Sorry this is a day late, I had an unexpected event last night! Humhyde part three will be up later today as scheduled.
School classes did not start right away. We had a week of orientation left because all the Delphorian children were being collected from around the different nurseries. There were about forty of us and we were all born within the same month of each other. When all the other boys who were born this month finished arriving then we would begin our classes together. Since we had only just been thorned this was the first time we were allowed outside. Because we were born at different times of the month that meant for those of us who arrived before the end of the month we had some time to just wander around the school and play on the equipment.
There was not actually much to do on the playground. There were a few high iron bars and other acrobatic equipment, but most of us were feeling too sore from being thorned. We gathered around a set of monkey bars and all stared at it, there were about twenty-five of us new boys just looking at the bars but no one had the courage to try playing on them first. In retrospect, this was peculiar, because a week earlier at the nursery the children would race to get to the play equipment to climb all over it. Yet something about the buzzing pain in the side of my face was sapping away all my enthusiasm for play.
I do recall trying to climb up onto the monkey bars on one of those early days. All the other boys were watching me. I reached the top of the ladder and needed to just stand up to reach the first bar. Yet I couldn’t. I was only a couple of feet above the ground but just the thought of letting go of the supporting bars chilled me to the core. I gripped the bars with white knuckles until I eventually gave up and climbed back down again. I watched the same thing happen to a couple of other boys. Looking back, I think we were all confused as to why we no longer had the courage to climb and play anymore.
So sudden and violent was the change in my life from being a toddler in a nursery one day to being a school child the next that in retrospect it was as if the old me died and a new one popped into existence. There were no old friends, no familiar faces, no comforting rooms or objects I could be attached to. The buildings, the air, the people, the children were all completely different. Nothing of my old life existed anymore. That Elwin was dead, for the next seven years a new Elwin would live in his body… but even his body would not remain the same. Then when I finished school, that Elwin would disappear and a third Elwin would just pop into existence. Presently, as I write this I am aware that I am the fourth Elwin and this does not even feel like an autobiography.
I remember in that first week of school that my thorn hurt more back then than at any other time since. My body was perhaps just getting used to it. The black lines took their time to travel through my youthful flesh. The first thorn was the slowest to take, but the last thorn the quickest.
I don’t remember having many conversations with the other boys my age during that week. When the time came for us to have our first orientation assembly I was relieved to know that some structure and order would be coming to my days. This wide open expanse of free time in my day terrified me the most. I longed to be told what to do, what was expected of me, and how to please others. I didn’t feel safe holding the burden for deciding what I was supposed to do with my day.
The assembly was in a great hall filled with rusted and rotting chairs. Hundreds of boys were crowded in there. More people than I had ever seen in a single room or known to even exist before then. It was impossible to gauge just how many Delphorians existed, much less how many other folks like Groods or Kelites existed. For the first time it dawned on me that there must have been a great many of us Delphorians. This school was packed with us and there were only boys present, so somewhere else there were as many girls going to school. I wonder now as I write this why it never occurred to me that we might be a people great in number? It never occurred to me that we might be great in anything. I certainly never felt in being anything approximating greatness. To this day I still have no idea just how many there are of us. I wonder if there’s enough of us to pay off our ancestral debt in my lifetime?
The assembly was devoid of excitement, it ran with the calculated efficiency of clockwork. Rather, it was similar one of a carefully arranged religious rite that the Kelite priests arranged for us on holidays. I could not remember the entirety of the headmaster’s speech the first time I heard it. By the fifteenth or sixteenth time it was firmly ingrained in my memory. Our schooling course was organised into 84 units to be covered in the 84 months that we were going to be in school. Every month of school we had a full school assembly I heard the exact same speech repeated each time. So many times that I eventually arrived at the conclusion that this speech was the most important part of school and not the topics covered in the 84 units – even though no one ever told us to memorise this speech.