Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered chapters time span evennts: 1,3,5, etc.)
It is Friday morning, the day after Greg’s disappearance. The television in the hangout blurs in the hangout. Something about Avian influenza that caused two deaths in England is being broadcast. I am bewildered about the fact as to how the Avian flu has its origin in Hong Kong but had spread rapidly toward the West: The Middle East, Italy, Frans, and England. Even parts of North Africa have been affected, and case there has been detected as well.
Gradually the sound of the television fades as the voices in the hostel hallway amplify. It appears as if it is the voices of teachers. Some of the seniors gather in small groups in the hallway.
“What the heck is going on?” I ask one of the guys that are in reach.
“Gregory has not yet returned,” he said.
“Mr Steward, along with a couple of other teachers are in his room.”
“Sorry guys,” I say as I forcefully try to get through the crowd that has gathered in the hallway, trying to make my way to Gregory’s room. At that moment, Mr Dali Freedman, the hostel administrator and a few teachers came barging out the door. They make sure to close the door of the dorm room behind them.
“Gentlemen,” said Mr Stanford, the maths. “Would you be so kind as to follow me to the hangout? We need to talk.”
Like a bundle of sheep, we follow him eagerly. Questions are being thrown around in whispers amongst the guys. There is a feeling of excitement in the air, something happened, almost close enough for us to turn the day around.
But somehow, the feeling of excitement is not apparent to me. I feel like it has a dark side. Something like fear.
Someone in the hangout switches off the TV. Mr Stanford had to silence us first before Mr Steward could speak. “We need to start combing the school grounds,” he said. He rolls the sleeves of his suit up. “We will divide into groups. The teacher, here will take you to the areas we want you to go and search.”
“What are we looking for, sir,” someone asks.
The response is most likely obvious, but perhaps not.
“Will be searching for Gregory Stevens. Or anything that might look out of the ordinary. Anything that may lay around. Clothing for example.”
There is a moment of silence. Then suddenly Steward add: “Dr Paterson is not in the office today, but I will try to keep him posted about what is going on here. As per his request, the rest of the school will operate as per usual. I request that you do not speak to the other students about this, do you guys hear me? I am counting on your integrity, gentlemen.”
Mr Stanford whispers something in Mr Steward’s ear. Mr Steward nods. “Another thing. Do not mention this to your parents. Well, at least not yet. We want to be certain of any declaration about what has happened for sure. Keep in mind that Blackwood International College is a school with a proud reputation. We cannot afford for it to suffer just for the mere fact that the one or the other…”
Mr Stanford places his hand on Steward’s shoulder and he stops talking in the middle of his sentence. His eyes shift from across the room gliding over one guy after the other, as if he is trying to read us. His eyes land on me for a moment, which I am openly comfortable with. “Go on and get dressed. Eat something. I will wait for you all on the plain within an hour.”
And so, the search for Gregory began. Where there the rumours started, God knows. But until such time that we stood on the plain, divided into groups, everyone speaks about a letter that was found. A suicide letter.
We start walking. I am completely discombobulated. Someone tries to make small talk with me, but I do not answer him, cause dude, buried emotions come to show face again. Ghosts from the past.
Daniel Wilson was my brother. The girls were crazy about him. Blond hair and a friendly, shy smile that went along with it. The two of us could talk for hours on end, sometimes until late in the evenings. Sometimes just about a lot of rubbish. He used to enjoy the extreme sport. Mountain climbing, mountain bike riding, white water rafting, and stuff like that. Once we went together to go bungee jump. The adrenaline rush made me a danger junkie as well, so all that was a dangerous thing I started to do alongside him.
You know you get those types of guys that are just naturally talented. They are best at everything they take on. Daniel was one of those guys. School, sport, you name it. I would think on some level he was my hero, but also my best buddy. I would have done anything for him. But he had never seemed to ask anything of me. I suppose I always thought that it was because he had everything he needed. But I was for sure wrong. Something was missing.
Then he went ahead and go and do something stupid.
Curtains tightly drawn
Pills on the bedside closet
“Good God Daniel!” did my mum shout.
Ambulance doors opened up slowly at the hospital
Emergency personnel on site.
Now there are rumours. Gregory might have committed suicide. It feels like a blockbuster that you have already seen. Why the fuck would it happen again? And why with Gregory of all people? The night he looked at me with the eighth graders’ initiation at the tunnel… It was almost as if Daniel was looking at me through Gregory’s eyes.
History repeats itself. That’s what people say. Well, they also say that you are on this earth to learn lessons. And if you fail to learn the first time around, then they will cross your path again. You cannot sidewalk it like in a rugby game.
I just cried when Daniel died.
“You will not!” my dad ordered me, his entire attitude nonchalant as if nothing had happened, as if it was someone else’s child that had died. Not his own. Not the son from whom he had expected so much.
And now, between the trees and the school border on the school terrain, I wonder: is this the lesson I was supposed to have learnt? How to act and behave as if I am human, to live life without needing to feel as if I am ‘solid’ all the time that prevents me from showing any emotion.
As far as possible, I try to walk away from the other guys.
Our eyes scan the floor. Looking up at the branches. Searching for a person.
The day passes by painstakingly slowly. By the evening there is still no sight of Gregory. Some of the teachers were out and about to go and search in the nearby towns. They were searching in the streets.
Tiredly I strip my clothes from my body that night. I tie a clean towel around my waist. Before I could walk out of my dorm room, my cell phone rang. It is my mum. We talk a lot of nonsense, but somewhere in the middle of the conversation she suddenly stops.
“Erik, what is the matter?” she asks.
“I can discern from your voice that there is something…”
I cannot tell, I know this.
“Erick? What” she persists
I let off a sigh. “I was remembering Daniel today.”
Note: This is a past-day event, i.e. a 'flashback' (continuation of even-numbered chapters time span events: 2,4,6, etc.)On the quad between the five hostels, there is another water drainage pipe that runs along. It is this iron lid which Cedrick now removes. The metallic sound reverberates through the night. By the windows of the hostels, the rest of the guys stand and look on. They know exactly what is going on, they too went through this.I notice Gregory standing somewhere between all the other guys, while we wait for the eighth graders on the other side. While it appears that he might be standing amongst us, he seems at the same time distant. Arms folded. His eyes intently fixed on the dark hole in the ground.Shadows stretch long dark stripes over the paving. Voices banging against the buildings.We wait, breaths held until... the first pale fingers were folding over the edge of the manhole. Cedrick held out his hand, took hold of the eighth grader’s, and pulled him out. The yo
Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered chapters time span events: 1,3,5, etc.)By Saturday morning, the news had spread like a flu epidemic to the lower grades. Everyone tries to get information out of the seniors, but because they don't really say anything, the guys make up their own stories. I am on duty in the Basquiat dining hall. Just wander around there listlessly, wishing the bunch would now eat and walk their free-range eggs and other organic food."They got him, guys. For Gregory." an excited voice behind me. I turned around quickly. "Hung from a tree. His tongue so out -" I grabbed the grade-eight guy by the shoulder. Hard. "Where do you hear?" "By Jones," he says, quietly startled. "Who's Jones?"He pointed with his finger. I felt anger take over my body. It's so bad that for a moment I just had to pause and breathe. Calm down. "Tell Jones I will pull his tongue out if he spreads such rubbish again."I walked outside and sat down on the staircase i
Note: This is a past event, i.e. a ‘flashback’ (continuation of even-numbered chapter time span: 2,4,6, etc.)'“What? Are you crazy?" I asked. "Where would I have tried to hack by now?" Gregory Smiled timidly. "Close the door behind you. The Realm of Cyberspace awaits..."Dark words, choking with excitement. Realm. Just the sound of it makes me want to get goosebumps. As if it's Daniel announcing "Hey, bro, we're going to try a new extreme sport. What do you say, are you in?"Gregory turned back to his laptop. "Let me show you. I've been trying to hack this one," he says. "It's a travel agent's website. I ran a show to check for CGI weaknesses and-""Wait, CGI... like the shows they use to make special effects for movies?"Gregory shook his head. "No, it's something else. This CGI is "Common Gateway Interface." It just refers to the way apps on a web server talk to a surfer’s browser.""Why are you doing this?""I'm looking for a place to come in. You can see the company on the other
Note: This is a present-day event (continuation of odd-numbered chapter time span: 1,3,5, etc.)The email slips into cyberspace like a bullet from a silenced pistol. Quiet and deadly. Right on target. The sports day was barely over when I saw a car coming towards the school. The only one arriving, while the others are driving away. I can't be sure if it's them, but a squirm pulls through my body, making my neck hair stand on end. And I wonder... Is this a reporter from one of the news newspapers?There is great excitement in House Basquiat's corridors. Blackwood College crushed Lockwood Boys High. In the Hangout, someone starts playing a rugby CD very loudly. Yeah, no, money can't buy good taste either.I was just aiming towards my door to go for a walk around the other floors, seeing if everything was alright there when JT and Bill came rushing on. They bundled me back into my room. "Hey, my dude, you should have seen it," Bill says, his arm around JT's neck and his fist in the air.
Note: This is a past event, i.e. a ‘flashback’ (continuation of odd-numbered chapter storyline: 2,4,6, etc.)That's the day after I saw Gregory hack the travel agent's system. And the first morning Gregory came to wake me up. "While Zeus, the ruler of Olympus, lies sleepily folded in Hypnos' wings, his son Heracles' ship runs aground on Kos again today," he says."What the hell?" I asked through sleep."Never mind. Move your arse and get up," he replied. I open one eye and lift myself on my elbows. Gregory is in his workout clothes. Sweat gleamed on his body."Are you crazy? Have you gone jogging already?" I asked."Always. The only time to think clearly, so early in the morning. Come on, get a move on, it's almost time for breakfast."The day drags around. At the behest of Doc, I must accept the SRC over their "deplorable discipline." Mr Steward showed up halfway through the meeting. Spying on us, as if we didn't know. "Would you like to add anything else?" I asked until I finished m
Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered time span: 1,3,5, etc.)"Get that computer technician... uh Thomas...""Thompsen" Mr Steward corrects Doc Pat."Get Thompsen, that he's coming to see.""But will he come out so late at night, Doc?" asked Mr Steward."He lives on Harrismith. He'll have to drive all the way -""That's what he's paid for, damn!" From his tone of voice, I can infer that Doc is now sitting nicely in the pinch. But for what? What's wrong with the computers? They were talking about the learners’ database. The answer came sooner than I expected."You're sure you looked right, Nic?" rumbled Doc.Mr. Steward's voice is calm, but the distress nonetheless persists, "I'm telling you, Doc. There are no contacts on Gregory's records. Not even his parents' names. No address, no phone numbers. Nothing. Just his name: Gregory Stevens."Again, alone in my dark dorm room and I can't sleep. It's like Gregory doesn't want to let me sleep. He's gone, but now
Note: This is a past-day event, (continuation of even-numbered chapter time span: 2,4,6, etc.)The next few evenings, after I completed the first hacking challenge under Gregory's guidance, I am busy on hackthissite after hasty study sessions and exchanged supervision duty shifts. Sometimes in my room, other times on Gregory's laptop, in his room. Afterwards, it feels like my head wants to burst from all the information, from the frustration, because the more I learn, the more I see that I still know less."You have to be patient," Gregory advises. "Pay attention to the detail."So, I stumble through the challenges. Struggling, but at least. I learn that when you enter a password on a website. the system must look somewhere in its scripts for a password file. It compares your password with what it has in its password file. If the two match, you're in.In Challenge 2 I find out after a struggle that Sam, the supposed network administrator, forgot to set up the password file. So, there
Note: This is a present-day event, (continuation of odd-numbered time-span: 1,3,5, etc.)I stare at the black screen. Gregory is gone, and I'm now in G-4ce's realm. The password’s input field is being etched into my retinas and a path burning open to my brain.Password.My gut tells me that this website contains a clue connected to Gregory's disappearance. But what will the password be? I'll have to crack it if I want to get the clue.I try the obvious passwords. First the word "password."Then Gregory's name. And also, G-4ce. It doesn't work. The school's name doesn't work either.Anyway, it's stupid of me to think that G-4ce would choose something easy. He warned me to choose long passwords when I register for something on the web. He warned me to choose long passwords when I register for something on the web, or for my computer itself. I have to use upper- and lower-case letters. There must also be numbers in it, but not at the beginning or end. The word must not appear in a dictio