Part IV: Foot in Mouth Syndrome
Between the alien doctor and weird guy-girl person I was walking into class with, I wasn’t sure what was going on anymore. I wanted to badly to go back to South Carolina where it was simple and all made sense. I kept shooting them side-glances at Sage – what kind of name was that anyway? They had a weird accent and their voice was a few baritones too low to be female, so why the skirt and make up?
“We still have a few minutes but do you want to head to homeroom now?” they asked. I realised I was starring and shrugged.
“Sure.” We reached the main building which was shaped in a huge C and proceeded to get confused quickly.
Sage kept glancing between the hallway and their tablet. I let out a small sigh and pulled out my own. I knew all those nights out camping with my dad when I was a kid would pay off somehow.
We found the classroom and Sage dilly dallied in front of the door, so I rolled my eyes and barged on in. I didn’t have the patience for their insane shyness. The classroom looked pretty much like most classrooms, so at least this place had some normality to it. I glanced at Sage, wondering if their weird mixed gendered appearance was related to their ability or something.
“So, what do you do?” I asked. Sage’s attention snapped to me and they flushed a little.
“I help people,” they stammered awkwardly. “I can sorta ease mental distress and physical pain.”
“Oh,” I murmured. I immediately remember yesterday afternoon. It had to have been 24 hours since it had happened. I felt conflicted about how useful Sage’s ability would’ve been for Steph’s pain. At the same time an ability as vast and healing as that didn’t belong in the hands of humans. Especially not some awkward he-she-thing.
I realized I hadn’t spoken in a long time and Sage was watching me expectantly. I didn’t really want to discuss my ability. “So you’re gonna calm villains to death?” I said, forcing a raised eyebrow.
It didn’t take me long to realize it had been a poor choice of joke. Sage began to speak but the door opened and a guy who definitely knew how to use the gym walked in. He was black like me too which put me a bit at ease. Maybe I could talk to him later to get an idea on what the hell was going on in this place.
“Ah, I’d been told you had both arrived. I’m Mr Martin, it’s a pleasure to meet you both. Class will be starting soon so pick a chair.” he said.
I sat at the one nearest the door. If things got too weird I was more than prepared to just walk the hell out. Sage sat a few seats away, confirming my joke had definitely not been well-received.
It didn’t take long until the door opened and my new classmates arrived. Weird and wonderful mixture, minus the wonderful, was an apt description. Someone sat next to me and a quick glance told me they were not standard human at all. I felt my lips part slightly but managed to close my mouth and tear my gaze away when Mr Martin continued speaking.
“Right, I understand you’ve all met Jaeger Smith. The last latecomers for your class are Mr Allen Elster and Mx Sage Skylar,”
Mr Martin introduced himself to Jaeger and told us to do a quiz on our tablet and be ready to talk to him individually. I honestly thanked god, because I had so many questions right now.
“What’s Mx?”I murmured aloud. Was it to do with sage odd presentation?
“It’s a gender neutral honorific,” the guy next to me replied, surprising me.
He was looking at me dead on now and I got the full picture. His nose was malformed, at an upward angle that stretched into a weird shape. He’d pulled his hood down and I could see his ears were oversized and pointed at the tips. My immediate thought was it matched scriptures describing demons. I quickly realized I was staring and tried to cover it up.
“I’m Jaeger by the way.” He added, looking mildly offended.
I think today was going to involve a lot of the word ‘oops’.
“Allen,” I replied, leaning away from him out of instinct. Steph had nothing on this guy.
“I don’t bite you know.” he commented, eyebrow going up. I blinked at the comment but he was already focused on the quiz. “I’m guessing you haven’t met many paramorphs,” he continued, not looking at me as he spoke. He seemed confused by a question.
“What’s a paramorph?” I asked, hitting the start button on my own quiz.
“Mutants with physical differences to humans. Like me or that person,” he said, waving his thumb at someone sitting behind on the other side of the classroom. I followed it to, well, I had no descriptors. Except horrifying. Jaeger was a fluffy kitten compared to this and suddenly talking to him seemed less dirty.
“So genefreaks.” I murmured. Jaeger whole body seemed to wince at the word.
“I’d recommend not using that word in the future,” he replied matching my low volume. He probably had a point. I was in a place surrounded by genefreaks, best not to say a word that offended them.
“Why the hell does someone need a gender neutral honor whatever?” I asked, changing the subject onto safer ground.
“People who are non-binary need it,” he replied.
Jaeger signed at my expression.
“Not everyone fits neatly into the girl or boy tick boxes.” He explained. I frowned, someone in the fog of memories I could recall something related to what he was saying.
“Oh,” I mentally clicked, “you mean like trannys?” I asked, proud of myself for managing to remember. Jaeger ‘s posture stiffened instantly, his eyes searching the room.
What was he so jumpy about now?
“Jesus, are you trying to make people hate you?” Jaeger hissed. I felt my fist clench at the way he threw around the savior’s name.
“Don’t say that,” I murmured.
“Say what?” he asked, a hint of sarcasm to his voice at that point. Clearly I had been saying all the wrong things here somehow.
“Jesus Christ’s name like that,” I replied. He gave me a clueless look before rolling his eyes, one hand going to his forehead.
“Let’s make a deal.” he said, sounding pained. “I won’t say Jesus and in exchange you won’t say either of those words.” he said, holding out a hand.
Wait, was tranny offensive? I checked his hand for claws but still didn’t really want to touch him. What if I got some weird facial disfigurement like he had as a result?
“Wow,” he quietly laughed, dropping his hand. “Just consider it a good piece of advice buddy.” He went back to his quiz, leaving me with about a hundred more questions.
I opened my mouth to ask something else but Mr Martin cut me off.
“Allen, are you finished?” I jumped and looked down. I quickly answered the last two questions and nodded.
Academics were always something I excelled in at least. I followed him outside and I got the impression I was in trouble when he shut the door and studied me. I wait for him to speak first, my mum had imposed a serious respect to authority in me.
“I only had the briefest of updates regarding your circumstances Allen. I think it would be good for you to do an additional educational module tonight. It will mostly just be reading. It is also my job to explain to you Ravenhold has a very strict anti-bullying policy,” Mr Martin began.
“Huh? I wasn’t bullying anyone,” I replied. I hated bullies, they were the worst kind of people.
“Both the words ‘genefreak’ and ‘tranny’ are extremely offensive Allen. I’m letting you off as you seemed genuinely unaware of this fact but I expect not to hear of you using either terms in the future. Is that clear?” He replied. I hesitated, taking in the new information. Admittedly I had known genefreak was a bad term and Jaeger had already made clear to me I shouldn’t use it.
“I still don’t even understand why I’m here all of a sudden,” I mumbled, staring hard at the brown tiled ground. When I glanced up to I saw Mr Martin searching for the right words.
“Your ability manifested suddenly, and in an unfortunately violent fashion. You’re not the first this has happened too. Nucleon intervened to save you the further trauma of going through court proceedings and she recommended you come here because she thought we would be best placed to teach you how to control that ability. As you know we foster heroes here but if you decide not to use your power that way no one will think less of you. At the moment a person in your position will be expected to study for a minimum of two years or until you can adequately demonstrate control. All staff and the students we accept into this institute are accepting of people from all walks of life, and I suggest it’s a stance you adopt to avoid potentially serious repercussions.”
He gave me a moment to digest the news. Court proceedings, of course, why had it not crossed my mind until now? I had almost killed someone. I rubbed my eyes, wishing this was a nightmare I could wake up from already.
“We can stand out here as long as you need before going back into the class,” Mr. Martin added softly. I shook my head.
“I’m fine,” I lied.
“Okay. I’ve already added the modules to look at tonight onto your educational program which you can access from your tablet.”
I nodded, not really there anymore.
I followed him back in and heard him call Jaeger’s name. I looked up when I reached my seat and realized Sage was sitting there. They stood up and left before I could apologize for earlier. I was still thrown by their appearance and had a thousand questions, but I’d have to ask later.
Based on the looks I was getting from the others in the class, I had really fucked up today. I sat back down, hand instinctively gripping for my cross and then I remembered I no longer had one. I’d given Zoe’s back to a member of staff for returning before I left. I hoped there was a chapel in this place and somewhere I could go to to get another.