So here I was, back in the room, on the bed. I had seen the footage maybe a hundred times now; I still could not believe it in a way. But knowing that inside me, a small parasite, a demon of destruction, is living off of me. The guilt was very intense, and I tried to put it to the back of my mind, but the constant pain in my chest reminded me otherwise. It was like intense heartburn. A grim reminder of what was in there.
Luckily, the doctors said they were confident that I wouldn’t turn into the creature again. After studying me they discovered that the only way it could get out is through a ‘symbiosis transfer’. I told them my science was 1960s rusty, so they explained that I had to willingly and actively let the creature trade places with me. Fat chance of that.
Even then they did not understand the specifics. What was inside me was a medical mystery, and how a transformation of a high bio mass from one form to another in a rapid reconstitution of bone marrow and DNA… that was where I stopped understanding. But long story short, they don’t know what I am.
Jas was still pushing for me to join the school, to get out of the room. Along with that other girl, the one who walked in on us while we were viewing the footage. What was her name again? Sera? She was ordered by that Xeninta person to keep quiet. Apparently she was causing a few of those doctors some puzzles as well. But really I didn’t care, call me selfish, but I’ve got too much stuff to deal with right now.
I just didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere, not after what I did. So no matter how much she visited, no matter how much she encouraged, Jas could not get me out of my depression. And this continued for another week. Right up until I was asked to speak with Xeninta privately, in his office.
I was led out of the room by two doctors, down long silver corridors with dimmed lights, until we got to a large hole in the wall. We stepped in and they pressed a button which made the ground move. The silver corridors disappeared behind some kind of metal layer, which receded after a minute to reveal a large hall with red carpets, portraits on the walls, chandeliers, all manner of decorations, and several kids walking around and conversing.
I instantly shied away, trying to hide my face. I wasn’t ready to meet people! Oh god I knew it was a mistake to leave that room. The doctors gently pushed me forward and directed me around this expensive looking place. I kept my eyes fixed on the ground, not wanting to look at anyone.
After a few minutes we stopped in front of large oak doors. The doctors knocked on them and awaited an ‘enter’ voice. They opened the door to show a large office like place with a wooden desk, ignited fireplace, red curtains and rugs, and candle lights on the wall. Inside was Xeninta wearing spectacles, pointing at a large white board with complicated math problems on it. In front of him were a crowd of older teenagers, one of them Jas.
They looked at me, and Jas beamed to see me out of that room. One of them, a boy with light brown hair and blue eyes who had a brown scarf wrapped around him, gave me a horrified look. In fact most of them looked quite surprised to see me. Xeninta asked them all to leave and mentioned something about homework. They filed out, one by one, and I avoided eye contact with all of them, but I sensed the negative feelings in the room.
I took a seat in front of the desk and kept my eyes fixated anywhere but the eyes of the old man in front of me. “Thank you for joining me, Shadow” he said with a gentle voice.
“Sorry I disturbed your class” I said quietly.
“No, I wanted you to come at this time. To see them, see that there are people just like you here” Xeninta said.
“There’s nobody like me” I said sadly.
“No, not with your particular case, but everyone here is the same. The EX Genes are more like you then you think. We feel a sense of loneliness a lot, especially when we are first brought here. The world looks at us as the future of humanity, as guardians, as protectors, and teachers. The pressure we feel, as well as the isolation, can be daunting. That is why I built this school, a place where children all over the world can be introduced to this lifestyle slowly, with help and understanding. That’s why you’re here, I want to help you. Help you understand who you are, and your place in this world” Xeninta explained with an outstretched hand on my shoulder.
“I'm not an EX Gene though, I'm a murderer” I shook my head.
“No! You are not. That creature, that… Rage Demon… that is a killer. You are a victim, Shadow. It stole you, your body, your memories, and your past. You’ve been given another chance, to live the life that was stolen. Tell me, would you rather have died?” Xeninta pressed me.
“I… I don’t know” I said after a pause.
“I see, well then explore the answer in my school. I won’t put you in any scheduled classes or timetable, you go where you see fit. Talk with whomever you like, learn what you must. If you wish to leave the school, I will let you go. But I assure you, Shadow; there’s no place that will accept you more than right here, right now” Xeninta encouraged me.
“Look… professor Xeninta… thank you… thank you a thousand times for rescuing me. Right now I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I feel like that creature can come back at any time. I'm a risk to your students!” I protested.
“The second I believe you are, you will cease living” Xeninta said rather darkly.
“Well… I…” I stuttered for words.
“Ultimately, the choice is up to you” Xeninta said clearly.
“I’ll… I’ll… stay… I don’t know about taking part in the school, however” I said after a long gap to think about it.
“Well how about a tour?” Xeninta offered.
“I don’t see a problem with that” I accepted hesitantly.
Xeninta signalled for the two doctors to leave, and held my shoulder to lead me out. He was almost as tall as me, but he walked with such composure, I could sense great authority from him. He led me down many magnificent hallways and corridors, showed me dormitories and empty classrooms for science, maths, English, among others. He took me outside to show me the grounds, they were huge, easily several acres.
The school itself was a mansion; the front yard was decorated with well-kept flowerbeds and plants. Willow and pine trees marked the borders of each field, with a huge fountain in the middle between the front gate and the mansion. Out in the distance I could see a city; Toronto, Xeninta clarified. Many students were playing in these grounds, eating lunch; the day itself was bright and sunny.
He led me around the side, showing me track races, horse stables, tennis courts, basketball courts, and then around to the back, where there were several swimming pools and squash courts. As he went, he explained to me the purpose of the school, going into explicit detail.
He explained the nature of EX Genes, that they were a natural stage of human evolution, where they gained an extra gene in their genetic makeup that evolved them in some form. More often than not they would develop unique powers, like Jas’ ability to sense emotions. Rarer though they would simply look different than most humans, such as the kids I saw with either blue skin, green scales, tails, pointy ears, they varied between each person. These kids did not have powers, but were still welcome to join the school.
The school was called Xeninta’s School for Upcoming Generations. It was all privately owned by Xeninta himself, who inherited the land from his grandfather, and built the place from the ground up, with each brick. He wanted a place where all EX Genes could come together to learn and meet others like them. EX Genes had not been persecuted since their acceptance into society as full citizens shortly after World War II, but there was still a lot of unknown factors when it came to them.
They had to call themselves by different names so as to distinguish themselves from regular humans, so that people would know who they were talking to. They were expected to help in natural disasters, prevent crimes as special police, and generally use their gifts to make everyone else’s lives better. Many become embarrassed when they realised they were an EX Gene, knowing they’d never have something of a normal life.
Xeninta wanted to change that, so he created the school so people could come together, learn, and be with others like themselves. He used the school to give them a good education, teach them how to control their powers, and how they could interact with normal society. I told him it was a worthy goal to do such, he simply replied that it was the least he could do after the children had blessed him with so many young and happy faces over the years.
He led me back into the mansion, back to the elevator, and back to where I had begun. He gave me a more in depth tour of the lower levels, showing me the various rooms with all the most advanced sciences to help control great powers that the users could not do by themselves yet. He showed me a great room, huge in size, with many training courses inside. It came equipped with all measures of training tools ranging from simple to deadly, all in the name of progress.
He never forced kids to do anything they weren’t comfortable with, he never expected anything out of them accept the willingness to try and learn. He truly only wanted young EX Genes to learn how to control and accept themselves, listening to him I could not help but get a great sense of admiration for him.
By the end of the tour, he took me back to my medical room, but I declined, I summoned the courage to ask for a room upstairs, where I could see the sun. He smiled, and gave me a simple room with a great view of the grounds and sky, all viewable from a balcony. I didn’t really know what to do with myself from there. But I knew if I gave it time, I might be able to find out more about this world. This time. Maybe even remember who I am.