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Jane stared bleary-eyed at the words laid out in front of her.

…but to inextricably tie the demonstration of what is widely defined as super-villainous ambition or action to a single psychological or experiential characteristic is not only to fallaciously equate properties which have never been conclusively linked, but to condense a broad spectrum of…

She read the same words four times over before finally realising none of it was sinking in. Jane let out a low groan – the only sound in her dim, stuffy room besides the faint buzzing of the desk lamp – and slumped her head onto the textbook. Come on, she berated herself. She propped her head up on her arm and shifted forty-five degrees in her plastic chair.

…megalomaniacal ambitions undeniably demonstrated as a correlative element, but have not yet been proved causal (Parker et al 1995); presenting an inherent problem for psychological profiling…

She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples, the inside of her head feeling hot and heavy. Oh godddddd. Why couldn’t these stupid people just speak English. She looked across at her notes, which so far were just a squiggly doodle she’d made in the margin. “Ugh,” she swore to herself, putting her head in her hands. None of this made any goddamn sense. She was never going to pass.

Someone was playing music off in the distance – she could hear the faint hum of it coming ever so slightly through the window. Jane gritted her teeth, wishing they would shut the hell up. The tiny noise gnawed at her concentration. She blinked hard and stared down again at the words drably blanketing the textbook.

…genuine beneficence, or a belief in such; or perhaps a fundamental disconnect with structural elements of society and a desire for baseline cultural reform or revolution, with historical disregard…

Ugghhhhh… Almost against her will, Jane’s eyes flicked up to the number in the corner of the page. 76. Jesus, she’d barely read five pages. She thumbed through the chapter, then internally groaned – it went on til 132. And then there were two more for this… ugggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Jane ran her hands through her hair, the words swimming before her eyes.

It was hopeless. She was never going to pass.

*****

“Pass man, come on,” said Matt, squinting one eye unnecessarily as Wally took another drag on the joint, “It’s puff, puff, pass.” He paused, then added, “Dick.”

Wally let out a long column of smoke, leaning back on the pavilion’s wooden railings.

“Maaaaan…” he sighed, “Negativity man, you’ve got to… you know, we all should…”

Beside him Giselle cackled with laughter, the sound echoing through to join the happy hum of voices and the beats of the stereo pumping music in the background. They’d lucked out, it was a warm night, and a generally awesome time to be out… outside? Outside.

“Ohmygodyouguyswhydotheycallthemfingersifyouneverevenseethemfingohwaitasecond-” she blurted. The speedster held up her hand in front of her face and vibrated it so fast it blurred out of existence, “-theretheygolook.” She stopped vibrating and broke down into fitful giggling.

“Giselle you’re speaking too fast,” wheezed Wally, coughing up more smoke.

“You sound like a chipmunk,” confirmed Matt, taking another sip of vodka and lemonade. Giselle doubled over with laughter.

“Is-is she okay?” Ed asked, glancing over nervously from his spot on the bench in the corner. He was still awkwardly clutching his first beer, his eyes flicking up and down at Giselle whenever he thought she wasn’t looking. Matt breathed in a deep, enjoyable breath of night air and smiled a slow smile at him.

“Ed man, relax, she’s cool, we’re all cool, she just… drink your beer man, come on.”

“No I- I mean, it’s alright I don’t- I don’t really like the taste…”

Matt leant forward and looked at the genius, the world wobbling slightly. “Ed, it’s beer. Nobody really likes the taste.” Behind him, a group of girls were laughing at something, and the next song on his iPod playlist started. Goddamn Backstreet Boys. “Everybody pretends to, but really it’s… it tastes like dirt, you know, gross water dirt. You don’t drink it for the taste. You just… you know? It’s cheap.”

“It’s a conspiracy man…” Wally breathed to his right.

“Hey, hey, you guys,” James Conrad called from down over on the lawn, already halfway through his second bottle of vodka (he’d brought five, Will having jumped him and a few others back to Mexico), “Do you think I can, do you think I can lift the pavilion. I can lift the pavilion, watch.” Several more junior Acolytes behind him, most of them girls, cheered him on.

“No James, relax man, don’t lift the pavilion,” said Wally, clutching the edge of his seat.

“Please don’t lift the pavilion.”

“Yes come on James, believe, you can definitely lift the pavilion,” encouraged Matt.

“No, it’s cool guys, I’ve got this, I can totally lift it, watch, I’ll-”

“Bigboymusclemanbigboymusclesgoingtoliftthingssostronghahahahaha-”

“Giselle I can’t understand a goddamn word you’re-.”

“I’m going to do it, watch, here we go, one two thr-”

Matt lurched to the side as the noise of the party was punctuated by the sound of wrenching earth and splintering wood.

“James no stop, what’re you-!”

“Argh!”

“Do it! Throw it you-”

“Oh my God you idiot you’re breaking the-”

“Put us down!”

The was a crash and the right side of the significantly worse-for-wear wooden structure and its uprooted foundations crashed back onto the ground, spilling Matt’s drink all over his pants.

“Aw man, come on, I… waste…”

“See guys,” James announced proudly, “I told you, I told you I could do it, I-” he let out a loud belch that Matt swore physically impacted Morningstar’s walls, “I did it, I lifted the pavilion.”

“Only half of it,” muttered Ed under his breath, but nobody seemed to hear him. In the confusion, Wally had fallen flat onto the wooden gazebo floor and was now struggling to get back up.

“Aw man,” Matt complained, looking down at him, “Did you drop the joint?”

“I don’t…” replied Wally, struggling, “Hold on, let me just…”

“Iiiiisssss iiiiittttt bbbbbeeeeettttttteeeeeerrrrrr wwwwwwhhhhhhheeeeeennnnnn iiiiiiiiii tttttttttaaaaaaaaaallllllllllkkkkkkk lllllllliiiiiiikkkkkkkkeeeeee ttttttttthhhhhhhiiiiiiiiissssssss?” slurred Giselle in slow motion, who’d somehow completely avoided being upended and was still in her seat, making funny faces at the air and then laughing hysterically.

“No that’s worse.”

“Significantly worse.”

“Hhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaatttttttttteeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrssssssss.”

“Matt, we’re out of ice!” a girl called from over near the speakers.

“Ah heck.” Matt staggered to his feet, feeling a little seasick from a combination of beer, Purple Dragon and James’s magical pavilion ride. He clambered down the gazebo steps with some help from the railing and meandered his way through the small groups of people clustered here and there. It wasn’t, like, the biggest party ever, but everyone that mattered was here and they’d all brought a few randoms who seemed cool and, you know – he hiccupped – this was good, he was having a good time, this should definitely get him expelled.

He managed to pass behind James, who was trying to flex and bust out of his shirt for his admirers, without being pulled into another one of the strongman’s bear hugs (drunk James was very affectionate) and lurched over to the cooler beside the speakers.

“Can we-” hiccup, “-excuse me, can we, can someone make more?”

Becky Sandstrom, a friend of Celeste’s who could fly, shook her head. “There’re no cryomen… cryomin… ice people.” Beside her Celeste, who appeared to have unconsciously sprouted antlers, nodded in reindeering agreement.

“Uuuuuugggghhh,” groaned Matt, rubbing his face, trying to think of a solution to this insurmountable problem. Celeste turned to her friend.

“Becky can you um, can you fly, to like the gas station, like, they’d have-” But Becky was already shaking her head.

“Don’t drink and fly,” she recited, “Don’t drink and fly.”

“You’re so responsible,” Celeste complimented.

“No you’re so… you’re so talented, look at your deer-horns!”

“Deer horns!” howled Celeste, and they both broke down laughing.

“Ugggggghhhhhh,” Matt moaned again. “Why doesn’t this place have ice-people?”

“I think it’s the White Queen,” answered Becky, putting her hands on her hips, “I don’t think, you know, anybody wants to try and live up to that, you know? Too much pressure.”

“I’d feel sooo nervous.”

“I know, right? It’s like, oh my god, the shoes to fill, I couldn’t even.”

“What about- where’s Will?”

Matt rubbed his eyes. “He’s passed out.”

“He had like three beers!”

“Nah he and James were doing shots.”

“Oh daaaaamn.”

“Right?” Matt blinked hard, trying to clear his head. “It’s alright, we can still… Giselle can…” That was only a temporary solution though, he thought, Giselle couldn’t carry that much ice… and then Matt’s thoughts stopped dead in his tracks because he’d just remembered something.

“Giselle!” he shouted, and before he could blink the speedster had zoomed over to him in a blurry zig-zag and was leaning her head on his shoulder.

“Maaaaaatttt,” she mimicked. He looked down at her, his vision slightly watery.

“I need you to go get someone.”

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About the author

Benjamin Keyworth

  • Australia

Bio: Born and raised in Newcastle, Australia, Ben is a lifelong writer currently studying his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. An avid fan of the weird and wonderful, he has wanted to be a writer since he was five years old (before which he wanted to be a dinosaur).

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