Someone had texted him on the third day of his absence - a general code of conduct pass on, to make sure there wasn't any disappearance on Franciszek's behalf. It was from a person whose name was unfamiliar to him, like most classmates tended to be, simply spelling out: U OK? MR LIMER WANTS UPDATE?. He responded with the usual - it's fine, just ill, or something like that. He'd be in the day after, and he was, but it was arguable if he was ever really there at all. His mind was lost at sea, taken far off to a place he had no comprehension of. An isle; far off, sunken and trodden in the distasteful, surreal atmosphere that plagued its winds and waters. It caused a great shudder, a feeling so real and so unfathomable that he could not shake it as fiction. Something had happened to him that night. Something painful, sensational and inexplicable.
He'd made no attempt to contact his peers from that evening because they had never made an attempt to contact him. It was the troubling nature of his predicament. Who could he speak to? On the off-chance that it was a fabrication of a delusional mind, which had started to seem even more preposterous than accepting it, then who could bear the ability to understand his issues? Had he gone insane? Had the well-represented kaleidoscopic spiral into insanity, shown in all his favourite books, pledged allegiance against him? Franciszek had nothing to work with. He was quiet, and that silence permitted a strange inability to function, as though he'd shut down and felt nothing else. If anything, that roasted broth of the ocean, the one that had flooded his throat, had never left his mind. Even the salt could still be tasted on his tongue's bruised tip.
The day he'd returned to his lessons he was quiet, at least on the academic scale. He wasn't quite as enamoured by the texts around him nor was he in the mood for the arts. Back in his dorm, he'd taken the time to try and write down his thoughts but it'd came back to him as a scrambled mess, incoherently tied together by mentions of the island. Many of those notes were discarded into a bin just outside the dorm building.
The night before they visited, he'd been sat staring at a phone screen - at a text, specifically - unable to word or send the message. It was a mess. A confession of a surreal nature, not to any crime or wrongdoing but to confusion and anxiety. In the world beyond, he was alone, and it was a cold existence. Press send, he pled with himself, just press it and let him know. But the truth was he couldn't. He'd only add to his disappointment, to the numb, unhappy existence the recipient would feel. He deleted it. Wrote it out again. Deleted it again. Never sent. Never seen.
"Frankie?" A voice spilt through his door, as the manager came in, escorted by two men."I have some people here who need to speak to you."
Harris was the first to enter, with a little more ease to show, as his partner sat further behind, ready to scribble notes down. It was a sudden thing - it wasn't exactly unknown between the whispers of HAGAY that some form of interviews had been conducted over something recent, though was often downplayed as a minor thing. Franciszek did his best to adjust himself, but he couldn't shake the slouch in his stature, not the fatigue in his eyes. There wasn't a doubt they'd noticed it themselves.
"Franci-...sorry, Franciszek, is that right?"
"You can..." He yawned. "-just say Frankie...everyone else does."
"Rough night, mate?"
"Don't really sleep well - sorry. I...don't want to be-"
"Don't worry - you're fine." Harris stepped aside, allowing for his partner to at least come into view, whilst the dorm mother peeled off behind them to only vaguely listen. "This is Inspector Jones, he'll just be jotting down a few things, if that's okay? I'm Inspector Harris, we're just doing some routine procedures; have a few questions to ask, if you're okay answering them?"
"Don't worry, you aren't in trouble." It was a blunt reminder. Of course he wasn't in trouble. He hadn't done anything but lose his sense of direction, and there weren't laws for punishing the lost. "You been here long - at the academy?"
"Not very long."
"You enjoying it?" He wore a paternal smile on his face; the type that tells someone things are okay, that everything will work out fine. But what good was to a boy who hadn't the heart to talk much?
"Finding it hard to adjust."
"What do you study here?" His partner hadn't started to write down much, at least until something interesting came up his end.
"Nice. Do a little reading myself, on the off days. Helps you focus, doesn't it? Getting lost in other worlds." Franciszek's paranoia skyrocketed at the mere mention of it, but he nodded with a head full of panic and confusion. It was then that the opening act concluded, and the main interlude of the interrogation had begun. "So - in case you were wondering - we're currently looking into a prolonged student absence. Sofia Wright; I believe the name's familiar to you?"
Like that, his heart started to sink. Worry, a tumultuous storm, made waves across his nerves, and his expression sank a little. A deadly premonition warned him that perhaps something had gone so terrible wrong on the night. Something so savage and real that a student, one friendly besides an overbearing nature, had found harm upon herself. It was a terrible thought. He nodded, at first, then shook his head, then nodded again, simply debating over whether something was really wrong.
"Yes-...a little. She was...well...a group leader for some icebreaker stuff. I didn't know her...not personally. But she was really friendly, I think. I liked that. No-...I haven't seen her in a while." Harris looked to one side, to his partner, then back at the boy with a faded smile. The atmosphere around them changed in the blink of an eye.
"We have some people who are worried about Sofia - about where she is. I understand if you two weren't close, but could you please tell me if you noticed anything - anything at all - on the night 15th of September? Can you recall anything?"
Franciszek hadn't intended on lying, nor had he the intention to tell the truth, but as the dialogue within himself flared up, like fire on a stove, he found his eyes turn damp, and a few tears came through. The anxiety was palpable, but it wasn't explicit. The inspectors were kind enough to give him the time to say his piece.
"I...well...I don't...she invited us...some hazing thing...I think, at the docks? I just...I didn't like it. Someone pushed me in. I left...right after. I wasn't the first to leave-...no...wait...yeah, no, I wasn't the first to leave." He wiped his eyes with his knuckle and took a deep breath. Their beady eyes upon him weighed heavily down on his back. What could have he said to the strangers, that he couldn't have said to his own flesh and blood? The pure ingenuity of it all. It scared him to think something had happened to Sofia. He never even knew if she was responsible for such a thing - he thought she was. Maybe she could still have been at large, throwing the innocent into the deep, but he wanted to believe that she was nothing like that; that maybe she was as nice as his mind had painted her to be. He shook his head again. "Sorry...I'm not...used to this. Is she okay?"
"We'd like to hope so." Detective Harris seemed satisfied with his information, or he realised that there wasn't much else to hear, but a boy under pressure by an unexpected presence. It was harder to tell with teenagers his age. Emotions were always a heavy bearing to hold. No doubt any kid in his situation not used to the process had the capacity to be scared. "That's all. Here - we have a number you can call here. If you hear anything, let us know. If she's okay, we'll let her know you helped; might be a better icebreaker than dock-plunging, huh?"