Lumen - The Guise of Darkness

Men tremble,
as the humble stumble
before the proud.

Women quiver,
shudder and shiver,
while evil walks in pride.

Inside, hearts cry out:
For justice, for truth,
for light.

Night falls.
The righteous whisper,
the bellicose shout…
and though fading
like the last rays of day,
hope calls…

Lumen: The Guise Of Darkness!

 


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Lumen: The Guise of Darkness by Patrick Bain

Copyright 2015 All Rights Reserved

This is the world's first VEIN... ok, I made up that name. A VEIN is a Visually Enhanced Interactive Novel.

Chapter 1 2 3 4

Chapter 3

Sixth hour algebra class was an hour that Mrs. Lofton endured.  Most of the students in this class would be happy with a ‘C’, some had already resigned themselves to failure.  In her twenty-three years at City Central High School, Mrs. Lofton had never had a more challenging group to work with: the time of day was not conducive to discussions of the quadratic equation or graphing parabolas; about a third of the class used the time to take a nap so they could stay up until 2 AM online gaming; and no one, including Mrs. Lofton, wanted to be there.

Ramon trudged into Mrs. Lofton’s class, head down, shoulders slumped.  Ramon did actually care, one of the few students really trying.  Math was not her strength, but she still had a chance to get a ‘B’, if she worked hard.  That was not happening today.

The bell had not yet rung, so several students were still hanging out by the window.  Some of the guys were joking around, some of the girls were comparing nail polish; not one was looking forward to starting class.

A junior with his jeans riding low around his hips, a basketball jersey pulled down over his waist hiding his boxers, stared at the disaster that was Ramon.  “Hey Ramon, who died?” he jibed with little tact and great insensitivity.

Ramon walked past towards her desk, uncaring.

“What’s your damage?” A couple girls half questioned Ramon and half joked amongst themselves.

Ramon was again oblivious.  She found her desk in the middle of the room.  The few people already sitting down were careful not to stare, or maybe they didn’t want to know what was going on.  Ramon dropped her backpack with a thud, and promptly did the same with her head on the desk.

When the bell rang, the slightly rotund Mrs. Lofton immediately started on her lesson.  There were no pleasantries, there was no attempt to know her students better, the sooner she got today’s equations and formulas on the board, the sooner she could sit back down at her desk and read a detective novel.

“I’ve written the equation on the board—umm – that you will need in this section.”  Mrs. Lofton was clearly distracted.  No less than seven students had their heads on their desks; it was the eighth one that distracted her.  Ramon Peres could usually be counted on to studiously take notes, occasionally ask a question, and generally make the hour bearable as an educator.  Today, Ramon was completely out of it.

“Ramon…?”  Mrs. Lofton raised her voice.  Pointer in hand, the algebra teacher sauntered over to her desk.  “Miss Peres,” she chimed, “feel free to join us at your leisure.”

Ramon didn’t respond.

Drawing closer to Ramon, “You may have missed my sarcasm.”  Mrs. Lofton was generally more patient with her better pupils, but it had been a long day and her capacity for longsuffering had run out in 5th hour.  “Why don’t you just go see Principal Elder and talk to him about your attitude.”

At that, Ramon propped up her head, wiped the tears from puffy eyes, pulled on her backpack, snatched the note Lofton had scrawled, and walked out the door.  No one blinked the whole time that episode was playing out.

The principal’s office was not far from her class.  She had unknowingly bumped into Detective Thornbush there only moments before.  This time, the hallway was virtually empty, and the walk was clearly a walk of shame. 

Once again, Ramon felt that oppressive dark hand squeezing the joy from her heart.  Today was not the first time she had experienced that sorrowful clutch.  She had felt it a few years before.  That time it was her father that was walking away.

Her death march concluded, Ramon stood in front of Principal Elder’s door.  Steeling her nerves, she turned the handle and walked in.  Elder was talking to the receptionist in the outer office, and noted Ramon immediately.

His always-mic’ed voice could be heard outside the office walls, “Peres!  What are you doing here?” 

Ramon sheepishly handed her principal the note.

“Is that a note from your mommy?”  Principal Elder’s best attempt at joking around quickly turned into a deep frown, followed by a surly scowl.  Elder pulled at his tie while reading what Mrs. Lofton had written about Ramon’s behavior.  “I don’t need this right now.  What do you have to say for yourself?”

Elder looked directly at Ramon and waited for an answer.  Ramon didn’t want to say anything, so she didn’t return his gaze.  He stood there and waited.  Ramon continued to look down at the floor, but even Elder could tell she was emotionally disturbed.  In fact, that is how his counselor might describe Ramon’s condition.  Elder could see Ramon was a complete wreck!

“I long for the days I could just ‘paddle’ a kid and send them back to class.”  Elder ran his fingers through the hair on the side of his head as if in complete exasperation.  Finally, “Go talk to Counselor Encendrez.”  With that, Elder turned and entered his private office, the door shut, and then the lock clicked.

Ramon was left standing there; she managed to look at the receptionist who was still sitting at her desk.  The receptionist smiled and nodded towards the Counselor’s office door.

“Counselor Encendrez is free right now.  You can go in and see him.  His assistant Miss Petty is in there as well.”

Ramon was welcomed in to the spacious office and directed to the ‘patient’ chair.  It was comfortable and had a reassuring quality.  Counselor Encendrez had remained behind his mahogany desk, seated in a very neutral position within his executive chair.  Encendrez’ assistant Miss Petty had a small desk, chair, computer station, and phone in the corner.  Miss Petty acted as the ‘second adult’ when the counselor was working with young women.  The room was dimly lit, but not dark, allowing the sorrow expressed on Ramon’s face to be concealed somewhat.

Counselor Encendrez knew all the students, at least casually, but had not worked with Ramon before.  He studied the girl.  Ramon was petite, attractive, neatly dressed, not designer, not modest, but not over the top.  Miss Petty had pulled her records just prior to her coming in.  Her school history indicated she was a steady ‘B’ type student, neither spectacular nor embarrassing academically.  She had never been in trouble beyond an incident in the cafeteria a few years ago.

The counselor’s initial observations of Ramon concluded that she was not pathologically maladjusted, but at the moment, she was emotionally disturbed.

Encendrez flipped to the first blank page in his notebook, selected a sharp pencil, and prepared to take notes.  He felt tapping on a laptop or spending the entire counseling session looking down at a tablet was too distracting to the students.  “Ramon, tell me what has led to your visit today.  Start wherever you like.”

Not surprisingly, it took a few moments before Ramon was comfortable opening up.  However, Encendrez maintained a very placid demeanor that was easy to trust. His face was a perfect balance of ‘I care’ and ‘I won’t overreact’.  Truly, it was like sitting in your bedroom and talking to a publicity photo of your favorite movie star.

Soon, pent up thoughts and feelings were bubbling out of Ramon like water too long over the burner.  “Where do I start?  My Mom’s cuckoo; most of my friends are gossips.  My boyfriend is a total jerk!”  Her complaints ranged from how difficult things were with her mom and her mom’s faith, sniping and backbiting she was feeling from her female friends, and of course the disaster with Dex that caused today’s meltdown.

Rambling on, Ramon told of how she had invited Dex to her house on a few occasions, each time afterward her mother would grouse about his character and say that he wasn’t a nice boy.  Maybe she thought Dex was too much like her father!

“Mom’s been all spazzed out since I started dating Dex—she was right about him being a creep—but I’m sick of her and Pastor Knight trying to live my life!”

Ramon began to break down again.  “I can take care of myself,” she blurted through her sobbing.  The counselor perceived her words were an attempt to convince herself. 

Throughout the session, Ramon had been alternately looking up at the counselor, looking down at her feet, looking away out the window behind Encendrez’ desk, finally now she just put her face in her hands, elbows on her lap, and cried.

I just want to get away…”

Encendrez gave a sufficient pause to be assured Ramon was ‘all talked out’.  The counselor leaned back in his chair.  Staggered bars of light shot through the slats of his office window shades. Falling on the counselor’s face, it created an odd zebra-like shadow.  Actually, it was more like blocks of light and dark stacked one upon another to form his face. From within the odd pattern of shadows, Encendrez asked, “Is there anything else you would like to talk about today, Ramon?”

She declined.

It was time for Ramon to go back to class; Counselor Encendrez offered a reassurance and a warning. “Ramon, troubles, like the sweltering heat of summer, remain for a season.  Then they pass.  Sometimes, the best we can hope for is to avoid getting burnt.”  Having offered his reassurance, Encendrez continued with his warning, “Don’t do anything rash.  My office is always open.”

Ramon pulled on her backpack and turned to leave, “uhh, yeah, sure.”  There was something unconvincing about her statement.  Briefly, Ramon had dropped her burdens on the floor while sharing them with the counselor.  Upon leaving, however, she picked them up again to take with her.  She clinged to them like they were only hers to bear.

  “Miss Petty,” the counselor addressed the slender woman with short dark hair.  “Transcribe this session, immediately.”  He passed her the notes he had taken.  The two never discussed the students nor the conversations held in his office.  Besides acting as a witness, her role was primarily to act as recorder for the sessions for any analysis Encendrez might choose to do later.  “Miss Peres is clearly high risk.  Add Ramon to our ‘Special Cases’ folder.”

Miss Petty immediately collected the notes and started documenting the session.  She was very efficient.

Encendrez stood up and walked over to a large sectional bookcase with glass doors.  Lifting the door of the second section from the top, he pulled out a worn edition of a clearly prized volume.  Returning to his desk, he opened it and navigated to his topic of interest.  His purposes undisclosed.  Rolling in his chair to a metal file drawer next to his desk, the counselor retrieved some manila folders.  Opening each revealed a picture and biographical information of a coed that the counselor was formerly or presently advising.  He scanned through the information associated with each. His unchanging demeanor revealed nothing of his thoughts.

Almost inaudibly, Counselor Encendrez announced, “I’m going to listen to music and ponder Ramon’s precarious position.” 

He picked up his device and popped an earbud into each ear.  Melodic lyrics crooned Ramon’s anthem,

Is it time to leave?
Go, get away,
Just want to escape
Go your own way
Go your own way...

Ramon’s neighborhood was a short walk from school.  Usually she followed the ‘buddy’ system and stuck with a small group of people from her neighborhood.  Many of them had lived in this middle income neighborhood of brick construction, ranch-style homes, all built 40 years ago, ever since grade school.  Caliginos City had pockets of affluence and pockets of poverty; this neighborhood was representative of the majority in the middle.

Today, Ramon purposely avoided the group, taking a circuitous route before picking up the path.  Her goal: avoid talking to anyone about what happened.  She needed to think.  Her gait was slow, because she was not anxious to get home.  Her dark pondering was interrupted by the random thought, “do snails move slowly because they want to avoid their mothers?”   Sick things were messing with Ramon’s mind.

Alone, Ramon marched on.  Twilight was commencing since she had not left immediately after classes concluded.  If anyone was watching her, she would not have noticed.  All her focus was on the events of the day; that burden she carried was weighing heavily.  As the counselor observed, she was in a ‘precarious position’.

She felt lousy.  Her mind dredged up gut-wrenching memories of the day her father had left.  Why did Dad have to leave?  If only I had a father to protect me from guys like Dex... to protect me from predators.

The sun set and twilight was lost to the night.  She had purposely missed the turn to her home several times.  The moonlight preyed on her weakened spirit, casting evil shadows of hurt, betrayal, and terror.  She had lived in this neighborhood all her life, she had never been afraid before.  Ramon couldn’t honestly say if she was afraid of something in the dark, or something yet to come.

Ramon walked with her head down distracted by her thoughts.  The sidewalk she was on ran past an alley used by the city services garbage trucks.  Loose gravel spilled from the alley grinded under her feet.  Suddenly, two cats hissed and screamed their way in front of and past her racing across the street to the neighbor’s yard.  She jumped, startled, heart racing.

SCCRRAPE

A scraping sound rumbled from the alley next to her.  Ramon jerked around to see a man staring at her with wild eyes.  Falling back slightly, she peered closer into the poorly lit alley.  It was her neighbor, a man she never liked. He labored dragging a barrel out from his backyard to the common trash bin in the alley.  She hurried on home while he glared at her from behind.

Unlocking the door, Ramon finally reached home.  She hoped her mom wasn’t there, but the smell of homemade menudo dashed that idea. 

Ramon wondered if she might be able to sneak past her mother, but then came the question, “Your principal’s office called today…Ramon, what have you been up to?”

Ramon paused before answering.  Honoring her mother, giving her the respect she was due, wasn’t a high priority for the teen these days.  That was something she wasn’t doing well at all.  For one instant she considered.  Should I just spill it all to Mom?  Will she give me a hug, and we’ll both have a big cry?  No way!   She’ll just push her religion on me and tell me ‘I told you so!’

Ramon’s cynicism won out: She believed her mother was more likely to reprimand her with judgment than accept her child into her arms.  She wasn’t going to give in.  She could take care of herself!   “Whatever, Mom… I’m going to bed!”

Her mother didn’t say a thing, but she was hurting.

Ramon went into her room and closed the door.  She turned on her radio to cover the noise she might make.  She changed into something more functional than what she had worn to school.  Pulling out her phone, she texted a friend, “On my way”.

Gathering some essentials, Ramon stuffed them into a backpack.  She was operating in a mechanical manner.  Stopping to think this through would be a waste of time, because she was smart enough to know it made no rational sense.  Ramon no longer cared.  Opening her window she stepped through while the radio continued to blare.

“Shanaya just called to request this next song,” the DJ smoothly interjected as the guitars began to play.  “This is Runaway by HereAfter.

Is it time to leave?
Go, get away,
Just want to escape
Go your own way
Go your own way

No place to stay
Leave what you believe
Run from all you’ve done
Go your own way
Go your own way,

Get away, get away
Escape… You’re a runaway.

  The Afters official website

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Copyright 2015 Patrick Bain All Rights Reserved.

severe rebuke
not direct, roundabout
dangerous, uncertain
to make a written copy
to mock or scoff, jeer
helpful, assisting