|the Sigil series takes place in Chicago, largely at The International Academy of Design and Technology campus|
Many of us like to believe the best of people. Despite historical evidence to the contrary, we are apt to have hope in the human race. That they are overall, bright, adaptable, good-hearted creatures.
I stopped having such foolish assumptions a very long time ago, if they ever existed at all, which they didn’t, not to my recollection.
I was not, nor have I ever been, kind-hearted. But I am very bright, and, as life would have it, extremely adaptable. Though as I sat there, squinting at the mixed code of symbols and numbers before me, I was having trouble believing it.
Most would have blamed the surrounding darkness of a computer lab at night with no lights on, but I possessed acute photosensitivity since birth, leaving me with acute night sight, migraines from florescent lights, and currently irritated contact lenses. The soft hum of the army of high-tech computers around me was a comforting background of white noise to the industrial synth-orchestra blasting out of the giant headphones that hung around my neck. I stared at the stupid code begging the stupid error to appear before me, rubbing my eyes to make the stupid contacts stick to my stupid eyelids, leaving me blinking idiotically in the darkness in a struggle to get them back in place, and it was in the midst of that struggle that someone turned on the painful light fixtures and sent agonizing ultra-bright beams of white light into my already irritated eyes.
“Spellmeyer! How’s it coming?”
If I hadn’t found the stupid absent backslash in that moment, I might have resorted to violence. As it was, I typed in the damned symbol, before hitting ctrl+s, F5 with such practiced speed that it probably looked like some hacker voodoo to the jackass interior design major behind me, really, all I did was save and reload the webpage, where it displayed his flawless new website in all its glory. The jackass to whom I was referring needed to get an edge on the competition for an internship with some up-and-to-do agency I could never afford, and would never hire if I did. He needed a site to showcase his talents, and I needed money. My opinion of my clients was not worth more than that.
“Take a look,” I gestured to the gargantuan monitor before me, standing up to give him full access to the preview. He didn’t like how I towered over him, but I towered over most everyone, I was used to it a long time ago. He seemed suspect.
“It’s very simple.”
“Simple is effective. Don’t believe me, ask Apple. It’s a website, communications and advertising, not a room to plaster wallpaper over.”
He frowned, but didn’t argue the matter.
“How much do I owe you?”
He seemed surprised.
“That’s the steepest price on campus.”
“For the finest work on campus. You want top quality design, you need to pay top dollar. Time is money, and I have very little of either.” I wasn’t bragging, I don’t brag. I had a near genius level IQ and a very adaptable thought process, which is to say, I learn new things very quickly and excel at alarming rates. I do not have eidetic memory, but I have enough creativity to make up for it. I double majored out of boredom, and my high IQ and tendency towards computers were probably the only reasons my social apathy went undiagnosed. I was always regarded by family and peers as “one of those people.”
He counted up the money and handed it over as if he had just given up his favorite son for adoption. I would have felt bad, except that Theodore Oscar’s parents were both wealthy beyond imagining, and there was no logic to guilt. I counted the money, copied the file from my thumb drive, and left.
I didn’t turn back when he asked what my plans were this evening. Nor did I look up at the guy who brushed past me, ascending up on my way down. I did not pause when he had a weird smell, and I ignored the odd feeling I got from him too. I was a borderline sociopath, I thought everyone was strange, and by strange, I mean so dull and so foolish I don’t understand how they find contentment in their sad, boring lives.
I did not turn back. Not until I was in the hallway on the bottom floor, not until I heard a piercing wail that sounded like something from a good actor out of a bad horror movie. I turned back just in time to see the “weird” guy towering over Oscar, cowering, cornered against the glass wall of the stair case.
I don’t know why I began to turn back, but I did. Though as I took my first step up, a pair of hands grabbed me by the waist, lifting me straight off my feet and hauling me back. One of them sealed my mouth shut when I tried to scream. I had never done that before, but I had never been kidnapped either. I was held still to watch the arc of blood spray across the glass in great, scarlet, arterial bursts, as the guy tore Oscar limb from limb, and he didn’t go quiet, didn’t go quick. He kept screaming. And I screamed with him. Not for Oscar. No, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass for Oscar. I screamed for the knowledge that I was next.
“Calm yourself,” the commanding male voice of my attacker whispered into my ear, breath caressing my lobe, “You’re not ready to take him on. Not yet,”
I had no idea what he was on about, but I wasn’t ready to die yet either. His grip was firm, but not rough, not impossible. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He didn’t expect me to fight back.
He was taller than me, and I used that to my advantage. I elbowed him in the solar plexus with everything I had and took off running, slamming through the doors at the end of the hall to the student lounge, the sound of his foot falls not far behind.
I was lithe, and tall, but not in shape; he would outrun me in a heartbeat. But he couldn’t outsmart me. An abandoned janitor’s caddy was off to one side. Perfect. Quick as a fox, I grabbed the broom and darted to the left corridor, shoved it through the door handles, and ran into the nearest classroom on the left, using the side-door to double back through the adjacent lab, finding a good hiding place behind a row of servers. They wouldn’t expect me to double back, they didn’t know the layout of the campus, not as good as I did. They would find the doors barricaded, and barrel straight through the next exit to the quad. As soon as they passed through, I could double back through the building, exit to North St, and get home.
But he never came. Neither of them. Minutes passed, until a labored crash burst into the lounge beyond. The sounds of yelling, the loud slap of blows against flesh echoed against the silence. It was as good a time as any. I crept through the side door, only to have the metal hinges screech shut behind me. Fuck. They were closer than I thought too. Creep number one lunged for me first, angular face covered in blood, but the second one pulled him back, throwing him against the wall with enough forced that it shook. And before I could move his long fingers wrapped around my wrist, and the world was reduced to a swirling pool of blackness, the lights snuffed out.