Welcome to Haven Hill High. Here at Haven Hill we strive to teach you the arts of lying, spying, and disobeying. Disobedience toward our school rules will not be tolerated.
The rules of HHH are as follows:
1. Disobeying the Authorities is required.
2. Any student who wishes to advance in this school are required to acquire stars for lying, spying, and disobeying, our three Pillars.
3. Teachers are the highest authority in this school. Workers are next. Servants are third. Students are the lowest. Students with the most stars are above students with less stars.
4. Students must behave as is expected of people of their cast in the school.
The punishments for the rules above are stated below. The number punishment is for the rule of the same number.
1. Obedient students toward the Authorities will be whipped or locked in the Chamber.
2. Students who come to the teachers to be Advanced without sufficient stats will be locked in the Chamber.
3. Those who go above or below their place will be chained to the wall or forced to chain another of the lower class to the wall.
4. Students who act above their place will be whipped or chained to the wall.
Welcome to Haven Hill High!
"Look, this is an interesting-looking club." Helen called me to the window of a nearby store. The store carried a strange air. It had a brick front with one wide window. Through the window was a small sign telling us about a club or whatever called "Haven Hill High." Maybe it was a book. Or it could be a video game... Getting stars? Absolutely video game material right there.
Helen and I — or rather, mostly Helen — had been looking for a club for me to go to since the beginning of summer. She wanted me to have a place to make friends and socialize, as I tended to just fade away from civilization during the time when I didn't have school. When I was in school, I could be really social in groups like the music kids or the loners who got forced to hang together for protection from the bullies and popular kids, and just the older kids in general, honestly.
I didn't totally hate the idea of a camp, but my stepmom and my dad didn't want me going to a music camp, like a rock camp. They preferred a crowd tamer than the one I usually went out with during the school year.
But really, Helen could have found a better camp than this one. Why would I go to a stupid camp based off some boring book about kids learning to lie? That just sounded dull.
"Okay, so what? You want me going somewhere and learning to lie? That's an interesting request. In fact, Dad would hate that one more than the last one I made," I pointed out. The camps I had wanted to go to at the beginning of summer break, Camp Linkin and the Camp of Rock, had been turned down by my dad.
My stepmom laughed at my response.
"Oh, Whish. I'm sure it's a joke. Why would there be a club teaching people to 'lie, spy, and disobey '? Besides, it doesn't even say what the Authorities are!" she added, like that would totally mean it was just a joke.
Maybe it was a joke, but I didn't want to hang out with a bunch of total weirdos who focused on things like interdimensional portals and time travel. Or just anything that involved keeping your nose stuck in a book all day long. Like, why would I want that?
I sighed. "Maybe their gods?" I've heard of gods of mayhem, I thought. I mean, Erra. Eris. Loki. Maybe they were Norse and they just loved Loki.
"And they would want to disobey their gods?" Helen scoffed jokingly.
Was she not going to leave this alone?
I shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. "Maybe they're gods of disobedience and disorder." When her face lit up like she was about to counter this argument, I went on, "This sounds really lame. Do you want me going to some camp for weird kids?"
She shot me The Look. "You are a weird kid, Whish. Anyways, I doubt they're that weird."
"Have you read about the kinda people that go to camps like that?"
She shook her head, rolling her eyes at me. "Whish, it could just be a camp for the loners. It's supposed to look attractive, and this works. I mean, maybe it's a camp for anybody."
"Whish, come on, it would be good for you to have more socializing, and you know it. Maybe it's a camp for pranksters like you! You can learn lots of new pranks!" She smiled at me widely. "I know you love pranking people."
"Yeah, people I know, Helen. And I don't learn new ones, I create new ones for myself."
"It'll be good for you. Stop being so negative!"
"Stop being so positive…" I grumbled.
She shook her head. "You should go to it."
"You need socialization, we've been looking for a camp for weeks, and besides, it's probably a joke, Whish! You have to stop being so negative about things," she sighed.
Maybe she's right. No, she couldn't be. I knew it already. But it could be good. I'd get a break from Helen, that'd be nice. I could also be away from Dad for a while. That was nice.
Helen saw the crack in my annoyed wall. She smiled. "Come on, hon, you should go, Whish. It would be good for you. You could spend time with kids your age!"
Don't, my inner voice shouted desperately. Too late. I had already seized the desire to get a break from my dad am stepmom. It would be so nice. "Fine." Besides, I wanted to keep the peace with my stepmom. We tended to butt heads a lot, so maybe this one little thing wouldn't be too bad. It would be such a minor thing. It probably was a joke anyway. I closed my eyes, trying to keep my grumpiness to myself.
"Look, here's an address you go to!" Helen announced, pointing to the bottom of the sign. "It says you go here and they drive you to your secret meeting place! Oh, this is so cute and funny," she laughed happily.
Ugh, she was so positive. I didn't like this right now. This whole plan was giving me a headache.
I nodded in a resigned way. It was too late to back out, she was already thrilled and I didn't want to deliberately upset her. "Okay. Let's do it. You tell Dad though. I won't."
That evening, at dinner, she asked him. Helen got right into it as soon as we sat down. "She'll be a wonderful liar" — with air quotes to show it was a joke — "and she can have lots of fun with kids her age." To make sure he understood, she added, "it's all a joke, really. Such a weird, funny camp, we just thought she ought to go! And she'll get lots of socialization."
Dad rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighing a little. I think Helen's energy got to him too sometimes. "I'll consider it." That was the best we could ever get the first time we asked him anything.
The next day, Helen bounced around anxiously waiting for his decision. Eventually, all her partly eager, partly nervous energy started to get to me and I had to go to my room to get away from it all.
The next few days passed in much the same way. Helen cleaned and rushed around to cope with all the energy buildup from her excitement about me going to this camp and making friends.
The tenth day of nervous waiting when Helen and I were truly tense and worried about his decision — I because I still wanted not to go, she because she hoped he would give his approval — he called a family meeting. Finally, we could get this over with.
"I have decided yes, she can go," were the first words Dad said. My heart sank. Helen, though, jumped straight out of her chair and wrapped us in a giant hug.
"I am so glad you get to go, Whish! This will be great," she smiled.
Great. Yeah, right. It will be great. This was going to be awful, I knew it already. At least Dad said the next words:
"But she won't have to go ever again if she doesn't like it. Is that fair?"
I nodded. This would be just fine then. I could just say I hated it.
"Also, Whish, you should know that this will be for one whole month. Do you want to go still?"
Helen fazed pleadingly at me over my father's shoulder. She wanted me to go, and make friends, and laugh. We wanted me to have… ugh, socializing opportunities.
"Fine. I don't care."
Dad nodded. "Then you leave on the 13th."
Oh, joy. I only had a week. It figured.
On Saturday, July 13, my stepmom drove me to the address on the sign. It was just an old, kinda rundown outhouse on the edge of the woods, but Helen continued looking and acting thrilled for me. She patted me on the shoulder when I got out.
"Just behave, please," Helen told me. "And have fun!" She laughed happily. That was the reason we didn't get alone well a lot of the time. She was always thinking of things as jokes or as funny when they weren't funny at all. This was the first time I was leaving home for more than a week without my parents. The very first time.
I was scared. I was very nervous. I also wondered whether the other kids would think I was weird or too young. The sign said kids from ages 11 to 18 were accepted, but I could guess that most of the other kids would be at least half a year older than me. I had just turned 11 a few weeks ago.
"See you in a month!" Helen said cheerfully. "Love you, darling." That was one of our jokes. She would say she loved me. She did, I suppose, but I didn't love her, so it was more of a way she teased me than a way she told me how she actually felt.
"Love ya too," I joked.
She chuckled. "Turning into a better liar already! The club won't be prepared for you," she teased me.
"Whatever," I replied like a surly teenager.
"Do you want me to wait with you?" she asked in a concerned, motherly voice I rarely heard.
"Nah, it's fine."
"You sure?" she probed. Of course she would use that nudging voice with me. She wanted to stay with me, to make sure I was alright. But she couldn't. I wouldn't let her stay.
"Go on, Helen," I told her quietly.
"Okay." She closed the car door and drove away.
I waited in front of the dilapidated outhouse, excited and nervous to go to the "Haven Hill High." Before long, a car had come driving down the road.
It honked and I jumped out of the way as it parked right where I had just been standing.
"Are you a Whish Patterson?" A woman now stepped out of the vehicle. Her hair was long and straighter than the hair of any woman I had seen before. She seemed to be made of all angles, no soft edges anywhere. Never in my eleven years had I seen such a boxy woman.
I nodded at her. "I'm Whish."
"Yeah. I am."
"Do you have an adult here anywhere?" She continued to interrogate me until she was totally certain who I was. "Okay. Get in the vehicle. I am going to check the area, and then we will leave for the school."
Wait.... School? I had thought this was just a funny club, helping kids to show off their inner humor and hilariousness. This didn't seem like a real school. Maybe I shouldn't have let Helen leave. I already had second thoughts about this.
It's only going to be a month. It's not like you have to ever go again after this first one. Come on, Whish. It will be just fine. Even as I thought it I was sure it was a lie, but I didn't want to worry myself, so I didn't acknowledge the truth.
The drive was long and exhausting. It seemed to take days of silent traveling to get to Haven Hill High. Finally we arrived. The sun was just sinking below the horizon.
I pulled my suitcase out from under my seat and watched out the window. The driver opened the door and I stepped out, staring at the tall, castle-like school. It had to be a boarding school, I realized. But why was it so big? Helen and I had assumed it would be more of a camp kind of place, but apparently not.
The sun cast orangish light on the bricks of the building and I stared at it. This was my new place. My home for the next month.
The woman with the straight hair led me inside. The walls inside were brick too. The floor shone like someone had just mopped. I saw no one who would have mopped though, so it must have been a while ago.
I licked my lips nervously. I had no clue what to expect. I had had no idea what this would actually be like. I had simply made assumptions. The assumptions I'd made were all proving to be incorrect. I now decided not to make assumptions. "Where are we going?" I demanded. It's strange how in the worst, weirdest situations one can find the courage inside to just demand something of someone they've never met -- or even seen before.
"Your dorm," the woman answered immediately. "Since you'll be here for a while, you ought to have a place to stay." She stared at me in the most demeaning was possible. "And because you are new, I will forgive our disrespectful demanding of me. However, do not expect any of the other students or teachers to do the same. I am sure you read the sign?" She watches me expectantly.
"Of course," I replied. Duh. I rolled my eyes at her back when she was facing away.
"Do that again and you will find yourself with a much darker cheek than you have right now," she said without even looking at me. I didn't have to ask her what she was talking about. I had read the sign, so I could assume that she would do something like hit me or something. She and her fellow teachers whipped students, according to the sign. I didn't believe it before, but now... I didn't know what to believe about this place. Better to assume the worst, I thought. I nodded at her back. "Better," the woman said.
"Now, this is the Main Hall," she told me. The dark walls seemed all the gloomier as she told me how long it was. "It is a 1000-foot long hallway down which carriages used to ride, before this became a fortress. It was not even a school in those days. The horses who died on the travels through here were left to rot. The decaying was done by the time we arrived, of course. But the bones were left and I remember when we ground them to put into the walls." She smiled in a creepy way, like she relished the memory. I knew then that I would not be able to sleep that night. "It still smelled when we came, though. Disgusting, this place was.
"Then this hall" -- she gestured to the walls of the hallway we entered when we turned right -- "is called the Fulter Hall. Germans were the ones who named the hill we're behind 'Folterhügel', but I don't tell anyone what that means!" She laughed viciously. "Your classmates and you will have your classes on this hall.
"That classroom is your first one, and you will head there as soon as you awake tomorrow. You will receive a map of the school, and the parts to which you may not go will be colored over so that you may not see how to go around them. Do you understand?" I nodded. "Good. There will also be a list of teachers' names. The first teacher who will oversee the handing-out of the maps is to be called Mr. Grunhill. He is one of the highest ranking teachers here, and he reports directly to the Headmaster if you do anything against our set of rules, which were on the noticeboard which you read."
I nodded silently.
"Finally, this is your dorm."
We'd arrived a door made of a very dark wood. A brass plaque labelled the room as The Elston Dorm.
That's an interesting name, I observed, but I didn't say anything aloud. I didn't want to be hit again. Once was enough.
"You have four roommates." She rapped on the door, the plaque rattling angrily.
A petite blond girl with vibrantly green eyes opened it. "Commander Gracie," she muttered meekly.
The woman shoved me toward the girl. Her disgust was evident. "Your new roommate." She yanked my arm so hard I had to twist around. "Classes start tomorrow. Don't you dare be late."
I should not have let Helen convince me to do this. I knew it already, and I hadn't even been here twenty-four hours. I followed my new roommate into the dorm.
Contrary to what I expected, the room was rather nice. There was a tiny kitchenette with a small fridge and an even smaller stove. The counter had bar stools too. An opening in the wall opened into a living room with two comfy looking armchairs and a loveseat. A door from the living room was open and went to the bathroom, and the second door in the living room was closed, probably going to the bedroom.
I considered questioning my roommate, but she had likely been there about as long as I had, so there was no point questioning her.
She began to talk though, right as I had resolved to not ask any questions.
"My name's Evve. With two v's. You can't forget the two v's." She stared at me to make sure I understood.
I nodded, but… Eve with two v's? I had to admit that she knew how to get people interested in her name. Why in the world would her parents give her name a second v? It seemed like a very annoying thing to do to your child.
"Anyway, you need to know a few things if you are to survive here. One, we don't contradict the teachers. We get into a lot of trouble of we do and sometimes we disappear and never come back, depending on the severity of the contradiction we make.
"Two, most students won't be nearly as nice as I am being to you. Some will be downright awful. They can't make you disappear, but you will get into a lot of trouble — the most severe a whipping, 50 lashes — if you do it in public. That is, in front of the teachers. You can not do anything like that." This is where I started to interrupt. She shushed me, smacking me lightly on the arm.
"Shut up! You have to know this," she whispered urgently. "You're the first newbie I've helped, but you need to know this.
"Three, you cannot leave class until you are told to. That's not on the bulletin board you saw, but it's true. You cannot leave class until the teacher says you specifically are dismissed.
"Four, our roommates won't be nice to you. Almo has been here longer than the rest of us — six years! — and she has no reason to show any kindness to you.
"Five, you have to get stars as fast and as soon as you can. That means, obey the Headmaster and get a mission as fast as you can. If you get an important one, you might be able to get three stars."
"I just have one question," I said when she finished.
"How long will I be here? You said... Almo? — has been here six years. I won't be here that long right?"
She frowned. "You won't be here just that long. You'll be here much, much longer."
My heart pounded and I felt my stomach drop to my toes.
She nodded. "Much, much, much, much longer."
How did I agree to this?