A Learning Experience: Chapter One, Turn Ten (Part Two)

In the locker room before gym class, the boys change up as quickly as twenty-three fifteen and sixteen year-olds can.

Aidan Ryan strips off his Maryland Renaissance Festival T-shirt and slips a silver necklace over his head. The craftsmanship of the pendant is simple, but elegant a silver pentacle, or five-pointed star, dangles at the end of a fine silver chain. The pentacle itself has a round piece of some unfaceted clear stone in the center. Aidan carefully lays the necklace under a fold of his T-shirt in the small locker nearby before pulling on a gray T-shirt with the words, "Larry K. Dixon Senior High School" and the school's seal printed on it, and matching shorts. After pulling on his sneakers, he makes sure to lock the small locker containing his street clothes.

Niko walks in and says hi to the few people he knows and then sticks his school stuff in his locker. He changes from his street clothes (a pair of really faded blue jeans and a plain white shirt) into his uniform, and waits for Trevor to finish dressing.

Trevor picks a locker close to Niko. "Hi Niko. We should pick up tickets for the mixer soon."

Trevor puts his 'utility' belt carefully into his locker, followed by the rest of his clothes. Disassembling his kilt takes little time, Trevor is out of his clothes quickly. Clad only in his gym socks, Trevor pulls on his gym shorts. "I hope these aren't scratchy - I forgot today was gym." He grins at Niko, "Though technically, I'm the only one following the announcement from this morning saying that we're supposed to wear 'only the regulation Larry K. Dixon gym uniform during P.E. classes'."

Niko shakes his head, "Let's just hope we're not doing anything where that matters. As for the tickets, I have money on me -- you want me to get them?

"Yes, please," says Trevor. He grins. "After all that's why I gave you my money before."

Trevor glances over at Aidan. "Maybe I should ask him to show me his pendant after gym class. I could always offer to show him my clasp."

Aidan slants a glance at Trevor as he hears his name mentioned. "Hey, I'm right here," he says, raising an eyebrow. "What's with talking about me in the third person?"

"I'm sorry," says Trevor, "I thought you'd gone out. I thought that your pendant looked really neat."

Emmet dresses quickly, stowing his clothes in the small locker with an almost military precision. If his distaste for the bland school uniform is rather obvious, his distaste for the class in general is readily apparent.

As he ties his shoes, Emmet catches a glimpse of Aidan's pendant.

"Aidan!" he calls. "Nice bauble. What is it?"

"Family heirloom," Aidan returns. "My Dad gave it to me when I turned thirteen. He said it was a coming-of-age gift." He looks as if he's considering saying more, then seems to think better of it.

Mr. Griffith, the boys' gym teacher, pauses in the doorway to the locker room. "Let's go, boys," he says briefly, before continuing on his way to the gym.

Emmet grins, forgetting for the moment that his smile could unnerve Aidan.

"Cool," he says as he moves toward the locker room door. "Can I have a closer look after class?"

"Sure," Aidan says after a moment. "As long as you're careful with it."

"Of course," Emmet replies, then heads out to the gym.

***

The boys enter the gym through the double doors. The gym is large and at least two stories high, with sunlight streaming through windows high up along the far wall. Another set of double doors across the gym leads off to the girl's locker room. There is some fencing equipment sitting against the gym's wall, but there are also archery targets set up along the far wall and a fair amount of archery equipment has been set out by the door. Mr Griffith stands near the archery equipment.

Mr Griffith takes roll, then strolls back and forth in front of the line of boys. "We're going to start a unit on archery today," he says by way of explanation. He takes a bow and arrow from the sets by the door, and begins to demonstrate the proper use of a bow, explaining what he's doing as he goes.

While Mr Griffith is speaking, the light in the gym dims as if clouds had passed in front of the sun. However, the overhead lights also seem to dim, except for one near the corner which seems to take on an orange hue. Mr Griffith, who is in the middle of his "How-to-use-a-bow" demonstration, glances upward and then continues with his spiel.

By this point it's obvious that the gym has changed, and most of the non-fae students along with it. The majority of them are barefoot and they are dressed to varying degrees in animal skins. Some look rather sickly, a number have obvious deformities, and they seem to be of varying ages. A few of the burlier ones have necklaces hung with two flat ivory pieces about the size of their hand. The fae have retained their faerie voile, though it seems to have gained a noticeable amount of dirt. The ceiling has disappeared and the walls are broken and tumbled. The sky above is a uniform grey with a dim orangish sun glowing dimly through the murk. There are large chunks of debris on the floor, and the floor itself is cracked and broken in places.

Alone among the non-fae students, Aidan has retained his normal appearance. His eyes are wide as he stares around himself in consternation, his face draining of all color. "What the fuck--?" he gasps.

Niko moves towards Aidan and raises a finger to his lips, "Don't worry and please don't yell." Niko gives a slight smile, "This may sound crazy but what do you see?"

"What do you mean, 'don't worry?'" Aidan demands, his eyes still wide. "The gym looks like something out of The Road Warrior, and you're telling me not to worry?" He takes a few deep breaths in an obvious effort to calm himself, but it doesn't seem to be that effective.

He swallows hard, then looks at Niko, Trevor, and Emmet. From his expression, it's pretty obvious he can see their faerie appearances. "Oh, sweet Hermes...you can see it too, can't you?"

"Yes, just like everyone else" says Trevor in a low voice. "But other than us and Mr. Griffith..." Trevor indicates the goat legged gym teacher. "...I don't think anyone else will know that there is anything unusual going on. Niko and I have seen this before and until it goes away, this is reality."

As the gym changes, Emmet softly breathes a stream of creative profanity, causing a burning sensation in the ears of those closest to him, as he moves closer to Niko, Aidan, and Trevor.

Niko gives Aidan a sympathetic look. "Yes, we can see it. You're not crazy, trust me." Niko looks at his fellow classmates, "I promise to explain it to you later, but is there anyway that you can act relatively normal until the end of gym class?"

Emmet smiles grimly. "Yes," he says, sarcasm dripping almost visibly from his tongue, "This is all perfucktly sane and rational. "

He brushes at the dirt on his voile, then places a hand on Aidan's shoulder.

"We were hoping to make this a little easier on you, Aidan, but you're going to have to get a grip. Trust me," Emmet says with his best toothy grin, "this is very likely to get truly fucking weird in a little while. We'll explain everything - but not now. In the meantime, sit back, enjoy the trip, and do your very goddamn best to not freak."

Trevor looks over at Niko, "It looks like we're with the hunting party this time. I wonder what we're hunting?" He mutters to himself, "I wish I had my Skene Dhu with me."

Niko grimaces a little at Emmet's outburst and turns to Trevor, "That means the girls are probably at camp. Weapons would be great right now, but let's hope there will be no reason to use them." Niko turns back to Aidan, "I agree with Emmet, we can't have you freaking out. Try to stay with us if possible. We can at least try to help you if anything else happens."

Emmet's words and the nocker's hand on his shoulder seem to get through to Aidan. The other youth takes a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. He's far from relaxed, but at least he isn't looking shell-shocked anymore. "Okay," he says after a perceptible pause. He turns to Trevor. "You said that last time, this went away. So at least it isn't permanent." He seems oddly relieved by this observation. "How long did it last the last time it happened?"

Mr. Griffith moves over to the four boys, looking around with a sort of amazed curiosity. "Haven't seen anything like this since that party in the Village," he muses, more to himself than to the others. He looks at the four with concern, keeping one eye on them and one on the transformed members of the class. "Are you four all right?"

"All in a murfurbin day's work, Coach," Emmet says darkly, the sarcasm not entirely absent from his voice.

"We're fine," says Trevor. "I was just about to tell Aidan that the last time this happened to Niko and I, it probably lasted a few hours. Of course at about the same time Emmet was attacked by giant rats." Trevor looks thoughtful. "Um, Mr. Griffith, you wouldn't mind if we went and looked for the fencing equipment that was out earlier - just in case? Then we can help protect the others." Trevor gestures at one of his now deformed classmates.

"We are doing archery, we could just extend the lesson." Niko runs a hand through his hair and looks at Mr. Griffith, "I mean I think I could use a bow and arrow easier then a sword, and it wouldn't be as unnatural looking to everyone else if we have to shoot something."

It doesn't take long for the five to gather up any fencing and archery equipment that they can carry.

The equipment looks far older than it did only minutes ago; the foils have had their tips removed, and have been honed to a wickedly sharp point. The bows still look much the same, though there are several layers of dirt on them.

Emmet tucks one of the foils into his belt, then grabs a bow and asks no one in particular, "Should we ask one of the locals what's going on, or just play along?"

"When Niko and I checked out the auditorium the other day and found the Dhy'zhonn women, they said the men were out hunting. So I'd guess we're the hunting party - or at least the hunting party in training." Trevor pauses and adds, "So we could go ask someone what they think we're going to find."

Niko stops to think, before he replies, "If we ask them will be asking the student or the vision. When we dealt with the women there wasn't students becoming them, I don't think. In this case these are our gym class so how do the rules apply?"

Aidan chooses a foil, looking less shaken as he does so. "We do need to know what's going on. Whether those guys," he inclines his head briefly to the others, "are illusion or flesh and blood, they should be able to tell us that, shouldn't they?" He looks to Mr. Griffith and the other three for confirmation.

Emmet looks at Aidan seriously. "Illusion is flesh and blood here, Aidan. I doubt you can get permanently hurt here, but anything is possible.

"As far as these pishers, I doubt this civilization has even begun to dream of thinking about the concept of an overlapping co-existant multiverse. That shit's got some sophisticated philosophy behind it. In any event, I'll bet Skirtboy's left nut that our classmates won't have any idea that something odd is going on. Regardless, though, Aidan is right. Whatever dream we're in, they're part of it."

He looks around the group. "Shall we?"`

"Asking them is good, you betting my left nut is not." Trevor grins at Emmet and adds, "Though I'd be willing to bet your left nut that you're right and they won't know there's ever been anything but this." He gestures around them.

Trevor collects one of the foils. "I'd also be willing to bet that Aidan can get just as badly hurt as we can - probably right down to losing whatever he has that has let him keep his memories. No giveaways at stake though, just a rental with the rest of me attached."

As the little group is talking, one of the men looks over and calls out to them, "Have you picked up the trail yet?"

Niko looks up startled, "What?" Assuming that the men probably can't hear his reply, Niko walks towards the group of men. "What am I looking for again?"

Trevor says, "Come on guys," and follows Niko over.

Once the little group is gathered by the rest of the men, the man repeats his question. "Did you pick up the trail of the rats? We need to make sure they don't steal from our food caches again."

"Rats?" Emmet blanches a bit, then continues in his best Indiana Jones impression. "Why did it have to be rats?"

Suddenly, the area is suffused by a macabre chittering sound as a veritable horde of rats, each one easily the size of a German Shepherd, erupts over the tumbled stones near the edge of what was once the gym, heading straight for the group.

Niko picks a foil and starts to make his way over to Trevor as quickly as he can.

As Niko moves over to Trevor, one of the rats leaps onto a man and sinks its teeth into his shoulder. As he screams in agony, the creature's head comes up, its muzzle dripping gory chunks of flesh and muscle.

Trevor starts toward Niko, foil in hand.

Mr. Griffith sends an arrow whizzing into the horde of giant rats. One of the animals shrieks in agony, then falls to the ground, to be trampled by its onrushing fellows.

As Trevor moves toward Niko, a rat launches itself at him, its teeth sinking into his foil arm.

One of the men lets out a yell as he rushes forward to sink the crude spear he carries into the rat mauling the other man. As the spear sinks into the beast's back, it lets out a high-pitched squeal of pain that sets everyone's teeth on edge.

Emmet sends an arrow flying into the horde of rats; a squeal of pain reveals that the missile has found a mark.

A rat leaps at Aidan, but the dark-haired youth just manages to dodge out of the way.

As the sea of large gray bodies moves to surround the group, the remaining men seem to be trying to draw in closer to one another.

"You stupid bloody rat!" yells Trevor.

As Niko tries to move to assist Trevor, a rat sinks its teeth into his thigh, tearing a chunk of flesh loose. Red streams snake down his leg.

Mr. Griffith sends another arrow into the horde of rats. The shaft pierces the eye of one of the giant rodents, sending it crashing to the ground. "Still got it!" crows the greybearded satyr with a grin.

"Niko!" screams Trevor.

Trevor manages to shift the foil to his uninjured hand and slashes at the nearest rat with it. The foil's point opens a gash in the creature's side, sending a spurt of red fluid arcing up to stain Trevor's shirt.

Another of the men screams in agony as a rat leaps on to him and sinks its teeth into his shoulder, dangerously close to his throat.

Emmet lets another arrow fly; the shaft sinks into the body of another rat, and the pain-maddened creature turns toward the nocker.

Niko screams in pain and stabs at the rat who had bitten him with his foil. The weapon opens a cut on the creature's back; red stains its gray hide, but it tries to bite Niko again. The snap of its teeth and the brush of air against his skin tell the young sluagh that he has managed to escape its attack...for the moment.

Apparently in response to Emmet's plight, Aidan launches himself at the rat, his foil sinking deeply into its body. With a high-pitched squeal of agony, the rat collapses, but its momentum tears the foil from Aidan's hand.

A pair of men lunge at the rat attacking Niko, driving their spears deep into its body. The creature collapses, its squeals of agony adding to the cacophony.

Niko struggles to his feet, clutching the foil tightly in his hand.

Trevor stabs at the rat menacing him; by luck, skill, or a combination of both, the point sinks into the creature's eye. With a screech of pain that causes everyone's ears to ring, the rat slumps to the ground.

Emmet manages to hit another rat with an arrow, and two of the men sink their spears into another.

Mr. Griffith brings down another two rats with well-aimed arrows.

Aidan attempts to drag one of the wounded men out of harm's way. Luckily, some of the other men notice what he's doing and move in to protect him.

Suddenly, the air starts to thicken, almost as if a heavy fog were rolling in.

When everyone can see again, the gym appears normal once again, save for the students sprawled on the floor and the others looking confused.

"Everyone, out of the gym!" Mr. Griffith orders. He points to some of the confused-looking boys. "Michael, Jason, Mark, David -- help the others." He pauses while his directions are obeyed. "There might be a gas leak -- we'll have to keep everyone out of the gym until we find out what's going on."

Once the mundane students are following his instructions, the gym teacher turns to Niko, Trevor, and Aidan. "You boys come with me," he says in an undertone, "and we'll get those injuries taken care of."

Niko drops the foil and limps towards Trevor, "Are you okay?"

Trevor drops the foil from his left hand. "About as okay as you are." He winces as he moves his injured right arm. "Shit, it had to be the right arm. How am I going to..." He winks at Niko. "Um, take notes."

He looks at Niko limping with concern. "You want to lean on me?"

Niko throws his arm around Trevor's shoulder, "Thanks."

Trevor helps Niko down the hall. "I'll bet you this is the nurse's day off."

"It is," the gym teacher responds. "But I know someone who might be just as helpful." He leads the three fae students and Aidan out of the gym and down the hall, stopping at Room 107, where Mr. Ravenscroft sits correcting papers.

"A little help here, please, Darian?" the satyr gym teacher asks, indicating Trevor and Niko's wounds.

Sir Dariun unlocks a drawer in his desk and pulls out a medium-sized leather pouch. After locking the drawer again, he joins Byron and the students in the hall. "The infirmary?" he asks the satyr.

Byron nods. "It'd be easiest."

Byron and Sir Dariun lead the little group of boys to a room on the first floor marked "Health Office." They open the door and usher the four inside.

The Health Office is simply furnished, with a desk and a few plastic chairs near the door, a metal cabinet on one wall, and two cots located behind a white divider similar to those used in hospitals. A door near the cots is slightly ajar, revealing a small adjoining bathroom.

Sir Dariun sets the pouch he's carrying on the desk, then opens the cabinet. "Mr. Rayne, Mr. Hamilton -- sit down. I'll be with you shortly."

Trevor helps Niko sit down before sitting down himself. "I think I'm glad Layla and I didn't let you go down to the basement by yourself."

Once Trevor and Niko are settled, Aidan looks around at the assembled fae and asks, "Um, sorry to interrupt, but would someone please tell me what's going on?"

Niko positions himself comfortably and looks at Trevor, "Gee thanks." He looks at the wound on his leg and mumbles, "great the one time we get into a real fight and I get myself messed up."

"A moment, please, Aidan," Sir Dariun says quietly, approaching with a tray of supplies. Among the more recognizable strips of gauze, medical tape, and antiseptic, there are also small packets of what look like leather, tied with cords woven in various patterns, with intricate systems of knots, on the tray.

Pulling on a pair of plastic gloves, the knight sets to work tending the wound on Niko's leg.

Trevor looks worried for a moment, but then cover it up with a grin that seems somewhat forced. "Well, that is the sort of thing that happens when you're in a fight." He adds quietly, "I'm glad nothing really bad happened to you."

"Think of it as a battle scar," Sir Dariun says in an undertone, with a wink at Niko. He opens one of the pouches and pulls out a small amount of a greenish powder with a sharp smell. "This should help the pain," he says quietly.

After a moment or two, he resumes doctoring Niko's wound. Once he's finished, he disposes of the gloves. "Let's have a look, Trevor," he says, moving over to the young sidhe.

Trevor carefully holds out his arm.

Sir Dariun pulls on a fresh pair of gloves and examines the bite marks on Trevor's arm. "This may hurt a little," he says, then begins cleaning out the punctures with antiseptic.

Trevor winces. "That stuff's worse than getting bit."

"That may be," the Scathach knight says drily, "but better that than those wounds getting infected." He frowns. "What did this, by the way?"

"A rat the size of a German Shepherd," replies Niko.

Trevor nods in agreement.

He looks at Sir Dariun and asks, "Mr. Ravenscroft, are you or Mr. Griffith going to explain things to Aidan?"

Byron nods at Trevor's comment. "We'll talk privately in a little bit, all right, Aidan?" he says with a reassuring smile at the bewildered youth.

Aidan gives him a nod, obviously trying not to stare at the gym teacher's goat legs.

Sir Dariun finishes seeing to Trevor's wound and looks at Byron. "If you'd like me in on that conversation, let me know."

"So I guess we'll see you later Aidan?" says Trevor.

Trevor looks at Niko's leg with concern. "Is it okay for him to walk on that? Or do we say it's a sprain and give him crutches?"

Sir Dariun smiles slightly. "Well, I wouldn't recommend that he run any marathons for a week or two, but he should be all right."

Trevor looks relieved.

"Thanks Mr. Ravenscroft, my leg feels better already." Niko turns to Trevor, "How long do we have till the next period?"

Trevor looks up at the clock on the wall. "Looks like about 10 minutes. Why?"

Niko shrugs his shoulders, "Just curious."

Byron motions to Aidan. "We'll talk in my office, okay, Aidan?" He gives the young man a reassuring smile.

"Okay," Aidan says slowly, following the gym teacher out of the room.

Sir Dariun finishes cleaning up his supplies. "The two of you should be all right. I have a class next period." With a nod to the two boys, he returns to room 107.

Trevor looks at Niko. "Well handsome, I guess we'd better go get changed. And you're welcome to lean on me if you need to - or even if you don't." He winks at Niko.

Niko whispers in Trevor's ear. "I swear this is just a reason for you to help take my clothes off." Niko smiles and starts walking back to the locker room.

Trevor grins at Niko's whisper, and follows him to the locker room.


Time: 1:15 pm, Friday, September 13, 2002
Current weather: Light rain. Expected weather: Cloudy
This web site copyright 2001 by Midori Hirtzel-Church
This page first posted -- June 5, 2003

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