This is the first half of the initial chapter. I've cut it into two halves to help avoid reader strain. It's hard to read 4000+ word things on the internet. As a result, this first page ends a bit abruptly. Keep that in mind when you finally scroll to the bottom.

And sorry about the unoriginal chapter titles.


Chapter 1

The students in my year who had opted to study ancient history were assembled out the front of Ridgevale College, milling about in an elongated group, awaiting the bus that was to cart us to the Museum of Human History. As you probably gathered from my use of 'us' there, this was a group that included me. This 'me' included Ethan Douglas. I'm what you'd describe to an officer as 'male, Caucasian, seventeen/eighteen-ish, average in height with boring black hair', though of course you'd never find yourself in that situation. I hope. I suppose I've still got plenty of years left for things to spiral downwards.

While I'm not what you'd call a 'history buff', if you were given the choice between learning about, say, economics, or learning about gruesome battles where thousands of people perished in sword-related circumstances - their arms and faces and entrails flying every which way - what would you pick? If you answered 'economics', you are wrong as a person.

My friend, Rocca, was waiting beside me, his arms folded across his chest as we both watched a nearby conversation between a fellow student of ours, Kevin, and another fellow student of ours, whose name I was not at all familiar with. His face was familiar to me, though, due to its copious amounts of acne. Rocca possessed a similar interest towards ancient history as I did, and only chose the subject because of my decision to. This was a move that had backfired on him in the end, as we weren't even assigned to the same class. Kevin, on the other hand, was very much a 'history buff', and was detailing to his friend the wonders he hoped to experience at the museum, all the while using the loud body language that one associates with enthusiasm. No doubt his diary entry that evening would be excessive.

"God, how can Kevin enjoy dead civilisations that much?" Rocca asked me. "If someone was watching him from a distance, they'd think we were going on an excursion to a strip club or something."

'Gregory Roccasano' was written on Rocca's birth certificate, though no one referred to him by his forename, not even the teachers. He was around the same height as me, with short brown hair, a wiry frame, and pale blue eyes that were always on the move. Together, we had suffered the torments of compulsory education, all the way from Kindergarten to this, our final year. When I'd first met Rocca, he had been a brash child, quick to quarrel with anyone who so much as looked at him for too long. Over the years, however, he had steadily aged from a child into a young-adult. That was about the extent of his changes. I would have lived a fairly detention-free existence if it hadn't been for Rocca.

"He can be a lifesaver," I said, as Kevin began to describe the Ziggurat of Dur-Kurigalzu(?) to his spotty friend. I overheard him saying that it was his second-favourite ziggurat. "Whenever the teacher asks a question that no one was listening to - which is all the time - it's Kevin's hand that shoots up without delay."

"Hmm, I wish he was in my class then," Rocca said, his eyebrows lifting as Kevin performed a fist-pump to properly express his passion for Mesopotamian architecture. "Even when we do listen to the questions thrown at us, they're always followed by oblivious silence. You know, that silence where the teacher stares around at everyone, and you just sit there and pray to Christ that your name isn't called out."

"I know it well."

I felt something bump against my arm, and turned to see Talisha Bedford beside me, stumbling forward as though she had just tripped on something. Instinctively, my hand shot out and grabbed hold of her arm so as to prevent her from falling over. Rocca's mouth dropped open as soon as I had done this. It took me a second longer to register the horrible mistake I had just made.

Now balanced, Talisha turned to me, an expression opposite to gratitude fixed on her beautiful, beautiful face.

"Um, excuse me? What's with all this groping?" she asked, yanking her arm from my grasp. "Get your hands off me!"

I sighed, quite audibly, at this typical response. Talisha Bedford, as I just mentioned, was beautiful…on very much just the outside. An unfortunate mix of spectacular genes and sub-par parenting had given birth to a creature devoid of all empathy towards normal looking folk, such as myself. As proof that society values appearance over all, Talisha was one of the more popular students at our school, and had the short-skirt, bleached hair, and unnaturally-tanned-skin-even-in-the-depths-of-winter look to confirm it.

"That's sexual harassment, Ethan," she continued unabatedly. "What kind of person just feels up someone like that? You're sick!"

I opened my mouth to offer a false apology, just to be rid of the harpy, but before I could utter a syllable, Rocca entered the fray, his blue eyes narrowing. His eyes always narrowed right before things escalated.

"Firstly, it's 'sexual assault' you're thinking of, not 'harassment'," he said calmly. Apparently the distinction had to be made. "Secondly, what's a tart like you doing in this subject anyway? I understand prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, and you're probably keen to get a start on your future career, but they don't teach that aspect of ancient history in schools."

I sighed again, just as audibly as before.

"Are you calling me a prostitute? Do you even know who I am?" Talisha snarled, almost spitting on Rocca. "Just wait till my BF hears about this, you ugly bastard! Tyler's going to beat your head in with his knees!"

"Oh God. Tyler. I'm quaking in terror," Rocca responded in a bored tone.

While his words may have been sardonic, I knew that Rocca really was terrified of Tyler Kent. Anyone who engaged in self-preservation feared him. He was seventeen-foot tall (give or take), the vice-captain of the rugby team, and had the intelligence of an inanimate object; a very dangerous concoction. I knew stereotypes had to come from somewhere, and Tyler was a good example of this, unashamedly continuing the tradition of every playground meathead who had preceded him. His social dominance and chiselled physique had been just the right sort of mating dance to win over the affection of Talisha. I feared that one day they would produce many terrible offspring together, though there was a good chance most of them would be devoured at birth by the mother.

It was the present, however, that concerned me more. Rocca may have chosen his words a little better if he had been aware of the same truth that I was. I grimaced, knowing the next few minutes would be tricky.

"You should be terrified," Talisha said darkly, as if sharing my exact thoughts. She turned and half-cupped her mouth with a hand. "T.K, baby? I need you over here!"

Rocca's eyes went from being narrow to being very wide as Tyler Kent surged through the crowd of waiting students, strutting forth to take his place beside Talisha, like a hound being summoned by its master - a personal Cerberus for the Queen of the Damned. Unlike the three-headed helldog, Tyler only had one head, a squarish block fixed onto his block body, with blocky eyes that stared down menacingly, and somewhat blockily, at all before him.

"He does ancient history too?" Rocca squeaked at me.

"What's up, babe?" Tyler asked Talisha, draping a muscular arm carefully around her tiny shoulders, obviously not wanting to drive her into the ground like a tent peg. "What are you hanging around these dicks for?"

"That one sexually harassed…I mean, sexually assaulted me," Talisha said shrilly, pointing a finger at me, before shifting the point to Rocca. "And that one called me a prostitute, which, by the way, I totally am not."

Tyler's block-eyes were the ones that narrowed this time, and I couldn't help but notice Rocca slowly gravitating away from the problem at hand. If past experience was anything to go by, he wouldn't be talking much from that point on. It was always up to me to negotiate peace whenever Rocca dug us into a hole, though my record as a peacekeeper wasn't exactly comparable to Gandhi.

"If she's a prossie, what does that make me, huh? A pimp? Are you calling me a pimp?" Tyler asked stupidly, stepping forward so as to block out the sun.

"I…don't think that's how pimp/prossie relations work," I replied, holding my ground. "And, I mean, pimps are pretty cool, with their hats and canes and all that, so being one isn't that bad, really."

"Pimps work the way I think they work, dickhead," Tyler informed me, prodding my shoulder so as to spin me half about. "Anyway, shut-up with the talking. If you think you can just touch my girl and get away with it, you've got another thing coming."

"Tyler, think about this for a second," I beseeched, aware that my request would be difficult for him at the best of times. "Why would I feel up the girlfriend of someone who has a history of hospitalising others? Do I look depressed to you? Do you think I want it all to end?"

Over the course of my school years, dozens of kids had been sent to the sickbay and beyond as a result of Tyler's love for starting and ending arguments. Usually he would begin an argument by introducing his opponent to the facts of the ground, and then conclude it with some rebuttal to their stomach. His methods of debate may have been inarticulate, but holy hell, they certainly were effective.

"Guys are always trying to get into her pants," Tyler shot back at me. "No doubt you're the same. I can't blame you, really." He turned his square head to gaze upon his beloved. "She is one sexy bitch; the hottest bitch at this school, or any other school." He turned his sights back on me. "But she's out of your league, you little prick. And she's my bitch, so that means hands off!"

"Aww, babe," Talisha cooed, starry-eyed, apparently happy to be called a bitch repeatedly so long as an endearing adjective was used beforehand.

I noticed that Kevin and his friend had suspended their conversation to better gawk at me and my impending doom. A number of other students had also drawn near, attracted by the prospect of blood. Damn ancient history students. It was as though Tyler and I were two gladiators circling one another in the arena…well, more like a lion circling a Christian.

"She definitely is a sexy bitch, or at least one of those things," I replied, before immediately adding, "And you're lucky to have her. And I respect the relationship you two share, which is why I would never try to touch her, harass her, or assault her, sexually or otherwise."

I heard Rocca snigger behind me, though he quickly covered it with a cough. In truth, I would never have intentionally touched Talisha Bedford out of fear of getting her tan all over my clothes. My eyes darted downwards to check if any browny-orange smudges had been left on my hands. They appeared to be unblemished.

"Are you calling me a liar?" Talisha snapped, stepping forward to join her boyfriend inches away from me. "There's no point coming up with pathetic excuses. You're going to get what you deserve for violating me." She turned to Rocca. "And you're going to get it, too, for calling me a prostitute!"

"I insinuated it! Surely that's only worth half the punishment!" Rocca moaned, backing further away from the scene.

Tyler looked down at his girlfriend, then down at Rocca, then down at his girlfriend, then down at me, then shrugged. "The tribe has spoken," he said, taking his arm from around Talisha's shoulder so that he could crack his knuckles melodramatically. "Only question is: Who gets their face beaten in first?"

"Come on! The face? This isn't face worthy!" Rocca wailed bravely.