Laura stood with her son, Damien, in front of Penobscot County School for the Gifted. She looked down at her son who was staring at the entry doors to the new school. She shook his hand with reassurance, causing him to look up into her face.
“It’ll be alright,” she said in a soft coo. She looked back up to the name stamped over the entryway. “I’m sure you’ll make lots of new friends.”
Damien gave a mighty sigh for an eight-year-old as Laura made her way to the doors. Her arm was pulled backward as Damien trailed behind her, feet dragging and reluctant. She reached the nearest door and pulled it open, ushering Damien ahead of her with a hand on his head and a light push.
The entry hall they entered was deserted as class had started a half hour prior. At the end of the hallway stood a glass office with the word Administration stamped over it. Laura kept Damien out in front of her as the made their way to the office. With each step they took on the faux marble floor, a faint echo could be heard bouncing off the walls and around the high vaulted ceilings. It felt as if the hallway would go on forever. Laura swore that the office was moving further and further away, the hallway stretching out for an eternity.
Damien was muttering under his breath and Laura flicked him on the back of the head. Damien whipped his head around to face her, his eyes squinted and face pinched up. He raised his hand to rub the spot Laura flicked.
“Don’t be like that,” scolded Laura as she placed her hand on Damien’s head and swiveled his head around to face front. “We’re going in there whether you like it or not.”
Damien stopped his muttering and when Laura looked up, they were standing in front of one set of doors for the office. Laura reached out and pulled it open, ushering Damien in. A long counter that took up the majority of the length of the room was in front of her with seats to her right. Laura sat Damien down in the nearest seat before stepping up to the counter where an old woman was sitting, typing away at a computer.
Laura cleared her throat to get the woman’s attention and raised her hand in greeting when the woman paused in her typing to look at Laura over the rim of her glasses. The women pulled back from the computer and crossed her thin, wrinkled hands over one another on the lower counter that acted as her workstation.
“May I help you?” the old crone asked, her voice drier than the ancient pyramids.
Laura attempted to swallow, but her throat only clicked. The severe look of the woman, with her horn-rimmed glasses and tight ballerina’s bun that looked like it was the only thing keeping her face from collapsing in on itself, made Laura feel as if she was in trouble.
“Uh, yes, uhm, hello—”
“That’s enough stuttering. Speak clearly,” said the woman as her hawkish eyes seemed to zero in on Laura.
“Yes! Sorry!” said Laura, straightening up and squaring her shoulders. “My name is Laura Morning and I’m here with my son, Damien Morning. He’s supposed to begin school today.”
“Ah, yes,” said the crone as she turned back to tap away at her computer, “Damien Morning, our new transfer.”
Two Weeks Earlier
Laura pushed through the entry doors and fought her way through the crush of student walkers flooding from King Elementary School. Kids as young as kindergarteners and as old as sixth graders bumped into her and flowed around her. A few of the larger fifth and sixth graders bumped into her shoulder hard enough to smart, but Laura pushed on. As she made her way further into the school, the crush began to eb until it was a trickle of kids and she could take a breath. She made her way to the end of the entry hallway and cut a left, then an immediate right to find herself standing in front of the administrative offices. She pushed her way through the double set of doors and was greeted by Mrs. Summers.
“Oh good, you’re here!” she said as she came out from behind the counter, using a door the separated the front office from the back. She held the door open and gestured Laura through. “He’s in the principal’s office,” she said, following behind Laura who’d been to the principal’s office plenty of times and knew the path like the back of her hand.
As Laura approached the principal’s door, she felt a hand grab onto her bicep and she halted in her march. She turned to look at Mrs. Summers.
“It’s not good, Laura,” said Mrs. Summers, her voice sympathetic and her face turning sad. “The superintendent is in there as well. I don’t think you’re going to be able to talk yourself out of this one.”
Laura cursed and turned her head towards the principal’s door. The principal and superintendent had it in for Damien, always had. She turned back to Mrs. Summers who had let go of her arm, her face still sad.
“Thank you for the warning, Mrs. Summers,” said Laura as she reached out to the older woman and grabbed Mrs. Summers’ hand. Laura gave it a squeeze and managed a weak smile, Mrs. Summers smiling back with a tint of sadness. Laura dropped her hand and turned to face the principal’s door again, striding up to it and giving a few curt knocks.
“Come in!” came the reply from the other side. It wasn’t the principal’s voice.
Laura pushed through the door and scanned for her son, spotting him in one of the high backed chairs in front of the principal’s desk. She stepped to him and went to a knee, grabbing Damien’s hands. His head hung down and his hair blocked most of his face. She reached for his hands that were on his knees and gave them a gentle squeeze of reassurance.
“You okay?” she asked, trying to look at his face. Damien didn’t look at her but only nodded once, a jerk of the chin.
A throat was cleared and Laura stood up to face the two men who were on the other side of the desk. One was standing and one was sitting opposite Damien. The one who was sitting stood up and reached his hand over his desk, holding his tie in one hand to prevent it from swinging out.
“Ms. Morning, glad you could join us,” said the principal, his hand out for a handshake. Laura eyed the hand and waited a few beats, just enough to make the principal clear his throat again in awkwardness. Just as he was about to pull his hand back, Laura reached out to shake it.
“Mr. Delacroix,” she said, eyes drilling into the principal’s beady ones. She gave a firm up-down before turning her attention to the other man, the superintendent. She held her arm and hand out towards him. “Dr. Loomis.” The superintendent reached out to give Laura a quick shake before pulling back.
“Well, Ms. Morning—”
“Laura, call me Laura. Ms. Morning is my mother.”
“Ah well, yes. Then, Laura, I presume Mrs. Summers informed you over the phone call why you were called in today?” asked Mr. Delacroix as he retook his seat and gestured for Laura to take a seat as well in the second chair.
Laura sat down and glanced at Damien who still sat with his head down, hair in front of his face.
“Yes, Mrs. Summers did let me know that there was another incident with Damien in the classroom today,” said Laura, sweeping at a vomit stain in her nursing scrubs. She needed a new pair.
“If you could follow me, please,” said the crone as she emerged from the door that separated the front and back office. She stepped through a set of double doors into the hallway and held it open for Laura and Damien.
As soon as Laura and Damien were through the doors, the crone turned on her heel and began her march down the hallway, through the school. “My name is Mrs. Baylock. I’ll give you a tour of the school before we take Damien to his new classroom.”
Laura held Damien’s hand as they followed behind Mrs. Baylock. She moved like a woman on a mission, head held high, shoulders back and straight, and each footfall a sharp click of the heels.
“This is the elementary wing which holds kindergarten through sixth grade. I will guide you and Damien through this wing before dropping off Damien,” said Mrs. Baylock as she turned her head to look over her sharp-angled shoulder. “If you would like a further tour of the high school wing which holds seventh grade through senior class after we drop Damien off, Ms. Morning, I would be happy to do so.”
Before Laura could reply, they entered a hallway filled with classroom doors and lockers, and Mrs. Baylock began speaking again.
“As you can see, every student will have an assigned locker in the hallways. This is because here at Penobscot County School for the Gifted the children move classrooms from day one, with the exception of the kindergarteners who are only here for half days and are thus regulated to a singular room. Since Damien is in the third grade, he will have a locker near the end of this hallway.
“Now if you look to the left and right, you will see classes in session. Our teachers are top notch in their areas. In this hallway, the basic classes are taught: mathematics, science, social studies, and English.”
As Mrs. Baylock was pointing out the different classrooms, Laura took the time to peak into each one. Students sat at their desks taking notes or listening to the teacher at the front of the classroom. Each classroom had a smartboard that took up most of the front of the classroom. The decor of the room changed based on the subject and year the teacher taught. Laura could see how the maths progressed from simple addition to the beginnings of multiplication, English progressed from simple words to reading short series, and so on with the other subjects.
When they reached the end of the hallway, Mrs. Baylock stopped and spun to face them. Laura and Damien pulled up short with the sudden stop.
“Here,” said Mrs. Baylock, holding out her hand towards a locker, “is your locker, Damien. Locker number six six six. The combination is nineteen, seven, six. You may put your items in there now if you wish.”
Laura looked down at Damien who was looking towards his locker. She dropped his hand and he looked back at Laura.
“Did you get that, sweetie?” she asked as she put her hand on his head. Damien nodded and moved to his locker, fiddling with the lock that was attached to the door until a click was heard. Damien pulled open the door and stuffed his backpack in, pulling out a pencil and notebook before shutting the door to lock it.
“Very good,” said Mrs. Baylock. She pointed down the hall to one of the maths room, the one Laura had seen doing basic multiplication. “That is your first-period class. Once we’re done with the tour, I will take you there. There is a young lady in there, Samara Morgan, who you will share a schedule with. She’s been informed of your arrival and will be sure to guide you through the rest of your day. Don’t let her take any shortcuts to classes. I’m afraid you won’t be able to follow.”
Once through with her explanation, Mrs. Baylock turned to face away from Laura and Damien, took a few steps to the end of the hallway, and turned right. Laura put her hand on the back of Damien’s neck and hurried along to follow behind Mrs. Baylock.
“In this hallway, you will find the specialized classes. Here we require all students to take Latin beginning in third grade. This will continue through the eighth grade whereby our students have a full grasp of the Latin language to the point where they can speak it fluently, forwards and back. This is the only specialized class that is required of all students. The rest of the specialized classes are separated into two types. The electives and those selected for the children based on their gifts.”
Two Weeks Earlier
Dr. Loomis remained quiet as Mr. Delacroix spoke to Laura about Damien’s incident in class. Laura didn’t pay much attention to what the principal was saying, having heard most of it before. It summed up to the fact that Damien was disrupting and they felt it would be better for everyone if Damien transferred to a school that could better help him and handle his gifts. The education of all the children was being disrupted and therefore not as effective as it could be. Teachers didn’t know how to handle Damien when he had outbursts. The children were scared.
As Mr. Delacroix finished speaking, Dr. Loomis approached the desk and took over. Laura snapped her attention back, focusing in on the superintendent.
“Laura, what Mr. Delacroix is trying to say is that we can no longer have Damien in attendance here.”
Laura stood up from her chair, sending it back a couple of inches with the force of her motion. “Dr. Loomis, you cannot do this!”
Dr. Loomis held up his hand causing Laura to fall into silence.
“We told you at the last incident that if Damien had another outburst, we would have to suspend him. I spoke to the school board and we agreed, for the sake of everyone, teacher and child, at this school, Damien could no longer attend class. We understand the unique position he is in, but for the safety of this school, Damien will no longer be allowed on school grounds. He is suspended henceforth, indefinitely.
You are more than welcome to come pick up Damien’s classwork and drop it off, but for obvious reasons, this is not the best solution to the situation—”
“Then what,” said Laura, no longer able to contain her anger with the administrators in front of her, “would be the best solution?”
Unfazed by the interruption, Dr. Loomis continued, “As we mentioned previously, at multiple meetings, the best solution would be to have Damien transfer to a school for the gifted. In particular, Penobscot County School for the Gifted. They are uniquely—”
“You have got to be kidding me!”
“—uniquely qualified for situations such as this one. They will be able to help Damien much better than anyone here,” said Dr. Loomis, speaking over Laura’s outburst. “You need to think about Damien and what’s best for him.”
“What’s best for him is to stay here,” began Laura. “He has friends here, despite what you say about the children being afraid or scared.”
“We cannot provide the services here Damien needs, Laura. The children may not all be scared, but their parents are. Damien is coming into his gifts and we, nor you, have the means to help him with them. You need to help Damien the best way you can by getting him the help he needs,” said Dr. Loomis, looking at Laura with pity.
Laura stood silent and staring at Dr. Loomis. She looked down towards Damien who had finally stopped staring into his lap. He was gazing up at his mom looking lost and sad. Upset with what he knew he did but didn’t have any control over.
Laura gave Damien a weak smile and let out a shaky breath. She turned to walk across the room, her thoughts flying and running a hand through her hair. As she made her way back to the desk, she scrubbed her face with her hands and looked between the principal and superintendent.
“Alright. Alright,” said Laura, defeated. “I’ll call them.”
The relief from the administrators was palpable and it made Laura angry, but she understood. She really did understand. She knew this day would come, but had hoped that it would be further out, that it wouldn’t be this soon.
“I can still get homework for him though, until he gets placed?” asked Laura, tentative, unsure if they would take back the offer.
“That’s fine. We want to keep Damien up on his studies as much as we can,” piped in Mr. Delacroix, leaning forward on his desk with his fingers locked together.
Laura nodded, upset at the situation and sad for her son. She reached out towards Damien and patted his head. His eyes hadn’t left her. She motioned with her head that it was time to go.
“Mr. Delacroix, Dr. Loomis, thank you. I’ll keep you up-to-date with his progress,” said Laura as she ushered Damien through the office door.”
“You’re doing the right thing, Laura,” said Dr. Loomis. Laura looked back at him and gave a sad smile before turning back.
As she closed the door behind her, she heard Mr. Delacroix speak to Dr. Loomis.
“It’s impressive that he’s up to getting all the desks on the ceiling.”
Mrs. Baylock continued speaking about the specialized classes, both electives and those specially selected. She pointed out each specialized classroom to Laura and Damien. Laura nodded and made mental notes of each class, even the ones she knew Damien wouldn’t take or be placed in. Laura looked at Damien and saw that he seemed genuinely interested in what Mrs. Baylock was saying. She couldn’t help but smile and feel like she had made the right decision, even if Damien wouldn’t be able to see most of his friends anymore.
“This part of the hallway is where Damien will probably spend most of his time during specialized classes,” said Mrs. Baylock as she came to a halt and spun to look at Laura and Damien.
“These specialized classrooms are for telepathy,” said Mrs. Baylock as she gestured to her right. “These are for demonic powers,” she said, gesturing to her left. “We find that these two gifts tend to go hand-in-hand.
“Any questions so far?”
Laura began to raise her hand but snapped it back down to her side. She saw Mrs. Baylock follow the motion with her eyes and gave a smirk.
“He’s not in full control yet. I’m afraid because of that, he can get a little destructive,” Laura said, “It’s not his fault though.”
Mrs. Baylock nodded, seeming unconcerned with Laura’s statement. “The teachers will assist Damien in his power control and they have the ability to suppress them as well if the need arises. Remember, these teachers are the best at what they do and they will be sure to keep everyone safe. We also know, all of us, accidents happen. We can’t and don’t expect everyone to be top-level efficiency when it comes to this stuff. That’s why this school was created.”
Laura felt Damien pull on her shirt and she looked down to see him give a tentative smile.
“So I don’t have to worry about hurting someone?” asked Damien, his eyes moving between his mother and Mrs. Baylock.
“No sweetie, it sounds like you’ll be okay here and that everyone is going to help you,” reassured Laura, feeling more confident in her decision with each passing moment.
Just as Laura was about to let Mrs. Baylock know they could continue, a ruckus broke out behind her, near the start of the hallway. Mrs. Baylock’s sharp eyes peered over Laura’s shoulder. Laura and Damien both looked over the shoulder toward the murder impulse classrooms.
The door to one of the classrooms crashed open and was sent flying to the other side of the hallway. Two boys, looking about Damien’s age came out running. Both were wearing masks as they skidded to a stop outside the classroom. They turned towards Laura, Damien, and Mrs. Baylock and began hustling.
Laura watched the boys move, trying to figure out what they were doing. It was a weird phenomenon to watch. The boys moved quickly, but they appeared only to walk. Watching them get closer, Laura realized that every few steps they seemed to disappear and then reappear just as quickly a few feet closer.
Behind them, the teacher appeared, yelling after the two boys. “Michael and Jason, you get back here this instant!”
Laura heard the two boys give mischievous laughs.
“I said,” began the teacher before disappearing and then reappearing right in front of the boys, causing them to pull each other to a stop, “Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees, get back to the classroom right now.”
The teacher reached out and spun the boys around. He pointed down the hallway and gave them a shove. Laura could hear them grumble as they made their way back. They kept glancing over their shoulders and made a few crude gestures at the trouble.
Once the boys stepped back into the hallway, the teacher relaxed and turned to face the group.
“Ah Mrs. Baylock, how are you this morning?” asked the teacher who Laura could see was heavily scarred.
“I’m good, thank you Mr. Krueger. I’m just taking our newest student on a tour,” replied Mrs. Baylock, her voice hinting a small amount of amusement.
“A new student! Excellent!” exclaimed Mr. Krueger, clapping his hands together, one of which was bladed. “Will I be seeing this new student in the near future?”
“No offense, Mr. Krueger, but I hope not,” replied Laura, hugging Damien who had stepped close to her when the boys had appeared.
“None taken, but I also teach the dream walking class, maybe there?” he asked, truly not offended, only cheery.
“He hasn’t manifested anything like that either, but maybe in the future,” said Laura.
Mr. Krueger seemed satisfied with that answer. He gave a gruesome smile before giving a small wave before disappearing and reappearing in front of his classroom.
“Enjoy the tour and welcome aboard, Damien!” called out Mr. Krueger before he disappeared again, this time by stepping into the classroom.
“Shall we continue?” asked Mrs. Baylock from behind them. Laura turned back to look at Mrs. Baylock and gave a nod. Mrs. Baylock turned and continued her march down the hallway, not the least bit bothered by the sudden interruption that just transpired.
“So may I ask about Damien’s father? You left that blank on his transfer forms.”
“Oh, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t fill it out because he’s never really been involved,” explained Laura.
“It will help us with future class placements as it will give us some idea of what to expect.”
Laura looked down at Damien and brushed his hair around, revealing the six-six-six scar on his scalp.
“The Devil. He’s kind of a dick, excuse my language.”