Pleaty Jackson 2: Welcome To Caesar Middle School
Pleaty Jackson 2: Welcome To Caesar Middle School
By Superfolder Hades
Welcome To Caesar Middle School
Look, I didn’t want to be caught up in this mess. I didn’t ask to be at Caesar, seeking praise, and such. Life like this is nasty, it’s scary, and it might even get you expelled in some very nasty ways. For the seventh time. In my seventh year in a row.
But the gods are real… in a slightly different way than last time. Well, not really, actually. You’ll see. And the gods I had previously encountered were what sent me packing to a new school, one that I’d heard rumors about for quite some time. And the school doesn’t sound so good.
Which is how I ended up here, me working on a blender model of Pleaty Jackson while thirty year olds scream at each other over the radio about Star Wars and the liberal agenda. Yes, I have a radio. That and television- streaming services not included, are my only sources of entertainment. Oh, and books, but Tower of Nero already came out, so there’s not much to read. I turned it down after hearing my Mother scream. “Mijo! Time for school!” This time, a male voice screams too. “Mac! Mac! Mac! You’ve started packing, right?”
“Yeah,” I say, “Ironing my last shirt now!”
I had not yet packed my backpack. I’ve been avoiding it.
I fly through my room, tossing various items I may- or may not- need at Caesar. I see Pleaty Jackson, sitting on my desk. I vacantly ignore him. And yeah, we have dorm rooms. It’s a “rich” school.
I get into my Caesar uniform and step out the door. Mom looks me up and down, and kisses me on the forehead. “Nueve comienzo, recurdas, Mijo?”
“Si, si, lo se, pergo llegó tarde, mama.”
Mr. Willigens- my former teacher, and my Mom’s new boyfriend smiles. He puts his hand on my shoulder. I like him. “You got this, kid.” I smile back at him, and step out of the door.
Tyler chases after me. “MAC, WAIT! I CAN DRIVE YOU!”
“No, no, it’s fine. It’s fine.” I say. “It’s just an hour away, Tyler.” I say. He shakes his head, “Calm down, Hermes. Remember dryland day? Also, it’s not really about walking or driving, y’know.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “It’s about-”
“The journey.” We both said at the same time.
Couple minutes later, and I’m sitting in the backseat of his Prius. He passes over an Aux cord and let’s me pick the music. I play The Cult of Dionysus. I see a look of shock quickly flood his face, but it dissipates just as quickly.
“So,” Tyler begins, “How was your morning?”
“I’m starting over, man. According to Lina, this school has its own issues. At least this school doesn’t have thirty year olds with origami greek gods.”
Tyler shutters. “You’re not wrong.”
I wince. “You hidin’ something? Seem a little uptight, today.” He frowns, “It’s nothing, just, I care about you, Mac. When you first came to Athens, both Charles and Varsity requested I help you out. And I know I’m not an OrigOlympian anymore, but I still see Charles as a friend. And besides, I can’t let Samuel get to you like that.” I smile kindly at him.
And, around an hour of silence later, we’re here. I smile at Tyler. “Oh yeah, sport, one last thing.” He pulls out a small box, covered in wrapping paper.
“Open it in your dorm, when your first day is over.”
I take the box in my hand, “Thank you.” I say.
“Don’t worry about it. Just don’t tell your Mom.” He winks.
I walk up the large stone steps, my backpack slung over one shoulder.
I look up at the school, the towering buildings that scrape against the sky, the strange mix of modern white tiles and stone bricks that somehow work together to form the exterior. The rows of bushes that line the bottom, covered in the fresh October snow. It’s been a year since I arrived in Athens. I step up the stone steps, catching the eyes of the other students. Their eyes seem to judge me. They seem like they can sniff out the poor in me.
I should’ve thanked Tyler. He helped pay for all of this.
I step through the double doors. A girl greets me. She’s carrying a tall stack of papers, obscuring her face. But she’s dressed like Heather Chandler, the musical version. “Hi! Welcome to Caesar Middle School! Hope you enjoy your stay here!” She hands me one of the papers from her stack. It’s the student handbook, with a pamphlet attached by a paperclip.
“Thanks, I hope I can.” She turns her head out from behind the stack of papers.
Her hair- the same color as mine- is freckled with snow. She has this mysterious glare in her eyes, and the pale skin of her family line. Her jaw drops.
“No $_(@# way. Welcome to Caesar, Mac Astley.”
I smile, “Kaitlyn!” I shouted. I grab about half of the papers off of her stack. “Here, let me help you with that.” I say. She thanks me.
We honestly look alot like brother and sister, the only real difference being in skin tones. I bet our grandparents had strong genes, because that’s all I really can bet on them. I’ve met a lot of people from my Dad’s side of the family, but nothing above his generation. And based on my past experiences, they’ve been a mixed batch.
“So,” I ask, “When did you arrive to Caesar?”
She shrugs, which is hard to do holding a stack of papers.
“Well- Oh, Hi! Welcome To Caesar Middle School!” She hands someone their papers, “I came here about a month after the incident with the Hunters- Hi! Welcome To Caesar Middle School! So, that’s… February, Twenty Twenty. Hi! Welcome To Caesar Middle School!”
“That was almost a year ago. Dang. Hi! Welcome To Caesar Middle School! So, what’s the word on this place?”
“Eh, people are stuck up. Lots of pricks. I did make one friend, though. His name’s Kevin Kwan. Hi, Welcome To Caesar Middle School!”
“Hi! Welcome To Caesar Middle School! Well, I’ll have to meet him sometime.”
“You should, Welcome To Caesar Middle School, enjoy your stay! He’s great.”
“Caesar Middle School, Welcome, Hi! Anyone else I should know?”
“Erm. Adam and Luke are here. Welcome To Caesar Middle School! You’re going to love it here! Mallory, too.”
“Oh, yeah. I- I forgot about Mallory.”
“She’s dating your best friend.”
“I literally talked to Dennis once since I was expelled. Come to think of it, this is the longest conversation I’ve had with anyone since my expulsion.”
“Does that make me your best friend?” I nod. Normally, I don’t get attached to people easily. I have to move around alot. I made the mistake of getting attached to people at Athens. But hey, Kaitlyn is family.
“I- I guess so. School!”
“Anything else I need to know? No… sad thirty year olds with origami greek gods?”
“What do you mean ‘exactly’?”
The last of her papers were finished. A different kid came in, holding a bigger stack.
“Harold,” she said. “Take this one for me, will you?”
I tried to follow her, but she turned around and flashed an evil smile. My cousin’s eyes twinkled. “Welcome to Caesar Middle School, Mac Astley.”
The Official Podcast
I stepped into the gymnasium. A Lot of people were sitting on the floor, their legs crossed. There wasn’t much room left, so I just stood by the big metal beams by the walls. A girl stepped onto the stage. She dressed up in a clad purple suit, with a fluffy skirt the same color. She walks on with a peppy charisma, her eighties- style blonde hair bouncing with each jump. That’s when I recognized her.
She’s had a complete glow up. When I first met her, she was much thinner, much shyer, but she and Dennis had brought out each other’s confidence. Mallory Leavings smiled. In a bright and peppy voice she began to speak.
“Hello- new and returning students of Caesar Middle School! I’m your current praetor, Mallory Leavings.” She gestured to another student. He wore the traditional uniform, a much sleeker and darker purple. His eyes seemed dead inside, though they still glimmered under the blaring auditorium lights. “And this is my co-praetor. Jackson Ordonia.” Jackson waived with a grand, sweeping gesture.
I began to search for Kaitlyn. I was- let’s just say, very confused. I found Kaitlyn leaning on the metal double door, sucking on a lollipop.
“Yo, what’s up with Mal over here?”
“Ah, yeah, well, she came here in September. She slowly began to work the ranks, building trust. Some people from Athens actually wrote letters to the school. Eventually, she became Praetor.”
“That’s cool and all, but what exactly is a Praetor?”
“To stop corruption, instead of having one student body president, we have two, normally a male and a female.” I pointed to Jackson, “And who’s that dipwad?”
“That, my dear cousin, is Jackson Ordonia. He was the Praetor here when she arrived.” I nodded.
“That explains it. A good way to cover up mistakes is to say they were here when you arrived.”
“I take it you’re not a fan of Mr. Ordonia?”
“He seems shady. I don’t trust him.”
“Truth be told, I don’t really trust anyone here. But it’s nice to have Mallory and you here, good to see something familiar.”
“Shut up,” someone hissed, “The pretty one is talking.”
“Simp.” Kaitlyn muttered under her breath.
“What did you just call me?” The boy stands, and asks.
Mallory raises her voice, “As we start the second semester, I’d like to remind you all of our zero tolerance policy on touching, and violating the personal space of other students, whether with your physical hands and/or other appendixes, as well as with objects, such as sticks.” Jackson took the mind. “In December of 2019, one of our own students almost lost an eye due to bullying.”
“Bullcrap!” A student says, standing. “Flynn was the real bully!”
Jackson clears his throat, “Yeah, no, Chase struck first, and under rule 49B, that places Flynn as the victim.”
“OH SHUT UP ABOUT THE HANDBOOK!” Another student shouts, before seeming to disappear. Odd. I look around and notice the other protester is missing, too.
Mallory interjected. “In other words, on behalf of the school board, I’d like to apologize for the recent outbreak in the stomach virus, and would like to note that we had no possible way of knowing those apple slices had turned. Also, warning to all the boys, some IDIOT clogged all three of the toilets. Whoever that is, we found blood in your stool. You’re dying young, you little piece of garbage.”
The bell rang. “Please report to your first period classes, everyone!”
And we did. And then I reported to my second. Then third. Fourth. Fifth. Lunch. Courtyard. Sixth. Seventh. Advisory. End day.
There was ONE thing left for me to do now.
Report to my dorm room. Apparently dorm rooms are split into ten buildings called “Cohorts,” I was in the Fifth.
I open the door to where I- a fourteen year old boy- will be living for the next ten months.
This is what I see: a boy about my age sleeping on the futon, the computer is open with VSauce on, there’s a God of War poster hanging up on the wall. There’s two bunk beds, allowing for a maximum of four people. Hanging on the post of one of the beds is an industrial sized trash bag filled to the brim with paper plates. I tap on the boy’s shoulder.
“AH-” He screams. “Oh, my god, sorry, thought you were The Headmaster.”
“No, no, I’m the one who should be sorry.”
“Oh, no, no, don’t worry about it, man.” He extends his hand, “Hey, Kevin Kwan, guess I’m your roommate.” I shake his hand. Oh, it’s the guy Kaitlyn told me about.
“Cool, cool. Hey, let me help you out with your stuff.”
“Oh, no, no-”
“Hey, I got it man.”
“C’mon, no, it’s fine. It’s fine. It’s heavy stuff.”
He grabs it with ease, “No trouble, dude.” When he’s standing, he looks a bit like a grizzly bear, the cute kind. No, I’m not calling him cute, I’m calling the bear cute.
“So where you from?” He asks.
“Dang, you came a long way. That place’s a dump.”
“Eh, it’s up and coming.”
“What ya doin’ up here?”
“They gave me the scholarship, I guess.” That wasn’t a lie. Caesar gave me both a scholarship- lord knows what the headmaster was thinking- and Tyler paid off the money that was left over. I wasn’t ready to tell him that I was expelled from Athens.
“My Dad’s a coach here. Teacher’s are actually paid above minimum wage here.”
“That’s crazy, man. Yeah.”
We talked for a long while, and kind of hit it off. I see why he was friends with Kaitlyn, he’s a very trustworthy guy.
Speaking of Kaitlyn, she knocked on the door around six. Kevin swung it open, “Katie!” He cheered.
When she noticed me her eyes widened. “Mac! What a coincidence, I see you’ve met Kev.”
“You two know each other?” Asked Kevin.
“Yes,” Katie gestured to me, “This is Mac Astley. My cousin.”
Kevin’s shoulder’s eased, and he sighed a breath of relief. “Anyways,” Katie pulled out a microphone and plugged it into the computer. “Shall we begin?” She asks Kevin.
“Wh- What are you beginning?”
“Oh, sorry,” Kevin says, he smiles kindly, “Me and Kate run a podcast, we call it the SPQR, it stands for Super Popular Quoras and Requests.”
“Oh… that’s cool, what’s the topic?”
“It’s sort of like a school paper, but, y’know, way more honest., we talk about homework, gossip, the OriGods”
And I paused. Why would they discuss the OriGods? Unless…? No, this CAN’T be. The suffering that Lina had mentioned. The OriGods are here, too. Somehow.
“Kaitlyn,” I asked, “How are the OriGods here, too?”
“I- I don’t know. We all just accepted it, really.”
“No- there- there has to be some way. Some logic. Some reasoning. R- Right!?”
Katie patted me on the shoulder. “This is heavy.” I said.
“There- THERE HAS TO BE A RHYME OR REASON TO THIS ALL! THERE HAS TO BE!” I was desperate. I needed answers, as well.
I Am Arrested For Arson
Today was… good? I got handcuffed to a van so that might not be the word.
Bad? No, no, I got answers. To, um, everything, actually.
Interesting? Fascinating? Scary? Yes, yes, actually. That’s the word.
But how did I get into this mess, exactly? Ironically enough, it all started with a balloon.
I was in second period, and we had our first written assignment. I reach for my pen, and can’t seem to find anything. I search for five entire minutes, and end up finding something at the bottom of my backpack. I pull it out, and, lo and behold, it’s a pen.
I click the pen, and a balloon begins to inflate. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Stupid Kaitlyn. Why did you give me a pen sword? That is a weapon.
I try to stop the balloon from inflating in my palm, and suddenly, there’s a loud pop. And I mean loud.
The air pressure must’ve been crazy. The science teacher dropped the lit match she held in her hand for her opening performanc/experiment. The fire nearly engulfed the science lab’s floor.
I tore the dress-jacket of my uniform off, and ran to the fire, not thinking to conceal the popped balloon. I smothered the fire out of existence.
The teacher stood above me. “You caused this.” She said.
“No, no, this was an accident.”
“That’s… hard to believe.” I didn’t really blame her for not believing me, I was acting, as the kids say, sus. (Get it? I referenced Among Us. Please laugh.) She made me stand in the corner as she considered what she’d do with me. People stared at me. Staring really gets to me. The idea that they’re always seeing what I’m doing, that they’re being entertained by this- whether they even know they are or not. Every shift of my seat, every dart of my eye.
Fifteen of some of the most stressful, terrifying, minutes of my life she pulls out a slip of paper. “You could’ve burned down the whole school, “ She says. And I make a dumb mistake.
“But… I didn’t?” I say. That snarky mouth of mine. I should’ve just shut up.
“You’re a smart aleck, aren’t you? I’ve seen smart alecks before, and they’re always slackers.” She looked at the students, “Who remembers Lina?”
The entire class raised their hands. I did, too.
“Yeah, um, she’s actually my cousin.”
The teacher smiles, “I guess the trash doesn’t fall too far from the truck, does it?”
I wanted to hit her. I really wanted to hit her. I wanted to go back to Athens, to my house, or my dorm. Anywhere but here.
“Anyways, I’ve decided to send you to visit the Headmaster. She’s currently across campus, but she says she’d LOVE to see you.” The teacher smiles condescendingly.
The teacher walks me down the stairs and into the courtyard. A white van pulls up. Two men in security guard outfits come up to me and usher me into the van
Guys, this can’t be legal. And if it is, I take issue with the legal system.
The ride in the white van is a long one, giving me time to question what exactly is going on. Just when I found my footing in Athens, this happens. I only got to spend two casefiles there!
They screeched to a halt. I definitely was still on campus, but man, it was different. There was an entire mansion in front of me. I knocked at the door and waited.
I opened the door and almost fainted. A flurry of emotions consumed me. Anger. Hate. Fear. But most importantly, that one feeling I have deep down. Confusion. Helplessness.
Standing in a suit and tie, his blonde hair was combed the same as mine. I hated that I was his spitting image.
I almost stumbled backwards.
It was William Kurtis. My Father.
I hate William. Because he ruined me. He wasn’t there, he never cared, and he only came back to get some stupid pendant.
The moment I saw his face I reached for the silver pendant with an owl that Ximena had bought me. It reminded me of the Wisdom Cabin that took me in, and Ximena’s photo reminded me of who really was there for me.
William fakes a smile. “Hey! Mac!” He tries to give me a noogie, “There’s my boy?”
“Hey, what the hell do you want? This- this is trespassing.”
“I actually work here.”
“Then I could always say that a member of the school faculty is making me uncomfortable.”
“No, no, wait. Y- You should meet the headmaster first, maybe then y- you’ll see. I-” he sighed, “I became her butler. She was the only person who would offer me a job, please, cut me some slack.”
At this moment, I hated everything. Everyone. No one was there.
But I stepped into the household nonetheless. I was awestruck. It was the richest room that I’ve ever stepped foot in.
And as my Father ushered me through the halls, we stopped in the dining room. Facing the window was a woman, her back turned to me. Through the window, you could see that we were at the edge of Caesar’s borders, the end of the hill we were perched on.
“Mac Astley,” the lady said. Her voice had the slightest Mexican accent to it. She turned to face me. She was about fifty or sixty, her skin colored the same olive color as mine. The only piece of color in her inky black suit was a green amulet with a little hourglass engraved on it, the hourglass being shattered by a scythe. “I’ve been looking for you for so long.” She stepped towards me, “And after all these years, I finally found you.” She placed her hands on my shoulder.
“Lady, I’m… scared.” Because I was. The confusion is starting to border on fear now.
“Oh, where’s my manners?” She smiles, kindly. “My name is Angela Emily. And I’m your Grandmother.”
I stumbled backwards for- I kid you not- an entire minute. William tried to catch me, but I slapped his hand away. “Come now,” my Grandmother said. “I’ll give you a tour.”
She walked me to the library, “The first born child was Varsity Emily.” She pointed to a painting of Mrs. Kemp on the wall. “Then there was Charles, but he… didn’t exactly deserve a painting.”
“What did he even do?”
“Not now, grandson.”
She pointed to another painting, “Later in life, I birthed your Father.” She pointed to William’s painting. “Then, Varsity had her two kids. Not long after, William had you.”
“Yeah, ‘had’, sure.”
“Cut my child a break, Mackerel.”
“What did you just call me?”
“That’s what you’re named after. Mackerel. The OriGod of the sea must love fish. Go figure.”
“Wow, you must really hate me.” I said. staring at William in the doorway. I looked at my Grandmother. I couldn’t read her. So I didn’t trust her.
“I wanted the best education for my, then three, children, so I created Caesar, Athens, and Carter Middle School under the principles needed for them to thrive. And I created the OriGods to be the poster-children of those concepts. It was a peaceful time, gods of Greece, Rome, Egypt, even Norse- though that’s a story for another day- walked among us like it was before the days of Christ. Origami was passed down through the ages, giving rise to hunters, to heroes, but monsters, just as well. In the nineties, people began to sew seeds of rebellion in the empire that we had built. It was an entire generation of punks, if you ask for my opinion. But all of that rebellion led to a dark period. My own ‘child’’ she said it like it was the worst insult she could come up with, “leads it as Shradies. His vile, wicked, repulsive nature led me to hate rebels. What’s your opinion on them?”
I frowned. I had my own issues with rebellions. Sebastian Merrick.
He almost crippled me. I still have an occasional limp. At the end of the day, he saved me. And he was forgiven just like that. He didn’t deserve forgiveness. “I hate them, too.” I said. In reality, what I meant was: I hate him.
I looked at my Grandmother’s kind eyes. She was what I dreamed of being.
A success. A leader, who overcame the odds, who overcame rebels.
“I could teach you,” she said. I looked up at her.
“Yes.” I said. Teach me.”
First week went by pretty normally, as a matter of fact. I got to know Caesar, got to know my roommates. It was particularly weird seeing Mallory in a position of power, I still haven’t gotten over it, actually.
But I like it here. Athens was so loose, y’know, so chaotic. Here, things were tightly knit. There’s no room for chaos on such a busy day, and that’s a good thing.
At the end of Friday, I return to my dorm. Kevin is watching anime on his PC, but he makes sure to say hello to me.
I finally have the time to unpack. I go through all the (censored) in my backpack, and find the box Tyler gave me. I quickly unwrap it.
It’s a phone. Attached to the box is a yellow sticky note. “Don’t tell your Mom I got u this,” it says. Below it is his number.
I power it on and set it up. I immediately installed Discord and came to a problem. It’s been almost a year since I logged in. I couldn’t remember my password. Any of my passwords.
So I text Tyler.
“Hey, thanks for the phone. Means a lot”
He texts back about ten minutes later. A thumbs up.
“If you need anything, you can always call or text.”
“How’s Ximena doing?”
The three dots appear almost the second I send the message.
“Well, I was kicked from The Heroes of OrigOlympus, so were Lina and Dennis. Mrs. Kemp is up to something, I tell you. I’m back to Creaseeus, now, too. But Ximena’s holding up nicely.”
“There’s a what???”
“When you left. We formed a Heroes of OrigOlympus to search 4 u”
“news to me”
“Athens has gone to trash without you. I could get fired at any moment.”
“So what happened to you?”
Should I tell him? No. No I should not, I quickly decided to change the subject.
“Nothing much. Met some old friends.”
That much was true.
“That’s gr8!” He said.
“She’s not doing so well, actually”
“WHAT DID YOU DO TYLER”
“Mac, I didn’t do anything. It happened at work, she had these sharp pains in her heart and chest. Also she got a tick bite.”
I felt the strangest sensation. I didn’t feel so bad for my Mother as much as I felt a sense of anger, directed at the world around me. Why exactly is the world so awful to great people?
I’m sure if I walked on over to Athens, I’d see Sebastian Merrick up on top. Probably dating Ximena because the world really seems to want to flip me the bird, right about now.
I crawl underneath my covers and find Ximena’s spotify after having the thought of her. Other than that, so many of my old friends are ghosts.
So I crawl out of the covers and grab Kevin by the shoulder. “How ya doin’ man?” I ask. He looked like he’d been crying, too. “You okay?” He hid his phone. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He says. I want to pry, but that’s none of my business. If it’s fine, it’s fine.
“No, no, no,” I say, strangely prying, “It’s not fine. It’s never fine. Really,” I say, “What’s actually wrong?”
He opens his phone and shows me a notification. Several, actually. All sent by one kid, Phillip Myers. And what he says has so much profanity I literally refuse to retype one word of it.
“Tell you what,” I say, “I’ll help you out. I’m gonna get the son of a gun. I will-” I flinch, “I will literally tell a teacher and then form a support group for you.”
“You really got my hopes up there.”
“What did you expect?”
“Well, I don’t know! Something that would work!”
“Telling a teacher always works, trust me.”
“He’s rich and popular.”
“Telling a teacher never works, trust me.”
“Well then,” I crack my knuckles, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Bring me Kaitlyn Emily.”
Kaitlyn arrived at our dorm ten minutes after Kevin texted her. I told her about how Kevin was being bullied. She said she knew, but said that there was nothing much she could do about it.
I disagreed. I noted that for someone of Phillip’s popularity was revealed to be a bully- to be a jerk, then that would cause a bigger scandal than some nobody picking on another nobody.
Kaitlyn nodded. “So what do we do, leak the screenshots?”
I frown, “Or, we could, y’know, get a trusted adult. Show them the screenshots, get him detention, if the rumor spreads then that would be coincidental, we’re not really out to ruin him, right? Just, teach this guy a lesson.”
She nodded. “See, that’s the thing. Lessons are for nerds, and he hates both of those two things.” I frown harder. I now qualify as “pouting,” I suppose.
“Well, if he doesn’t learn his lesson, then we ruin him, right?”
I look at Kevin. “Kevin, don’t worry about anything. Just deliver us information, alright? Send those screenshots to me, will you?” I write my new number on a sheet of paper and slide it over to Kevin, “Me and Kaitlyn will handle the rest, won’t we?” She nods. “Yes we will, yes we will.”
Here’s some life advice to all the youngins out there. Telling an adult backfires. I know, I know, that sounds bad, but that’s the cold hard truth. Let me break it down.
I told Mrs. Mobley about what happened. There’s these big glass windows made for Principal’s and higherups to stare into, to prevent child abuse. Well, I sat down after hours and showed her what I’d found. She seemed to genuinely feel bad for Kevin after reading what he had written.
Because it’s the seventh grade, people gawk and stare through these windows.
Mrs. Mobley bolts and stands upright and practically yanks Phillip into her room. She forces Phillip to explain himself, and the screenshots I had provided. She’s practically screaming, the door is flung open, leading to it echoing through the school. I see people stare vacantly at Phillip getting chewed out. He’s slightly annoyed. That’s when I notice something. In his backpack, where a water bottle belongs, is an origami figure.
Red blazing eyes underneath a golden helmet of tin foil, obscuring the rest of the face underneath drawn on shadows. The body, though obscured in mesh, looks like the greek god, Ares. Or, not Ares. Mars, I guess.
In Athens, I imagine Ares wouldn’t be a popular figure. Mars in Rome, on the other hand, was a respected figure. Depending on how you ask, he was above Jupiter.
Jackson Ordonia steps through the crowd that formed outside. He says something in a calm, yet raised voice, though I can’t make the words out.
People begin to mutter, to whisper about me. I can read one word, leaving one random person’s lips.
Mrs. Mobley wakes from her blind and entranced rage. “Mac, darling you could leave,” She says.
I leave. She looks at the other students, “AND YOU ALL CAN LEAVE, TOO!” She screams.
People shoot me glances. They mutter. They whisper. One kid trips me. I want to punch him, but that would get me in a tougher crud.
I step out of the room and see that the sun is already setting. I begin to take the long walk- about a mile- to the residence of Angela Emily.
My legs dangled over the armrest, my head resting on the other. Grandmother offered me a cookie for my troubles. I reach for it and I notice hands are holding me down. The cookie is at my feet.
“C’mon.” William says, the owner of said hands. “Get the cookie.”
“Sir, my hands are physically not long enough. Also I don’t like these kinds,” she switches the cookie out for an Oatmeal Raisin.
I begin to furiously reach for the cookie. That’s when I look at the cookie. It’s much less airy, much thicker. Harder to crumple.
I kicked the cookie out of my Grandmother’s hands. For a split second, it rests on my foot. I attempt to raise my leg, a quick jolt upward would send the cookie to a region where I’d be able to grab it with the free part of my hands.
Unfortunately, I realized what leg I kicked with. I can walk, sure, I can kick a little, too. But raising my left leg at such an angle and such a velocity would bring tremendous pain, also, again, be physically impossible to do.
Then again I do it. I grab the arm with my hands and slide it in between my arm and torso. I raise my body up to create a ramp to my shoulder, where I can wriggle even further using the space in between my clavicle and chin. The cookie’s resting on my mouth now and oh-
William grabbed the cookie off of my face and ate it. Thanks, Dad.
“That’s your first lesson.” Grandmother says, “rising.” Sometimes, your efforts bring you more greatness than what you aimed to achieve in the first place. Look at your leg, you pushed past pain itself. It’s about the journey.” I nodded, filled with determination.
I looked at what I’d been through in the past year. Getting kicked over. The constant expectations.
For so long, I’ve wanted to be the good kid. To be a good son, and this was my chance.
It’s always been the same story, the same song the whole time.
Pleaty Jackson started with the need to protect a friend. And look at where I am now.
My Grandmother sees my look and rubs my chin. “You’re doing great, sport.” She looks up at William. “I think it’s time now that you learn the Achilles technique.”
“The what?” I ask.
She smiles and walks me into a room, supported by greek columns. A karate map, however, takes up the floor.
She stands, “What you first need is misery. Why is that? There needs to be an increase in the inflammatory proteins in the blood. The proteins in your blood flow throughout your body, particularly in your feet.” She points at my feet, “This portion of the Achilles heel technique has no actual relation to your heel. Instead,” she points at that bulging vein thing, “There’s an intense pressure applied here. The inflammatory proteins are sent further throughout the body the more pressure applied.” She then points at my actual heel, “The heel comes in second of all. You apply an intense amount of pressure to the nerves, the inflamed blood cells are pressured through your body, the intense pressure not only breaks it, but sends a shockwave through your enemy’s leg, effectively rendering it incapable. If your enemy insists on war, you steal their ability to wage it.”
I nod. “So this is what Sebastian did on me?”
“Well, he was taught by Jackson to do that, but yes.” She said that it was common knowledge.
“Yes.” She led me into another room and pulled something out of a basket. A portrait of Flynn dressed in a purple suit and tie.
“Flynn was my pupil, and I entrusted him with The Triumvirate, my good creation. He turned people against the original ideals, and it led to CHRONOS. Jackson joined around that time. He had a way with people, and trained new recruits. Flynn was a boy filled with flaws, and I tried to seal them.”
I frowned, “So Flynn was a good kid once, too?”
“He still is.”
I smiled, hoping for redemption. But everyone loves the redemption arc. I don’t think he- or Sebastian- deserved one. Or at least not so easily.
“Class dismissed.” She said.
I didn’t expect, nor wish, to encounter Jackson Ordonia. But as I stepped through the stone steps of Caesar’s roads, trying to walk to my dorm, there he was. Sitting by the fountain.
“Good afternoon, Astley.” He stepped forward, keeping his expression firm. He didn’t seem like one who’d be charismatic. He was getting dangerously close. “I heard you ganged up on one of my close associates.”
“I’m afraid the facts are mixed up.”
He smiled. “Are they, now? It’s a real snitch move you pulled. But I like that. I like that.”
“See, there’s two types of men in this world. Men of ambition and men who are full of crap. To make it anywhere, you have to be both. You come to Caesar, and it’s your first instinct to take out the third biggest guy. As much as I respect that, I’d like to ask you to buzz off. He helped pay for my Praetorial votes. A man of your stature would understand that.”
I gulped, “Yeah, yeah, I get that. I get that. I- I get that. I understand those words, a hundred percent.”
“But, uh, Mallory. Well. Mallory has been actively troubling me. Getting on my case, she might have… information on me. Phillip willed it out of existence. If you insist on proceeding, maybe you topple the greats. Mallory, perhaps?”
“Yeah, I’ll be sure to do that.” I said. walking away.
Naturally I did not do that.
I knocked at Kaitlyn’s dorm, “Jesus Christ, I have something to talk to you about.” I shoved her into her room and onto the couch, “You’re gonna wanna take a seat.” She took a seat, and I sat down next to her. Honestly, the best part of the Caesar experience is having a cousin. Her room was set up just like mine, but only lit by a lamp, and of course, Halloween decorations up.“OK, OK, SO WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN? I- THE TEACHER THING DID NOT GO WELL, LIKE, AT ALL.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Shut up. I’m trying to sleep.” Her roommate said.
“It’s eight o’clock, pipsqueak. Also, Mac, seriously, calm down.”
“People saw, and Jackson turned them against me. I- I talked to our Grandma-”
“The Headmaster. She’s our Grandmother, did you not know.?”
Kaitlyn almost gagged on her expresso. “Excuse me, but what the hell?”
“Yeah, get used to that piece of knowledge.”
“Yeah, neither will I.” I giggled.
“Anyways, she taught me some stuff. And uh- and later on I- I- I talked to Jackson! Yeah. And he said he liked me- like, a- a friend not… eww. OH and he said that Phillip helped pay for his votes and I’m like ninety percent sure Phillip is Origami Mars and oh heavens, he’s corrupt and- and in charge and he asked me to take out Mallory and I was all like NOOOO AND then GAH.”
She patted me on the back. “Mac, are you- like- okay?”
“I DON’T KNOW,” I unpeeled my eyelids, revealing I hadn’t slept in several days, “DO I LOOK OKAY?!”
My cousin flinched back. “I’m- I’m sorry I yelled. Y’know, it’s been a rough year.”
She nodded, “I feel you.” She wrapped her arm around me, affectionately. “But I got you. We’ve both been through the same garbage. CHRONOS and all that. You haven’t forgiven Sebastian, have you?”
I shook my head, “No. Why would I?”
“I don’t blame you. I haven’t fully forgiven Peyton, either. People like Ximena and Dennis don’t know how bad things got for us. I’m sure Peyton and Sebastian are out living perfect lives, and meanwhile, we’re left to deal with this.” She vaguely gestured at everything, “And it’s not like either of us have family to turn to.”
“You have your Dad. And a Mom, I assume?”
“Well, yeah. But they’re always trying to force me to do this, or do that. I just wanna do me. That’s why I folded this.” She stepped to her drawer and opened it. A puppet with frizzy golden hair and chocolate skin. “I call her… Label Levesque.”
I clapped and fired off some finger guns, “That pun’s too good.” I said. now laughing.
“Thanks, thanks.” She said, “What’s your family like?”
“Dad’s, uh, WAS gone. Now he’s my Grandma’s Butler.” I paused, “Yeah… Oh and my Mom’s the best, I love her. She supports me more than just about anybody. I got a stepdad. He- he’s cool and all.”
“Wow, your life is terrible.” Kaitlyn said. sarcastically.
“I mean, aren’t your parents rich? They run the Qwikpik.”
“They’re not- no, that’s- that’s not how that works. His sister ruined him.”
“Yeah, $)*_# Mrs. Kemp.”
“Oh yeah %$*_@ her.”
“I hope she stubs her toe on her desk.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. She’s family. Wish death instead.” We both laughed.
“Oh my god-” she said. “I got it. You got Jackson on your side, right?” I nodded.
“Well, we could get him to confess. Confess to that corruption, ruin him. Work with you?”
“Sounds like a plan.” There was a pause, “Oh yeah, could I borrow a sheet of paper?”
The new puppet looked nice. It wasn’t as good as the original, but it was torn. The Logan Lerman one symbolized me growing up, and therefore it meant alot to me. But this new one, in it’s SPQR uniform and all was great too. I mean, far from perfect, too. But hey, I returned to my dorm, happy.
When I stepped into the dorm I saw Kevin with a black eye, and likely a bloody nose. It’s hard to know what exactly was bleeding, because that’s what most of his face was smeared in.
“They kicked the #$*)(#@()- hell out of me.” He said.
Her Immediate Reaction Is To Fight Fire With Fire
Enraged, I- uh- I went back to Kaitlyn lol.
I knocked on her door, “I literally just went back to bed,” her roommate groaned. Kaitlyn turned the lamp on and turned the Pink Floyd down. “What’s wrong?” She asked.
“THEY KICKED THE EVERLOVING BEJEEZUS OUT OF KEVIN!”
Kevin enters the room, “Hey, could I borrow a tissue? We ran out, y’know, and uh, I need to clean up the blood.”
She tossed him a box, “Hey, keep it. Go clean yourself up in the closet. There’s already some blood stains there anyways.”
“Hey, shut up.” She said, cheerfully.
“$#*( it, let’s get him to confess, TONIGHT.” Kaitlyn screamed.
She looked at the clock. Nine o’clock. She turned to her roommate, or, to her roommates bunk, the roommate in question covered in covers. “Where should they be?” Kaitlyn asks.
Kaitlyn placed Label Levesque on her finger. “LET’S GO, BOY WONDER!” She screams.
“Okay, but can you like, shut the %$*)# up.” The roommate said.
“And please,” I say, “Don’t call me Boy Wonder.”
As Kaitlyn and I walked to the belltower, I asked a question I’m sure you considered. “Ay, why is your roommate?” I generally asked.
“Yeah,” she said. essentially telling me to shut up.
So we stood before the belltower. Drats, they locked the door, looks like there’s no way to get in and- oh, well, okay, Kaitlyn is climbing up the belltower’s columns, disregarding physics. Okay, alright, I… don’t want to do that. Screw it, I’m ready to give into peer pressure.
I began to climb. Slowly, voices came into my ears. Jackson, speaking to someone mysterious.
“Yes, yes, I’ve talked to him. The plan is working out. By the time I’m done, Mac’s going to be in an entirely new world of pain. Wait, are you serious? The nighthunter guy betrayed you? He could’ve been valuable, you know.”
He hung up once he saw us. “Hello there. Mac. Kaitlyn. I was hoping you’d come alone once you brought me the news of Mallory’s corruption, but to each your own. I don’t mind you bringing a date.”
“She’s my cousin.”
“I’m not the judging type, Mac.” His voice sounded like an intoxicated greek philosopher.
“Shut up.” Kaitlyn said. punching him in the nose, making him hit the bell hard enough to wake some people up.
Jackson didn’t flinch.
It was at this point I realized that the ground was littered with dead pigeons.
Jackson smiled, “I assume you two aren’t just out sightseeing? What question do you have to ask,” the way his mouth moved seemed like he was being lip synced with a one second delay. “
“Look, Jackson, would you mind repeating what you said last time?”
“No.” And then we died.
That was a joke. Literal bodyguards stepped into the room and threatened to push us over the bell tower. They actually threatened to MURDER someone. That might hurt.
We kindly decline our deaths.
“Well that was a failure.” I said. Kaitlyn hit me. “Hey, what time is it?” I asked.
“Oh, let me check the phone I left at my dorm.” She said. grumpy over the fact that someone literally threatened to end her continued existence on this planet. Dying could literally kill her.
“Well, I have to go to class.”
“It’s probably ten.”
“Who asked, bro?” I ran off. Thankfully, she didn’t follow.
So, pain, am I right?
I think my leg broke again. Why?
My Dad ASSAULTED me that’s why? I ran to the place my lessons were supposed to be held- STONE pathways- and oh god, my crippled leg is SWIPED BY MY OWN DAD!
“WHAT THE $#**_)?!?”
“You always need to be ready, Mr. Astley.” Angela, standing invisible from the shadows pointed at the desk, “Tonight, I teach you the art of interrogation. In the real world, there is no good cop, no bad cop. There is strong cop, and a weak cop. Which do you want to be?”
“The strong cop.”
“To do this, you have to become more than human. In the same manner, you have to treat the person you’re interrogating like someone less than human. That’s the true goal, here. Dehumanization. Depersonalization. William, sit at the chair.”
Apparently, there was a chair. “To show you this, I’m going to be using your Father here as an example. Work with you?”
“Yes.” I said.
“Perfect. Let’s say he’s Jackson Ordonia, would you? Now go wild.”
I bang his head onto the table, and grab him by the jacket. I don’t know if I’m doing this to William or because I’m pretending it’s Jackson, but either way, I go to town. My Grandmother stops me, “Don’t open with the beatings, the victim can get fuzzy.”
“Answer the question, #$)(_#wipe. Did you pay Phillip to get you votes?”
“I- I don’t know anything.” “Jackson” pleads. My Father does a pretty good impression of Jackson, I’ll say that.
“BULL#(_@! YOU KNOW SOMETHING!” I pulled out the recorder I brought for the actual Jackson.
I punched him. I feel like I’m hitting every single bully I’ve ever faced. And I see his face. The face of Sebastian Merrick. I continue to hit, “ANSWER ME! WHY DID YOU DO WHAT YOU DID? TO DE- KEVIN!!” There’s genuine pain in my voice. I hit him again, this time on the ground, I heard a crack.
“Alright- alright, fine! I give in! I give in!” He screamed. He now sounded exactly like Jackson. “I- I cheated my way into the office. Flynn helped, it was- it was your Grandmother who trained him- she- she’s the one who did all of this to you, Mac! She caused your pain, Mac! She caused it!” He’s clearly bluffing, playing along with the game. That’s when a flashlight turns on. My Grandmother is flashing it into the eyes of- not my Father- no, he’s standing off to the side, checking his phone- but in that of Jackson Ordonia. Broken and bloodied. He looks terrified.
I shove him onto the ground and stand up. “Is this true?” I ask. She focuses her attention on Jackson. She places her glimmering green high heel on the heel of Jackson, on the floor. He begins to scream, to scream in pain. He’s about to be crippled. I know it.
“Go easy on him, Angela.” WIlliam says. Guess he has a heart after all.
“MERCY IS FOR THE WEAK!” She screams. William balls his fist and pushes her off of Jackson. He turns and flees. Jackson scuddles off, as well. Angela directs her attention to me.
“Mackerel, my little baby boo. Now you see? These children, this generation, they’ve grown soft. They need to learn the right way, the right stuff. I made the OrigOlympians on that, and other principles. But no one in this generation was the right candidate. Except for you.” She said. “You’re the perfect Grandson. You’re everything I could ever ask for. I love you, Mac. So please, understand that this was all crafted to create a better world for you. You caused me to do all of this. I created The Triumvirate, to create CHRONOS, to create Sebastjan, to bring you to me. Who do you think was able to fund CHRONOS? Who vouched for you- let you into Athens? Who would pay for Athens to have FunTime, the most expensive and controversial equipment on this side of the state? Who would purposefully fund an entire labyrinth to root underneath your school, without your teachers knowing? Who called your Father back into town when you were expelled? Huh? It was me, Mac. It’s always been me, and I did this for Chase. And for Lina. And for Edward. And for Kaitlyn. But above all else, I did it for you. Because you’re the only child who truly matters, now. All of the pain that went down upon your friends and family, for you. All the pain you went through, it was to make you stronger. You’re doing this to yourself, mijo. You caused this.”
And I did. I did cause all of this. But that didn’t give her the right to give me an entire year of pain, now does it? No.
We were both wrong, really.
I Get Into A Fight
I head to my room and sink my head underneath the covers. Kevin is already asleep, and I can’t muster much up, so I do the same.
I wake up at three in the morning and take shower. I comb my hair and realize that my hair has grown shaggy and long. I cut it into a mullet. I pluck my eyelashes. I mustered up the strength to do fifty push ups, a new high score. I get dressed in a purple sweatshirt with a gray and sleeveless hoodie over it.
No more is Mac Astley who lets people push him around. No. I punch the desk, bloodying my knuckles. I don’t need to be a “good kid,” I need to be myself.
I fell asleep once again.
I woke up again at five. Kaitlyn should be up, by now.
Spoiler Alert: She is.
“Woah dude,” she says the second I open the door, “Nice haircut.”
“Thanks, I did it myself. Anyways, I got the recording.”
“Well, easy. I beat the snot out of him.”
“Oh, really? Nice.”
“Yeah. Anyways, I got it on tape, too.” I play the tape back.
“Could I be the one who gives it to the teacher?” She asks, “You’ve done all the work so far. If anyone gets their skulls caved in, it should be me this time.”
“Honorable.” I say.
“That, and I have a mission for you, as well. Earlier last night, I had a visit from Mallory. She acted suspicious, but overall encouraging. I looked over things and realized that my mistrust of her was valid, she’s passed rules that give her more power, if she could kick Jackson out of office she’d be the unstoppable one. That’s why she encouraged me.”
“Are you saying?”
“She’s corrupt? No. I’m saying I’d like for you to talk to her. Anyways, I still CANNOT get over the new look. You look great.”
“Thanks,” I say, “But there’s something else I can’t get over. Angela orchestrated all of this, right?”
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, CHRONOS, everything.” She sits down, “That’s news to me.” She says.
“Well, I find it weird. She seems to very clearly show an interest in control. In rulership. She seems to be the embodiment of the OrigOlympian mindset. CHRONOS directly goes against these ideals. So,” I rub my forehead, “What if we’ve all been played? What if CHRONOS was created to serve a different purpose, completely under even Sebastian’s nose? Think about it, a new OrigOlympus forms after years of being dormant just because of some big fight? They could even be responsible for sending me here. Maybe, just maybe, Xander being in control of OrigOlympus was part of a ruse all along?”
“Wait, so we were played… like a fiddle?” Kaitlyn asks.
“Yes. Like a fiddle.” As I leave for Mallory’s dorm, I turn to face Kaitlyn. “Keep this between us, okay? Anyone who knows could be in danger?”
“Hey Mallory,” I say, knocking at her door, “Can I talk to you?” She swings her door open, holding a teddy bear with stab marks
She shrugs. “Don’t see why not.” She smiles and asks me to take a seat on her bean bag chair. I do, and she sits next to me.
“So… I want to cut to the chase.” I say, “We think you may or may not be corrupt.”
She shrugs once more, “Define corruption.”
“You scheme for power using less morally justifiable methods.”
“Then I’m corrupt.”
“What? I mean, I was only half- sure and you say that it like it’s not a bombshell and-”
“God, you’re slow, Let me spell it out for you. I’m a member of The Triumvirate. I am… OrigOctavian. I joined forces with Lina Kemp as a double agent, to bring information back to Flynn, who forwarded it to HIS leader. I’m sure you already know who she is. Later on, I had served my purpose at Athens, so I moved to Caesar. I began my rise to power, Jackson was a fall guy, we worked together. Now, Kaitlyn is off to give me exactly what we want.”
“How do you know that?”
“Miss Roommate, of course.”
“Why would you do this?”
“I’d probably give you some crap about wanting to watch the world burn, but that’s not true. It’s just-” she giggles, “You guys never ran background checks!” She sounded so cheerful. “I was a girl in love, Mac. I was like Bonnie, and he was Clyde.”
And it hit me, from the old Sebastian case file. There was a “brains of the operation” that was dating someone. This was Mallory. How am I going to tell Dennis? This is going to break his heart.
“But you guys did get something wrong. “Alexander, The Puppet” isn’t the one I’m dating. He’s far too powerful for a mortal puppet.” I tried to stand and leave, but my head seemed to spin. I stumbled backwards to Mallory’s dorm room.
Flynn jumped out from behind the closet doors and screamed.
I fell backwards, and tried to run away, but Phillip was blocking the door. Flynn clapped.
“Well, well, well. How are you, Astley?” He smiled, coldy. “Been a long time since we’ve met. Care for a glass of tea?” He poured scalding hot tea on me, “And I see you’ve met my associates already.”
I nodded, getting into a fighting stance, I could still muster up some of what Mr. Alexander taught me.
From Mallory’s computer, a slowed down version of Ballroom Blitz began to play. I have literally know clue why. Phillip kicked me in the head. “Oh, and it’s not Origami Mars. It’s Arts.” I tried to run out of the dorm, but could still make out what they were saying.
“You wanna see more, Mallory?” Flynn asked.
“OH, I WANNA SEE A LOT MORE.” Mallory shouted, sadistically.
Flynn placed his foot on my other heel. “Ironic.” He said. And I faced that same old sensation as before. First, he twisted the foot. A move that Anglea hadn’t taught me, likely out of sabotage. He applied more pressure, slowly, more and more, the pain was indescribable, the pain in my foot seem to ripple through my nerves, my fingers grew weak, like string was tightly wrapped around it, my stomach hurted and I felt like I was going to throw up. I could physically feel my face turn into a kaleidoscope of green, red, and purple, and he knelt over and placed his hand on my mouth so my screams wouldn’t wake anyone up. He walked away after holding his foot over my heel for what must’ve been a mere minute. I can hear the bell buzzing, and the summoning of Jackson to the office.
I woke up in my room. Kaitlyn is feeding me chocolate pudding, Kevin is sitting on the edge of my bed. It’s a peaceful moment. “I asked Kevin to follow you there,” Kaitlyn said. “He really gave them Hades. Dragged you back here, called me shortly after. We brought you to the nurse’s office, she said you sprained it a little, “You’ll be in a cast for a few weeks, maybe have a permanent limp.”
“How did my Mom react?”
“They called your Step-Dad.” Kevin said. I checked my phone. Thirteen missed calls.
I then saw the time, “Oh goodness gracious,” I said. “I’m late for class.”
“Gramma visited and gave us three the day off. They gave Flynn and Mallory detentions, but Mallory is still Praetor.”
“Great, so we solved nothing?”
“Kevin showed those jerks he won’t be pushed around anymore. That’s a start.” Kaitlyn said.
“Anything else I need to know about it?” I asked.
“One thing, actually. You missed the morning announcements. This school in Brooklyn, and your old school, Athens. They’re closing up shop. Merging with this one.”
I jumped up, but winced in pain right after. I also hit my head on the bunk above me. “JESUS.” I whined. Kaitlyn shrugged, “You got taller.” She noted.
“So you’re telling me that Athens students are going to be at this school.”
“In like, a few months from now. But you could say that.” I almost screamed. I, instead, threw my pillow at the wall.
“#$_(* YEAH!” I screamed, a little bit too loudly.
“Is he okay?” Kaitlyn asked.