Cult Illustration #9, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

     This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.





High school ESE, (Exceptional Student Education) Or as Ms. X surmised, Especially Special Evolution. Crack Babies, Battered Babies, Witness to Murder Babies, when they turned teen. Whatever is wrong with everyone else, it is exaggerated with these young people, in a shameless, childlike way. Eight kids. Seven males, one female. Career Planning class for these special kids. A Para-Pro to help, or should one admit, be the level headed adult that calls the police when the other adult is embroiled in a physical fireball of spit and rage and limbs a flying? An adult to procure emergency assistance when things go awry, which they will.


Ms. X thought the Para Pro her ally. Her soft faded jeans with holes at the knees, and leather fringed jacket made the woman an outsider even before one got to reading her buttons and other decorations. Old peace signs from the 1960's and love logos. They were close in age and had become friendly over the months. At some point, the tiny woman cocked her white blond bouffant towards Ms. X and spoke of her recent divorce from a violent man, a local police officer who was using his influence to smear her reputaion in the school system. Worse yet, he was working on their angry teenaged son, causing him to hate her too. Ms. X listened sympathetically whenever they were together, however, there wouldn't be time for that sort of thing in this sort of class room.


“Danger, that’s anger without the “d” and that’s me,” says Duane.


Ipod earphones pounding loud the raps that Ms. X can hear across the room, and teens hear directly in their ears, damaging the delicate inner-ear hair cells, one by one, second by second, slowly making them deaf. But these wires and ear phones and computer slivers that fit in their pockets are their imaginations. Without them, they would be completely empty and rhythmless. Ms. X had to wonder what would feed their minds once their hearing was completely destroyed. Weren’t ears the most evolutionary important sense for developing mammals? We could hear before we could see, she had read that somewhere or heard it on the radio. It had been essential for survival, she thought, envisioning a hairy woman in a dark cave listening for the breath of a bear. What else had they said? Something about sound as a means for human interaction, for meaningful communication. Yet the mind-numbing affect of the loud methodical beat seemed to calm them. A surrogate heart beat. A connection to something bigger than themselves, the ipod as the moral axis of the universe.


And here in this room, the acolytes are like a seething mass of poisonous snakes, too many of them quarantined in a clear-paned box. Their arms like wriggling snakish bodies are covered in tattoos, colorful, freshly inked images of M.O.B. and MOM. And one is dedicated to his Grandmother and one each for his girlfriends, and one for his daughter. Ms. X is surprised at the outpouring of reverence for the feminine.


Candy. Given out every period and now that there are 7 periods, seven doses of sugar. Does this help? Ms. X is tangled in the tangled air that they all breathe. Her mind wanders to the thought of alligator scales, given as little rewards by the Guru’s wife. She had been gifted with a tanned alligator hide, the bumpy part on the back. Ms. X didn’t know exactly who gave it to her. She had so many dealings with so many people because she was always trying to fix things. The wife decided to cut the hide into individual scales and give these out as prizes to those who faithfully read her weekly column. It was announced to happen at the next ritual workshop, that those who read the post would receive a surprise! On the day of the workshop, the pieces of alligator hide were displayed for members to collect, but no one took them. Ms. X wondered, at the time, how everyone was so eager to take so much between the blood and the sacred objects and the free food, but they all refused to take the alligator scales. Maybe they didn’t know they were free. Or maybe, they didn’t read the column.


There was someting about this small class, this gaggle of ESE beings that couldn't focus and couldn't think. It reminded her of the eager novices who beamed at the wife, surrounding her and waiting for cues. The Foundation's workshops were expensive but they promised to immerse the soul in ritual cleansing and new opportunities. Everyone was special and everyone had such a burning, apocalyptic need to be free.


The Para Pro offered Ms. X a sugar pop but she declined. Soon all seven boys, one girl, and the Para Pro were sucking on pops, a stick protruding from their mouths, their lips slick with saliva sugar, turning bright orange, red, and blue. The kids’ heads were bobbing to the pounding noise in their budded ears. Several of the boys rapped along loudly, the pops lolling in their mouths as they spouted the lecherous prose. One kid, who read the assignment on the board, bends his bobbing head into his book, and scribbles wildly. The others frantic, up, out of their seats, jab the air, gyrating across the room. A sugar pop flies past Ms. X’s head, but no one notices. The Para Pro, a genuinely caring woman, explains to Ms. X that these kids really have no prospects for a career after high school and, therefore, will enter “the service”. They will carry guns. They will be recipients of a good rigorous training that will make them into good conscientious men.


“Isn’t that the way it’s designed?” asks Ms. X quietly but the Para Pro doesn’t get it. And there’s no time to ponder it.


Duane has been talking ghetto since he entered the room, now 10 minutes later he is still rapping about his dangerous anger, the stupid work the sub will ask him to do, and all the logical reasons he is exempt from doing anything, being the special person that he is. Standing there, he appears stout, and fleshy with olive colored skin, not exactly a white kid. He wears long stove pipe shorts that reach to his ankles so that he looks like a cartoon character with jeans that are too short. Ms. X avoids him while the Para Pro using her new found authority, attempts to reason with this wayward son. All of the really dangerous fellows have been weeded out by now, thought Ms. X, watching Duane sparring with the Para Pro. Public school will allow only so much before they eject to prison or the world or “the service” the anonymous ones who cannot be molded with simple, repetitive boredom.


After 15 minutes Ms. X and the Para Pro get all the boys and one girl settled into their seats all at the same time and there is a small space of quiet where Ms. X explains that in the next half hour they are to write five words on a sheet of paper and define them. The words are personality, ability, aptitude, learning style, and skill. Their definitions can be found on page 40 in their Career Prep books. The Para Pro takes one of the boys into a glass windowed office that is shared with another room next door so that there is a clear view between both. This boy will receive her private help. Meanwhile, three of the other boys are up, out of their seats, playing with an enormous paper cutter on the counter. Quickly, the blade is lifted and another boy lays his arm beneath it on the cutting block. The third pantomimes a swift plummet of the lever. Ms. X shouts for the first time, “No!” and leaps across the room shooing them away, “I will not allow you to play with this,” she hisses, her voice now under control. The boys cluster around her, rapping. Ms. X turns the cutter so the blade is up against the wall as she ponders why such a tool, or weapon in this context, is foolishly, thoughtlessly placed at their disposal. The Para Pro emerges from her glass office to see what the hub bub is about. The boys have since dispersed, not able to work collectively, even on a rap for more than 3 seconds.


Visions of dismemberment taunted Ms. X, though she hadn’t been to a ritual killing in years. For some time after her expulsion, she would project herself astrally into the Foundation's sacred gardens on the days that she knew ceremonies were taking place. She would will herself to be there, present, benefitting from the power of the sacrifice. She was able to do this, she thought, because some of her large rocks were still there on the gardens. She had beautiful pieces at the altar to the Ancestors and several hand made fetishes embedded in the shrine to the energy of opportunity. She could see what was going on so clearly – having been there as a disembodied spirit for so many rituals – existing on the potency of the energies in an alternate dimension or reality. It was more real than anything else she had experienced in life, on par, she mused with giving birth to a child. It was real because the energy of death carried her away as brilliantly as the vigor of birth centered her in the present. If you were outside of it, you could not know how it really worked.
Well, that was the way it had been, the way she had felt about it when it was so beautiful, but the years had passed and she could look at it now the way she looked at public education. It was mind control, even if the controllers didn't know that it was!


Ms. X asks the Para Pro about the attendance in this Especially Evolved situation where the individuals in question are not trusted to run the roster to the office. The woman says she will do the honors, (normally the teacher takes roll on the computer, but like the keys to the rooms, the computers do not fall into the realm of sub trustables). Before she leaves, the Para Pro ceremoniously proffers the seven boys and one girl her cupped hands filled with more sugar pops, a gift showing her rank and beneficence on this dawning new day where she will be the adult-truly-in-charge. This takes about 10 minutes.


When she swishes out the door, Duane who has been unable to sit, starts dancing in front of the clear-windowed office, the buffer between the adjacent room where cooking class is in full swing. Over there, the normally evolved humans anxiously await the products of their “Independent Cooking Class”. Counting the seconds before the ding of the microwave heralds the birth of greasy pastries assembled with pre-packaged dough, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. The students salivate. Duane is creating sign language, gesticulating wildly with his hands, and forms words with his exaggerated lips like an ape making faces in a mirror. It is a pantomime for himself, performed for himself and perhaps for Ms. X. He catches the attention of several kids, who turn from the glow of their microwave ovens to stare at him dumbly. Soon the entire cooking class, including the teacher, are frozen, watching, waiting. Duane swings his arms about without hesitation, a juggernaut, forming incoherent symbols. He’s not aware that the normal kids find him ridicules, if not irritating. Ms. X takes a stand between him and the glass window, blocking their view and asks Duane to sit down. He stops his dance and stands very close to Ms. X, his face level with hers, and closer. Ms. X looks into his large, round gray eyes. They look to her like the eyes of a small boy, clear, but threatening. Ms. X tells him with her eyes and her mind, I am not afraid of you! and she tells him with real words to sit down.


She wasn't at all afraid of him, a skill she learned working with the Foundation. She massaged a number of murderers, unbeknownst, until it came out nose to nose, one set of eyes drilling down into the other, until there was no use for hiding it, not if you came for a healing. Killers. Hit men, soldiers, police officers, ex-convicts. They needed magic to soothe their souls. They were weaker then Duane, knowing the horrors of ghosts and sleepless nights with dreams of monsters pursuing their sickly bodies. They knew Ms. X was thick with sacrifice and therefore untouchable. The wrath of her gods and witches were far more terrible than their current maladies. She was impervious to their thinking, though, she was wrapt in her own furor, and perhaps that is what made her so powerful. Or maybe she was just like that. Maybe she had always been like that, but she could not believe in her own power as it naturally was, and needed some explanation and justification before carrying it into her physical life.


This was the piece that really bothered Duane, the I am not afraid of you part. As the Para Pro re-entered the room, back from the attendance run, Duane began Act 2 without pause.


“No Substitute is going to piss me off! I’m fucking mad now! I’m not gonna take this shit! No Ass-Woman Substitute tells me not to talk to my own cousin over there!” and here he jumps and points through the clear windows. “She says I was trying to talk to some girl! Lying Substitute is all she is. She doesn’t even know my cousin!”


“What?” soothed the Para Pro, “Duane what is wrong, what happened?”
“The Substitute is disrespecting me! Lying about me!”
After several minutes of coddling the Para Pro takes leave of her little man and moves across the room to where Ms. X has retreated, and gives an enquiring glance.
“Don’t give him attention,” whispers Ms. X, “It’s all make believe. . .”
“Now she’s fuckin mumbling! Fuckin Lying Sub!”
“I think we should send him to the dean,” mutters Ms. X, as she fingers the papers on the desk for the half sheet form which the absent teacher has already signed in anticipation of such a scenario. Reluctantly, the Para Pro agrees, for she still holds out faith in the efficacy of her own healing charms.
“Do you want to take him?” Ms. X asks, understanding the woman’s cloying need to be in control.
“So, now you’re sending me to the dean? Good! Stupid Sub. Lying Sub!”
“Stop Duane!” shouts another student, a tall black boy who decided early on that Ms. X was okay.
“Cool it Man, cool it,” calls out another.


Ms. X studied the form, wondering where to start the story.
“What do I write?” She quietly asks the Para Pro, wanting some form of support if only a key word, but the woman is so engrossed in a reasoning game with her new charge, there is no answer.
Befuddled Ms. X fills out the REASON blank slowly pausing between each word to think about how exactly to spell it: Refusal. To. Do. Work. Shouting. Obscenities. Threatening. Behavior. She held out the paper and the Para Pro took it but Duane snatches it like a praying mantis from her hand.
“Liar! I did my work! You saw me! I did my work! You can’t say I didn’t do my work!”
The bell rang.


Ms. X watched as the seven raced out the door and then the Para Pro with Duanne, engaged in an animated debate, almost clinging to one another, left the room. Feeling old, she sat down to record the happenings for the teacher.
Lunch time, she thought. A reprieve, yet she wondered if the Para Pro and Duane would ever make it to the dean. Duane was scheduled to be back in class after lunch and that would not be desirable at this point. Ms. X was feeling undone. Trembly. A little disconnected. She dispatched into the hall. Kids were still gliding about or schlepping slowly, in the 7 minute break, a maze wall of bodies that one dipped between like a pin ball in a machine trying to find a way to a destination. But one had to be sharp and focused to travel this way, the alternative was to become a piece of soft drift wood. Amid the gyrating bodies and floating dead wood, she catches glimpse of the Para Pro and Duane, up against the wall, turned toward Ms. X, masked by other bodies. Propelled, not by her own volition, Ms. X came swerving up to the wall close to them. She locked eyes with Duane as she glided. Closer. Closer.


“Where? Where?” said the Para Pro looking past Ms. X down the hall, “I don’t see her”. Now Ms. X was just in front of them, even with them, close enough to touch both of them, passing them, and Duane was looking not at Ms. X anymore as she passed, but down the hall in the direction that the Para Pro was gazing. He looked like a frightened fawn, frozen, waiting for the danger to pass. Ms. X knew they were discussing her, then she heard the Para Pro say, “I don’t want you to confront her anymore”. As she over took them she looked back to see them comically searching in the opposite direction. Psychopath, thought Ms. X, he is making her feel so special. She went to the Teacher’s Lounge and sat for a few minutes. After the halls were clear she went to the Dean’s office to find the two but they were not there. She went back to the lounge and ate her lunch.


Later, the sub would learn that the Para Pro sent Duane to automotive class for a while to keep them separated. She explained that it was for Ms. X’s safety that these measures had been taken.


The following day, Ms. X was called to sub in ESE Science. She hesitated but the thought of the money to pay her bills drove her to accept it. 1st Period. In walks Duane but the moment he sees Ms. X he says,


“Oh shit, she’s gonna send me to the dean! I don’t want her to piss me off again! Fuck, I’m leaving.”
He stomps out of the room.


The new Para Pro is an elderly woman, petite, with an aged face that was once quite cute, a classic American beauty twisted by a difficult life, rough men, and too little money. Her eyes were frightened and watery, her mouth in a permanent grimace, her thick blond streaked hair neatly plaited down her back in a girlish style. She wore shiny gold and silver rings, tight jeans, and blue eye shadow. But her voice was husky and life worn as she called out for the kids to log onto the computers. A tall girl, the same one in yesterday’s class, called back,

“I don take n'orders from som’on dos’n wear a bra.”

Ms. X, curious, studied the Para Pro's chest and indeed her tee shirt clad bosom was unfettered and slightly sagging, but did not seem utterly intolerable from a certain point of view, as she thought about how uncomfortable bras can be in the hot sweaty Florida weather. The sub imagined the petit, slim woman having pert little tits when young, an American beauty, in the habit of going braless and once upon a time she was whistled for it.
One of the white boys, the one with colorful tattoos snaking up his arms, hidden under his short sleeves, but climbing out of his collar and up the side of his neck, talks about going to Iraq. Another pipes up beside him, a sweet looking kid with moles on his face. The tattooed one can’t wait to go to Iraq and kill people. "They bombed New York," he says. The sweet kid says that if he joins, he will be helping Iraqis, “like take them to the hospital the way the recruiter did when he was in Iraq, take them to the hospital and save their life.”


Ten minutes later, Duane was back from wherever he had gone, rapping that he did not want the sub to piss him off and Ms. X considered him. If looking into his eyes and showing him that she was not afraid could be so powerful, why not look at him and tell him that he was a precious human being? So, with genuine feeling the sub approached him and looked him in the eyes while thinking love.


“So, Duane, what are you going to do?”


He looked back at her like an animal that reads movements, and he read her face, her eyes, her posture and acknowledged what he saw. They collaborated. Yesterday’s Para Pro might say, they bonded. Duane might say, I won. Ms. X saw it as a different type of triumph. For her, it had something to do with total detachment.

“I’m gonna sit here and do nothing cause I don’t feel good.”
“If you don’t feel good,” said the Para Pro, “then go to the nurse.”
Ms. X knew that he was fine and she watched him respond to this suggestion.
“No. I’m gonna just sit here,” he said looking at Ms. X, “When my mom is on the road I don’t do well. My stomach hurts.”
Duane would never speak disrespectfully to Ms. X again, because she resolved to evade all violent ESE classrooms, not that it improved anything, really. There were so many others like him, unlabeled and stealthily cruel.
“Hi Duane,” she would say as she spied him in the hall.
He would look at her with his large round clear gray eyes and flick one of his hand signals.









© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved