Alice Through the Prism
By Bridgett Kay
Featuring the Voice “Talents” of Reiella42
The Loser Files
It was a warm Monday morning in early fall, and Alice was considerably more cheerful than her fellow students.
After all, Alice reasoned, why shouldn’t she be happy? She was a senior student with a very light course load. She had a couple of academic subjects in the afternoon, but she spent her mornings in the classroom used by the senior Journalism class, who also ran the school paper. She had two free periods after class to linger behind and work on her projects.
Her projects were always simple. This morning, for example, there was a yellow post-it stuck to her desk that read:
Cheerleading Tryouts, Girls’ Gym, 4:30.
Alice sighed in satisfaction. The journalism teacher and unofficial editor of the school paper, Mr Bertram, never needed to give detailed instructions. She would go to the tryout, interview the cheer captain and a couple of wide-eyed hopefuls, take some impressive action shots, and turn in a flawless assignment. Writing, after all, followed a very simple formula, and digging too deeply into any subject only ever resulted in a mess.
“Hey Alice!” Mr Bertram called as Alice left the classroom at lunch. “I’m looking forward to another great article.”
“A lot of students are trying out this year, but we can only take twelve…”
Alice tried to concentrate on the interview, but she was distracted by all of the noise of the pre-tryout practice around her, and it seemed like the cheer captain, Kaitlyn, was just as distracted.
“There seem to be a lot of talented prospects-”
“Prospects- people trying out for the team. Are there any particular qualities you’re looking for?”
“Yeah- I already told all my friends I’d let them on the team.”
“Ugh- Kaitlyn,” Alice turned off the audio recording on her phone. “You can’t just say that. Say that you’re looking for people who will work well with the other team members, or something like that.”
“Ok, yeah- that. Thanks.”
Alice shrugged, and thanked Kailtyn for her interview. Then she turned to watch the practice.
The gym had been divided into two halves by a line or orange cones. On one side of the cones, a crowd of students stood in neat rows facing a senior cheerleader, who was teaching them a cheer routine. Alice was able to take some pictures of the whole group as they practiced, a close-up of the senior cheerleader, and a very nice action shot of a hopeful with the school mascot painted on her cheek as she executed a high kick. Soon, though, the students began to notice Alice, and they lost the ability to practice without looking into the camera.
Alice stepped away from the dance group and moved past the cones to the other half of the gym, where another crowd of students stood around a long gymnastics mat. A small girl with short brown hair was doing handsprings at an incredible speed, gaining more and more momentum until she reached the end of the mat and did a double layout- *buzz* – followed by front flip- *buzz.*
The crowd clapped.
“Hey, do you know who that is?” Alice asked a boy who stood at the edge of the crowd.
“No, but I think she’s a Junior, or maybe a Senior. Wait- I know who that is. That’s Lucy
Perez. She blew up the chemistry lab last year.”
“Thank you,” Alice said, and before the boy could repeat any more *unpleasant* rumors, she went to the other side of the mat and crouched down with her camera.
Alice adjusted her shutter speed and set to work, timing her shots just before Lucy reached the height of each jump. The lighting was great, and it would have been the perfect photoshoot, if not for the incessant buzzing noise.
Every time Lucy readied a flip, the buzzing occurred without fail. In fact, it was like clockwork, just before Alice pressed the button on her camera. Alice checked her camera, but it seemed to be working properly. She looked round at the crowd, expecting to see some prankster or rival trying to distract Lucy, but everyone in the crowd was applauding.
Alice put her camera down, pinched the bridge of her nose, and sighed.
“The closer I look at the world, the weirder it gets.”
“I know- isn’t it great?”
Alice looked back up, and saw Lucy standing a few feet away, pressing a water bottle to her sweat-free face.
“By the way, you have my permission to use any photos you’ve taken of me in any way you see fit. If you want me to sign a model release, just let me know.”
“You don’t have to sign anything, since you’re a student- but thanks for the permission. Is your name Lucy?”
“Yes, and you’re Alice, from The Prism– our school paper.”
“That’s right. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“Not at all. In fact, let me give you my standard press bio- I’ll wait for you to start recording, if you want. I’m Lucy Perez, 17 years old, and I’ve been studying gymnastics for two years.”
“Just two years?” Alice blinked in surprise. “You look like you’ve been doing it all your life.”
“I’m here today-” Lucy continued as though she hadn’t heard Alice, “not merely to try out for the cheerleading squad, but also to inspire my fellow students.”
Lucy turned to face the crowd.
“All of you have the potential to succeed,” she shouted, raising her arms in a gymnastics pose. “Humanity has no limits!”
The crowd applauded once more.
Who is this girl, thought Alice, a cult leader?
Lucy bowed and turned away from the small crowd, in time to face Kaitlyn, who was stalking toward her with a frown.
“You’re trying out with the next group,” Kaitlyn said.
“Ok, thanks.” Lucy turned to throw a kiss at the crowd, winked at Alice, and walked away.
“Before you go, Alice, I need to talk to you about your article.”
Alice looked up from her laptop to smile expectantly up at Mr. Bertram. She had just put the finishing touches on her article for The Prism, and submitted it to her teacher with her usual satisfaction.
“Thank you, Mr. Bertram,” Alice said. “I was so happy with the lead photo. I’ve never taken a photo that good, before.”
Alice had managed to capture Lucy at the height of a layout, her legs and arms stretched out as though she were flying, and with her hair fanned out, giving the picture a sense of motion.
“It’s a spectacular shot. You need to remove it.”
“Thanks. I- what?”
“I think you ought to lead with the squad photo, instead. The new members might think it unfair to lead with a photo of a girl who didn’t make the squad.”
“Yes, but the article is about the tryouts, and Lucy did try out,” Alice said. “Besides, as crazy as Lucy is, she deserved to make the squad. Lucy was good, and Kaitlyn pretty much admitted to me that the tryouts were rigged.”
“That may be, but we don’t get to decide who should have made the team. That decision has already been made.”
Mr. Bertram sighed. “Listen, Alice; Lucy is a troublemaker; I know you’ve heard rumors about the chemistry lab incident. Let’s not give her the attention that she craves.”
“Ok, Mr. Bertram. You win.”
“I knew you’d understand. Thanks for your hard work, Alice.”
Alice nodded, and Mr. Bertram returned to his office.
Alice’s pride stung, but she knew that Mr. Bertram was right. From the display she’d witnessed at the tryout, his assessment of Lucy’s character seemed accurate. Alice dutifully replaced the photo of Lucy with the new team photo, and updated the caption. Alice sent the revised article to Mr. Bertram, and then clicked on the photos she’d taken of Lucy and dragged them to a folder titled The Loser Files. There, it joined other rejected articles and photos- a set of photos of “crop circles” that had appeared in the grass on the soccer field one morning, eyewitness interviews to the chemistry lab incident, and an editorial about a smear campaign conducted by a former student council candidate. She kept them all to inspire herself to do better next time.
The lunch bell rang, but Alice wasn’t hungry. She decided to check her e-mail before heading to her next class.
Thank you again for your interviews, and for the photos you took of me at the at the cheerleading tryouts. I’m sure they were amazing.
I’m writing you to let you know that I am, in fact, a cyborg.
On second thought, Alice could stomach a sandwich. She closed her laptop and shoved it in her bag.