Summary is still the same:
Nate is a loner with anger management issues. After being suspended from high-school for fighting, he is sent to a private school for troubled teens. There he meets Alexia, a beautiful blond, who tells everyone she's an alien from outer space. (This is not exceptionally remarkable as her other classmates include a quirky autistic, a brooding pyromaniac, and an overly chatty schizophrenic.)
Nate doesn't believe she's really an alien. And Alexia doesn't believe Nate really is in danger of becoming a homicidal maniac. But one of them turns out to be wrong.
♫ ♫ Pennywise- "Alien" ♫ ♫
Nate's fist slammed into the guy's face.
The guy's nose snapped like a final straw.
The ominous sound of breaking bone pierced Nate's ears.
Lunge. Swing. Punch. Crunch.
The crunch crackled, wetly disgusting, hinting at what lay underneath-- without the flesh of lips, the boy's exposed skull would be a skinless grin. Nate scowled at the ghastly mental image. He glanced around, feeling surrounded by bone heads locked into permanent expressions of amusement-- everyone snickering at him just beneath their skin.
He gave his fist a quick shake and then quickly reformed it, ready to throw a second punch. The other guy-- Nate didn't know his name, he was just some guy, some nameless, faceless guy-- was still reeling. The grotesque crinkle of compressed nose hung in the air like an awkward accordion.
Gasps popped out of nearby students. A soft, rushing yawn of sound that swished down the hallway. Several of the on looking boneheads went slack-jawed like dominoes-- mouths comically dropping open, stretching out from the point of impact.
Boink, boink, boink... like dozens of tiny caves. Mouths agape in dark delight. Echoing. Their collective whispers rustling like restless bat wings.
The some-guy's head had rocketed sideways from the impact of Nate's punch. No blood dramatically spewed from his mouth; no blood whiplashed wetly in a graceful arc through the air.
The same could not be said about some-guy's drool. That did in fact spew forth in an aesthetic curve that any Grecian fountain would be envious of. Some of the students in the hallway screamed. It was not immediately clear to Nate if the screams were due to the fight or the drool. The drool had not actually landed on anyone besides Nate, but several girls, all trying to outdo each other, were loudly insisting that it literally had gotten all over them. Like, literally. All over! Literally.
Nate wanted to present these girls with a dictionary, but he was literally preoccupied at the moment. He shook the drool off his forearm, flicking it in the general direction of the literal girls. They screamed. Nate distantly wondered if they actually had precognizant super-powers. Got drool? Here, let me make that true.
Some-guy yelled something that Nate failed to process. He tried to focus. Nate's heightened senses were now disorienting. Every noise sounded drugged and surreal, not quite in sync with the action.
At the first flood of adrenaline, less than a minute ago, his nerves sang and danced, thrilled to be drowning in the rush. His thoughts had been hyper-aware-- distant but clear. Time had not slowed like a fight-scene in a movie. But a pocket of extra thoughts had seemed to stretch out sideways in his head, giving him the illusion of enough space for his racing clarity to seem leisurely.
But now it was all getting tangled. Actions suddenly displaced and skipped around. Every movement grew strange and nonsensical, set to the wrong background music. A smeared soundtrack of sickening snaps--- straws and bones and bat wings and whatever other things made snapping noises. Noises that might exist for the future cueing of memory-- prophetic glimpses later to be remixed. (SNAP! Fingers!) Memories to be recalled and reshuffled.
Nate shook his head, trying to make the timeline snap back into place with the audio. He considered punching the guy again. There was a little blood coming out of his nose now, just a couple of drops. The guy tested it with his middle finger. Nate waited to see if Some-Guy was going to throw another punch.
The guy had called Nate a crazy psycho. Really, that would have been fine. But then he had gone on to make a disparaging comment about Nate's mother. Nate was very sensitive about his mother. That was when he'd decided to hit the guy. More accurately, it was when he decided to stop preventing himself from hitting the guy. Some-guy had actually thrown the first punch, but he'd missed.
Adults tended to assume fights were always provoked, and that they were always Nate's fault. Nate, what did you do to provoke the fight?? His Dad never understood that he just existed. That was enough.
During the five-minute break between classes the hallways were full of students. Nate hated the crush of other people milling around him, the laughter and causal touching of happy people. He was not a fan of crowds. He also didn't like the whine of the fluorescent lights in the hall, they egged on the black rage in his skull, made him feel like he couldn't think.
Even when people were not insulting his mother, his thoughts were often scrambled with blood and violence. He had wanted to stab the overhead light in the eye socket. Short-circuit it. Fry its brains out. Then some guy had irritated him, said things, and knocking the guy's lights out instead had sounded like an acceptable substitute.
In a school of fish, the odd one out gets eaten by the shark. In a school of children, it's more like being in a crowd of cannibalistic piranhas.
If Nate had been weaker or smaller, if he didn't fight back, he would have been bullied but he probably would have stayed out of trouble.
Clearly, not a priority.
Nate wanted to fight.
But apparently, some-guy did not want to fight anymore. His nose was now bleeding profusely. He held up his hands, palms out, in a gesture that indicated cessation and said, "Whatever, Man." It seemed to be over.
But then it wasn't.
A slender girl ran up to Nate and slapped him across the face. Nate stared down at the top of her head. She was a blur of pink shirt and black mascara. Apparently, Nate had just punched her boyfriend. For some reason, this made her go berserk. She slapped, hit, and screamed at Nate.
Nate was a chauvinist in the sense that he had reservations about punching a girl full in the face, or, at all. He did not treat her as an equal. He just stood there.
She started hitting him harder. She was a surprisingly strong little thing. Nate concentrated on not flinching.
He kept his arms at his sides woodenly-- no deflection, no self-protection, just absorbing it all in, taking everything she had to give. Nate wished his chest and arms were as numb as his facial expression. Pain and swear words crowded in on his thoughts.
Nate wondered if there would ever come a point at which he could count on numbness. He imagined his life continuing like this indefinitely-- being pummeled. Perhaps he would reach an age where he was nerveless and unbreakable.
Having absorbed so many mental and physical blows, year after year, his skin ought to get thicker. Roughened and beaten into one huge callus. Skin aged and strengthened, weathered into proper armor. Skin trained to take anything. A deadened outer shell keeping everything vaulted.
But for now, Nate was all chinks and cracks.
Something always split through-- his eyes, his lips-- something would always crack and give him away.
Instead of fighting this weakness, Nate occasionally tried to use it to his advantage. He let things slip though on purpose. He let some of the crazy shine through the cracks, so that people would back up, so that they wouldn't peer too closely at the rest.
He focused on doing this now.
I am a big scary guy! He thought firmly. You should be afraid of me!
Nothing happened. The girl continued to hit him, not intimidated.
Annoyed and embarrassed, Nate tried to channel evil super-villain thoughts. He coaxed THREAT to bleed into his eyes. He glared.
I'm not secretly a nice person, Girl. Or even if I am, my patience is running out, and I may punch you in the face after all... I could kill you, I could kill you...
Nate let her see that he thought about killing her. He hoped that would make her uncomfortable enough to stop hitting him.
Luckily, it did.
The girl held his gaze for a second too long. She was spitting mad one second and stuttering to a stop the next. She backed up, grabbed her boyfriend's bloody hand, and fled.
Nate had mentally classified the girl as tiny, but she wasn't. She was average sized. Nate was just tall for his age. At sixteen, he stood at a decently filled out six foot two. Even thought he wasn't overly skinny, he gave the impression of being all angles-- a wiry creature made of elbows and sharpness. His eyes were dark and so was his hair. He rarely slouched but often kept his eyes down; he didn't shrink from people but he didn't find most of them worth looking at.
Administrative authority had finally been roused by all the commotion. A fat beast of a man walked purposefully toward Nate, coming to collect him and deliver him for punishment. He spoke into a walkie-talkie. Nate went with him quietly.
The school year was almost over; less than two weeks remained. Nate wondered if he would be suspended or expelled. He glanced down the hallway that contained his locker, trying to recall if there was anything left in it that he wanted.
The man ushered him into the principal's office, holding the door open and gesturing for Nate to walk in first.
"Here he is. The boy he attacked is with the nurse-- she says his nose is broken."
"Thank-you." the principal said in a clipped voice.
The man left.
The principal wore a gray dress with a matching jacket. Tight through her middle, the dress produced finger-sized fat-rolls that outlined her sides in links of gray sausages. She straightened the large walkie-talkie that sat on the corner of her desk and indicated that Nate should have a seat.
He sat across the desk from the principal and watched her make phone calls. She didn't call his Dad right away, she took care of other inconsequential business.
Nate waited, determined not to sweat.
He did not want to give the woman the satisfaction of watching him grow restless, uncomfortable, to ask what was going to happen to him. Nate did not oblige. He waited her out. They both wanted the other to be the one to speak first.
However, Nate had all the time in the world and the principal did not. She did have an actual job to do. She could afford to waste a little time trying to assert power, but not all day. Finally, she turned her attention to him and nastily told him that he would be expelled.
Then she called his father.
Nate cringed, inwardly. Outwardly, he tried to look unconcerned. Part of him felt bad. He couldn't hear the other side of the phone conversation, but his imagination unhelpfully filled in the gaps.
"Yes. I'll be waiting with him in my office." The principal said, itching her chin on the left shoulder pad of her jacket. "There is paperwork you'll need to sign... No, I'm sorry, he most definitely can not be sent home on his own recognizance. You will need to come and pick him up."
She hung up the phone and sent Nate into an inner room adjacent to her office. She watched him through a large glass window. She continued to make phone calls but Nate could no longer make out what she was saying. He considered learning how to read lips-- not that he was all that interested in what the principal was saying, but just because it seemed like a useful skill to have. He stared back at her through the thick pane. He wondered if any student had ever broken that tempting window. He fingered the seat of his chair thoughtfully and imagined throwing it through the glass. Thin black lines crosshatched the window; Nate didn't know what the lines were (Wire perhaps?), but he assumed they prevented the window from being easily broken by a casually tossed chair.
Nate spent a lot of time staring at the window while he waited. Two hours and eleven minutes passed before his father arrived. When he finally did, he barely glanced at Nate through the window; he immediately got into it with the principal. Nate very much wished he could read lips at this point. His dad spoke heatedly, but not loud enough for Nate to catch what he said. He argued with the principal for a few minutes and failed to sign the papers that the principal pushed across the desk at him. He walked toward Nate and opened the door.
"Let's go. NOW."
As Nate had anticipated, his father did not look pleased. He looked sweaty, red, and breathy. His father did not wait; he turned and stomped out of the office. Nate scrambled to grab his stuff and ran out after him.
During the ride home, the car filled with tense silence. Outside, the sun was shining in a cloudless sky of deep and brilliant blue; the trees and plants lining the street were lush and alive; birds were singing; squirrels raced along power lines-- not a single one getting electrocuted.
Nate sourly watched it all rushing past the windshield.