Nasrin couldn’t be surprised for a second when she heard Sir Balsa call her to his desk after the period-ending bell rang. She was used to having her ears prodded with hot words ’cause she was stupid & lazy—as if that were her fault.
But she knew ’twas no use evading punishment, so she walked up to his desk, arms hanging awkwardly to her sides, feeling cold & naked in disuse. She glanced round @ the leaving classmates, hoping none o’ them would remain long to hear her all ’bout her constant failures.
Nasrin soon saw the prime evidence o’ her crimes being lifted in Balsa’s hands: a paper scribbled with bulky gray letters that Nasrin recognized as her own.
“Nasrin, uh, I have some… questions ’bout your answers for yesterday’s essay.”
Balsa paused, glancing up @ her as if she had anything to say in regards to the existence o’ his questions. She sufficed with a quick nod & a “Uh huh.”
Balsa stared back down @ her paper with twisting eyes. “You say here that you see yourself in the future working @ McCheesy’s & living @ your father’s house till you’re in your 30s, when he finally kicks you out, which is when you live in some cheap apartment deep in the eastern side o’ the city.” Balsa looked back up @ her.
“Um… ¿Did you… did you think that me saying I’d work @ McCheesy’s was too arrogant o’ me? ’Cause I did think ’bout putting down me being homeless & living off welfare.”
For some reason, this only made Balsa’s pupils dilate.
“& that’s what you want to be in the future, ¿I have that right?”
“O, no…” Nasrin shook her head.
“OK, ¿what would you want to be in the future, then?”
“O, I dunno…” Nasrin stared down @ the desk, a finger absentmindedly tinkering with a loose strand on her jacket sleeve. “I guess I’d like to be rich, famous, & married to David Draiman.”
“OK… ¿& how would you plan to accomplish that?”
“Uh, ¿what? I don’t think I could… For 1 thing, I think Draiman’s already married… I thought your assignment said what we expected to be in the future, not what we want.”
“Well, the idea is that you’re s’posed to say what you hope to be in the future & then devise a plan for how you’d accomplish that.”
Nasrin looked up @ him, blinking in confusion.
“¿How would I do that?’ she asked.
“Well, you’re kind o’ s’posed to figure that out yourself. That’s kind o’ what assignments are for, actually. Wouldn’t be much if we just told you how exactly to do them, ¿would they?”
Nasrin blinked mo’. I can only hope he doesn’t know anything ’bout my other classes.
“¿Do you understand?” said Balsa.
“Um… Yes,” lied Nasrin. She recognized this as 1 o’ those situations where they tried to trap you in an unwinnable situation: clearly being honest only got her yelled @ & saying polite lies got her yelled @—probably ’cause she was a bad liar—so it’d be best if she just did the 1 thing she was good @: ’scaping as quickly as possible.
“That’s good. Now, I want you to try the assignment ’gain & this time, uh, do it right.”
Nasrin nodded, & then stood there in awkward silence for a second.
“Uh, you can go to lunch now,” said Balsa.
Nasrin nodded ’gain & then hastened ’way.
Well, this assignment is futile. I’ll just have to accept a C like in Physics.
But her wonderful plans were dashed to pieces by her rude teacher’s insistence on bugging her ’bout it.
“Um, ¿yes?” Nasrin said as she looked up from her desk, wringing her hands together.
“You, uh, you still haven’t turned in your revised essay,” Balsa said as he flipped through the papers in his hands.
“Um, ¿did a pet rhinoceros eat it or something? ’Cause I’ve heard that happens sometimes…”
She knew if she said yes, he’d just ask her to turn it in tomorrow, & that there was no way he’d believe she’d let her pet rhino eat her homework twice in a row, so she decided to take the dive. ’Twas futile, anyway, so there was nothing he could do to her worse than any alternative.
“No, I, uh, just can’t do the assignment.”
Balsa blinked @ her with astonishment.
“Don’t tell me you’ve suddenly developed hand cancer all o’ a sudden.” He rubbed the side o’ his face roughly. “’Cause I’ve heard that happens sometimes…”
“No… It’s mo’ that I don’t think anything I’d want is possible, & mo’ importantly, that I don’t want anything,” said Nasrin. “¿Couldn’t I just write ’bout my favorite Megadeth songs?”
Balsa winced in confusion. “¿What do you mean you don’t want anything?”
“I mean…” Nasrin sat back uneasily. ¿See how I can’t write? I can’t e’en ’splain “I don’t want anything” in any simpler way.
“Look, it’s simple,” said Balsa: “just think o’ what you want to be in the future & ’splain how to plan to make that reality.”
Nasrin blinked @ him. “¿What I want to be? Like, transformation.”
“O…” Nasrin looked down, distraught. She ne’er liked “figurative” things: they were the things that weren’t real, but you had to treat as real.
“¿What are you interested in?” asked Balsa.
“Uh… ¿& what else?”
“Um…” Nasrin glanced ’way uncomfortably. She wasn’t sure why her interests were their interests all o’ a sudden. “¿Listening to music?”
“Great. Then maybe you can become a musician.”
“O… I meant just listening to music. I’m not so interested in the making part o’ it. I tried, & it felt much slower than the actually listening part.”
Balsa scratched his chin. “¿So the only thing you truly like to do is sleep? I dunno. That sounds kind o’ like a mental disease or something. You should check with a nurse ’bout that. Maybe she can put you in a mental hospital or give you a lobotomy or something.”
Every hobby has a Hate Dumb, thought Nasrin.
He began packing his papers together. “Anyway, I have busy work to do. Try to write something that sounds like the assignment I gave you & maybe I won’t give you an E. Or maybe I will. I dunno. No offense, but I’d feel kind o’ bad wasting my good A’s on you. To be honest, you kind o’ repulse me. You should go see that nurse ’bout fixing yourself.” He turned halfway & added, “If you need any mo’ help, I’ll be in my office till 4, so don’t come here, ’cause as I said, you kind o’ repulse me, & I find it hard to grade papers when I’m constantly being repulsed. I hope you’re civil ’nough to respect my feelings.”
& with that he finished his turn & walked ’way.
Though Nasrin thought she was doing just fine remaining in her comfortable shell,—not withstanding her rude teacher’s rude hobby bigotry—as it turned out, some pesky cheerful boy would suck her out o’ it & into his devious clutches.
The strangest part ’bout it was that she couldn’t exactly remember how it happened. She remembered seeing him a few times before they’d e’en met, being jeered @ by the Generic Gang for not being generic. He replied by blowing rainbow music notes out o’ his mouth, which caused the bullies not to pummel him, but to stand back with idiotic awe.
’Course, when she tried the same, she’d still get her jacket stolen & used as a giant Kleenex.
She also heard some rumor that he was always absent on the days when P.E. would have swimming, for which she was sure there was a secret tragic backstory lurking—probably involving a mother, ’twas always a mother.
She certainly had no problem remembering him, since his colorful adornments to the usual black school robe made him stick out like a moonflower in a dumpster. He had a bright orange jacket tied round his waist like a belt, its li’l sleeves wobbling up & down as he moved, accentuating his shimmering robe skirts; round his neck was a long necklace o’ limes whose sweet sour scent could be smelled from meters ’way; & o’er his long, spiky black bangs was a purple top hat.
Granted, he was hardly the 1st boy she’d watch in quiet hours—furtively ’hind a book she was far too tired to e’er truly read, ’course. But when she noticed him, she couldn’t help her focus gravitating toward him.
So she must’ve been surprised when he stepped into her life—she was still surprised it’d happened, actually. ¿Had he casually walked up to her 1 lunch break when she slept with her head leaning gainst the brick wall outside? ¿Or had he caught her ogling him? She should still feel the humiliation o’ the latter, so she assumed something closer to the former.
But when she cringed & tried to recall the details, she was left with nothing but fuzz.
All she remembered was how much her throat filled with saliva when she saw him constantly brush his inky black bangs out o’ his eyes or when he tightly gripped her arms & wrenched them up & down while laughing loudly.
& she didn’t need to be a cleric to know that that made him dangerous.
“¡Here’s a cool spot!” the perky idealistic boy exclaimed as he ran up to a vacant swing. He hopped onto it &, while still standing up on it so high that he could reach the top bar, spun in swift circles till he blurred.
Nasrin slowly walked up to him, bent-in eyes on the mother pushing her toddlers, giving them the look one usually reserves for serial knifers.
“Uh, ¿are you sure we should play with these?” asked Nasrin. “¿Aren’t we a li’l ol’? I think you can get in trouble for hanging round li’l kid places like this; they might think we want to touch kids in their pajama flaps.”
“Come on, Azalea. We need to get going,” the mother said without looking @ either o’ them.
“But mom, we just got he—”
“We need to hurry. Come on.”
Nasrin stared down @ the ground, but kept her pupils darting round the park in case she saw some cops. The perky idealistic boy continued swinging.
“C’mon, Nasrin. ¡You need to start living life!” The perky idealistic boy let go o’ the swing’s chains & spread his arms out.
“I’m already living my life,” said Nasrin. “I just don’t want to do stuff that makes me mo’ likely to lose it, is all.”
During free period, when Nasrin was working on her 5000th love letter to the perky idealistic boy that she’d bury deep into the ground, ne’er to breathe oxygen ’gain, Sir Balsa came up to her.
“Good job on the late essay, Nasrin. Protocol states that I can’t give you a better grade, since ’twas late—& we can’t break protocol…” Balsa shivered; “but I can tell you that I am no longer repulsed by you & your former lack o’ any will or purpose or use.”
“O, that’s, uh… Thank you,” Nasrin said without looking up from her letters.
“You’re e’en no longer banned from my office when I’m there—though you still shouldn’t come too oft, since e’en people who don’t repulse me kind o’ distract me from my grading.”
“Well, uh, keep up the good work.”
A minute after Balsa walked ’way, Nasrin thought, ¿What was he talking ’bout ’gain?
O well. Probably doesn’t matter. If it did, I’d remember it, so I shouldn’t worry. Such philosophies always made Nasrin feel mo’ comfortable.
“Um, ¿are you sure this is safe?” Nasrin asked in a warbling voice as she sped down the highway on rollerblades without knee guards.
“C’mon, ¡live a li’l!” The perky idealistic boy spread his arms ’gain, raising his face to a sky with a wide-eyed smile.
“I’ll try to keep doing so as long as I can,” Nasrin murmured as she stared @ the oncoming traffic ’head o’ her with constricted brows.
¿How’s he stay ’live while doing all o’ this dangerous stuff?
To make the humiliation greater, the perky idealistic boy kept ’hind her—surely to make sure she wasn’t pummeled by a HeroHero truck & to guilt her into moving mo’ quickly. She gradually increased the pace o’ her skating while throwing her body left & right to avoid honking car after car with the hope that she’d eventually start feeling exhilaration. She didn’t. She only developed the urge to yell & the wish that she’d listened to mo’ Anthrax before she’d ne’er have ’nother chance.
As she walked through the hall toward 4th period, Nasrin began to frown uncomfortably when she saw a group o’ students surround her.
“¿How’d you do it?’ the assertive cheerleader leader asked with a blank stare & tilted head.
Nasrin stepped back. “¿Do what? I-I don’t remember doing anything. I don’t go round doing things if I can help it.”
“Snatch that shiny crab o’ sweet ash & horseradish, my woman.”
Nasrin glanced ’way. “I can’t comprehend your hop lingo.”
The assertive cheerleader leader rushed forward & clutched Nasrin by her shoulders. Then she gazed into Nasrin, still blank-eyed.
“The perky idealistic boy. ¿How’d you get him to butter your bread?”
“Um, I don’t know…” Nasrin blushed. “& we haven’t done any buttering yet.”
The assertive cheerleader leader shook her. “¿Did he put any jam on your bread yet? ¡Answer me!”
“N-no jam yet.”
The assertive cheerleader leader’s brows burrowed into her forehead. “You’re lying. I can smell the lies on you. I can smell everything on you. I know your ‘lazy, ugly, idiotic loser who smells too much like onions’ act is just an act to sneak round us like cats, ¡ack! Well, I’ll show you: I’ll do something so spunky, so cool, so fat-in-the-pants that ink-hair will drop you like a Canadian penny & dig into my skirt like a toy box. ¿How do you like that snack, Jack?”
“You’re getting hand sweat on my blouse. Please let go,” Nasrin said with a quivering tongue.
“I’ll ne’er let go,” said the assertive cheerleader leader. “I don’t fail—’specially not to students who do fail. That’s not how the world works. That’s not proper protocol; & if you keep karate chopping protocol with your flabby arms, I’m going to tell the supervisor, & he’ll waggle his index @ you till you puke up all your nutrients & die o’ malnutrition.”
Nasrin slunk under the assertive cheerleader leader’s grip. “Please don’t do that.”
“I will. You hurt me, & I don’t like being hurt. I thought we were friends… Well, no I didn’t. But I thought you’d treat me like a friend, e’en if I’d ne’er do the same to you. You betrayed me. You broke protocol. That’s not nice. You should be nice for once—maybe then people might like you mo’, might not mind so much that you smell too much like onions.” The assertive cheerleader leader tilted her head & raised a brow. “¿Still don’t want to tell me your secret?”
“I-I told you I don’t know any secret. I don’t e’en remember how he… whatever he did,” said Nasrin.
“It’s OK, I understand,” said the assertive cheerleader leader. “Actually, no I don’t. I just said that to be polite. I don’t understand why you insist on getting in the way o’ my happiness all for your own shabby happiness. That’s not nice.”
& with that she released Nasrin, turned, & walked ’way. Her equally blank-eyed followers turned round stiffly without moving their arms from their sides & marched after her like toy soldiers.
That cool August afternoon the perky idealistic boy had taken her for a stroll through Wasabi Woods. Though ’twas still summer, the maple leaves were already beginning to yellow, & a few had already fallen into the dirt.
But Nasrin didn’t focus on that much. Her eyes were stapled to the rainbow sunshirt rippling gainst the perky idealistic boy’s knees in the wind, as well as the curls o’ li’l hairs bouncing on his shins. Said sunshirt appeared to have both the strengths o’ seeming softly loose round his legs & tight gainst his chest & arms. Granted, he was rather thin—but the creases his chest & arms did create in his shirt were ’nough to preoccupy her.
Despite her princip—O, ¿who was she kidding?—She thought, Considering how energetic he is, it’s likely he’ll do something to cause such a loose shirt to fly open a li’l or that he’ll stand a few meters ’bove me…
A few mo’ meters in, he stopped her by her shoulder & said, “¿You know why I brought you here?”
Nasrin gave him the wide eyes.
¿Is he proposing to me? ¿Aren’t we young for that?
Then her heart began beating quickly. ¿Don’t people usually bend on their knees in proposals? ¿What would that do to his shirt?
“¿What?” blubbered Nasrin.
The perky idealistic boy grasped her shoulders tightly & his eyes suddenly became black triangles with red glitter spewing.
“So I can eat your soul…”
He shoved her down to the ground, him going down with her, & held her down while he tied her wrists to some stakes dug into the ground, which she hadn’t noticed till now. She could only stare in confusion @ this—which was usually all she could do, anyway.
This guy’s antics are getting awfully close to being dangerous…
He stood off her, causing her blood to squeal with flooding blood & her armpits to gush with sweat. If he gets close ’nough, he may be high ’nough for me to see something…
He looked down ’pon her. “Since I’ll admit I’ve developed quite a liking to you, specimen, I will give you the honor o’ ’splaining who I am & what I’m doing…”
“Um, ’scuse me, Sir… ¿but could you come a li’l closer? I can’t hear well,” said Nasrin.
perky idealistic demonic boy nodded & walked next to her, & then continued his speech:
“As I was saying, I’m a member o’ the Shifters, a special class o’ beings that can only survive by devouring people’s salty souls. I was hoping you’d be killed by 1 o’ the many death-defying stunts I pushed you into, but I’m ’fraid your luck was too good on all o’ those days…”
Damn it, his legs are too closed—& I definitely can’t ask him to open them…
He proceeded with the ritual, seemingly taunting Nasrin with the way he shook his hips in his rain twerk & reached his arms up high, pulling his shirt up gainst gravity. But no matter what he did, that rude shirt remained concealing.
But her hopes began to rise ’gain when she saw him trip on the final step, gathering the lymph berries from nearby maples, causing him to flip upside down on his bough. However, gainst all laws o’ physics, his shirt remained tight round his legs, as if glued.
No… That’s not fair. Stupid magic shirts. They ruin everything.
This is just getting pathetic now. I have better things to do… Nasrin thought ’bout it a li’l mo’. Well, OK, no I don’t; but I’m getting bored & a li’l chilly.
So she bent her wrists & began pulling gainst their knots, figuring that if she could untangle that ol’ N64 cord, she could untangle anything. I told father that sitting round playing Banjo-Kazooie would teach me mo’ than some dumb scouts—& look who was right, & who didn’t get eaten & shat out by bears.
Luckily, the demonic boy’s transformation dance—though immensely sexy, albeit repetitive—took so long that she’d not only ’scaped his ropes, she also stopped by McCheesy’s to get a hamburger real quick.
“¿You almost done?” she asked, her voice muffled by juicy cow corpses, drops o’ blood & hot sauce ’scaping her lips.
The demonic boy’s eyes creased. “Forget this. I’ll just do this the tedious way.”
So he rushed @ her & shoved her onto the ground ’gain; but this time, rather than tying her down, he simply wrapped his hands round her neck tightly, causing her eyes to bulge &, worse, her throat to choke.
“Stop…” she said in a thick, snorelike voice. “You’re making it hard to breathe…”
“It’ll be o’er mo’ quickly if you’d stop struggling,” the demonic said with an edge o’ resentment in his voice.
The only thing I can do to stop him from interrupting my lunch is hit him, thought Nasrin. &, ’course, he’ll think I’m rude for doing so—as if I have a choice in the matter.
So she kneed him—or rather, raised her knee slowly up—in the junk trunk, & punched him in the face—or rather, repeatedly tapped him in the side o’ his face with her fist.
Damn it, this not-breathing thing’s getting truly uncomfortable. ¿Why didn’t I develop some kind o’ physical skills ’stead o’ sitting on my ass & playing Banjo-Kazooie?
So she tried tickling him—not ’cause she thought it’d work, but ’cause she figured if she was going to die, she was going to die pleasuring herself. & as it turned out, it did work, causing him to giggle so hard that his grip weakened, allowing her to wrench him off with her feet.
“¡Stop!” the demonic boy shouted ’tween giggles. “¿Why are you doing this? ¿Don’t you like me? ¿Wouldn’t you want me to have my life force replenished with your zesty soul?”
In a soft voice, Nasrin replied, “I’m sorry, Sir. You’re an awfully nice guy; but I’m not ready yet to give my soul ’way to a man. I still have to finish my 1,500-chapter Draiman-Tankian epic.”
& with that, she spun her body forward, causing them both to roll down the hill, finally stopping with a splash in the thin river @ the bottom.
Nasrin immediately clutched tufts o’ grass on the edge, gasping for breath, only to turn @ the sound o’ shouts. There she saw a brightening, malformed version o’ the demonic boy clutching his face with a gaping mouth. She couldn’t understand, “¡Aeeoooiiii!” so she couldn’t reply.
“¿You need any help?” she asked.
Still he only shouted gibberish.
¿What am I s’posed to do if he doesn’t e’en tell me in a way I can understand? & I bet he’ll blame me for this, too.
However, he didn’t have time to, for he was already melting into a shapeless lump like chocolate in milk. Finally, he dissolved, & disappeared.
She climbed back up & squeezed out the water saturating her T-shirt & sweats. Then she stared back @ the lake for a few minutes.
He was technically a demon who tried to murder me. I don’t know if you’re s’posed to feel bad ’bout causing them to die. After all, it goes without saying that if you’re going to go round eating people’s souls, you ought to be comfortable with risking your own soul. It’s only fair.
She sighed as she walked out Wasabi Woods with sloshing steps, shivering & sniffling in the cold sun.
For weeks after, Nasrin kept feeling a sharp, boiling pressure in her face & chest that left her e’en mo’ lethargic than usual. She always felt full o’ air, & thus was always exhaling deeply, hoping to finally eliminate all the tiring air, but ne’er able.
She wasn’t so stupid that she didn’t know the cause for this ailment: that dastardly perky idealistic boy who had to go & be a demon & then die.
None o’ this would’ve happened if I ne’er met him or liked him in the 1st place. I was doing just fine before I liked anyone—better e’en, since there was nothing I could lose, having nothing, anyway.
So Nasrin vowed from that day forward that she’d ne’er become passionate or attached to anything e’er ’gain, & after hours spent struggling through the tricky jumps in “Rusty Bucket Bay,” she forgot ’bout the whole ordeal or any concerns ’bout the future, which were silly, anyway, since it wasn’t like she was probably going to have 1 if all o’ these demon monsters trying to kill her was any indication. ’Course, school staff ne’er understood this & harangued her as always—e’en in her mind while she was busy trying to get that Jiggy past the propellers, which was quite rude o’ them.