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Mike Miller's Second Day

Mike Miller’s Second Day Mike Miller’s second day at St. Adelaide’s School for Gifted Youth opened rather abruptly at approximately 3:30 in the morning. Gradually, a series of bumps and scraping noises jostled him awake. Not that he’d been really that asleep anyway, strange bed and all. Was someone trying to break in? If so, they were being awfully loud about it. After a minute he rolled out of the small bed, and approached the door. Mike didn’t have anything to defend himself, but he played soccer. He could just kick them. That’s how it worked, right? To his still half-asleep mind, anything was possible. Mike opened the door an inch and peeked outside. There was someone in the room, fumbling with Doug’s door. He almost went in to tackle the intruder, but as his eyes adjusted to the dark he caught the faint glow of white hair. It was Doug who was trying to break into Doug’s room. Wait. That wasn’t right. Mike blinked, trying to wake himself up more. “...and herd. Seems to make it all just a little bit...” Doug mumbled to himself, fumbling with his key. “Doug?” Mike asked, opening his door a little more. Doug turned slowly, the mere quarter revolution almost seeming to make him dizzy. He blinked several times. “Oh, hey Mike,” his words slurred a little. “I... forgot you were here.” Frowning, Mike took a step towards his roommate. “Dude, are you high?” “What?” Doug leaned back dramatically, and almost fell over. “No, no. nononono. I’ve just had a rather... shocking evening.” He paused, as if he had just now processed the words that had come out of his mouth. “‘Shocking evening,’ that’s a good one.” “Are you... sure you’re okay?” Mike asked. He certainly didn’t look okay. “Oh, yeah.” Doug nodded lazily as he finally managed to get his key into the hole on the doorknob. “‘S nothing I ain’t used to.” The door opened, and Doug almost fell into the room. “Good night.” Mike bit his lip as Doug’s door closed again. That, to say the least, was weird. He hadn’t really seemed drunk or high. That was... something else. But he shook himself. What Doug got up to was really none of Mike’s business. He was older than him anyway. Mike was concerned, but there was nothing he could do about it right now at 3:30 in the morning. He went back into his room, plopped down on the tiny, hard bed, and tried to go back to sleep. He maybe got another hour or so of shut-eye before his alarm woke him at seven. Mike had never been able to sleep well in new places, but knowing this didn’t make getting up any easier. Breakfast wasn’t until eight, but Mike wanted to give himself extra time to make sure he wasn’t late. He didn’t need it, because fifteen minutes later, Mike found himself all ready with a lot of time to kill. Eventually he decided to take a walk in order to shake off the weirdness of this morning. Briefly, Mike considered asking Doug to go with him, but he found his door shut with the light off. He decided that it would probably be best to let him work off whatever he was on earlier. So he passed by Doug’s room and went out into the hallway. It was cloudy and dark out, he could tell right away from the lack of light in the common room ahead of him. What lovely weather for his first day of class. The common room seemed devoid of life, at least to the point when he reached the stairs. Just then, Jilli unpeeled herself from the shadows in the corner and smiled, waving. “Good morning, Mi-kun,” her grin widened as an exasperated look crossed Mike’s face. “You’re up early.” “I don’t sleep well in new places,” he said, a little lamely. “I could say the same for you.” “I don’t sleep well period.” She laughed, a little bitterly. “Comes from years of 5AM rehearsals, I guess.” Mike’s eyes widened. “Were they really that early? I mean, I’ve heard some stuff about the idol industry, but that just seems too crazy.” “No, it’s true. When you’re an idol, you have to live and breathe your work,” she explained. “You start to feel like a singing robot, or a certain voice synthesizer.” They both chuckled a little at that. “And sometimes it gets a little... claustrophobic.” “How so?” “Well, the managers and agents can be a little overbearing,” Jilli made a strange face. “Our image is controlled even more so than a lot of pop singers over here. We can’t even have boyfriends. Of course, most of us did anyway, but the pressure and paranoia tend to get to you after a while. I remember a lot of girls having really nasty breakups when their managers found out, or when they couldn’t take the secrecy anymore.” Shaking his head, Mike’s eyebrows knitted together. “Jeez,” he said. “Sounds really depressing.” “It is,” she admitted. “But you know, I do really miss it. The singing, I mean, and the performance. I was just about to graduate before my, uh, incident. If I’d been able to hang in just a little longer, I might have been able to become a solo artist.” “You still could.” Mike smiled. “I haven’t heard you sing, but I’m sure a lot of people would want to hear it.” Jilli laughed, though there was a hint of sadness behind it. “You’re a sweet kid, Mi-kun,” she patted him on the head. “But, enough about me. It’s almost time for breakfast. Have you seen Doug?” She noticed Mike’s sudden frown immediately. “He was... out really late last night and, uh, came in a little messed up,” Mike confessed. “I thought it was probably best to just leave him alone.” “Good call,” Jilli nodded. “It was most likely one of his sessions.” “Sessions?” She grimaced. “Yeah, there’s an on-site staff of psychiatrists here.” She paused momentarily as Mike’s face twisted in confusion. “Rich kid school,” was the only explanation she needed to give. “Only the best for our screwy little brains.” But Mike was still concerned. “So, Doug...” “I mean, he’s Doug,” she shrugged. “I don’t know, I’ve never noticed anything explicitly ‘wrong’ with him. But who knows. All I know is that every once in a while, those creepy people in white lab coats come to take him away, and he comes back all fucked up. He’s always back to his annoying self soon enough though.” Jilli tried to appear nonplussed, but Mike could tell that she was worried. “What can we do to help?” “Pff, hell if I know,” she said with a hint of frustration. “He never talks about it. Believe me, we’ve all asked. Victor, Sonia, you name it, not a word.” Jilli shook her head. “But if he really needs help, he’ll come to us. Anyway, should we get going? Sometimes they give out donuts to the early kids.” Unfortunately, there were no donuts on this particular morning, just a large, drab room with many tables of assorted sizes scattered around its area. Metal beams stretched across the high ceiling, casting unnatural half-shadows on the tile floor. The cafeteria was about a third of the way full of students milling about or eating an early breakfast. From somewhere in the quiet crowd, Sonia stood and waved to the two of them, and Mike followed Jilli over to a round table in a small, out of the way corner. “Good morning, Jilli, Mike,” Sonia beamed. “Is beautiful day, da?” Ah, so that’s where the sun went. Sonia had stolen it all from the sky. “Beautiful?” Mike glanced out the long, thin windows to the vaguely miserable skyline. “I don’t know about that, but whatever you...” He broke off as he turned back to see that Sonia was no longer looking at him. Instead, her gaze was drifting away towards an empty corner, her eyes glassy, as if trying to see something she couldn’t quite make out. “Uh, Sonia? Are you—?” “It’s alright, she does that sometimes.” Jilli waved it off. “We told you about it yesterday, didn’t we?” Mike nodded, remembering. “That’s right, you did. Is she gonna be okay?” “She’ll be fine,” rumbled a deep voice as Gil came up behind them. He put his hands on her shoulders. “Sonia?” He whispered, and her eyes fluttered a bit as she focused again. “Oh, Gil,” she smiled again. “Good morning. I apologize,” Sonia bowed her head towards Mike and Jilli. “I was just, uh...” she looked confused herself. “Never mind.” “Clearly, it was a spirit attempting to contact you from beyond the mortal realm.” Gil said sagely, placing himself in the chair next to her with that smooth, nearly catlike way which he did most things. “You must remember that you are most sensitive to these things, my lady. I will do some research in my Tomes of Knowledge and we shall see if we can communicate with it.” “You really think it’s possible?” Sonia’s eyes widened. “Ooo, I can’t wait! I am wondering what kind of spirit it is? Perhaps a Viking! Great warrior with magic sword!” Gil nodded. “Indeed. The possibilities are endless.” Mike couldn’t help noticing how his smile fell half an inch, but at that moment, Jilli turned to him, raising an eyebrow, and they laughed silently as Gil and Sonia kept up their dialogue. One by one, they went to get breakfast, and Mike couldn’t help noticing the gathering of faceless men and women in lab coats that were surrounding the perimeter of the room. They must have been the psychiatrists that Jilli was talking about. By the time the cafeteria was mostly full, there must have been a good ten to fifteen of them. Mike didn’t like it; they gave him the heebie-jeebies. But none of the others seemed particularly disturbed by their presence, so he tried to ignore the growing feeling of unease in his gut. Just as Jilli got back to the table with a plateful of fruit and waffles, one of the psychiatrists moved to the platform on the far side of the room. The students quickly fell silent, so much so that you could have heard a pin drop. “And now,” the psychiatrist said, “a word from the Director.” There was a crackle, and a burst of static that reverberated around the room. Mike looked up to follow the noise, and saw for the first time the speakers perched in the upper corners of the room. A strange noise came through suddenly, like someone clearing their throat, but he couldn’t quite tell because it sounded so distorted. “Good morning, students. The new semester is here at last.” The voice boomed across the room, altered by static and modulation, but decidedly female. Probably something about its tone and inflections, Mike decided. “To those now joining us, welcome to St. Adelaide’s. To those old faces, welcome back to your home away from home.” Jilli scoffed, and even Gil rolled his eyes. Sonia, on the other hand, had zoned out again. Mike didn’t like this. The voice sounded pleasant enough, but there was something about it, something Mike couldn’t quite put his finger on. There were shivers running up and down his spine. “Remember that you are all the most gifted students in the country, possibly the world, and we look to you all as the hope of the future. And it anyone has any concerns, questions, or snide remarks, feel free to talk to the friendly men and women in lab coats. They are here to help.” The Director continued on for a few minutes, mentioning a few other events and announcements relevant to the student body at large, before finally wrapping up her address. “Thank you as always for your patience,” she said, “and enjoy your first day of the new semester.” With another small crackle, the speakers fell silent, and gradually the students began to converse once more. “Well,” Mike muttered, “that wasn’t ominous at all.” Jilli and Sonia both began to laugh. “Do not worry,” Sonia reassured him. “You will become used to it after a while.” “I’m not sure I want to.” He frowned. “It all seems a little ‘Big Brother’ to me.” “What sort of daemonic older brother do you have?” Gil asked, looking horrified. Jilli sighed. “1984, Gil.” He blinked. “Ah, yes. Of course. My apologies.” The four continued talking as they ate breakfast, which if Mike was honest, was not very good. The texture of Aunt Marma’s Totally Genuine Maple Syrup™ stuck to the roof of his mouth. Finally, Jilli looked up at the clock and saw the time. “Well,” she stretched, “first period begins soon. What’ve you got, Mike?” “Uh...” he pulled out the slightly crumpled piece of paper from his pocket which had his schedule. “Ugh, Algebra II.” “What instructor have you been assigned to?” Gil asked. “Vantas,” Mike added after looking back at the paper. Gil nodded, a determined expression settling into his pale features. “Then this is a battle we share, my friend. If you would have it, I would accompany you to our battlefield.” As he blinked, Mike wasn’t sure he’d gotten a word of that. “Uh...” “He has the same class,” Sonia translated. “He wants to know if you want to walk there together.” “Thank you, my lady.” Gil bowed his head as he took her hand. “That was my question exactly.” “Oh, um, sure! Thanks.” Jilli stood, grabbing her trey. “Well, Sonia and I are off to choir, see you losers later.” She waved. “Oh, and Mike, tell Doug hi for me if you see him, yeah?” “Will do,” he nodded, standing as well. “You coming, Sonia?” “I will catch up with you in few,” she smiled, before beginning to zone out again. Gil’s gaze seemed to linger on her for a moment before he shook himself. “Come, young apprentice,” he said to Mike, his coat swishing dramatically as he began to walk. “The battle of mathematics awaits us.” Mike would have probably gotten lost in the crowd had it not been for the fact that Gil stood out like a sore thumb. Students seemed to give him space wherever he walked. He didn’t seem to mind. Gradually, as the crowd broke away into the various directions of their classes, Mike was able to hear himself think again. Gil was silent a few steps ahead of him, seemingly lost in thought. Mike wondered just what went on in his head. He seemed like a really smart guy, so why did he persist in his delusions? Did he honestly believe that he was a warlock with infinite power? Or was there some other reason? Mike didn’t think he had the guts to outright ask him. “So, Sonia,” he asked instead. That was what guys talked about, right? “Are you two—?” “Our love transcends time and space,” he intoned. “I have loved her for four-thousand years, and I will love her for four-thousand more.” “So, it’s complicated, huh?” Mike didn’t know what to say to this guy. He felt like he was stuck in the middle of a role-playing game with method actors. There was almost no one in the hallway anymore, and Mike was sure he’d seen that motivational cat poster just a second ago. This place was like a maze. “Hey Gil,” he asked. “Are you sure we’re going the right...?” Gil looked to the left and the right, then abruptly turned on his heel to face Mike. “A warning for you, Michael Miller.” His golden eye almost seemed to freeze Mike in place. “Your wariness of this place is not unwarranted. Don’t ignore your intuition. It may just save your life.” He wasn’t joking. “There are forces at work in this school that will attempt to pull your very being apart. I’ve been affected by it, Sonia, that ignoramus you call a roommate, all of us have. If I were you, I’d watch where you step.” It was not a threat, more like a warning. Gil seemed genuinely worried. And for a moment, Mike thought that he might actually understand what he was trying to say. But the second passed as quickly as it came, and Gild grinned knowingly once more. “Now, on to slay this dragon built of overly complicated equations.” He started walking again, laughing manically, and after hesitating for a moment, Mike followed him. Needless to say, he didn’t pay any attention during class that day as teachers handed out syllabi and repeated the same information over and over until Mike thought he’d never forget that three absences equaled a tardy. But he had too many questions running through his mind to care about any of that. He had had this lingering feeling that something was strange here, off even, except that everyone around him seemed so used to it that he thought he might be the weird one. “Don’t ignore your intuition,” Gill had told him. But wait, why was he listening to Gil? He was delusional! It was probably just one of his wizard roleplaying things again. Yet something about what he’d said, the look in his eyes, the sincerity of his words. Gil had known what he was talking about. That hadn’t been some sort of weird fantasy metaphor, Mike could somehow tell. He was right, something was wrong here, Mike could feel it. And he thought the others could too, even if they didn’t talk about it. There were so many mysteries, so many questions left unanswered. Mike decided to make a list. That would help him organize his thoughts. 1). Who was the Director? Yes, she was a crazy, modulated voice over a speaker system, but why? Why bother hiding her face and voice from the student body? It certainly made her intimidating and slightly creepy, but wasn’t enough of a reason by itself. 2). The psychiatrists. He didn’t know of any other school that needed ten of them. And the explanation of “rich kid school” simply didn’t cut it. To be honest, they seemed more like a security force than a group of doctors. 3). Why was everyone here so weird? Not just in their personalities, though the school was nearly stranger than a superhero’s rogue’s gallery in that respect. But more so in the way everyone seemed so nonplussed about all of these other questions Mike had. They didn’t care about the psychiatrists, or the Director, or the other host of strange things. Or maybe they were just really good at hiding it. And finally, 4). Doug. What the hell were they doing to him in his “sessions” that made him act like that? He’d hardly been able to walk properly. In addition, though he hadn’t really known him for that long, it seemed entirely out of Doug’s character to not talk to anybody about it. Most importantly, why was everyone not harassing him about it non-stop until he gave in and told them what was going on? That was the only way that they could help him, after all. Maybe these questions wouldn’t be so confusing after he’d been here for a few months, but to be honest, he didn’t want to become numb to the strangeness like everyone else. He couldn’t handle not knowing these things. And if no one was going to help him, then he guessed that he’d just have to find the answers himself. Of all the questions he had, one stuck out as the easiest to answer: Doug. He also had the distinct feeling that if he answered this one question, then all the others would begin to fall into place. Like dominos. The rest of the day passed slower than paint drying, all of the thoughts and confusion cycling through his mind every time he saw a lab coat pass, especially whenever the students turned away from them. Finally, classes were done for the day, the final bell rang, and according to his schedule there was an hour before dinner. So Mike headed back across the snowy path to the dorm. Maybe Doug would be feeling better by now. Either way he needed to drop off his backpack, which was as good an excuse as any. The light was on in the room, Mike could see it in the wide gap in the bottom of the door from the end of the hallway. At the very least, Doug was up. Mike didn’t know if he had known him for long enough to just knock on his door, but he ended up being lucky. When he pushed open the heavy door, Mike turned to see Doug at the bathroom mirror, trying in vain to smooth down his hair. He hadn’t noticed this morning in the dark, but now Mike saw that Doug’s hair was now even more static-y and gravity-defying than it had been yesterday. His sweatshirt sleeves were pulled up to prevent them getting wet, and Mike couldn’t help noticing a strange, metallic bracelet on his right wrist as it caught the bathroom light. “Oh, hey Mike,” Doug grinned lazily as he saw him though the mirror. His speech was still a little slow, but he seemed much more normal now. Or at least, normal for Doug anyway. “How was your first day of class? Want to jump off a bridge yet?” He didn’t even know, but Mike decided not to open that can of worms just yet. Maybe just peek inside the lid. “Almost,” he nodded instead. “Maybe give it another day.” Alright, now was the time. “Hey, so what happened last night? You were in really late.” Doug paused for a second, before rolling his sleeves back down and turning to properly face Mike. “I’m sure the others told you about my ‘sessions’ right? Jilli, I’m guessing.” “Two for two.” Mike nodded. Sighing, Doug shook his head. “Listen,” he began, “the last guy I told even a little about what really goes on in this place, he disappeared. Just gone from the dorm one day and never came back. I don’t want that to happen to you, or any of the others. The only reason I’m even telling you this much is because I know you’ll just keep asking about it if I don’t. You’re that kinda guy, right?” Mike looked down sheepishly. There went his whole plan down the toilet. “That makes three. But if you tell us, maybe we can help you.” Much to his surprise, Doug started laughing. Whatever the joke was, Mike didn’t get it. “Your optimism is admirable,” Doug admitted. “But in this case, optimism alone won’t cut it. If I tell you not to go asking questions you’ll probably just do it anyway, so I’ll say this instead: keep your head down, Mike. That’s the only way you’ll get out of this place alive.” He began to scoot past him towards the door. “Now, I hear that Jilli and the nerds are playing a rousing game of Dungeons and Dragons. So I’m gonna go crash it. If you want to come along, first one in gets to make the wizard cry.” As he watched Doug wheel himself out of the room, Mike hesitated. That was the second vague warning he’d received today, and Mike wasn’t sure whose advice to follow. Doug told him to keep his head down, but Gil had told him to trust his intuition, which in turn was telling him to start asking questions and solving mysteries. As much as Doug warned him against it, Mike really wanted to help him, and part of him couldn’t ignore the weirdness of this place. So, okay, he guessed he’d step carefully, but that didn’t mean he had to stop asking questions. “Yeah,” he grinned at Doug, who was waiting in the doorway. “Let’s do it. I’ve always wanted to make a paladin fall.”

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