Friday afternoon, already? Life was going far too quickly for Laurence's enjoyment. The hours were dragging out and becoming a sickly rendition of boredom. Wasn't he supposed to be enjoying his new life, free from the rulership of dictator-like parents and money hungry family members? Well, he was infinitely more happy now than he was back then. Yet, despite this he felt almost empty that morning. He'd spoken to a few nice people, amongst a few questionable individuals as well. Such conversations were invigorating for his mental wellbeing, helping him stay on track and keeping a smile upon his face. He remembered the likes of a few new individuals, from the sweet Finnish girl caught in the middle of everything to the crazy Russian wanting to put down the Kremlin. Amongst those were some more empathetic individuals, like classmates and participants in the debate. It was an eventful evening indeed. That night, Laurence had made it home with a deep smile plastered across his joyful mug, happy to have had the chance to interact and show his attention to many colleagues that he hoped to mingle with in the future. Life was all about those small moments, those interactions that were amplified by friendships and potential love-interests. Laurence himself wasn't one hundred percent on what his exact feelings were for those within that group, bar the first impressions, so he kept those judgements relatively low down. Benefits of the doubt were ruling his opinion on Mikhail, making him imagine that perhaps it was just the case of a strange joke or a bizarre drunken rant...though the latter raised questions about the school's alcohol prohibition policy.
Friday wasn't that much exciting. He'd had mostly Business and English lessons to go through, studying mostly the works of a 'Love and Relationship' poetry anthology in larger depth. Friday's was always the day when the teacher bombed out annotations and pressed the students for answers, interpretations and all sorts of forms of analysis. They were hard to deal with, but Laurence enjoyed them. They were different, in their own special way. Thomas Hardy's 'The Inn' was the focus that day, helping shed some more light on the reciprocation of unsolicited love affairs or desires that never quite come true. Though perhaps not on the romantic scale, the concept of desires being faltered by expectations was something Laurence related to more. He wondered if there were some form of alternative world or supposed universe that changed the rules of desires, where men and women could rush after their deepest connections without worry of repercussion. Sounded silly, stupid in fact, but it was a decent idea for a novel. Perhaps...could that be his breakthrough? Laurence still focused on what he wanted to write as a final product, making his name potentially in the writing industry only to prove his family wrong about his talents, but the inspiration was meekly withering away once more.
Now, he had an appointment. Ever since he'd came to Evergreen Grammar School for Sixth Form education, he'd never really encountered much with the staff. He was on good relations with Mr Sharp, the philosophy teacher, and had some decent connections to his English department but anything beyond the small and secluded circle of his A-Level Education was minimal at best. Considering it wasn't just an institute for A-Level students, there were students of ages 12-18 throughout the entire school. Years 7-11 made up the vast majority of Evergreen's population, without a doubt. Laurence never grew up within those years, not in this school at least, so his experiences were small and unrecognisable to most teaching staff. That was due to change though, especially today. The illusive vice-principal had called for Laurence to go meet him: Mr Ashcroft...
Awaiting outside of his office wasn't exactly easy. Laurence had no recollection of the man, other than the occasional rumours spread about him. Though, saying that...which teacher didn't have rumours about them? Students loved to joke around about their seniors, making them out to be worse than perhaps they really were. Negativity was a great fuel for getting through school. Seeing things through that bleak, narrow spyglass was a common trope, education didn't matter to some and only the embarrassment of humour against those they knew nothing about. Laurence couldn't judge the man until he'd actually spoken to him, yet even now he felt a strange anxiety overcome him. The atmosphere was seemingly...different. Every time he thought of setting foot inside the office his heart lunged and his stomach churned. Thousands of warning signs were plastering themselves within his mind and blaring out an intense siren. Each blast that shattered his ears caused disorientation. For a moment, he felt the world turn green around him, and the distorted looks of the walls started to warp in and out of themselves. A wavy texture overcame the environment and he simply began to feel sick inside. Anxiety was a bitch, no doubt, and Laurence wasn't fully prepared to deal with the nervousness that came out of waiting to be called in. Eventually, the door could be heard unclicking, its locks removing itself as a small gust of wind left it ajar, leaving a ghostly presence from within to seep out and draw Laurence inside. It took a few moments of hesitation to get Laurence ready, before the instincts of his kindness and willingness not to leave anyone waiting around drew him closer. A dark aura could be felt within, and yet Laurence heeded no attention towards such manifestations. Walking inside...he found who was waiting for him.
"Ahh, Mr Newman...please, take a seat..." Laurence tried his best to smile, walking gently and gracefully over to the humble leathery chair before his desk. For a Vice Principal, he was rather well equipped and treated in his office. A quaint aroma smitten with rich mahogany brought back melancholic memories of his old home, where his family indulged in the riches of their own self-profits with ostentatious furniture. And behind all of that richness, in this room at least, sat the man in question: Mr Ashcroft. "Don't dilly-dally, son."
As Laurence did as he was commanded, he scanned his face to see whatever he could. Indeed, old-fashioned was one way to go about it. Between both eyes and sat neatly on the bridge of his wrinkled nose were an old yet purely expensive brand of spectacles with St. George's Cross embedded into its frames. It felt more of an aesthetic choice at first, considering his walls were littered with paintings and scriptures of an old world. Red coats, brodies, conquest, formations of knights, villages and everything England was listed in the masses, setting the tone and scene of this Vice Principal. Laurence at first admired the use of textures, perhaps deducing that he was just a history fanatic from previous teaching days. Laurence didn't know that Ashcroft had never taught history. Not once.
More time passed, and Laurence silently sat down and folded his arms across his lap, locking his hands together nervously as he awaited for the beginning of their encounter. It was a rather sporadic and unprecedented call to alert. Laurence wasn't exactly a lacking student, so he knew that it couldn't be about his studies. Perhaps it were about a newfound opportunity for writers, or a chance to excel his education through a third-party course? The hopes of something so beneficial as those were endless, but the reality would sometimes be disappointing. Ashcroft held a stern face, smiling beneath the fingertips that were tightly wrapped around one another. Once again, that unfamiliar, sinister aura spread throughout the room, shimmering the once glowing brightness of Laurence's smile.
"It's finally nice to meet you, Mr Newman. I imagine you haven't heard that Principal Galbraith has taken temporary leave to sort out family related issues, have you not?" The curved conversation suddenly flanked Laurence, taking him by surprise. Obviously Principal Galbraith was the public face of the school; a shimmering beacon of hope, the press would say, from a female headteacher, she led the school through tough times and perfectly executed the oppositions of OFSTED inspections. Her temporary leave left the mantle of responsibility upon a now grinning elderly man, who seemed keen to share such news. Before Laurence could retort his response, Ashcroft continued after leaning heavily back into his leathery throne. "Obviously that's not why I called you here, boy. I was just...reminding us all of the situation, explaining why I am the one delivering such news to you. Say, have you heard of the London Writers' Guild?"
The question threw Laurence off guard once more. Why of course, the London Writers' was only the prestigious platform for newcomer authors and script-writers to influence the city with agencies, publishers and advertisement to the max. Only they were known for creating big names, many of which Laurence himself aspired to become. For a moment, Laurence smiled uncontrollably at the thought of the Guild, seeing them as the destination for all youth-writers in London to strive for.
"Uhh...yes, yes I have, Sir! It's a dream away from my grasp, but I know all about it."
"I thought you were a man of culture too, my boy!" Unlike the rumours before, he jovially smiled and chuckled to himself before twizzling away at his facial hair with the tips of his fingers. He placed a second hand down upon the table and murmured to himself, quietly thinking of his next thought process. "Personally, pure-breds like yourself are amongst the greatest students here. I noticed a science boy of the same stature as well. Always wonderful to see the legacy continue!"
The final phrase caught Laurence off guard. What ever could he have meant by that? Laurence was confused by the entire purpose of the meeting. Ashcroft made little sense. Laurence simply sat in silence, listening to his words carefully.
"Anyway, the meeting won't run itself. Newman, I've got reasons to believe that you've been mixing in with the wrong crowd." Laurence's eyes widened, unsure of what he meant or what he was getting at. Wrong crowd? Laurence was a rather confined soul anyway, rarely mingling with any sort of crowd. The conversation beforehand was going so positively, and then suddenly this bombshell had been tossed into the fray without any warning. Partially, he cleared his throat and prepared to respond, only for Ashcroft to once again take charge of the conversation. "Any student of mine should hold the honour of being in the position they are, Mr Newman. I've seen some investments you've made socially. I'm here to just give you a friendly nudge back into the right direction. You're an Englishman, dear Newman! This should be your time to take pride in your education, your writing! Y'know, the Principal always had her eye on you creatively, and thought you could do some good. Don't spoil that."
"I...don't quite follow, uhm...Sir?" His confusion was only met by the rather peculiar behaviour of Ashcroft, who stood up, shushing him with a finger to his own mouth, before walking over to a gramophone and putting on a dusty old record. To match the theme of his room, and his hidden agenda, the brightly coloured theme of 'A Long Way to Tipperary' sung out throughout the walls of his office. Laurence was confused...very confused. He started to wander around, circling Laurence strangely.
"This school is infested, young sir. Infested, I tell you! As acting principal, it is my duty...no...As a righteous man, it is my duty to uphold my expectations of the school and blend the best results for the future, as you must know. You may not see them, Newman, but there are rats everywhere, hiding amongst the students like the plague. You'll find them some day, or they'll find you. Be sure you stay on top, and I can guarantee you any place in London for writing." His speech was concluded with participation in the lyrics, singing and lulling away at the chants of his musicianship. Laurence, once again, spoke quietly in response, confused by the terms of his strange ordeal.
"S-Sir...students? I...uhm...I don't think that I could find them or...I don't know what you are implying? You want me t-"
"Enough of your questioning! This is a standard meeting I must adjourn with the students I see promise in, young boy. We're here as an institute, together! School and education helps pick out the intellectuals from the uneducated, poor masses. I'm not here to educate you on that matter, boy. I just want to remind you to keep you eyes and ears open. Now please, vacate my office. Oh...and next week...tell that 'Finnish' girl to come to my office. I have reports I need to make."
Finnish girl? Could Ashcroft be referring to Merja? Why would she need a report made against her? From the brief moment that Laurence laid his eyes and ears upon her distress, she did seem like an innocent or seemingly normal school girl. There was nothing about her that screamed of truancy, or insubordination. He didn't dare question it, once Ashcroft had raised his voice once it was a case of asserting dominance, scaring Laurence into submission as he quickly escaped the office as politely as humanly possible.
Outside, he took a breath. What was it that he meant? Everything that had just happened was a confusing mess of events. Laurence was so caught up in the veil of misunderstanding that as he exited the school, he didn't notice the transition of the scene around him. Everywhere, the world began to shift into a formation of unfinished pyramids, shapes and blocks floating around in the sky, where a darkness scattered above in the air. Laurence took a moment to dwell on the encounter before he made it outside, only for his jaw to drop and for his world to begin squirming into a twisted state of misunderstanding. Laurence's eyes fluttered, blinking uncontrollably. He stared, gaping mouth wide open. What was this? What the fuck was all of this? The series of events happened quickly. The scolding of his principal and now the sudden shift in the world outside. He continued to walk forward, his eyes blaring suddenly. No souls could be seen in the distance. All the world around him was devoid of life, life entirely. Only the faint squawking of a nearby Raven was audible. Only then...Laurence felt himself begin to shiver.