Flash: School’s Weird

IN PROCESS – I had a thing this weekend. Below is the first 1,200 words of the flash. More to come when I get back on Sunday.

So things had been weird for a while at school. I mean even Randalf noticed, and he doesn’t notice anything which isn’t related to the Periodic Table or Alchemy, not even poor Selena who crushed on him so badly she volunteered as his Chem-Alch lab partner for two years running until the counselor made her switch to Sculpting the Human Figure. Now I’m stuck as his lab partner, which isn’t a bad thing being a guaranteed “A” for all lab projects. It may even pull my dismal science score into the average range.

It isn’t that I suck at science-science; for some reason my mind doesn’t twist the magical applications of alchemy, astrology, transmutation, and the like. Give me an engineering project, a practical real-world application which can be presented to the nulls as a finished project without getting zinged by EEP and I am golden as a Phoenix egg. This little ability kept me from dropping back a level the last two years; I just squeak by.

Anyway Randalf turned to me while brewing a dehydration potion and asked, “Have you been getting mail?”

I look up at the fume vent, wondering if the gas discharge had gone to Randalf’s brain and shook something loose for once. Vapors curled against the flow, but the spell clearing the possibly poisonous air held firm. I wasn’t dizzy at all – not that much makes me dizzy, except for Javan who is the star running retriever and a total yum and I hadn’t seen him all day. All week actually. Just like the mail. “Mail stopped nine days ago, just after the Equinox. If you had been to the girls’ dorm you would hear all kinds of complaints from Ladybird.” Her boyfriend graduated last year, and they have been writing back and forth daily while he does his ‘tween-year internship.

“I don’t go to the girls’ dorm.” Randalf grunted.

“Then you have to be the only junior boy who hasn’t been snuck in.” I’m pleased to see his head whip up. His eyes lose focus a moment, while they adjust from staring at the green flame to looking into my green eyes.

Yes, I have green eyes, amazing, almost glowing, green eyes, just like all Barretts … and yes, I am one of *those* Barretts, number thirteen of fourteen so far. Stupid parents have effective immortality and pop one out every ten years. After two hundred years of marriage you think they would get over themselves but they are still all lovey-dovey.

I would like to have that some day.

Not with Javan. He is strictly a look type of guy, brains need not engage. Day-to-day I rather have someone like Randalf at my side, once he stops being a spaz. He grew like a beanstalk since freshman year and looks like a just-raised skeleton and is about as graceful as a newly animated bag of bones. I wonder what he kisses like.

His eyes are puppy brown by the way and are way too large for his face. But then everything on his face is too big for his face – his nose, ears, mouth, and chin complete with afternoon dark whiskers. You think a guy as good as he is with alchemy would have come up with a hair remover.

“That’s against the rules.”

I smiled slyly. “Some rules get broken.”

He frowned, returning his attention back to the potion. “I guess you are one of the ones who breaks them.”

Randalf is so much better than I at staying focused. If it had been me, the flame would still be blue. Who knew a second line existed to feed a copper mix into the Bunsen burner? “Only curfew.”

“Only curfew?” His head flopped to the side; I guess he is imitating Dr. Saunders headcock inquiry, a habit nearly everyone picks up during Modern Null History.

“Hum-hum. Who can sleep at lights out?”

“Most of us,” said a male voice without the creaks of teenage years.

Daphne’s Braids, how much had the teacher heard? “Hello, Mr. Walker.”

“Hello Ms. Barrett, Mr. Seconds.” He nodded at each of us. “Any problems?”

“No, sir.” Randalf answered for both of us. I always let him do that.

Oh, I am not a timid, shy girl. Randalf has already asked to be my lab partner for practical physics next year and I am going be totally all over that course. I mean I read null practical engineering books for fun, hiding them behind romance covers, of course, like Randalf buries his advance alchemy pamphlets in comic books. Biology and chemistry are my bane. I did okay freshman year with geology, but the second half of the year science with astrology/astronomy destroyed that grade.

Plus I am wicked in the music department, having inherited a full spectrum of Siren gifts from my father. Presentation of group papers always falls on me. And I’m second chair on the debate team as well as the clarinet. I sleep through history, much to my parent’s disgust, but do okay anyway because our family dinner talk rarely touches on anything which happened in the last decade and I haven’t forgotten much since coming to Evergreen High, especially with touch-up during the seasonal breaks.

In Mrs. Giacosta’s math class, Randalf and I have vied for the top slot all junior year. He swept the matrixes section, but, after switching to multi-dimensional charting, I knocked him out of the top slot with the last pop test. Mrs. Giacosta loves pop tests, saying life never tests you when you expect it. Those are closed book; her scheduled tests are open book.

The woman, who is also the headmistress for Evergreen, is not one to mess with. She cut her own arm off when a Ripper Stone bore into her hand, before the parasite could take over her mind.

“Sleep is essential for developing minds young lady.”

I paste on a sincere smile. “I will keep that in mind Mr. Walker.”

“If you want an extra credit project, why don’t you make sleeping draft?”

Randalf perked up. “We should have time tomorrow.” Tomorrow is make-up day for anyone who had a failed potion in the last two weeks. Everyone else in the class had at least two failed experiments, most three, which is another weird thing – the high rate of magic failure since we got back from the seasonal break. Randalf is not the only alchemy nerd in class; yes, he is the *best* of them, but Kris and Alpine are close. And it’s not just the alchemy class. I actually hit a wrong note on an simple two-octave aria yesterday. I haven’t cracked a note like that since … well, elementary levels, maybe. Everyone has been having problems.

Mr. Walker shook his head. “The extra credit project will have to be done by Ms. Barrett. You can observe, but all actions must be her own.”

We look at each other. It’s going to kill Randalf to watch me “cook” a sleeping draft. He nods slightly. I can see in his eyes he thinks I can do it if he can talk me through it. He has more confidence in my abilities than I do.

(words 1,201 – first published 10/16/2016)