The Worried Child
I don’t know what wakes me. Instinct maybe. But from the moment I open my eyes, I know that something is wrong. I roll around, and only to see Greyscale standing above me, armed with something that glints.
The weapon comes down like a guillotine and I vault out of my bed in a quick jump. Greyscale reverses its arc and I dodge it, but not before it manages to open up a large gaping wound diagonally across my face.
Hot blood spurts across my face, obscuring my single eye. Greyscale stops, looking at me with a satisfied expression. “What the fuck are you doing?!”
“I repeat; what the fuck are you doing?!” We’re sitting at the kitchen table, and Greyscale is buttering a scone. Between bites he talks. “Training. You see– if this was an American movie, we’d have a training montage about right now. I’d teach you about bonsais, and plants, and respect and all that shit. You’d call me Sensei, and I’d call you Danny-san.” I gingerly touch the wound. I can feel the skin knitting together, which is so effing freaky. “But this is real life, with real enemies. Enemies, who are eventually going to attack you.They’re not going to care where you are, or if it’s inconvenient. So I am preparing you. In your sleep. When you’re taking a crap. At school if I have to.”
I turn to Hermann. “You can’t surely tell me that this is normal?” “Normal? No, but you don’t live a normal life anymore. And didn’t you tell me that you wanted to learn how to defend yourself?”
“With karate, or judo or something”, I sheepishly mention.
“With karate or something”, Greyscale sneers. “Karate taught by some shitty human wouldn’t help you. I am teaching you how to improvise. In time you’ll thank me.” He eates another scone, and sighs happily.” Hermann, tell him about the umbrella-incident.”
Hermann glares at him. Reluctantly he begins to speak.”Once in Japan during the Heian Era I was …. was relieving myself on the toilet. It so happened, that this particular area was governed by a karakasa, a possessed umbrella you can call it. It took umbrage to my act, and it bit me. ” “You were bitten by a demonic umbrella?”, I ask, not too sure if they’re pulling one on me. He continues.”A demonic umbrella. It took a large piece of my knee. ”
“Eleven months to heal”, Hermann grumbles.
Greyscale slaps the table, hard. “And that’s why I won’t go easy on you.” The morning sun catches his weapon and it reflects light. It’s an axe– a wooden shaft with a crescent made out of a burnished metal. Holy crap. I look at the weapon, and then Greyscale. He can’t be that old. The Bronze Age ended thousands of years ago.
“… besides it’s an important day fo you, Rune.” “Huh?” “It’s Wednesday, today.” I stare at him. “You know the date.” Oh yeah. The date. The date that is today. Thaaat date. “Holy…!” “What am I going to wear?!” I quickly devour my last scone and start to pace. First step; shower; then clothes.
I run down the stairway to lower plane, stripping as I run.
While showering I realize that I don’t really know much about Nevena. I mean, I have seen her once or twice in junior high, but otherwise than that I don’t know really anything anything. I dry myself with a towel, and start to consider clothes. Nothing overly formal but something that still says I care.
I grab some of my newer jeans, a black tee and a white shirt. A glance at the mirror tells me I need to do something with my hair. I grab some wax, and drag one hand through the underbrush that is my hair.
I walk up on the upper plane, where Greyscale is still eating, and Hermann is doing the dishes. “How do I look?” “Excellent”, Hermann adds. “Eminently fuckable” Greyscale retorts. “Are you still here?” Greyscale sniffs at me. He gets up, gathers a dozen scones in arm, and hefts his bronze axe with the other. He points it at me. “Be prepared. Always.” With that as his last salvo, he exits the house.Asshole.
Hermann gets up and inspects me. “I can still remember when you were yay high-” he raises his knee slightly”- and you would come to me ask for another story, another song. And now you’re going on your first date.” I roll my eyes at his sentimental tone. “Any pointers?” “Your eyes should always be at eye-height. Be polite. And remember; no matter how insecure you feel, she did ask you out, not the other way around.” He slaps me on my shoulder.” Now go!”
As I pass Greyscale’s house on my bicycle I pay more attention than usually. A measure that pays itself; I narrowly avoid three bricks being thrown from a window. Double asshole.
My first lesson is Swedish with Ricardo Corazon, whom Kai refered to as Lionheart. I googled that name, and according to the interwebs ‘Lionheart’ was the moniker of Richard I of England, a famous king appearing in the Robin Hood legendarium and a dozen other stories. If that’s true, which I cannot really tell, then he is close to eight-hundred years old. Of course, that by itself is mind-boggling. With eight centuries, a man can learn many things, I’d hazard.
Corazon’s scent…. is fluffy, there really is no other word for it really. It’s close that of Amanda’s but not just there. When I smell that scent, I think of something large which plays with yarns.
I grab my usual contested seat and watch Amanda come in.I can almost hear the grinding noise her teeth makes as she looks at me. I don’t know what she is, but whatever it is, it sure doesn’t like being challenged.
The rest of the class filters in like lemmings.
“So for today’s lesson we’re going to read excerpts out of the Iliad, written by Homer-” some in the class laugh”- yes, Homer, written, historians believe, in the eight century B.C….”
Corazon hands out sheets, and then points at people, urging them to read with as much inflection as they dare. Elena sing-songs her excerpt. Linnea pronounces her in a way that almost makes me weep. Shirin stumbles in a way that makes me wanna cover my face and say that’s it alright.
And then it’s my turn. I memorize the text, and jump on my chair. In a melodramatic voice I belt out ;” Teeming with treachery noble Hera led him on:
“Dread majesty, son of Cronus, what are you saying?
You are eager for bed now, burning to make love,
here on Ida’s heights for all the world to see?
What if one of the deathless gods observes us,
sleeping together, yes—
and runs off to the rest and points us out to all?
I have no desire to rise from a bed like that
and steal back home to your own high halls—
think of the shocking scandal there would be!
But if you’re on fire, overflowing with passion,
there’s always your own bedroom. Hephaestus built it,
your own dear son, and the doors fit snug and tight …
There we can go to bed at once—since love is now your pleasure!” I manage to get the last line out without stumbling, and then I realize what I’ve actually described. Elena gives me a wolf-whistle and I get several catcalls.
“No, no. I like it. It was…. spirited, to say the least”, Corazon adds with a smile. “If all of you pass the test-” the entire class groans as a single organism”- then I might just be persuaded let you watch Troy.”
Twelve sets of eyes, all female, zone in on Corazon, and the thought watching a young Brad Pitt. Semi-naked Brad Pitt.Pitt.
Our next class is English. While most people make a civil attempt of not being late to class, nobody would ever make the mistake of being late to one of Jonathan Gogmagog’s lessons– a thought which percolates in my mind as I watch Jonathan walk inside the classroom.
He is probably the largest man, largest being I have ever seen. Little over two metres, with black hair flowing down his neck, complimented with a bushy beard and eyes the color of oil, eyes that never miss students passing notes. I wonder who’s tallest; he or Greyscale?
That being said, he is a very good teacher, although I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side. My only problem with him is that I can’t decide if he’s human or not. He smells like human, but there is a sense of something being hidden. I am constantly being reminded of the Greyscale’s words, that something that can hide its scent is dangerous.
“On today’s menue we’re going to discuss your future projects”, Gomagog says. His accent isn’t standard English, it’s closer to a place with rolling hills, fairy-circles and leprechauns and pots of gold at the end of a rainbow. “More precisely the books you will be reading.”
“Now I am not particulary picky with what you read, as long as you read. So for those of you who think that you can watch a Harry Potter movie and then use it as a framework when you do my task? Screw you.”
I catch a couple of guilty looks. He writes up a couple of groups on the board. “Sit in these groups and discuss your choices, or lack of them.” Chairs are promptly re-arranged, people move, and I find myself in a group with Kai, Chiyo and Marika.
Marika starts first. “I thought I’d read the Circle, you know the fantasy book about the witches in that Swedish suburban town.” Chiyo nods. “I have read it. It’s good, really good actually. Personally I think I am going to read something by Camilla Läckberg.” “I didn’t know you liked police-procedure dramas”, Kai interjects.
She shrugs. “You then, Rune”, she asks. “I am thinking of reading a Wizard of Earthsea, a fantasy book written in 1968, which is actually kind cool, because it features characters you don’t normally see in fantasy, and it’s magic-system is one that would serve as an impetus for later works. At the time, the books were a pointed reminder that not all fantasy has to be about a pseudo-mediaeval landscape with a bunch of white people.” The people in the half-circle gives me looks ranging between interest and horror. Crap. I mentally review what I have said. Double crap. I have committed Aspie mistake #5 on the List.
You know how young children will animatedly about something, an interest of sorts, and ignore other threads in conversation? That’s what I have done. It’s tolerable but cute when you’re six. Not so much when you reach fifteen.
I cover for myself by putting a hand up across my nose. “Sorry– I got a bit enthusiastic.” Marika, bless her, picks up where I left. “I am impressed you know so much about a single book. I barerly know who Dan Brown is….”
Having eaten as fast I can, I escape to my fortress of solitude, my Roke, my Riverdell. A place where no ordinary teenager will go; the library. Say that Esaia Eldridge made a deal with the Devil, that he kept a chest filled with the bodies of little children, that he was the ringmaster behind unholy orgies, but the man sure knew his libraries.
The library at Ochre is made up of five dod… five dodece…. five fucking dodecahedrons, with an librarian’s office in one corner of the dodecahedrons. The twelve-siders are arrayed in circle, and pick the one to the north. My usual table is vacant, and I grab a random book and start to read.
I have read close to thirty pages before it strikes me that I haven’t actually read them. What if I do something similar one my date– like did just now? And there in lies my greatest fear. What if I do something that alienates Nevena, alienates the rest of the class? My budding friendships with Pontus and Kai?
Because if there is one thing I have learned about Aspergers, then it is that we don’t get happy endings. Oh, there is a Swedish television series made into an American remake about a autistic detective and a bridge, and Jim Parsons makes an excellent astrophysicist, but other than that?
Aspergers has taught me that there are no knights in armor, no burly giant coming to save you from a viscious aunt, that you yourself must be your own champion. I can feel myself entering a Spiral of Despair and I make an effort to coral my thoughts. Nothing has gone wrong. Yet— no, dammit no such thoughts. Think positive thoughts, think happy thoughts! Elena call these moments my ‘Angel’ moments after you know, the droopy vampire, and she often says that I should find something positive to think about. I tap my fingers against the table. Something positive….
Right, my Aspergers could be much, much more developed.Yes, that’s right. I am part of an online community and well, on a scale of one to Sheldon Cooper– I think I am a weak Four, or maybe a solid Three. I know people who can’t sleep in beds because they are too soft, can’t go to normal schools because they can’t stand the stimuli, who eat spaghetti and meatballs every Thursday 1400 Zulu hours because anything else would drive splinters into their minds. So I’ve got that going on for me atleast.
And like Hermann said, she did say yes, for some reason I can’t understand. She said yes. I repeat that like a prayer against insecurity. She said yes, dammit.
I look at the clock and realizing that my next lesson is about to start, I hurry out.