1.

The new student makes her debut on a cloudy day. The wind is cool and crisp, signaling the closing days of fall. She walks through the halls of Crenshaw High, entering first period well after the bell. As she walks through the door, the students look her over, eyeing her slender frame and dark clothes. She slips the teacher a note, her hands barely poking out from her sleeves. The class starts to whisper. It's odd seeing a new kid at this time of year, especially since the school has just 332 students.

"...Ah. How wonderful!" Miss Fratley says. "Class, we have a new student today. Please welcome Willow Geist. Just take a seat anywhere, dear."

"Thank you," Willow replies, voice soft and smooth. She walks to the back of the room, a chill seeming to fill the air. Hardly a surprise. Winter is approaching, after all. But some of the students swear they get a shiver when Willow passes them by.

First period English class begins. The teacher drones on as students take turns glancing at the new student. They notice her black hair and white skin, her crimson red eyes and shadowy clothes. She wears a black blazer and a very short skirt, matching her high loose socks and loafers.

"Weird...," a female student whispers to another.

"...She's kinda hot," a male student says to a friend.

When the bell rings, the students pack up, leaving for their next class. Willow looks down, eyeing her school itinerary. As she looks it over, a young man appears before her.

"Hey. Need some help?" he asks. Willow looks up, locking eyes with the blue-eyed boy.

"Hmm. Maybe," Willow replies. "I was late finding this class. I didn't expect it to be at the end of the building."

"I know...this school is weird. It was built like a thousand years ago. New kids always have trouble finding their way around," he says. "What's your next class?"

Willow looks down at her paper. "It says...'Bill Hannigan'?"

"Ah. The science teacher. I have him for fifth period. I can take you there if you want."

"...Oh. You needn't trouble yourself. I'm sure I can find it alone."

"You sure? It's really no problem. It's on the way to my next class."

Willow gives a pause. "Well...alright. If you insist, I mustn't refuse."

"Cool. I'm Lester, by the way. And you're Willow, right?"

"Indeed."

"...Willow, huh? Cool name," Lester says. Willow blinks twice, giving a small blush.

The two head out to the halls, traversing the corridors of Crenshaw High. It's a dreary little school of distinctly Victorian design. The grounds are overgrown with shrubs, half of the building falling apart with rot and decay. It's a backwater school in backwater USA. The government can't be bothered with repairs. Much better to use those funds for unnecessary military spending than improving public schools. As a chill wind blows, Willow and Lester reach the science room.

"Here it is," Lester says.

"I see. This one's not so remote. Thanks for showing me the way," Willow says.

"No prob," the boy replies. "But I gotta run. I'll be late for my next class if I don't hurry. Good luck with the rest of your first day, though. Maybe I'll see you around?"

"Yeah. Maybe," Willow says.

"Alright, then. See ya!" Lester replies, waving goodbye.

As Lester takes his leave, Willow enters the room, handing the teacher her note. Mister Hannigan grunts. He appears less friendly than Miss Fratley was. Willow takes a seat at the back of the class, the students noticing her as they come through the door.

As the bell rings, one last student enters the room. He's tall and burly, wearing baggy clothes and an olive coat. He moves to his seat, shoving the books off a student's desk as he goes. Laughter breaks out around him. The victim quickly gathers his books off the ground.

"Dammit, Craig. Behave yourself for once!" Mister Hannigan shouts at the bully.

"Heh. Sorry. My hand slipped," Craig replies. Laughter starts up again. Not real laughs, though. Fake laughs. Sycophantic laughs. 'If I laugh, maybe he won't target me next' laughs.

Class starts up as Mister Hannigan goes into a lesson. Several students glance at Willow, giving her the once over, especially the boys. Craig doesn't notice her, though. He's too busy picking on Justin, the kid with the shoved books. Justin is a scrawny young man, unlucky enough to have the class a-hole directly behind him. Each school has its bullies, but sitting in front of one is like having a rabid wolf at your neck. Minutes creep by as Craig continually disrupts the class. Eventually, the teacher writes him up. Craig celebrates, doing a jig as he heads to the office.

Justin celebrates, too, in his mind. His horror show is over. At least for now.

The class continues on, peaceful now that Craig has left. At ten, the bell rings. The students pack up, leaving one by one. As they each make for the door, Willow and Justin reach it at the same time.

"Oh! S-sorry," Justin says, nervously stepping back.

"No. Go ahead," Willow replies.

"Th-thanks." Justin bows, quickly stepping out.

"I saw what happened back there. Why don't you defend yourself against that guy?" Willow asks. Justin gives a pause, looking on at the girl next to him. He frowns.

"...Craig bullies everyone. He's bigger and taller than us. What could we do?"

"But he is just one person, and you all are many. If each of you turned against him, you could tear him apart like piranhas to a shark."

Justin looks on, eyes turning to the floor. "...Yeah, I guess. But...there's no cohesion amongst his victims. We all act individually."

"Yes. I suppose that's true," Willow says. "That's also why small numbers of people are allowed to control vast swathes of the world's wealth: no unity or organized plan to overthrow the tyrannical overlords. It's depressing how many parallels can be drawn from high school and society at large. But don't worry...," Willow says, stepping in front of Justin. "You won't have to suffer for much longer."

Justin blinks twice. "Wh...what do you mean?"

Willow coyly smiles, giving a shrug. "...Who knows?" she says cryptically. As Justin stands motionless, Willow turns, disappearing into the crowded halls.