A man in wrinkled clothing comes off the public bus. He has his backpack on and he walks towards his school in Kansas City, Missouri. The streets are empty at the moment as his unshaved face stares down at his feet at the worn out shoes that are starting to tear on the sides. After such a long walk that took around thirty minutes he finally arrives at the Kansas City Future School.
This school constantly talks about the future of the world. It has all kinds of majors, from all different kinds of arts, to engineering. Five buildings spread across a wide open area is what the school is pretty much. The dorms, which is the most simple and bland building of the entire school, the main building that used to be a mansion has the offices for the staff, the tech and library building is only four floors with two floors of books and computers everywhere. The Arts building is just a warehouse full of various studios, and the final building is the engineering and construction building which is only a huge repair garage that is always under construction for students to help build safely of course.
The young man finally arrives to the school and needs to hurry only having two minutes to get to his class in the Art building. He gets inside, but unfortunately class has already started. He goes inside and the teacher notices him right away. “Travis Steller…is here.”
The rest of the class looks to the back of the big room full of small studios for individual work. “Hello, Mr.Manning. I apologize for being late.”
Mr. Manning stands up and walks to Travis. “Travis, it’s fine. I’m not like the other teachers, I understand your situation.”
Travel from home to school is not an easy one as Travis has to walk for twenty minutes to get to the nearest bus station near his home in Independence, Missouri. He then has to take several buses to the nearest location, which at most can take an hour. Finally, he has to take another walk that lasts around thirty more minutes. It can take him up to an hour and a half to get to school, and transportation doesn’t travel until two hours before school.
“Travis, just sit on down and relax. You’re not extremely late, though other teachers are very tough on the whole tardy thing here.” Travis went into his small studio with his Macbook Pro 13. He sat down and looked around his studio before Mr. Manning had gotten their attention. “Alright, everyone, it’s been a total of two months since the semester of winter 2020 started. You guys have done extremely well as freshmen showing your talents in the various arts around the school, but now you must choose your major to work on for the rest of the semester. You guys only have till Friday, which is only three days from now, so choose wisely. Now finish your beginning assignments, and hopefully you already have a major in mind when I come around to see how your doing.”
When he was done talking, the students jumped back to what they were doing. Travis was drawing the picture of a dinosaur. The Velociraptor was finally finished so he pinned it on the one of the walls in his studio next to drawings of various things like aliens, robots, and superheroes like Spiderman, and Batman. Mr. Manning in his formal uniform was going by all the other students to intentionally talk to him last about his project.
Travis looks out the window near his studio for a second and sees someone holding a sign up. It read “Travis, I got Pizza Hut for us when class is over.” Travis giggles and gets back to working on his assignment when finally the teacher talks to him.
“Travis, how are you on the assignment?”
“Well, Mr. Manning, I have the drawings of things I like here on the wall. As for the portrait, I have the drawing right here on the desk.”
Mr. Manning looking down at the artwork was very impressed. “It all looks very good, Travis. So have you figured out what major you want to be in?”
Travis sat there and looked at his journal on the desk. “I don’t know yet, but I have a few ideas.”
Mr. Manning looked at his watch and class was officially over. “Alright, class, have a good afternoon. Travis, I’m glad you have at least an idea. Jim over there has no idea yet.” Travis looked over at Jim Craig in the corner of the room. “Travis, I’ve been wanting to talk to you about, well, you.”
“What seems to be the problem, Mr…”
“Call me David. Travis, have you seen yourself lately?” Travis knew he didn’t look too good, but he didn’t want to look good. He just felt that no one would actually like him even if he looked clean every day. He had some acne on his forehead, a unibrow that he keeps waxing constantly, and his clothes weren’t too good either.
“David, I know how I look. I just don’t really care I guess. I mean I care about my hygiene and all, but right now with my family and all…” Travis at the moment was dealing with the loss of a family member. His father had just died of cancer only a week ago right before his transportation problem began and the car broke down.
“I understand, Travis. I don’t want to keep Dexter waiting for you, so I’ll see you soon.” Travis had started walking out. “And Travis, please be careful; the neighborhood around the school is awful for students.”
Travis nodded and walked out of the classroom.
Travis exited the building to see his friend holding two pizza boxes.
“Hey, Travis.” Dexter Oliver is best friends with Travis and they’ve been that way since the fifth grade at a school known as William Southern at Independence, Missouri. They decided that they would go to the same schools or at least try to, and so far they did pretty well.
“Dexter, buddy, how's your day?”
“Well, it’s been OK. My teacher in my tech lab keeps telling me that I could do so much more, but all I want to do is make video games.”
“Well, Mr. Manning told me I might need to take care of myself better.”
“He’s right, Travis. I mean your clothes are awfully dirty right now.”
“I know, Dexter. I know.”
The two walked to the dorms and entered one of the first rooms in the building being Dexter’s room. He managed to live alone without a roommate. “You know, Travis, I’m surprised that you don’t just live with me here.”
“You know how much it costs to live here?”
“Right, but I could pay.”
“You’d have to give me the money, and though your parents are nice people, they don’t like handing out money like that.”
“True. What are you working on?”
“In class? In art I’m currently working on what majors I’m going to be in for the future.”
“Have any ideas?”
“Writing, filmmaking, figure drawing and that’s pretty much it.”
Dexter got up and walked towards the bathroom shaving off his mustache. “Well, Travis, I give the best of luck to you. Those are pretty good choices, however.”
“You’re not kidding.” Travis turned to the desk where the picture of when they first met sits. “Is this the picture...”
“Of when we first met? It sure the hell is.”
“What a great time, Dexter. I remember it like it was yesterday, we had the same class with Ms. Devins who was just the best teacher there. It was rainy outside so we didn’t have recess that day. You came up to me and asked if I wanted to play with legos and we built this huge tower full of dinosaurs and all sorts of crazy things.”
“Travis, I was there; I remember it just like that, too.”
“We’ve had so many crazy adventures. It’s hard to believe it’s been like eight years since.”
“It surprises me. Hey, you want a slice of this cheese already? It’s getting cold now.”
Travis took a few slices and Dexter put on the movie Jurassic Park. It was about thirty minutes in when there was a knock on the door. It was Principal Hoves. “Hey, Dexter, is Travis here? I’d like to speak with him in my office sometime within the next hour.”
“Yeah, he’s in here.”
Hoves walked in the room. Travis got up after eating another slice and said his goodbyes with Dexter before leaving the room with Hoves. “Travis, how is everything at school going?”
“Well, I’d say it’s going OK. Class lasts like five hours, and it all seems fine.”
“I heard about the loss of your father recently, and I just wanted to see how you were holding up.”
“To be honest, I’m just fine. My father was a great person, but I know how to get through life without dreading so much on the past.”
“Well, that’s great. I just wanted to know. Also before we get in the office I’d like to tell you that you’re not in trouble, but we have a few questions about a fellow student.”
“Sounds OK to me.”
The two entered the office on the third floor of the mansion and its grand staircase. His office was right above what used to be a ballroom but now is an auditorium for the hundreds of students that go there. “Have you seen this student before?”
Travis looked at the picture for a second. “Yes, but I don’t know his name or anything.”
“Did he ever talk to you about anything?”
“No, although he did bump into me in the halls.”
“Alright, now the last question before I get some other student. Did you notice anything strange about him?”
“I’ve only been around other people here for two months excluding my friend Dexter. Everything is pretty strange to me. Did you ask Dexter earlier or are you talking to him soon?”
“I spoke with him an hour before class ended for you. This student was found dead a couple blocks down and they’ve confirmed it’s a suicide.”
“I’m sorry to hear.”
“You know, Travis. I built this school ten years ago with the idea of making this place a safe environment; sometimes I wonder if that can’t be done.”
“My father told me once that no matter what there’s always going to be a tiny bit of darkness lurking around in plain sight.”
“That is a good saying. Your father must be proud wherever he is right now.”
“I’d hope so.”
“Alright, Travis, I guess I oughta let you go back and watch Jurassic Park.” With that, Travis left the office and went back to the dorms. The two finished Jurassic Park and Travis looked at his phone. “I guess I better call an Uber or something.”
“Yeah, it’s getting late, Travis. I’ve got an exam tomorrow, and though i’m ready for it, I need the rest.”
“No problem, Dexter.” The two did the bro hug. Dexter held out his hand while Travis went in for the hand shake. They shook hands and pulled themselves together for a small hug with light pats on the back. Travis waited outside when the Uber driver finally arrived.
When he finally arrived at home it was 8 PM and his mother left him a note. “Sorry that you may have to reheat this chicken, but I have work early tomorrow.” Travis grabbed the homemade fried chicken and heated it up. He ate it and went to bed, ending his normal everyday routine.
To be continued...
Preview of Chapter 1: What's Real?
On the other side of town, a man at his desk angry and dying walks to his car and barely manages to get into it. The rusty sedan drives off towards Kansas City, Missouri. Travis is walking towards school. He is crossing the street in the same dirty clothes as before and the rusty sedan is going at high speed about to hit Travis.