//this is the censored ver.
“What?!” Stephanie exclaimed, her stuff clattering over her desk. “You’re going to North Vale?!”
I shrugged my shoulders, ignoring three of our classmates turning their heads due to Stephanie’s scream. I finished copying the notes on the blackboard. I only had one week before I could transfer to the infamous North Vale, a rehabilitation school meant for kids who committed terrible, terrible crimes, and apparently, for my dad, I’m the same as those kids.
“But…but you’re going to die there!” she said, her face going pale from the news I brought her.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” I said, rolling my eyes at her. North Vale couldn’t be that bad, right? Sure, there were infinite rumors that the school was danger filled with kids who committed heinous crimes. It’s basically a juvenile prison meant to reform the children and be the hope of the future, something bullshit like that. I wouldn’t lie, I’m scared of those rumors. North Vale certainly didn’t have a fantastic reputation, and everyone knew that. But of course, those were just rumors. And the fact that the government itself was kind of promoting North Vale as they approved of their mission and vision, many parents or guardians trust the institution.
No one really knew what happens inside North Vale’s walls, hell, not a lot of people exactly know where the school was located and what it looked like. Information was withheld from the public as North Vale was considered exclusive and secured due to various reasons. Not all students who go there were sane in the head—obviously, they committed crimes at such a young age, of course, they’re not normal.
But if that’s what dad wanted, then I had no choice but to obey. I disappointed one of the most important people in my life so many times because I refuse to listen. Dad was afraid that the same thing that happened to mom would happen to me, and he didn’t want that. He’s doing everything he could to protect me, had been patient with me for almost all the time and he’s fed up. I kept messing everything and dad was tired of my shit.
He wanted what’s best for me, and I understand.
I had to do everything to gain back dad’s trust.
And if I had to go to North Vale to earn that trust again, then so be it.
“You’re going to die.”
Stephanie and I snapped our heads at Joshua who just spoke. He was the one sitting in front of our desks and was usually the bizarre kid in class. He was into weird stuff like the deep web, conspiracy theories, witchcrafts, and whatever dark shit he could find on the internet. He gave us an eerie gaze, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively.
“What the hell are you talking about?” I snapped, playfully glaring at him.
He turned to us, scooting his chair closer to our desks as he leaned closer to whisper, “because North Vale is a place ruled by the Mafia.”
Stephanie gasped, believing Joshua’s ridiculous claims about North Vale. Sure, they were sketchy, but I doubt they were managed by the Mafia.
“What?” I asked, raising a brow at him. I didn’t hide that I find what he said outrageous but at the back of my mind, I was scared. I knew nothing about the Mafia except that they kill people, that’s all. They’re the definition of evil, and I didn’t want to be associated with people like them.
No, you got this, Iza.
Do this for your father.
“I know someone who went to North Vale. A kid of our neighbor,” he said, his lips curling into that annoying smirk whenever he’s trying to scare people with whatever spooky stuff he had knowledge with. “And he never came back alive.”
Stephanie groaned at Joshua. “Shut up! Don’t scare Iza, you idiot!”
“I’m not lying!” he defended, pouting at her. “It’s true! There’s even a forum going around in the deep web and what horrendous things they’re doing in that school!”
“And you believe some random forum in some deep web?” Stephanie retorted, rolling her eyes at him.
Joshua gritted his teeth. Suddenly, he pulled out his phone from his pocket, browsing through his apps to show us something. “Come, look,” he said, motioning us to come closer. He put his phone down on Stephanie’s desk and showed us a special browser used to access the deep web.
I never had an interest in any of this as I wasn’t really big into social media and phone and whatever teenagers were into it nowadays. Sure, I owned a phone and all, but I only use it to contact my family and Stephanie.
Navigating the website that looked too dark and messy to even understand, Joshua revealed to us what forum he was talking about. “This is it,” he muttered, showing he dozens of links in the site.
Stephanie veered towards the phone to see and I briefly saw Joshua’s cheeks turned slightly red. He focused on his phone to let us see what he was talking about, ignoring my best friend’s presence.
“There’s lots disturbing things here so don’t overreact, okay? I don’t want my phone confiscated,” Joshua reminded.
He clicked one link and the page loaded after a few seconds. Stephanie and I saw a place that seemed like a bathroom, with the lights coming from above. It was dark, but we could see the tiled floor and urinals on the wall—wait, what?
“What exactly are we watching here?” I asked.
I went straight home after classes finished, storming inside the house to find dad. “Dad! Dad!” I screamed. I dropped my bag on the floor and barged inside his room only to find him taking a nap. He must have just got home from work. “Dad!”
He immediately got up, startled. “W-what?”
“I don’t want to go to North Vale!”
“What?” dad asked, rubbing his face.
“Joshua told me about the things happening in the place! People getting r*ped, dad! R*ped!”
“Calm down,” dad said, pushing me off him as I was shaking him like it’d help him realize that it’s a bad decision to send me to that school. “What happened?”
I tried to relax but I couldn’t. I had been thinking about that particular video Joshua showed me and it’s still bothering me. I couldn’t take it off my mind. “Dad,” I said, swallowing the lump in my throat before continuing, “North Vale isn’t safe.”
Dad only raised a brow, bemused. “And what makes you say that?”
“There’s a video on the internet that shows students getting r*ped in that school,” I answered, hoping and praying to God that he’d believe me. I’d do anything he asks just to forgive me, but I refuse to go to North Vale. No way!
“Isaiah,” dad said my name, and I knew at that point that he had made his mind. “Danilo said his nephew went to North Vale before. Do you remember Ato?”
I scrunched my face after hearing that foul name. Ato was the all-around troublemaker, often threatening people in our place. He thinks he had all the power in the world just because he had an uncle who’s a police officer. People like him annoyed me to high heavens, assuming he could do whatever he wanted; picking up fights from random people passing by, disrespecting women like they were whores, ugh, every time I remember that ugly face, I’m enraged.
I remembered when Ato suddenly attempted to pick up a fight with his neighbor just because they didn’t let him borrow money. He threatened to kill the family, barging into their house and waving a god damn machete like a lunatic. Of course, police were involved, and he was finally detained.
There’s been a rumor that he’s been taking drugs from the local gangs and it was obvious. The idiot’s not in his right mind.
After that incident, Ato just vanished. He was never seen in our place again and everyone assumed he moved to the province and was hidden there by his family. It turned out that he went to North Vale for rehabilitation.
“What about that guy?” I asked, and I couldn’t bother to sound like I was interested to hear anything about him.
Dad sat up straight and looked at me. “He went to North Vale for four years and finally finished senior high.”
“And? Is he worse than before?” I asked, sarcastically.
He gave me a sharp glare and I cringed. I shouldn’t have asked that. “He’s now working as an engineer, Isaiah. In a very prestigious firm in Manila.”
To say that I wasn’t shocked would be a lie. “What?” I asked, my eyes widening in pure wonder. “How?”
“Because of North Vale,” dad replied, smiling at me. “Not only did they help Ato with his rehabilitation, but they also made sure he could get a great job after graduating from North Vale.”
I was speechless.
“Danilo told me that he now has a family and is living in a very nice condominium,” dad added.
“B-but the rumors, t-the r*pe!”
Dad sighed. “Those were just rumors, Isaiah. Do you think I’ll let you go to a dangerous place? I did my research about North Vale. Danilo convinced me that they’ll help you change. Right now, you have a lot of energy that needs to be…let go,” he carefully explained. “I know you still haven’t moved on after your mother’s death, you’re still angry—”
I inwardly grunted. “I don’t want to talk about that, dad,” I interrupted.
“—but,” dad said, ignoring my request, “this is the perfect opportunity for you to change your behavior and learn a little bit of a lesson.”
I pursed my lips at him. “You just want me out of the house, don’t you?” I murmured.
“Of course not. I want what’s best for you, son,” dad said, smiling kindly at me. “And North Vale is the best option for you.”
I took a deep breath before releasing it all out. “You’re willingly sending me to prison, dad.”
“North Vale isn’t a prison. It’s a place that will help you get a better future,” dad explained. I looked into his eyes and saw the exhaustion behind it, and I felt guilty. Dad had been dealing with my shit for years. I was getting into trouble everywhere I go, I’m no better than Ato. Just because my intentions were different doesn’t mean what I was doing was right. I’d been sticking my neck out for other people, getting involved in trouble that I had no business with, being suspended multiple times, and humiliating dad every time he goes to school to talk to the guidance counselor.
It’s unfair but I could see where dad’s coming from.
And I already said that I’d do anything for him to forgive me.
I had to erase that disturbing video in my head. Almost everything on the internet was fake. I needed to believe dad’s words over those forums. He knew what’s better for me and wouldn’t let anything harm me.
“Okay,” I said, forcing a smile at him. “I’ll miss you and Sam.”
Dad pulled me close to give me a hug. “Don’t worry, we’ll always be here for you, okay?”
I rested my head on his chest, nodding. “I know.”
Three days had passed by quickly. I woke up on a Saturday, dreading for that moment. The moment that dad would enroll me in North Vale. Officer Danilo came over a few days before, instructing dad where to go to admit me to the infamous institution in the Philippines. Was I looking forward to this day? Of course not. Why would I when I’m about to leave Stephanie and my other classmates that I had been friends with for years. Transferring to another school in the middle of the school year, I’m sure it wouldn’t have a good impression on the students in North Vale. Even if I had done nothing wrong, unlike the majority of the students there, I still fear they’d look at me as if I’m the new inmate or something like that.
I wouldn’t be surprised if I get bullied but hey, all the years of being trained to become a man would obviously come in handy,
Dad woke up early to get ready. Sam would be staying at Officer Danilo’s house for a while, as their family had been our close friends. We lived in the same neighborhood and most people tend to take care of each other in places like this.
I took a bath, put my clothes on, and stared at myself in front of the mirror for a long time. I pushed my hair back like I always do and stood for a good minute before finally leaving my room. Sam had her bag ready to go to Officer Danilo’s place and when she saw me, she pouted. “Why can’t I come with you?” she asked. “I want to go too!”
“No, you can’t,” I said, pulling her to the dining table to eat breakfast. “Don’t you have a project you need to finish this weekend?” I asked.
I prepared Sam’s plate, putting a good number of hotdogs and a cup of rice for her. For her age, she’s already a lot more mature than her classmates. I gave her the usual spoon and fork that she uses and watched her eat before I do.
I wouldn’t deny, I’d miss babying this little brat.
Dad entered the room and prepared his coffee. He was dressed in formal attire, and so was I. Officer Danilo said that one of North Vale’s office was in Manila. It’d take us two hours to get even if it was usually a thirty-minute drive from where we lived. But like dad used to say, never underestimate traffic.
“What exactly is North Vale?” Sam asked, turning to me. I bit the hotdog in half and ate it. “Isn’t that like…a bad place?”
See, even my little sister knew about the bad reputation North Vale had. “It’s not,” I said, grinning at her. “It’s the perfect place to get away from you,” I teased.
Sam pouted. “Why can’t I go to North Vale too?”
“Because they only accept beautiful people, like me,” I sarcastically said, and Sam finally hit me on the arm.
“Stop fighting,” dad said sternly, and we did.
Sam sat straight on her chair and ate her food in silence. “Are you really going away, Isaiah?” she carefully asked.
I stared at her. “It’s for the better,” I said, glancing at dad to see his reaction. Unfortunately, he didn’t look perturbed that he’s separating his children away from each other. But like I said over and over again, this was for my sake.
“Can’t I come?” she asked, again. My heart broke when she looked at me like a kicked puppy. Ever since mom died, Sam had been dependent on me. Dad was always busy with work and as her older brother, I take it as my responsibility to take care of her.
I smiled at her. “Right now, you need to focus on school, okay? You do your best, and I’ll do mine.”
Sam lowered her head, her lips forming another adorable pout.
“Okay, but promise me you’ll come back soon, okay?”
I kissed her on her forehead and nodded. “Of course. I promise.”
// latest chapters are available on Patreon (uncensored) and Radish (censored).
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