Alice Through the Prism
by Bridgett Kay
Part II- Eat Me
Please note- all of the “research” cited in this episode is purely fictitious, and fairly fallacious besides. Never trust the results of 10 minutes’ work from a fake high-school student.
The older a student becomes, the uglier their school grows.
Alice’s elementary school had been a small, red-brick building surrounded by grass, trees, and colorful playground equipment. Ample sunlight had poured through open windows into the classrooms, which were filled with green plants and colorful drawings.
Alice’s junior high had few windows, and fewer decorations. The hallways had been filled with old, beat-up lockers.
Alice’s high school looked like a public restroom in the middle of a parking lot.
Although the odds were against them, the student council had still attempted to make the high school look festive in time for the first football game of the season. They’d covered trash cans with mums, strung banners across filthy walls, and draped festoons over the top of the graffitied lockers.
The school looked like the bad side of fairyland.
“We tried our best,” Alice’s best friend, Brendan, explained as they walked down the hallway Friday morning. “You know, I can’t decide whether high school students can’t keep a school nice, or if adults don’t put as much effort into our school after we stop being cute.”
“Well, if you figure it out, write an article. There’s some space on the back page of the paper we need to fill,” Alice said absently as she reached her locker. She moved a festoon aside, opened the locker, and groaned.
“What the hell?”
Alice took a large, red, heart-shaped box from her locker and showed it to Brendan.
“Can you believe this?” she asked.
“Yes, I can. Someone gave you chocolate. Didn’t you know that you’re pretty?”
Alice just rolled her eyes.
“There’s a card,” Brendan said. “What does it say?”
“It just says ‘eat me.’ How original.”
Alice took the box to the nearest mum-covered trash can.
“Don’t throw it out!”
“This is obviously a prank. The chocolates are probably filled with hot sauce or laxatives.”
Brendan sighed, took the box, and opened it.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Alice said.
Brendan smiled and took a bite. “They’re pretty good. Are you sure you don’t want one?”
“Yes, you can keep them. I’d better get to the newsroom. I’ll see you tonight.”
When Alice arrived at the newsroom, there was another yellow sticky-note on her
desk, though it was written in a loopy, oddly-familiar script.
Anonymous tip for Alice: the school’s Math/Science team has been doping.
Alice crinkled her nose as she read and re-read the note.
“The Math/Science team? Really?”
Alice picked up the sticky note and noticed that some writing in black marker that bled through the back. She turned the note over.
Meet me under the bleachers at the 50 yard line at half-time.
Alice finally recognized the handwriting; it was the same loopy writing that had appeared on the chocolates. If she really had a secret admirer, Alice thought, then they must be pretty desperate.
The newsroom door opened and a moment later, Brendan entered the room.
“Sorry Mr. Bertram,” Brendan said. He ran over to Alice’s desk and slapped a paper down.
“Here- I did some research and figured it out. My sources are all there.”
“I did some research, after we talked. I did a meta-analysis on studies linked to school funding and found a definite correlation to cuteness. There’s a decline in interest to fund schools just here- after the kids his puberty. Of course, there’s not a causal link yet, but this is promising. I also included some information on the halo effect.”
Brendan slapped a folder down next to the paper. “Here are the studies I cited in my paper, if you’d like to check their validity.
Alice looked over the paper. “Wow- Brendan, I thought we were kidding.”
“So did I, but I got curious.”
“This is good- way too good for the last page. You did it all this morning?”
“Yes- I had a few minutes of downtime first period.”
Alice stared at Brendan.
“Anyway, I have a geometry test next period, so I’d better go. Don’t thank me- I’m happy to help.”
Mr Bertram decided to feature Brendan’s article on the front page of The Prism, and push Jensen Cornwall’s cafeteria food expose to the back page. Alice tried to find Brendan during lunch to give him the good news, but she couldn’t spot him in the crowded cafeteria.
As she turned to leave the cafeteria, she came face to face with Lucy Perez.
“I’m glad I found you,” Lucy said. “Would you like to have lunch with me? I have a private table.”
“A- private table?”
“Yeah- follow me.” Lucy grabbed Alice’s hand and dragged her down the hall, taking a sharp right at the chemistry lab.
“My table is in the back. Sorry it’s covered in lab equipment, but at least it’s quiet.”
“I didn’t know you were still allowed in here,” Alice said.
“Oh sure- I helped to re-build the lab, after all. It’s half mine, legally. Well, maybe not legally, but no one’s contested my claim, yet.”
“Right-” Alice said, perching awkwardly on a lab stool.
Lucy sat on the stool across from Alice and placed two box lunches on the table. “Anyway, I thought it would be best for us to conduct the interview here.”
“Yes- you got my e-mail last week, didn’t you? I’m sorry I haven’t had the chance to follow-up with you yet, but I’ve been really busy. You must have a ton of questions for me.”
“Sure I do,” Alice said. “Here’s question one- what is with your pathological need for attention?”
Lucy stared at Alice for a few moments- eyes wide with shock- and Alice braced herself for an explosion of anger that was sure to follow. Lucy, however, just threw her head back and laughed.
“I should have realized you wouldn’t believe me. I’m used to this sort of thing, and I forget that others aren’t. That’s ok. I can prove I’m a cyborg.”
She reached down and started to unbutton her shirt.
“No- that’s ok, really. I have a test to study for, so-”
“Don’t go- you have to see this.”
“No I don’t. I really don’t. Keep your shirt on,” Alice said, squeezing her eyes shut.
Lucy sighed. “Fine, but how can I prove this to you without removing my chassi and showing you my circuit board? You saw me doing remarkable feats of agility and strength at the cheerleader tryout, but you still don’t believe me.”
Lucy put a hand to her chin in thought, and Alice took the opportunity to begin edging off of the stool.
“I know- look at this.”
Lucy pulled her right thumb back until it touched her forearm.
“See? I’m a cyborg.”
“Amazing,” Alice said. She slipped off the stool and started to back toward the door. “That’s truly incredible. I’ll need to come up with some better interview questions, and then we can reschedule. Just stay here and wait for my e-mail.”
“Ok, but don’t forget your lunch,” Lucy said. She held one of the box lunches out to Alice.
“I made this to thank you for the interview, but you might as well eat it now, right?”
“Well, sure. Thanks,” Alice said. She took the box lunch, and then fled the room.
Alice spotted Brendan in the hallway near her English class. Brendan was leaning against his locker, pressing his hands against his eyes with his glasses perched on his head.
“Brendan, are you ok?”
“Hi Alice.” Brendan took his hands away from his face and let his glasses fall back over his bloodshot eyes. “Yeah, I’m fine. I just had a pretty exhausting morning, and I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch.”
“Well, I’m probably not going to eat this, so you can have it,” Alice said, handing Brendan Lucy’s box lunch.
“Thanks.” Brendan opened the box and smiled. “Hey, this looks great. Thank you, Alice.”
“No problem. I wanted to let you know that Mr. Bertram loved your article. It’s going to be on the front page.”
“Awesome,” Brendan said around mouthfuls of sandwich. “I don’t know what came over me this morning. The idea popped into my head and I had to write. I had been planning on studying for my Trig exam, but luckily I still aced it.”
“That’s good, but don’t exhaust yourself over offhand comments I make. If you need to study-”
“Don’t worry. I’m not exhausted. I feel awesome, in fact. I’ve never been so productive. And thank you for the lunch. It was just what I needed.”
“I’m glad. Just- let me know if you need anything.”
“I will.” Brendan closed the lunchbox and smiled. “By the way- I know you’ll be busy taking pictures at tonight’s football game, but will I see you at halftime?”
“Halftime? I-” Alice froze, and regarded Brendan through narrowed eyes.
“Brendan, how did you know that the chocolates were safe, this morning?”
“Ah- well I…”
“Did you give me the chocolates?”
Brendan laughed, and then looked down at the ground, blushing. “You work really hard, Alice, but you never get any recognition. I thought you deserved something nice.”
“That’s really sweet,” Alice said. “I’m sorry I didn’t eat them.”
“That’s okay. Next time, I’ll sign my name.”
Alice smiled, and then turned to go.
“I’ll see you tonight. Sit with me on the bleachers, near the 50 yard line,” she said before she disappeared into the crowd of students rushing to class.
Brendan sighed as he watched her go, and then froze. A chill went through him, and he could feel the hair prickle on the back of his neck. Someone was watching him.
He turned around and saw a small girl with dark eyes glaring at him.
“I hate you,” she said.
“Excuse me?” he said. “Who are you?”
“My name is Lucy, but that’s not important. What’s important is that you’re a liar, and I’m going to tell Alice.”
“I’m Alice’s best friend,” Brendan said.
“Well, good luck with that,” Lucy said. “By the way, the effects from the chocolates will wear off, soon. If you want to know who really sent them, it will cost you. Also, give me back my lunch box.”