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The Art of Subconscious Illusion

Chapter Text

Chapter I

Mid-April 2006

The fluorescent lights overhead shone brightly in the 3rd year classroom, blinking at intervals. The students at their desks were in complete silence, but for the rare cough from a classmate sitting in the third row, the sound echoing around the room in time to the shuddered bobbing of her dyed-blonde head. The sound was harsh and sudden, causing her classmates to wince with each cough. Even the visiting teacher standing at the front – known to all as the ‘Invigilator’ – felt the tension emanating off the student, following their lead.

Passing a glance to his watch, the Invigilator signalled to the Civics teacher, who proceeded to hand out exam papers to the students, going column by column. “When you all have an exam paper,” said the Invigilator, surveying the room with a practiced glare, scrutinising the students one by one, “write your name, candidate number, and centre number in the appropriate spaces provided. When you’ve filled in the cover, wait for my signal. Remember: Read the questions carefully before answering, and make sure your handwriting is legible. This is just a practice paper, but you should all know the drill by now!”

The second hand on the clock upon the wall ticked closer to the hour, the sound of a pencil tap joining the blinking lights. The blonde-haired girl in the third row coughed again as everyone around her scribbled, her throat feeling more itchy and sore with every splutter. “You will be expected to finish this exam within the two hour time limit. You’re missing gym class for this, so I expect complete silence.” He glared at the blonde pointedly, and she was stifled.

“Right,” he smiled – or was that a sneer? – “Your exam starts… now!” Simultaneously, everyone picked up their pens, turned over the cover and began scribbling furiously. Already, it was clear that very lives were at stake if any one of them achieved a below-average score, that they would end at the hands of the Invigilator himself.

An hour into the exam and the blonde was still coughing loudly, putting her pen down every few minutes to lift her hand to her face and cough. Yet, the sound still echoed around the classroom, becoming harsher and harsher, the lights blinking faster and faster, and the nervous pencil tap against a wooden desk only adding to the rising tumult. Finally, she stopped, her throat newly lubricated. She lifted her hand away to show crimson staining the palm. A shot of terror stabbing through her spine, she put her bloody hand up, only to find that someone else had caught the Invigilator’s attention: One of her classmates, a tall brown haired boy, was walking to the front, exam paper in hand, his left hand twitching just slightly.

The Invigilator walked the few steps towards him, placing a hand gently on his left arm. The boy flinched, the undue affection too painful to bear, “What are you doing?” The Invigilator asked, muttering quietly, aiming not to disturb the others, “You still have an hour to finish the exam, yet.”

“No,” the boy replied, “I’ve finished.” The hand twitched again, this time the spasm running full through the arm. The Invigilator noticed, and tightened his grip on his shoulder.

“Are you all right? Is anything wrong?”

The boy’s hand flexed at this, and he gave a smile, like the devil. “No,” he answered, his voice almost a whisper, “there’s nothing wrong with me…” Suddenly, one quick movement, barely a blink, the Invigilator was pinned against the blackboard, the boy holding him by the collar. The Civics teacher dropped to the ground in horror, and the students looked up from their papers in unison, unable to believe the sight. The students on the first few rows stood up, loathing the idea of being too close.

“But there is something wrong with you.” sneered the boy. The voice was hushed, yet carried through the room with ease. “Every crime you have committed… Every person you have hurt… Every lie you have uttered to save your own worthless skin…” The Satanic smile creaked through his mouth, his white teeth almost bared. His eyes seemed to glow red in the sporadic lights, dim but threatening, and his fists began to shake. No, really began to shake. The Invigilator couldn’t speak; too caught up in a state of shock, he could only widen his eyes yet more for the transformation.

“Do not worry,” he mocked, relishing in the man’s fear, finding joy in his terror, “your end shall be swift – your guilt and what conscience you have will have tortured you enough…” One hand left his collar; the Invigilator almost broke out a sigh of relief – not for long, for it snapped into place at his throat. “However, the soul of that poor boy calls out for at least some degree of pain!” The lights flickered quicker and quicker, struggling like the students to do anything else, their mouths open like koi carp at the blooming madness.

The hand clenched tighter, crushing hard, and the man gasped out in suffocation. He grasped at the boy’s wrist, made to pull it away, but his captor just clenched tighter, and he was floundering once more. His movements were slowing though, becoming sluggish. Time slowed with him.

“This world is rotting…” The boy whispered, his head lowered, spoken like a prayer to God. “And you cannot be a part of the revolution.” The Invigilator gasped. His heart stopped. This… this student was going to… he was going to… No grown man had ever dared to do this, so how could a mere boy…? No… he could, and he would. He would enjoy it, take pleasure in the act.

That boy was the Devil himself.

Time came back full force. The lights flickered so strongly, blindingly fast, truly strobing. Close to breaking point. The grip relaxed, and, able to breathe again, the Invigilator looked up into the face of his would-be killer. The boy’s eyes widened, no longer seeing. His mouth went slack. With barely a word, he collapsed to the floor, his body convulsing sickeningly. Female classmates screamed, covering their eyes. The Civics teacher picked herself off the floor to attempt emergency procedures, picking up and dropping her cell phone to the floor, hands shaking. His friends, his classmates all called out to him, yelling at him, begging him to snap out of it – but, fitting, nigh on screaming himself, the boy couldn’t respond to them even if he tried.