The After/Life (The After/Life Odyssey)

The After/Life (The After/Life Odyssey) by Vardan Partamyan Read Free Book Online

Book: The After/Life (The After/Life Odyssey) by Vardan Partamyan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Vardan Partamyan
School library was one of the few places yet unspoiled by the rule of the new Principal. The one cardinal change was that it was an increasingly empty place these days (just right for a little conspiracy talk). As we entered the reading hall, Ms. Kendall went up to one the shelves and took out a weathered looking book. I immediately recognized one of my favorites – Homer’s Odyssey. Ms. Kendall carried the book to one of the armchairs and sat down. All this was very strange and while I was intrigued I was also very worried – there were dark circles under her eyes – she had not been sleeping much lately. I sat down next to her.
    ”Ms. Kendall, are you ok?”
    She did not answer - she was looking at the book with a black and white illustration of Odyssey’s ship escaping the wrath of the Cyclops. Odyssey’s silhouette, faded but still visible, was standing upright on the deck of the ship – a one man show of defiance.
    ”Ms. Kendall, how bad is it? It is bad, isn’t it?”
    She finally looked up. For a second, there was an almost visible internal struggle and then she made up her mind. When she spoke, her voice was calm.
    ”How bad is it, Nad? Do you really need me, a wretched old lady, to answer that question?”
”I guess not. It is very bad and will get even worse – the man is evidently enjoying his position as the mini god of our little underground kingdom. Things are clearly spiraling out of control.”
”Why don’t I know any optimists, Nad?”
”I used to be one, madam, but in our present circumstances the optimists don’t have a very long life expectancy.”
”You know Principal Higgins liked you very much. He once told me you would one day make a great Principal.”
”Really?”
”You don’t believe me, Nad…”
”I do have my reasons, Ms. Kendall.”
”Your reasons…you know what I think about them?”
    She looked at me and her face was no longer smiling, her eyes were cold – almost hostile.
    ”Your reasons… they don’t mean shit.”
    I looked at her with a kind of amazement. It was the first time I heard her use a profanity. Indeed, wonders never cease.
    ”There is a lot you don’t know about and God knows I would love everything to stay that way… unfortunately that is no longer possible.”
”What are you talking about?”
”You see, me and Principal Higgins were…very close…friends. He was a good man, a kind man and he really believed in the School and our mission. He inspired me as much as he inspired all of us. You can’t even imagine how tough it is to craft something out of nothing in a situation where everything has fallen apart, in a situation where all you have to do is just give up and let the sweet darkness swallow you.”
”Hmm, I know the feeling.”
”Kid, so far, everything you know is a bit of heartbreak and a particularly hungry fish you wrestled with, nothing more. Believe me, there are far bigger monsters out there. You have always been a talker and a good one but right now just shut up and listen.”
”Yes, madam.”
”Principal Higgins, along with a few of the original Teachers took the oath to protect the School and the people living here. I don’t think you remember the first days after the End but it was tough – people had lost everything, most importantly – they had lost hope - the very desire to live on. This was a dangerous situation and the only way we could find to overcome it was to give people something to live for - a new goal, a dream worth pursuing. That is how the School was born. And it worked… At one point we thought that we had made it through and that the worst was over…”
    She was silent for a moment. I waited patiently for her to continue.
    ”It was all going fine until one day. You know the day I am talking about, don’t you, Nad?”
    My ever resourceful mind transported me to the communication lab - I could see Student Frank’s scared face as he watched Teacher Amros work at the terminal.
    ”I think

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