The sun glared down at me as I walked over to the tree that I called my home. It must have been around ninety degrees Froondscorch (about 105 degrees Fahrenheit), which was odd; as it was November, part of the season of Faelafl. I could have sworn my arm had darkened by a few shades. I didn’t have too much homework left, so I could study ahead for Physics Honors and Advanced Yordstap History. I only read ahead in the subjects I enjoyed. Why would I torture myself with subjects I hated? I’d rather learn about acceleration than sines and cosines. I also was sure that Mr. Sifuhn was furious when he had to give me good grades in his class, as he’d glare at me as he handed me back my quizzes which had earned high A’s under his scrutinizing eyes. A part of me just enjoyed infuriating the prejudiced science teacher by earning higher grades than, according to him, what “should be earned by scum” like me.
When I reached my tree, I noticed a figure by it. He or she was obscured by the shadows, so I couldn’t tell who exactly he or she was. I looked for something to use as a weapon. What if this person was one of the people responsible for the disappearances of the fifty Blessed and Cursed people? I hid on the other side of the tree and reached for the lowest branch. Unfortunately, branches don’t snap very quietly. The figure stirred upon hearing the snap! of my tree branch weapon.
“Hello, Anita!” chimed a familiar voice. I clutched my branch, still unsure of whether the figure was really who I thought he or she was. The figure emerged from the shadows, revealing herself to be…
“Miss Krystal?!” I exclaimed, shocked at the site of my kindergarten teacher. What was she doing here? And how had she figured out my new place of residence? “Yes, it’s me,” said Miss Krystal, grinning. “And you can drop that branch, now. I promise I won’t hurt you.” I noticed that I was still clutching on to my branch weapon, and so I flung it down, hastily. “I’m surprised you came to visit, Miss Krystal,” I remarked. “Want an apple? Heh, sorry I don’t have such a variety of food.”
“So, you’ve officially been kicked out of your house, huh?” said Miss Krystal.
“Yup. My parents don’t care that I’m not evil anymore…they just—”
“…don’t want the taint on their reputation,” finished Miss Krystal.
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“So, how exactly did you turn evil? I’ve been wondering,” said Miss Krystal. I began to explain.
Losing Jasmine’s support had been a hard blow to my perseverance in trying to fulfill my promise. It was especially hard now that Jasmine kept taunting and bullying me by trashing my homework and dumping my already pitiful lunch in the trash or on my head. The random visions of Anilokalmosia calling me over to the dark side (because apparently thirteen was the expected age of the “fulfillment” of a Cursed child’s destiny, and if the destiny wasn’t fulfilled by then, the gods got concerned) that had been haunting my dreams and my real life didn’t help much, either. The visions were pretty annoying, and I was always disturbed by how skimpy Anilokalmosia’s clothing was. She was the Goddess of Seduction, but no one, not even the most immodest seductress, should be wearing anything that skimpy. I still shudder thinking about it. Still, I held on to my values and managed to keep them for about a year.
Until that day…
It was snack, and I sat near my next class, reading my science textbook since I hadn’t any novels handy. I found the VSEPR model fascinating; it was really nice to have a way to model atoms. I also read about intermolecular attraction. Water really was something special. Its intermolecular attractions were rather strong. I loved how chemistry could help us look at such mundane ideas as water’s high surface tension in a different way. Now I knew that the surface tension could be attributed to water’s strong IMAs.
Suddenly, I felt a shadow loom over me. I looked up to see a group of Regulars, three boys and two girls, staring down at me. I leapt to my feet, ready to defend myself. One of the boys socked me in the stomach. I punched him in the jaw, and soon, I was receiving multiple punches while delivering some more with the same speed.
“STOP!” We all turned toward the voice. A teacher, Mrs. Yarsip, was glaring at us, with Laura standing next to her, smiling smugly. “You five,” she gestured at the Regulars, “may go to your classes. Anita, you’re coming with me.”
Later, I walked home from school, limping because of the especially bad fight I had had. I was the one who had gotten in trouble, of course, because if a Regular and a Cursed One get into a fight, the Cursed One is always blamed. My parents had neglected to pick me up again, so I had to walk home. I was huffing as soon as I had reached my house and I weakly tapped the door with the doorknocker.
My mother opened it, surprisingly promptly, and glared at me…more angrily than usual. She glared silently at me for what seemed like an eternity, blocking the door. Finally, she said, “This is the last straw.” She always said that. “I can’t believe you got into another fight. Another fight?! Why must you cause such ruckus? Isn’t it bad enough that you’re Cursed? Isn’t that enough trouble, enough embarrassment?” And she slammed the door in my face.
I sat on the steps just outside the door, not knowing what else to do. It wasn’t like I tried to get into trouble—heck, it wasn’t even my fault I was Cursed—but trouble always seemed to find me. The ability to be a trouble-magnet is definitely included in the Being Cursed Package.
Why was I always being blamed for things I didn’t do? Why did I have to suffer because of someone else’s mistakes? That was just the story of my life, from my birth to probably my death. I was Cursed because of something my parents did, and from then on, I’d had to suffer the consequences of a fight I didn’t start, the consequences of being evil when I really wasn’t, and the punishments for a minor transgression that everyone else did, too.
“Why do you even try, Anita?” I turned to see an unwelcome and random vision of Anilokalmosia. Why were the gods so interested in making us Cursed evil sooner? But if, of course, the evil gods were behind these visions, that would make sense. I closed my eyes, but the vision is there, behind my eyelids. That was a tad creepy, so I opened my eyes. “As I was saying, why do you even try to be good, anyway?” asked Annie. “No one gives you any respect. Your own parents don’t give you respect! Your goodness goes ignored by everyone, and you get punished for things you didn’t do. So what’s the point of being good?” Any other day, I might have had a good response to that, but I had been so beat down that day that I relented. I gave up and finally fell under the Influence of Anilokalmosia.
“So that pretty much sums it up,” I concluded, my mind snapping back to the present. “If only that day hadn’t been so horrible! I wouldn’t have fallen under the Influence.”
“You still would have gone under the Influence some day,” replied Miss Krystal. “In any case, you did much better than me. I went under when I was eleven. You’ve definitely got a lot of willpower.”
“Thank you,” I said, positive I would have been blushing had my skin been a little lighter. “So, why are you here, Miss Krystal?”
“I did want to see how you were doing,” she replied, “but that’s not the main reason. I’ve been trying to inform all of the Blessed and Cursed around the city of Iocterrs about the mysterious disappearances of the fifty Blessed and Cursed in Rirsocet County.”
“I’ve heard about that.”
“I thought Channel 101 was suffering from technical difficulties?”
“Oh, I didn’t learn about it from there. Mrs. Elralehimeshym had turned on the radio during detention, so I heard about it there.”
“Did you hear about the suspects?”
“No…there are suspects?”
“Yes. It’s suspected that the Everyone Is Special group, also known as the Pro-Regulars, are behind the disappearances. They have called the Blessed and the Cursed abominations before, and believe that the Regulars are the only ‘true’ humans. You’ve heard of the EIS, right?”
“Yeah, I have, in history class. I thought they died out?”
“They were dead for a while. But the group has been reviving. According to Channel 7 News, the new president of the EIS made a rallying speech just a week ago.”
“That’s…really bad. Why do you think they’ve risen again?”
“Probably due to the increase in crime rates. I guess the EIS thinks that if we Cursed and the Blessed are eliminated, the crime rate would go down.”
“But that’s not fair! That’s…that’s discrimination!”
“I know. But there’s not much we can do about it. So I want you to be careful. You never know who is in the EIS. If your name falls into a member’s hands, you’d have to go far away, and I don’t want that. So please, be careful, Anita. I’ve been trying to keep my real name especially a secret now that the EIS is on the loose.”
I gulped. “I will, Miss Krystal. What are they…doing to the Blessed and Cursed they have already?”
“I don’t really want to think about it. Whatever they’re doing, it’s bound to be bad.” Miss Krystal got up to leave. “I hope you manage to find decent shelter sometime soon. I wish I could take you with me to live in my apartment, but it’s only meant for one person.”
“That’s okay, Miss Krystal. It really means a lot to me that you actually looked for the tree that I now live at and bothered to wonder about my well-being, and that you have always cared about me, even though I’m not your responsibility anymore.” Miss Krystal was the only teacher I had ever known who had actually tried to keep in touch with me after I was promoted from her class. We hugged, and then Miss Krystal left. I plucked an apple off of my tree and munched on it. While eating, I glanced at my money stash in my wallet and counted it. Five sythers and fifteen centisythers—just enough to buy two school lunches. I was really going to have to earn money, or maybe I’d just bring apples to school as a lunch.
I suddenly remembered Miss Krystal’s words. You never know who is in the EIS. What if there were members at my school? I shuddered and tried to drown my worries out with the munching of my apple.