It was a cloudy afternoon. A light gray sky loomed above England’s Buckingham Palace. The students of one of the country’s prestigious boys’ academies were on holiday in the City of Westminster. On that day was the awaited trip to the Queen’s Gallery. As the boys walked the halls gawking at art, one young man lingered behind them. With his pale blonde head hung, distant eyes hid under his fallen locks. He was the odd man out among the group, for not one of his peers spared him a glance. He did not seem to mind; perhaps the floor dressings were more interesting than the building’s history. The group paused in a hall when the guide received a call over their radio. The youth drug himself over to a window. He stared out at the city, blinking a gray pupil-less gaze.
“Well, if it isn’t Ghost stalking the streets of Westminster with his haunting stare.” Laughter followed the voice. The youth’s eyes fell to the sill. “Who will your eyes curse today, old chap? Ha!”
“Please, Philip,” the young man replied in an exhausted voice, “not now. I don’t have the steam to keep up today.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Philip jeered. “You sleep like the dead during a New Moon. Is that your powers’ weakness, Ghost? Hmmm?”
“You know my name. It’s Samuel, and I’d rather that than ‘Ghost,’” Samuel sighed, turning round to face Philip. His drained eyes stared back, passively. Philip was right. He always slept heavily when the Moon was absent from the sky. It left him more exhausted than before he fell asleep. He had learned it was a common phenomenon, but that did nothing against the bullying.
“Whatever happened to ‘Blind Boy’ anyway?”
“That was last semester. It didn’t stick long,” Philip dismissed the question. “Besides, ‘Ghost’ fits you best. Your eyes are vacant of life.” He lifted a hand to point in Samuel’s face. He then added, with some theatrical flair, “They drain the life out of those you gaze upon, Watson.”
“Would that not leave you dead at this point? This should have been a Halloween prank,” the seventeen-year-old moaned. He was too tired for this. At this point one would think Philip Moore had a crush on him.
“I have immunity to you,” the bully said with a victorious huff. “It’s from being your roommate for four years.”
“I didn’t assign the dormitories. Believe you me, I’d rather I roomed alone.” His voice sounded sad as he said that. Samuel did not want to be alone. The youth just could not bear the ridicule. He had no friends. His parents view him as an asset. His only comfort came in his sleep.
“I’d gladly be done with you, bastard!” Philip dropped his jester act. His obsidian eyes hardened, glazed with irritation. “Your kind has no business in our ranks! If you weren’t adopted to inherit the Watson estate, you’d still be in that orphanage where you belong!”
“Mr. Moore,” a chaperone spoke up, “there will be none of that. A gentleman mustn’t shame his image so forwardly. Mr. Watson’s heritage is hardly questionable when your boorish behavior mars your own. Your father’s patronage will not save your face away from campus.”
The snickers after the chaperone’s scolding only made Philip growl. Samuel glanced away from the whole scene. He had not asked for adult help. It only made the bullying worse. It was not as if Philip was wrong, either. He was adopted, but his father held no love for him. He did not know Sir Watson aside from his face.
“Have you something you wish to say, Mr. Moore?” the chaperone looked the defiant youth in the eye.
“Every year …” Philip snarled, “every year I ask for my roommate to change, and it’s denied. Hang it all to character and humility rubbish! He’s a bloody witch!”
“Philip …” Some of the boys tried to shush him, but he ignored their warnings.
“He’s cursed or something!” The livid youth turned to point at Samuel again. “He’s a pest, a leech! I wish he never woke from that eerie sleep of his!”
Silence fell as a gunshot rang through the hallway. The young men flinched, ducking. Samuel turned around to see a man at the end of the hall, shuffling forward with a pistol. He swallowed the nerves bunching in his throat, hoping the excited gunman would calm from the lack of resistance.
“Right! All of you, on your knees and put your hands behind your heads!” The man appeared desperate and unaccustomed to indulging in such activities. After discharging his weapon so soon, there was little doubt the guard and security would handle this in a jiffy. Although, security would lose face for allowing an unstable individual to enter with a pistol. In the meantime, Samuel would comply and wait.
“I’d do as he says, mates,” he said in a calm tone. He showed his classmates what to do, hoping they would not be too proud to kneel. “Nothing else to do about it.”
“Your mate’s pretty wise,” the anxious man huffed. He grinned, relieved. “You’ll live longer if you do as he says!”
One after the other, the students and chaperones followed the youth’s example until Philip was the last one standing. Samuel glanced up, trying to fathom what his roommate was thinking. It was no brave effort on Philip’s part – he was frozen in fear. His eyes were dilated from shock. Samuel saw cold sweat glistening on his neck, soaking into his collar. This was not good.
“Philip,” he spoke softly. “Phil, you need to kneel down. It’s all right. Just kneel, mate.”
“I … can’t … I can’t move … my body,” Philip stammered a hoarse whisper. As the closest person to him, only Samuel could hear him. “It won’t … it won’t listen ….”
“Get on your knees or I’ll blow your bloody head off!”
The gunman grabbed his gun with both hands, trying to hide his own terror.
He was losing his control. People would get hurt if this progressed further. The young man did not want to watch that. He swallowed his nerves to address the gunman.
“Please, sir,” Samuel pleaded. “He’s just got a fright. Yelling will only make him worse, I assure you.”
“Shut your trap!” The gun turned toward Samuel for a moment. “I said everyone on their knees!” He turned the gun back to the scared teenager. “On the floor!”
Philip yelped like a chastised child. The cry made the man shake. Were those tears in his wide eyes? Samuel could not be sure with his attention split about the hall. The chaperones tried to calm the young man into obeying, but it only made him stiffen more.
Samuel gaped in dismay as things spiraled faster than hail fell. As voices climbed and tensions grew, his gray gaze found guards coming down the hall just as he had predicted. If only he could calm everyone, the professionals would handle this.
The youth bit his cheek, grounding his fear. He had to turn things around. Something inside him compelled to, despite how his peers treated him. He was different. It was not an act of heroism; it was the right thing to do. That was all he tried to do. Philip was a bully and a fool, but he was young. He could still learn.
“Sir, please ….” He paused finding his voice again, “Please, don’t be hasty. I’m sure if we calm down, Philip here will gladly do as you say.”
“Shut up, you! I can’t take you anymore! No more! Don’t tell me to calm down! I don’t need a boy telling me what to do, too! If he doesn’t kneel, I’ll blow his block off!”
“No, please!” Philip cried, covering his head.
The cry made Samuel jump up, standing between the man and boy. He held up his hands to shield his schoolmate. Philip glanced up in time to see the gunman flinch.
A shot rang out, and Samuel fell backward. Philip could not move in time to dodge the fall, bringing them both to the ground. He shook his head as the ringing in his ears died, blinking away the daze. The shaken youth shifted Samuel’s form aside to allow him to sit upright. He looked at his roommate, gawking in horror. A bloody hole remained of his left eye socket. Blood had splattered over them both. The right gray, pupil-less eye, gaped at nothing.
“Sam …? Samuel …?” Philip reached his arms around the lifeless youth as gingerly as possible. “Sam, wake up … wake up, mate … wake up!”
The cries reached Samuel’s ears through a foggy filter. When his vision returned to him, he saw Philip Moore holding a limp form in a close embrace. A strange breeze caught him up, carrying him away from the scene. As he drew further away, he saw his face covered in wet crimson. He gaped in horror. What in the world happened?!
Everything faded to black. Philip’s voice followed soon after. Was this what happened when people died? Theologians were misinformed if this was the next stage of existence. Why was he of conscious mind and processing information? This was more like falling asleep.
A familiar embrace wrapped around Samuel’s waist. Drawn close, the teenager calmed, leaning his face to the person’s shoulder. Nestling into the rich, earthen brown locks, he reached about the white gown. He had felt this presence in his dreams so many times. It had to be her.
“Be not afraid, my boy,” a soothing voice whispered in his ear. “Soon your eyes will open. Where you are going, I cannot follow.” The voice saddened as she continued, and her voice sounded as if it might crack. “I pray you remain well until I can hold you again.” The embrace released him, leaving him to fall backward.
“Mother?” Samuel, bewildered, gawked back at the beautiful woman. A tear rolled down her cheek as she reached toward him. The youth had never seen her weep before. What was going on? Where was he going? “Mother!”
As his hands reached for her, a strange force dragged him away at an alarming speed. He gaped in the dark. There was no air in this abyss. When had that happened? His hands groped in panic as his chest burned from lack of oxygen. Though he tried, his neck could not turn enough to see where he was going. Where in the world was he? Outer space?
Just when he thought it was over, air rushed past him. Frantic, Samuel gasped as his lips took in thin oxygen. Again, he tried to look behind him to no avail. Above him, a crystal blue sky took form. As the black emptiness faded away, he gaped in awe, for he had never seen such pure blue in his life. It was astonishing.
“Wait. That would mean I … I’m falling from the sky!”