Tales from Ohio Academy #1

A story by Andrew Perron

There were two moons in the sky on the morning Skylar Smith started school.

She ran through the grassy lawns between the dorms and the lecture halls, jeans swishing, afro-puffs bobbing. She’d actually been at school for a week now, because it was a boarding school, but this was the first class, and therefore more special.

She stopped between two buildings. At her old school, it was all learning names and seating assignments and schedules. Here, she was going to learn how to be Strange.

Assuming she could figure out what she was doing, anyway. She looked left, then right, then down at the single piece of paper in her hand, her only guide to finding homeroom in the sprawling complex of buildings that made up the Ohio Academy For Extranormal Individuals. ‘East Mrss 108′ – what was that even supposed to mean?

“Hey, need some help?”

Skylar looked up at the voice – and did a double-take. It was another girl, about her age, but her face was painted in a complicated pattern of triangles and diamonds, colored red, purple and gold. “Uh, hi!”

The girl’s curly blond locks bounced as she took Skylar’s hand and shook it energetically. “Nice to meet you! Rose Stigandr, but you can call me Compass Rose. What’cha lookin’ for?”

Hm. Was this actual friendliness, or pretend friendliness in preparation for a nasty trick? But no, she shouldn’t be thinking like that anymore – a new school was a new chance to get friends of her own. “Well, I’m not sure where my homeroom is.” She held up the bit of paper with the confusing address on it.

Rose touched the letters. For a second, her eyes twitched, and then she said, “Okay, go past the next building and turn right, you’ll see Morrison Hall at the end of the path, go in the big double doors and turn left for the East Wing, and room 108 is right past the bathrooms.”

“Oh, wow.” Skylar squinted in that general direction. “You must know this place really well.”

Rose grinned. “Well, this is my second year. But that’s my thing, you know? That thing I do.”

“Oh – your powers! That’s awesome!” She had been right – this place was different! “Are the shapes on your face part of it?”

“Fraid not – just makeup. But when I get old enough, I’m gonna get ‘em tattooed.” Rose looked over her shoulder at a nearby clock. “Anyway, we both better get to class.”

“Ah!” Skylar lifted her backpack and started running, waving over her shoulder at Rose.

She got to the classroom in no time flat, thanks to the helpful directions. It didn’t look all that different from her old school – a bit nicer, a bit newer, the desks were a bit bigger. Each of the desks had a folded piece of card stock on top with a name carefully printed on it. With a bit of jostling around, she found hers and sat down, backpack at her feet.

She looked around at the kids to the left and right of her. Okay, this was her chance to introduce herself and make friends. …so she just had to figure out how to do that, then.

Skylar looked up. The teacher was there behind the podium. She had a long, wise-looking face, in the way of teachers. Her hair frizzed out like a dandelion around her head; with the light from the window shining through it, it seemed like a halo. “Hello, class,” she said, with a musical lilt. “My name is Ms. Telemachus.” She stepped to the side; the name had already been hanging there on the whiteboard, unnoticed.

“You’ve all been to the assembly at the beginning of the year,” she said, spinning nimbly about, “so you know how the school works. Let me tell you how I work.”

“For homeroom, the main thing is to show up and be counted! If you don’t, well, there are supposed to be disciplinary actions, but…” She shrugged. “It seems to me that it’s more important to get the clues I’ll be giving out to the treasure hunt at the end of the year.”

Skylar could tell that Ms. Telemachus was trying to be a Cool Teacher, to make it sound like her classroom was going to be fun every day. It was such an obvious trick.

…but the treasure hunt did sound interesting… Well. She’d give her a chance, at least.

“As well, everyone in this homeroom will have me for music class for the first two quarters of the year. We’re going to be very hands-on, playing instruments, learning new things, making mistakes, and if we’re lucky, shrinking down into a miniature universe so we can go inside the sound waves themselves.”

Was that a joke? She looked around; some kids were laughing, but others were wide-eyed. That was probably a joke. Maybe. …Skylar was still excited.

“Tomorrow, I’m going to want everybody to sign up for an instrument. Think about what you’d like to try out.” She swept a hand through the air like a stage magician. “Don’t be afraid to go for something you’ve never tried before! Whatever catches your fancy, do it, with no regrets!” Her hand swept inward and closed on her chest.

“But, for today…” She reached out and touched a button, and a familiar song started playing. “Let’s get caught up in the spirit of music. Listen, relax, and get to know each other!” She walked around and sat down at her desk, folding her hands and smiling over the class.

Skylar swallowed. Okay, introduce yourself.

She turned left. “Hi, I’m…” But the girl there was already talking to someone else. She turned right. “Hey, what’s your…” But the boy was laughing at someone else’s joke. Crap, she was too late again!

“Hey!” She jumped in her seat and spun halfway around. Behind her was a guy with astonishing hair. It seemed to have been spiked upward with mousse, and reached up a full foot from his head. He was Hispanic, with a wide nose and a grin. “Haha! Sorry for startling you. I’m Eric! Pleased to greet ya.”

“Oh, nono, that’s okay!” Skylar shook her head. “I’m Skylar Smith. What’s, um, what’s up?”

He shrugged! “Not a lot! It’s my first day.” He looked around, then leaned in and whispered, “Am I supposed to have a callsign already?”

She paused for a second. “I don’t… think so?”

“Oh good.” He sat back. “I’m trying to pick between Hotspot, Airwave, and Signal Man.”

“Those all sound kind of goofy!” Wait, no, that was rude! “Uh, I mean—”

Eric laughed. “No, man, you’re right! But I have kind of goofy powers.”

Oooh! “I’ll tell you yours if you tell me mine!” …that wasn’t right.

But he didn’t notice. “I can pick up radio waves… using my body hair!”

“Gross!” she laughed. “I don’t think I—”

“DUDE!”

Skylar and Eric’s heads turned automatically toward the back of the room. The shouter was a boy with green skin. Or maybe he was just wearing green makeup? “You can’t” and then he said a swear “say that to me!”

The boy next to him threw up his hands. “Man, back off! I don’t know why you can’t take a joke!”

“YEAH?” The green kid stood up. “WHY DON’T YOU TELL A JOKE TO—”

And then Ms. Telemachus was there. “Excuse me, gentlemen.”

She looked at them. Didn’t do anything, as far as Skylar could tell. Just, quietly… looked at them.

The other boy turned away. “sorry. shouldn’t've said it.”

The green kid turned away. “i ‘cept your apology.”

Ms. Telemachus clapped her hands. “Excellent! Back to the music, then…”

Skylar let out a deep breath. Her first day was going pretty well so far! Hopefully the rest of her classes would be as easy!

Oh, that reminded her. She unzipped her backpack and took out her pencil case (with Japanese bunnies on it). She lifted the lid of the desk to drop it in…

Huh. That was weird – there was a piece of paper, folded up and taped underneath…

Unfold unfold unfold. There was only one line written inside: You’re going to get a really warm greeting after school!

A taunt by a bully, and a pointed invitation to an after-class fight? Holy crap!

A story by Andrew Perron

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