Hi everyone, reposting this story since the previous thread was deleted due to concerns on the story length causing issues for some people with slower PCs and internet. If anyone still has problems seeing any of the text here then let me know and I'l see what I can do to remedy the problem Comments are welcome, and constructive criticism is highly encouraged. Please help me improve as a writer!Act 1 – Chapter One: Introductions (Part 1)
Another day. It starts so simply, like any other, I wake, I wash, I dress. I meet Lilly. I go to class. The teacher, Mutou-sensei, starts his lectures, as always. I avoid the looks of the others in the class. I try to ignore Misha's constant voice in my ear. Since I sit at the back of the room it's not so tough, however loud she can be. But there seems to be something different about today. I can't quite guess what it could be, but soon I don't need to. Just as homeroom ends, Mutou makes an announcement.
“Something I should have mentioned earlier, I guess, but we have a new student joining us today. Should be here soon, so please, try and make him feel welcome.”
A new student. Great. Someone else to avoid.
It's not long before he arrives. A young man, tall, with mousey brown hair. As Mutou introduces him, I notice that there doesn't seem to be anything outwardly wrong with him. That's not so surprising. Yamaku is home to so many, with all sorts of disabilities and issues. We have deaf students, like our class rep Shizune. Some, like Lilly, are blind. A girl in another class has a severe heart condition. With others, it's more obvious. Missing limbs, stunted growth. Me.
As I look, I notice the new student looking back at me. I cover my face with my hands. I suppose I've always been a bit self conscious. Hardly a shock given my... condition. As I try to hide, Mutou speaks up.
“...please welcome our newest classmate.”
And I realise that I have barely paid attention to what he was saying. He claps his hands together, and dutifully I do too, as does everyone else in the room. Except for those that can't, of course. In response, the new student bows his head a little.
“So... I'm Hisao Nakai. My hobbies are reading and soccer. I hope to get along well with everyone even though I'm a new student.”
He says nothing more. After a pause, Mutou continues talking, about everyone getting along, and I space out again, though I make an effort to at least look like I'm listening. At least things are better here than in my old life. It never consoles me much.
As he finishes, everyone starts to clap again. And again, I clap too. I suppose he's not so bad. I always try to avoid other students where possible, save for Lilly, but the teachers are much more understanding. It often throws me, since almost none of them have a condition like the students at Yamaku do. And adults could often be as cruel to me in my early years as the other children were. But I've never been shown anything but kindness from Mutou-sensei, or the other faculty. It's like a small ray of light in the darkness. I notice Mutou talking to the new student. Hisao Nakai. When he turns away he announces that there will be group work, that we are to form sets of three.
What I do next surprises no-one. It's my usual reaction to group work. I simply can't handle it, and there's a sort of... understanding between me and the school. As I quietly leave without a word, I glance at Mutou, who nods silently before turning his attention to the rest of the class. A few eyes follow me, but it's nothing new. I keep on top of my other work, and my grades are always at least average. As long as I can show that I'm still learning something, then nobody questions me.
Yamaku claims to not accept students with mental disabilities. They simply don't have the resources or staff to deal with those people. A missing leg is fine, but if you have Down's Syndrome then you're out of luck. But it's not entirely true. There is a line, of course. But in some cases you can't go through the experience that disables you without some emotional damage. Some instability. I'm hardly an exception to that rule. And allowances can be made.
I go to my usual place of retreat, where I can feel safe from the world outside. Yuuko nods in greeting and we make the usual quiet conversation that has become a feature of my visits. We never have a lot to talk about. I ask her about new books that she promised to order, and then head to the back of the library, where I settle down on my favourite cushion. I start reading the textbook from Mutou's class, so as to catch up on what I miss by being here. A mere chapter later, I put the book down and pick up a new one, that I had started just a few days before. It's an old classic by Mary Shelley, an English author, but translated into Japanese. The time seems to fly by, as I lose myself in the pages. I almost feel a sense of empathy with the creature in the story, misunderstood, but treated as a monster by the ignorant masses. Scared and alone. But as I read, I notice something. The villagers, the doctor, they're scared too. And in their fear, they lash out.
I've read through almost the entire book by the time the bell rings. With a start I am brought back to the physical world, and I remember that it's now lunch time. I put the book away and gather my things, saying a brief goodbye to Yuuko as I leave the library and make my way to the tea room, to meet Lilly.
Lunch is finally over. I make my way back to Mutou's classroom and return to my seat at the back of the room, avoiding everyone's eye. Not many people have returned anyway. As I sit down, I look up and notice someone else enter. It's the new boy, Hisao Nakai. As our eyes meet, I blush a little and try to look away, when another figure crashes in. Misha always has a tendency to be loud, something I learned long ago. When Lilly and Shizune still spoke without daggers in their eyes. All the excitement is too much for me, and I sink further into my seat, making every effort to become invisible. How easier life would be if I could really do that! Misha and Shizune walk past me to their own seats, and I simply sit still as a rock, my nerves tense. In the corner of my eye I notice Hisao looking at me with a curious look on his face. Slowly, the room fills, Mutou arrives, and classes begin again.