no longer an exclusively vicarious one.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Fractured Listless. Chapter 2

“And he can’t remember waking up,
So he refuses to believe that he ever was asleep and he’s exhausted.”
- Paul Dempsey
Josephine, by using some talent that had nobody had ever been able to explain, still managed to be last into the classroom. She ambled in, chewing her nail, ignoring the curious glances of her classmates and the sharp look of the teacher. Out of twenty-four students, ten had actually completed the set homework task, and for once, Josephine was among the ten. Yes, shocked and amazed looks galore, she whispered to her friends as she stepped up to the teacher’s desk and dropped a dishevelled disc into the awaiting arms of Ms. Hatterfield. Bye-bye Leshala, was Josphine’s only thought. The bytes of Leshala’s made up problems and fears were no longer any part of Josephine’s day. That fictional figment of her imagination had no way to channel through an author any longer. And Josephine smiled contentedly, without fully understanding the warm feeling of authorial pride that was uncurling in her stomach. Even the Mad Hatter couldn’t believe her eyes. She sat utterly still for a few moments before reluctantly clicking off Josephine’s name in the big green monster of a computer that was perpetually perched on the table in front of her.
Class began and Josephine slid back in her chair to rest her head on the table. Ignoring the constant drone of the Mad Hatter’s lecture on iron filings and their symbolism of something that somebody important had lost, she looked outside at the smoky blue sky and pricked her ears up to listen to the birds as they wheeled about. Josephine sighed. It was going to be a long day.

Yet another class, science possibly, they were in a lab. Josephine was doodling on the bench top with the point of her stylus, and didn’t notice when Mr. Khan, the only foreign-looking teacher at the school, pointed his ruler at her. His foreignness did not lessen his impatience and torment of his students, quite the opposite, in fact.
“Outline the process of nuclear fusion, with specific reference to the example of plutonium, and its importance in modern energy preservation.”
Silence. All heads swivelled to face Josephine, totally oblivious to their attention.
Someone jabbed her in the ribs with their elbow, and Josephine jerked up. She quickly assessed the situation.
“Sorry sir?”
Khan glowered and shook his ruler wildly about.
“Young lady. If you do not think that this class is worth paying attention to, then perhaps you would prefer sitting outside the principal’s office for the rest of the day.”
Eyebrows up, lips pursed, ruler pointing towards the vandalised ceiling.
Josephine barely managed to stop herself rolling her eyes.
“No sir. I’m sorry my attention wandered, but, ah, if you could repeat the question? I promise I’ll concentrate harder.”
Practically spluttering, his eyeballs threatening to fall out of his head, Khan tried to repeat himself.
“Nuclear…fusion. Explain…refer to…”
“Sorry sir?”
“Plutonium...refer to plutonium.”
“Oh, erm. Was that in last night’s set reading?”
Josephine had a sinking feeling she was done for this time.
“Yes. Of course. Hurry up now.”
Khan wouldn’t even accept the thought that anyone had not done the set reading. After all, it wasn’t much. Just four or five webpages on any one of several different topics. Josephine glanced about, meeting the eyes of other students who hadn’t done the reading but would get away with it. Most of them grinned pityingly at her.
Hearing an imaginary death knell playing in her head, Josephine uttered the unforgivable words.
“Sorry sir. I, er, forgot to do the reading.”

An empty-handed errand boy ran silently past her, not even deigning her with an interested glance or a pitying smile. Josephine sank back further into the silvery metal armchair. They didn’t even try to make you comfortable in detention. She dragged her drink bottle out of her back and took a long swig. She was lucky that Khan had just decided to throw her out of his class for the rest of the double lesson. She would still be able to go to art after lunch. Still, it was not much consolation. The office would probably have to ring her parents and she would get a proper talking to at home.
Instead of thinking too much about her possible impending punishments (a toss-up between a two-week grounding and restricted net access) Josephine closed her eyes and tried to have a nap. Shifting around in the chair until she found a comfortable enough position, legs hanging off one side, Josephine’s breath evened out and she managed to sleep through the first bell.
Blink.
Leshala arches her back and looks around her. Nothing has changed, as usual, except the food tray has been replaced. She crawls over to the smoking hot plastic tray and breathes in appreciatively. It smells like roast potatoes and cranberry sauce. Lifting the lid off the tray, the trapped steam rises up the walls, wreathing Leshala’s face in sweet-smelling aromas. She unwraps her plastic fork and spoon from the paper napkin and begins to devour the contents of the tray, wolfing down the luscious, warm food before it has a chance to cool off. It is all finished in under seven minutes and Leshala sighs as she picks up the juice box that had been added on the side. Running her tongue over her teeth, she savours the last tastes of the meal and sits quietly down on her wooden chair. She swipes the napkin across her mouth and aims carefully for the tray. The scrunched up paper gently bounces off the tray and lands close to the door. She might pick it up later.
Sighing, she types at the computer, not really knowing what she is doing. The old page flashed.
“Begin Weaver Program.
Title: Where am I?
Enter Synopsis:”

Leshala squints at the keyboard and frowns.

“N”

The program reverts back to the previous command.

“Enter title:”

Okay, we’ll do it your way then, she murmurs.

“The Stately Kingdom of Cereos”

The computer whirrs for a few moments, accepting her decision to play its game.

“Begin Weaver Program.
Title: The Stately Kingdom of Cereos
Enter synopsis:”

Leshala sips at the juice box straw, eyes intent on the screen.

“A tale of a tragic hero and a brave warrioress.
Do you wish to continue? Y/N”


She grimaces and quickly taps at the keyboard.

“N”

“Enter title:
The Back Wheel leans to the Left
Enter synopsis:
A magnificently crafted parallel of current issues within the context of seemingly trivial supermarket politics
Do you wish to continue?”

“N”

Leshala tries to muffle a giggle and taps idly at the board, looking away. She has to face it. She is bored and she doesn’t really feel in the mood to write some rubbish that no one would ever read anyway. Rattling the empty juice box, Leshala glances at the screen. It has changed colour. Now it is asking her -


“Are you all right?”
Josephine coughed and tried to struggle out of her sleep. She was looking directly up into a set of shiny white teeth.
“Hunghr?”
“I said,” Shiny-teeth continued, “are you all right? The bell for the end of lunch went five minutes ago.”
Josephine shook her head and stood up, still half-confused. Part of her mind was looking over Leshala’s shoulder, trying to read the new word on the screen. But that was only a dream. A dream Josephine thought she was rid of.
“Wha-? Wher-?”
Her wits finally gathering themselves up, she looked properly at her visitor. His teeth seemed to be his most defining feature and she could barely tear her eyes away from their hypnosis. Amused, she took a closer look and could almost see her own reflection. But she had never seen him before. Maybe he was a student teacher, or new office staff? She glanced up at the black and white clock on the wall behind her. Whoever he was, he was right. She had somehow managed to sleep through the second of her detention lessons as well as the whole of lunch. Leave the daydream, she almost muttered aloud, and stood up, working the crick out of her back.
“Sorry, yeah. I gotta go.”
She raced off for art, not wanting to be late to yet another lesson today. The young man with the wide smile was left staring after her.

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