Due Process

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Chapter 12

Out of the Corner of Your Eye

Daddy, daddy, there's a monster under my bed!

So the groups reconvened at the hotel and a fairly good cover-up was put in action, everyone made out that nothing too exciting had happened and that was that. We then had a great time the rest of our stay in Japan, but all too soon had to leave for the school again.

I sought out Albert to ask him what being an Alchemist was like to try and work out if I should unlock that power within myself.

"Well I would not trade my abilities for anyone else's," he began, "if that's what you're asking."

"It just seems to me that alchemy is so useful, and could have come in handy on my trip. However, there are talismans I can make to make myself better at those skills, so it's a question of do I put effort into making them or becoming an Alchemist like you so I don't need them?"

"You can make alchemy skills better?" he asked, eyes widening. "That would be amazing!"

"What do you mean, aren't you already amazing at transmutation and stuff yourself? Why would you need to get better?"

"Using my skills mainly requires me to reason out a surface or substance, and sometimes I can get it wrong. There have been times I wanted a stone barrier from the floor but only got a few centimeters lifted. Then other times I've way over judged things and could move tons of rock when all I need is a couple of kilograms. So if you know the basics of the skill, and can get a talisman to make up for your lack of skill, it might just be better to go that route. There aren't a lot of skills to learn, but it has taken me a couple of years to get this far, so it would take you the same time. But if you can just make something that makes you better, why not go for it?"

"Because it could be taken away from me."

"I suppose, but if someone was kidnapping you or something, they would still have to deal with all the rest of the things you can do, and then you get your stuff back!"

"I guess you're right, I tend to over think things."

"And say you later decide to become an Alchemist? That talisman will still help you, right?"

"Well yes, the effort won't be wasted."

"So there you are! You are very lucky, you know? Learn the basics of something, skip all the training normally required, become really good at it anyway."

"Yeah, I just have to carry a bunch of stuff around with me. Still, thanks for the advice, I'll keep thinking about it."

It was on my way back to my dorm when Miss Herrera, one of the Artificer teachers, spotted me and came over.

"Hey Dean, how was Japan?"

"Very informative," I answered. "In more ways then one. I enjoyed it."

"Good, good. Have you been to see the principal yet?"

"I didn't know he was looking for me."

"He mentioned it after he came looking for a book I had with a specific talisman in it. Said it should be done by the time you got back, so you might want to go see what he had in mind."

"A new talisman? You bet! Thanks."

She nodded and walked away, so I made my way to the principal's office and knocked on the door.

"Dean, this is a surprise! Did you need something?"

"I thought you wanted to see me, sorry if I'm disturbing you, I can come back later if you need me to."

"No, no, I did want to see you, actually. How did you know?"

"I know everything." Managed to say that with a straight face, but then continued as he looked at me skeptically. "Actually, I saw Miss Herrena and she said you were working on something you wanted to show me."

"And right she was, take a look!"

He grabbed a leather bag from on his desk and tossed it to me. I caught it, but it seemed empty. I opened it and peered inside. Still empty. I looked up at him.

"What exactly am I looking at?"

He chuckled, "Here, I'll show you," and reached for it. I handed it back and he stuck his hand into it, then said "healing ward." To my astonishment he pulled a ward out of what I thought was an empty bag!

"You actually made a bag of holding?" I managed to say.

"If you mean a bag with a pocket dimension inside of it where I can stick stuff and later retrieve it, yes. Interested?"

"Heck yes!" I said. "That's amazing."

"I thought you might think that way. I was thinking about it after what you said about wards getting messed up and torn and stolen from you so I did some research. Got busy with the whole 'time displaced' students so I wasn't able to actually make it until now, but it went well. Wasn't too bad, you could probably handle it. I've noted down the method I used to create it, I'm sure you can work it out from there."

"You did that for me? Thanks a lot. This would seem to negate most of my arguments against wards."

He shrugged. "I thought so. Anyway, it was no big deal, it was what you said that got me interested in the problem anyway. I would have just kept carrying them around like I always had if not for what you said. You know how much it irks me to lose a ward I made a week ago, and then have it turn up two days after I need it? Now they can stay nice and tidy in here."

"Until someone steals the bag."

"Oh yeah, didn't think about that. Wait, I think I could work around that too, just a minute. I mean I could just ask one of my Seers to find it for me, but a student might be uncomfortable about it… hummmmm."

He went over to his bookcase and got down a large volume, then started paging through it.

"Wow," he said after a moment, "that doubles the complexity at least. And there's some warnings here, well, take a look for yourself."

He spun the book and I looked over the writing and the symbols printed on the next page. Basically a formula for making an object have a True Owner, which one way or another would always come back if stolen or lost. It mentioned the danger of having the item out of your possession for too long, which I nodded at. "I see what you mean. But something as small as a bag like that I could keep with me at all times. And it's more convenient then lugging a bunch of stuff around, so I could see always wanting to have it with me. Actually, you could keep your ward making materials in there, and always be able to whip up a ward when you need it!"

"Exactly what I was thinking."

"I should probably put this on first, then make the pocket dimension energy based?"

"Actually, the other way around. Do the easier part first, then the true owner that's more complex," he said, putting a scrap of paper in the book and closing it. "Just get this back to me when you're done."

"Can anyone take stuff out?"

"No," he shook his head. "You have to know exactly where the object you're taking out is, and as you put it in there, only you know that. Thus if someone else put something in there, you couldn't take it out. Got it?"

"Got it. This school is just so amazing."

"Glad it meets with your approval," he muttered sarcastically. "And that you still have that attitude after your little, uh, scrape in the caves."

"Yeah, I'm thinking of making something that gives me regeneration, just a little, but enough that I can heal after fake or real demon attacks, that sort of thing. As I've been injured in some way both times I've tried to leave the school, which isn't making me paranoid at all."

"Yeah, I should make one of those, regeneration slows your aging down too, you know. So even if it's not healing wounds it's doing you some good."

"Really? Well I'm all for that, I don't think one lifetime or even two is going to be enough to learn all I want to learn."

"I know how you feel."

"Thanks for this, I'll get it back to you soon. Oh, there is one other thing, since I'm here."

"What's that?"

"I'm not much of a fighter, but I hang around with two girls who I'm thinking will be amazing fighters someday. Is there some ward I can stick on them to make them even better? Now that I have a magic bag, I'd like something to put in it!"

"Wow, you asking about wards, thought you hated the idea."

"Not so much now, and being attacked by demons, even pretend, lends a different perspective to things."

"That's why we do it! Wards huh? Who are these girls again?"

"An inheritor with boots, that's Yasui, and Christina, she's a spirit energist with a bow."

"Oh yeah, a good team you've got there. One ranged attacker, one close attacker, and your roommate can petition angels, and has an ESPer on his shoulder, right?"

I nodded.

"What could help all of them I wonder." He went back to his bookshelf and got a book on wards, leafing through it. "They all need different things, something that makes them stronger doesn't help. How about faster? Yeah, here we go!" He grabbed another sheet of paper, folded it, and stuck it into the book.

"Take a look at that, it might be what you want. Otherwise, take a look through there, you should find some good ideas."

"Will do!"

The next two months passed very quickly, I was busy learning how to create wards, one ward anyway, learning to summon the spirit of the ant, making my regeneration charm and bag of holding, and oh I guess I took some classes too. Yasui and Christina really liked the ward I learned to make- it made them much faster in a fight, so we practiced me grabbing them out of the bag and slapping them on so we wouldn't have to think about it if we got attacked again. I went home for Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, and things at the school seemed normal enough.

The extra students had been dealt with through a combination of "welcome to the future" activities, councilors, and a lot of patience. I had spoken to some in my classes, and it was amazing to see their reactions to things we took for granted, like the internet. They seemed to be assimilating well, but I couldn't help but wonder if the ESPers in the school weren't giving them a little push away from being depressed about the whole thing. I don't know what I would do if I suddenly woke up 80 years in my own future, after all! The hallways were a little more crowded, some new teachers were hastily hired, but everyone pulled together to make them feel welcome. I had been worried about them being picked on, kids are kids after all, but who would dare make trouble in the halls when Seers would know about it before you even thought about it? So everyone tended to be on their best behavior, and honestly, knowing we were all Demongate students brought us together like nothing else could. It was "us" against "them", with the "them" being demons and people who used their powers improperly. Our field trips especially were designed to make us work together to solve problems, and were structured so every kind of power type might be the solution, if you could just think of it. Our little group knowing they were staged helped us see them as fun challenges anyway, so we looked forward to them.

Which is not to say during that time strange things didn't go on, it was Demongate, after all. Rumors started and then persisted of a very beautiful girl wandering the halls at night. Osman and I woke up one morning to find deep scratches running down our hallway, then up the wall, across the ceiling, down the other wall, and back down the hallway over and over. A couple of days later windows started getting smashed out by some unidentified force, and strange noises were heard in the halls for several nights after that. People were starting to get nervous about the whole thing, which peaked two weeks later when Yasui said every light bulb in the girl's dorm was smashed simultaneously during the night. The next night a student was found completely torn apart, but the odd thing was there were no students missing! So everyone got questioned and Seers were going nuts trying to figure out who it was, but their answers all conflicted so classes just went on as usual. Tragedy struck the very next night when Mrs LaRoche was found in the hallway, unconscious and bleeding.

"Students are not to walk the halls alone," the announcer went on over the PA system, "until whatever is causing these incidents is found and stopped. Anyone who has seen anything, or had any dreams about things, or has contacts in heaven that could be useful please speak to a teacher immediately."

"So what do you think it is?" asked Yasui, bouncing into a chair at lunchtime. "It must be a demon, right?"

"Don't be stupid," replied Christina, "What demon could smash every lightbulb in a whole dorm and not get caught with all these Seers around?"

"I don't know, but what else could it be?"

"Have you heard anything about Mrs LaRoche?" I asked.

"Last I heard, injuries were very bad," replied Osman. "Do not want to heal for some reason. And she is still unconscious."

We all hung our heads. None of us had taken any instruction from her as Mrs LaRoche taught Seer skills, but we still felt bad for her.

"You know that beautiful girl everyone's been talking about seeing?" Yasui went on after a minute. "I saw her in class today! It was so weird, she was in a nightgown, and she walked in after like ten minutes of class. The teacher was all like "Why aren't you dressed young lady?" but then she said "wait, who are you?". The girl just vanished after that- poof! Not a teleport, that makes a noise, she was just there then not-there. Oh, and she's way prettier then me, that's for sure."

"What?" I asked. "How is that even possible?"

"I don't know," she replied, "but it's true. She was so perfect, like she wasn't even human, you know? But I don't think she was an angel, she looked confused and scared before she vanished, and I don't think angels are big on confused and scared."

"No they are not," said Osman.

"We should investigate after classes," said Katrina, who was suddenly sitting right next to us.

"Gwha!" I shouted, jumping away a little, "whatza?" She put her hand over her mouth and giggled. "I guess it worked."

The people close to us just looked at us funny and went back to their conversations.

"Katrina?" asked Yasui hesitantly. "Is that you?"

She smiled. "It's me all right. I've been practicing my power of illusion, oddly it doesn't tire Osman out as much as my sending does, so I'll probably use it from now on."

"You look so real! Is that what you really look like?" I asked, looking her up and down.

"I don't know, I guess. I just placed the idea in your minds that I was sitting there in a school uniform, so here I am."

"So we're the only ones that can see you?"

"That's right."

"Wow. That's great, Kat, I'm glad I'm not the only one learning cool things here."

Yasui laughed. "You should see what I've been working on!"

"Oh? Why don't you go ahead and show us?"

"I don't know, you know we're not supposed to use our powers without supervision."

"My feeling on that is, you see all the Seers around here? In this very room?"

"Yeah, I guess."

"If something dangerous was going to happen, one of them would already know and come tell us about it. But they're not, so I would think it was perfectly safe."

"I guess that makes sense. Okay, I'll show you but just for a second, and no, you're not seeing double."

I gave her a questioning look, but she just stood up, looked around, then walked out the cafeteria door.

"Her big technique was leaving the room?" I asked, confused. "Doesn't seem all that impressive to me."

I was watching the door and she came back in. I shrugged at her and she pointed to the other entrance on the right wall, where she was coming in again. I did a double take as two separate but identical Yasui girls came up to me. Osman was staring hard at them, probably trying to figure out which was the real one, as she sauntered back over to us.

"Hi Dean," said the first one.

"Hi Dean," said the second one.

"Okay, you have to teach me that," I stammered.

The two looked at each other.

"It's really supposed to be a secret, family technique," said the first.

"But I suppose if you ask nicely, I could be persuaded to teach it to you," finished the second.

"Is it some kind of illusion?" asked Katrina.

They both picked up something off the table, switched it, and set it back down.

I felt one, then the other. "They're switched all right. There's really two of you."

"It's a spirit clone technique. I was trying for two, but oh well. Thing is… well, hit me." said one.

"I'm not going to hit you!" I protested.

"Oh don't be a big baby and just hit me. Christina would do it, wouldn't you?"

"Hit you?" she answered, finally joining our conversation even though she had been at the table the whole time. "Not a problem," and punched Yasui right in the stomach. The clone disappeared, and the remaining Yasui sat down in her seat again.

"Okay, well, you guys tie for coolest thing learned, unless you can wow us more then that, Christina, or Osman, and just petitioning something doesn't count."

"I understand," said Osman unhappily. "Because summoning literal agents of heaven just isn't cool enough for you."

"Don't take it personally, it's cool enough, just that we expect you to summon angels to earth, but we didn't expect to see Katrina or two Yasui just now."

"I know, I know."

"So what can you wow us with Christina?"

"Oh, I'd wow you all right, but I can't do it here. Unless you want me to break every cell phone, watch, clock, laptop or other electronic device around here."

"See, now that's the kinda power I'm talking about," I said excitedly. The others look at me a bit funny.

"About dangerous things that should be done under supervision." They nodded. Whew. "Now what did you say before- oh yeah, we should research this? And don't think you're off the hook, we'll see your electronic device breakage power later."

"Sure. Everyone's talking about it, and thinking it's some kind of demon or ghost or something, so let's assume it's not one of those things and look up what else it could be." said Katrina.

"That could work," said Osman. "If it was demon, someone here would know, after all every teacher is demon expert, no? At least the Holy Chosen and Summoners, I am thinking. So you are right, let them look up that sort of thing, we will look where no one else does."

So it was decided, and that evening we all went to the library and started poking around. Of course it looked like a lot of other people had the same idea, as the place was pretty crowded, for once. We wandered the stacks of books and wondered what places people hadn't already looked at, when Christina looked over at the internet PCs. They were unused.

"Why don't we look on the internet?" she suggested.

"Because only- This has to be a- Can you find supernatural stuff on the web?" I answered back, at a loss. "The Foundation censors stuff like that, right? But I guess we did want to look where no one else was."

"This could be something new, something not in any of these books, but happening other places and we don't know about it because no one looked there! Maybe there's even blogs about it!" said Yasui excitedly. "Christina, you're the best!"

"That goes without saying," she said as we gathered around the machines.

"Okay, so what do we search for?" I asked as we all sat down.

"Just put some words in and we'll see what comes up," Yasui suggested.

"Most stuff happens at night, so put in nighttime," said Osman.

"Something made those claw marks in our dorm, attacked a teacher and possibly some kid no one knows, maybe 'monster'?" said Christina.

"I think there was a deeper purpose there," said Katrina, appearing beside us and leaning over my shoulder to see the screen. "Think about it. Something broke all the lights in the girl's dorm. Something put scratches in the door. But nothing's been seen doing any of those things."

"So it's invisible?"

"No, I think it's trying to scare us. At first it could only do little things, but now it's up to attacking a teacher, which has made even more people are afraid, I mean look at them all in here looking stuff up. I think that will make it even more powerful."

"All right, so 'fear' goes in the list. You think it's feeding on fear?"

"I guess we'll know tonight if something even worse happens."

"That's a grizzly thought. So, anything else?"

"See what comes up with just that," said Yasui, so I hit the return key.

"Well, result number one looks like some article on some kids' psychology website, skip?"

"No, no, look, it has all the search terms, read it."

I shrugged and clicked the link, skimming the article.

"This is ancient," I exclaimed. "Was there even the internet back then?"

The article was in fact from an archive of old magazine articles from the Children's Journal of Metal Health, issue 231, June, 1989. Apparently, a Dr Ransbottom wanted to prove to his daughter Sadye that "monsters under the bed", which she claimed to see all the time, were not real. Sadly it seemed that all he proved was that he couldn't prove it one way or the other, as strange things happened around Sadye when she was asleep and alone (and being filmed) but not when she was asleep and someone was in her room with her. No image of any kind was captured of the "man made of shadows" she claimed to have often seen, so any other phenomenon were explained away or ridiculed as a fabrication of the doctor himself. The last few lines were the most chilling:

What conclusions can we draw from this? If they exist, perhaps Night Walkers somehow feed off fear, and thus stay near children who are easily frightened. They only appear to children, and only are seen, briefly, upon waking from sleep. No record of children being killed by "monsters" has ever been recorded, though of course there have been unexplained causes of death since time began. Are they just the product of a child's imagination? Or does something dark really live "under the bed?"

We stared at the article for several minutes, then started looking at each other to see who would be the first to speak.

"Uh," I managed.

"Yeah," said Osman back to me.

"Wait," said Katrina, "Isn't there some "big book of unexplained crap" around here someplace? The Foundation knows monsters exist, they're called 'demons'. This would have been investigated, even that long ago, The Foundation's been around for longer then that."

"Yeah, there must be something," I said slowly.

"Wait, I know!" said Yausi, sitting down next to me. "There's a Demongate High site only we can access here on the island, I'll put it up."

She typed in an address and brought it up. "What were they called again? There's a search function here for certain Foundation reports, I'll put it in."

"Night Walkers" I said, scrolling to the top of the article again.

She did some more typing, then smiled. "There's an entry, come look."

Sadye was observed by Seers and found to have no special powers to warrant her admission to Demongate High. She was found not to be supernaturally aware, so how could she see something others couldn't?

Interestingly, there is one demon, Kalfu, that if seen by a child would be described as a "man made of shadows". However, there is no way Kalfu would hang around a child's bedroom without either trying to kill the child or at the very least leaving for someplace more interesting almost immediately. Thus, it is highly unlikely this phenomenon is related to Demons or Kalfu himself, given the difficulty of summoning him to our world. Also, Kalfu is not unseen and thus would show up on film, though as just a black smudge if anything.

Seers, ESPers, and Petitioners who have children have been contacted about this behavior but nothing amiss was ever sensed. However, these children did not report actually "seeing" any "monsters" at least as much as Sadye is said to have.

If there is some kind of unseen creature causing or feeding off these children's fear, why has no supernaturally aware person ever seen one?

Could children be perceiving souls moving through purgatory? If so, how? Why only upon waking from sleep? And why lose this ability as they aged?

Classification: Unsolved

"Oh crap," said Christina. "Could something they dismissed actually be real and somehow stalking the halls of the school now?"

"Double crap," I replied. "If both this and Katrina are right then it really is feeding off fear, and tonight it's going to be even stronger. Maybe strong enough to kill."

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