Authors: Christopher De Sousa
“What's his problem?” Katherine questioned, her fists tightly clenched. “It seems as though he's had it in for me since the first day we were unfortunate enough to meet.”
Naomi rubbed at her forehead. “Blake clearly has some kind of superiority complex. I don't believe he can really help himself.”
“But what is it that makes him think he's any better than the rest of us?” She asked, upon reaching her locker and working away to unlock its combination. “He's short, looks as though he's never heard of a good skin moisturiser, or of an acceptable hairstyle for that matter, and what's worse is that there's nobody in the school who likes him. The guy is nothing more than a loser.”
She glanced back at Naomi, hoping that she'd laugh along with her at such a brash description of Blake. But Naomi only looked back with her eyes narrowed and with a shake of the head.
“Don't give me that look,” Katherine snapped. “It's not like he's ever had any problem calling me stupid or lazy.”
Naomi bit at her thumbnail. “What I don't understand is why he's allowed to come and go as he so often pleases. It wouldn't hurt though if you paid more attention in class.”
“You sound like my father,” she responded. “Besides, it's only history. When will I ever find a practical use for knowing about ancient Egypt and Mesopotamiaâ¦let alone Atlantis?”
Before Naomi could provide her an answer, Katherine wandered back along the corridor and spotted Justin emerge from the Principal's office. She watched as Justin weaved his way between groups of students, handing out a copious amount of flyers as he went.
“I forgot to mention, apparently Justin is throwing a party on Saturday night,” said Naomi.
Upon hearing Naomi's words, Katherine ground her teeth.
“If you keep doing that, you won't have any teeth left,” Naomi mumbled, trying to avoid Katherine's gaze.
Katherine stood there in silence, straining to figure out why Justin had not told her before advertising this supposed party. In her mind, she should have been the first one invited. Yet here she was, seemingly the last person to find out about it. She wondered whether she'd done something to have upset him. But before she could give it any further consideration, Justin swiftly approached and wrapped his arms around her in a tight, and yet awkward embrace.
“Why am I the last one to know about your party?”
“I was saving it as part of a bigger surprise,” whispered Justin in her ear, releasing her from his arms and greeting Naomi with a handshake.
“Congratulations on making the team,” said Naomi, and with a warm smile. “I've heard so many positive things about you at practice, and from Katherine of course.”
Katherine bit at her lower lip. “Naomi, pleaseâ¦you're embarrassing me.”
“How's the progress coming along with finding the school's new mascot?” Justin asked, smiling back at her.
“I'm getting there,” said Katherine, feeling rather weak in the knees. “But I'm still searching for that spark of inspiration.”
He affectionately stroked his hand up against her cheek. “Perhaps I can help you find it. I'm having a party on Saturday night, and it would be great if you both came.”
“We'll be there,” Naomi hastily replied.
He soon left the pair, progressing back along the corridor and continuing to advertise about his upcoming party.
Naomi sneered at her, covered her mouth and pretended to be sick “Well, that was both sickening and sweet.”
“Oh please...you and Albert are like an old married couple. One minute you're at each other's throats, and then the next you're back to renewing your vows.”
“The party should be worth it,” said Naomi, not hiding her desire to focus the subject of conversation upon the party. “I'd wager that most of the boys' basketball team will be there as well.
Katherine groaned, she gazed upward at the ceiling as though she half hoped something would swoop down and swallow her whole. “Wait a secondâ¦,” she said. “He said Saturday. There is no way dad will let me go, not with our history test coming up next week.”
“It's only Saturday night. You will have all day Saturday, and all of Sunday for that matter, to hit the books,” said Naomi.
“That won't fly with him, not with my grades.”
The bell for next period rang, the two hustled toward their lockers and collected what they needed for English. They then hurried off to class and claimed a pair of seats set toward the room's front. As Katherine withdrew her textbook, she remembered that she was supposed to have prepared a piece for recital today. But with no time left, and with class about to begin, she sat there, reserved to her fate.
For Katherine, the lesson began as it normally would, with Mr Dreyfuss hunched over in his chair while rubbing away at a grimy pair of spectacles, and calling on students at random to present any set homework. She fidgeted with a pencil in her fingers, trying to calm herself as each student's name was called, and secretly hoping that they'd somehow run out of time to have everyone present. She glanced up toward the front, her heart beating frantically upon Justin's name being called. Justin rose from his desk, and he headed toward the whiteboard without once showing any sign of being nervous. He quickly flicked through the pages of his textbook for guidance, and recited a Shakespearean passage from Romeo and Juliet without once looking down for a point of reference.
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? Is it the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
During his reading, Katherine scanned the room as the other girls in class attentively listened and swooned over each word that passed his lips. She also noticed the boys, who for the most part yawned, groaned, and restlessly writhed about in their seats as if each word was an act of torture. Her stare soon came to rest on Blake; she watched as he rolled his eyes, and pressed his forehead with open palms.
“Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief that thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”
With this final reading, Justin cemented his stare upon Katherine, and they each shared in the moment.
Mr Dreyfuss yawned, retrieving a handkerchief from his pocket. “Most impressive Mr Ellis, well read. Miss Munroe, have you prepared your piece?”
With lips crinkled and her legs shaking from beneath the desk, she glanced back and forth between Mr Dreyfuss and her textbook. Still trembling, she slowly raised herself up from her seat and traipsed toward the whiteboard. She tried to brace herself up against it for support, for she was perspiring and her breathing had grown more frantic. The longer she stalled, the more a sense of panic swelled, and the more she felt judged by so many merciless eyes.
How can anyone expect me follow that,
she thought to herself, Justin's wondrous delivery circulating about in her mind.
Her eyes wandered about the room, searching for some sort of assurance from her peers. But with none forthcoming, her gaze drifted toward the window. She imagined herself transform into a bird, and watched as she flew out the window to her freedom. The very thought brought a smile to her face, and the shaking of her body momentarily ceased. But as her eyes continued to linger upon the window, she felt her mouth fall wide open and her body to once again tense. For there she saw the gryphon; hovering before the window frame, and staring back at her.
“Why is she stalling, it's obvious to us all she didn't do the set homework,” she heard a familiar voice moan from within the classroom. “She never does.”
Katherine promptly glanced about the room, and then to Sadie Cassell.
“Why is she looking at me like that?”
Katherine could feel herself becoming nauseous, and the room was spinning. She was positive that Sadie had said something, only her mouth had never opened to utter a word.
“Katherineâ¦ she must be having a panic attack?”
She looked over at Naomi, certain it was Naomi's voice she'd heard.
“This is rich, serve's the arrogant little princess right.”
This voice, she knew it all too well and she had grown to despise it. She glared at Blake, and he looked back at her through a puzzled expression.
“Can't this day go any faster? I want to find out what speed my new ride will reach.”
Recognizing the voice yet again, she gawked back at Albert, before she darted for the door. At this stage, she found breathing even a struggle, and sweat was now streaming down her face. Then, and just when she'd thought the voices had ceased, one unknown to her called out from beyond the window.
“I have finally found you,” said the gryphon, appearing to cheer at her as if he'd achieved something spectacular.
“What do you want with me?” she cried aloud, only to watch as the gryphon disappeared before her eyes.
She wiped at the sweat about her brow. “Sir, I'm not feeling so well. May I be excused?”
Mr Dreyfuss merely sighed back at her and reached for the hall pass that sat on his desk. “Katherine, I hope you don't think for a second that I'm letting you off the hook,” said Mr Dreyfuss, as he rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “On your return, I expect for you to be ready.”
She gulped back at him, dashed for the door, and rushed along the school corridor. This sense of dread, her mind and body fatigued to the point Katherine thought she'd collapse at any given second, was like nothing she'd ever experienced. Sure, she had some unusual experiences to reflect upon in her life, but nothing that led her to question in her own sanity. The hearing of voices, the sight of mythical creatures, and the ramifications which were bound to follow from her peers and teachers once she'd retained control; it all seemed such a bad dream.
She finally reached the front atrium, and she made her way round the building. She glanced upward at the open window from where she'd seen the gryphon. But the gryphon was nowhere to be found.
“Get a hold of yourself Kat, you're just seeing and hearing things,” she muttered beneath her breath. “Perhaps it was something I ate, orâ¦what, why am I trying to rationalise thisâ¦, and why am I talking to myself?”
Katherine trudged back toward the entranceway, feeling slightly calmer as she hadn't heard a word, or seen anything out of the ordinary for a short while now. Having returned to the corridor, she decided to proceed to the library. She desired to read up about what she'd witnessed, to find if something of this nature had been experienced before, and if there was a possible cure. She also considered whether there was someone she could talk to, but she had immediately rejected of this idea.
They'd only tack a label of insanity on me, and wheel me off to some mental facility for testing
, she had thought to herself.
But she also reasoned that perhaps such an outcome would be ideal; to be locked away from the world, alone with her own thoughts. At least this way the gryphon would stop following her. On the other hand, Katherine wasn't entirely sure if this was what she even wanted. She couldn't help but think about its prolific golden feathers, it's graceful and fascinating physique, and of its voice she'd for the first time heard that had sounded so joyous.
As she drew nearer and could see the library sign hanging up above the door, she reminisced back to the last time she'd even ventured inside and searched for a book. It had been so long ago, and she figured it must have been in her earlier days of school. It's not that she didn't necessarily enjoy the prospect of reading, for she'd often enjoy losing herself within a work of fantasy, or learning about the great artists who'd graced the world with such vivid imagination.
But this library in particular had made Katherine feel quite uneasy. For in the past, she'd often sensed that there were many sets of eyes peering in upon her from each and every bookshelf. As time went on, and when Duncan would harass her about why she wasn't studying at the library, she'd frequently respond to him with this explanation of not wanting to be the subject of its winding series of security lenses. For that's what she'd rationalised these supposed eyes were; surveillance cameras, and devices, that the staff used to conduct an observational study, and she was their test subject.
Once she entered, she glanced up at the library's reception desk, and at a librarian who looked back at her as if she was in some way diseased. She could feel a drop of sweat run along her nose, and a numbing pain from where she'd accidentally bitten deep into her lower lip. Trying to avoid the librarian's hawk-like glare, she deviated away from the librarian's line of sight toward the nearest stairwell. As she made her way up its wooden steps, she wondered if going to the library was strictly to satisfy a curiosity, or whether this had all become a full-blown obsession. Katherine had been quick to convince herself that it must have become an obsession, for there was no other reason why she found herself roaming a secluded and dimly lit aisle in search of knowledge pertaining to ancient history.
She thought that this creature must be in some way related to mythology, and Mesopotamia was her first guess. Having scoured up and across an old bookcase, she reached out and retrieved a thick, black, and dust covered tome. With the tome tucked tightly beneath her arm, she quietly crept over to the nearest table. And once she'd swiftly scanned about her immediate surroundings, checking to make sure she'd not been followed, nor caught any unwanted attention, she set the book down and sifted through its copious pages. Toward its middle she came to a halt; for there was a page with a proud gryphon standing at its centre, and beneath it the name âAnzu.'
“I have to admit, if someone had told me you'd buried your nose in a book at the library, I would have told them to kick rocks,” Blake whispered, lurching forward over her shoulder. “I just think that a library is an odd choice, especially after your more than desperate escape from English period.”