The headmaster came out and welcomed the crowd, "Good morning, ladies, gentlemen, and demons to the graduation ceremony of the year of the Crystal Era six-hundred forty. This morn we will have the top two students tell their story. Their story of the school and with this I announce them,..."
We drowned him out, nervous because of the story we were about to tell. We looked at each other and hugged and went out. I remember the air cutting the tension. I took in the wind, eyes closed, and began my story, "The Wilderness School. A school for demons and humans alike to excel. The most competitive of the extremely competitive schools. Most of the boys' campus is forest, desert, meadow, lake, river, and icy wasteland. All at differing times of year, mind you, but beautiful yet. The majority of classes are out here. But I wanted to finish the courses that must be finished inside a building. Nobody knew who I was in my first year.
"On the other hand, everyone knew Anthoni. One of the everesta, someone in the last of their ten years here, challenged him to a match at all the outdoor subjects, and he accepted. The day of their challenge came and Anthoni set new school records in every area. He became the social king. Everestai looked up to him. On the weekends, girls would come just to be with him. All the boys asked him on how to better their skills, although he's the one who practiced more than anyone else.
"But even I had to take outdoor courses in my third year. I didn't take the weapons courses because those were the ones that he took. That year I met Cameron. A demon of great height, curly flame red hair and garnet eyes, with blue skin, made friends with me. He was in all my classes as well, because he was a pacifist, an odd view for someone in this school, but he isn't a normal demon. We talked a lot, and always avoided Anthoni. I'm pretty sure we were the only two in the school who couldn't stand him, and except for a few of the minority — full humans mostly — everyone had tried to take weapons classes.
"Even this dream had to end. In my fourth year, aged twenty-four, I had long black hair all the way down to my waist. I was also taller than Cameron. I had grown cold, and it showed in my slate grey eyes against my pale skin. But I was noticed by many. Anthoni was at my eye level and possibly the only one. He challenged my to an archery match. What was I to do except accept?
"The day came a week later. It was perfect for archery, for me at least, being a wind demon. It was not so for him, a fire demon. I took my bow out from its special case. I drew a bowstring and attached it to my six-foot longbow. It was almost as tall as I. The first surprise came to everyone when, after signing into the course with my right hand, I attached the leather safety sleeve to my right arm, with which I hold my bow. We took up our positions five-hundred meters from the targets, which were shaped like deer and bounced up and down randomly.
"He took the first shot and I landed squarely in the center of a lesser target area. I drew my bow, aimed, took in the wind, and released the arrow. I knew it would hit the target deer's heart, the major target. That was surprise number two. The third surprise came when the same thing happened when we backed up five-hundred more meters. He turned to me, his ebony eyes on fire, his ash hair flowing behind him like a river. As he stalked towards me, I remember thinking him the most beautiful thing on the planet. 'Andrew,' he intoned, 'If you can get ten arrows into the exact same spots on the target that I mark, then I cannot, I will be greatly surprised. And it won't happen. But you may try. Do you wish to?' He was so arrogant though. So I answered, 'Of course.'
"He marked ten points on the target and set it moving. I hit all ten perfectly, so he took up his bow and did the same. It went on like this for a while. Both of us shooting and hitting the same targets over and over. After six hours, he came to me and offered a truce. But my adrenaline had started by then and I replied, 'Never. If this goes on 'til dusk, we'll start up again on the morrow.' He smirked and hissed, 'I'll keep at it all night with no light.' Then it was my turn to grin. 'This tournament goes on until it is over,' I declared and then took up my bow with ten new arrows, hitting the targets.
"We went on like this, but when the height of the night came upon us he took up his bow and hit all but one target. I was foolish at that point of night and took up my bow again and hit all ten targets perfectly again. This was my playing field now. Needless to say, he was furious. All of a sudden, I felt an arrowhead against my neck. I dared not move while he talked to me. 'You're a foolish creature, demon of the wind. If I were you, I'd not make more trouble for myself,' he advised. He cut the side of my neck and walked past me. Cameron rushed over to me as I removed the bowstring and put the bow back in its long case.
"After that, he made my life very hard. He would harass me whenever he could. It started the week after the contest. We were walking to our ancient languages class. Anthoni came up from behind me and punched me in the shoulder. I reeled and turned around to see him grinning as he turned the corner. Cameron restrained me form chasing him. We were late to class. The teacher yelled at us and accused us of some things we'd never do. My temper had started to heat up.
"But it happened again. For two weeks he punched me even tough I tried to avoid it. He made me late to class every day for that fortnight. Now it wasn't like I arrived all healthy smiles halfway through the class, like some students do. No, it was more like limping in right after the bell with Cameron supporting me. But the teacher hated us. He said it was because we were perfect students, too perfect for his taste. He didn't accept our story either. He yelled in our faces that we were liars. He did this every day, not just the first day. He hated us so much he suspended us from the class 'until further notice.' he chortled. He would never accept us in the class again. That period was on of the longer ones and Cameron helped me back up to our dorm where I broke the window to let the frozen wind inside in a fit of anger. I just lay there the entire period, freezing my pain.
"Cameron, however tried to talk to the headmaster. The headmaster didn't listen to him, because he took away our credits for that course. We could never recover them and could never make them up. It might even prevent us from graduating. Cam then started getting angry. Not violent, per say, but angry enough to pick a fight with a teacher. He did, too. He picked a fight with our swim instructor that ended with the whole class trying to dunk one person or another in the river, except for Cam himself. He just sat on the bank looking quite proud of himself when I came out to talk with him. 'Why did you do that?' I inquired. he simply stated, 'He was bothering me going on and on about how humans are the best swimmers.' I had to laugh then. Cameron comes from a part of the planet where the demons, including his family, spend the majority of their lives underwater. His blue tail makes him a more powerful swimmer than anyone else i know. He cuts through water against a current like a hot knife through butter. 'You could have challenged him to a more, er, peaceful challenge,' I noted. He hesitated then. 'I suppose it was possible, but I'm not quite sure that would have shut him up. And,' he continued, 'I didn't do any violence against anyone. That was Josh's fault.' 'And so it was,' I agreed. Mr. Vadum was biased against us from that point on, to be honest. He just wouldn't give Cameron full marks in river swimming, although later on, he broke three records."
Cam looked up and smiled at me so I continued, more slowly this time.
"Word got around to the other teachers that we were misbehaving at every point in the day and our days became miserable. At dawn, we endured cruel sneers and insults from Anthoni and his friends. His friends amounted to just about everyone in the school. We were shunted to the table where the full humans ate but they rejected us as well. We ate outside, no matter the weather. It was the only place people didn't try to trip us or even kick us 'accidentally'. During first period Outdoor Math we were moved to the opposite sides of the front row, spots reserved for troublemakers. The whole class snickered at the two of us if we made any mistakes. For the next period, we swam in the frozen river while some classmates pushed us around underwater and didn't look back. Cameron was almost knocked unconscious one time when Josh ran him straight into a large tree that had just fallen into the water the night before.
"Third period was the best period of the day. Runes and Runeist Languages was a class we'd both been taking since our first year and Mr. Onakao wouldn't listen to anyone harass us because he said, and I quote, 'I wouldn't change my opinion of you two good boys if the government showed me files that said you were murderers.' Fortunately, period three is a longer period. But after third period, we had the long wait before fifth period, as we'd gotten thrown out of Ancient Languages. Neither of us hurried to Archery though. I because I didn't want to face him again; he because he didn't want to have anything to do with any type of weapon. Mr. d'Arcfleche loved my skill even more than he loved Anthoni's. He always admonished me for not taking archery my first two years and for hiding my talent. I told him there was a reason i'd hidden my talent, but he always countered with a grinning 'Nonsense!' and wouldn't let me say anything else.
"After fifth period, the height of the day came and we ate a small meal. We ate inside this time, as everyone else preferred to be out at midday, even in freezing rain and burning snow and unrelenting heat. Periods six and seven were both different fighting classes. One with swords, one with knives or fists. Anthoni was in these classes as well. He would always choose me to be his partner in hand to hand combat. He always beat me. There are possibly a few reasons for that. For one, Cam was wearing off on me. He was the only one who treated me like a moral demon being, and I would have been surprised if he hadn't. Second off, I was weak. I never was any good at fighting with fists. It sickened me to feel flesh under my fist. The main reason, however, was probably the stupidest. I couldn't bring myself to hurt a demon that beautiful. The feeling I'd had during the first archery contest came back repeatedly. I had never told anyone about this feeling and always wondered if I should tell someone, but I never did.
"Periods eight, nine, and ten were repeats of first, fifth, and second period, and in that order. I found myself eating less, and having less of a taste for food. I'd find myself awake at night's-height and couldn't fall to sleep, tossing and turning restlessly as if my days were relaxed and boring. I'd have bruises from past days as well and I found it hurt to do anything at all. I was falling asleep before dawn and being woken not ten minutes later, too tired to do it all again. I had no choice, though, and went through the same thing every day until the day before winter break. I had been at this routine two fortnights now. During fifth period I fell asleep after I released my first arrow. I don't even think the arrow stayed on course. Apparently I hit my head on the ground too hard, because I woke and then promptly blacked out.
"The day after I woke in the hospital wing, tired, sore, and, for the first time in a few days, hungry. A psychiatrist was sent in to see what was wrong with me. I told him everything. Everything from my first day here to the strange feeling that was as persistent as the sunrise. And I cried. I cried for the first time in forever, and forever. It seemed to be so. He and I talked the whole of winter break while I was recuperating in the hospital. He told me, 'As I see it, what you describe to me, your feeling I mean, is love.' I was shocked and stuttered, 'W- what? What do you mean, "You're in love?" How is that possible. He hurts me more than anyone else. I should hate him if I feel anything for him. On top of it all, he's a guy! Men don't fall in love with other men. You're wrong. You can't be correct. Society dictates otherwise.' I sighed and started crying again. 'I'm getting nowhere. My life is al messed up.' He smiled, chuckled a bit and told me, 'Society dictates what? Last I heard, you were open to ideas that go against the norm. You don't think anything wrong of your friend Cameron, the pacifist. So what's to say you aren't open to other ideas. It's not uncommon for a male to fall in love with another male. It happens behind closed doors now, but it happens. I can introduce you to someone who was in a similar situation to you.' I was shocked and just lay there wide-eyed. The world was full of these persons who didn't follow the Dictations. I wanted proof before anything else. 'Fine,' I stammered, 'I'll meet him. what time will you come?' 'After dusk, little one, after dusk.' He left and I slept soundly, unsure of what would happen in the future.
"Late after dusk, Mr. Arzt, the psychiatrist, came in and asked me if I was awake. I told him yes and he came in leading none but Mr. Onakao. My jaw dropped and exclaimed, 'You don't follow the Dictations?' He laughed and calmly admitted, 'No, I don't follow them. Not entirely.' He laughed again and faltered. I trust Mr. Arzt and I trust you, but it's a bit awkward telling you this. I have a boyfriend. You might know him, in fact. My boyfriend, although that term is a bit weak, is Mr. d'Arcfleche.' I gasped and then laughed. He laughed with me, 'You find this odd, I see. No, don't be embarrassed.' I realized I'd gone red in the face. 'i'm not embarrassed, per say,' I gasped, 'It's just that, I've never even heard of someone openly contradicting the Dictations, never mind living against them.' He grinned again and told me, 'It's as natural as demons and humans intermarrying. That was forbidden by the old Dictations. People did it anyway. Now, nobody even blinks twice at a half-demon. In a few years, people like you or I could live openly.' 'I don't like guys!' I shouted. 'I'm not like you! I'm not... not... whatever you are!' I started to cry again. Mr. Onakao frowned. 'I'm gay,' he whispered. 'and from what I hear, you are as well.' I looked up at him through cloudy eyes. 'How do you tell?' I hesitated. He came an sat on the bed next to me. I sighed and relaxed. 'Tell me what the Dictations say. Not the whole thing, but the main objectives of each,' he directed. So I recited, 'A woman should learn womanly crafts, or else join the Sisterhood. Women in the –' 'The parts that apply to you!' he beseeched. 'Oh. Alright then. A male should not dishonor himself by putting ink onto his skin. A male should not marry a being more than forty years older or younger than he. A male may intermarry. A child fathered by a demon should be classified as demon if the child is a full demon, or zweitdemon if the child is more demon that human. A male shall not marry another male. A male should not have a boyfriend. Males will not even speak of this horror.-' 'Do you see the way society is molded around what these people think is correct?' 'Ah, no.' 'Well then, I shall show you. The leader of the planet makes a set of laws about subjects he or she really believes in. They make the rules unchallegable by giving them a special name and making that a law. They then tell the people that everybody who can talk must know these laws by heart and live by them. By making everyone grow up with indisputable laws, society can be chained to their wishes.' 'So you're saying that the leader brainwashes us?' He chuckled, 'It could be looked at like that. If you look at the Dictations, you will notice they are unfair, unequal. Can you think of an example.?'
"I thought quietly, and after a bit I nodded. 'If a man doesn't want to participate in 'male' activities, he gets thrown in prison. Women have the Sisterhood that they can join.' He smiled, 'You're catching on. You may not notice, but there is no law forbidding a woman to marry a woman. The dictations are a lot more lenient when it comes to women. Males, however, get no slack. You shouldn't deny your feelings though. What you've gone through is a bit like what I myself went through. If you find you really do love whoever you have this feeling around, don't deny it. Only by living openly will the Dictations lose their power. Do you understand?' I nodded and fell asleep before I could turn my light out or thank him.
"I decided that if I didn't love him then I was going mad. Despite Mr. Onakao's advice, i kept my mouth closed about his visit when Cam visited me on New Year's Eve, which was the next day. We celebrated in the hospital. it was very quiet, but we both had fun. Winter break ended too soon, and I was put out of the hospital and went to school again with everyone else. Life was the same as before, but this time there was hope. I was eating normal again and I slept fairly well. I went to 'extra-help sessions' with Mr. Onakao. We talked about life and the Dictations. I asked him whether or not I should tell Cameron. Thrice he said no, but on the third time, he sounded like he was trying to convince himself more than me. I decided I would when the fourth fortnight I asked and he said yes. I procrastinated and didn't tell Cameron. I waited until our fifth year. I still wasn't sure if I was making the right decision, but the strange feeling called love would not go away. It refused to disappear.
"I broached the topic when we had just finished moving into the fifth year dorms. I was sitting on my bed and he on someone else's. And so I asked, 'Did you know that the Dictations used to say that there was to be no intermarrying?' 'That's crazy! You're lying!' he accused. 'Nope,' I stated. 'Go ask Mr. Onakao. He visited me when I was in the hospital, and apparently, he's an expert on these types of things.' 'What are you getting at? What are you hiding from me?' I breathed deeply, in and out. 'Well,' I started, 'I'm gay.' He looked at me funny. 'You're,er, happy? Why is this a big deal?' I sighed, 'No, not gay as in happy, gay as in homosexual.' His quizzical look did not disappear. 'Look,' I told him, 'I like other males.' His jaw dropped lower than mine had. 'You've gone mad!' he screeched. 'That's not right. In fact, it's illegal! This can't happen. You're, er, you were my only friend. What's wrong with you? I can't deal with this. My former friend is a criminal. Or would be. Tell me,' he sneered, 'who has driven you down this path? Who is bribing you, or brainwashing you?' I whimpered and then whispered, 'Anthoni. I love Anthoni.' 'You're sick is what you are. I don't want to see your face ever again. You're now a criminal and don't even deserve to be in school. I don't want you to come to class anymore. Drop out of school and turn yourself in. I won't stand for your wretchedness.' With that he stormed off. I had no idea where he went, but the conversation wasn't a good omen." I stepped back from the podium and, breathing deeply, plopped down into a chair. The next part of the story was not mine to tell.