Henry and the Malcontents, Chapter 2

Fiction By Annabel // 7/26/2009


*I have written and rewritten this chapter; obsessed over synonyms and grammar and rephrasing; changed and re-changed each paragraph; modified sentences countless times. I’m still not entirely sure it’s right—it seems that my writing style changes multiple times within this chapter, and that my sentences are not as taut and forceful as I could wish. Please tell me what you think of it.*
 Henry’s office was a small and somnolent room. He had first seen it as a new teacher, thrilled with the importance of having his very own office, and had lived in it so long that he no longer needed to actually observe it. He no longer checked his reflection in the high-polish veneer of the desk, or glared at the water marks on the ceiling, or traced his signature in the dust on the windowsill, or wondered whether the steady, droning whirr of the ceiling fan was more like a bumblebee’s hum or an approaching train’s rumble. Without looking, he knew the precise position of every book on the crowded shelf, knew which nondescript gray file cabinet carried the lesson plans, even knew where to reach to draw the blinds. The only detail that wasn’t automatic now was the small framed picture of a woman which hung by his desk, which he occasionally acknowledged with a pause and a sigh.
The office had, over the years, ceased to be a mere room and had become an outward expression of his personal identity. It was precisely as well-ordered, dusty, and cramped as he—and, as he sometimes told himself ruefully, very nearly as dull and lackluster as he, too. And yet he was fond of his little room—it was a sort of refuge to him, a place which the Academy, with all of its hum and clamor and falseness, could not penetrate.
Zael Wintra spoilt the sense of sanctuary.
He was sitting, or rather sprawling, on a leather swiveling chair—Henry’s own particular chair—and revolving rapidly. Limminer hesitated in the doorway to watch, fascinated, wondering how long it could last. Around and around the boy whirled…soft, inky tresses floating in the air…never pausing or seeming to tire…
Henry couldn’t abide it. Clearing his throat, he cried, “Wintra, please stop that!”
The chair kept spinning.
“Hellllooooo, Mr. Limminer!” Zael called in a foolish, sing-song voice. “So kind of you to let me come! Do sit down and let’s chat, shall we?”
Henry sat down across from him, in the chair that was usually reserved for guests. What ought he to do? Zael would not stop until he wanted to, that much was certain. Perhaps it would be best to act as if all was normal.
“Well, Wintra. What did you wish to speak to me about?”
Zael assumed a thundering, pompous, speechifying voice: “I suppose you’re all wondering why I called you here today.”
“Well yes, that’s what I just asked…”
Henry was strangely disconcerted to see Zael’s pert, pale face repeatedly whizzing past.
The voice changed again. Now it was syrupy, soft, insinuating: “Mr. Limminer, have you ever considered revolution?”
The voice became harsh and throaty, with a breath of malicious derision lying just beneath it. “Now don’t you pretend not to know what I mean, Harry-lad. I know all about your “colorful” past. Did you think you could keep it all a secret? The secret societies and the impassioned speech-writing, and the subscription to Malcontents Monthly?”
Henry nearly choked on a rising scream. What could this be about?
“Zael, please stop playing. What exactly do you want?”
Now the voice was shrill and whining. “I think it should be fairly obvious what I want, I do. I just ask a simple question, and what happens? ‘What does I want?’ he says!”
Henry could bear it no longer. “Zael, you creep! Stop it!”
The movement ceased, so suddenly that Henry nearly fell off his chair with relief. The boy was facing him, stiff-backed and rigid.
The voice was tiny now, and tremulous. “Creep?” it gasped, shuddering. Zael’s customary sardonic mask had slipped, exposing a hurt, bewildered, childlike face. His silvery eyes shimmered with unshed tears.
Henry was unsettled, nearly sickened, by the surreality of it. Student-Teacher meetings never happen this way, he thought, and then found himself wondering, irrelevantly, what Zael had been like as a child. He took a deep, shaky breath.
“Wintra, please hold still and tell me what you want.”
The change was instantaneous. The trembling white face hardened into a self-satisfied smirk. The wide-open grey eyes narrowed. The tall, slight figure relaxed. The voice transformed again, becoming clear and high and sharp—Wintra’s real voice, though it was still mocking.
“It’s like this, Limminer. We’ve been watching you for awhile, and we can tell you’re not happy with the Council. Well, we’re not happy with it either. As a matter of fact, we’d like to uproot it and plant a democracy or something like that in its place. And we want you to help us. Simple as that.”
Henry was too flabbergasted to make a denial. “How did you know I’m against the Council?”
“We’ve been watching you, boy. You take your students on tours of musty museums. You tell them stories of glories past. You show them old ballot boxes. Did you think we wouldn’t catch on to you?”
“Who is ‘we’?”
“‘We’ is us. Oh, and another way we could tell—we hacked onto your old college records online and read your writing from your radical days...so, yeah.” Zael grinned.
There was a long pause, in which Zael swiveled on the swiveling chair a few more times and Henry wondered why the roof didn’t fly off.
Then Zael spoke. “Well, what do you say?”
Henry felt a definite pain in his stomach. “What was the question again?”
“Will you help us fight the Council?”
“Why do you want me to help you?”
“Listen to me, Limminer.” Zael paused, then sighed deeply, theatrically. Even in the midst of his agitation, Henry couldn’t help wondering where the boy got his flair for drama. “It would sound well to say that we can stand on our own, that the justice of our Cause will give us strength enough. And it is painful to admit that we need the help of outsiders. But so it is—as faithful and passionate as we are, we simply do not have the ability to accomplish our task without assistance. To overthrow the Council and restore freedom and safety to this oppressed and groaning land, to bring liberty to the thirsty souls of the people, we must have aid. We know little about the inner workings of the Council, and how it can be most effectively destroyed; we know less still about true democracy, and how it may be established.” His voice softened “You, a lover of history, know these things. Will you not help us?”
Henry felt vaguely flattered, despite Zael’s obvious insincerity. “Well, I don’t know exactly what I could do to help…”
“Neither do I. But at least you know something about history, and you’re over the age of thirty. That makes you best option we have.”
“You still haven’t told me what ‘we’ is. What kind of revolutionaries are you? What sort of help do you want from me? And how do I know this isn’t just a trap? You might be working for the Council, trying to trick me into a confession of disloyalty!” Henry felt his sense of reality beginning to return—it had flown out of him, seemingly, around the same time Zael had begun crying.
The gray eyes blinked calmly. “You think the Council would work with me to do anything?”
“No. Of course not. But what…”
“Yes or no?”
“At least give me some more information! I don’t even know what you want me to do!”
“You’re scared, aren't you?”
“Of course I am! How can I join you when I don’t even know who you are?”
“You’re just being paranoid. Yes or no?”
“I…I…I need some time….”
“No time for you! Decide now! I haven’t eonian epochs in which to wait.”
"Yes!" Henry nearly screeched. “I mean, no! I …yes…I want…”
Zael held a long white finger to Henry’s lips. “Quiet! Do you want the all-powerful Grausam Academy to hear you?”
Henry was quivering, unable to speak. His breath was broken, hoarse and labored.
“That’s a yes, then? Well, that’s very obliging of you, Limminer, old boy. Welcome to Us! I’ll let you know what cooperative, accommodating, infinitely helpful thing you’re supposed to do next. Now, I hate to leave so soon, but I really must be off. Toodles! ”
Zael then bounded from his chair and danced nimbly away, leaving the door standing wide open. Though Henry could scarcely rest with the awareness of an unsealed doorway, he didn’t rise to close it. He remained seated in his chair, listening to the sound of the ceiling fan throbbing overhead.


 Very captivating. I haven't

 Very captivating. I haven't read the first chapter or the prologue yet so the second chapter is especially mystifying. Zael is a worrying figure to me. He seems too old for his age, whatever it is, and too young to be in a revolution (aside from the revolving chair - cool idea!). I hope things turn out well.

Ben | Thu, 07/30/2009

Thanks for commenting, Ben!

Thanks for commenting, Ben! Yes, Zael is supposed to be something like that--at once disturbingly precocious and annoyingly immature. He worries me too.

Annabel | Fri, 07/31/2009


Joy! Another chapter! In case I was not clear, this story has me completely hooked. I could just inhale this whole story... great writing, descriptions, and all that. Therefore I command thee: write more!!! And soon!!!! :D

Hannah W. | Sun, 08/02/2009

Have I ever mentioned I don't

Have I ever mentioned I don't like being stumped by a character? Zael Wintra stumped me. All at once immature and way too old. Little-boyish, yet maddeningly grown up. I definitely want to unravel the mystery of this guy.

Meaning kudos to your skills as Zael's creator! I like the paradoxes he seems to be made up of. And the whirling chair. That made me chuckle! LOL.  Enigmatic characters are amazing. So, I have three words for you: More! Soon! Please! 

And a very well-done chapter, btw. :0)

Heather | Mon, 08/03/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

I just went through and read

I just went through and read all everything you have up so far and all I can say is...WOW!!!! This is amazing. I'll have to echo everyone else that has commented...Zael almost seems like he is too old, but then he turns into this little, helpless child!!! My word, you're good!!! I was laughing at how the "teacher's meeting" started turning into more of a "student's meeting". Oh, this line made me laugh --

Now, I hate to leave so soon, but I really must be off. Toodles!

Just "beauful, Dahling" ;-)


Ariel | Tue, 08/04/2009

"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

Hannah W: Thank you! Thank

Hannah W: Thank you! Thank you! It's so encouraging that people like this.

Heather: Zael Wintra is, I think, my favorite of all the characters I've ever created--a lot of what he says and does seems to just happen, without my controlling it. I'm glad you find him enigmatic.

Old Fashioned Girl: You know, I never thought of it exactly that way, but that's a good way to put it--it went from being a teacher's meeting to a student's meeting. (And I liked that line too.)

Thank you so much, girls! I'll try to write the third chapter soon.

Annabel | Tue, 08/04/2009

please do! i'm loving this,

please do!

i'm loving this, and can't wait to read more.

LoriAnn | Fri, 08/14/2009


Is Zael some sort of creepy extra-terristral who's really scores of years old but mascades as a teen? What's up there?

Julie | Wed, 08/19/2009

Formerly Kestrel

LoriAnn: Thanks, I'm glad you

LoriAnn: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! My original plans for the next chapter didn't feel right, so I'm redoing it...I should have it up in a week or two, I hope.                                   

Kestrel: Oh, Zael. He should make a little more sense later on in the story. I know he's kind of creepy, but with his parents, it's a surprise he turned out as well as he did.

Annabel | Wed, 08/19/2009


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