The Dualists: Chapter 5

(Chapter 4 of The Dualists can be found here)

 

 

“I should just say something,” Ivy thought, as she ate lunch with Coco in silence. “It’s not like she’ll think I’m a weirdo or anything. She’ll probably be thrilled to hear about something so spooky. I just need to say something.” But she didn’t. While the two were usually quite talkative, something was different today. Each wanted to say something, but couldn’t quite force themselves to, and was too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice how unusual the other was acting. “I just need to say something,” Ivy thought once more. She took a deep breath. “Hey… remember when you said to tell you if something strange happened last night?” Coco asked, right as Ivy opened her mouth to speak. “Huh? Oh, yeah,” Ivy said, “I was actually going to say something about that too.” “Really?” Coco said, “Do you think they might be related?” “Oh, mine’s probably just nothing,” Ivy said, knowing full well that it wasn’t just nothing, “You go first.” “You sure?” Coco asked, “You look like something’s bothering you.” “Please, I insist,” Ivy said. “Very well,” Coco said, “Last night, I-”

 
“Do you mind if we sit here?” Regina asked, gesturing to two seats at the table, one of which Clover was already setting her tray at. “Well, well,” Coco said, “If it isn’t the drama queens of Noether High. To what do we owe the honor?” “What the Hell’s that supposed to mean?” Clover asked, indignantly. “I’m just saying, I was told that assembly was for an election,” Coco said, “Not focus testing a Lifetime original movie.” “It sounds like you’re the one who’s starting drama, here.” Clover growled. “Ah, c’mon, I’m just messing with you,” Coco said, “But, for real, election season’s over. Why are you so interested in hanging out with a couple of bozos like us?” “I just wanted to make sure our new student is feeling welcomed here,” Regina said, “It really is fine if you’d rather we didn’t sit here, though. I won’t be offended.” “But what about the thing we came here to talk about?” Clover asked. “What thing?” Coco asked, suspiciously. “Oh, I was just, uh, wondering if you two knew each other before Ivy moved here,” Regina said. Clover rolled her eyes. “Yes,” Ivy said, “We were best friends in elementary school.” “And now!” Coco said, “But why’d you think we knew each other before? Do you really think it’s so unbelievable that I could make a friend so quickly?” “I apologize,” Regina said, still standing, “I didn’t mean to offend.” “Because it is!” Coco said, “I mean, I’ve been here for years without making any friends. And the student council president sure as hell never made sure I was feeling welcomed!” “I apologize for not making your acquaintance sooner,” Regina said, “I hope we can be fast friends.” “I doubt it,” Coco said, “I don’t get along with normies. Except Ivy.” “What did you just call her?” Clover demanded with her mouth full. Regina stifled a laugh with a cough. “Then I think we should get along just fine,” Regina said, “A normie’s just someone you don’t know well enough. Everyone’s a weirdo, deep down.” “If you say so,” Coco said, “Speaking of weirdness, what’s with your face? Are you a ghost? If I ask, you have to tell me, that’s the law.” “Gee, I wonder why you haven’t made any friends,” Clover said, sarcastically. “I’m albino, actually,” Regina said, “I mean, I’m also a ghost, obviously, but I was this pale when I was alive, too.” Clover laughed. “Nice.” The mood lightened up a bit. But then Coco asked “So what’s with her face?” while pointing at Clover. “Nothing’s wrong with my face!” Clover said, “What, you’ve never seen a girl with freckles before?” “She’s a lich, actually,” Regina said, nonchalantly, “That’s just part of the undying process.” “Badass,” Coco said, “But where’s her phylactery?” “I’ve got a phylactery for you right here!” Clover said, flipping her off.

 

Ivy and Coco gasped in shock. “Clover, please,” Regina said, “They won’t cooperate if you keep being so rude.” “What?” Clover asked, “I’m just showing them the ring.” She wasn’t lying. On her middle finger was a ring with a red jewel shaped like a three leaf clover. “Does this mean that we all got rings?” Coco asked. She showed a similar ring, with a red, heart-shaped jewel on her ring finger. Ivy and Regina nodded. “But if mine is a heart, and hers is a clover,” Coco said, “What’s yours? Ivy?” “It’s not a clover,” Clover said, “It’s a club. Regina’s is a spade, so Ivy’s would be a diamond, right?” “Yeah,” Ivy said, showing the ring on her pinky to everyone at the table. “Also, why would you think the rings are based on our names if yours is a heart?” Clover asked. “Coco Roe is a pun on ‘kokoro’, the Japanese word for heart, because my dad is a fucking weeb,” Coco said, “Although, if yours is a club, why’s it red? Shouldn’t it be black?” “Don’t ask me,” Clover said, “But Regina’s is black, like you’d expect.” Regina, still standing, set her tray down to show her ring. “Oh, uh, you can sit with us, by the way,” Ivy said, “Sorry for making you stand for so long.” “Thank you,” Regina said, taking a seat. “Awww, you’re no fun,” Coco said, “I wanted to see if she’d stand there for the entire lunch period.” Clover sighed. “Since we all have similar rings,” Regina said, “I take it we all had similar dreams?” “Mmhm,” Ivy said, “I don’t remember too much, but Clover and two other girls I didn’t really recognize were there. I’m guessing that was you?” “Probably,” Coco said, “I’m pretty sure they were in my dream. I suspected something spooky was afoot, and figured that may have been the real reason they wanted to talk.” “So you’ve just been messing with us this whole time?” Clover asked, angrily. “Mostly just you, to be honest,” Coco said, “Did it really take you that long to notice?” “You know what I mean,” Clover snapped.

 

“Anyway,” Coco said, “I think that, in the dream, the rings gave us some kind of powers that we used to kick ass. Does that sound about right to everyone else?” Everyone else nodded. “I know it was my idea to meet here,” Regina said, “But perhaps we should continue this conversation elsewhere. If someone overheard us here, they might think we’re lunatics.” “People thinking you’re a lunatic’s not so bad,” Coco said, “It’s really quite freeing, not having to care what other people think.” “Not all of us can afford to be as unpopular as you,” Clover said. “It’s a damn shame you let everyone else control your life,” Coco said, “I think you could be pretty cool, if you just lived on your own terms.” “I don’t let everyone else control my life,” Clover said, defensively, “For instance, I don’t give a damn about what you think.” Coco laughed. “Well played.” “I… don’t think we should be arguing,” Ivy said, “We’ll have to work together to figure out what’s going on, and that’ll be easier if we all get along.” “What are you talking about?” Coco asked, “This is the best I’ve gotten along with anyone in years. We’re just joking around, right?” “Right…” Clover said, unconvincingly. “I agree with Ivy,” Regina said, “We can’t discount the possibility that these rings are dangerous. And if that’s the case, we’d be safest if we all worked together.” “I’m down,” Coco said, “It’s not like I like you, or anything, I’ve just watched enough anime to know that the power of friendship always wins.” “I guess I could try to get along with her,” Clover said. “Then it’s settled,” Regina said, “Let’s meet up in Riemann Park after class.” “Where’s that?” Ivy asked. “Don’t worry, I’ll lead you there,” Coco said, “And I promise, I won’t take you to The Pits of Sacrifice this time,” she added, with an exaggerated wink. “Thank you,” Ivy said, completely sincerely, “Although that was a lovely dagger you gave me last time.” Regina laughed, while Clover just looked confused. They spent the rest of their lunch period eating and making small talk.

Advertisements

The Dualists: Fight Scene (Sneak Peek)

Ivy stepped through the door into what looked like coliseum. Her friends stood on top of the wall that enclosed her, at least 15 feet off the ground. They were looking down at her. Though their voices continued, their mouths were still. In the middle was a black, featureless humanoid statue. As soon as the door behind her shut, her friends all closed their eyes, and the room went silent. Six unblinking eyes opened on the statue’s torso. They weren’t arranged in rows or columns, but randomly scattered about. She could tell from the irises that they belonged to her friends. Just when she thought it couldn’t get any more terrifying, a seventh eye opened. Did it belong to her mother? Then an eighth. A ninth. More and more eyes opened, until she couldn’t stand the sight of it any longer. She closed her eyes, pinched herself, and willed herself to wake up, but to no avail. When she opened her eyes again, her gaze was met by a giant pair of eyes on the statue’s torso that were unmistakably her own. The entire surface of the statue was covered with eyes, except for three areas on its face: its mouth, and, ironically enough, where one would expect to find eyes. She looked to her friends for help, only to find that they were now facing away. She tried to call for help, but she was paralyzed by fear.

 
“It is as I suspected.” A mouth opened on the statue’s face, and began speaking with Regina’s voice. “She’s completely dependent on others. Cooperation is important to a team, but if we always have to bail her out any time she’s in trouble, she’ll only slow us down.” A second mouth chimed in with Clover’s voice, “Look at her, just standing there. Too afraid to reach out to others. That’s why she has so few friends. She feels so alone, but she feels even more afraid.” A third mouth, glossed with black lipstick, spoke with Coco’s voice, “There’s nothing wrong with not being a hero, but she’s not even a coward. She isn’t strong, nor is she weak. She isn’t smart or dumb, extroverted or introverted, good or bad. She is nothing. I would’ve been better off alone than friends with her.” “Shut up!” Ivy couldn’t take it anymore. “You can insult me all you want, but don’t you dare put those words in her mouth!” “You think you can stop me?” Coco’s mouth said. Ivy’s fear was replaced with anger. “I don’t know who or what you are, but this is my dream. As long as I’m lucid, I can do anything!” It was a bluff, but hopefully one convincing enough that her subconscious would believe it. She charged at the statue, and punched the largest eye on its torso. Unlike her real eye, the statue’s eye was hard and unyielding; the injury to her hand was made even worse by the ring that she forgot she was wearing. The three mouths of the statue laughed, but its body was eerily still. As she examined her finger to make sure it wasn’t cut or broken, she noticed that her ring’s diamond was black. The ring… of course! In that one dream, she used it to fight. But how did it work? She pointed the ring at the statue, and exclaimed “Ring, Activate! Power of Black Diamond, Go!” She totally made that up. But, surprisingly, something happened. The ring emitted a bright flash of light. The light began to coalesce into a solid shape, which fell into her arms with surprising weight.

Ivy penultimate draft
Art by @thebloodtypeV

It appeared to be a very large gun, almost like a bazooka. The mouths stopped laughing. Ivy did her best to take aim at the statue. “Not so tough now, are you? Let’s see you like- eek!” While she was talking, the statue suddenly moved to strike her, and she flinched by reflex. But the blow never connected. “Huh?” She opened her eyes, and saw the many eyes on the statue’s fist gazing back at her, inches from her face. “Ah!” as she recoiled away, her opponent was launched backwards. “Wait, did I do that?” The statue stood up, and leapt from halfway across the arena to attack her, but stopped in mid-air. Ivy held him there with her mind. “Telekinesis? Now this is more like it! Hold still for a second…” She aimed her weapon at the monster and pulled what she hoped was the trigger. The gun’s recoil nearly knocked her off balance, as it shot a projectile which exploded on impact, cracking one of the golem’s giant eyes. One of her eyes. But it wasn’t enough to defeat it. Its mouths kept berating her, voices overlapping in an incomprehensible cacophony. “I’ve heard enough out of you!” she quipped, flinging the abomination out of the arena. She saw no reason to go through the ordeal of firing her grenade launcher again.

 
She celebrated her triumph for a moment, but it was short lived. “What happens now?” she wondered aloud, “Am I supposed to wake up? Can you guys hear me? Coco? Regina? Clov-” Her voice was drowned out by the sound of something heavy slamming into the ground behind her. “Did you think our battle over? We’re only getting started!” She turned to find that the monster that she thought she’d defeated had returned transformed. It was now at least twice as large as before, but more than that, it was shaped differently. Less human. Its head had disappeared, leaving its three mouths strewn randomly across its torso, and its arms and fists were much larger, proportionally. Before, it was just meant to frighten her, but now, it was clearly designed to crush her. Though its body grew, its eyes all remained the same size; hundreds, maybe thousands had opened to fill its surface completely. The time she spent looking it over would’ve been better spent trying to stop it as it charged towards her, but she was paralyzed with fear. Right before it hit her, she snapped out of it, and used her telekinesis to try to push it back. She tried as hard as she could to repel it, but… WHAM! She was overpowered, and the golem’s fist knocked her off her feet, at least a yard backwards onto the ground. Though the blow surely would have killed her in real life, she managed to stand up. “Is that all you’ve got?” she bluffed. The monster’s mouths laughed. “I could see through that bluff even with a thousand eyes closed!” “Then I guess I’ll just have to close them for you!” Ivy shouted. She fired her gun. The grenade exploded against the golem. Nothing. The golem remained utterly still, except for three smug smirks on its face.

 

“Is that all you’ve got?” it asked, echoing her words in her voice. Then, with a speed that seemed unreal, it charged at her; she just barely managed to jump to the side to avoid its upward punch. She was surprised by how high she jumped; the ring must have augmented her strength. While she was still in mid-air, the golem’s fist shot off its body, heading straight for her. “Let’s see you dodge this!” She tried to move herself telekinetically, but to no avail. Even in her dream, some semblance of physical laws applied. If she couldn’t push herself, she’d have to push something else. But what? An epiphany hit her moments before the fist would have. She fired a grenade sailing over the walls of the arena, using her telekinesis to push it even faster than the gun shot it, so that the recoil knocked her out of harm’s way. Unfortunately, this also knocked her off balance. As she tumbled to the ground, the golem’s snapped back to the end of its arm. “Impressive,” Regina’s voice admitted, “but you can’t dodge forever. I’ll hit you eventually, and you have no way of defeating me before that happens!” Its gloating gave Ivy enough time to stand up, but not enough to retort. The golem performed the exact same attack, and Ivy dodged the same way, jumping out of the way, and using the recoil of her weapon to avoid the follow-up attack. As before, she was too focused on her telekinesis to land on her feet. Her foe took advantage of this, and punched its right fist directly down at her. She barely managed to roll out of the way in time. As she stood up, he swung his left fist at her, then shot it at her after she jumped over his attack. As before, she used her recoil to dodge. Unlike before, the golem’s right fist burst out of the ground before she landed. He must have shot it into the ground during his attack earlier. Before she had a chance to react, it hit her leg. She spiraled out of control and slammed headfirst into the ground. Her leg felt broken, and her scalp seemed to be bleeding. She couldn’t dodge another attack. This was over. “I must admit, you put up a hell of a fight. You’re a lot tougher than I expected,” Clover’s voice said. Regina’s voice continued, “But you’re still the same loser you always have been. That you always will be.” As it made its way over to Ivy to deliver the final blow, she smirked.

 
“You’re a really crappy monster, you know that?” Ivy said. “What the Hell’s that supposed to mean?” the Coco asked, “certainly not as crappy as you, who lost to us.” “Oh, so you killed me in a dream. Big deal. You defeated an opponent who’s never fought in her life. It’s like winning a chess match against someone who just learned the rules five minutes ago.” She said. “If you’re attempting to stall, it’s pointless. No one’s going to save you. You lost,” the Coco’s voice sneered. “Did I? I lost this fight, but that’s not important to me, and I don’t think it’s important to you,” Ivy said, “you want to scare me. Get in my head. Make me feel insecure about my friendships. And in that respect, you’ve failed, because I believe in my friends. I know they don’t believe what you’re having them say. You kill me now, I wake up, and you lose. But I’m a gracious winner. So I give you one last chance. One last chance to say something that’ll haunt me even when I wake up. Make it count.” The golem chuckled ominously. Its three voices spoke as one. “How wrong you are. You have lost for the precise reason that you claim you have won: you believe in your friends. You do not believe in your own strength. Instead, you rely on others. You think that your friends, your trinkets will bring you strength, but they betray you. I admit, you showed some ingenuity, but it was not enough. You are not enough. That is why you are weak. And that is why you had no hope of defeating me.” It cackled maniacally as it raised its arms over its head for one final strike. “hahahaHAHAHAHAHAH-?”

 

It stopped laughing abruptly. “What was that? Did I just… swallow something? ” “Three somethings actually,” Ivy said, “When I used the recoil of my gun to avoid your attacks, did you think it odd that the shots I fired never exploded? Or do you focus so much on your eyes that you can’t hear?” “But I didn’t see them. I see all!” the monster shouted, “I see right through you. I’m calling your bluff. That was probably just some debris from when I broke through the ground earlier!” “Tsk, tsk,” Ivy said, “I know you can’t see through me. Because you couldn’t see through my friends.” Every eye on its body widened. “You used your telekinesis to hide them behind your friends? No… Impossible! I-” Ivy braced herself and shot the golem one last time, causing the grenades within it to explode. The monster shook violently for a bit, then was still. Smoke began to rise from its gaping mouths. A clear fluid began to flow from the giant eye. Was it… crying? The other eyes followed suit, until its entire body was slick with tears, flowing down its body and pooling onto the ground. The tears began to dissolve its body, then seeped into the ground, eroding it until eventually nothing remained.

The Dualists: Chapter 4

(Chapter 3 of The Dualists can be found here)

 

The crowd applauded thunderously. Clover could take no more, and ran from the stage, barely containing her sobbing. “Could someone get her?” The principal asked to a group of teachers, who begrudgingly went after her. “If you don’t mind, Mr. Dedekind, I’d like to talk to her,” Regina said. “But you need to appoint a vice-president. We’re already running late,” he said. “I’m sure the students wouldn’t mind pushing class back a little longer,” she said. The crowd of students cheered. “Fine,” he relented, “But do try to hurry up.” After a bit of searching, she found Clover in the nearest bathroom, crying her eyes out. “Do you have a moment?” Regina asked, through the door of the bathroom stall. “Come to rub your victory in my face some more?” Clover spat. “I-I’m sorry, I know you’re better than that.” “No problem,” Regina said, “To answer your question, I was sent to retrieve you, so the assembly can continue.” “Oh, God, is the whole school waiting on me?” Clover asked, “I’m so sorry, I’ll be right-” “But,” Regina continued, “I’m here to do my job as president. To help you.” “I appreciate the sentiment,” Clover said, “But no one can help me with this. Especially not you.” “I don’t understand,” Regina said, “You said that you believed that I ‘excelled at literally everything.’ So why can’t help you?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE THE REASON I NEED HELP IN THE FIRST PLACE,” Clover said, her anger getting the better of her. “Because I beat you in the election?” Regina asked. “And in that fencing match! And in the science fair. And in math Olympiad. And everything else! You’ve always had a higher GPA, been the star athlete, while I’ve been nothing! I thought that maybe, with this election, I’d finally, finally win against you, but no. I guess you’re just completely better than me in every way. Congratulations.” There was a moment of silence. “I missed you, y’know.” Regina said. “Huh?” “I remember you now. From when I first moved here. You were the girl in my fencing class who was just as good as me.” Clover scoffed, “But you beat me.” “Barely,” Regina said, “I knew I could learn a lot from you. But even more than that, I hoped we could be friends. I was – and still am, I guess – a lot better at fencing than I was at socializing, so I figured that was my best shot at meeting new people. But after that first day, you left. Why?” “Because I hate losing,” Clover said, “Because I was so used to being the best, that I couldn’t handle coming in second.” “I’m sorry,” Regina said, “I am truly, deeply sorry that I hurt you, that I’ve been hurting you, and that I never even noticed.” “But I don’t need your apologies,” Clover said tears returning to her eyes, “I need to win. I need… to know that I’m not a loser.”

 
“You’re not a loser,” Regina said, earnestly. “Then why do I always lose?” Clover asked, “Why are you always better than me at everything?” “That’s not true,” Regina said. “Name one thing, then,” Clover said, “One way I’m better than you.” “Well, off the top of my head, you’re certainly prettier than I am,” Regina said. “Are you kidding?” Clover asked, “Have you ever looked in a mirror? Have you ever even seen your eyes?” “Er, well, if nothing else, you certainly have bigger-” “Anyway,” Clover said, “that’s entirely subjective. Besides, there’s no skill involved in looking this good. It just happens.” “I guess you’re right,” Regina conceded, “well, you have more friends than me, don’t you? I mean, it wouldn’t take many, and you’re the most popular girl in school!” “My dad is the most popular girl in school,” Clover said, rolling her eyes. Regina chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Clover continued, “He’s rich and well-known, so people hang out with me because they think I can help them be rich and well-known. I’m no one’s ‘friend.’ I’m a ‘connection.’ A rude, unladylike brat that people suffer in the hopes that it’ll pay off later.” “I’m sorry, but… fuck them, and fuck that, in that order,” Regina said. Clover chuckled. “I’m being serious!” Regina continued, “You may have some phony friends like that, but they aren’t even worth wasting breath talking about. You’re a strong person, Clover. Not just because you’re pretty buff, but because you say what needs to be said, even when it’s hard. It would’ve been so easy for you to just half-ass an impromptu concession speech, but the student body deserved to know the truth. So you told them. Because you give a shit.” Regina took a deep breath. “And I’m sure you have friends who appreciate that about you.” “You’re probably right,” Clover said, after thinking it over for a bit, “But ‘probably’ isn’t the same as ‘definitely.’ I need something certain.” Clover thought for a moment. “Then arm wrestle me,” Regina said, “Right here, right now.” “In the bathroom?” Clover asked. “I’m sure we can do it on a desk in a nearby classroom. Like, use it as a surface for arm wrestling,” Regina said. “Fine,” Clover said, “just let me wash my hands first.” After a few seconds, she opened the door to the stall, and walked over to the sink. Her cheeks were dry, but her eyes were still red. As she waited for Clover, Regina realized something. “Wait… did you go to the bathroom?” Regina asked. “Yes,” Clover said, sarcastically, “In fact, I’m still here.” “You know what I meant,” Regina said, “Did you piss and/or shit?” “Since you’re so interested, yes, I did, before you came in. Literally why does it matter,” Clover said. “I don’t know,” Regina said, “It’s just weird imagining you not wearing pants during this whole heart-to-heart conversation we just had.” “I think you imagining it is weirder than it happening,” Clover said, as she dried her hands. Regina realized that she had a point, and dropped it.

 
In the next classroom over, they sat on opposite sides of a desk, clasping each other’s hands with their elbows on the table. “Oh, wow,” Regina said. “Huh?” “Oh, I, uh, guess I just didn’t expect your hands to be so calloused,” Regina said, regretting having said anything. “Oh, yeah, I guess,” Clover mumbled, “yours are pretty soft.” Regina gave the signal to start immediately after, so neither noticed the other blushing. Though Regina gave it her all, she was overpowered in seconds. “See?” she said, “You’re not a loser.” “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Clover said. “So… how do you feel?” Regina asked. “Better…” Clover said, “Hey, I was just wondering… do you still want to be my friend? I know it was a long time ago, so I understand if you don’t, but-” “Of course I do!” Regina said, “Nothing would make me happier. Actually, maybe if we were also… wait. Never mind. I have to ask you a question first.” “Shouldn’t we be heading back soon?” Clover asked. “This is important,” Regina said, “Did you really want to be president?” “Thanks to you, yeah,” Clover said, “At first, it was just a thing my dad made me do, and then it was just a way for me to finally beat you at something. But then I heard your speeches about how you wanted to help people… I realized that I did, too. Or maybe I just wanted people to respect me the way they respect you. So I could prove that I’m not just a spoiled little brat. To my classmates, to my dad… and to myself.” Clover sighed. “But it wouldn’t have happened. I would’ve just taken credit for someone else’s work, just like I did during the campaign. Because I really am just a spoiled little brat.” “I disagree,” Regina said, “You basically owned your dad in front of the entire school. That doesn’t sound like something a ‘spoiled little brat’ would do.” “Maybe you’re right,” Clover said, chuckling, “but it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m not going to be president.” “But you could be vice-president,” Regina said. “Is that an offer?” Clover asked, incredulously. “It is,” Regina said, “There’s no pressure, but-” “I accept,” Clover said, “Just don’t think this means that we’ll stop being rivals.” “Of course,” Regina said, “Welcome aboard, partner.” She shook Clover’s hand, then started to blush as she realized that she was still holding it from when they were arm wrestling. Just then, the bell went off, indicating that the election assembly was over. “Oh, shit,” Regina said, “We’d better get going.” As they walked through the halls, Clover asked, “So… did you do all of that just because you didn’t have anyone else lined up to be your vice-president?” Regina just laughed and shrugged non-committally.

 

(Chapter 5 of The Dualists can be found here)

The Dualists: Chapter 3

(Chapter 2 of The Dualists can be found here)

“Regina Drisby!” The winner of the Student Council President election was announced, and Clover couldn’t believe it. She lost. But that was impossible. It must have been some kind of mistake. As she looked around, she could see that everyone else looked as surprised as she felt. And with good reason. She was Clover Lie, the most popular girl in school. Everyone knew and loved her, because everyone knew and loved her father, the richest businessman in town. On top of that, her entire campaign was managed by professionals hired by her father: they wrote all her speeches, designed all her posters, and even came up with her slogan (Vote for Lie: The name you can trust). There was no way she could have lost. And there was no way Regina could have won. Though she was pretty well-known as the best student in her class, she wasn’t exactly popular. She always seemed too busy to make friends; when she wasn’t studying for class, she was studying for entrance exams, or academic competitions, or doing charity work, or even practicing fencing. When she first declared her intention to run, Clover thought it was a joke, and she wasn’t alone in thinking that. But people began changing their minds when Regina started campaigning. She didn’t have flashy posters or catchy slogans. But when she spoke, it was with a passion no one expected from her. They didn’t hear the same Regina they heard in class, who spoke only to answer teachers’ questions with mechanical responses, recalled verbatim from the textbook. They heard someone who truly cared about her school, and its students, and wanted nothing more than to do everything in her power to help them. Even when she wasn’t giving speeches, she began talking to people more. Not as a politician, but as someone concerned for the well-being of her peers. As a friend. Clover realized why she’d lost.
“I cannot express how grateful I am for this opportunity.” Regina said, standing at the podium, “Naturally, I have an acceptance speech prepared, but honestly, I practiced my speech congratulating Clover a lot more, so forgive me if I mix them up.” “Excuse me,” Clover interrupted. “I know I’ve just lost, and this is Regina’s time to shine, but… Principal Dedekind, is it OK if I give my speech first? There’s something I’d like the students to know.” The Principal wasn’t expecting this. “I guess that if Regina is fine with it, I have no objections,” he said. “Go for it!” Regina said, “If you have something to say, then it’s my job as Student Council President to make sure it gets heard.” “Thanks,” Clover said. She removed some papers from the binder she was holding, and placed them on the podium at the front of the stage. She cleared her throat, and began speaking. “My fellow students. I believe that Regina did not deserve to win this election in the manner that she did. I know that’s not what I’m supposed to say in my congratulation speech, but it’s the truth, and you’ve been told mine is a name you can trust. I also know that I sound like a sore loser, but I assure you that I’m not. Because I didn’t lose at all.” The audience murmured in confusion. Someone could be heard saying “What a spoiled brat”. “IF YOU’D JUST LET ME FINISH” she continued, unable to keep her temper in check. “I… apologize for my outburst. I didn’t lose. Because I’m something far worse than a sore loser. I’m a fraud.” She punctuated her statement by crumpling up the speech written out before her, and tossing it into the trash can. “That speech I just threw out? I haven’t been reading off of it. And you know why? Because it’s my acceptance speech. Not the victory speech that I wrote, mind you, but the one that was written for me to read. Same as all my speeches. Every single word that I’ve said to you on this podium for the past weeks was manufactured by a man in a suit who was paid money to help a teenage girl win a class election. But not today. NOT TODAY!” She sounded like she was on the verge of tears. But no one was brave enough to stop her. Even the teachers looked terrified. “The only reason I’m not reading one of their speeches right now is because they didn’t write one for accepting defeat. These bozos are paid, I’m talking real 9 to 5 jobs, probably more money than the teachers that we entrust our very futures to, to consider every possibility in my campaign, draft a response to every question, a statement on every possible issue, yet they failed to even entertain the notion that I might lose. And, now that I think about it, they really didn’t have to. Because there’s no way I could have lost. Because this wasn’t my campaign to win or lose. It was theirs. And before you guys pipe up to dismiss me as a spoiled brat again, I want to make this perfectly clear: I’m not making excuses for myself. I’m not saying ‘oh, if I had run my campaign MY way, I would have won’. I don’t know the first thing about politics. If I tried to run my own campaign, it would’ve been a landslide. And that is the victory Regina deserves. This isn’t about her beating me. Again. I can handle losing. I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it over the years. No, this is about me not even getting a chance to properly compete with her. I’d rather lose by my own skills than have someone else win for me.” A moment of silence. One or two people began clapping, only to be silenced by Clover continuing. “BUT… the real winner here is you, the student body. Even if you didn’t realize it, you saw through the lies, and voted for the better candidate. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but Regina Drisby is… excellent. And I mean that. I sincerely believe that she excels at literally everything she does. In my life, I’ve met some powerful and influential people. Legislators, presidents, CEOs, you name it. But the single most qualified leader I have ever met is the very woman that you elected, Regina Drisby. It is my privilege to call her my Student Council President.” With that, she curtsied, and sat down.
A single clap echoed through the room. Another. The clapping picked up pace and the entire room joined in the applause that Regina Drisby started for her former opponent. She stood took Clover’s spot at the podium, straightened her papers, and cleared her throat. “My fellow students. I am… a bit worried that it sounds like I copied her speech. It is a nice way to start a speech, isn’t it?” She directly asked Clover, who nodded sheepishly. The crowd chuckled. “I am, in equal measure, thrilled and terrified by the office that I have been elected to on this day. For you see…” she trailed off. The audience grew uncomfortable. She had never seemed so flustered during a speech before. Without warning, she removed her glasses, calmly placed them on the podium, crumpled up the paper before her, and threw it to the garbage can, where it bounced off the rim and onto the ground. “Perhaps I should have removed my glasses after making the shot,” she joked, “Looks like Clover is beating me 1 and 0 in speech paper basketball.” Polite laughter. “I hope you’ll forgive me if this speech is not up to your expectations. I know I don’t really seem the type for public speaking, and the truth is, I’m not. I’m a nerd. I can barely manage private speaking.” She was visibly more nervous and uncertain than any of her previous speeches. “I speak by pouring my heart out onto the page, and then my mind edits it, again and again, until every word, comma, and period, is in exactly the right place. Then I practice it, over and over, until everything, down to the inflection, is just right. But NOT TODAY” She smiled at Clover, whose eyes were brimming with tears. “Not today,” Regina repeated, almost whispering. “Today I’m speaking from the heart.”
“I stand before you today as your Student Council President, not because I want to lead, but because I want to serve. I want to help people. I want to make this school a good place to learn, for everyone. I want to be someone who people can- er, wait, should that have been whom? Um… wait. Do-over. I want to be someone on whom people can rely to understand them and help solve their problems. And I have always truly believed that no person in this school could do that better than I could. I sometimes thought that I may be crazy for thinking that, but I never thought that I was wrong. Not until just a few minutes ago. Not until Clover Lie stood at this very podium, and did the bravest thing I’ve ever seen a person do. She admitted her flaws. I can’t even admit my own shortcomings to myself, let alone all of my peers. Well, I guess I just kind of… nevermind. What’s more, she gracefully accepted her loss. Not her loss to me in this election, which she maintains never occurred, but… she lost something today, on this stage. I may not know what it is, but it hurt her. I hurt her. And for that, I am so, so, SO sorry. But she also gained something. She gained my respect. Er, that’s not to say that I didn’t respect her before, but, I respect her a whole lot more, now.” She visibly lost her train of thought. “I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with this. Sorry if I’m making it weird, I feel like I’m talking about Clover to the point that I’m making it weird, but I need to make sure I say what needs to be said.” Another moment passed as she tried to collect her thoughts. As she looked at her watch, she realized she was going way over time. “Oh yeah! Now I remember. I always thought that if I were president, I could help our school better than anyone else. Up until Clover inspired me in a way that I fear I could never inspire you. For the first time, my head was filled with doubts. What if she really would have made a better president than me? But then I remembered Clover’s faith in me. The faith that so many of you have in me. If I stopped believing in myself now, I’d be letting her down. I’d be letting all of you down. So I’m taking all those doubts, and I’m throwing them in the trash. And this time, I won’t miss.” The room filled with laughter, then an awkward silence. “Well, I guess that’s as good a place as any to end my speech, so… yeah.” she concluded.

 

(Chapter 4 of The Dualists can be found here)