Double Defensive

“Leo! Wake up!” barked Mr Jefferson angrily, who was attempting to teach History, trying to retain his anger at the student now asleep, but failing to do so. “This is a school, not your bedroom!” still he received no answer. “Right, I gave you fair warning,” presently still talking to himself, deciding what to do next in that instant. Everyone in the room now had their attention focussed on either the sleeping figure of Leo or Mr Jefferson who was standing hard faced at the head of the room, waiting to see what would happen, knowing that Leo would be in trouble for sleeping. When Leo failed to respond to Mr Jefferson’s shouts, the infuriated teacher swept down and picked up a nearby paper ball from the floor that had earlier failed to be thrown into the bin by one of the class, and for which he had already contemplated another use. All of the students watched eagerly, the anticipation in their young faces at their peak. To get to see a teacher doing such a thing like Mr Jefferson was about to was hard to believe and so made it all the more a exciting moment. The boy sat directly next to Leo and all those in the potential pathway of the projectile moved their heads and bodies’ aside, predicting what was going to happen. Mr Jefferson threw it directly at Leo’s forehead, which was being supported by his right arm, his hand running lazily and mindlessly through his hair. The teacher hit his target with great precision for an old man and despite the distance, nonetheless waking him up, and achieving the desired result.

“What the heck?” exclaimed Leo Taylor in a confused and startled voice, recoiling backwards in surprise, opening his emerald green eyes suddenly, whilst launching his History textbook – A Comprehensive Guide To British History - that lay open in front of him off the table at the same time as his hands came crashing down. A few strands of his blond hair fell over his eyes, as he rubbed them vigorously trying to wake himself up properly, still not quite sure where he was. Unaware of all the pairs of eyes now fixed on him. He was wearing a red t-shirt with a motif of a golden lion on it, over a yellow long sleeved shirt with jeans, trainers and completed by a red belt.

 

“Oh, so nice of you to re-enter the conscious world, and grace us with your attention,” retorted Mr Jefferson to Leo’s outburst. At this the twenty-two other students in the class, laughed openly, but they soon quietened down so that Leo could blurt out an expected excuse, as was customary with any schoolboy or schoolgirl in trouble with the faculty.

“Oh sorry Sir, I guess I, kind of dozed off,” said Leo blandly and sheepishly, trying not to meet anyone else’s eyes, looking down at the table to escape their attention.

“Yes well, that was the third time this year that’s happened, and it’s only February. It is not an acceptable attitude for you to have in this classroom! If my lessons are so boring to you then I should wonder why you bothered taking up History as a subject,” said Mr Jefferson, brusquely.

“I won’t let it happen again,” said Leo, raising his gaze to meet Mr Jefferson’s and gave him pitiful eyes to sympathise with.

“See that you don’t, or I shall be reporting this to Mr Goldsmith and seriously have him consider your future enrolment here,” and with that Mr Jefferson turned his back on the class, all of who had returned to facing the front of the room, now that the mild amusement was over, but that also now included a very red faced Leo. At least he’d gotten away with it he thought. Mr Jefferson restarted his teaching as if the disruption had never occurred. Being a teacher of experience he was able to get angry one minute and then calm down another in a sort of extreme mood swing towards his students. Leo dived under his table to pick up the textbook he had dropped, trying to flatten down the now creased pages. Flourished with pictures of monuments and battles and ceremonies and glory and woe. He was about to start trying to pay attention when the boy sat next to him caught his attention. He was wearing a grey polo neck jumper, jeans and trainers, and had short fair hair, blue eyes, all of which were accompanied by a handsome face.

“Hey, you got out of that one lightly, y’know, considering,” whispered Leo’s best friend, Zane Harrison.

“Yeah, I was surprised I didn’t get a detention at the very least –”

“If you choose to carry on talking like that I might just reconsider my frankly generous offer,” interrupted Mr Jefferson calmly, without turning around, although he had stopped writing on the whiteboard. “And that includes you too Zane,” he added as an afterthought.

“Yes Sir” said both of them in unison, defeated in the argument, neither bothering to counter unless it did earn them some punishment, choosing to fall silent instead.

 

Mr Jefferson was an averaged sized man with grey hair, a Van Dyke beard grew shortly on his face, so it looked more like stubble than a beard, and he looked about as old as the subject he taught. He wore a brown jacket, white shirt, brown trousers and suede shoes, all of them looked fairly ancient as well. Yet despite his obvious age, he still managed to command authority among students and teachers alike, being Head of the Humanities Department. This had led to rumours being spread of him being a veteran war General in his earlier years; still managing or at least trying to act out as a leader, though of course all of these had been dismissed by him, in his words “clap-trap from the rumour mill if you ask me.” He looked as though he belonged to a different time altogether, and had accidentally ended up teaching here. He turned his attention back to the whiteboard, which he was now engaged with drawing a set of crude rectangular shapes on, making it a massive priority that he get it exactly right. The class remained silent throughout this process, the only sound coming from the whiteboard, where the squeaking of the marker pen Mr Jefferson was using sliced through the room, until he finally turned around and spoke.

“Stonehenge,” he announced to the room at large, moving aside so everyone could see properly. He was evidently proud of his doodle as his voice held an air of smugness and he also wore a smile. Most people turned to look at each other and discuss the concept that the squiggly lines on the whiteboard were actually a picture of Stonehenge, and then Mr Jefferson started talking again which made the murmuring stop, and everyone in the class fall silent.

“Now who can tell me where Stonehenge is located? Anyone?” His eyes scanned the classroom searching for a willing volunteer but to no avail. “Anyone at all?” It was a vain effort, most of the faces either blank or just plain uninterested, some were just keen to avoid his searching eyes, which was never the trick to not getting asked. Teachers had the unwary sense to ask the children who least wanted to be asked. Mr Jefferson found his target: “Leo, how about you seeing as you seem to be the centre of attention today.” As his eyes had finally rested on Leo at the back, whose face was now rapt with attention, being keen to make up from before, and so he wasn’t risking expulsion. He swallowed and stumbled through his next words.

 

“Right, isn’t it located on The Seatwork Pylons or something like that?” The answer died in his throat after he said it, knowing he was wrong by the look on Mr Jefferson’s face. For all the attention he was trying to give to the lesson, his lack of knowledge still failed him substantially.

“That’s Salisbury Plain,” Mr Jefferson corrected, putting emphasis on every syllable, as if it were a nursery rhyme. At this a few people took the opportunity and snickered at Leo’s mistake, to which he returned with a scowl. “It is located in Wiltshire,” Mr Jefferson continued, “and the grid reference is SU123422. Don’t ask me how I know that, because I’m not so sure myself. Though it’s probably evidence that I’ve been teaching too long.” Though Mr Jefferson didn’t notice, a few heads nodded agreement as if hoping he’d walk out of the room right now. “It was thought to have been constructed about four thousand years ago, and to this day no-one has worked out what Stonehenge is actually for or why it was built. We know that Druids use it for the Summer Solstice however.” Most of the class were losing what little interest they had fast now, others were sat taking notes, their pens scratching quietly on their notepads. It was too close to lunchtime to have any attention left. “But it has often been open to speculation from historians and the general public, seeing as that, without real evidence, no one can prove anything. These have ranged from Stonehenge being a beacon for UFOs by people who ‘watch the skies’ as it were, or people with no jobs, as I prefer to call them. Unfit For Occupation if you will.” A few people actually laughed at this joke. “I tend to not believe in what I can’t see. As well as it seeming to have other ‘magical’ properties, such as giving practitioners of witchcraft the ability to summon ‘Demons’ or even the Devil himself. All ludicrous folklore if you ask me,” he finished, dismissing the rumours. As if the fact that he didn’t believe in it solved the matter. He was about to continue talking but suddenly a bell rang in the other room, cutting him off, signalling the end of lesson and the start of dinnertime.

“Homework is for you to read up on Stonehenge, which I expect you all to do this time, and when you’re ready you can go,” announced Mr Jefferson, as he was ensuring he was getting a head start by being half way through the door as he spoke, his satchel hanging precariously on his shoulder.

 

Leo and Zane rose out of their seats, pulled their backpacks from under the desk and began packing their contents into them, all of it being a perfect routine. Anyone would think they were twins the way they did it with the same motion. They made sure to go slower so as to not get caught up in the race for the exit. Once all of the other students had filtered out of the room, they made their way to the door, hoisting their backpacks on. Leo noticed on his way out that the paper ball that had struck him, had been kicked further down the room but still hadn’t made it’s way into the bin; he also noticed that Mr Jefferson had left his pile of textbooks behind, to which Leo and Zane added their copies. The drizzly sunlight illuminated the dust that began to fall to them almost as soon as they had put them down. They exited the classroom into a hallway leading to the other part of the first floor, a window stood on their left side while a classroom wall sat in front of them, the entrance to the classroom being further along. They made their way down the hall when they noticed that the classroom door was ajar and they could hear shots of a teacher’s voice coming from the English lesson inside, which seemed to still be in progress despite the bell having rung.

 

“Play thine piccolo whilst we eat. Whilst we are dining on rice, carrots and meat, the music would be so divine. Lest the Devil’s hunger hast its way with us,” recited Mr Beddow, a middle aged man whose hair had begun to grey and who spoke passionately whenever reciting poetry. He believed that poetry was one of the finest works of art that civilisation had brought into the world and it should be appreciated as fully as possible. No wonder the class was still in there, Mr Beddow would never have let anyone from his class go without finishing the works of poetry he had lined up for them. Trying to cram as much culture down their throats as humanly possible. Leo and Zane stopped walking, just short of the door and looked at each other.

“14th Century” said Zane

“15th Century” replied Leo

“That poem was by Kiara Yamatori, who wrote that particular one in the 15th Century” came Mr Beddow’s voice again. “Next we’ll read ‘My Fairy King’ and then you all can go for your lunch.” Leo smirked at Zane triumphantly, which he returned with a glare for having been beaten, and without saying another word they carried on walking towards an area of space which was devoted to studying but which was currently empty.

 

They both walked over to a broad wooden table that occupied most of the floor space and that had several cushioned chairs scattered around its general area, left there by students beforehand. Its surface was polished, so it gleamed from the sunlight spilling in through the window, and which had a newspaper laid flat on it, so the cover faced the ceiling, displaying the front page. Leo glanced at the heading, which stood out in striking black ink, and read ‘Spectrum latest technology leaves competitors hanging’ and ignored the rest, not being vaguely interested. They each grabbed a chair and pointed them towards the window, which ran the full length of the first floor. Both then took off and dropped their backpacks on the table and sank into the chairs to admire the view of the clear blue sky, resting their feet on the windowsill, if they had looked down, they would have had a perfect view of the entire school. The weather had been acting strangely lately Leo thought, one minute there could be a scene like there was now, a pale blue sky where the sun shone in the distance, and then clouds would cast shadows over the school. At those times it was more like the British Februarys he remembered.

 

“Y’know, Zane,” said Leo, suddenly breaking the relaxing silence.

“What, Leo?” asked Zane, yawning and stretching in his seat.

“Everyday I say to myself ‘I hope something exciting happens today’. But nothing ever does. This place is just too quiet.” At this Zane laughed.

“Is the trial of being a sixth form student not invigorating enough for you?” Sixth form was a higher education option that some schools offered. “ The excitement and the thrills this place offers are insurmountable!” he carried on sarcastically. Leo answered by giving him a look, which said to Zane, ‘Are you serious?’

“Guess not then” retorted Zane when he saw Leo’s expression trying not to laugh more. Leo sighed to himself, and went silent, closing his eyes and sinking into the chair further.

“Wish I could fly,” he said finally.

“Oh, that old dream again?” replied Zane, sounding unimpressed as usual.

“Yeah, “that old dream.””

“Look I know its a cool idea and all, but don’t let some dream like that take over your life. It’s just not worth going after something you don’t even know is possible. And even if it was, then why would you be the one to find out about it?”

“Ah, but isn’t that how dreams are achieved?” said Leo, putting on a falsely wise voice. “By doing something you don’t know is possible and stepping over the mark to achieve them?”

“I guess so, but still, Leo, you have a life to live outside of training,” with that they returned to their silence, Zane closed his eyes and began to relax.

Leo thought to himself. “It may sound stupid to others but it’s actually one of the reasons I train so hard at martial arts, believing I may one day be able to manipulate my energy and lift myself off the ground. Like him… Though I have been slacking recently, maybe the idea is dying in me.” Zane was the only person he had confided this information in, knowing he wouldn’t think it as strange as other people would, being his childhood friend.

 

Whilst the two of them had been busy talking, the English lesson behind them had ended and the general murmur of student’s voices grew louder as they went for the stairs on the other side of the room, neither Leo nor Zane paid any attention to them. One of the students walked up behind Leo and Zane without them noticing, using the noise of the other students to mask his presence. Leo heard the rustle of a coat though as the noise began to fade and turned in his seat, swinging his legs off the windowsill, to look at Ben Kingston. Ben held a finger to his lips when Leo had seen him, signalling for him to be quiet. He had dark brown hair, was wearing a suede jacket, brown long sleeved shirt, smart cream trousers and brown leather shoes, Leo always thought he dressed rather excessively for just another school day. Ben snuck up behind Zane while his eyes were closed, with Leo watching intently, and proceeded to slap him on the back of the head, making Zane lurch forwards in surprise and bring his feet down heavily.

 

“Hey! What are you doing?” started Zane, readying his fists in anger, which he seemed prone to do, turning around quickly, intending to pick a fight with whoever had hit him.

“I was simply seeing if you were awake,” stated Ben, as if it were the most normal way for him to check, he started to drift away from Zane as he spoke, just in case he did fancy trying to lash out.

“Oh right” said Zane, seemingly accepting it and calming down instantly, noticing whom it was, knowing that he’d probably earned a slap around the head somehow. Maybe it had been that comment about Ben looking too stuck up for his own good. Ben picked up the newspaper and began to leaf through it.

“Anything good?” asked Leo.

“Nope. Unless you want to hear how,” he put on a falsely dramatic voice to read out the headlines. “Rich Entrepreneur Buys Musty Old Book At Auction House For Stupid Amount Of Money. A Philanthropist Donates A Vast Amount Of Money To A Charity In Order To Gain Instant Fame. Top Footballer Cheats On Third Wife With His Fifteenth Mistress! Oh now that is news worth writing about,” he rolled his eyes. “Waste of ink and paper.” Leo and Zane were laughing hard from Ben’s satiric impersonation of a newsreader. “I’m going to nip downstairs before we have lunch, got to see Goldsmith.” Brian Goldsmith was the head of their sixth form, a soft faced man who was in his thirties and who everyone liked. Ben as well as most other sixth formers tended to only use a teacher’s last name when not in their presence, seeing as a title was only a formality to them.

“I’ll come with you. I need to ask him something about university,” said Zane, and with that he picked himself up off his chair and followed Ben, who had already crossed the room and was waiting at the stairs.

“Oh fine, leave me here then! I don’t need any company or anything!” called Leo dramatically. Zane just waved an arm sarcastically at him in mock farewell. Ben and Zane were halfway down, just about to turn the corner of the L shaped stairs, when they saw Mr Jefferson almost running up in front of them, he was going so fast that he almost crashed into the both of them. He didn’t have his satchel with him anymore. Each had to press back against the railings in order to avoid him. He muttered something along the lines of “Textbooks. Damned textbooks,” and went past them without any acknowledgement that he had almost collided with them, storming off in the direction of his empty classroom. Leo turned his head to watch Mr Jefferson now running across the room, thinking that he’d probably deserved having to come back for being in a hurry to leave and so Leo was left alone now with his thoughts.

 

A few minutes later, Mr Jefferson emerged from his classroom. His arms were piled high with History textbooks that were obscuring his view and on the verge of falling out of his grasp. Leo turned from facing the window just in time to see Mr Jefferson tripping over himself, followed by a definitive “Ow,” and watched him drop his textbooks all over the floor, scattering them in all directions.

“Sir, are you alright?” asked Leo in a worried voice, knowing Mr Jefferson wasn’t as spry as he once was and despite disliking the teacher right now for singling him out in class. Whilst he said this he jumped out of his seat at the same time.

“Yes, yes I’m fine Leo,” replied Mr Jefferson, struggling to pick himself up. “Help me pick this lot up,” indicating the textbooks. Leo still looked unsure about his condition, but got down on his hands and knees whilst starting to pull some textbooks towards him. Mr Jefferson did the same. When Leo had pulled a few of the books towards him he arranged them into a neat stack, then looked up at Mr Jefferson who was looking the other way, pulling some of the books which had fallen further away closer, shuffling on his hands and knees. Leo then noticed a pendant dangling out of Mr Jefferson’s shirt of what appeared to be a dragon, having fell through the space in-between where two buttons were separated. It was a Chinese one thought Leo, as it didn’t have any wings, and by what he had seen pictures of in books and on television, which he spent most of his time watching when he wasn’t at school or with friends. It was a dull brass colour, and about five centimetres long, it looked very old. It was spinning around slowly as the chain uncoiled and recoiled. Leo stared into the inlets of the dragon’s eyes where there was no dull brass colour, only darkness. He found himself transfixed by this pendant and kept staring, as it swung and twirled around its owner’s neck. His eyes went out of focus and suddenly he wasn’t in the room anymore.

 

Leo was lying on his back, staring up at a full moon, hanging in a starless night sky. His nerves were screaming in agony all over his body, pain now reeking throughout his existence. The shadow of a large stone pillar was standing over him. His mind was working frantically, trying to work out the situation. What was happening? Why was he in so much pain? Karate had helped him deal with pain like bruises, but this pain wasn’t on the outside, it was swimming through his body all over. His body winced as a spasm of that pain found a new nerve to touch. Then came a man’s voice as cold and empty as the night itself.

“You’re pathetic,” hissed the voice. “To think that you are one of them is preposterous.” Then came a flash of scarlet red light from somewhere at the side of him and Leo was writhing in renewed agony on the floor as it hit him. “Look how easily I took you down.” He rolled over onto his front; he could feel the coldness of the grass against his skin. Mud was smearing across his face, mixed with what must have been his own blood. He could smell the sweat dripping off of him combining with the smell of fresh, sweet blood; it made him feel sick to his stomach. To think that something that smelt so sweet could represent something that made him cringe with fear, realising that he might just die in this strange place. Then came his voice, though he wasn’t the one speaking, wasn’t the one in control of his actions, not the one in control of his own body. The voice sounded older than it should have done and it was very strained, most likely whosever voice it was were sharing the pain with him, or maybe he was the one sharing the pain.

“You…you’ll never… release them, the others, my friends, will stop you…I may fail…but they will secure victory,” it said, this one a man as well, and then came the other man’s voice, the attacker, from above him.

“They’re already too late. You will die here and the Masters shall be released from the prison you and your friends locked them in.” Who were the ‘Masters’, thought Leo. The attacker continued, “As I planned, I shall acquire powers beyond any mortal of this realm. Everything I planned will soon bring its pay off.”

“Do you really…think that they…would share their power with anyone?”

“Of course they shall. I will release them and they will be eternally grateful for my action,” the man was talking so punctually it unnerved Leo that he was actually torturing this body he was presently inhabiting. “They will follow my orders, granting me super-human abilities, much like you and you scum friends, and together we shall rule this pitiful world.”

“Ha…you’re deluding yourself,” he couldn’t help but give out a weak and strained laugh, trying to make it stronger, though it wasn’t Leo’s body, he could feel the life escaping him. This laugh could well be his own last action if he died with this man. “They will only follow themselves. No one can control them. They see themselves as the dominators; humankind is nothing but a weak and powerless organism, a bug in their way. What makes you think someone with a bunch of stolen spells will have any chance to control them? What will you do? Shoot little lightning bolts at them?”

 

It seemed to have touched a nerve as another flash of red light struck him like before, followed by silence. Leo gasped for air and rolled over once more so he was on his back again. He craned his neck upwards, but he could feel his strength escaping him. The man who was causing all of this pain had turned his back to Leo, and was busy examining the surrounding area.

“To think that this had to be built just to seal them in. Strange how magic works in that way, don’t you think? Like your Ancients’ trees I suppose,” he said while admiring the architecture of the area around him. “Oh yes, I know all about the Ancients, the trees, and the Order of the Magi Tempest, interesting time this was. All we can do is explore what’s left of the ruins. Pity, sheer pity.”

 

Leo ignored him, too busy thinking about the pain he was in, he turned his head and looked to his side, and noticed a sword on the ground not too far from him. His sword, thought the man. It looked ornate, like it was used for display purposes and not for fighting, but the blade gleamed a little and Leo saw how sharp it was. Using the last amount of the strength that wasn’t his own, he reached out for the sword. He felt the cold steel and the leather as his fingers tightened around the hilt, grasping it in both hands, it had picked up some of the wet mud from the ground, which imprinted itself on his hands. It was a highly decorated sword that looked as though it had been expertly crafted, but Leo didn’t care about any of that now. He used the sword to pull himself to his feet, digging it into the damp earth as support, struggling to his feet, crawling up the stand he had created for himself.  Snatching it out of the ground when he was standing, he held it with both hands, ready to attack. He was heavily panting, the sword weighing his arms down, but the man seemed uninterested by Leo getting up and didn’t turn around. Leo could feel something, inside him, ignoring the pain and reaching for a deep power, he could feel something happening inside his body as the man holding the sword spoke again:

“If it’s the last thing, that I do on the face of this Earth, I shall stop you from releasing those beasts!” shouted the man, raising the sword above his head and started half running half staggering at the man readying for an assault. Knowing that it would be his last. The power he was reaching for was failing, even though Leo sensed a powerhouse of reserve energy in him. The man turned around and Leo could see his face, the wild matted hair, and the cruel grey eyes with their manic glint, reflecting all that they saw by the light of the moon. The man raised his hand towards Leo without any hesitation or emotion, and in a final flash of blinding white light and a dual scream in the night it was over.

 

Leo came back to his senses, eyes wide. He was alive! He was sweating and panting as though he had just run a mile, but he was alive. A look of horror had placed itself upon his face. He looked at his palms, barely believing he was in one piece. The pain had gone in a flash, the white flash of light, the screams; it had been like dousing fire with water. His hands were damp with sweat, but there was no blood, no dirt, he couldn’t believe what had just happened, had he just imagined it? Was he going mad? No, he thought, his imagination could never have created something that was so real in detail, emotion, and pain. Mr Jefferson meanwhile was still gathering the last few books and hadn’t acknowledged Leo’s strange behaviour. Had no time passed? When he had finished, he looked up to notice Leo’s expression and realised the pendant that was hanging out of his shirt, now a look of shock appeared on his face and he hastily threw it back behind the borders of the cotton. He rose to his feet extremely fast, picked up the stack of textbooks and without saying a word, headed straight for the stairs almost crashing into Zane and Ben for a second time, the textbooks were even more haphazard than the first time. As they climbed the last few stairs they saw Leo on his hands and knees, with sweat furrowing at his brow, looking as though he had seen an army of ghosts, he fell to the floor in anguish. He felt as though he wanted to be sick.

“Leo, what’s wrong?” shouted Zane as he and Ben came rushing over to help their friend to his feet, turning him over and lifting him up with Zane supporting his weight, but Leo said nothing, he had gratefully passed out to escape the torment of what he had just seen. For in the eyes of the man who had just caused that excruciating pain to him and whosever body had been that he had just inhabited, reflected by the pale moon, he had seen a mirror image of himself.

The End

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