Simya Academy

Tales from the Twisted Eden Sector - Book 2.5

No one quite knew what it was, but there was something about that school that seemed off.

Overview

Dawn, a student at the mysterious Simya Academy, thinks nothing is strange at all about her school. She’s been here as long as she can remember and nothing about it – From the classes on how to use her magic to the fact that they are only permitted to leave the grounds under very special circumstances to the fact that no one in the school has a family to go home to – seems strange.

And then something about her starts changing and slowly, she realizes that not all is quite as it seems with her school – or herself.

Excerpt

Chapter One


New Kids


She laid on the cool grass, basking in the sun and watching the clouds drifting through the clear blue sky. One of them looked like a small rabbit, refusing to break apart in the wind and looking like it hopped from one cloud to the next.

There was no sound, the world having fallen away for just this moment so she could be alone. It was peaceful.

She was so tired. With the sun beating down on her skin, she closed her eyes to rest.

***


Dawn woke up to find her eyes already open. She blinked several times as she sat up in the top bunk where she slept. Her eyes felt dry and she rubbed them with the back of her hand. The sun was only just starting to creep into the room and she was the first one awake.

“Angel, don't cry! It's adventure! You said you like adventure!”

Dawn blinked and took a look around the large dormitory for where the voices had come from. A few eyes opened in the bunk beds that filled the room in rows. The other children were starting to stir at the sound of the new voices.

“Adventure happens outside! I don't like it here, Jared. I wanna go.”

Taking a deep breath, Dawn crawled out of her bed and poked Zeke on the bottom bunk. Zeke was her best friend and the one she went with to do everything dangerous. Sometimes when there were new people, they were scared and they started punching people. Dawn preferred it if they punched Zeke instead of her.

Zeke groaned and rolled over. She frowned, but left him.

She could do this all by herself. She was the oldest. It was her job.

“We're staying here for a little while. It's gonna be okay.”

She made her way through the beds, past five and four and three years olds, most of whom were still fast asleep. She could feel the eyes of the few awake children on her as she walked past, expecting her to find out who these new people were and to deal with them. The rows of empty beds were more comforting, giving her somewhere to run and hide in case something went wrong.

She just hoped they didn't want to hit her.

In the corner of the room, an older boy knelt down, his brown hair gelled back and parted on the left. Next to him was a blonde girl with her hair in braids. She had her fists clenched and eyes shut. Her face scrunched up in concentration.

Angel relaxed, looking like she might cry. “I can’t scatter,” she said, her voice only a whisper.

“Hello?” Dawn said, coming around the last bedpost.

Jared jumped at the sound of her voice, fists ready and standing in front Angel.

Dawn shrunk back behind the bedpost and prepared to run away. She held herself behind the post with both hands, trying to make herself brave.

She was the oldest. She could do this.

Dawn stepped out and stood in front of the bed, trying to stretch as tall as she could and staring at Jared without looking away. “If you do it, I’ll tell,” she said.

Jared hesitated and put his fists down as Angel hid behind him. He glared at Dawn, his eyes such a light brown that they almost looked gold. “Who are you?”

“I’m Dawn,” she said, feeling better now that he wasn’t going to hit her. She relaxed and took one step forward, stopping when she saw Angel hide further behind Jared.

“Where are we?”

“The dormitory.”

“Where’s the dormitory?”

“Here,” Dawn said. A moment later, after Jared glared at her some more, she realized that wasn’t the answer he wanted. “It’s the Children’s Wing in Simya Academy.”

“What’s Simya Academy?”

Dawn shrugged. “It’s where we are.”

“I wanna go home.”

“You can’t.” Dawn shuffled and tried not to meet Jared’s eyes. She saw Jared’s fists clenching. This was the part where it went bad. They would get mad or they would cry or they would do both. Dawn tried to smile. “But it’s okay,” she said. “It’s fun here!”

Jared relaxed after a moment and smiled. “Okay,” he said, nudging Angel out from behind him. “We can stay for a little while. I’m Jared and this is my sister, Angel.”

“Hi,” Angel said, glaring back up at her brother before trying to smile at Dawn. She shifted nervously, but Jared wouldn’t let her hide again. “I’m hungry.”

Dawn looked out the large windows that lined the dorms to see the sun creeping over the horizon. “Miss Tara will come by soon. Once we’re ready, we have breakfast.”

“It’s Mister Steve today,” a voice said behind her. Dawn turned and saw Zeke rubbing at his eyes and looked from Dawn to the two new people. “I’m Zeke.”

“I’m Jared. This is Angel.”

“Hi.” Angel didn’t try to hide this time.

Dawn blinked. She was sure Miss Tara was going to be here today, but Zeke was right. It was Mister Steve’s turn to watch them and he was supposed to be there. There was no reason for him to have gotten sick and the chances of them having to wake up Miss Tara to come and watch them instead were low.

She managed to step back into the bedpost as a wave of dizziness overtook her and stayed on her feet. The room moved around her in slow circles, slowly coming back around until it was still again. Angel looked at her, but Jared and Zeke were talking and ignoring her.

“We usually have stuff,” Zeke said. “It’s different every day but there’s always something good. But if you don’t like it, then you don’t get to eat anything. But you can pretend to like it until you really do like it and that works sometimes.”

“This place is weird.”

“You get used to it. It’s not that bad.”

Angel pulled on Jared’s sleeve. “I’m hungry.”

Zeke exchanged a look with Dawn and they both looked back into the room behind them. With the light streaming into the room, the other kids were starting to get out of their beds. Some were filing into the bathrooms already while others were shaking those still asleep until they woke up. A few were already getting changed and helping the younger ones do the same.

“We’ll be back,” Dawn said. “Just stay right here.”

Dawn and Zeke walked away, leaving the two of them in the corner. It was the morning. They both had things to do in the morning, even if those things were just putting their duties off onto other people. Normally they would take turns helping the new person while the other one made sure the younger kids got ready and behaved themselves. If it was a girl, then Dawn would help and Zeke would stay behind. If it was a boy, then Zeke would go. They’d never had two people show up before.

“You stay,” Dawn said. “I can help them.”

“You stay,” Zeke said. “I stayed last time.”

“But I found them first, so I get to help them!”

“But Jared’s a boy, so I get to help this time.”

“But Angel’s a girl.”

Dawn frowned at him as they walked to the closets, past the door to the bathroom. Their clothes were stored behind several doors that lined the wall, hung up and folded neatly in the low drawers. All of the children shared clothes and whoever got them first got to wear it for the day.

She went up to one of the other children. Darla helped one of the younger kids put on a shirt, Dawn unable to tell which one as they struggled to get their head through the hole. “Darla,” she said. “You gotta help everyone today.”

“Why?”

“Because we have new people.”

“Why?”

“Because I said so.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m oldest.”

“Why?”

“Darla stop it!” Zeke snapped at her, pulling on a pair of pants. “We both gotta help them because there’s two of them this time.”

Darla fell quiet, letting Dawn pull out a dress to change into. She looked up to see that Zeke was already done and waiting for her. She quickly brushed the knots out of her long black hair and passed the brush to Darla as she dashed past.

“You take so long,” he said, starting to run back to the corner.

Dawn ran past him, sticking her tongue out at him as she did, and made it back to Jared and Angel first. They were talking to one another in whispers, hands moving and neither one of them looking happy with the other one. Once they saw her there, they both stopped and smiled the same smile back at her and Zeke, who joined them a moment later.

“Now what?” Jared asked.

“Everyone’s gotta get ready,” Zeke told them. “Mister Steve should be here-”

One of the double doors leading into the dormitory opened and a girl of about fourteen walked in. Her black hair was tied back in a messy bun and she wore the solid orange uniform of the Simya Academy student, her blazer carried under her arm and she rolled up her long white sleeves.

“Miss Tara?” Zeke said, watching her as she went to the back of the room to help everyone else get ready.

“Dawn said it would be Miss Tara,” Angel said, looking up at Jared. Jared looked back down at her, then to Dawn, his eyes crawling over her like she had covered herself in crayon.

“Lucky guess,” Zeke said. He started to lead them to the door where other kids were already starting to gather. “Come on, if we line up now, we’ll get food faster.”

“What’s going on?” Jared asked. “Like, we’re getting food, but where are we? Why are we here? I don’t remember where we were before.”

“It’s Simya Academy,” Zeke said. Dawn let him go ahead, since she did it last time. “We’re all brought here because we’re special. Or we might be special. And we only find if we are when we play hide and seek. And when you find out you’re special and you can do something, then you get to go to school.”

“That’s weird,” Angel said, her pout so big that it could be heard in her voice.

“It’s sorta weird,” Zeke agreed. “But it’s what we do. Every day, we get to play hide and seek. Sometimes things blow up and it’s fun.”

Jared studied Zeke for a long moment before he spoke again. “So what are we doing right now?” he asked.

“Lining up. When everyone’s ready, Miss Tara will lead us to the dining room and we’ll get breakfast.”

The line formed around them. As each child got ready, they came down to join them in single file. Unlike Jared and Angel, none of them fidgeted, instead looking perfectly relaxed and patient as they waited. Gradually, all of the children, now almost thirty of them, made their way to the line and waited in silence.

Miss Tara came by at the end, counting the heads until she got to Jared and Angel. She looked them over, displeasure and fatigue in her eyes, but said nothing as she went back to counting. Once she was satisfied that they were all there, she put on her blazer and opened the double doors to the hall.

“That side is the playroom,” Zeke said quietly, pointing to the large door on their left.

“All of it?” Jared’s voice echoed in the hall, but he did nothing to keep his voice down. “That’s huge!”

“And the classrooms are over there,” he continued, pointing to the series of doors on their right. “After lunch, the teachers come and they teach us stuff for a little while.”

“I’m gonna spend all day in that play room.”

Dawn shook her head as they filed into the dining room at the other end of the hall. Miss Tara opened the door and they filed in. A long table sat along the wall with several trays of steaming plates and empty cups ready for them. Miss Tara settled herself behind the table and handed a tray with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and pancakes to each child.

They each took their trays and took a seat at the table in the corner by a small bookshelf. Each table had small bottles of condiments in the middle, along with metal cutlery. Jared and Angel sat across from Dawn and Zeke, Jared eyeing the knives like he wasn’t supposed to touch them.

“Everyone’s so quiet,” Jared said, setting his tray down, looking back around at the room as the rest of the children gathered around other tables and started chatting and eating.

Dawn handed her cup to Zeke and poured the small bottle of syrup on her pancakes, then on Angel’s. Zeke took everyone else’s cups off their trays and went back to the front of the room with them.

“You’re not supposed to talk in the hall,” Dawn told Jared. She took the cutlery out of the cup in the middle and started to cut up her pancakes. She watched as Jared took the knife and fork and tried to do the same, dragging his knife through and tearing his pancakes into uneven chunks. “Do you need help?”

“No,” Jared snapped at her. “I can do it.”

Angel passed her plate to Dawn and Dawn smiled at her, cutting up her pancakes as she talked. “After breakfast, we get to play for a little while before we play hide and seek.”

“Hide and seek is playing,” Angel said.

“Sort of,” Dawn said. “It’s a little different here. Hide and seek is the most important part of the day.”

“Why?”

“I told you,” Zeke said, returning with the cups. He passed them out around the table, each of them now filled with fruit punch, before sitting back down. “I told you, right?”

“I don’t know what you told me,” Jared said, taking a large chunk of pancake off his plate and shoving it in his mouth. “I just wanted to go to the playroom and see what toys you have in there.”

Zeke rolled his eyes and started to eat, clearly irritated but saying nothing more.

Dawn passed Angel’s plate back to her. “Hide and seek is the most important part of the day,” Dawn told him. “Sometimes stuff happens when we play. Sometimes people find out they can do stuff and when they can do stuff, then they get to go to school.”

Jared looked her over for a long moment. “What kind of stuff?”

“Last time it happened, John fell through the floor when he was running away,” Zeke offered. “A hole just opened up and he fell in. And Helena made herself a ghost that time. Oh, and Serra ran onto the ceiling that time and I couldn’t tag her.”

A look passed between Jared and Angel. “What happens when you do that?” Jared asked. “The special stuff?”

“Then you go to school,” Dawn told him. “You get to be like Miss Tara. You get to leave the Children’s Wing and you get to learn to do awesome things and you get your own bed and your own clothes and your own stuff.”

“You don’t have your own stuff?”

Dawn shook her head. “We all share. No one gets to keep anything just for them.”

“And at school you can get to go on field trips and go outside the school!” Zeke said. “Mister Steve told us about it last time. You get to go out all on your own and you have to do something while you’re there, like a secret agent.”

“What if you don’t do anything during hide and seek? Or if you do something during not hide and seek?”

“No one does anything outside of hide and seek,” Zeke said.

“No one?”

“Never.”

Jared didn’t look like he believed him. “Fine,” he said. “If you go to school when you do something during hide and seek, what happens if you don’t do anything?”

“Then the last one to be found is it the next day,” Zeke said. “Dawn’s really good, so she’s it all the time.”

Dawn started to pay a lot of attention to her eggs as her cheeks started to get hot. She could feel Angel’s eyes on her, as well as Jared’s.

“So you just play hide and seek every day until you can do something?” Jared asked. “This place is awesome!”

“Until you’re seven,” Dawn said. “If you can’t do anything when you’re seven, you disappear.”

“Disappear?” Angel asked. “Where do you go?”

Dawn shrugged, not hungry anymore though she kept poking at the eggs. “No one knows.”

“Then just don’t turn seven,” Angel said. “Seven is really old.”

Jared smacked Angel lightly in the arm. “You can’t stop getting older, stupid,” he said.

“I’m not stupid!”

“Dawn’s the oldest, right?” Jared asked. “You said it to the other girl. So you’re going to disappear?”

“She wouldn’t if she stopped winning at hide and seek,” Zeke said. “No one ever figures out what they can do when they’re it.”

“I’m not it tomorrow,” Dawn said. “I’ll do something tomorrow.”

Dawn felt a small tug behind her and turned to see Darla behind her with a book off the shelf. “Dawn, what does this one mean?” she asked, at a long word in the book.

Angel leaned over the table. “There’s no pictures.”

“It’s made up,” Dawn said. “Lots of works in that book are.”

“Why?”

“Stop it, Darla!” Zeke snapped at her. Darla ran away at that, back to the bookshelf. Several other kids had gathered there, plates abandoned so that they could read instead. Miss Tara picked up their plates and looked around for more.

“So I just have to do something special by the end of hide and seek and we’ll get to go to school and get to go anywhere?” Jared asked. “And I don’t have to share stuff with anyone?”

“You won’t,” Zeke said. “No one ever does things the first day.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. No one.”

“Well, you never met me before. Me and Angel will be out of here in no time. No way we’re going to disappear.”

“Jared-”

“No you won’t,” Zeke wasn’t angry, instead stating it like he was pointing out the colour of the walls.  “You’re going to be here and playing with us.”

“They will be gone today,” Dawn said. She heard the clattering in front of her, but she wasn’t sure what caused it. “They will go to the school, but only one will ever leave.”

The world was moving again and she was happy to be sitting. She couldn’t remember which one was her hand and which one was her foot, but she remembered after a few moments. Her head felt fuzzy, but she closed her eyes and tried to make it all come back together.

When she opened her eyes, the other three at the table were all looking at her. Angel and Zeke looked concerned, but Jared was smiling like he knew something about what was going on. She still felt dizzy behind her eyes, like it was going to come back at any moment and she really didn’t want it to.

“Are you okay?” Zeke asked. “Maybe you shouldn’t play today.”

Dawn didn’t want to skip even a day. She needed to do something so that she wouldn’t disappear. Doing something during hide and seek meant that she needed to play. If she missed a day when she was it, that just meant that she would be it again next time and that was another day she didn’t get to be a hider.

She looked around for something to distract them. She saw people already lining up at the door and got to her feet. “Come on,” she said. “We need to line up for hide and seek.”