In Our Image – Volume 4 Chapter 2

The sun beat through the open windows in shaky beams of heat, raising the temperature of the classroom well above that which a human could be reasonably expected to endure. For some reason, I had steeped myself in the delusion that, in the midst of a literal heatwave, the school’s air conditioning would kick in and prevent its students from weathering the fires of hell.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

All around the classroom, students took whatever measures necessary to lessen the intensity of the heat–procuring tiny fans from their backpacks, buying drinks from the vending machine in the entryway and holding them to their faces and necks for the short amount of time it took for them to rise to room temperature, even risking later exhaustion and fanning themselves with notebooks–although none of these practices proved very useful in the long run.

Even with the many different methods my classmates employed to stave off an impending heat stroke, the entire situation was pretty horrible. In the end, I firmly believe the only reason we were able to stand it was that it was the last day of school before summer break and, by the good grace of the higher-ups, we were pretty much allowed to do whatever we wanted.

One more day, and then we were out. That promise kept us moving forward, even in the face of such an overwhelming obstacle as early-summer heat.

I had taken small steps to stay comfortable, unbuttoning my shirt at least as far as the dress code would permit, spreading my legs and arms out, laying my face down on the warm surface of my desk, and moving as little as possible. The results were negligible, but I wasn’t about to move and risk wasting the little amount of comfort I had managed to earn for myself.

To my left, my friends had adopted their own methods of beating the heat. Miller was leaning back in his seat, arms crossed over his chest and eyes closed, taking slow, deep breaths in through his nose and letting large puffs escape from his mouth in a steady rhythm. I wondered if he was meditating, trying to perfect his visualization capabilities and make his body believe he was sitting in the frozen tundra, rather than a roasting classroom, but I didn’t ask–too much trouble.

Asher and Ayame had also done what they could–although in comparison to the rest of the class, they were pretty scarce on theatrics. Ayame had tied her hair back in a loose ponytail and pushed her bangs to the side, while Asher had simply unbuttoned the top two buttons on his shirt, taking small sips from an insulated water bottle every few minutes.

Their general lack of reaction to the heat was amazing enough, but what got to me even more was the fact that, rather than complain about the temperature and collapse into lethargy, they were actually [i]doing[/i] something. Shifting to the empty seat in front of Asher, Ayame had turned around, pulled a book out of her bag, and began to flip through it, discussing in hushed tones what seemed to be very important–and classified–information.

Of course, it’s not like I shouldn’t have expected them to do so. After our confrontation with Leonard, the two of them had gone about as deep as possible into researching everything they could find concerning the supernatural. Every once in awhile, they would come to me with a short briefing on what they’d discovered, giving me complex blurbs on subjects ranging from recorded cases of possession to the ghost mythology of a small Germanic tribe in ancient Europe.

Other than that, however, they mostly kept to themselves when it came to the supernatural spiels, which I felt was probably for the best. While I was definitely interested in learning more about what was going on around us, it was really draining to devote so much time to thinking about and studying it, and I figured I’d better leave it to the professionals.

Although I hadn’t been able to muster up enough energy to ask Miller what he was trying to do with his sudden shift into a meditative state, I decided to make a special exception. Actual, dedicated movement and activity at a time like this was simply [i]too[/i] out of this world to not comment on.

“How are you two even able to move right now?” I asked, my words melting together in the intense heat. “It has to be at least a hundred degrees right now.”

They stopped in mid-sentence, looked at each other briefly, and turned towards me. Ayame gave me what I took as a sympathetic smile, while Asher just shrugged.

‘It’s not actually [i]that[/i] hot,” he said, resting his arm on the back of his chair. “If you don’t think about it too much, it’s pretty bearable.”

My mouth opened, my jaw hitting the surface of the table.

“[i]Bearable[/i]?” I waited a moment for him to respond–he didn’t–before shaking my head, taking his attitude as a fluke, a probable glitch in the workings of the universe. Instead of wasting my time trying to understand it, I turned to Ayame, eyeing her long hair, dark as a raven. “What about you, Ayame? How are you able to stand it?”

“Hmm.” She thought for a moment, before giving me a shrug only a tad less noncommittal than Asher’s. “I’m not sure. I do spend a lot of time outside during the summer. Maybe that has something to do with it?”

Although I appreciated her attempt a concrete reason for her inhuman resistance, I still wasn’t able to wrap my mind around it. It was so hot, how could anyone function normally?

In most cases, I would have continued my line of questioning, attempting to dig deeper into the mystery that is repeated productivity, but in the end I couldn’t manage it, instead sinking lower into my chair and following in Miller’s footsteps. Closing my eyes, I breathed deeply, trying to think about anything but the heat.

I’m not entirely sure how long I spent in my suspended state but, considering that when I came out of it the school day wasn’t yet over, it wasn’t enough.

In fact, the only reason I opened my eyes at all was because of a sudden shade caused by a figure standing in between me and the sun. Surprised, I looked up at my angel, ready to sing their praises.

She was a girl, maybe a year or two younger than us, short, with wavy strands of auburn hair tied in a lazy knot. I couldn’t see her face, as she was facing Asher and Ayame but, after all she had done for me, I imagined it was beautiful.

“Hey, Asher,” she said. Her voice was quiet, but naturally carried a commanding tone. I listened closer. “Are you ready to head to the club meeting?”

“Oh, yeah,” Asher said, his voice muffled by the figure standing between us. “Just give me a second.”

After a few seconds of shuffling around, he stood next to the girl, and I got my first glimpse of her face. it was slightly rounded, with a smattering of freckles across her nose and just below her bright green eyes. I couldn’t help but think my original imaginings may have set the bar a little too low.

“Alright, I’ve got to to go,” Asher said, looking away from the girl and at us. “I’ll see you guys later today.”

All of us–even Miller, eyes still closed–sent him off, and he disappeared through the classroom door a moment later. I noticed, with a brief sense of amusement, that a few of the guys in class were eyeing him suspiciously as he did so, probably wondering why the cute girl had come to get [i]him[/i], something that only became funnier when I thought of [i]why[/i] she had collected him.

From their conversation, it was clear that Asher’s club, in light of the free day at school, had decided to hold a meeting. And for that, of course, they would need their president.

Okay, I guess I need to explain a little bit about Asher’s club, for you to get the full hilarity of the situation.

Back when we first entered high school, Asher performed his first (and probably last) act of school involvement. Gathering up a few other students from multiple grades, he got enough people to officially form a new club, and set it up within the first week. Thus, the Cloud Watching club was born.

But, that’s not the funniest part. For some reason that I don’t think anyone can pinpoint, Asher’s club became [i]extremely[/i] popular within his first year, amassing over seventy members by the last day, and continued to grow–by our junior year, it had over one hundred and thirty-five registered members.

And that’s not to mention the people that crash the meetings.

So I’m sure that, after hearing all of that, you’ll understand why the surprise, and even envy, of some of the guys in my class made me laugh.

After Asher left, the three of us sat in silence for a while, Miller continuing to sink deeper into purifying nothingness, Ayame flipping absent-mindedly through her book. Meanwhile, I continued to chuckle to myself.

Then, I had an idea.

“Whoa, guys, you know what we should do?” I asked, sitting up suddenly, facing the heat of the sun head-on.

Neither of them said anything, but I did grab their attention, Ayame looking away from her book and Miller cracking an eye open. I continued hurriedly.

“We should crash Asher’s club meeting,” I said, already smiling at the prospect. “See what actually goes on at them.”

“I’m pretty sure they watch clouds,” Miller said, closing his eyes once again. “That’s kind of their thing, you know.”

“Well, obviously,” I said, rolling my eyes in his direction and eliciting a small chuckle from Ayame. “But there’s no way that’s [i]all [/i]they do. Come on, you can’t tell me you’ve never been curious about just why the club is so popular.”

“It’s probably just that people like to watch clouds,” Ayame said. “It’s pretty relaxing, after all.”

“Sure, sure.” I waved my hand. “Wouldn’t it be interesting to see it firsthand, though? Besides, it beats sitting around here, doesn’t it?”

Ayame considered for a moment, before nodding. “I’m not against the idea. If you want to go, I’ll come with you.”

[i]Yes[/i]. Underneath my desk, I clenched my fist in victory. One down, one to go.

“What about you, Miller?”

“Hmmm?” He opened his eyes, just an inch. I leaned forward.

“Do you want to go to Asher’s club meeting?”

“Oh,” he said, and then shrugged. “Whatever. It’s better than sitting around here, I guess.”

I felt a surge of happiness, large enough to make to forgive the fact that Miller had repeated my earlier question near-verbatim, and I stood up.

“Well then, let’s head out!”

Within a few minutes, we had gathered up our belongings and, leading my friends, I was out the door, walking briskly through the warm, stuffy halls in the direction I had seen the girl lead Asher.

The school day, up until that point, had been pretty boring but, despite the slow start, I couldn’t help but think that this was going to be a fun last day of school. With that thought ringing in my head, we exited the school building, and I glanced up at the thin clouds hanging over us, shielding my eyes from the sun, and smiled.

Table of Contents

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