Chapter 16:

I Wouldn't Have Imagined I'd Miss That (5)

Gifted Education Project (GEP)

Yeah everybody’s going crazy,

Can’t get through to you lately,

We’re so hopelessly faded.

It was long after dusk, but the shade of the night sky was closer to magenta than black. What should’ve been an expanse of stars and twilight colours was instead a grainy image of clouds, pale and lumpy but somehow uniform, as if The Dude had found a new hobby mixing pancake batter against a backdrop of skyscraper lights.

Under this grotesque view of the heavens I found myself sitting on a bench for no particular reason, waiting for someone for no particular reason, listening to a playlist I’d cobbled together in ten minutes based on automatic recommendations from NHS. I’d never had a Spotify nor had the time to properly listen to music before, but I still enjoyed every song that came out of the school’s algorithm like it was ambrosia being juiced straight into my bloodstream. It was as if they could read my mind even regarding things I didn’t know I had an opinion on.


Mental accounting told me I’d spent a total of 80 bucks when it came to this “operation”. 30 went to faking my location for three hours, the price of Giselle’s number was free, while the remainder was spent on miscellaneous things like rope, duct tape, cable ties, ski mask, small pocket knife and a cadaver bag. The priciest item was the bag. I put all the items in the bag and laid it neatly on the bench, lengthwise, and then I sat next to it with a neutral expression.

Most of the things in the bag were precautionary, of course. It went without saying that if I did have to injure Giselle, realistically this whole all-nighter would be pointless and I’d have to find another way to Erica. As Marie would say, That isn’t very cash money desu. But better safe than sorry, and even Marie carried some sort of semi-lethal spray that day, so clearly the more cunning students were investing in self-defense.

Or persuasion. I guess you could argue that the tools were for persuasion.

Okay, yes.

Ethos, credibility, something something.

I watched as Giselle Nguyen’s number ticked down steadily. 130, 120, 110. It was like keeping time to a 4/4 beat, because the girl walked predictably and boringly. At 80, I kept my phone in my pocket and stayed on the lookout for stray beams of light. Music was playing softly in my ear. All smiles. Was I happy? No, not really. It was a nervous reaction, the same way some people laugh at horror movies. It was actually bugging me that her number was changing incorrectly to the tempo of my song, so I was glad I couldn’t see my phone anymore.


I decided to rehearse the script I’d prepared for this moment.

Hello, Jizzy.

That was about as far as I got. The rest were just separate, tangentially-related questions mentally written on mental cue cards (the cue cards were not literal).

How are you feeling?

How many female friends do you have?


Do you gym often?

Do you think you could carry me?


How long do you reckon you could last with Park Jiwoo?


Where is your brother?

Does that really matter?

Listen, I’ll tell you after you do this for me.

Card goes to the back.

Scratch my balls for a little bit before I resume.

“Where is my brother?”

“Does that matter? Look, I’ll tell you after… oh.”

I turned around and saw the vague silhouette of a woman. “Hi, Giselle.”

Script status: deviated.

“Hi,” she replied.

“I didn’t expect you to come so soon.”

“That’s what she said.”

No, Giselle didn’t actually say that. You fucking degenerate.

What she’d done, however, was approach from an angle which I assumed was impossible. Then again, she was more familiar than me when it came to the school, plus I’d given her a pretty specific location down to the coordinates, plus there was no reason to stick to the pavement if you didn’t care about mud on your shoes, plus landscaping at the park was professional and the grass was always even so no one ever falls down. I also couldn’t hear her because I was listening to alt rock on the complimentary bluetooth earpieces they gave every student for Exam #17. Drums are loud.

Drums are irritating.

Earpieces are also irritating.

Realising this, but also realising I had a ski mask draped over my head, I paused the music from my phone and was left with no choice but to keep them in.

“Hi,” she repeated, this time louder. “Where is my—”

“Hey, how about we sit down and talk for a bit first?” I mowed my bag of stuff from the bench and listened to it rattle. “You must be tired from navigating in the dark.”

“I have night-vision goggles.”

“Oh.” I scratched my nose through the polyester. Then my face screwed up a bit. “Wait a second.”

“I’m not tired at all,” she insisted.


I turned the flashlight on my phone on and pointed it at Giselle. Quite pretty. It wasn’t a matter of trust, just procedure. I saw her blue eyes, though when I shone light on her this close, I realised her hair which up till this point I thought was black was actually a very deep, very sexy shade of navy. The only problem with this observation was that I could see her eyes, which bothered me greatly because I realised I’d gotten excited.

“You’re not wearing goggles.”


“Come on. What’s wrong?”

She wriggled uncomfortably. “Could you just tell me what you know? Please?”

“No Ma’am. We need to build trust first. Lay out the facts, see what each of us wants, then we’ll go from there.” I didn’t really know what I was saying, only that I saw it in a pop-psych book.


“Hey, listen.” I looked at her as I told her to listen. “Do me a favour and sit down, alright? I can’t think properly if you’re going to be so defensive. You know me — I’m just a concerned individual, just like how you’re a concerned sister. And sure, maybe in the process of doing this it might turn out to benefit me too, but that’s not my objective. If it happens, it happens by accident. I am not—” (clap!) “—here to strong arm you into doing something fucked up using your missing brother as leverage, Giselle. I am here to help you.”

I’d never said this many lies in quick succession before and so my chest tightened reflexively, but those feelings sublimated once I saw Jizzy’s arms uncross and her face went from pensive to sighing in relief.

“…That’s fair, I suppose.”

She gave in and sat on the bench, but did so leaving an ample amount of space between the two of us. I guess that was only fair considering she couldn’t see my face and it was 3am and I was a dude with a mask lying to her (though she had no clue about this part, I think) and also I had a knife under my ass.

“So what now?” she asked, clearly uncomfortable.

“Do you have lots of female friends?”

“…What the frick?”

“Okay, okay, you need to trust me. I swear these questions are leading somewhere. That being said, if you feel uncomfortable, just tell me and we’ll sort that out first.”

“I feel extremely uncomfortable.”

“Uh… alright. I’ll change the topic. Do you gym often?”


“Okay, okay, okay. FUCK!”

I should’ve planned this out more carefully instead of simply hitting the department store on a whim after a dinner date with a nympho, but could you really blame me for acting rashly in a situation like this? No, not at all. Though I will admit I could’ve asked the nympho how she conducted interrogations first instead of throwing my drink at her and storming off instantly, but pink hair is shit and we all know that but everyone in school acts like it’s okay and frankly it’s starting to bother me more than the entire death game thing.

“...Sir.” There was suddenly a measured conviction in Jizzy’s voice.

“Why do you keep calling me sir, by the way?”

“I… um, I don’t know who you are?”

Oh, right.

“Sir… I know that you say it’s not the case… but we both know why I’m here.” Fuck. Was she crying? “So if I have to do something for you… anything… I’ll do it for my brother. I need to know what happened to him. It’s killing me… every night… I see his— Sir, please. Just tell me…” Jesus Christ, she’s crying.

“What the fuck?”

“I’m… I’m good with my mouth.”

Jizzy reaches for a hair tie around her wrist.

Smash cut and now my ski mask is off.

“Look, Giselle. Do you get what I’m saying? Did my explanation make sense?”


“I didn’t call you here to fuck you.” True. “I’m also not here to hurt you or force you to do anything.” Lie. “We’re both victims, you see?” True. “So, if you help me with this, then I promise I’ll have the peace of mind to commit everything I have to finding Abel. Okay?”

“Okay…” She heaved a big breath. “Okay. What do you need me to do again, Darren?”

“Strike up a conversation with Erica Park at tomorrow’s medical. Doesn’t matter what. Just talk to her and don’t let her shake you off, like you’re a nice guy who’s both socially retarded and horny. Then follow her around when she leaves. Do that till I make my way to you.”

“W-what if she doesn’t show up for the first exam tomorrow?”

“She will show up. She’ll hit zero points otherwise.”

Jizzy’s scrunching up her t-shirt at the thighs. No shorts look. “But… I doubt I’ll be able to restrain her if she actually wants to go somewhere. I’m not a good talker or liar, and… don’t you know what she did to get her recommendation?”


“I heard that she killed someone’s mom.”

“Okay, that’s cool and all,” I said, “but it’s not really relevant. So go ahead and do what we discussed, and then I can help you find your brother. Got it?”


“Got it?”

“You’re absolutely certain Park Jiwoo is responsible for Abel missing?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“I… I don’t know about this.” Oh for fuck’s sake. “Can I at least see some proof before I do anything?”


“Of my brother—”

“Yes, yes, I know what you mean. I’m just confused. Did you not hear all of the shit I said?”

“I’m sorry… Things are moving so fast. I need some peace of mind.”

“But what do you actually want me to do, though? Take a photo of him? Ask Erica nicely to let him go? She won’t talk to me, you fucking dunce. That’s your job.”

“Darren, I’m sorry, but I’m feeling a little—”

“Okay. I don’t give a shit.”

“...I’m sorry.”

“Earlier on you were about to throw yourself at me for anything regarding Abel. No proof needed. Now that I’ve mentioned some Korean you’re crying again. What the fuck? No really — what the fuck. What the fuck! Is there something about this bitch no one is telling me?”

“I’m uncomfor—”

“Guess what? My ass is too, because I’ve been sitting on this shit all night.” I whipped out Darren Jr. from his resting place. I don’t mean my cock. “I’ve spent the last forty minutes reassuring you, telling you everything that I know, practically coddled you with how much of a fucking baby act you’re putting on crying about your brother. I’ve even taken off my mask just to show you how much I’m trying to help you and pushed you away when you were about to fucking prostitute yourself. So Jizzy, my dear, if there’s something you’re not telling me, you better tell me quickly, because if you say no to my proposal… well then, well well well, I have a fucking problem on my hands.”

“Darren, put that knife away… please. Sir.”

Jizzy is crying again, and at this point I don’t know what to do or say so I just stand there menacingly.

“Listen. No really, shut the fuck up. Listen.” Oh god, she won’t stop crying. “LISTEN TO ME. You’re on a fucking 80-hectare campus on an island whose biggest university has 35 thousand students in 170 hectares. You don’t think that’s suspicious? What kind of fucking boarding school only enrols orphans? How about the payroll for this shit? You and the other 238 believe so many stupid things and act like everything is normal and completely realistic, but when I come to you all, a person in actual need, no memories, no nothing, you guys fucking doubt me and ask for ‘proof’. Yet all of you would gladly sell yourselves on the black market as whores if it meant you got three more marks on a fucking exam. Don’t look at me like you wouldn’t. I know you would fucking do it. For fuck’s sake, Giselle, stop being a fucking bitch — are you going to help me or not?”

The blade of Darren Jr. is right next to her face, tears are streaming like she’s a fucking orange and I asked for orange juice, snot is running out of her nose like Covid-19 (Redux) meets a lung cancer patient vape addict snu huffer pneumonia in a 3rd world country plus blocked sinuses but still her answer doesn’t change: “N-no.”


“You’re… lying about Abel. That girl has—” (sniff) “—nothing to do with this.”

At this point, I don’t know whether to laugh, admit defeat, or insist that she’s deluded, but what I do know is that I have a knife in my hands and I’m angry. So I try to get a good slash into Giselle’s face, and it’s great that she looks extremely similar to the person I simultaneously love and hate the most because now I can project all the burning questions I want to ask before I kill her and then myself to prove this is all a simulation like Exam #12. But as my arm extends, the knife flies out of my hands, something in my body goes numb and before I know it I’m touching grass.

Pope Evaristus
Robin Paharya