One Little Moment

One Little Moment

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

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Details

Status: In Progress

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Summary

Strange things have been going on at the Melksham Oak Community school for some days, but elderly English teacher Percival Smith put it down to back to school jitters. Until, that is, he is led to a partially unconscious year seven girl by what appeared to be her twin sister. The other girl vanishes, and after looking at Holly’s file, Percival discovers that she’s an only child. Now, he believes that there’s something sinister happening, and his suspicions are confirmed after one of his students hands him a photograph of Holly an hour before she collapsed, in which Holly’s reflection is facing the wrong way. Who is the vanishing twin, and what is happening to the students' reflections? Aided by student Ruby Bishop, Percival is keen to put an end to the queer goings on before it results in the death of a student. For her part, Ruby is going to discover that her teacher is out of this world.
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Summary

Strange things have been going on at the Melksham Oak Community school for some days, but elderly English teacher Percival Smith put it down to back to school jitters. Until, that is, he is led to a partially unconscious year seven girl by what appeared to be her twin sister. The other girl vanishes, and after looking at Holly’s file, Percival discovers that she’s an only child. Now, he believes that there’s something sinister happening, and his suspicions are confirmed after one of his students hands him a photograph of Holly an hour before she collapsed, in which Holly’s reflection is facing the wrong way. Who is the vanishing twin, and what is happening to the students' reflections? Aided by student Ruby Bishop, Percival is keen to put an end to the queer goings on before it results in the death of a student. For her part, Ruby is going to discover that her teacher is out of this world.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter One

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 23, 2017

Reads: 74

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: April 23, 2017

A A A

A A A

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

Life. Life is a funny thing, built on seconds that tick by inconsequently, it’s momentous and unfathomable. No one knows when they’ll die, when the end will come.” Pausing, Percival Smith wrung his withered hands and smiled, almost mischievously, at the teenagers leant against their desks. “Oh! You can make educated guesses based on health and such forth, but you can’t tell for sure, and – short of freezing yourself – you cannot stop the decay caused by time. Or that’s what you’re told.”

Whirling, Percival snatched up the remote control from his desk, pointed it at the Smartboard, and jabbed a button with his forefinger. The first blank page of the slideshow flipped to the side, replaced by an old photograph of a gangly tree growing in a field. The smile changed into a grin as he pointed at this tree with his middle finger, the first still poised over the button. “But that’s not true. People stop it all the time without even noticing it. Of course, it’s not like they have a magic watch or a time machine, right? Wrong!” He turned back to his audience and slipped his mobile from his pocket, a slim device made of black plastic and glass with only one button, and held it up for them to see. “We carry a time machine with us all the time!” Confusion spread through the class, followed seconds later by whispers, like a ripple on a pond. Percival cleared his throat and the class settled back down, though their expressions remained a united look of confusion. “No, not my phone,” he told them gently as he slipped the phone back into his pocket, “the camera. Can anyone tell us how a camera is a time machine?”

One row from the front of the class, Ruby’s hand crept into the air, her fingers curled in on themselves in hesitation. He gestured for her to go ahead. “Well, um. It doesn’t really stop time or anything, but if you take a photograph, then you’ve basically got a piece of the past on paper.”

Nodding in approval, he tapped the fingers of his free hand against the heel of the one holding the remote. “Good! Yes, a camera can’t stop time, neither can it take you forward, but by taking a photograph of something, you have essentially taken a chunk of time and preserved it. Whilst it cannot physically take you back to that time or place, by having with you a photo of it, you can look at that chunk of the past whenever and wherever you want, technically making it time travel.” He watched his audience, pale grey eyes searching for a hint of recognition. The children returned his gaze with a blank, confused stare and slack jaws.

“Sir!”

The voice came from the back of the room, and Percival raised his eyes to look over the head of a taller student in order to be able to make eye contact with the speaker. He was a tanned, wiry boy with a mass of dark curls not too dissimilar to Percival’s own shock of grey and white ones. “Ah, yes, Ajay. What is it?”

“I thought we were supposed to be doing creative writing today, sir. What does photos and time travel have to do with it?” he asked, eyebrows scrunching together in a frown.

“That’s a good point, Ajay,” he admitted, and scratched the side of his mouth. “I’m assuming you’ve all heard the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, n’yeah?” Heads bobbed around the classroom. “Yes, well, today’s creative writing exercise will be about turning a photograph into words, writing based on what thoughts and emotions certain images provoke. That’s what I was getting at when I talked about photographs being little chunks of time and cameras being able to capture those moments.”

A collective ‘ooh’ went through the students, and Percival chuckled. He walked out from behind his desk so that he stood near the centre of the front of the classroom and reached behind himself to rap on the board with his forefinger’s knuckle. “This tree, you see it every day on your way into school, whether you walk or are dropped off by car or bus. It’s stitched onto your sweaters and shirts, on the hip and chest of your PE clothes. Look at it; it doesn’t look familiar to you, does it? That’s because this picture was taken years ago, when the tree was still very little. You didn’t know the tree then; it wasn’t a part of your daily life until years later, when this school was built in the field nearby.” Gripping his upper arm with his free hand, Percival allowed what he’d said to sink in before he pressed the button, revealing a more recent photograph of the tree, one in which the right end of the school was visible. Again, murmurs rippled out amongst the students, friends telling each other that ‘I knew it was the Oak’.

“Yes,” he nodded, “it’s the tree that gave this school its name. In the other picture, it’s not yet that tree, however. The school doesn’t even exist as a concept yet. Time travel,” he lifted his hands, splaying his fingers so that the remote balanced in the crook of the last two. “Now, turn to a fresh page in your exercise books – leave two lines free, one for writing the title and one to leave a space between your title and the main body. I’m going to put another photograph up on the board, and I want you to write a short story based on what it makes you think and feel. Don’t worry about refining it just yet, either. That’s your homework.”

Predictably, the class of year eights groaned, though most of them were smiling broadly. Creative writing was considered the easiest subject, next to Gothic horror, which they had done the term before. Whilst his students flipped to a clean page and looked through their pencil cases for pens and pencils, Percival froze the board and returned to his desk to look through all the photographs he had added to the slideshow. For each of his classes, he had picked a different image, so as to prevent older siblings or students who’d already done it from ‘helping’ the current group. He’d already had enough trouble with the year elevens spoiling the plot of Of Mice and Men for the year tens by scribbling GEORGE SHOOTS LENNIE!!! in the front page of almost every copy of the book owned by the school, barring the one from the library.

In the end, Percival selected an old black and white photograph of a young woman sitting on the edge of a metal-framed bed, dressed in a white nightgown and staring off to the left with her head braced on her palm while a large bear sitting on the bed behind her set a paw on her shoulder. It was either that or a photo of a baby in a nightie sitting on the back of an alligator, and he didn’t fancy reading about a baby being eaten by an oversized lizard. After putting the first option on the board, he realised that the situation with the lady and bear probably wouldn’t be any better, but shrugged it off and pulled his chair closer to his desk and set his elbows down in front of his keyboard, chin resting against his interwoven fingers.

 

*

 

A few minutes before lesson was due to end, Percival called a halt to the writing exercise and had the class respond to the learning objectives they wrote at the beginning before he allowed them to fetch their bags from the cubbyholes, reminding them as they did that they were to take their books with them and finish their short stories at home.

“And remember, if you get stuck or can’t remember a particular detail or need to look at the photograph again, you can find it on the school website under ‘English Creative Writing Resources’.” Twisting in his seat, he looked out over the students. “Does anyone have any issues with being able to access a computer at home? If so, I can print off a copy of the photo and hand it to your tutor to give to you.”

“I’d like a copy,” said Ruby, dropping her pencil case into her messenger bag. She stood, swung the bag’s strap over her shoulder, and shuffled over to the door to wait with her friends.

Percival nodded and added a few copies to the list of documents he needed printing off. When the bell rang, it’d be announcing lunchbreak, and since there were two lessons before lunch, he had a double load of work to be printed and marked. One of the boys quietly counted down the seconds, speaking more or less in sync with the clock’s ticks so that ‘one’ was drowned out by the bell. Footsteps exploded, simultaneously, from the other classrooms, both the ones on the ground floor and the one above. As Percival’s class streamed out of the room, a horde of students thundered down the stairs like a waterfall, pouring out the double doors and into the courtyard. He chuckled to himself, amused as ever by the vigour and enthusiasm for being outside he was sure was non-existent for most of them when at home. Nothing quite readied a teenager for being outside than a boring lesson, and not in the way teachers hoped.

Leaning back in his chair, Percival combed his hair back from his forehead with his fingers, grimacing at the amount of knots that snagged against them, and checked the status of the papers he had sent off to the printer; they had all gone through and were ready to be printed. That was quick, he thought, pleased that it hadn’t taken as long as it usually did, and stood, gathering up his things and a pile of thin folders. Tucking them under his arm, Percival crossed to the door and shut it before turning to lock it with the key attached to his lanyard.

Because the downstairs corridor for the English department was narrow, the printer was upstairs, huddled in an alcove with the copier, paper bin, and shredder. Percival didn’t bother with sticking close to the railing as he walked up the stairs – there were only a handful of students coming down now, they easily sidestepped to go around him, and there were even a few coming up. Speaking with teachers, he figured.

At the printer, Percival scanned his teacher’s badge to pull up the list and pressed print. There was a split second of silence as the machine processed what needed to be printed, and then it started to make loud jarring noises and shuddered as it churned out a small stack of paper, the last page of which held four smaller copies of the photograph. Grabbing the pages, he placed them on top of the folders and turned, right into a small, gangly young girl he recognised as being in his new year seven group.

“Oh, hello, ah. . . Holly, isn’t it?”

She shook her head, pale pink lips pressed into a thin line.

Percival frowned slightly, though tried to keep his expression open and optimistic – some year sevens were flighty, and if you didn’t look approachable, they’d flee and close in on themselves. “Are you feeling alright? You look a little pale, do you need to see the nurse?” he asked, hunching his shoulders and stooping a bit.

Again she shook her head, and his frown deepened. Before he could ask another question, the girl turned on her heels and walked away, beckoning to him with her forefinger. Lips pursed in puzzlement, he stalled for a heartbeat, then followed. Three or four of his long strides put him a step behind the girl as she hurried down the corridor. Oddly enough, though she seemed to be walking as fast as her little legs would take her without breaking into a jog or run, she seemed utterly unflustered. She moved so smoothly that her feet made little noise against the linoleum flooring, despite the rather thick soles of her shoes, and her hair remained unfussed.

Percival noticed something up ahead, slumped against the wall at the far end of the corridor. It was a student, another girl, her legs bent awkwardly beneath her body and her arm was thrown out over the radiator. He stepped around the girl who’d brought him to her friend and kicked into a jog. Dropping his folders and papers on the floor in front of the radiator, Percival brushed the girl’s tangle of blonde hair back from her face and jerked back. She was identical to the one who’d led him down the corridor.

“Ah, I see! You’re not Holly, she’s . . .” He turned and stared, wide-eyed, back down the empty corridor. Like the rest of the halls and classrooms in the Orange Zone, which consisted of the English and Language departments, one of the walls were painted orange, while the others were white. The upstairs corridor twisted right in an upside-down L, ending in double doors that were painted orange on one side, green on the other. A gaggle of year seven girls huddled together on the balcony overlooking the year seven common area in the Orange Zone below, but they were far away, on the other side of the stairwell, and there was no chance that Holly’s twin could have gotten to them that quickly without making any noise.

Holly gurgled, and Percival swiftly turned his attention back to her, smiling guiltily. “Sorry,” he said, and cautiously slipped his hands under her armpits and hoisted her to his feet, grunting with the effort. Her eyes rolled beneath her eyelids, and for a second she managed to focus on him, squinting against the harsh panel lights in the ceiling, before the strength went out of her completely, leaving Percival to bear her whole weight. Considering that Holly was now completely out of it, there was no way he could get her to the nurse’s office on the ground floor as it were, so, abandoning his papers, he looped his other arm behind her knees and carried her as best he could.

The going was slow, and twice he had to stop in order to shift Holly’s weight to prevent her from slipping, but the girls at the balcony were a great help. They took one look at the sorry state that Holly was in and offered to help, with two aiding in carrying her, while the other two rushed ahead to open the doors and press the button for the lift. They took the stairs, and by the time the closed-in steel box reached the ground floor – which it took a ridiculous amount of time to do, considering there were only two floors – they were waiting outside. Luckily, the lift was located beside the reception area and canteen, meaning that it was close to the Pale Blue Zone, which housed the ICT rooms, Special Education, and library as well as the nurse’s office, so they didn’t have far to carry her.

Once Holly was propped up on the bed and the other girls filed out – quite reluctantly – the nurse examined her whilst Percival returned to the Orange Zone to fetch the papers and folders he left behind, though went back to the nurse’s office afterward.

“Was she unconscious when you found her?” Carolyn asked, fixated on what she was writing on the paperwork before her.

Shifting his own stack of papers so it rested in the crook of one arm, Percival glanced at the year seven girl, then back at the redheaded nurse. “She was mostly out of it,” he told her, “I mean, her eyes were open a little, and at one point she seemed to be trying to focus, but I don’t think she was conscious in the sense of seeing or understanding anything.”

Stretched out on the peppermint green bed, poor Holly looked even worse than she had when he had first seen her, although she looked a little less feverish now that she was away from the radiator. That was something good, he thought.

Nodding, Carolyn scribbled her signature on a dotted line, then glanced at him over the rim of her wireframe glasses. “God, the students are right about you,” she muttered, eyebrows raised.

“Excuse me?” He frowned, taken aback, and wondered what the students were saying about him.

“You look scary when you’re concerned, Percival.”

He blinked, and his frown eased, though he was no less confused or concerned. “Do I?”

She nodded again. “Yes. Now, you get on and mark your papers, maybe fetch a cuppa from the teacher’s common room, just go. I need to make some phone calls and have a private chat with Holly when she wakes up, a chat she won’t want you here for.”

Tilting his head, he frowned again. It took a couple of seconds for what Carolyn said to sink in, and then he nodded and made for the door, scratching the back of his neck. “Ah, yes. Good point.” Pausing outside, he pointed to the door handle. “Should I close this?”

“Yes, thank you,” Carolyn replied, flashing him a smile over her shoulder as she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose.


© Copyright 2017 Charleen Langley (ClaireBearandMyrnin). All rights reserved.

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