Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Chapter Six: Moriko Meets the Principle

Moriko stood with her father—she was almost as tall as him, now—and waited for the principal of Matheson Senior High. She did not like the looks the secretary kept throwing her way, and when the lady asked her father, “So, have you been in America long?” with her thick New Jersey accent, Moriko wandered away. 

She found a glass display case, like many she’d seen in high schools. It was just outside the administration office. There were tall statues there for wrestling and football and baseball and basketball. Finally she found a single trophy for girls’ sports, a 3rd place in the regionals for soccer. Her heart leapt, though she expected to see a year long past. She was wrong. The girls’ soccer team had won this last year. 

There was a little plaque nearby with a newspaper clipping and a photo. The winning goal had been scored by a girl named Diana Roman, but it had been a close game. Moriko glanced at the picture, two rows of girls and a teacher. She noted each of them by their names beneath the photograph. The coach was Mrs. Bay, a slight, blonde woman in her 20s. Moriko found Diana Roman. Surprisingly, the game winning player stood beside the coach, rather than at the center. But she was looking down in the photo at a soccer ball in her hands, as if she’d just caught it before the photographer snapped the shot. She had pale, freckled skin and a long brown ponytail with many loose strands straying across her face in the breeze. 

Moriko had an instinctive distrust of anything she could not (or was not allowed to) look in the eye. But she resolved to reserve judgement of the girl until she  could see her in person. She remembered the vision, of being saved, and wondered  if it had anything to do with one of her future teammates. Moriko needed to be on the team. She’d have to play it cool.

The office door opened and her father leaned out. “Moriko. Now.” 

She hurried back and found her father speaking with a tall man with close cropped red hair. They turned to her. 

“This is my daughter, Moriko. She is an excellent student, I assure you.”

She blushed a little at her father’s praise. She knew he was very proud of her, but he rarely said so.

Moriko gave a little bow, but also offered her hand.

“Hi, Moriko,” said the red-haired man in the suit, “I’m Principal Patterson. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” 

He shook her hand. It was cool to the touch, but it was not warm in the office. He required further study.

“Let’s take a look around the school, shall we?” Patterson put on a wide smile. 

Moriko glanced at her father as they followed the principal out of the administration building, but he betrayed no sign that he saw anything unusual in the school’s chief administrator. Of course he wouldn’t. Even now he was testing her. She subtly checked the catch on her tubular drawing case, which hid her blade.

The school was built in the 1970s of wood and brick and metal sheets. It was squat and orange with many old and gnarly trees surrounding it like ogres around a large fire. But it had seen hard use. Moriko could sense something dark about this place; she felt she was already getting closer to finding out why she and her father had been sent to this shabby little suburb. 

There was a thing in the library, up in the rafters. It fed on dreams. The building was full of people so Moriko began planning her return her tonight. She noted the exits and windows as well as the visible ductwork. There was a clear path of entry from the roof. She’d just need a way up. 

The thing hissed at her and she glanced up at it. Principal Patterson caught that. Moriko’s father caught them both. For a moment they stood there, all perceiving that each was not precisely as they seemed.

Principal Patterson smiled and gestured for them to go with him, saying, “Well, let’s talk about athletics, shall we? Do you play any sports, Moriko?”

“Football,” she said. “Soccer.”

“Oh, great. That’s just great. Our girls came in third last year. You know I think they’re out there practicing already. We’ll be over there soon. But this here is your classroom, Hayato. We’ve got some really good textbooks. Japanese is really in demand.” He’d pronounced her father’s name like three distinct syllables. Whatever he was, he was an idiot, Moriko decided. 

Her father looked around the classroom and asked a few questions. Moriko walked to the chalkboard and corrected some calligraphy there. She noted that the door to the classroom had finally slid shut. Her hand rested at the latch to her sword.

“Look, I don’t want any trouble,” Principal Patterson said. “I don’t even eat living things, okay? I just eat perfectly legitimate cadavers. Well at least mostly legit.” Moriko’s father was still admiring the textbooks.  She walked slowly toward the principal. 

“I can help you. I know what you are, at least I think I do. You’re a hunter of shadows or something like that right? They tell stories about you and your people, Moriko. Seriously.”

“Where do they tell these stories, Mr. Patterson?” Moriko asked in the icy voice she got when she wanted to use her sword on someone. 

“Around.. You know?” He made vague gestures. “Sometimes we meet and it ain’t all about violence. We talk.” He had reverted to his native vernacular. Fear shredding his veneer of sophistication.

Moriko paused several feet away from the principal. “You smell of death,” she said. “I should destroy you.”

“No,” said Principal Patterson.

“If there were not more at stake here than one ghoul, I would say you are right, Moriko. But we need this man’s assistance.”

“Yes”, said Principal Patterson. “Yes, let me help.”  

Moriko nodded to her father, who seemed to have finished his inspection of the classroom. 

“How can I help?” asked the principal.

“Show me the soccer field,” answered Moriko.  
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