(The long, bated breath wait is over. Concluding chapters, penultimately, today, the grand finale Monday! If you’re not caught or just new to these pages, parts i, ii, iii, iv.)
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I remained in my seat, defiantly, after the session. Everyone else had picked up their phones and filed out the door, the last few slowing to a linger, aware of my refusal to budge, curious, I guess, what I was up to, what this change in pattern indicated. Had I been asked to stay behind? Favourably? With disapproval and awaiting a dressing down?
The minor commotion in the doorway drew Mr. Lucian’s attention away from his phone. He looked up and turned in the direction everyone else in the room was sneaking a peak at. When he saw me still sitting at my desk looking at him, he did a subtle double-take, it looked like, genuine surprise, before he regained his composure, redrawing the Mr. Lucian smirk, his game face.
Sliding the phone into the inside breast pocket of his blazer, a blazer, that’s what it would be, right? More casual than a suit jacket, it seemed to me, but still smart. I liked it. He then walked over to his one associate, Mr. Benning, I think it was, holding the bowl with our cell phones inside, and plucked out the last one remaining. Mine, obviously. With a slight nod of the head, Mr. Lucian gestured for Mr. Benning to clear the room which he did, closing the door behind the last gawker out. Mr. Benning, I’m pretty sure that was the name he went by, then leaned back, his one booted foot off the floor and propped up against the door. The other one, the other associate, I didn’t remember his moniker, not even sure I’ve seen him before, they all share a certain similar look, a non-uniform uniform appearance, he sat perched on the edge of the desk at the front of the room. They both stared down hard at me as Mr. Lucian slow walked down the aisle toward me, spinning my phone between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.
No bullshitting here, my heart was pumping. I was a little shaky and fighting hard not to show it, meeting Mr. Lucian’s eyes as he closed in. How long was he going to fucking take? I wondered, questioning if I’d made the right move with this, whatever this was. Standing up for myself, maybe. Stand up to stand out was something I remember going through my brain. A pep talk. Stand up. Stand firm. Stand out.
Mr. Lucian finally stopped in the aisle right near me. Finally. Close enough that I could’ve sacked him with a quick uppercut to the nuts. That wasn’t the plan though. No good would come of it aside from maybe a little self-satisfaction. He stood still, except for twirling my phone, trying to tower over me. Intimidation 101, right. Not going to lie, it worked a little. But I kept calm, refusing to give ground. I wasn’t going to speak first even though I had initiated this whole… I don’t know, confrontation? Is that what this was? Not yet. I didn’t think. Although, the dynamics in the room at the moment smacked of possible escalation.
“Yes?” Mr. Lucian asked, finally, still with my phone twirling.
A beat. A beat. A deep breath.
“What are we doing here?” I asked-answered.
“What are you doing here?” Mr. Lucian responded. “We’ve been asking that ourselves. Haven’t we, gentlemen?” He turned slightly back to Mr. Benning and the other one, both of whom just kept staring right me as if they hadn’t been addressed by their boss.
“Well, I’m here because I thought I might learn something,” is the response I snap before Mr. Lucian turns to look back at me. “Something of value,” I add staring right at him. “Something I didn’t already know.”
Mr. Lucian smiles that smile of his, his smirk. Nothing pleasant or funny in it. He then cocks his head slightly to give the impression he’s giving me a closer look, a stronger inspection, more thorough. An intimidation tactic.
“Ahhh…” he then says, is all he says. He’s got nothing, as far as I can tell. Completely caught off-guard by my ambush. Mr. Lucian isn’t used to pushback. I press my advantage.
“The surest way to corrupt a youth,” I quote at him, “is to instruct them to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
Mr. Lucian adds an eyebrow raise to his look, the head-cocked, smirking look he’s using to try taunt me with. The secret of the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment of existence is to live dangerously! I Nietzsche to myself. Stay strong. Stand up. Stand firm. Stand out. Right? That’s what we’re here to learn, isn’t it? Boldness. Fearlessness. In the hostile face of opposition, and animosity. Unwavering and resolute in the face of… this face. Mr. Lucian’s face, full of scorn toward me. Mocking me. Dismissive. Full of contempt and disdain like I’m just some fucking rube desperate for validation, for answers, for a way forward. To reclaim what’s mine.
“Edmund Burke, Mr. Lucian,” I pipe up, feebler than I aimed for. “Heard of him?” A little more spirited. “I paid you money because I thought you might possess a little of ‘the madness of the wise’,” I air quote here for him. “Turns out, all this…” I gesture around the room to bring his two thugs in under my scorn. “… all this is just a shitload of sobriety of—”
The last thing I remember, legitimately remember, I think, is Mr. Lucian lunging at me, grabbing the front of the desk I’m sitting in and flips it backwards. At least, that’s what I think happens. Everything goes black.