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.
" 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...