The black bells rang. An eerie bong echoed along the dim hallway as a shadow loomed from the rusted gates of the school. The shadow came from the new student, Tim. He was a former student of Eagle Academy, but because of financial problems his parents enrolled him in the Gray Institute.
It was already recess when Tim arrived. The gates were still shut, but from where he stood, he saw figures of what seemed to be, the students of the school. Suddenly, the gates opened; creaking as it’s rusty hinges moved. Tim was nervous. He did not know what to do. He thought of running back home, but because he was well aware of his family’s problem, he chose to go forward. He could not afford to simply waltz away from an opportunity to learn.
He walked towards the main entrance of the school. Even if he was still a freshman, Tim had a knack for being observant. As he walked, he noticed that most of the trees in the area were barren. He also noticed that the ground was covered with wilted grass. When he got closer to the school, he had a clearer view of the students. But something was a bit odd. The students were pale and had a weary look on their faces. From what he has seen, Tim realized that he was going to have a weird time.
Tim entered the main hall while still wondering why the atmosphere around the place was heavy. In his deep thought, he bumped into the admission’s counter. An old woman was sitting behind counter. She looked at Tim with a gloomy expression. Then, she raised an eyebrow. Nervously, Tim introduced himself to the woman. He told her that he‘s the new student and asked in which class he belonged.
“Ah… The new student…”
The woman then rummaged through some files inside her desk. She then gave Tim a paper containing his schedules. Tim thanked the woman but the woman just rolled her eyes. After that, the bells rang again; recess was over. Tim immediately went to his classroom.
Upon reaching his room, Tim knocked on the door. The teacher, a tall man wearing black robes, signaled him to enter. Tim opened the door. Again, the heavy aura he felt while walking towards the school was there. The classroom was clean, but gloomy; cold and a bit dark.
“So… You’re the new student. Come here and tell us your name.” said the man in a half-goading tone.
Tim did as he was told. Although a bit shaky, he stood, front and center, and introduced himself to the class. There were no reactions. It was as if his classmates were busy thinking of something else; except for one – the person sitting in the right corner of the back part of the room. The person was the only one who smiled at Tim.
“If you’re done, please sit beside Grim.” said the teacher while pointing to the seat beside the person Tim looked at.
Tim nodded and proceeded towards his seat. While walking, he heard his classmates whisper.
“Sad to be him…”
“Better him than me…”
“Of all the places…”
Tim just shrugged his shoulders. Once he was seated, the teacher continued the lecture. Tim took out his notebook and pen, and started writing. As he wrote, something caught his attention. It was Grim, stretching his arms. After stretching, he yawned out loud. Tim noticed that as Grim stretched and yawned, the air inside the classroom became heavy. At that moment, Tim wondered if Grim harbored a secret.
That lunch, he observed Grim. From the classroom, to the grounds, and finally, the rusted gates, he followed Grim, but from a distance. Although he was watching Grim, he noticed that there was something wrong with the other students. They tend to avoid Grim; others stayed, but after Grim passed by, they gossiped. Not only did the students of their class do it, but all the students in the institute.
Concluded in part 2.
Alfredo Carlos P. Montecillo is a 4th year irregular student of Ateneo de Davao University.
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