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Chapter 3

Friday, February 23rd, 2029


After that kind of cliffhanger I was expecting some sort of super-secret lesson that would provide some of the answers for life. Of course, I was very disappointed when we were learning about beta and gamma radiation. The bell rings and I’m out of the door in seconds. There was one thing he talked about that sparked some kind of internal thought in me was actually on the subject of DNA. I don’t know how we arrived on the tangent. I think he was relating the different strands of DNA to the modifications by the different kinds of radiation, but he started talking about the unique structure of DNA.

He started on how we are so different from each other even though our genes are nearly identical, how slight gene manipulation can make the world of a difference if we have red hair or if we have cancer.

The chromosomes altered by radiation have even been studied microscopically to find out which exact chromosome causes which genetic disorders and the like. The entire subject of gene manipulation and modification sounds like such a touchy subject. If it isn’t handled in the precise way, you’ve either killed your subject or made him have some weird skin disease.

Of course, I can also see the benefits in searching through our genes to find out what makes us tick, what exactly drives us so far apart from one another. I keep thinking about genes and DNA well until I walk into my art class. My teacher, Mr. Dabney is this really old fellow. He looks to be about seventy years old, but he’s as spry as Mr. Conte. The few white hairs that haven’t receded from the top of his head try to blanket the bald scalp in a vain effort to cover it up. To the rest of us it just looks silly.

I set my books down once again on the table beside me and the rest of the students start pouring in. In walks Ethan, Nate, and Steve. They’re the stars of the football team and I can tell the only reason they’re in this class is because they need the art credit. Steve Brondo is broad-chested and has short dirty blonde hair. Ethan and Nate Scillipa are identical twins with similar builds, with short jet black hair. The only way I can ever tell the different between them is that Nate has blue eyes while Ethan has green.

After them comes Kyle Ross and Stephanie Lafarre. They’d been going out since the beginning of time, or so it seems. Kyle isn’t really in this class, he’s just acting like Stephanie’s escort, as if she couldn’t walk herself to class. After them walks in Gary and Lance, Gary is the teacher’s pet of this art class and I’m honestly surprised that he wasn’t here a little earlier. Lance looks like he took a few hits before school and they’ve already begun to dull his senses. Not even his long curly hair can hide the redness of his eyes.

Last but not least is Iris McCallum. Iris walks into the room and throws her satchel onto one of the nearby tables. She sighs loudly and takes a seat. She has her red hair all tied up. I can hear Ethan and Nate whispering to the side of me.

“What do you think it’ll take to just get a little of that ass?” Ethan whispers. Nate laughs and then Steve interrupts, “Hey, hey guys, wait a second, watch this,” he says.

Steve gets up and walks over to the other side of the room, “Hey, I heard that you like to dabble in the arts, how about you paint a portrait of me? We could do it after school and who knows? Maybe some extracurricular activity will be good for you,” he winks.

Iris stares at him with a blank look on her face. “A portrait? Sure, why don’t you grab an apple and shove it up your ass? I’d love to get a picture of that,” she says.

Steve’s face turns red for a moment and then he shakes his head. In the back I can hear Nate and Ethan laughing their asses off, “You might want to get that chronic bitch face treated before it spreads,” Steve replies. He looks around and then focuses in on me, “Why don’t you get a portrait of Johnny?” He says, turning to put an arm around my neck as if I were his buddy or something.

“I think you two would make a cute couple,” Nate howls.

Iris looks at me and then shakes her head, looking away. I put my head down because I can feel the blood rushing to my face. I hear some more howl from the other boys and then I hear the brittle voice of Mr. Dabney chime through.

“Okay, okay boys. That’s enough of your rough-housing. If you want to continue you can kindly do it in the office,” he says, unblinking.

I keep my head down and keep it there until the bell rings. I managed to catch glimpses of what Mr. Dabney was preaching about, it was something about some guy who cut off his ear or something. I don’t really know. I don’t really mind. I pick my head up and begin walking out of the room.

Routine, everything happening as it should, day after day. That’s the best word for a day like today, routine. The rest of the school day parades on as it always has and how it always will. Trigonometry is filled with near impossible questions, US History is filled with facts about what we used to be like as a country, et cetera.

The final bell rings and I stand up to leave English, tales of this Australian serial killer still roam through my mind. Apparently there was this dude in Australia back in the 1940s who went on a massacre on a bunch of school children because he had this weird jealousy that they had parents and he lost his or something early in life. Sounds scary enough. Nobody knows what his sentencing was, but I hope for the good of those families that he was put to death.

I’m walking down the second floor hallway as I pass Iris in the hall. My head seems to turn unconsciously as I look over to her and she seems to do the same to me. Time seems to slow and I catch a glimpse of her bright brown eyes. I see the light in them again, and I can hear the voice from my dream, but more faint.

“Down shall fall the cursed arch,

three days past the ides of march.

Once, the world was born of fire,

shall it perish, a doom’s desire. ”

Ides of March, that’s the fifteenth, right? So this is talking about three days after that, but what’s so special about the eighteenth of March?

Other students pass by me, some forcefully and others nearly invisibly. I pay them no mind. I stand there in the hallway for another few seconds before taking in a deep breath, remembering that oxygen is essential to staying alive. I blink a few times and continue walking down the hall, more eager now to leave this place for the day than ever. I jog down the stairs back to the first floor and take my first right into the auditorium lobby. I find it easier and much more efficient to leave through the exit that leads to the student parking lot, even if I don’t have a car.

I keep my fast pace and push open the doors using my free hand. I jump off of the stairs and land, bending my knees and transitioning back to my jogging pace, feeling the wind start to pick up underneath my feet. I look down at my watch and it shows that it is about ten degrees below freezing. I keep my pace, my books nearly shifting out from underneath my arm and then I come to the realization I never stopped by my locker on the way out.

I look down to my trig book, chemistry notebook, history notebook and my worn-and-torn copy of “Hamlet.” I shift my gaze back towards the school and then shake my head.

It isn’t worth the effort, I might as well drop them by the house.

The clouds in the sky overhang like primordial deities keeping score of our human affairs. I stare up at them for a few seconds before crossing the street. A good half an hour later I cross onto my street. I’m almost sprinting as sleet and hail pelt me from above, somewhat like the ancient cloud deities playing a practical joke.

I pass by the West’s house and then the Galfrey’s and finally the Hansons’ to turn sharply into my front lawn. The snow banks nearly catch my leg as I jump over them, but I recover and continue running. I look up at I cut the corner and leap onto the front porch.

I look to my watch and see it is half past three. My house is two stories tall and it’s got this really ugly color scheme. The house itself is a brownish color and the porch with the awning above it is this really dark hunter green. It’s so dark and it practically screams “TREES IN THE FOREST”, which really doesn’t fit the suburban lifestyle at all. The porch itself is made out of this really weird cobblestone-like stuff and it is raised up a few feet from the ground and when I land on it I have to wave my arms out to try and balance myself so I don’t fall over. I wave them in tiny circles and pull myself up, narrowly dodging a cracked skull or worse.

I walk up to the creaky wooden door and grab a hold of the handle. Locked.

I look to my right and notice that the family car is parked in the driveway and then the realization hits that my father is home from the bar early. This is never good. My father is really persistent on keeping the front door locked. It’s mainly because the Hanson’s German Sheppard, Minnie, always busts through the door like it’s nothing while he’s out and always makes a mess out of everything. The lock is the only thing that can keep the pooch out is for him to lock it near compulsively.

I reach into my pocket and dig out my spare key. The key works into the lock and I turn it. The door swings open easily enough and the first thing I can see is my father passed out in the recliner, facing me, but his head off to the side. I can see that the television set is on, but droning on with the volume turned down. I can also see drool hanging off the edge of his lip.

I make my way in and I close the door silently behind me. I sneak by soundlessly as I pass by and make it to the staircase. My mother is nowhere in sight, but she’s probably still at work. She works with elderly people in this one large nursing home across town. I make it up to my room and toss my wallet onto my end table. I jump onto my bed and stare up at my ceiling. It’s completely bare and the same color of white that my walls are. I stare at it until my eyes begin to droop and finally shut.

Blackness takes me in until I feel nothing. I hear a scream and sit up quickly. I look down to my watch and notice that I’ve fallen asleep for about an hour, it’s four thirty-nine.

I hop off of my bed and throw open my door.

“Dad? What is it? Hello?” I’m calling as I’m running down the stairs. I make it down to the living room to see my dad flailing in his chair while Minnie is standing on her hind paws licking his face. Her golden brown fur is matted with black spots and her bright blue eyes are full of what seems to be joy.

My father’s the exact opposite. He stands out of his chair quickly and nearly throws Minnie off of him. Her body nearly flies off of him and collides against the wall. She stands up and bolts out of the house, leaving the door wide open. “Why the hell was that mutt in here?” My father roars, focusing directly on me.

“I don’t know, sir,” I say.

He looks to the open door and then back to me, “Why is the door unlocked?”

I look to the door and put my head down, “I’m sorry, sir.” The hair on the back of my neck stands on end and I instantly know what is about to happen. I cringe slightly, but then I feel a cold balled-up fist slam against my head. My eyes seem to spin around a few times before I can see straight and then I see that I’m staring up at the ceiling.

“Get out of my sight,” my father says quietly and I can see he is trembling. I get up soundlessly and run up to my room, not caring for the tears obstructing my vision. Keep it in. Keep it in. I repeat my mantra over and over until I throw open my door and slam it shut. I throw myself onto my bed and just lie there. I lie motionless for what seems like hours until sleep finally takes me in.

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