Chapter Three. Sarina.
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“She keeps looking at you,” the blonde girl told him confidently, holding her hand in front of her mouth.
He sunk lower in his seat, wishing she could have been a little less apparent in telling him. He already knew that and hadn’t minded it too much, but the new girl had obviously heard, and now averted her steady gaze in embarrassment. The blonde looked disgustedly down the row of seats at the subject, clearly thinking she had done him a favor by involving his awareness, and he didn’t have the heart to disagree. He looked away and tried to tune back in to what the teacher was saying. Something about myths.
“—There are a lot of myths in society today that are not necessarily titled ‘myths’ but stand for the same thing. A myth can be a fable, or prose, but each is always intertwined with meaning; each myth is a myth because they teach us lessons. Another characteristic of a myth is a hero. Can anyone think of a good definition of a hero?”
This was a pretty profound question for the first day back to class. Nobody raised their hands, and it didn’t seem to surprise the history teacher. He called on somebody for an answer. “Reid?”
The victim, a skinny brown-haired boy with a spiked earring, turned around to look startled. Who, me? His reply was slow and evasive. “Hero? Like… Spiderman?”
“Spiderman, okay… anybody else? How about, who can tell me one of their favorite myths and include the major role of the hero in it? Ouisch?”
I had been nodding off reluctantly, playing narrative in my head; I jerked awake when the teacher abruptly sneezed… no, not a sneeze. He’d called on the new girl. Her name was Ouisch, I thought, and watched her speak now, turning the odd-sounding syllables over and over again in my mind.
Ouisch seemed to be thinking out her answer. Her hands moved restlessly, and Bowman and I watched them with some fascination. She wore a chunky silver ring on one finger, of two skeletons cleverly intertwined. There was a small but sharp tattoo in the space above her left thumb. Her nails were bitten to the quick, and the wreckage concealed in black polish.
“One of the few myths that I can remember,” she said presently, “had to do with the end of the world. A group of people believed that the dawn of man was over, and there was not much time left to be alive in a world where we are in control. They claimed there was a hole in California where those who knew about it could go and be safe from the chaos of the world. That was their belief; that the end was coming, and those who believed in such things could escape fate. Like those good Christians that go to heaven, and all that.”
The teacher was giving her a bizarre look, and Bowman looked enthralled at the callous yet mild sound of her chain-smoking tenor. He saw that she carefully avoided his gaze. Neither of them noticed mine.
“Does this myth have a name?” the history teacher asked. “Who is the hero here?”
The peculiar girl sighed, chewing on her lip ring, and her stub fingers drummed the table. She looked irritated that he had to ask. “Well, I suppose that the hero is the one who finds this hole, and who places his followers, his “Family”, in it… Which, thus supposing, I guess the name of the myth would be called Helter Skelter, with the hero being Charles Manson.”
There was a little hush in the classroom, and then the bell rang, signaling the start of the next period, but not a single person left their seat. Finally, someone giggled, and slowly people rose and departed from the room. Bowman blinked, looked at his own hands, and felt uncomfortable.
I, however, felt intrigued. Though it was yet to be determined whether or not I would appreciate this newcomer, it was nice to have someone on campus that was different.
All day long I listened as whispers ensued, whispers that eventually became redundant, because they all started with, “I heard…” or “Did you know…?”, though nobody seemed to have actually spoken with her yet. People craned their necks to stare at the strange girl dressed in black, who paced the campus to and from each class, doubled into herself, minding her own business. Sometimes they would match her pace and walk with her for a little ways, attempting curious conversation, but all they could extract from her was her name. All day long people tried this, but when her cold reception finally outweighed the novelty of having a new student, they left her alone. It was a small school. They thought she’d warm up sooner than later. Meanwhile, the girl ignored them all like they didn’t exist.
Of course, I had been watching her all day too. In World Cultures, she was restless. In English, she sat is if in stone. In Algebra, she’d fallen asleep on her desk.
She had a bruised, uninhibited feel to her, I thought. Probably could have used a better Christmas dinner this past holiday than whatever it was she got. What Ouisch said in World Cultures was surprising, but not shocking. I had an interest in Manson myself, though I’d never mentioned it in class.
I sat in the big window in the dining hall and watched the skinny new girl hunch across the quad, and watched her cloud of red hair float along like an accompanying spirit at her shoulder. Red hair was lovely, but my own hair was black, and straight, and long, and worn past the shoulders as was required in Navaho tradition. Perhaps a little longer even, because my family was real old-fashioned in that way. That’s one thing that sucks about having pride; you have to be consistent.
I watched Ouisch bounce past again, watched those red, wavy locks, and sort of sighed. Damn bitch. She probably didn’t even know how pretty she was.
“Feed me,” said the little purple and green alien perched on the nightstand.
“No,” said Emma angrily.
“Mm…yes,” said the furry creature.
“Goddammit, I said no.”
“Emma, do those things even eat?” I asked, mildly amused and examining the box it had come in.
“Fuck, I don’t know,” she replied bitterly.
“Feed me,” said the furby.
She ignored it, and sat on the edge of her bed and watched me instead. “My great-aunt sent it,” she explained, while my eyes passed over the choking hazard label and inspected the instructions with great patience. “She must just think that when I hit five I just decided to never get any older. But I mean, shit. I saw her at a family reunion a few months ago and I certainly don’t look five, do I?”
“No, you don’t,” I commented, and noticed that the price tag stamped on the back of the empty box had been scribbled out of existence with a felt-tipped marker. That was definite sign of a great-aunt’s involvement indeed; the burning desire to hide expense from her progeny. Relatives did that.
“God, I loath the idea of getting that old,” Emma said quietly, staring past her roommate at, assumedly, nothing.
“Why. How old is your great-aunt?”
“Pretty old, if she’s sending a highschool senior a furby… but, fuck. Butt-fuck. Christ, I don’t know how old she is. She doesn’t have any teeth.
“Old,” she decided.
“Old,” repeated the creature on the nightstand, and began to gurgle shrilly.
Emma and I watched it silently with distrust. “I think it’s choking,” I said.
“Good,” chirped the furby.
“Hey, Emma, it’s mimicking you,” I muttered curiously.
“Little bastard,” growled my friend. She got up and grabbed the box out of her hands. “Anyways, yeah, look here. It says you can teach it to say shit.”
“Wow,” I yawned.
“Please feed me,” the furby asked, staring at us with plastic hope in its bulbous bubble eyes.
Emma threw the box down and paced back to her bed, snatching up the furby from the desk and holding it close to her face. “Who taught it ‘feed me’?”
“Feed?” peeped the toy again.
“Shut up, you little demon weasel,” Emma snarled at it, and stared. “Why do people make these kind of things, anyway?” she said to me. “You’d something this ugly would scare the living crap out of little kids, not amuse them.”
“Let’s light it on fire,” I suggested peacefully.
Emma was nose to nose with the furby. The little toy’s plastic beak opened and closed silently. “Fuck you,” she told it solemnly.
The creature was silent.
“Come on, now repeat me. Say ‘fuck you’.”
Still nothing. Maybe it had an “Anti-Vulgarity” feature.
“Fuck you!” Emma screamed at it. She began shaking it violently, causing its eyes to widen with horror and practically pop out of its body/head, and then the crazy thing began screaming along with her in its own shrill gibberish.
I couldn’t contain myself. I started to laugh.
“Fuck yooooooou,” shrieked Emma, and then the door opened.
“Hey there,” said Molly in her soft voice, and she was just in time to see Emma leap to her feet and give the furby her specialty whirling fastball throw straight out the open window.
“Oh my god!” she cried, and rushed to the windowsill. “Did you just throw a cat?”
Bowman had been walking innocently to his next class, and was just passing the East dormitory when the plastic bottom of a flying screaming ball of purple and green collided painfully with his ear, and he sat down hard in the gravel.
Emma joined Molly at the window. “That wasn’t a cat,” she scoffed at her, and leaned out. “Hey, you down there!”
Holding his head with one hand, Bowman brushed his comb-over out of his eyes with the other and looked up, blinking in the sun.
“Throw me that ugly little rat over there, wont you?”
Bowman picked up the toy and shakily stood up.
“It’s a rat?” Molly asked hesitantly.
“No,” said Emma abruptly, “it’s a furby. Throw it here!” she called for a second time. The furby came hurtling upwards, but hit the wall above them and fell back down.
Molly looked confused for a moment, but then her face brightened. “A… what? Oh, right! I remember those from back in the day. What are you going to do with it?”
“Well, actually, I originally threw it out the window and had planned on not retrieving it,” Emma replied.
“Oh. Hey, are you okay?” Molly called down to Bowman, as she and Emma watched him wade through the bushes beneath the window to rescue the creature.
“Poor Bowman,” Emma said to no one in particular. “Out of every single person on this campus, he is the one who least deserves being hit in the head by that little piece of dog shit. Sorry!” She called down to him, and then gave me a look when I cracked up again.
“I’m okay!” The boy called back with considerable cheerfulness, and then threw the furby for a second time.
Now Molly caught it. “Thank you,” she said to the boy, and he waved and continued on his way, holding his head. She turned to Emma. “Don’t throw it away,” she pleaded.
Emma glanced over at me and then threw herself on the bed, rolling on her side with her back to us. I could tell she still felt bad about hitting Bowman. Suddenly, I did too. I quit laughing. “Then take it. You can have it; I don’t fucking want it.”
Molly examined the undamaged little toy with interest as it opened its mouth and began to babble again. “I’ve heard about these things, but I’ve never actually owned one.” She looked at them. “What do they do?”
I shrugged and scowled at her. “They talk, if you can even call it that, but I don’t know what else.”
From the bed, Emma snorted. “But you can’t even teach the damn thing any new phrases,” she said, still facing the wall. “It says ‘feed me’, over and over.”
Molly stared at the hideous, furred toy. “It’s kind of creepy… but sort of cute, too, I guess.
“You’re a nice little furby, aren’t you? Yes, I think you are. Hey, can you say, ‘Hello?’”
“Fuck you,” gurgled the furby, and turned its ugly plastic beak up into what someone had imagined a smile should look like, as Emma and I cracked up together.
Emma’s friend Molly was definitely not the dictionary definition of the American norm, but she would have considered herself close. All the Alaskan wanted was a perfect world where she could find a Bob, be drug-free innocent, and live out her life just like in those ideal-family commercials, the ones where the husband walks in and calls out to the house, ‘Honey, I’m home!’
That’s right, a Bob. Just talk to her. She’ll tell you all about it.
But looking at her, one would immediately know that there was something else going on. Even her appearance contradicted her belief in a perfect 1950’s world. She wore rainbow suspenders and torn pinstripe pants the day she got back from Christmas vacation, and the sweatshirt that said “Alaskan-Grown”. If one looked closer you could have seen she wore bowling shoes. Her hair was bright purple. She was always a wee bit faded around the edges from all the migraine medication she took, and tried to hide it with this shaky, astonished laugh that made people check her face for tears.
Molly was one of those kinds of people who wanted everything to be like it was in the storybooks, in the good old days… but they themselves are completely unequipped to deal with such a world, and they wonder why they are unhappy.
Molly was sitting in East common room later that afternoon, watching TV with me and a few other dorm residents on the ratty blue couches. It was a movie that you may watch the whole way through but can’t remember the name of it the next day. At the time I was seriously considering getting up and watching a better movie in the privacy of my own room, maybe the Crow, because God knows how Emma convinced me to be there socializing in the first place, but since I lived on the top floor I was stalling simply out of pure laziness. It was then that the new girl walked in.
She chose an interesting time to enter, right when one of the actresses let out an awful scream and lots of very fake gore ensued, with the knife flashing against the screen as the killer stabbed his victim. I was trying to ignore Molly at the time, but without much success. She was clutching her pink-and-green blanket so tight the stitching creaked, with her soft mouth puckered into a stupid O shape. I wanted to stab her too. She was the only one that didn’t look up when Ouisch entered.
Now, fuck me if the new girl really expected us to be there or not, but either way she looked surprised and stood there like an idiot while we all gaped back at her.
Finally, Molly broke the silence by letting out a huge scream and pulling the covers up to her nose, and it was then she too noticed Ouisch.
The two of them locked eyes, and Ouisch was gone on down the corridor. Molly’s mouth was still open. “Did you see that?” she squeaked indignantly at me, looking hurt, “she just totally glared at me!”
Slowly, everyone exchanged glances and without a word went back to the TV, as Molly pouted sullenly. I didn’t even blink, because I still wanted to stab her, but no one else blinked either, because we’re all used to her overreactions.
However, I did give Ouisch a serious moment’s ponder as I sat on the couch.
There was an old saying that “VVS can be your adopted home, but only if you don’t have a home to go home to.” Meaning, people that enrolled either loved or detested the school, depending on if they had more freedom and luxuries back home. For some, Verde Valley School was all they had. These students, the ones who’d been abused, infused with self-hate, and shipped away, were the ones who got themselves most submerged in the community. It was like a cult. Turning them into VVS brand just took some time.
Our very own Family, I thought with amusement.
There had been something like open malice in the new girl’s eyes. Molly’s feelings were inflated anyway and didn’t really matter, but this girl did live here now… and since us East girls were the ones who would have to interact with her attitude the most, perhaps in due time somebody should had a little chat with Ouisch…
Before she got too comfortable.
But no point in planning it now, I thought, and turned my attention back to the TV. From the look of her, I’ve got a while.