Part One – FIRE & BLOOD
We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.
– Oscar Wilde
Chapter 1 The Monsters
Gwen Sykes – War
“Miss Sykes, are you hearing me? Miss Sykes, the destruction of school property is not a laughing matter,” said the suit-clad box of fat sitting behind an enormous steel desk.
“I’m not laughing,” Gwen said and exerted no effort to conceal the mirth she knew must be sparkling across her eyes. The man’s swollen face glowed crimson with his barely contained rage in the well-lit little office. Gwen thought he looked like a toad in a microwave and the idea amused her. She did exert some effort to suppress the giggles that threatened to explode out of her at any second as she imagined his tongue flick from the crease of his mouth and lick one slowly blinking eye. Mr. Roberts had been gunning for Gwen’s expulsion since the end of last year and he emitted his intent like the whir of the microwave she saw in her mind.
“You’re smiling, Miss Sykes.”
“So now there’s a school rule about smiling? What’s next? Forced marches between classes?”
“Young lady,” he began, stopped himself before he said something inappropriate and started again, choosing a different tact. “Young lady, we know you tampered with the equipment in the chem. Lab. It’s only a matter of time before we track down a witness. Make this easier for us and we’ll make it easier for you.”
“Mr. Roberts, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, allowing her smile to widen as she lied. She didn’t care that her school thought she had tampered with the gas jets in the chem. Lab. Ingenuously modified so that each nozzle emitted a different color flame. She also didn’t care that they suspected her of tapping into the school’s closed circuit video system, which had broadcast nothing but porn since last Tuesday. She didn’t care that they suspected her of rigging an elaborate network of mirrors and magnifying lenses, pilfered from the astronomy club’s locked cabinets, so that any interested boy in the school (or girl, for that matter, she didn’t judge) had an all access pass to a peep show, performed unwittingly, in the girl’s locker room, and projected against the blank outer wall of the cafeteria building. And she most certainly didn’t care that they suspected that she was responsible for filling the school’s fountain with epoxy and effectively converting the hideous waterfall into a neon orange cascade of frozen plastic. She had done these things and she is proud of her accomplishments. They will find no witnesses because there are no witnesses. They suspect her of these brilliant acts of vandalism because there is no one else in the school smart enough to, first, pull them off, and second, get away with it. As far as she was concerned, Mr. Roberts and the rest of the faculty of Tennemore High School could ‘Suck It.’
Mr. Roberts had returned to his more customary shade of bright pink and Gwen was bored. “Are we done here?”
“No, mam, we are not done,” he said and Gwen was pleased to see the man’s blood pressure return to where she wanted it. Nothing would please her more than to be in the man’s office when his pulmonary artery finally collapsed or the embolism she had worked so hard to give him exploded into his brain. She watched as he whispered something to himself and when he spoke again he had that ‘come on now, let’s not fight’ tone of voice that made her feel sick to her stomach. “Miss Sykes. We all know you’re smart.”
“Why, thank you for noticing.”
“You have so much potential.”
“Seems like a waste, doesn’t it?”
“You’re a beautiful young woman. There is no reason that…”
“Mr. Roberts,” she interrupted him.
“Are you flirting with me?”
“What?!” Gwen delighted as she watched the cluster of veins at his retreating hairline pulse visibly.
“It sounds to me like you are flirting with me.”
“I am most certainly not. I am simply trying to point out that we…,” he stammered.
“Mr. Roberts, did you know that a vice principle in Orlando was forced to resign from his job just last month based solely on the accusations of propositioning a minor?”
“I don’t see how that has anything…”
“He was employed as an educator by the state of Florida for thirty years and could boast a spotless record.”
“And they just fired him. Poof. Gone.”
“Young lady, this is not…” Mr. Roberts had turned a very dark shade of red, almost burgundy, that Gwen had never seen before and she felt an eager anticipation rising in her that she typically reserved for blood sport and sushi.
“Do you have a spotless record, Mr. Roberts?”
“I don’t see how my…”
“Can I go?”
“No. Yes. Please leave.”
“Thank you.” Gwen stood up, swung her backpack over her shoulder and stepped out into the hall. As a couple English teachers walked by, she turned back and blew Mr. Roberts a kiss. The teachers’ mouths fell open; Gwen gave them a wink as she wiped her bottom lip and strode away.
“Miss Sykes!” Mr. Roberts called after her from his office, clearly struggling to pry himself out from behind his desk. She kept walking. “Miss Sykes!”
As she passed the front of the library, she tossed a penny into the silent fountain. It hit the gooey surface with a ‘thlick’. She smirked as two freshman boys passed her going the other way. She could feel her own confidence radiating out of her like a superpower. She didn’t look back, but she knew they did. As she rounded the next corner, she threw her hair back and shook it out to ensure that she would be making solo appearances in the young men’s masturbatory ruminations that evening. If it wasn’t for the fact that she wished they would all just crawl back into the primordial ooze and die, she’d love humanity, simply for how cute and stupid they all were.