Technology: truly a double-edged sword.
My theory about not flying anywhere looked like it was going to be crushed like a bug when we pulled into the parking lot of Quonset State Airport. I got anxious, and my fingers started to fumble in my pockets, automatically searching for the reassurance of my Standard Flame Waterproof Matches tube. Just thinking about flying made me want to set something on fire.
My mom parked the car, and no one made a move to get out.
“Don’t people generally get out of the car when it stops?”
“Be quiet, Barnaby. The instructions we received told us to wait in our car for your transportation to arrive. It was very clear.” Mom’s voice quavered a little—out of character for her.
“What are you nervous about? I’m the one being packed off to some strange private school where I don’t know anyone.”
“I’m sure they will subject you to an intense disciplinary regimen, rigid dietary program, and prohibit your teenage male tendency towards Onanism.” Angeline crossed her arms, and narrowed her eyes at me.
“I liked you better when you had trouble with large words,” I snarled at her under my breath, “and lisped.”
“I abolished that tenacious verbal tic with improved attention to my soft palate.”
Could she have looked more proud and haughty? I couldn’t imagine it.
“What is ‘Onanism’ anyway?” I asked. “Any how do you know about anything teen boys do?”
My darling little sister blushed and fumbled with her crinoline. I had no idea what it was, but it unsettled her—that was good enough for me. Time to press the issue, I thought.
“Come on, Angeline! Onan what? Onan the Barbarian? Huh?”
Her fumbling increased to actual twitching and I nearly cried out in victorious joy. Sizzle on the skillet of my interrogation, you prissy prig! Yar!
“It… it is… is… when,” my sister stammered, “when boyth,” and her lisp returned, “touth their, their, their thing.”
“What kind of thing Angeline; their favorite yo-yo? Maybe their pet tarantula gets a little tickle!? What thing?”
“Eee!” She screamed. “Taranthulaths! Eee!”
“So, what is this Onan-thing, sis?” I scooted over on the back seat, cornering her. “Onan! Onan! Onan! What is the thing?”
“Eee! Penith! Boyth touth their penitheth and it ith evil!”
“Oh, spanking the monkey. Right.” I sat back, satisfied with the answer and her discomfort. “Your lisp came back.”
I didn’t get to enjoy my victory. Someone opened the car door behind me, threw a bag over my head, and tied my hands together. Not a single member of my family screamed while I got kidnapped and tossed into someone else’s car.
I tried to struggle, but it didn’t do me any good. I was captured.
“Do you have bags?” A man with an Asian accent asked.
“Of course I do.” A little girl’s voice answered. “I never forget anything as important as luggage.”
“Hey, let me out of this bag and untie my hands! This is kidnapping!” I yelled.
“You. Quiet. Now. Not kidnap. You go to school.” The Asian man said.
“Juusan, do you want me to start the chant now?” Little Girl asked.
“No. So-san chant now.”
“Thank you, Juusan.” This voice was tiny, genderless, and just above a whisper. “Let us begin.”
“Now `e `g
Now `e `g
They went on like that, those three voices, for what felt like an eternity. I felt nauseated listening to it, almost as if my internal organs were shifting around. It was awful.
“Are we there yet?” The little girl asked.
“Patience Ms. Yammy,” the mild voice replied, “it will only be a moment more.”
The gentle voice wasn’t kidding. In less than ten seconds, I hit a hard surface and rolled out of a refrigerator-size cardboard box. When I stopped, I looked up into the face of an older Asian man, who was dressed entirely in black. There was an eye patch across his right eye.
“Ow,” I said. “You look like an old Ninja who lost an eye.”
“Very perceptive, Rockwell Barnaby Pooles.” He squinted down at me, took me by the collar of my sweater and pulled me to my feet in a single swift motion. “I am old Ninja, and I have one eye.”
“Ah. I’m sorry?” I was taken aback, and didn’t really know what to say in a situation like that one.
“No matter. Welcome Mount Saint Ampoule School for Charming Young People.” He spread his arms, and I looked around.
I was standing in the courtyard of a medieval castle, designed by someone who built prisons for a living, and snorted Tim Burton’s powdered underwear. The walls surrounding us were as tall as skyscrapers—assembled from black and gray stone—and depressing enough to wring a tear from the corner of my eye.
There were two towers at one end of the courtyard, joined by a six-story building… all intricate woodwork and leaded glass windows. It looked like a Viking king or Henry VIII would open the giant doors and descend the stone stairs if you waited long enough.
I didn’t get a king. A slim Asian boy with fiercely aerodynamic hair came down the stairs, and sauntered towards us. He might have been drunk, from the way he kept adjusting his course across the flagstones.
“Juusan senpai. Are wa desu ka?” He called out when he was halfway to us.
“Dare no namae wa Rockwell Barnaby Pooles desu.”
“So desu,” he replied as he wandered closer. “Amerika-jin desu ka?”
“Hai, so desu.”
He reached us, and stood there looking me over. Every so often, he smirked.
“Pleased to meet you,” he offered me his hand, “my name is Dakara Sake. I know we will be friends, so please call me Dakara-kun.”
I shook his hand. It was slightly sweaty.
“Rockwell Pooles. Just call me Rockwell.”
“We are not so close, Pooles-kun, that I will use your first name.” He slurred my last name. Puures-kun. It sounded like an illness you didn’t want to contract.
“Okay,” I didn’t know what else to say, because I had no idea where he was coming from about using first names, “Dakara-kun.”
“Oi!” An imperious voice called out across the flagstones.
I looked around Dakara-kun’s legs, and saw three girls standing at the base of the steps. They were about the same height, and looked just a bit like they might be related. The first of the trio was a blond girl, and she stood with her hands on her hips like some kind of princess in a baggy jumpsuit. I guessed her to be the owner of the “Oi!”
To the princess’ right was a girl with brown hair, and she vibrated with so much contained energy I could feel it through the air. She was cute in a nerdy, tomboy, sporty sort of way. Her eyes were huge and bright… almost shiny.
The third girl was pure Emo. I bet if you took twenty random Emo kids—put them in a cider press, and squished them real good—the girl who formed at the bottom of the press would be just like her… black hair, one dark eye peeking out from behind the locks that nearly covered her face, and holding a book to her bosom like it was the only thing between her and cracking a smile.
Dakara Sake, turned around, teetering slightly, and addressed Princess “Oi!”
“Pottah-kun, what is it you want?” He slurred her last name too. I guessed it was actually “Potter” not “Pottah”.
“I want to know if that is the last boy for our class. If you’re good, and tell me now, I might let you kneel for me.” Her voice was really British, as far as her accent, but the rest was all nasal twang. “I’ve told you to address me as Mistress Adamantine, not Potter-kun! Should I punish you instead?”
The second girl, the tomboy-sport model, sprinted across the stone towards me. Dakara was knocked clean off his feet as she dropped into a slide across the rough rocks, and cannoned into me.
I found myself flat on my back, crushed in a hug from a girl I didn’t even know. She was strong: I felt my ribs my ribs creak as she squeezed.
“Hi! Hi! Hi!” She squealed. “I’m Jasmine Potter! I’m so happy to meet you! Aren’t you happy to be here and meet all of us? I just know you are! We’re all going to be so happy together! You’re a big boy, so you must love sport! Don’t you love sport? Hi! Hi! Hi! Wow! You hug so nicely! Wow!”
Her enthusiasm was worse than her vise-like grip around my middle.
I didn’t even notice the third girl until she was standing right beside me on my left side. I let out an “Eep” of surprise, which caused Jasmine to squeeze me just a little harder.
“Good morning. I’m Myrrh Potter. We’re triplets. Are you a vampire?”
Myrrh’s voice was almost a monotone and it matched the flatness of her stare.
“No. I’m not a vampire.” I rasped at her.
“I didn’t think so. You’re not at all sparkly.” She huffed gently, turned around and walked away.
“Jasmine! Let that dirty boy go before you catch something unclean!” Adamantine Potter screeched from across the quadrangle. “Get over here right now before I’m forced to punish you!”