Chapter 0:

The Day Before The First Day

City 48

Papers, files, folders. Stacked as they were to convey a facade of organization.Bookmark here

At a glance, they might appear aligned but give it a closer look and you'll see the faults. The minor misalignments springing up throughout. Very unbecoming of an office as pristine as this one.Bookmark here

These are the first things I notice about any room, anything or anyone: The anomaly.Bookmark here

You can tell a lot about how you're going to view someone by the first thing that strikes you, and the same holds true for a room. This one's arrangement tells you how the occupier wants to appear, and in this case, the stack's appearance tells you how disorganized they are in reality. This isn’t my first time in this room, nor is it the first time I've noticed the stack; every time I'm here I can swear it's grown by about a third.Bookmark here

"Abel, are you listening to me?"Bookmark here

What one first notices can be used to infer something about the observer also. I can’t imagine the process externally, but internally it makes a lot of sense. I always want to know about people, and understand what they want from me. Once I know that I can begin to work on giving them what they don't.Bookmark here

"Abel."Bookmark here

In that sense, it would seem I notice what I look for. The anomaly. To me, this stack suggests a man who wants to be respected by not only his students but anyone who enters his office. He wants people to look at him and go ‘Wow, that guy’s really got a handle on things!’Bookmark here

I want to be the person prying his fingers off the handle.Bookmark here

"Listen to me, you little shit."Bookmark here

I had wanted to get a bit more long-winded with my analogy before acknowledging this guy, but it seems he's leaving me no choice. This is Martin Davis, principal of High School 7 in this district of the city. I didn't want to mention him because he's a boring and barely necessary kind of character. I hate him.Bookmark here

"I see that stack of papers isn't getting any smaller."Bookmark here

"Do you not listen to me on purpose, or are you just incapable of listening?"Bookmark here

"That depends. Which answer would annoy you more?"Bookmark here

"Goddamn it, this is serious. Stop fucking around."Bookmark here

"Whatever I did this time doesn't really matter, does it? Consequences coming from you are worthless."Bookmark here

I grin as he breathes a heavy, exasperated sigh. Brilliant. Hopefully, he's contemplating the point where it all went wrong for him.Bookmark here

"You know Abel, I'm really not going to miss this side of you."Bookmark here

"Miss it? Where am I going?"Bookmark here

"That's what it takes to get your attention, huh? Well, it doesn't matter now, you're not my problem anymore."Bookmark here

"If you're going to try and make me someone else's problem, I hope you know someone willing to take me in because I sure don't. If you want me gone you’ll have to expel me."Bookmark here

"Abel, do you even know what that would mean for you...?"Bookmark here

I do, that's how I know you'll never do it.Bookmark here

“Well,” Davis continues, “because that option isn't available to us, the district's principals association has called in a... favour... of sorts."Bookmark here

"Oh, so you actually do your job sometimes."Bookmark here

"You're being transferred to the city's disciplinary school."Bookmark here

Hold on. Disciplinary school? There’s no way that’s true. That place is for the real delinquents, the borderline criminals. It's not for people like me.Bookmark here

Panic takes over my mind as the info circulates around my head and hits me for the second time. I've heard stories about that place, none of them pleasant. As I run those tales by in my head again, I don’t even notice that I’ve stood up out of my seat until I hear the chair I was sitting in crash behind me.Bookmark here

“You can’t send me to a place like that! It’s for criminals, and I… at least I’m not that.”Bookmark here

"Ah. Of course that's what you'd assume. No no no, I’m not talking about that disciplinary school."Bookmark here

"There’s another one?"Bookmark here

A second disciplinary school in this city is something I’ve never heard about before. Is that a good sign, or a really bad one?Bookmark here

“You'll see for yourself tomorrow. For now, go back to the dorms and pack your stuff. And no funny business or I'll haul you to the real one myself."Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

With no great desire to remain in Davis’ office, I left without causing any trouble. That lack of desire extends to school as a whole, though I guess by tomorrow I'll be learning that lack of desire all over again. At any rate, I'll be glad to see the back of my 7th school. Every one I've been to has just been an institution run by a bigger institution, even the individual teachers feel like they’re part of a larger hivemind.Bookmark here

You can't do this, you have to do that.Bookmark here

Why?Bookmark here

Because those are the rules.Bookmark here

And why are those the rules?Bookmark here

You don't question the rules.Bookmark here

You're not allowed to question anything. Not the rules, not the information you're being taught, not the way you're being taught it. Stay in line and don't rattle anyone else's cage. Hope they stay inside it and afford you the same courtesy. That’s the law of the land.Bookmark here

...Bookmark here

I'm not opposed to education on principle, just the way that these institutions strip away your freedom to the end of that "education". From how it's been described to me, it sounds like I might be able to enjoy attending a college, not that this city has any.Bookmark here

Maybe I'm unfair to primary education because of this city I hate so much.Bookmark here

A city of thousands, a city of halves, a city of meaningless choices. City 48.Bookmark here

It’s a city so absent of identity it isn't granted the dignity of a real name. Even that number is only what the ‘locals’ call it; you won't find a name on any map. ‘National Population Emergency Protocol - Experiment 48 that's where this place draws its name. That's what this place is for. An experiment. One in which I am an unwilling participant, a guinea pig. And where else do you keep a guinea pig but a cage?Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Guess there's no point in thinking about all of this now. I should get some sleep so I can focus on my real task when I wake up: Causing my new owner some trouble.Bookmark here

City 48

You can resume reading from this paragraph.