SIDE ONE, TRACK TWO: TELL HER ABOUT IT
Of all the terrible things you learned in school, one of the worst was that time was a thing to be regimented. No longer was time a force which flowed in and out of your life with only the simplest of patterns, as your childhood of lazy days and sleepy nights calcified into chunky, cubic ‘hours’, each one a box to be filled with a different activity — and only that activity. Try to eat during Math, or do your Math homework during Health, or, the greatest sin of them all, act like it was Recess during any other hour, and you paid the price, over and over.
In this way, you learned to hate time and its passing, for even as each hour’s awfulness drew to a close, it only opened up to reveal yet another hour, containing yet another nasty surprise, immediately after. And in hating those hours, you grew to hate the days containing those hours. And, after long enough, you were thoroughly conditioned only to love the hours with no activities, and the days which only held those formless, empty passages of time.
Until you reached adulthood, of course, and found yourself in the sickest mindset of them all: so inured to hours filled with labor you found other activities to do in your free time, filling and forcing even those hours into lockstep with the rest of your life.
Benjamin hadn’t gotten that far in life, of course, but he had his own schedule that ate up most of his weekdays. He could see his parents, too, their days and nights crammed with things that kept them ever-rushing and harried.
The knowledge that he and his sister were two of those ‘things’ weighed on him, when he’d let it.
But as it stood, the crush of homework and classes and mandatory electives was enough to make him ache for his free time. Voidville was the greatest respite he’d ever known, even though to the untrained eye it might appear like yet another way to fill hours with scheduled activity. That was the brilliance of the game, though: it was chaos disguised as order, freedom hiding behind a mask of rules. It was the endless summertime play of his childhood, fitting fluidly into whatever unoccupied time he had. Undiluted escape, available in any dosage size he needed.
And did he ever need it now.
Geography was taught by one of the coaches, which meant the class was composed of three things: non-stop clumsy flirting with the cute girls, non-stop back-slapping with the athletes, and total ignoring — if not outright disdain — of the rest of the students. Actual geography lessons in Geography class were pretty thin on the ground.
Benjamin fit, without question, into that third group of students, but he was more on the ‘disdain’ side of the scale. He and his kind were monitored and disciplined in a way the other students were not, all the better for the coach to meet his monthly quotas of paddlings and students sent to the principal’s office.
Benjamin would never bring the book to school, much as he wanted to, but even if he did, he certainly wouldn’t bring into this particular hour’s class. Confiscated? Yep. Destroyed? Most certainly. Read out loud, to the hilarity of the rest of the class?
Considering that exact thing had happened the one time Benjamin had tried to write a storyline for Voidville during Geography…all signs pointed to yes.
Not that he couldn’t go to the game in his mind during class, and not that he didn’t often do that. But there was a science to it. He had to dream while staying awake — letting his mind drift, but remaining aware with at least one sense — watching the coach at the blackboard, or listening for shifts in the tone of his pseudo-lecture that portended a change from dry textbook recitation to pointed commentary on student behavior.
Benjamin was in drift mode now, thinking of what came next after the leviathan had gone back to sleep. The only reason it had awoken was because someone — who? Oh, yeah, Cy the Gill Man — had failed to answer one of the mystical riddles scrawled in the field of energy that kept the beast hibernating. But now that it slumbered again…what was it guarding? Treasure? Another clue for the monsters to decipher? A gateway to another land?
Benjamin had halfway sketched in his head a map for a treasure cave and its de rigueur traps when his guarded awareness of the class snapped him out of his hypnagogic state. It wasn’t triggered by the coach, and not someone nearby sneezing or coughing…
It was a folded note, tossed onto his desk.
Benjamin palmed the paper quickly, expertly. Note-passing was worth one swat from the paddle, and the coach’s paddle was an especially vicious construct, riddled with holes to cut down on air resistance and allow it to reach maximum velocity on its path to your butt.
He cupped the note in his hand, looking straight at the coach as he did so. A quick glance at his hand revealed no name written on the note, so he flipped it over. Benjamin didn’t have much use for most of his fellow students, but he always passed a note along without fuss and without alerting the teacher, simply because no one in school was as hated, or drew as much fire, as a narc.
The other side of the folded note shocked him so much he almost dropped it.
His own name, written in cursive.
Benjamin risked looking around the class for just a second, to see if anyone was watching him and looking to see that he’d gotten the note. None of his friends were in this period with him: Eddie and Cy had Pre-Algebra, and Randall was in FFA. So who could it be…?
A small motion caught his eye, and he had his second shock of the day.
Andi Brennan, waving her hand in a quick, curt motion. She smiled and nodded, her mane of red curls bobbing.
Today’s Words: 1027
Total Words: 3291
Notes: Word 2007 doesn’t know the word ‘hypnagogic’.
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)