Flash 2000: All the Way Forward Part 1

Photo by Mayer Tawfik on Unsplash

Chapter 1: A Menace

“And if you think for a minute I will accept a 89! A ‘B’! You are out of your mind. You will correct that grade right now professor, or I will have your job.”

At the sneer of ‘professor’, the teacher aide manning the receptionist desk in the elementist department and I made eye contact, the threads related to danger tightening between us. They dropped their eyes to the recorder in my hands, the glass globe surrounded on three sides with a rubber-like alloy to keep it from breaking then returned to grading. The screamer was Miss Meghan Torbett, a freshman like me, but unlike me, her parents, grandparents, and so forth, going back to the old world and, in some cases, olde lands, formed an unbroken line of magicians and wizards. I’m half-null and my dad walked away from the gray as soon as he was of age. I think Meghan was related to everyone on the Northern University board by blood and North America Regional Oversight Committee by at least marriage. Likely the most of the representatives in the Union of the Gray as well, but that gets tricky since the Asia Region is even more xenophobic than those in Europe and the Americas which practically worship the Pure. Not someone you want to get on their bad side.

But since I was already there, for daring to be a half-null breathing around her, I pulled out the recorder the Sisters gave me when she started threatening a teacher. Not exactly the purpose they gave it to me for, but it had more than enough memory.

We couldn’t hear Professor Hawkins rumbling response distinctly but Meghan stormed out shortly thereafter. Seeing the recorder in my hand, she sent an arch of electric at me with a quick hand snap. “Bitch, snitches get stitches.”

I barely got a one-handed shield off, to ground some of the electric into a metal side table. The majority of it hit the recorder dead-on and arched through me, slamming me into the sofa cushion. I twisted in pain.

While Torbett was a prime elementalist, if she turned her assignments in instead of shmoozing the boys for the best catch, I barely could hold my own. The only reason we both were in Professor Hawkins “The Elements of Elements” class was it was required for practically everything the University offered.

She sniffed and walked away while the rubber melted between my fingers and the darkened glass tinkled as it cracked. I huffed a few times, restarting my breathing, then peeled the recorder from my hands. The teacher aide appeared at my side with a healer’s kit, knitted to me with offers of succor.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe she …” they started opening up the kit, “are you okay? I can send a message to—”

“I’m fine. I’m fine.” I said. I’m not really fine, but I did not want to write up an incident report that no one will pay attention to. I know how the University butters it bread and a student whose family donates a ton of money and a student on a needs-based scholarship got very different treatment when reporting issues. “Is there, is there anything in there, in there for burnt, burnt hair?”

“The scent?”

“Yes, yes.” Since I could smell it clinging to me. “Also, also the brain, b-b-brain…”

“Brain scramble. Let me see,” they pawed through the box, “sage!” They lit it by brushing their fingers along the wrapped dried leaves. They waved the smoking blunt over my body, paying particular attention to my hand, hair, and head.

I could feel the healing herb work on the cognitive damage in seconds. Enough fixing of what happened for me to know I did need to go to the healing office after this instead of ignoring everything like I wanted to. I hated rocking the boat

“Thank you.” I said, tucking the damaged recorder into my zippack. The Sisters would not be happy with me when I show up tomorrow at their offices, but I think Meghan will be even less happy when she finds out my recorder isn’t a cheap version able to be shorted out by a freshman on a temper tantrum. Of course, the Sisters won’t do anything immediately; they always took the long view. But when they acted, they won. “Thank you.” I reach to stop the teacher’s aide hand, but closed my hand before we make contact. They stopped, the smoke from the tied batch still crossing to my face and head like a strong breeze blew toward me. “I appreciate the help.” I leaned closer so we are nearly touching and whispered, “but you need to stop.” I glanced my eyes to the side and their eyes followed, growing round when they noticed Meghan standing in the doorway watching us. The threads between us quivered in tension.

“You’re welcome.” They start cleaning up the debris, making a note on the outside of the kit to replace the sage. The person’s eyes firmed before they said, “Are you sure you don’t want to report this?”

Brave of them. Dangerous for us both. “It’s was just a misunderstanding.” I look directly in their brown eyes and gave a small shake of my head in warning. “Don’t worry about it.” I stood and walked to the Professor’s door and knocked on the frame. Protected from prying eyes, I mouthed a message and sent it to the elementalist behind me, relaxing as threads connecting us eased.


Chapter Two: A Meeting

“You asked to see me Professor Hawkins?”

I look up to see Tyla in my doorway. I snapping shut the diary where I was recording the incident with Torbett and push it aside along with my anger. “Yes, Miss Singer, please come in and shut the door, if you are comfortable with that. You can also leave it open if you prefer.”

She ducks her head, her frazzled brown hair hiding her eyes and face as she closes the door behind her and sits across from me. Pulling around the zipbag from her back, she places it on her lap between us and curls around it.

“Are you comfortable?” I ask, even though she clearly isn’t. “Would you like some water or juice?”

“No,” she shakes her head, stray hairs flying, “no, I’m fine.”

I rap my knuckles on my desk as I twist in my seat. I had thought I knew how I wanted to start this conversation, but now I had fled my mind. Only three years into teaching, just seven years her senior, the age gap and situation placed a chasm between us. Each squeak of my chair makes her smaller.

“Why are you failing my class?” I wince. That isn’t how I wanted to start. I lean forward and drop my voice from my classroom speaking range to the low rumble I use to calm down animals, children, and soon-to-be ex-girlfriends. “Every other class you are taking is 95% or higher. The administration is worried about your scholarship if we can’t raise your grade.”

“Well,” she kept her head down, fingers plucking at the strings on her bag. The fingers were marred with a black material and looked blistered. “I’m not that good at elemental magic.”

“And I would understand if the course included practical labs, but it’s lecture and research and you excel at that, at least according to Professors Hirt and Vedder.”

Her voice dropped into a rough whisper. “You talked to Professor Vedder about me?”

“I talked to all your instructors as well as your advisor.” I try to will her to look up, but she doesn’t. “Everyone is worried.” I turn in the seat, my leg beginning to bounce. I place a hand on it to keep it down. “So worried, they asked me to speak to you personally. They figured since we went to the same Preparation System, we may be able to work something out.”

I wait to see if she reacts to that particular factoid, because it had been news to me. We were close enough in age she would have been in the school at the same time as me, though fifth graders and twelfth graders rarely crossed paths. Imagine my surprise when I realize we had, rather spectacularly, and it would have stuck with her even stronger than it had with me. I just hadn’t learned the name of the kid I had sent into a panic attack during the Testing Ceremony so didn’t know the student who sat as far from me as possible in the largest lecture hall the school had to offer was the little girl who had screamed, “Don’t touch me, don’t touch me. Stop hurting me.” when I had touched her elbow to help her up the stairs onto the testing stage. The, then, much blonder Tyla had curled up into a ball and it had taken three teachers to get her to safety. As a senior helper, no one thought to treat me for related trauma. No one ever explained what exactly had happened, but I would lay money on either past-life resurfacing, my few mediations along that line indicated I rarely was a nice person, or a future action, I was still, admittedly, quite an asshole though so far I never hurt anyone deliberately. Either conclusion meant Tyla was a seer of some sort.

“Oh.” She looks up through her flyaway hair, pushing a corner of it back so I see her dark gray eyes. “Oh.” Tyla sits up a little straighter.

I raise an eyebrow and give her my best half smile, minus the smolder I would give someone who wasn’t my student. “Oh?”

“You found out.”

“I found out?” I lift my hand from my leg and let it bounce, placing both hands in front of me. “What have I found out?”

“About, you know.” Her eyes drift to the side, a slight flush rises in her cheeks.

“Maybe.” I say, with concern, “but I need to know for certain.” I spread my hands, “And how it is affecting you in class.”

Her eyes closed. Pain twists her features a moment, before she clears her throat and faces me.


“Go on. I’m listening.”

“I … when I … my grandma turned me in.”

“Your grandma?”

“That isn’t the place to start is it, but it is.” She cleared her throat again. “That is where the thread is tied.” Tyla did a big inhale and exhale. “I’ll start there.”


Chapter Three: A Memory

“When I was ten, I visited my grandma and she tested me.” I say.

Professor Hawkins replied in his deep, panty dropping voice. Thank all the blankets he doesn’t use that voice in class. “Why would she need to do that?”

“My dad fell in love with a null and left the Union, but the requirement was all his children would need to be tested when they got close to Emergence.” I shrugged, “I am the oldest and got tested first. The rock floated.”

The rock test is the simplest of all tests. In the positive energy hand, for most people the right hand, small amount of energy leaks unless you have learned to shield. Place a daphir rock in the positive energy hand, it will float. Not high, but noticeable if you know what you are looking for. In the negative energy hand, where energy gets absorbed, it will stick.

The Testing Ceremony in the Prep schools sorted students by gifts and skills and required trained administrators. The rock test, anyone can do.

“So grandma and grandpa slugged it out with dad who just wanted me to be normal, but they got custody and they, of course, dropped me off at the school because they are complete Purists and hate me being half-null.” I pick at my zipbag, the blisters on my right hand are getting larger. “Since it took so long to get custody in courts, I got dropped off with no explanation or idea. I watched the introduction video, watched the pures takes their tests, which was absolutely eye opening for someone who only had seen a rock float like a magnet hovering over a magnet.”

Professor Hawkins raised his eyebrows at that.

Oops. Most people the rock in hand barely hovers high enough for a piece of paper to slip through. For it to hover like two magnets requires serious power.

“You understand, that is just what it seemed like to a ten-year­-old.”

He nodded.

“Anyway, it came my turn to go down and you touched my elbow.”

“And you had been primed for magic ever since the rock test.” The professor growled.

I shivered in response. “Yeah, they don’t say once you start emerging, the power just grows. I’m an introvert, so while I did hug my parent goodbye and all that, I pretty much stuck with myself until walking into the room and …”

“I touched your elbow and you saw something.”

I nod small, chin against my chest. Please don’t make me tell you.

There is no way he won’t make me tell him. Put your big girl panties on.

“I was bigger and so were you, but you are over me, pressing hard against me. It felt … all the felts.” I blush badly. “At ten, I had no clue what those feels were and it was traumatic. You are holding your hand over my mouth to keep me quiet and I am biting it hard enough to taste blood. I want to scream so bad and you aren’t letting me. My hands are tied over my head.”

Professor Hawkins leaned back in his chair, pushing away from his desk, from me. “I would never.”

“You will.” I shake my head. “And soon. It was a clear vision, no cloudy. Somehow, someway it will happen in all the timelines you and I exist in. At least I’m eighteen as of last week, I was worried it would happen before then since I recognized you and I are the right sizes for that … that… . Well, the first day I walked into class and saw you.”

(words 2,374; first published 12/26/2023)

All the Way Forward Series

  1. All the Way Forward Series
    1. All the Way Forward Part 1 (chapters 1-3) (8/29/2021)
    2. All the Way Forward Part 2 (chapters 4-6) (10/21/2021)
    3. All the Way Back (chapters 1-3) (5/1/2022)