Short Story: The School by Rohan Monteiro


The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

“Do you want to play with us?”

He looked at them warily. He was used to being ignored. This was one of those playgrounds for rich kids after all. The ones who came in fancy limousines and who carried their own smartphones and credit cards even before they had sprouted pimples on their faces.

And yet, here they were. Three of them, two boys and a girl, staring at him with frank, appraising eyes. The girl was pretty. She couldn’t have been more than ten years old, exactly his own age, with strawberry curls and dimpled cheeks. The boys were similarly good looking, blond, fine boned with firm jaws. They would grow up to be dashing young men. Arrogant and entitled.

His diminutive frame and round rimmed glasses, for the most part, automatically classified him as someone far below on the pecking order. Whoever deigned to speak to him risked losing their own hard won status.

“What’s your name?” she asked as she stepped closer. “J” he answered.

She gave him a pitying look as if he had been saddled with the worst name in the world.

“‘Jay’, like the little bird?”

“‘J’, like the tenth letter of the alphabet,” he snapped back as he clenched his fists. One hand remained within his pocket. Let them think he had something to hide.

She stared at him silently and he experienced a moment of discomfort. There was something odd about them. They looked too scruffy for the school they were in. Their uniforms were scratched and muddy, with little tears on the hem of her skirt and on the boy’s coats and shorts. That however wasn’t what had raised his hackles. It was to do with the way they were looking at him. Their smiles looked slightly forced. Something in their eyes gave them a slightly menacing air—a dark undercurrent of mischief that threatened to spill over. And he realised with a start, as he glanced around, that aside from the four of them, there was nobody else in sight.

“And quite frankly Mr Lim that is the problem we are stuck with.”

Lim shook his head thoughtfully as he watched the school principal, a woman who was clearly at her wits end. She was a woman of faith—the little silver cross around her neck was an indication of her beliefs. She was also a woman of science, though how the two could co-exist was something he could never quite understand.

And yet, neither of her beliefs could help her now. It is why she had requested his help, something they both had never thought would happen. In her own words, he was nothing but a charlatan and a parasite taking advantage of people’s grief. It galled her to admit that he was her last remaining hope.

“Tell me again,” he instructed, his voice slightly rasping with exertion. A lesser man would have used this opportunity to rub her nose in it. He could sense her humiliation and dismay that she had to turn to one such as him for help—a man whose methods and ideas were derided by the entire scientific community. For his belief in the supernatural and his research notes that read more like speculative fiction than actual science.

Fortunately, for her, he was not a vindictive man. His own son’s death had robbed him of most such emotions.

 

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