The Longest Battle – Ch 18 – The Never Weres

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It seemed unfair to Pearlescent that she should have to go school when she wasn’t even a real girl to begin with. She trudged up the rain-slicked driveway, huddling under her umbrella for what cover it provided. It was only water falling from the sky, which was nice for a change of pace. The last time it had rained tomato paste which her history teacher said was good nourishment for the soil, but had only made Pearlescent hungry for pizza all day.

“So, did anyone dream of you last night?” Anya asked. Anya always walked with her to school. They weren’t always in the same grade, or even the same school, but they always walked there together.

“Nope. I think I’m getting thin. Do I look thin?” Pearlescent asked. It was the same question she asked most days, if only because she liked to hear Anya’s reassurances to the contrary.

“Never a bit. You’re as solid as a dew drop.” Anya said.

The boys in their class had the same sorts of conversations but they were more likely to claim their friends were as solid as a brick, or a block of steel or whatever impenetrable material occupied the space between their ears. Pearlescent and Anya had decided early on that if they were going to  lie to one another, they’d at least make them believable lies so that there was a chance they might come true.

The arrived at the door to the school well ahead of the lazy boys that were following them but well after the eager students who wouldn’t dare being late to class for fear of missing some important crumb of knowledge.

“Want me to get the door?” Anya asked.

“No, I can manage. It’s my turn today after all.” Pearlescent said. Reaching out to open a door wasn’t normally a traumatic experience for a young girl. Pearlescent knew this. She also knew that she wasn’t actually a young girl. She was just the dream of one. A dream that had never been real. A Never Were.

The school was too. It’s soaring peaks and rain soaked stone facade weren’t modeled on any school that a real child had attended. Its appearance and history were as changing as any other dream. The difference was, lots of people dreamed about “school”. Even if they all saw it differently, there were aspects on which they agreed. They gave the building a weight and solidity that could honestly be compared to the brick and stone it appeared to be.

Pearlescent didn’t have billions of people dreaming of her. What she did have was a need to get inside the building without looking threadbare to her friend and the conviction that doors were meant to be opened.

She placed her hand on door and huffed out a breath before pulling outwards. For a moment she thought it was going to be easy, the door pulled open just the way a door is supposed to. After about two inches of movement though her hand passed right through the handle and it slammed back shut.

“I said you were a dew drop, there’s no need to rush it.” Anya said, moving over to help.

Pearlescent put up her hand to ward off her friend’s attempted aid.

“I can do this.” she said. She glared at the handle and grabbed it again. She wanted to yank the door off its hinges, or maybe burn it to ash with the heat of her disapproval but, mindful of Anya’s valid point, she pulled it open slowly instead. It was grueling, not because the door was heavy but because it made her aware of how light she was.

“There. I’m not going to blow away today.” she said once she had it fully opened.

Never Weres didn’t get carried off by gusts of wind as a general rule. That was merely how polite people referred to the ones who’d been forgotten by the waking world entirely.

“Not tomorrow either” Anya said, hugging Pearlescent’s shoulder as they passed into the cavernous maw of the school.

Navigating the inner passages of the school wasn’t as challenging as the main door had been. The challenging parts of being in school were the tests and the schedule.

“What classes do you have today?” Anya asked as they put their coats and gloves away into their lockers. Pearlescent knew the odds that they’d be there at the end of the day was low, not their belongings but the lockers themselves. She’d long since decided it was ok though. She always had clothes to wear in the morning, and getting to try on different outfits each day had its own charm.

“I have a final exam in Biology, a mid-term in Forensic Anthropology and I’m being sent back to Finger Painting Class in Art.” Pearlescent said.

“Have you been to any of them?” Anya asked.

“I think I had my Anthropology final yesterday, the other two are new though.” Pearlescent said. “How about you?”

“Shark Wrangling in Gym class and we’re dissecting land worms in Chemistry.” Anya said.

“In Chemistry?”

“It’s a surprise test from the Biology teacher.” Anya explained.

“But first we have homeroom. Which one are you in?” Pearlescent asked.

“I don’t know. The maps says it’s under the pool on the roof.” Anya said.

“Mine’s in room 104.” Pearlescent said.

“Bet I get to mine before you get to yours.” Anya said.

Room 104 was, in theory, down the hall and down one flight of stairs. As, again in theory, there were no other turns one could take and indeed no other rooms along the way, getting lost should have been impossible.

“No bet.” Pearlescent said. “I better head off now if I’m going to get there before the end-of-day bell rings.”

“See you then!” Anya said.

There were tricks to getting where you wanted to go, when you wanted to be there. Pearlescent knew several of them and planned to use them all. She thought that might give her as much as a fifty percent chance of making it to the homeroom on time.

As she approached the first corner she braced herself for what lay beyond. Pits to hell, tunnels filled with venomous snakes or, on one odd occasion, an automated car wash system were all possibilities in Pearlescent’s experience. What she found was far more worrying than any of those however.

What she found was a simple corridor leading to a set of stairs at the far end.

Pearlescent crept down the corridor as though waiting for a firework to explode at any moment. Other students passed her by, scurrying to whatever destination they had without a concern in the world. She didn’t think that odd until she noticed that they were as solid as she was. And as human. Pearlescent wasn’t sure which bothered her more.

Crowds were usually thin to the point of being little more than scenery. They were the dreams of dreams, the inspecific conjurings of the dreamers whose minds had called forth both the Never Weres and the school itself. They weren’t supposed to have weight, and uniqueness and purpose.

“Disturbing.” she noted to herself and continued on.

Room 104 was exactly where Pearlescent had known it would be. Which was exactly the place she shouldn’t have been able to to find it.

By the same odd coincidence, her desk was where she expected it to be as well. And it was an actual desk, a properly sized one even!

“Something is very wrong.” Pearlescent said. The boy beside her noticed that she spoke and looked at her strangely.

“What the matter?” he asked.

“This is all too normal.” she said.

“Of course it is. It’s school.” he said. “At least we have the new transfer student coming in today though.”

“Transfer student?” Pearlescent asked.

“Yeah, Ms. Shiro told us about her yesterday.” he said.

In time with his words, their teacher entered the room with an young girl trailing behind her.

“Class, please take your seats.” Ms. Shiro said.

“I’d like to introduce you to your new classmate. Miss Smith can you tell the class something about yourself so they can get to know you?”

“Hello. My name is Jin Smith and I think I can help you all out.” the new girl said.

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