Stop to look at the glass case of super heroes and villains where the art hallway meets the atrium. There are four or five versions of Batman, a half-dozen Hulks, a few different sizes of Superman with their bland expressions.
But among them there are also singular characters: the unknowable Dr. Doom behind his metal mask; Hawkman, with his old-fashioned mask of feathers; Robocop, the dark slit in his helmet hiding his eyes, holding out his hand ambiguously, as if dropping something on purpose, like a coin in a wishing well. In one corner, the bug-eyed, Mr. Potato-Head version of Darth Vader makes light of evil.
And if you refocus your eyes, as you stand before the glass case, you’ll also see yourself half-reflected. Which of the characters, or which version of yourself, will you be when danger comes?
In the year 2060, events at U-32 took a strange turn. Mixed among the crowd of twelve hundred students, and the dwindling number of human teachers, were three true individuals whose choices that school year would determine the fate of everyone in the glass case.
A character is revealed by her actions.
It was much like any other fall morning, a brittle chill in the air and a sense of dread as the cumbersome yellow bus pulled up in front of me. I climbed the dirt-encrusted steps and kept my head down so I could only see my two beat up sneakers and the trash on the bus floor. I collapsed into the first empty seat I came to and took out my book. The bus made me want to vomit, which I’m sure the rest of the idiots I ride the bus with would find endlessly amusing.
I entered the bright and noisy atrium and saw the usual groups of kids talking and giggling with each other. As I headed up the crowded stairs I pushed past a group of girls and they mumbled something, most likely insulting. As soon as I reached the top of the stairs I made my way to the library to study.
And then I saw her. It was a tech teacher, or a TT, as people call them. They had been introduced at the beginning of the year and while most students thought they were creepy I liked them. They gave us lots of homework. I studied in the library until the bell rung and then weaved my way through the crowded hallways to math, my first class. This tech teacher looks just like all the rest, practically human except for the blank emotionless face with a small green apple tattooed at the base of her neck.
“Welcome to math.” Her voice was smooth and flawless like the surface of a lake. And then out of nowhere pain shot down my spine and I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t scream — although I wanted to very, very badly. I struggled to move at all but it was futile. And then the world faded slowly.
My eyes fluttered open. I could move again. I looked around the room and everyone was completely quiet. Weird, I thought. The teacher must’ve done something to us. I shuddered. Should I tell someone? I mean who cares if she made my classmates a little more bearable? But what if she hurt us?
The New Kid
The atrium was huge, white, with lots of windows. It was everything compared to the tiny building I had gone to in seventh grade. My heels clacked on the tiles as I walked towards the middle school. Apparently I was supposed to sit somewhere called the ‘amphitheater.’ The fans blew cool air down on me, blowing my hair in my face, which was super annoying.
“Having trouble?” A girl with reddish blonde hair and glasses walked up beside me.
“I haven’t seen you before. Are you new?”
“Yeah, I just moved here,” I replied. We started walking down the stairs past the amphitheater.
“I’m Sam,” she said. “And you?”
“Ashlynn,” I said quickly, glancing at my watch. I only had one minute before I would be late.
“Hey, where’s Math?”
“Down the hall, take a left, then a right. 3rd door down. See you around, Ashlynn.”
Sam scampered off. I noticed that below her short red hair there was a mark shaped like an apple, except green with red leaves.
“Nice tattoo!” I shouted out, but she was already gone.
I started down the hall, binder in hand, but I had already forgotten where I was supposed to go. Down the hall, take a right, third door down? That must be right, I thought as I rushed past the rows of maroon lockers. I passed a classroom where some teachers were talking, but stopped abruptly when I heard my name.
“Veronica,” said a male voice. “We simply don’t have enough resources to waste on a young girl like Ashlynn. It will just have to wait.”
“But Simon, she is a new girl! She isn’t like the rest of them. She isn’t….”
My mouth dropped open. What did she mean? I didn’t want to hear any more, so I started to tiptoe away. Unfortunately, you can’t tiptoe in heels, which make a loud clicking sound.
“Is someone there?” The male teacher, (Simon) started to walk to the doorway. I ran down the hall and turned the corner just in time as a young man poked his head out of the doorway. The last thing I noticed before I turned my face away was the apple-shaped mark on his neck.
Ten minutes later I wound up in math, late with no note. I had to live through a class introduction, and then was caught up in something about prime factors. I couldn’t stop thinking about what those teachers were saying. I looked around the room. How was I different from all these kids…?
“Ashlynn!” Sam yelled, running towards me. I just stared at her.
I loved the amp. I was in control there; I was like a king and everybody was my subjects. I knew as soon as I walked down the steps, I was the boss. My throne was the heater on the stretch of fabric by the window. I loved watching everybody dance around me, because they knew if they got too close, bad things would happen.
I also loved the noise — surprisingly it calmed me somehow. Hearing the noises of every middle schooler bounce off the high ceilings. I never wanted to leave that spot. Especially today, the sun was bright and was making me feel so warm and cozy.
I definitely didn’t want this feeling to be ruined by the cold metallic sound of the tech teachers, or “TT’s” as we called them. The school said they help students learn better, but I didn’t see it. So I decided to skip class. So when it was time to go to TA, I just waited in the bathroom until everyone was in class. Then I just waltzed back to my spot in the amp.
Then, about 15 minutes before it was time to switch classes, I noticed something. There was absolutely no sound, not a shuffle of footsteps, or a giggle, or the metallic sound of the TTs. I thought this was the weirdest thing, so I decided to see what was going on.
I tentatively headed toward the nearest classroom that I could find. When I tried to open the door, it was locked. I didn’t understand why this door was locked, the classroom doors are never locked. I tried to open other classroom doors, and sure enough they were all locked too. I had no idea what to do next.