It was a pleasant evening, and he walked through the glade without looking around; it was a place he knew all too well, though curiously he couldn’t remember ever being there before. Then, he felt a cold shudder running down his spine. The whole area had suddenly become cold, and deathly quiet. He turned instinctively, and behind him stood the very embodiment of his nightmares. The figure was clad in a black hood and blood-stained robes, and all that could be seen of his face were two glowing blue eyes. He turned and ran, but the figure pursued, gaining on him. He seemed to drift rather than run, and yet the boy could not outrun him, he tripped, and the man bore down on him…
Seven o’clock. Jason Fortuno awoke from his deep sleep, yawned, hauled himself out of bed and changed from his pyjamas to a set of working overalls. He had not slept well that night, but that was not unusual. He saw his three roommates, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia following suit, changing their simple night underclothes for their dull, grey uniforms without shame or embarrassment. They were an odd bunch, their looks clashing as violently as their personalities.
Bianca was a small, energetic girl with green eyes and a kind, selfless nature that had endeared her to Jason, as well as the rest of their friends. Lewis was Asiatic, tall and gangly, with round spectacles that were pushed to the very brink of his long nose. He was an intellectual, but without the arrogance that made such individuals dislikeable. Patricia was red-haired, with piercing eyes and a body that was perhaps a little too thin. Her face was slender, aquiline, and very beautiful, and her razor-sharp wit ensured she was never without friends. And although none of them knew it, they were all here for a very special purpose.
This was the Facility. It had no other name, nor did it need one. Here, students of sorcerous descent learn how to utilise their gifts to become sorcerers and necromancers, though what happened once this happened, none of the students knew. Day after day for as long as they could remember, the students had been taught not only practical sorcery and its history but also survival skills for the world outside, several necessary languages and basic weapons training. Jason, Bianca, Lewis and Patricia were just four of nearly a hundred youths who endured this program, they knew nothing else, and they never expected anything to change. Though the majority of the students had come to the Facility as orphans, there was a handful whose parents had practically leapt at the opportunity to have them enrolled. Jason felt a swell of pity for these individuals, until he saw the treatment they were given compared to the regular students, getting made into prefects, given extra time on assignments and essentially gaining a free reign over their “inferiors”.
They left the room without speaking and entered the grim, dismal canteen, making no comment on the repulsive looking slop that was piled on their plates. It was only once all four of them had sat down that they began to speak.
‘Anyone know much about the Battle of Luxembourg? Only I’m supposed to give a presentation on it today.’ said Jason, quickly gulping the food on his tray whilst trying to avoid having it touch his tongue.
‘It was quite important… many people died… etc. The usual. Come on Jason, it’s History. Who cares?’
‘Thank you Trish. Lewis, do you have anything more helpful to contribute?’ Jason asked.
‘Here, borrow my notes.’ replied Lewis, passing over a thick wad of paper covered with several dozen barely legible points.
‘This is indecipherable.’
‘You asked for my help.’
‘Perhaps I should ask Millie, she usually seems to be in the know.’
‘Oh, so suddenly my insight isn’t good enough.’
‘Oh grow up you two.’
They were silent for a moment, allowing time for their breakfast to settle, before Bianca spoke up.
‘So, what’s the plan for today?’
‘Eat, study, eat, work, eat, sleep.’ Replied Patricia flippantly. The others laughed, but became quieter as an attendant passed by their table, wearing something that resembled a bio-hazard suit, a silver hood all but concealing his face so that only the guard’s mouth was visible. Once he passed by they continued.
‘Unless you’re working on another plan?’
Lewis glanced at the attendant, before leaning in and whispering conspiratorially.
‘Well, now that you mention it…’
But he was not able to finish his sentence, for at that moment; all of the suited attendants stopped, stood bolt upright and marched to the double doors at the edge of the canteen, forming two perfect lines on either side. The children sat around the tables rose to their feet with a sense of monstrous unison. They all stood before their chairs, waiting.
The double doors swung open to reveal a troop of grey clad men, led by a steely-eyed blonde nurse in blue scrubs. She had a pretty, well formed face that was made ugly by the no-nonsense grimace of disgust that it bore. To her right was a tall thin man with dark hair, who was wearing a white doctor’s coat. He stood rigidly, his eyes staring off into the distance as if they registered nothing.
‘Inspection.’ Snapped the Nurse.
The staff divided into four groups, each moving to a row on either side of the two sets of tables, before inspecting the eyes, teeth and general status of each person. Bianca and Jason’s row was singled out by the Nurse, who made her way down the row considerably faster than her co-workers. The row stood bolt upright, sweating in nervous anticipation, but fortunately, no problems were detected, and the Nurse went on her way. As soon as the staff left, there was a collective sigh of relief from the teenagers.
‘So…this plan…’ asked Jason, breaking the silence.
‘Yes…as I was saying…’ Lewis leant in to the other students as he explained his latest escape plan.
The students had no time to consider Lewis’ words, for almost as soon as he finished, a handsome but cruel eyed young man picked up his tray, moved over to their table and cleared his throat. Paul Spencer was one of the few students at the Facility who never expressed unhappiness at being there; rather he seemed to revel in it, enjoying the power that he learnt from practical studies. He would sit at the front of the classroom, eagerly waiting the commencing of studies and seize any question thrown by one of their teachers with the greed of a predator leaping for a scrap of meat. His devotion had led him to becoming one of a handful of students to gain prefect status without being “voluntary” members of the Facility.
‘Well if it isn’t my favourite foursome. Actually planning to do any work today?’
‘Bugger off Spencer, no one invited you.’
Spencer sat down regardless and smirked at the others.
‘Looking forward to another day of studies? You know, I have a feeling that you could all be great necromancers one day, if you just paid a little more attention.’
‘Who says we want to be great necromancers?’ asked Patricia. Spencer laughed, and took a large bite from Lewis’ breakfast.
‘Pay no attention to him Lewis.’
‘Tell me Patricia, did Mr. Kendall call you inept or just stupid when you nearly managed to burn down the classroom?’
‘No, you tell us Paul, did Nurse Ellis say you were unfortunate or just asking for it when you annoyed Amelia so much that she managed to cause an outbreak of boils to develop on your backside?’ Bianca shot at him.
Spencer went scarlet and quickly left the table, leaving his tray behind. The canteen was filled with the familiar rings of the morning bell.
‘He’ll get what’s coming to him some day. Come on, time for class.’
Patricia and Lewis stood up and left the table, but Jason remained seated.
‘What’s wrong Jason?’ Bianca asked, resting her hand on his shoulder. ‘Another dream?’
‘Yeah… but that’s not what’s bothering me.’
‘Well what then?’
‘Do you think it’ll work? Do you think we’ll ever get out of here B?’
‘Some day Jason. Some day.’ she sighed, and took his hand, leading him off to class. ‘Come on, mustn’t be late.’