03 | SHADY ATMOSPHERE
Mdm Yap was, in many aspects, similar to the receptionist in conduct; she was professional. She wished them a good experience at the 015 Academy, introduced them to the seating arrangements in the hall and even told them how much she respected Louis for the ‘good work he was doing out there’.
“Huh, I’m sure she really wanted to say shi—I mean, things like, ‘be glad you can come to our honourable school, you vermin!’” Ethan angsted as profanity-free as possible (he wasn’t that angered yet) and Em agreed readily, “And that comment towards Louis? I’m sure she didn’t mean it one bit. Everyone hates us and anyone associated with us, like Louis. Why would he even throw away his years of education and sign up for the job of dealing with us? We’re just Errors!”
For their very first day in the Academy, the Errors were to settle at the side of the hall, near the staircase leading up the stage, for they would be called upon when the Prime Minister arrived. The thought alone was able to rattle three out of four of the Errors—after all, he was the Prime Minister, and such an important person only appeared at the most important occasions. Did he really think that Project Correction 2.0 was important? The Errors truly thought the answer to that question was a big, fat NO in uppercase.
Students were beginning to gather in the hall, some of them using their SmartGlasses after they settled down in their respective seats. Eris assumed that they were most likely to be completing some undone homework, or using the SmartGlass for recreational purposes. Even though the four were seated at the top right-hand corner of the hall, that did not mean they did not feel the stares being shot at them from behind. Eli continued the action of whipping his head around time and again until Ethan gave him a rough shove as a warning. However, he began swinging his legs back and forth, which, as usual, annoyed Ethan to no end.
Unfortunately, before he could make up his mind on bashing the boy’s nose in, two prefects walked up the stage. Instantly, the entire hall went pin-drop quiet, the only sound being the footsteps of two pairs of feet. Eli turned around out of curiosity, only to see something rather unbelievable. Everyone, every single one of the normal, non-Error citizens were seated in their seats, legs together and their backs ramrod straight. Solemn looks had suddenly been painted across their face as they all looked straight ahead. Of course, there was the occasional twitch of their shoulders and their hands moving off their laps, but that was it.
How people were able to sit still and do something had always been a mystery for Eli. How the hell did they do it? How did they manage to focus their minds on one single thing and wipe everything else out of sight in the process? There was always so much going on all the time; he could never—
The girl tapped on something behind the podium and announced, “Please rise for our guest of honour, the Prime Minister of City 015, Mr Leland Yang!” Instantly, the entire hall of students and teachers rose from their seats and began clapping. After a second, Eris stood up too—clapping without expression, of course—and the Errors all followed suit even though they couldn’t see the person they were clapping for at the moment. After years of living together, the Errors also understood that Eris was the most logical person out of all of them and that copying her in times of doubt could never go wrong.
Soon, the Prime Minister and his congregation of bodyguards plus a few other people who looked influential and powerful settled down on the VIP seats at Mdm Yap’s gestures and words—the woman had suddenly began smiling a whole lot as she spoke to the powerful politicians and settled down besides them. Em wrinkled her nose at Mdm Yap for sucking up to a fake, hypocritical, ‘politically-correct’ Prime Minister as she continued clapping in slow, hard slaps of her hand against the other.
After the important guests had settled down, the rest of the hall sank into their seats. The Errors pulled Eli back down, whose delayed reaction had resulted in him clapping wildly for a second longer.
“Now let’s have the principal of the secondary sector, Mdm Yap, to start the school year with a few words.”
Ethan rolled his eyes and sulked, sliding down his seat as the woman went up the stage and began speaking about her hopes and dreams for the new term as well as academic milestones and other things he couldn’t give a single hoot about. “A few words my foot, more like a gazillion...” he whispered under his breath as he tuned it all out.
“Thank you, Mdm Yap,” the prefects had appeared again, “Now, we would like to invite Mr Leland Yang, our Prime Minister, to say a few words. Mr Yang, Sir, please.”
As the man ascended the stage and took over from the prefects, he began, “Thank you so much for inviting me. Now, I…”
Ethan tuned the Prime Minister out again. He was not interested to listen to a guy who left them to live in a run-down home filled with bland food and—
“Can we have the beneficiaries of Project Correction 2.0 on stage?”
“He’s asking for us? The Prime Minister! He wants us on stage!” Eli exclaimed, arms jerking once in excitement. Ethan snapped out of his angst and groaned. Em covered her face with her hands. Eris slowly stood up and looked up towards the stage, where Mr Yang looked back at her, nodding with an anticipating smile.
“We should go now.”
All eyes were on them as the Errors moved in single file up the staircase, giving them once-overs, trying to scrutinise the underdogs of City 015, as if wondering what they ever did to deserve to be in their current position of luck. There were no whispers or comments—that would be rude in the Prime Minister’s presence—but the stares and looks said it all as they moved to the centre of the stage, where Mr Yang asked them to stop moving.
Mr Yang gave them a warm smile, it seemed genuine enough, but it was known that his true thoughts were kept hidden, somewhere inside him covered with a lot of fancy wrapping paper. “Can you all give them a round of applause for being here with us, in this hall, for the very first time?”
The applause began again as the Errors stood before the crowd, more awkward than ever.
Forty-five minutes later, as the SmartGlasses locked responses and submitted them, Eris, Em and Ethan were sent outside of the exam room, leaving their blonde, ADHD friend inside the room due to his extra time arrangements. The principal had made them take a short, test covering randomly selected topics from the Primary Sector Leaving Examination syllabus—the PSLE was an exam that the students of the primary sector took in order to ascend to the secondary sector.
“Holy—guys? I thought the Academy had the advanced syllabus with higher order thinking and all that stuff… so why did I find this test easy?”
“Same, girl, same! What higher order thinking?” Ethan exclaimed in response, “We’ve been fooled, haven’t we?”
“Oh no, what if they were trick questions? What if all the MCQs were for incorrect answers, but we put correct answers? There’s a possibility, is there not?”
“I don’t remember seeing any of those. I think all the questions were asking for correct answers.” Eris stated, “About the test standard, perhaps there is more to it than meets the eye—”
“Perhaps we have been studying something much harder than the other kids, contrary to popular belief. It would explain why we have difficulty attaining anything above eighty-five percent.”
“But we’re Errors, Eris. The government wouldn’t waste precious resources on us! They all hate us, remember. Plus… you did get eighty-five and a half before. And eighty six, yes!” Em stated, getting somewhat jealous as she remembered Eris’ stellar grades once more. It just wasn’t fair; why was Eris so smart?
“Girl, I would be satisfied if I even got seventy,” Ethan said, “Don’t be so perfectionist—”
“I do not care to be perfectionist; I merely work to the best of my ability because I do not see a point in doing otherwise.”
“Ugh, can you two stop?” Em rasped, covering her face with her palms as she felt a sudden sadness plague her. “Look, now you’ve triggered Em!” Ethan accused, giving Eris a glare as he tried to pat Em on the back in an attempt to comfort the girl. Eris was about to point out that they had in fact started the conversation and that Ethan was too to blame, but decided against it. She settled down on a seat outside the room as the other two did the same. An awkward silence settled down on the three Errors as they waited.
A while later, Eli came skipping out of the room and the Errors shifted in their seats outside the room. “Whoo, that was easy! Mdm Yap said to go in now!”
The Errors filed into the room once again and took their original seats. Mdm Yap’s eyes were wide as she studied the results of the test flashed on the big screen.
ERIS - 100%
ETHAN - 90%
EMELINE - 94%
ELIJAH - 92%
“Whoaaa!” Ethan exclaimed—it was the highest grade he’d ever gotten on any academic-related test! “Hundred percent? Y-you robot!” Em whined as Eris remained indifferent to her perfect test result. “Not fair! Why are you so smart?!”
The woman sighed as she forced a smile onto her face. “I can see why they said you four were gifted. Congratulations, students, you’ve earned yourselves spots in Secondary 1.01.”
Em was astonished. “1.01? Isn’t it...”
“The class for the most academically inclined of the cohort, yes. Biology class should be beginning soon for the secondary one students. Grab your things and hurry along, now. Things move fast around here; use your SmartGlasses to find your way to 1.01. Have an enriching first day.”
As the Errors grabbed their stuff and left, thanking the principal profusely, the unanswered questioned flung aside in pursuit of their new education. All of them but Eris.
Eris could sense it—even if she was emotionless and was also unable to care about others at all due to her defect, it didn’t mean she was able to detach herself from the shady atmosphere she felt descending upon her. The entire situation was strange and demanded answers, but Eris wasn’t about to gather information. It would be stupid to at this moment when they had a class to get to. As the Errors chatted animatedly walking before her, Eris turned back to watch the Principal, who was gathering her belongings on the teacher’s table. She turned back and continued walking as the memory of her conversation with the others filled her mind.
She didn’t care—but this strange occurrence was not to be ignored. As all things were connected to others in this world, Eris knew, deep down, that she was right. Even if the others got triggered, there was still more to this that met the eye—and she was certain that the truth would come to light one day.
But first, she and the others had to get through her next class.