- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Hate Crimes
- Rape-Off Screen
- Crime Drama
- Episode Related
SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll
Peter wanted to go home.
Sliding out of the car when he was told to, his feet crunching on the gravel of the driveway, he gazed fearfully up at the largest building he’d ever seen. It was grey, as though all of the colour had been sucked out of it a long time ago, with imposing windows that seemed to be filled with ghostly shadows. Faces appeared and disappeared, mostly those of boys a couple of years older than him but he also saw a few stern looking adults who glared down at him.
“Don’t forget your suitcase,” the policeman who’d brought him to this awful place grunted from the front seat of the car. Peter reached back in to collect the small suitcase he’d been handed, packed by his mother he’d been told although he hadn’t seen her at all. “Mind your manners. Do as you’re told. Keep your ‘ead down an’ you’ll be fine. An’ no funny business.”
“In you go then. They’re expecting you.”
The walk from the car to the front door of the dominating building felt much longer than the twelve steps it actually took, his heart pounding painfully within his chest as the door swung open with a loud creak to reveal a strict looking woman in what was easily recognisable as a nurses uniform. Her dirty blonde hair was pulled back under the starched white cap, making her face appear stretched out of shape, and her thick rimmed spectacles made her eyes look too big for her face. In her hands, which seemed almost claw like, she held a stiff clipboard.
“Jakes, Peter Ian. Born, 18th August 1940.”
He nodded, hesitantly, confirming his identity.
“Mutant status confirmed,” she continued, her already cold voice dropping even further. “It says here that you set both your step-father and his car on fire. Is this correct? Answer me.”
“…it was an accident. I didn’t mean to…”
“Be that as it may we can’t have a pyromaniac loose about the place,” she tutted loudly, sneering down at him as she took out a pen from the breast pocket of her uniform and signed her name on the bottom of the sheet. “There. Recommendation for suppression treatment. Put forward by Doctor Fairbridge. Seconded by myself. Come along then, boy.”
Peter was stunned into silence.
He didn’t know what had just happened…
His feet carried him along behind the as yet unnamed nurse despite the fact that his brain was too jumbled to give a conscious command, his toes dragging with each step forwards.
What was suppression treatment?
And why did it send a shiver of fear down his spine, whatever it was?
“I’ll assign one of the boys to look after you for the first week or so,” the nurse announced as she led him up the grand staircase that was definitely showing its age, chips and scratches standing out all along the bannister whilst the carpet was wearing thin. “You will attend the same lessons as the other boys; reading, writing and arithmetic. Each morning you will go for a cross country run before breakfast. Each evening you will help clean the building from top to bottom. Not that you shall be able to but use of mutant powers is strictly forbidden.”
Not that he’d be able to?
What did she mean?
Did they know how to…how to make him normal again?
Perhaps if they could make him normal his mum would let him come home…
At the top of the stairs they turned right, heading down a seemingly deserted corridor until eventually they came to a sudden halt beside a plain brown door bearing a single plaque.
‘Doctor Fairbridge M.D’
Underneath, tacked up with a single pin, was a piece of paper on which was written,
KNOCK. WAIT. ENTER ONLY WHEN INSTRUCTED TO.
Peter jumped when the nurse obeyed the piece of paper, knocking sharply on the door, and then again when a voice from inside the room barked out for them to enter. One of the old hinges needed oiling, he noticed absently as he flinched away from the high pitched squeak.
“Who do we have here?”
“New boy, doctor,” the nurse announced calmly, prodding Peter until he moved to stand in the middle of the room. His eyes fluttered nervously, taking in as much of his surrounding as he could. There was a desk, behind which sat an older man whose hair was beginning to go thin on top, and a number of filing cabinets, cupboards and storage units, someone which were locked with large padlocks. His eyes eventually fell upon the strange bed, pressed up against one of the longer walls, and the tray on medical equipment next to it. “Peter Jakes. You recommend him for suppression treatment due to his dangerous actions towards his step-father. As you can see I have seconded the recommendation so you may proceed.”
A quick perusal of the paperwork being held out to him by the nurse and the doctor nodded.
Pushing himself up out of his chair the doctor moved to one of the tall white cabinets, one of the ones sporting a padlock, and set about unlocking it with a key he retrieved from his pocket. Inside were a load of bottles, some containing liquids, others pills and all labelled.
He took out one that bore a black label.
A black label with a white skull and crossbones.
A black label with the word ‘POISON’ stamped across it.
“What are you…?”
“Don’t worry; it’s only poisonous to normal humans,” the doctor reassured him, nodding to the nurse who moved far quicker that Peter was expecting her to, picking him up and laying him down on the bed, face down. He cried out sharply when his shorts and underpants were pulled down to exposed his bum. “Now, I’m afraid this will hurt but it’s for your own good…”
A strong arm pressed down across his back, pinning him in place, whilst its pair pinned his legs to the bed. The nurse, he presumed, as he turned his head to frantically watch the doctor as he picked up a large needle, drawing some of the liquid out of the bottle with it before moving to stand beside the nurse. Peter screamed, trying to get them to stop, and then helped in pain as he felt the needle enter the flesh of his left buttocks, jabbing deep.
“…there we go.”
The burning sensation began almost immediately.
It began at the injection site but spread like, well, life fire until it felt as though he were being burned from the inside out, as though the liquid had turned his powers against him.
Eventually, after an eternity of pain, his vision swam and he knew no more.
~ * ~
“Shh! Let him sleep it off!”
A hand brushed his hair back off of his forehead, gentle yet enough to make him whimper.
His hair hurt.
“His power must be something for him to react like that…”
He flinched, pressing the side of his face into the pillow in reaction to the louder voice.
“Lower your voice!”
Even that final hiss was too much, a flash of white hot pain flaring up behind his eyelids.
“I know,” the gentlest voice murmured in response to his weak cry. He whimpered again when a hand cupped his jaw, the thumb stroking his cheek. “I know it does. But it’ll stop.”
“Soon,” the voice soothed him. “Soon. Go back to sleep. It helps. I promise.”
~ * ~
It didn’t hurt the next time he woke up.
Sitting up slowly he looked around him, surprised to find that it was dark outside, and found that he was on the bottom bunk of the simple bunk bed nearest the door in the small room.
A glance around the room revealed the fact that the other three beds were occupied, each of the lower bunks containing a boy a little older than him, their skin seeming to glow in the moonlight, and the upper bunks were sagging downwards, their thin mattresses deformed by the bodies occupying them. One of the boys moved, rolling over, and the springs of his bed creaked loudly which caused Peter to jump, his hands clutching at the blanket covering him automatically. In recent weeks this would have led to flames and singe marks on his bedding but now, following whatever that terrifying injection had been, nothing happened.
His bed shook suddenly, the frame creaking ominously as a head appeared over the side.
The soft voice was familiar even though the face wasn’t.
“You…” he mumbled, frowning in confusion. “You were…”
“You were pretty out of it the last time you woke up.”
He brought his hands up in front of his face.
He frowned at them, hard enough to make his face hurt.
“You still in pain?”
“No,” Peter mumbled. “Have they…has it gone?”
“Your powers, you mean?” the other boy clarified, rolling his body down off of the top bunk, landing on his feet with a distinct thud. Peter nodded. “No. They’re not gone. They can’t do that, not yet anyway. They just…stop them working for a bit but they come back. I promise.”
Peter sounded as disappointed as he felt.
“Wait, you want to get rid of your powers? Why?”
“Are you a…?”
Their voices overlapped, the boy frowning with disapproval at Peter’s choice of words.
“We don’t use that word here, not amongst the boys anyway,” the other boy explained as he moved to sit cross-legged on Peter’s bed, causing the younger boy to hurriedly pull his legs out of the way. “Some of the staff do but we just ignore them; they hate everyone, not just mutants. But, to answer your question, yes, I’m a mutant. A teleport, in fact. Got caught using my powers to acquire other people’s property, those that didn’t really deserve it, you know? Like Robin Hood. And no, I don’t want to go back to being normal, as they put it. Why would I? They’re just jealous of what we can do, of the powers we’ve been given. That’s all.”
“…I wouldn’t mind being normal again,” Peter mumbled sadly. “Then I wouldn’t have…”
“Wouldn’t have what?”
“…nearly killed my step-dad…”
His soft words startled the other boy so badly he nearly lost his balance.
“I can make fire,” Peter explained, looking down at his hands. “And I don’t always mean to.”
“You’re a pyrokinetic?”
The new voice caused both of the boys sat on Peter’s bed to startle, turning to face the boy sitting up on the lower bunk of the bed furthest away from his, tucked into the far corner.
“It’s a fancy way of saying a fire starter,” another new voice explained, the occupant of the bed above the well-spoken boy dropping down to the floor. “He calls me an aerokinetic.”
“I can control the air; make it windy when it’s not, move objects with a well-aimed breeze, that sort of thing,” he explained. “Ironically Benny doesn’t have a fancy name for his gift…”
“It’s true,” the well-spoken boy, Benny, agreed. “I can make inanimate objects come to life.”
“…and have you…has that doctor…?”
“We’re all suppressed,” the as-yet-unnamed boy sat on his bed explained. “They suppress all of the mutants that get sent here. But it only lasts a couple of months. Then our powers come back, we try to hide them for a bit, and then they figure it out and start over again.”
“…but it hurt…”
“It hurts us all,” Benny announced. “Some more than others. Depends on how strong your powers are. Ed, he’s a telepath, has it the worst out of all of us; he loses a couple of days.”
Ed, it seemed, was the boy still sleeping on the top bunk of the bed at the foot of Peters.
“Henry claims it doesn’t hurt him at all,” Benny continued, nodding to the boy snoring lightly on the bunk below Ed’s. “Which doesn’t make any sense to me, not if the amount of pain is to do with how powerful our gifts are because he’s a chlorokinetic, he can control plants.”
“Is…is that why his hairs green?”
“Yes,” the boy sat with him chuckled. “His eyes are ridiculously green too.”
“So, new boy,” the boy above Benny called out softly. “What’s your name?”
“Peter. Peter Jakes.”
“Peter?” the boy sat with him laughed suddenly. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Peter.”
“But I go by Big Pete,” the teleport announced, offering his hand to Peter, holding it steady until the younger boy reached out to shake it lightly. “So how about we call you Little Pete?”
It made him smile.
“Well, welcome Blenheim Vale, Little Pete. Stick with us and you’ll be alright.”
~ * ~
His five roommates, Peter quickly learned, were the only other mutants currently at the institution had been sent to. The rest of the boys were human, all of them troublemakers. Some had been sent to Blenheim Vale by their own parents, like Benny, but most of them had been sent there by the courts after finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Nicholas Mysers, the aerokinetic in the bed above Benny was fourteen, and had been sent to Blenheim after using his gifts to convince his vicar that the church was haunted after the old man had turned the entire congregation against his mother after he’d discovered the truth about Nicholas’ parentage; his mother had had an affair with an American pilot whilst her husband had been serving in North Africa during the war. Both the pilot and his father had been killed in the war leaving his mother with no choice but to move, to start over, lying to her new friends and neighbours and claiming that Nicholas’ father was her dead husband.
Benny Topling was twelve, the same age as Peter, only he was almost a foot taller than him.
His parents had sent him to Blenheim Vale after he’d begun to make his toys and those of his younger siblings come to life, retreating from the world as he became obsessed with creating his perfect fantasy. Life at the institution was particularly difficult for poor Benny.
Henry Portmore, the chlorokinetic with impossibly green hair and eyes, was thirteen and had been “too much for his parents to handle” once his powers had emerged, choosing to focus on his younger sister who hadn’t shown any sign of being a mutant. They had tried to send him to Blenheim Vale but had found the fees to be too much and so had reported him to the police for something that he hadn’t done, ensuring that he be found guilty with their own testimonies so that he would be sent away. He was bitter, understandably, and angry.
George Aldridge, the boy who slept on the top bunk to the left of his, was a thirteen-year-old electrokinetic; he could control electricity. He was another angry soul. His father had died in the war. His mother had walked out on his when he was five. He’d been sent to live with his grandmother who hadn’t wanted anything to do with him and therefore did very little for him. He’d acted out even before his powers had blossomed. Thieving. Underage drinking. Truancy. And then, after waking up one day and finding that he could create electricity with a click of his fingers, his attempts to get his grandmother to notice him at all had gotten worse. Violent. Dangerous. His arrest had been inevitable, or so he claimed.
And yet, despite all this, he was always nice to Peter and the other younger boys.
Edward Spencer, the telepath, was fifteen and Peter didn’t think he was really there.
His body was, obviously, but his mind…whatever that horrible poison was that they used to suppress their powers had done something to his mind, had turned him into an empty shell.
He had a sister too, like Henry, and they only knew that because the only times he seemed to come alive were when his parents brought her to visit him at the weekends. Hilary, her name was. He’d ended up at Blenheim Vale because he couldn’t control his powers; he had been able to hear everyone’s private thoughts all the time and had learned some things that powerful people didn’t want to be known. Sending him to the institution kept their secrets.
Timmy McClain was a strange boy.
He was a mutant, or so he claimed, but he wouldn’t talk about his powers.
He shared a room with them but outside of it wanted nothing to do with the rest of them.
He was sixteen, the oldest of all of them, and yet Big Pete was definitely the natural leader.
Peter didn’t know Big Pete’s surname.
He never used it.
Just “Big Pete” or occasionally “BP.”
He was fifteen and whilst Peter, now known as Little Pete, was small for his age Big Pete was tall for his age, standing almost as tall as some of the staff members who ruled over them.
For the first couple of months everything was alright.
It wasn’t good, it could never be good in a place like Blenheim Vale, but it wasn’t bad either.
But then things had changed.
A new man had invested in the institution, buying them new sports equipment and getting involved in the running of the place. He and his friends, supposedly find upstanding men, had offered to be an example for the boys to follow and inserted themselves into the day to day running of Blenheim within a matter of days. Mr Josiah Landesman was his name, the new governor of Blenheim Vale, and his two friends were Mr Wintergreen and Mr Deare.
Or rather, Detective Constable Deare.
Peter didn’t realise what was going on at first.
Some of the boys would disappear sometimes, always from their group; the mutants.
They’d be gone for a couple of hours, always at night, and would come back hurt.
Especially Benny, who seemed to get picked on more than the others.
But then one day a hand settled on his shoulder as he was leaving the dining hall after their evening meal of potato soup and a single slice of unbuttered bread. He looked up, startled, to find Detective Constable Deare smiling down at him. It wasn’t a nice smile, he realised.
It was cold.
“And who do we have here? What’s your name?”
“Peter,” he answered reluctantly. “Peter Jakes. Sir.”
“Peter. What a charming name,” Deare hummed, his grip tightening on Peter’s shoulder when he shifted his feet. “I believe there’s another boy called Peter. Are you two friends?”
He could only nod in response.
“And are you a mutant, Peter?”
Again, a nervous nod.
That evening as they were getting ready for bed he and Benny were instructed not to get into their pyjamas, rather to meet a car at the end of the institutions driveway. Deare was waiting for them, along with Wintergreen, and they drove the trembling boys out to a hotel.
Peter had thought Blenheim Vale was hell.
He had been wrong.
That hotel room, with Deare and Wintergreen, was hell.
And, unfortunately, it was only the beginning.
~ * ~