Addison woke up the next day, showered, dressed and walked to school. The sidewalk was moving like a conveyor belt. Addison stood perfectly still with every intention of getting to school on time.
He woke up on the ground, slightly dirty and slightly confused, but with no time to spare. He checked his watch: second period had just begun and he had missed all of first. Though he didn’t particularly enjoy his education, he did recognize its importance, and good academic standing was very important to him. He began to run so as not to miss any more school than was absolutely necessary.
Addison arrived halfway through Chemistry, exhausted and dizzy. He apologized for his tardiness and sat in his usual seat, catching his breath, and not at all prepared to take in anything. Luckily, Mr. Selby appeared to have finished the note for the day and was moving on to a lab activity for the rest of the period.
“As I mentioned yesterday, I’m sure you’ll all recall, today we’ll be continuing our work on Bunsen burner safety. So, everyone get into partners. Same groups as yesterday!”
Because of an odd number of students in the class, Addison worked alone. He loathed working with others, and the rest of the class were more than willing to accommodate him. He set up his station as quickly as he could and lit the Bunsen burner with an atypical eagerness. When the flame appeared at the tip of his match, he adored it for a few seconds before allowing it to intersect with the gas that emitted from the tip of the Bunsen burner. He stood there, watching the fire dance majestically atop the longish metal tube. Even with no breeze it moved so beautifully, with an inhuman grace. He wanted to touch it, to possess it. He opened his palm and stretched his fingers out slowly. He put two of his fingers directly into the flame, and then tilted his hand to accommodate all four. The pain was intense, and it took the edge off the gnawing inside his stomach. His physical pain subsided; the world went away. Addison closed his eyes and titled his head back, as if experiencing some kind of ecstasy.
Mr. Selby bellowed from across the room and Addison was quickly ripped out of his fantasy and dropped back into the reality of the classroom. He quickly removed his hand from the flame as he realized that the entire class was staring at him. Addison had lost the privilege to partake in the experiment. He sat down in his desk, put his head down and began to fly away.
Addison awoke with a start when Mr. Selby tapped him on the shoulder. Class was over.
“Addison. Are you feeling all right?”
“Yeah… yeah,” he managed to say. “I’m okay.”
“I feel fine,” he said under his breath, feigning alertness purely for Mr. Selby’s satisfaction. He didn’t want to be dependent on him any more than food. He slowly stood up, grasping the desk for support and walked out of the room.
Addison headed for the nurse’s office. He knew that there was a couch there and he desperately needed to lie down. He knew that the nurse might have some questions for him, but he’d take the risk for the chance to rest for a while. It was just a little further down the hall. His stomach growled, the sound of his insides eating themselves. If Addison could stop his body’s natural survival mechanisms, he would. He marched on, almost there, his arms out in a feeble attempt to balance himself. The world went black as he fell, then stood back up with surprising ease and began to float his way to the couch. He felt a newfound energy. He could suddenly move with the kind of grace that he had admired so much in the flame. Since it was lunch-hour anyway, he decided to go home to sleep. He floated out of the front doors of the school and headed towards his bed.