her.” Clark responded, though his tone was serious there was a glimmer of underlying humor. “Think you can fly my Ravens to victory this year?”

“No.” Aiden replied flatly. You can though.” He added, a smile crossing the coach’s face.

“I’m going to need you and that arm of yours to do it, the boys trust you. You’re our good luck charm.” Clark stated as he dropped his cigarette butt, extinguishing it beneath his boot.

“I’m no one’s good luck charm.” Aiden retorted, taking the last drag off his own cigarette before too extinguishing it. Lifting his bag, the zipper slid open as a few books tumbled to the ground. Brushing his hair back, Aiden knelt to pick them up as the coach dusted one off that had fallen towards him.

“Don’t recall seeing Nietzsche on this year’s reading list.” Clark smiled as he handed the anthology back to Aiden.

“Heard that everyone’s got a dark side.” Aiden answered. “Just learning how to live with mine.” He continued as he tucked the book back into his bag.

“Well, when you figure out whether you’re a man or a superman, let me know.” The coach said with a smile. “Can’t have a superman on the team, they tend to frown on that.”

“I don’t think we have anything to worry about, Coach.” Aiden answered as the pair entered the school through the athletics wing. “Life dealt me enough of a shit hand, I can’t see it making me a Hype on top of all that.”
As the coach moved to enter his office, he paused at the door calling towards Aiden.

“Oh, one last thing, happy birthday, Ace.”

“Thanks.” Aiden replied as he rubbed the back of his head, turning to walk towards his locker. Normally the athletics wing would have been empty this early in the morning, but a familiar head of blonde hair was buried in the hands belonging to none other than the school’s own notorious Makayla Hall. Exchanging a knowing glance as the girl moved her head enough to roll one eye to look at Aiden. He knew that look well and nodded as he respected the girl’s desire to be left alone.

Reaching into his locker, Aiden slid his arms out of the oversized leather jacket, stuffing it in the locker before pulling on the navy-blue arm of his letterman jacket. Donning the school’s official colours of black and blue, Aiden ran a hand through his hair, closing the locker before making his way upstairs.

The main halls were lined with students of every grade scrambling to find their homeroom assignments. Moving through the throng of people, Aiden stopped to read his, making a mental note before being interrupted by a tap on the shoulder.

“Caw, caw motherfucka!” Dawson Rivers’ voice was unmistakable as Aiden turned around, high-fiving the taller teen as bumped shoulders. Behind Dawson was the rest of the football team as the group began to essentially take over the quadrant of the hallway they currently occupied.

“Who gonna make you black and blue!” Shane Parks piped up from the back of the group as the team went into a near frenzy.

“Ravens! Ravens! Ravens!” Each call of the team’s name was interjected with a corresponding double clap in rhythm with two stomps. It was the team’s pre-game chant, there was no one in Crestwood that wouldn’t recognize it. The stadium was electric during home games when it was performed.

“Ravens,” Principal Fitzgerald’s voice rang out clearly as it cut through the dull roar of the hallway. “If you could please move it along, that would be appreciated.”

“Sir.” Aiden said with a nod as the team complied. Moving to keep pace with Aiden, Dawson let out a low whistle as none other than Winter Carlyle passed the group.

“Damn.” He said approvingly. “Nice ass.” Any further commentary was cut short by a sharp elbow to the linebacker’s ribs, courtesy of Aiden.

“And that’s why you’re dateless.” Aiden taunted.

“Said the virgin quarterback.” Dawson retorted. “Hell, I ain’t even heard of a quarterback who can’t get laid till I met you, Roth.”

“It’s by choice.” Aiden said defensively. Though truth be told it wasn’t entirely by choice. Any time he got close to telling a girl, specifically, one girl, how he felt, Aiden always got flustered. After that came the headaches, and then the burning eyes. Ultimately, none of that truly mattered because the one girl he wanted, he knew he could never be good enough for.

“Yeah sure, whatever.” Dawson said brushing Aiden off. “Look we gotta talk about this year’s Scarecrow.”

“Do we really gotta?” Aiden asked sarcastically. “You know how I feel about that, man. We should just let the tradition die, someone’s gonna end up hurt, and I mean with what happened to Sebastian-”
“What? You think there’s some kinda serial killer running around the Hollow? Nah man, what happened to Scott was a freak accident, he was probably a fuckin’ Hype.” Dawson ranted. “The Scarecrow has been happening since this school was built, we can’t abandon it now.” He continued as the team moved through the hallway.

“Look at all the prime candidates, that fuckin’ kid is wearin’ a flower jacket.” Dawson obnoxiously pointed towards a student that Aiden didn’t recognize. “And there there’s that blonde guy there.”
“Nah, he’s Insta legit.” Shane piped in as Dawson shot him a cold look. “What about Makayla Hall?”

The Ravens let out a collective ‘Ooh’ as Dawson excitedly grabbed Aiden by the shoulders.

“What about Makayla Hall?” He asked, repeating Shane. Aiden’s nose crinkled in disgust as he waved a hand dismissively.

“Makayla Hall is off limits, and you know it. Even by the rules of the Scarecrow.” He snarled, pain beginning to ring in his head as the corners of his eyes suddenly began to feel hot.

“Well you’re no fun.” Dawson pouted as he released Aiden. “But don’t you worry, I’ll bring you around.” He said before disappearing into his home room.

Letting out a sigh of relief, Aiden continued down the hall towards his own home room.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 08:45am | Main Auditorium

Filing into the school’s main auditorium, Aiden found himself predictably sitting with the rest of the Ravens as they made comments on each student that passed by, obviously getting more vocal the ‘prettier’ the girl was. The assembly was pretty cut and dry, rinse and repeat from what Aiden had seen in the previous two years at Mather Memorial.

There was the opening slideshow highlighting the achievements of last year’s student body. Aiden almost visibly winced at the frequency Makayla Hall was featured. The formerly outgoing blonde had more rumors circulating about her than their deceased classmate.

As the slideshow came to a stop, Principal Fitzgerald took the stage, welcoming the students new and old to another year at Mather. As usual, he introduced any new teachers, though unusually, one new teacher was given an opportunity to speak.

Jonas Lehrer.

Aiden had read his name in the paper when it was announced he would be doing a pioneering social course of some kind at Mather Memorial. The man seemed intense and when he mentioned coaching the basketball team, Aiden felt his stomach turn. He wasn’t a fan of change, change generally meant people leaving and Aiden had watched enough people leave. Lehrer would be fine in Aiden’s books so long as Coach Clark was left alone.

The rest of the assembly wasn’t anything Aiden cared about. He knew how it was going to go and so he stood to leave only to have his attention drawn back to the stage when the student council erupted onto the stage. The skit aside, all Aiden cared about was Brynn as he slumped back into his seat.

Dawson chuckled, rolling his eyes at Aiden as the quarterback suddenly showed interest the minute the girl appeared.

“Dude, you could have just about any girl in this school, but her!” Dawson ‘whispered’ to Aiden as the nearby Ravens chortled. “Everyone else loves a bad boy.”

“Screw off.” Aiden muttered dismissively, a ‘hush’ from the school’s literature teacher silencing any further comments from the linebacker.

The rest of the assembly felt like it crawled by as Aiden placed his cellphone on his knee, flicking it as he watched it spin around while his finger kept it from falling over. After being shushed by Mrs. Neilly, the Ravens were watched so closely, Aiden could have sworn Neilly would pounce if they so much as sneezed. Any chance Aiden had of skipping the remainder of the assembly was long gone thanks to Dawson.

Finally, Mrs. Macleod’s closing rap brought Aiden’s attention back to the present as he shuffled his way out of the auditorium. From across the room, he spotted Brynn along with the rest of the student council and remembering the tickets from Vanessa, Aiden began to make his way over to her only for the older girl to disappear midst the hurried horde of students.

Reluctantly returning to his home room, Aiden promised himself he’d catch Brynn at lunch.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 12:27pm | Main Quad

A plate of waffle fries smothered in gravy had been Aiden’s birthday gift to himself. The cafeteria lady more than happy to nearly double the serving size for him despite his protests.

Moving through the quad, he pretended to be looking for a place to sit as he tried to locate Brynn or at least some of her friends. It didn’t take long before he overheard the voice of Adrielle amidst the cries of disbelief as the notorious tale of the new teacher hitting a student with an eraser was retold again, only this time in stereo.

“And what’s that new class he’s teaching?” Another student stated as they piped in, the self-righteous tone grating against Aiden’s ears. “'Social Conscience’? Sounds like some depressive shit right there.”

“Are they gathering the loners for group therapy or something.”

“What exactly do you think ‘Social Conscience’ means.” Aiden interjected as he sat his plate down, before saddling the bench. “If anything, it’s going to be more of a philosophical class than psychological.”

“Like you’d know anything about that.” The student chuckled. “Look guys, Roth’s took one too many balls to the head again.”

“Y’know, if we were talking about football plays, we’d ask for your input. But you’re out of your depth here. So why don’t you just sit there and look pretty.” Adrielle stated as kindly and condescendingly as possible.

Forcing a smile, Aiden took a bite of his food as he looked around the table, avoiding eye contact with Brynn before shoving the fork in his mouth. Now was definitely not the time to ask her out.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:26pm | The ‘Loft’

If you had asked Aiden Roth before today, if Mather Memorial High School had a class room above the main foyer, he would have told you absolutely not.

He would also have been very wrong.

Despite having completed two years at Mather Memorial, Aiden had never been made aware of the stairs tucked into the corner by the janitorial closet, let alone the hallway and classrooms that they led too. Thanking Mr. Beauregard for begrudgingly pointing him in the right direction, Aiden hurried his way to class.

Upon entering the class, Aiden seemed to have his suspicions about ‘Social Conscience’ confirmed as Mr. Lehrer had scrawled a question upon the blackboard. Looking around the room as the other students answered, Aiden recognized most of their faces, save for those who were completely new to the school.

Taking a seat behind Emory Jones, Aiden watched as the older male scribbled down some notes. As Brynn spoke, Aiden turned his attention back to the discussion as she brought up the notion of natural selection. Listening to her points, Aiden decided to interject his next.

“Darwin believed man to simply be the smartest animal in its class.” He began as Jonas’ stern eyes turned to look at him. “In that same thought, uh, Aristotle believed us to be a rational animal.” He stated. “Morals and the ability to choose, make decisions and such, may give us the arrogance to believe we’re above other species. But at the end of the day we’re not.” Aiden said almost disgusted.

“No other species on Earth kills each other for such petty issues. We may build tools, but we ultimately use them to destroy one another. If that’s what separates us from the animals, I’d rather be considered one of them than a human.”
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Jason McKinney

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:27 pm
As Jason listened to the other students list off their answers, he couldn't help a small smirk from tugging at his lips. He had heard one of the girls laugh at his dumb joke, which had pushed his confidence to an all-time high. He looked over at her with a grin, giving her a sly, knowing wink before turning his attention back to the class. He had made a cute girl laugh, so he considered the day a success. He'd seen her around, recognized her face, but he had never really gotten to know her. She was one of the quiet ones, he'd always had a soft spot for girls like that, but for all of his confidence and joke-cracking, he never really could work up the nerve to talk to those of the fairer sex.

He kept quiet as the others spoke, thinking of an actual answer to give. He may have been a wisecracker, but that didn't mean that was all he wanted to be known for. He began to sift through his massive mental database of relevent quotes and information he could use.
It wasn't easy, he had spent most of his life gorging himself on media of all types, and as a curse he managed to remember most, if not all, of it. So for now he stayed quiet, trying not to let the fact that one of his jokes entertained someone get to his head. Not an easy task.

Aiden spoke, and he recognized the student from the football team. He never associated with them, but the members of the football team were unoffical celebrities in the halls. It would be hard for him not to recognize him.
Once he was done speaking, Jason recalled a quote from an author he really enjoyed, if only for the man's satirical humor.
"Mark Twain said, 'Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.'" he quoted.
"We're also the only species on this planet capable of questioning why we're here in the first place. Animals just sorta go with it, living out their lives. We're also the only species that spend their lives running around on this rock, staring at our watches and wondering when our time's gonna be up."

He looked over at Jonas, an eyebrow raised as he leaned back in his seat a bit.
"Which begs the question, sir... Why exactly are we here? I dunno about the others, but I was tossed into this class without anyone asking me first. If I can be frank, I don't know what the hell 'Social Conscience' is supposed to be teaching us besides how to sound pretentious at a coffee shop."
The question had been eating at him ever since he saw the class show up on his schedule. The other students were from a massive mishmash of cliques. Jocks, nerds, outcasts, and popular students were here, with no apparent rhyme or reason. It had confused him and piqued his curiosity all the same.

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Lucas Bray


B U R B E R R Y H E I G H T S:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 7:00am | Cross Residence


“Lucas?” Knocking lightly and listening for any sound of movement behind the closed door, all Marianne could hear was the insistent, incessant alarm beeping like mad. “Are you awake? I’m coming in.” And in she went. The boy was lying on the bed, on top of the covers and still dressed in yesterday’s rumpled clothes, covering his ears and glaring at the ceiling. For a moment, she only frowned between his pained expression and what she assumed was the cause, before stepping farther inside and hitting the sleep button herself. The sudden quiet was astonishing.

She considered adjusting the volume to something less jarring as Lucas sat up a little warily. Hard-pressed not to laugh at his expression. “It wasn’t shouting up.” He seemed surprised by this magical skill of hers that turned off alarm clocks, but she could only shake her head and keep her questions to herself. Why he hadn’t turned it off on his own, she didn’t know and might never find out. She wasn’t even sure he needed the alarm, since he seemed to be awake before she was half the time. But this being his first day back to school, she hadn’t wanted him to be late. “Well, never mind it now, the thing’s off and you can leave it off if you want. But come on, then, up. Get changed. Breakfast. Time to get moving. Let’s go.”

Chivvying her reluctant charge up and off the bed towards his dresser, she didn’t need to keep pressing home the point once he was moving. Slow but steady, she left him to it for the moment, continuing her own morning preparations that the alarm had interrupted. He seemed fine with most every day routine, perfectly able to start the day without prompting, though sometimes she noticed he left out a few bits. Those times always coincided with headaches and obvious frustration though, so she couldn’t tell if he was forgetting them or purposely deciding not to brush his hair or teeth. The first two weeks of living together, she’d watched him like a hawk, using her time off and vacation days to do so. It had helped her figure the boy out. His close-mouthed, quiet turning inward hadn’t, and she’d eventually kicked him out of the house just to give him something other than the ceiling and walls to stare at.

Three hours later, she’d found him crying over a toy in the backyard. And Marianne smiled a little wistfully when she saw the same one peeking out of his bag as he came down the stairs, one hand on the railing, the other dodging pictures on the wall. When Gregory called her not six months ago, sounding like death warmed over, she’d been leery of what he was asking from her. To start with, bringing any kid into her house was a bit of a laugh: she’d never been the nurturing type. But to hear that he’d need extra consideration had given her pause. She’d only agreed to try because of her guilty conscience, though she’d refused to make any promises. Then she’d gone and made all that fuss about letting him have a proper teenage experience instead of holing him up in that hospital (nice though it looked when she actually visited) and she could have bitten her tongue, listening to herself. Maybe it had been worth it though, after the harrowing trip back, to see this odd, dejected boy open up and smile so widely when she showed him the ravine.

She still wasn’t sure she knew what she was doing, but she wanted to be good on her word. And had to admit that she’d be glad to know he had somewhere to be and something to do every day while she was working. Watching him eat his dry cereal while finishing her toast, Marianne hoped he wasn’t as nervous about this as she was, but given his abandonment of the usual routine and currently hunched shoulders, she had a feeling he wasn’t looking forward to the rest of the day. She’d hoped his outlook would improve since they’d gone through the meet and greet with Miss Dahl and been shown around the school. The woman seemed well suited to her job, and ready with all sorts of ideas for helping him get through the day, with an answer to every question. They were both MMS alumni, with their pictures hanging on the wall alongside the rest of their classes. She knew the school staff would do their best to ensure he did his best.

Lucas hadn’t seemed interested, though he’d smiled faintly when he saw the pictures, and her hair… He hadn’t tried arguing against the idea anymore, either. Maybe this was just a case of extra butterflies in his stomach, first day jitters. Maybe a show of support… “Looking forward to meeting your classmates?” A glance up, then back down to his bowl, and she grimaced at the twinge of conscience telling her she was a horrible mother for sending her son to school. The boy was 17 for crying out loud, and not without teacher support, he’d manage. He needed the routine and the socializing, not to mention the education. He hadn’t had to redo the first grade he’d missed, but he still tested out one behind. She wanted to see him graduate secondary, then they could figure out his future. This had to be good for him.

“How about I drive you, just for today since I’ve got the time?” He didn’t even look up this time, so she reached across the table and waved her hand where he could see it. She didn’t like being ignored. “Lucas. How about I drive you?”

She’d expected some hesitation. Getting him into a car could be hit and miss, emphasis on the miss. But the widening eyes and quick shake of his head as he leaned away from her still hurt. An extra pinch of salt for all the years she’d never even called. She just wanted to do something for him, but he was too old to have his mum walking him to school, wasn’t he? And she didn’t have the time for that either. He’d refused to take the bus, too. As stubborn as his father, though not half as articulate. Most of the time it was just a stolid shake of his head and refusal to move. He wouldn’t tell her why he didn’t like it, or complained about noises she couldn’t do anything about. So, she kept her lips pressed together and didn’t try insisting. A glance at the stove clock told her she didn’t have time to argue, nor to wait for him to finish his bowl.

“At least the weather’s nice. Alright, I have to get going.” It felt like she was talking to herself. Maybe she was. Standing, Marianne reached for her satchel and took his arm to make sure he was listening. “Don’t skip. It’ll be fine, Lucas. Miss Dahl can call me if you need anything. Anything, alright?”

He nodded after a heavy pause, eyebrows pulling together, intent on her words. “Alright, okay. It-It’s okay.”

“Good.” Another pause as she wondered what to say next, but after all that, telling him to have a good day seemed a bit… callous. So, she just gave him a smile, she hoped it was encouraging, and his arm a bit of a squeeze before hurrying to the garage door. She was going to be late. It was for the best he didn’t want her driving him, but when she glanced over her shoulder, the last thing she saw was him pressing his hands into his lap, shoulders tense and curling in on himself, sitting alone at the kitchen table.

Mouth tight, she started the car.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 12:30pm | Cafeteria balcony


Peace was caught up in relative quiet slipping through the cracks and drifting away. He wanted to follow it. Just walk, out of the halls, out of the school, out of the walls. The park was silent, sinful temptation behind his seat, as close as he could get to the railing where wind rolled around warm fingers and he didn’t mind the chill. But he couldn’t go. If he left, he wasn’t coming back.

There were too many people here. Too many things to count. Too much idle conversation and too much weight in his head. Made his head hurt, figuring it all out. He’d caught himself leaning in his seat more than once, caught himself halfway between closing his eyes to push it all as far as he could and letting it wash on by with every breath rocking him into the simple rhythm of letting go. But he didn’t want to get lost running away in his head here and holding all that up was heavy.

He needed it to stop. Staring at clocks made time slow. Watched pots…

Lunch couldn’t have come soon enough.

The assembly had been bad enough, with so many people in one busy place. Squeaking shoes. Bright lights and bold lines expressed. The subdued racket of chair seats bouncing hard rose and settled beneath the whole student body. He didn’t even wince when the microphone screech announced the first attempt to start over the whispering rush, just whimpered. His hands were already covering his ears. Didn’t care if anyone was staring, just listened to the echoes of never forgetting what the school was called. Mather Memorial. Mather Memorial. Mather Memorial. He was practically glaring a silent shut up by the time the principal rescued the microphone from their musically inclined, or uninclined, librarian.

Splendid show-off the covered everything now. He didn’t care. Just stood up as soon as the hand left his shoulder and walked out. They beat the crowd, but not their feet, and he followed the wall close enough to avoid them all squishing his brain, focusing on the rough texture of the walls beneath his fingers and letting Miss Dahl lead him to his first class. They’d already gone over where everything was. His locker: loudly dented in the middle. Morning classes: far enough apart it counted as exercise. The cafeteria: cluttered with clattering and the smooth slide of trays; there was so much dripping off the edges, it smelled of everything and oil. The afternoon had one free period and one class: just right for playing catch-up. But it was hard to remember in the confusing patterns stepped out on the floor. So, she led, he followed and traced a trail with his fingertips until a busy locker row ruined it. Too many swinging doors and too much hollow rattling.

He picked a desk, each time, in the middle of the back row, away from walls and lockers on the other side. Not wanting to listen. Not wanting to talk.

No one asked him anything. If anyone stared, he didn’t notice. He sat watching the turn and twist of a brown prescription bottle, mesmerized by the steady impact of pills against top and bottom until Miss Dahl prompted him to replace empty bottle with textbook, already turned to the page he was supposed to be looking at, and the words settled a little. She wasn’t there to do everything for him. Three times they’d said she wouldn’t always be there, either. It was just to help him make the transition, during the first few days, so he sat up and tried to follow. It was better when they wrote on the board, and Mr. Alden repeated himself so many times it was almost easy.

Part of him remembered how it all worked. It wasn’t hard to fall into the flow of doing what he was told or sitting still and turning pages. But after so much free time and months of escaping into quiet woods and open air whenever he needed to, Lucas was tired enough by the time the lunch bell rang that he didn’t even realise it was the lunch bell until they got to the cafeteria. Seeing sandwiches made him laugh, relieved to find finger food. But he still picked a table as far away from the walls as he could get, happier outside.

Noticeable enough that Miss Dahl never bothered relocating to the library when everyone vanished back to their classes. There wasn’t much to go over during the spare, but she made sure he’d written down the homework and remembered the classrooms and teachers before leaving him to work. He didn’t need help with that. He just needed time.


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:22pm | The ‘Loft’


The word of the day was never-ending.

Like start, don’t stop the beaten track meeting in the middle. A breath of fresh air then back into the fray. If he followed the shifting tide of other students he’d never have found the class by himself: last one. Almost there. He did find team spirit pounded through the floor though; clap along to ravens, ravens, ravens. Loud and proud and making him scowl. But climbing the stairs and slipping into empty space seemed strange. Haunted halls.

Where was everyone?

Taking the time to look around before they came to the end of the hall he recognized age as much in the distance between his head and the louder voices as in the old style of worn down floor polish and door handles. It wasn’t as bad up here. The echoes of footsteps followed them down the hall. But the room was a rustle of papers and soft voices and the same tap-tapping scrape of chalk on the blackboard and dust falling like rain as he paused to watch the teacher’s back and brisk motion. Seeing that question mark flourish at the end, Lucas avoided the man’s eyes when he turned around and picked a corner seat, sinking down in the chair and making himself small beneath a mop of unruly hair.

As Miss Dahl took the seat beside him, his old pill bottle came back out of his sweatshirt pocket. White top, press down and twist, with smooth sides shiny and dark between his fingers. Every time he turned it end over end the empty air inside rattled against his skull. The medicine was gone, but he could still feel its weight. Making an odd sort of rainstick melody, hypnotizing. Little pinpricks in his head of upside down dazed sliding. He watched the light reflect off the brown tinted sides, blurring the black on white smudged ink of his name instead of watching the other students stepping through the door. Over and over, around and around until someone cleared their throat.

Chain reaction. He paused to glance up, bottle and fingers still for a moment as he registered the voice. Bald head. Bald tone.

He listened without really listening, in one ear and out the other because that was easier than holding onto it all, but he could hear it. Mostly. And the bottle slipped slowly back to its circles, gaze drifting around instead of down as he finally took note of the others in the class. It wasn’t as big a group as he’d thought it would be. The other classes were bigger. Same mix of sharp, distant, attentive though. Were they supposed to be taking notes?

She wasn’t writing…

One guy was though.

Everyone else was talking. Discussion period. That’s what questions on the board were for. Find your own answers until someone tells you wrong. Think out loud. He’d rather not.

He got the question. It was floating white on black and easy to read. But he didn’t want to open his mouth with so many people listening in. And he didn’t know what to say, besides. From was a word that didn’t separate, just stretched distance between here and there, then and now, this and that, because it meant leaving behind a change of pace. The human animal made him think of monkeys walking down the line of evolution like in the textbooks and on the t-shirts. Two hunched figures between them. Didn’t want to think about it any harder than that.

He didn't care about existentialism either. Or was this class not where anyone else belonged? He'd just followed the schedule, and Miss Dahl. But now he was listening properly, too. Confused by the shift in direction between who asked the questions and who answered.
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A R C H I E B L A C K : S l i c k M o v e s , S k a t e r b o y

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 07:47 AM | Mather Memorial High School

"Hey, thanks for the ride man!" Archie yelled as he disembarked from the van he'd been skitching on for the past 10 minutes and directed himself towards the curb, effortlessly performing a kickflip as he neared it to land on the sidewalk before applying pressure with his front foot to execute a nose pickup. As his momentum stopped almost instantly, his board flicked up behind him allowing him to grab it by the tail and coolly walked onto the school premises. The driver reciprocated his farewell with a quick beep of his horn, continuing on down the road with the rest of the morning traffic. He'd gotten lucky really, as he was definitely running late from sleeping through his alarm. Not that that was entirely his fault. Archie had struggled to sleep last night, just like every other night in recent memory. Though this time the reason had also included his first day of a new semester at an entirely new school. It was a reason that perplexed him, honestly. Archie wasn't really the type to get nervous about anything but for some unknown reason, this felt different. He'd not long stowed the board inside his bag when the familiar buzz of his cell phone caught his attention. He rolled his eyes, already knowing who it'd be.

"Slick moves, skaterboy." Came Cara's voice as he answered the call, her flirtatious tone still very present as it always was.

"Hey, Cara." Archie greeted her. "What's up?"

"Oh, you know me, just admiring you from afar." She giggled. Archie was sure he could hear her close by.

"Oh really?" He laughed too, though it felt slightly awkward. "You sound close." He started looking around for her.

"Well I am behind you." Archie spun around, expecting to be smothered by Cara's usual embrace that she'd often greeted him with over the few months they'd spent as friends. She didn't, however. "Sike!" She cried, bursting into another fit of giggling. "I'm waiting by the front steps, now hurry your butt over here!"

He felt a little stupid after being punked like that but it did seem to make him smile which, in turn, settled him somewhat. Archie locked off the call and pocketed his phone before continuing to make his way to the entrance. Cara had offered to be his chaperone for the day, although he wasn't sure what was worse: Being shown around as the 'new kid' or having Cara beside him all day, sending out daggers to any girl who might so happen to glance upon him. Not that he didn't enjoy her company. She was a nice enough girl, if a little full-on, but Archie was always ever put off by her fangirling over him. Which, despite them being friends for at least a few months now, she still did. A lot. And around anyone who would listen. Even those who didn't seem that interested, she would gush about him to. Sometimes this brought him unwanted attention, which was the last thing he wanted given his very public family situation. He wasn't sure whether anyone had actually heard about it in this city, however, and if they did no one actually thought to bring it up.

Archie eventually reached the front steps of his new high school. He took one look at the aging building, noticing several cracks in the architecture, before letting out a sigh. Bringing his gaze down, he was met by Cara who actually did embrace him this time, catching him off guard. "Hey, you." She said, releasing him.

"Hey, yourself." He replied, causing her to smile. It was the kind of smile that lit up her entire face. Which itself was pleasant to look at regardless. To say Cara was pretty would be a vast understatement. She was beautiful. From her rose-filled cheeks, her soft, pink lips, a cute button nose and deep, brown eyes to her long, brunette locks - hastily brushed so that they fell graciously down to her lower-back - her thin, yet supple, figure and a dress sense that just seemed to command your attention. Cara was a girl who was destined to stand out. Several of the guys down at the Hollows had berated him many times for not 'hitting that.' But the truth remained, it simply didn't feel right for him. Whilst he probably should make a move like they said, Archie couldn't bring himself to do it. After everything that had happened back in New York, having a girlfriend didn't seem like the best idea right now. He needed to sort through a few things first.

"Well, c'mon then!" Cara said, grabbing his hand and pulling him along behind her. "We're gonna be late!"


Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 14:30 PM | Main Building

"Shit!"

Archie exclaimed, quite loudly in fact. His voice echoed down the seemingly abandoned corridor, no doubt being heard by the occupants of one of the nearby classrooms as a wave of snickering laughter began to flourish from inside. It was swiftly extinguished, however, with the loud thud of what Archie could only guess was a book being slammed down upon a table, which was then followed by a stern, "Silence!"

Opting not to stick around, he dashed back out to the stairwell so as not the feel the wrath of an angry teacher on his first day. Well, not that one at least. He was late to his final class, Social Conscience. Some special study group comprised of several kids from different grades of which he was one of the lucky few to be selected - or at least that's what Cara had informed him of earlier - led by the new professor they'd just hired, Mr. Lehrer. A man who'd already begun to make a name for himself around the school by launching an eraser at some random girl in his Physics class who 'like totally' didn't deserve it, apparently. Cara had struggled not to laugh whilst retelling him the story. Archie figured the true story had actually been heavily exaggerated as it passed between each person's lips until they were left with a severely bastardized version that painted the new hire as a crazed lunatic who despised all women.

Or at least, he hoped it was all just exaggerated. The last thing he wanted happening was to walk in late to this man's class and be high-fived in the face with a wooden board eraser. The image flashed in his mind until he remembered Cara mentioning something about a room at the top of the main building. Looking up to the top of the spiralling staircase, Archie couldn't help but shrug. 'Won't hurt to look.' He thought.

Finally reaching the door to what he assumed was The Loft, Archie had the feeling that the room hadn't been used in a long while. He wondered what it might ever have been used for, it seemed nicely squirreled away. A weird place for a Social class. Gripping the handle of the door, he grimaced, attempting to steele the nerves that had chosen to flare up all of a sudden. He ridiculed himself mentally, 'Get a hold of yourself, man!' Which seemed to work a little as he relaxed his expression and opened the door, interrupting whatever discussion had been going on previously and garnering the attention of the room.

"Sorry I'm late, teach." He began, cautiously entering the room fully prepared to dodge any projectiles that may have been thrown his way.

"I got lost downstairs somewhere, first day and all that." Before Mr. Lehrer could respond, Archie closed the door behind him and located an empty desk towards the back. Relinquishing his bag from his back, Archie quickly sat down in his chair. Not as bad as he thought it'd be.
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M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L:

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:45pm | The 'Loft'

Edward Brigandi was the first to answer the question.

Nodding, Jonas picked up a piece of chalk and began to scrawl underneath the question on the board.

“Justice.” He quoted, reading the word aloud. “Would you agree that the point of your statement was that man believes in justice where the animals have no such concepts within their societies?” He asked before turning to Ryan and listening as the girl posed an answer of her own. Turning back to the chalkboard, Jonas began to write again.

“Choice.” He read as he removed the chalk from the board. “Man has the ability to choose, as you said we can deny our instincts, we can think, we can feel or we can simply act. But no matter which response we choose, the fact remains that we can in fact choose.”

Watching for the next student to answer, Jonas nodded towards Jason as the boy raised his hand. Unlike the previous two answers, the answer that came from Jason’s mouth was a humorous take on the question. Turning to the chalkboard again, Jonas began to write.

“Physicality.” He stated as he turned back around. “As Mr. McKinney stated, the most obvious differences between man and animal lie within our physicality. We lack tails, claws, and for the most part any semblance of natural defensives. Depending on who you ask, this is evidence of evolution or intelligent design.” Jason paused, allowing his own smirk to cross his face.

“But that’s a minefield, I’ll let another teacher tackle.” As he finished speaking, the voice of Winter Carlyle interjected with her answer to the question. Nodding as she answered, Jonas turned to the board and once again wrote a single word.

“Morality.” He stated as he drew an arrow point from ‘Justice’ to ‘Morality. “In line with Mr. Brigandi’s statement, it is our sense of morality that leads to constructs such as justice and more importantly what we see as right and wrong. As Miss Carlyle mentioned, historical serial killers, such as Jack the Ripper have seen themselves as doing the right thing despite the fact that society has instead insisted different ideas of right and wrong. Animals know little more than the need to act to survive, their actions don’t produce a sense of morality.”

Another answer came from the class as Jonas turned to the speaker, the small brunette mumbling her answer as she sketched on the pad in front of her. Raising an eyebrow, Jonas turned back to the board as he added to the list.

“Existentialism.” He stated addressing the class once again. “There’s no evidence of animal ever wondering who they are, why they’re alive or any other self-aware thoughts. The concept of free will is completely lost on the animal kingdom.” Jonas concluded as he drew an arrow from ‘Choice’ to ‘Existentialism’.

As Baron began to answer, Jonas added a tick mark beside 'Morality', 'Choice' and 'Existentialism'.

“Cause and effect, the result of a species being self-aware and creating a system of morality which we can either choose to follow or choose to disobey.” Jonas stated.

“I think we might be starting to see a pattern now.”

Pausing as the school’s varsity volleyball captain offered her answer, Jonas looked at Brynn, raising his chalk to write on the board only for the quarterback to immediately follow up Brynn with his own recourse.

“If ever there was a species to deny natural selection, it would be humans. Miss Reyes is correct with her statement, we’ve designed our society in such a way that every human has a role they can fulfill. The weak flourish just as the strong. But as Mr. Roth has pointed out, we are by far the most violent species on this planet.”

Jonas paused, considering the other part of Aiden’s statement. “But to ascertain that we are in fact animals for doing so, isn’t entirely fair.” He added, making additional tickmarks beside ‘Choice’, ‘Morality’ and ‘Existentialism’.

Looking at the rest of the class, Jonas rubbed his hands together. “How about we hear from someone who has yet to speak, Mr. Bray? Mr. Jones?” He asked before the door opened as Archimedes Black entered the room. As the boy apologized for his tardiness, Jonas nodded before speaking.

“Understandable, Mr. Black.” The teacher answered. “We’re in the midst of a discussion, the difference between man and animal.” Motioning towards the board, Jonas continuing to speak. “So far, we’ve narrowed it down to a couple of reoccurring themes. The most significant is existentialism, man’s ability to be self-aware. This then leads to choice and man’s decision to create the social construct of morality.”

Jason suddenly spoke again, contributing to the conversation and man’s potential for cruelty before asking about why the students had been put in this class.

“And why, Mr. McKinney, should you have been asked first?” Jonas retorted as he leaned back against his desk and locked eyes with the student. “You’re a seventeen-year-old high school student, not legally an adult in the eyes of your government. Did you think because you were able to choose a few electives for your school year that the school owed you the choice of whether you were part of this class or not?”

Jonas, pushed himself off the desk before continuing. “The ability to choose might make us human, but don’t ever think for a second that it is a right. It’s a privilege afforded to you by the society that humanity has built.” He emphasized his words as he pointed towards the class before continuing.

“Social Conscience is a sense of responsibility or concern for the problems and injustices of society. It is a desire to help the world, to use the gifts you’ve been given in order to make life better not only for yourself but those around you.” Jonas stated answering Jason’s second question.

“You are in this class because each and every one of you has shown potential, potential to be able to make the world a better place and change the injustice surrounding us every day.” Jonas explained.

“But, before we get to the part where we change the world, we have to first understand society and social constructs.” Jonas continued as he returned to the board. “By discussing the difference between man and animal, we’ve begun to develop an understanding of how we’ve grown and developed as a species and our society is a huge part of that.”

Turning to the board again, Jonas wrote a single word.

“Language.” He stated. “A common language is one of the most essential parts of a society. While we have numerous oral histories we can look at, I’m more interested in discussing written languages.” He walked behind his desk, picking up a stack of papers as he began to hand the sheets out. The sheet was covered in a code, English Letters with a symbol beside them.

“This is a codex of Ogham, an ancient Celtic language." Jonas explained before continuing. "Since it’s the first day and I’m sure you really don’t want to do anything strenuous, I’m going to have you break into groups and write out a message for the other groups to decipher. Three groups of five, you’ve got five minutes to decide the groups among yourselves, after that, I start picking.”

He looked at the group.

“Well, get moving.”

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Ryan Mendoza

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:28pm | The 'Loft'


Ryan didn't really consider speaking up further. A few people in the class had roughly the same idea as her, a few seemed... well, really cynical, to say the least. So, she pulled the notebook - it wasn't a diary, as she found herself constantly insisting - from her pocket, deciding to try and get a few thoughts together before they got some kind of explanation as to what they were doing here.

Normally she'd just have let her mind wander, and she considered it briefly before shaking her head.

Nope. Not worth it. Not if they were going to be having a discussion. It was important to keep her thoughts collected and maintain her composure, not waste her time worrying about the inevitable lapses in judgement that came with daydreaming. Frankly, it seemed better to just keep her head down, and for two, well--

Yeah, definitely not worth it. They wouldn't listen to what she had to say either way. So being quiet was the best use of her energy.

She wondered if there'd be time to catch Mr. Lehrer after class. It wasn't as if she knew any more about what 'Social Conscience' was supposed to be than anyone else in here did, and she had studies to plan. The class hadn't replaced anything too vital, and she was confident enough that she could do some extra revision to get an idea of the material she was missing. Maybe. Couldn't afford to let things slip here, because one thing led to another and it was already so tough to keep it up.

The disruption to her schedule wasn't really appreciated, but at least there were perks that came with the exclusive class. Perks that seemed generous considering that, for lack of a nicer way to put it, the students chosen left her thinking it wouldn't be too academically rigorous. A mixed bag, and one with very few things in common. The list, as far as her best guess, pretty much started and ended with "attends Mathers Memorial".

Deciding to ponder that question some other time, Ryan sighed and looked down towards her notebook.




Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:45pm | The 'Loft'

Ryan abruptly slammed her book shut as Mr. Lehrer started to speak again, which slightly ruined the impression that she'd just been taking notes for class. She made up for it of course, dutifully paying attention to the teacher's comments.

It was good to know her answer had been at least somewhat right, though, and she allowed herself a small smile at that. Morality, choice, and existentialism. Seemed like she'd been fairly on the money with her guessing as to what the class was centred around. Which also meant she'd definitely have to ask for study materials, of course. When working with concepts this abstract, it was generally much easier to just ask than try and figure it out by yourself.

The explanation of the class was admittedly a little unsatisfying, the idea of 'potential' seeming nebulous at best, but she didn't voice that complaint. Frankly, she had very little idea what made her stand out as having potential to change anything; she'd be the last person to bother shaking things up. If people wanted to change the world, that was good for them and in some cases admirable, but Ryan was hardly strong-willed or passionate enough to even approach that kind of challenge.

Putting those concerns aside for now, they were faced with a task, specifically group work. Which unfortunately meant she'd really have to give her classmates the time of day, a prospect that made her more nervous than any number of grandiose future plans, not that she cared to admit that. It would be fine, though. So long as she didn't let her priorities slip too much in the process. Too much, of course, meaning any amount at all.

Picking groups, though... considering she'd deliberately not been paying much attention to the others, she couldn't really make an educated decision there outside of maybe 'try not to provoke anyone that can make your life miserable', and taking the initiative wasn't exactly her forte. For a moment, she raised her head, hoping to ask someone nearby, but the words caught in her throat and she sank into her seat, silently stewing in anxiety instead.

At least she'd only have to wait five minutes.
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Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:47Pm | The 'Loft'

Taking the sheet from Jonas as it was passed out, Aiden looked at it with a confused expression. The so-called 'letters' were barely distinguishable from one another, simple combinations of straight lines, not a single curved edge among the twenty-six characters. Leaning back in his chair, Aiden looked around the room for possible group candidates.

Across the room, he spotted Brynn and began to push his chair out to get up before having a better idea. If the other groups had to decode their message, then what better way to invite Brynn to Clamfest than through a secret message. Vanessa had always said that girls appreciated grand gestures and he really couldn't think of a more grand gesture than in front of their 'special' shared class.

Leaning forward, Aiden reached out for the boy in front of him, tapping Emory on the shoulder.

"Hey, you want to group up?" He asked. "My writing is all kinds of terrible, laptops were invented for people like me and I can't draw worth shit." Aiden continued with a shrug and a sheepish grin. "Plus, I was kind of hoping to uh," Aiden's cheeks began to flush as he tried to string the words together to form a meaningful sentence.

"Ah, screw it." He muttered suddenly before speaking again. "I want to ask Brynn to Clamfest, and I was hoping to use the 'secret message' as a way to do that," Aiden said, glancing across the room at Brynn before turning back to Emory. "So, if you could help a brother out, that'd be pretty cool."

Realizing the pair still needed three more people, Aiden scoped out the room avoiding eye contact with Brynn and Winter least they join the group and foil his little plan. Noticing Louis Warner's kid sister sitting with no claim made to her, Aiden pointed at her before moving his head to the side to suggest she join him and Emory.

"Hey Anne, come join my group," Aiden called before looking over at the class' resident clown. "You too, funny man." Adien stated as he addressed Jason. Aiden had seen Anneliese at football practice on more than one occasion and he had never seen her without a sketch pad in her hands or nearby. If anyone was going to make sure their code was the best, it would be the upcoming artist.

"Perhaps, Miss Hall would like to join?" Jonas suddenly stated as he walked by the gathering group. But, by the way the teacher had been speaking, Aiden couldn't help but feel as though it wasn't directed towards him. In fact, Aiden was pretty sure he hadn't even seen Makayla enter the room as he glanced around searching for the girl in question.

"Sure," Aiden felt his mouth moving but it was by no means his voice coming out of it. "I'll pop by in a minute." As the last word came out, Aiden's jaw slammed shut as he clasped a hand over his mouth. Embarrassment and discomfort swarmed his body as anger began to swell in his chest at the horrible violated feeling. His eyes began to burn, causing him to look down as he began to furiously rub them in a futile effort to ward off the heat behind them.

"What the hell was that?" Aiden hissed at the ground before raising his head up again and forcing a fake smile as the burning in his eyes began to slowly subside.
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T H E B O Y L E R E S I D E N C E :

A familiar dull ache warmed Peneople’s body from the core as her alarm clock buzz-buzz pierced through her skull in the usual way, an irritating aide to reluctantly opening her eyes to the soft red LED glow of the digital display. 05:45. The same as the last two months. There was nothing new in the air; no original tone in the blaring alarm; no difference in Penelope herself. She hadn’t particularly expected difference, but the common insistence was that a new academic year held the potential for marvelous and radical change each and every day - though none supposedly more vital than the first, was the ever-present caveat - and it seemed that the more people who held this conviction, the more people readily believed that it was true, as if a grand enough collective mind could convince the fabric of the world itself to change according to belief. Buzz-buzz. Same old alarm. Same old bedroom. Same old Crestwood. Same old Penny Dreadful. She silenced the alarm and got up, swinging her legs over the edge of her bed and feeling the carpet with her toes, before standing and walking two short steps across to the bedroom window.

Curtains opened to newly-rising sun filtering through grey clouds. Crow-caws and pigeon-coos provided the morning ambiance through an open window. Penelope leaned on the windowsill with both hands, letting the chill of a morning breeze push past her and give way to goosebumps on her skin, the long t-shirt she’d slept in picked deliberately for its thin fabric that offered little for warmth. She’d been plenty warm these past few weeks, an uncomfortable slow-burn that made her lethargic and irritable. More irritable than usual, at least. This morning the heat was already returning, accompanied by a low, offset ache that moved and radiated around her body hour upon hour. Occasionally eating would soothe it; sometimes sugary drinks; sometimes, most rarely, simply ignoring it for an hour or so. Right now, she tried a new method she had been practicing over the last long weekend, a method she had read about in a book loaned out from Crestwood’s library, her preferred haunt outside of school hours. Penelope stood incredibly still and closed her eyes, focusing on the ache, pushing all mental faculties towards it and blocking out everything else. She chased it, wrestled it, pinned it down. It was in her left arm. Concentrate on it, compact it, squeeze and squeeze and peel away its layers. Her arm tingled, as if she were laying on it and pins-and-needles were setting in. She squeezed it more and the tingle grew to numbness, and the numbness spread, and Penelope felt as if her hand were melting over the windowsill and-
Penelope opened her eyes, suddenly fearful. Her hand was fine. She turned around and looked at the time. 06:20.
Time to start the day.

Clothes. Makeup. Cereal. Tea. Bookbag, with necessary contents. Tense '[i]good morning/[i]' to Father. Silence from Mother. Leave the house, wince against the sun that had broken the cloud-line now and streamed down upon her. Ignore the bus; she wouldn't get a seat, and Penelope preferred to start her days without the jeers, jostles, and sheer stark staring of her apparent 'peers'. The walk wasn't long enough to make her late, and the weather was fine enough to make it a pleasant one - she would have to savor it, try and ride the mildly okay mood throughout the day to avoid sinking into the miasmic, loathing hole that the stares and whispers often spiraled her into. She pushed her hands into her coat pockets and put one foot in front of the other, treading onward towards another day at Mather Memorial, her only consolation that it was another day closer to graduation.

The bus rolled past, its low rumble gently shaking Penelope out of her own head for a merciful minute - and just in time to watch Aiden Roth cycle furiously past, hot on the exhaust of the bus he'd obviously missed. King of the Ravens, and general Mather Memorial Jock Superstar. So far on the other end of the social spectrum that Penelope could see the wraparound; even his passing by her felt like a warp in the delicate pseudo-politics of High School social standing. Christ, you could already see the tear in the space-time continuum from here. Penny hope it would swallow the school whole. Or her. She wasn't picky.

She arrived on campus in good time, the bus that had passed her parked and empty just inside the main gates. The building seemed quiet from an outside perspective, but she could feel the hive-like buzzing of the students within from here, cloying and haunting. She had no good memories of walking through these doors - neutral at best was what Penelope dared to hope for. She pushed through the entrance, ignoring the few closed clusters of students that gestured towards her and then erupted in smirks before just as quickly quelling them, ignoring the anger and injustice that burned inside her. Her neutral expression turned to the scowl she was most recognized by as she shoved her way through towards the assignment boards, rapidly scanning down from the top before finding her name and departing. Shut them out, prepare some scathing retorts, and just survive until the last bell. Same as any other day.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L H I G H S C H O O L :

Homeroom was as awful as expected, social circles forming around her like venn diagrams that she was significantly not a part of; she sat back, arms crossed and brow furrowed until the class filtered out to the welcoming assembly, which, while not necessarily awful, was certainly embarassing and routine. Introductions of new faculty, poorly constructed lessons, and one sinkhole-inducing attempt at relatability of analogue media in an increasingly digital age. And yet the librarian still probably held more clout than Penelope did. She sunk low in her seat towards the back of the hall, throwing glares to silence the scattered jibes about her 'best friend' on stage. Taunts and teasing was less frequent than it used to be - a lot of people knew that bothering Penny Dreadful was more trouble than it was worth for the minor entertainment - but that didn't mean there weren't stupid, new, or cruel students.
"Psst. Psst! Dreadful! You'll have to give Macleod an extra fondle to cheer her up after this trainwreck." Snickers from behind her ceased very quickly as she turned to look at the pale freshman who thought he'd pick on bigger fish to earn some standing. He'd heard Dreadful's reputation; obviously he hadn't heard enough.
"Fuck the fuck off you pasty, pie-faced, freshman fuck. You're as funny as a blind fucking toddler bumbling towards a goddamn minefield." She hissed back, her eyes feral and full of fury. The freshman locked stares with her for a micro-second before getting significantly paler and turning his head to look straight forwards, muffled chortles and shared glances rippling out from Penelope like shockwaves after a bomb had gone off.

The rest of the assembly passed without incident, and the student body was dismissed to their first proper classes of the day to begin the new academic year in earnest. Penelope herself had Literature - possibly the highlight of the coming day - and then several sciences, mathematics, and philosophical classes, and the most mysterious 'Social Conscience' slated for the end of the day, led by the newly-inducted Mr. Lehrer who had introduced himself so politely at the Welcoming Assembly. Now that was different. With fortune's favor, she may be able to blur through the day and into this new scholarly pursuit.

M A T H E R M E M O R I A L , ' T H E L O F T ' :

It would appear that fortune had indeed been smiling on Penelope this day; or perhaps her peers had been too busy catching up on old friendships and forging new ones to pay her much mind. Her classes passed harmlessly, Penelope able to scribble notes on entirely un-vandalized paper and listen to her teachers freely, absent of projectiles, passed notes, and snide remarks. Literature did indeed prove to be the highlight she had expected, the first piece of the semester to be the delightful Dr. Faust; everything else was a blur of the usual post-summer warm-ups, designed to gently nudge the student back into academic routine. Lunch passed by, Penelope quickly consuming her meal - she'd developed a significant appetite over the summer - and then retreating to a hidden bench for some reading before departing early for her next class. The latter half of the day passed in similar manner, and before she could really register where the classes had gone, she was sat in the back row in the oft-forgotten 'loft' classroom, the only room of the top 'floor' of the Mather Memorial main building, a room long left in disuse and disrepair; Penelope wondered which one had come first.

Jonas certainly began the class with fervor, a passion not seen in many other members of faculty; and he inspired interesting discussion immediately, moving towards the philosophical, rather than Penelope's suspected psychological leanings for the class. While Penelope tried to avoid the attentions of her classmates - this was a far smaller group than any of her other classes, and she stuck out all the more for it - she did listen to each of them in turn, and to their credit, a few of them gave interesting answers: Self-justification; Instincts; Ethics; Self-awareness. All suitable answers, if slightly navel-gazing in their nature for Penelope's cynical perspective. For her, the difference between man and animal was simple and immediate; Man was cruel. Animals had no understanding of the concept.

She had no time, nor inclination, to share this opinion however. Jonas guided the discussion, fielding each answer with various degrees of patience, and then directed them down a more active path. Language and scripture, and actual work to do on both - and then that most dreaded of assignments. Group work. Penelope felt herself go flush with anxiety, and again she found herself sinking in her seat, trying to fall below the eye-line of her classmates. She wouldn't be picked, she already knew - she never was - all she had was to wait until Jonas assigned her. And then survive the group itself.
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Jason McKinney

Tuesday, August 21st, 2018 - 02:27 pm
Jonas' response to his first comment made Jason smirk. It was good to see a teacher that would roll with the punches instead of immediately calling him out for not taking things seriously. There were very few things in this world that Jason took seriously, and most of the time class was not one of them.

He listened to the other answers and watched as Jonas wrote down on the board, writing along without complaint. It wasn't until Jonas suddenly called him out on why he wasn't talked to about taking this class did his head snap up from his notes, staring at the teacher for a few long seconds. Damn. Jonas had hit the nail on the head, and Jason had literally nothing to say in return. He tried to think of something cocky to say, but the sudden shift in Jonas' tone made him rethink it. He grumbled to himself and kept taking notes, sighing quietly. He hated being shut up that effectively.

After a moment he put his pen down and closed his notebook, zoning out for a moment. He found himself staring at the passcard on the desk, and out of curiosity he picked it up.
The moment his fingers touched it, his eyes widened. The usual zing he got whenever he handled electronics wasn't there.
Curiously he picked up the card and turned it over in his hand, as if he were analyzing it. No matter what he tried, he couldn't detect a single piece of electronics inside. That little card had suddenly held his attention better than Jonas could, and he zoned out completely.

He stared at the card, flipping it over in his hand as he tried to figure out what the hell it could have possibly gone to.
He didn't remember seeing a card reader on the Loft's door, in fact he couldn't remember seeing a card reader that would take this specific card anywhere in the school. It didn't make sense.

It also dawned on him that Jonas had used the word 'gift' when referring to the class. He quickly cut off his power, tucking the card away in his pocket before anyone noticed that he was all but glaring at the little piece of plastic.

He decided to ask about it after class, his head turning as he suddenly heard someone mention 'funny man'. That caught his attention, pulling his eyes away from the card to look at the one who called him over. Surprisingly enough, it was Aiden. He never would have assumed that the jock would ever want anything to do with him, much less be in a group together. He did, however, notice that he called over Anne as well, which was for the best considering that Jason was going to try and be in her group anyways.

He grabbed his things and his chair, moving over to the slowly forming group. Being called 'funny man' brought to mind all sorts of quotes from the Boondock Saints, but he figured reciting them within earshot of the teacher probably wasn't the best idea.
"So, what're we planning over here?" he asked, taking a seat before putting the translation sheet down in front of him. The language wasn't familiar to him, though he'd dabbled in trying to learn Gaelic a few years back. He could memorize the most useless shit from movies and TV, but when it came to something useful like a foreign language his mind was useless. Even his attempt to learn Elvish or Klingon ended in failure. Saying he was a 'nerd' was a bit of an understatement. Though, he kept that side of him to himself, no need to paint a target on his back during school.

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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby The Lost Girl

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The world was dark.

Not black darkness; that only lasted the first few moments of really dedicating yourself to it. Her body was form of consciousness and thought; there was no body. You could feel a body. It could be your own. It could be someone else's. Human society was structured around hubs of culture and geology. Even in distant places there were usually clusters. Networks of all the world's people. It stretched on and on and forever more. The great endless horizon that Makayla found she could stare at without tiring for as long as she allowed herself to do it, a horizon of darkness and darkness with the darkest shades of twilight shining with a similar if colder light.

Today there was no endless horizon. The darkness was there, but it always was, a constant dim filter on the metareality of her current moment. The lighting was fluorescent, the walls a semi-glossed wood panel, and there were flags lining the furthest wall. The one behind the large desk and the big bald man in a dark suit seated at the desk. There was a glow alive around him; very faded but very warm in a light orange. Instinct and memory told her warmth was good. Because the man closest to her, the smaller and younger of the two men, and seated with his back to her? He was bitter cold.

There was conversation but it washed over her like waves from the perspective of a fish far from the surface, a distant rumble that had no direct consequence on her current preoccupations. All of that snapped to a sudden and kinetic change the moment it registered with her subconscious lit up at the conversation at play between them. [i]"Some girl...young, very young like a teenager...taking steps..."

The cold man grew colder, and the warm man saw a drop in heat. Although the change was slight it was something she couldn't miss, not in the darkness where the visuals of the world bleed at the edges and dances like flame in a lazy vibration so slow unless you stared you would have missed it. That was the first thing she learned in the darkness of infinity; stopping and staring usually paid off in one way or another. Letting her focus and will power go free was a leap into the air for a first time flyer. Elevation was boundless, velocity a matter of feeling, and descent just a matter of time.

Staring at the cold one brought to her lips a gasp sharp enough to cut through even a metareality.

The cold man snapped forward from his seat, leaning to the desk and knocking pictures down flat onto the desk so they couldn't be seen by prying eyes. So I can't identify who this is. The warmer, older, bald man sitting behind the desk was beyond her reach. The colder younger man she only knew from last time. Unlike other people, she couldn't "reach" a person using the cold man as a go-between. Because he was a telepath, too, was her bet as to why.

You're not getting away this time.

It wasn't true last time. She got away after he said she wouldn't. After he said that she couldn't. At least Makayla had thought she did. Snapping into this moment, with these people, was like nothing that had ever happened before. Getting lost in it was so easy, so effortless, that she'd lost the fact that she didn't bring herself here. She thought not, until his reaction. He didn't bring her, either. The mystery was enough to snap her focus. She couldn't reach the man behind the desk, but the desk? It went up like a rendered 3D object suddenly given moon gravity.

It came down like a very heavy, very large, desk.

Still don't want me to run?

He couldn't. She knew it like she knew the size of the moon in the sky, a natural fact so obvious few could miss it. He was a telepath, but he wasn't, as he phrased it, "telekinetic." It was the last thing she remembered before the chill of the infinite and it's darkness became daggers, moments before it was so cold it burned. She was moving, the endless darkness howling with the sound of ambient thought replacing the sound of wind around her as she moved at velocities that gave her rope burn. She did the only thing she could do...she screamed as loudly as she could.

Everything was gone. The sound of a whispery quiet ceiling fan and the filtered and cooled air running from the ducts. Her world was a fluffy bed and a four post black wood bed, translucent white cotton canopy blurring the image of her bedroom. Her stomach turned, and her head dipped as pain cascaded around her brain. Her body moved out of the bed and into her bathroom six feet away in seconds. She spent the rest of the early morning throwing up. By the time she got up off the heated tile of her bathroom it was time to get ready for school.

She left her hair long and wavy and shiny, giving it free reign. Her top was a pale pink cotton blouse with three quarter sleeves and wore off the shoulders, exposing her gold tanned and one or two freckles on the back of her shoulder when her long sun lightened blonde hair wasn't covering one shoulder or another. Her jeans were black but faded and only slightly high on the waist. Her shoes were black All Stars with pink accents and stitching. She arrived early so she could help start processing the freshman cheerleaders. She even had her own key to the cheer equipment room.

That was a trip. Each time she met a new freshman girl, it was like she got splashed with feeling. Makayla wasn't looking, and just let it all roll of her back, but it was an interesting way to form first impressions. Some girls seemed very closed off, some just terrified, others excited and open, but all of those were just surface level. Beneath a stormy sea of emotions and thoughts alive and burning brighter than usual: new school years. Especially freshman year. For Makayla it wasn't quite the same. She was a junior, and her social life was over.

Some freshman didn't seem to know. A few thanked her, personally, finding it cool "Makayla Hall" woke up early to help out the new crop of cheerleaders. Makayla stared, before trying to only chuckle kindly at the girls. Whatever her reputation it didn't seem too badly injured at cheer. Then she roamed the halls, unable to perceive much of anything because of the interjections. Samantha. Jessie. Lauren B, Lauren R. Kinzie. Rachel. It wasn't just the girls, either, Bradley, R.J., and Shane. Most wanted information. Rachel was really angry, and thought Makayla should know it. Being born to wealthy parents didn't entitle her to treat people that way, the girl told her. Makayla agreed, Rachel's eyes narrowed.

That was painful. Rachel was amazing, and Mak loved her dearly. R.J. was difficult only because it was hard not to talk to him. She'd always talked to him in the morning, since kindergarten. So she asked about his summer, and at least tried until he brought up drama. She had to curtail the conversation there, it felt weird, it felt wrong. Much like her entire life right now: weird and wrong.

She skipped the assembly and got high with Eli behind the cafeteria. Even though she hadn't indulged, her mind kept processing. She had a tension headache by lunch. There was simply too much stimulus for a telepath at a highschool; at least when so many people seemed to think and feel in your direction. She heard snippets all day. The cutest was a freshman boy that thought she was the sexiest thing alive. The worst was one senior girl being disgusted at the sight of the "bitchy little rich girl."

That was all before lunch.

The peach flavored blunt was bliss. Her mind washed clean, her muscles relaxed, and everything seemed to reset. Her vibe was right. She spent lunch and most of the next period in a daze, pretending to read in the library. Coming out of the library she hit Ashley in the hall, or rather, she walked to her locker and found Ashley there. The hug was a little forced, but only a little.

"Where have you been?"

Makayla paused, but only a single beat, "I got high with Eli. I spent lunch reading in the library."

"Nobody's very happy today, Mak," Ashley's green eyes darted that way and the other, before bouncing back to Makayla and sinking into the sight of her best friend, "I know you've heard it, but you also spent most of the summer in the rain forest with your mom. Which is only just a little weird, so you don't know everything."

Ashley's arms were crossed, she looked nervous. Makayla smiled the moment she took a peek. "I don't care if you date John. You're too sweet sometimes."

The red headed girl threatened to smile, but there was still edge in her eyes, "Ready to talk to me? You know, me? Your sister? The person who loves you forever?" Guilt panged. The hug was only slightly forced, she told herself, but the girl continued at Makayla's hesitation in response, "You're either a lesbian and in love with me, which I'd like to think I'd see coming, or you're a vampire, or you were bit by a radio active spider, or--"

Makayla's head tilted, "--this fascination with scenarios that involve me being bitten..."

"You know what I mean. Eventually you're going to tell me. I don't believe your parents are breaking up. I know you didn't get knocked up. Know what my theory is?" Ashley asked, the tone in her voice suggesting Makayla was going to hear that theory whether she objected or not, "I think you're trying to protect everyone. I think you either got sick, or you're 'Hyper', and I think I'm not far away from starting to take the unsolved mysteries a little personally."

"Ashley, wai--" Makayla sighed, the girl vanished behind the hallway highway of bodies but she still followed her best friend down the hall. Able to see her even when she couldn't physically see her. Her locker swung shut without being touched, and she walked away trying to clear her head. The next class was math, Natalie shocked her by asking for help, shocking only after some of the things Natalie had said about Makayla since the start of summer. She left math a little early to slip into student council, but that was literally a mere check in before slipping out. Brynn looked freaked the fuck out, that made Makayla smile. Poor kid.

The next class was...whatever. She had mostly forgotten, but she did approve of the location: Makayla was one of the people that got the Loft back into working condition, having spent a Saturday cleaning it out and cleaning it up. She was only sad it had official use now. Makayla and some of her friends had their own uses for it the year before. That was all Makayla found herself approving of about the class. It was an intrusion on her schedule, a class spot better used for something that would directly assist her college plans. Makayla had all the recommendations she could possibly want. Her father promised her she'd be in another class by the end of the week.

Until then...an empty classroom that was locked before she unlocked it sans key was her hide-away, locking it away. In the dark, cool, silent empty classroom it was easy for her mind to let go and reach out. She hit a few spots around town, including her parents, checking on loved ones, before curiosity got the better of her. The Loft, the class, Social Conscience. The question wasn't difficult for her: mankind had become fully conscious in ways animals had not. Animals were not, by rule, working separate of nature. They fit within the greater context of the natural world. Mankind was a part of nature that operated outside of that natural world. They were the only creatures that did.

Makayla never stopped wondering if the conscious minds she interacted with weren't all just nature's biggest mistake.

Jonas all but stopped her heart when he addressed. Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. Her jaw dropped. Luckily she did both in a dark, empty, classroom. She didn't notice it was Aiden that Jonas just happened to be looking at in the moment, she just responded via the mind of the person that Jonas was looking at when he said her name. Cool, casual. "Sure. I'll pop by in a minute."

In the dark, empty, classroom Makayla grabbed her dazzling purple glitter cheer backpack and made her way out of the room and up to the Loft. It didn't even quite take a minute, but she didn't exactly rush, so the minute was close enough. The door to the Loft wasn't locked, and that seemed a mistake to Makayla given just what the class was she was walking into. It took Jonas calling her out for her to figure it out, to take a few peeks and confirm it.

Makayla opened the door and walked in, the door closing behind her without being touched, it's lock turning into place after the door had firmly closed. Her eyes went from Jonas, to Aiden, where she seemed to visibly frown even if it just for a heartbeat before she flicked her long lashes back in Jonas' direct. "I have a hall pass. Don't test me." Her tone wasn't light, but it was hard to miss the mystery of the smirk that played at the edge of her pink glossed lips or the tease such a thing implied even as she walked away from him and sat in an empty seat closest to her, her eyes going back to Aiden, her backpack dropping by her feet.

She was still seeing heat flare off him like he was a sun.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Nemaisare
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Nemaisare

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Lucas Bray




Slip sliding scratching scrape of scrambled sound. A sallow streak scored sharp and sudden snapping across solid slate. Watching the letters shaping themselves from the voices sounding out beside him—the people who were willing to speak up, anyway—Lucas didn’t bother to find his voice with them. But he did find himself growing the slightest bit more interested in the story, the words, the context behind each. The bottle had stopped spinning again, and he was sitting a little straighter as he sifted through his own thoughts on the matter. He still wasn’t exactly invested in the answer, but he was picking up and picking out the words he felt fit while the teacher elaborated on every point. The arrows made it even better, as did the realization that whatever he said might not even matter, as long as it settled somewhere in the loop of drawn out white lines.

Didn’t mean he planned on saying anything.

So, Jonas’ eyes turning to him directly startled him into sinking back in his seat. His head ticked sideways, not quite refusing the request as he stared at the desk with his mouth twitching nervously between a sorry smile and an almost mutter. “It’s not their heads I’m-…. thinking in. Ha! Saved by the bell! Well, door. And tardy student. He finished his answer in an actual mutter, since the words were coming out anyway, but he didn’t expect anyone to be listening. It was only a matter of us and them, and he wasn’t so certain anymore.

Lucas stayed tuned in for the rest of the teacher’s words, but he didn’t look up again until a bit of paper slipped under his nose. Warm, shaking print and the grating grain drawn over each other into thin, thin air. He was happy to let it settle on the desk beside the untouched passcard, glancing over the straight sideways lines of an unfamiliar cipher before looking around as he heard ‘into groups and write…” Worse than class discussion.

Turning to strangers and learning to trust in trouble meant smiling through eyerolls and sighing out of patience. Bottle tucked away and one hand hovering over the paper as he turned from Miss Dahl’s encouraging smile to the other students, Lucas’ thumb found its way to his mouth where he caught the nail sideways in his teeth and bit down. Pressure treated. Good distraction. No one looked happy about it, though some looked less unhappy than others. Well, he didn’t know anyone. Though he recognized one kid from another class, blonde Bobby in a little girl’s voice. Maybe? No. Her? Already picked. Oh.

The boy dressed up for a dressing down was the first his searching settled on who was still looking around. First man up, he thought, started the talk, so he could continue the trend? Pausing to meet his gaze, Lucas offered him a half-hearted smile by way of invitation, preferring not to move but thinking maybe he should, so it was really a contest of wills and that meant he wasn’t going to win unless the other guy gave it to him. But picking out placement played second fiddle to picking out peers.

Second discovery was closer to home behind him. Only two rows over. Red lips and calmer hair… She didn’t look like she wanted anyone to see her. Maybe no one else had. Twisted in his chair, he tried to remember where voices had come from before now—easier said than done—and wondered if she’d stayed quiet, too. Well, she didn’t have to speak up now, just look like she was in on it. He didn’t want to do this either. That thought, giving them a common trouble, had Lucas smiling a little wider her way.

Were they all the leftovers?
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