By Thomas Giles
Image via My E-MRI.
Jamie sat on the wooden bench at the edge of the quad, watching as the last few stragglers cut through the grass to the main gate in the opposite corner. Two students lurched a ball between them, one telekinetically pushing it back to the other as it approached, the other lurching it back in similar fashion. They seemed so happy—to be here, to hone their abilities. Jamie didn’t have any of that.
He often wondered why the school chose him in the first place. He clearly had no talent with the gift. He barely qualified as a Telkin at all. How could he be expected to keep up with the class when he couldn’t so much as bend a frickin’ spoon?
He looked back down at the papers in front of him—a textbook showing graphs and diagrams of how lurching applies force to an object from a Telkin’s centre of mass, sheets of homework asking questions about the ethics of using telekinesis on animate objects. While he found the ethics lessons interesting, he couldn’t deny the futility of it all. With his grades, he’d never make it past this semester, let alone graduation, and he’d never be allowed to use his power, ethically or not. Unless he could fix it.
Jamie froze, hearing footsteps crunching down the old concrete path to his left. The teacher had finally arrived. The boy leaned over his papers, trying to look busy while hiding his face from the man. The man walked past and off to the right, paying no attention to Jamie. Just like in class, Jamie thought. He glanced up, watching as the balding teacher turned the corner and entered the faculty block. Mr. Simmons was off to his office, as expected, and right on time.
Jamie started packing his papers into his backpack, looking around at the quad, alert for any more students hanging around. Happy he was clear, he stood and began shuffling towards the building’s entrance, careful not to catch up to Simmons.
The penalty for getting kicked out of Telekinetic School for the Gifted or failing to graduate was made clear to every student attending. There was even a law: any Telkin that could not demonstrate control and competency with their power would be banned from using it. Of course, what was not explicitly stated in that law was that the “banned” part meant getting neutered. The poor sod would be dragged away and have the part of the brain responsible for their power surgically removed.
Jamie knew how poorly he was doing in the classes, Simmons’ torque class being the worst, being dedicated to developing raw telekinetic strength. He’d already been held back to repeat a semester, and if he didn’t pass this time he’d be expelled for sure. He’d be deemed a danger to society. He’d be neutered. But if everything went according to plan, it wouldn’t get that far.
He entered the faculty building and started towards Simmons’ office. He was familiar with the building—its rich chestnut panelling, its fraying silk carpets running down the centre of the hallways, its almost sweet musty smell. The smell of defeat, of failure. He’d seen these halls all too often, being called for extra lessons or stern talks about responsibility or some good old “put some damn effort into it, Jamie”.
He counted two doors, and slowed as he approached the third. A gold plaque on the door told him he’d found the right one, announcing “Mr. Edward Simmons, Torque Teacher”.
Jamie felt his heart thump loud in his ears. Was he really going to do this? Once he took this step, there would be no going back. But what else could he do? Swinging his backpack around to the side, he leant back against the wooden wall panelling and sunk to the floor. He had to get comfortable if this was going to work. Silently he took in a deep breath, closed his eyes, and relaxed.
He let the universe speak to him, felt for the presence of people nearby. Slowly, he became aware of teachers in their offices. Students sat in some of the rooms, taking notes or letting the lectures wash over them. And there, just behind him, sat Mr. Simmons. He drew closer to the teacher, brushing by him ever so gently so as to not spook him. Jamie drew in a new breath, held it, and reached out.
The dark world suddenly burst with light and colour. Jamie found himself looking down at a ledger, pen in hand, stopped mid-sentence while scrawling an illegible, cramped script. He was in.
He stood, Simmons’ larger girth wobbling slightly, threatening to unbalance him. Jamie held on, forcefully commanding the teacher’s body to stand firm. It obeyed. He may suck at lurch-ball, but this was his forte. No one in his class could do this. Maybe no one in the world could do this.
He walked around the large desk, sidling past the square edges and stepping up to the filing cabinet in the opposite corner. Shoving his large, pudgy hands into his pockets, he found the key and brought it out. He slid the key easily into the filing cabinet’s lock and turned.
Jamie stepped back, pulling out the top draw. He stretched out his arms and cracked his knuckles with a grin—Simmons would be horrified if he knew. He flicked through the hundreds of folders, scanning each name as he went. The cabinet would be completely full with files on each student. With such a small percentage of the population having the ability, there were few teachers who had the gift and who knew it well enough themselves to teach others in its use. Each teacher had to teach every kid in the school, week-in, week-out. And each teacher had to keep files.
Baern, Braithwaite… “Brath, James,” Jamie muttered, Simmons’ older voice crackling in place of his own. He carefully removed the folder from the cabinet, laying it flat on top of the drawer. He hesitated. He didn’t care about grades, graduation, or even getting expelled. Was it too much to ask for everyone to just leave him alone? To keep his brain in one piece? Still, forcing a teacher to change his grade without him even knowing— Steeling himself, Jamie reached forward, watching as the teacher’s hairy hand started to slowly open the file.
A sudden tap on the shoulder snapped him back to the corridor outside. He recoiled from the tall figure standing over him.
“Now that’s quite enough of that, son,” the man said, with a warm smile. He was younger than Simmons, a full head of dark brown hair atop his head.
“I don’t—” Jamie said. “I wasn’t— I just dozed off, sir.”
The man let out a low chuckle. “You can’t fool me, son. So best not try, eh?”
“What? But I—” Jamie started to push himself up off of the floor, feeling foolish. How did he ever think this would go smoothly? Did anything ever go as planned?
“What’s your name, son?”
“Jamie,” the boy said, looking away. “Brath. Sir.”
“Very well, Brath.” The man looked up and down the corridor, conspiratorially. He wore a scruffy pair of jeans and an untucked check shirt with the top button undone. Whoever this guy was, he wasn’t one of the regular teachers. “I tell you what,” he said, turning back. “You don’t try anything so foolhardy again, and I’ll help you out.”
“But I didn’t—”
“You aren’t the only one who can do what you do, okay?” the man continued. “There are more of us than you realise—than the world realises. But it’s not as simple as it looks, son.” He sighed. “Listen. You can take it or leave it, but if you have some extra lessons with me after school, I can teach you how to use your gifts. Plus, I’ll keep your head above water with Simmons.” He presented a hand and waited for Jamie to take it. “Deal?”
Jamie eyed the hand. Could he trust this man? Were there really others with his gift? Of course, to not accept meant expulsion and neutering. He took the hand and shook, weakly.
“Who are you, anyway?” he asked, looking up at the man.
“Bartholomew Dorn.” Jamie gave a blank look. “Careers advisor?”
Jamie snorted despite himself. Everyone knew there were only two options once you got out of this place: army or police. Not much of a choice.
“I know, right?” Dorn said with a cheeky grin. “Lots of nothing to do, but the pay’s good. It’s a ‘those that can’t do, teach’ kind of thing.” He started to walk backwards down the corridor. “Although I guess it’s more ‘those who can’t teach, advise’… but whatever. I’ll see you tomorrow. After class. Don’t forget, now!” He turned and slipped around the corner, leaving Jamie alone.
He felt the eerie silence of the building settle back in around him, the musty smell resuming its hold. More extra lessons, he thought. Great.
Thomas Giles is a writer specializing in science-fiction. With many years experience with programming professionally, he enjoys bringing the technical side of sci-fi to life and strives to make such topics accessible to a wider audience. He writes on a regular basis for the kind people supporting him through Patreon, his alpha readers giving feedback on his works and helping him hone his ability to create worlds and share them with others.