[Disclaimer; This is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.]
In a dimly lit office, a corkboard stands out as a group of seven people gathered around.
The corkboard, plastered with pictures of students' faces, reflected a distinct pattern of both age and background. The diversity of uniforms, all from elite schools, indicated their affluent upbringing. With ages spanning from 14 to 18, their bright, well-assured smiles could only be a reflection of none other than youthful opulence—a dream desired by many, though believed to be bestowed upon oneself rather than earned by toiling efforts.
Within the array of the corkboard, some pictures remained in-tact, and the student in those pictures remained visible. However, alongside them were others—faces severely obscured, with pictures completely distorted and unrecognizable. For each picture pinned, as many as it would get, the words "MISSING" would be stamped upon each one of them. This unsettling scene became known as the ruination that haunts the vulnerable, even the most resilient of humans would feel an ache upon examination.
And such were the feelings of these investigators... Unable to save victims, while also reaching little to no progress into solving the mystery... It all wounded the hearts of this very crew. As the disappearances of students prevails, the longer the perpetrators will thrive out of it, whoever they may be.
A clock ticks, and the time reaches 12 A.M. Each investigator takes a quick blink, and as expected—
The faces in the middle... had now blackened.
With every passing second, the faces would further darken and distort. Although these pictures were in-tact just a moment ago, it now serves as a countdown until the very last moment you would be able to see their smiles.
"Those poor children…" One of the investigators gulped.
"Mr. Lucero, we can't let them keep getting away with this." Another investigator spoke in urgency, "When will we take action?!"
Levi Lucero, leader of the investigation, a stern, middle-aged man. He stands in the middle of the investigators, fidgeting with his pen as he stares at the corkboard with a troubled look.
He gazes right at the center of the corkboard, a picture of Guevarra Academy- The main subject of the corkboard, which all lines connected to.
"It's time to infiltrate."
He commanded, at last.
HOT TOPIC; GUEVARRA ACADEMY!
Written by journalist, Crisjan Aojie Punzalan (August 6, 2016)
Being one of the most prestigious schools in the country, Guevarra Academy's current enrollment has been a hot topic for every student and their parents. After all, it's an academy with long, rich history. It was first established in the 18th century by the aristocratic Guevarra Family, and it was fully built after the death of renowned artist, Leon Guevarra. Since then, his family and descendants had been running it, dedicating themselves to spreading his artistic knowledge and teachings.
Most of the country's best artists graduated from this academy, reaching success in their respective artistic fields. Some even choose to teach in the school, making it a place for young artists to learn from their idols. Despite the academy's generational success, there had been no plans to create a College Department or such. It remains as a Senior High School that contains curriculums that are on par with that of colleges, challenging students to reach their full artistic potential in just two years.
Not to mention, the academy's Special Enrollment System guarantees that students get accepted with their skills and talents. The importance of academics are slightly reduced, since the school prioritizes developing talented artists. It's a school that focuses on learning from the best, whether it's from teachers or fellow students. To get accepted into the school, a student must submit a piece that suits the academy's available strands, one that should be their choice. Which are the following; Painting Strand, Sculpting Strand, Literature Strand, Photography Strand, Digital Arts Strand, and Performing Arts Strand.
These are what makes Guevarra Academy special from other similar High Schools. With an enrollment system that accepts based on skill, along with high-quality, college-like education, a chance to study in Guevarra Academy is an achievable dream of every young aspiring artist!
What are you waiting for? Enroll now!
There's only a week left, it's not too late to make your dreams come true!
[The results of acceptance or rejection for Grade 11 Class 2016-2017 and Grade 12 Class 2016-2017, will be announced in the academy's Results Ceremony on August 12, 2016.]
I exhaled deeply as I closed this magazine, getting back into reality once I finished fantasizing about my dream school. The sky had already turned dark, but my friend Brielle was still immersed in her canvas—Her painting submission for Guevarra Academy. Together, we remained in our school's Art Room until she finished it.
Getting into an art school such as Guevarra Academy has always been a dream of ours, and with our skills, we knew that would be easily attainable. Throughout grade school to junior high, we had consistently proven our talents as painters. And that's shown in the awards and certificates we've gotten. We even competed in nationals against other schools, and although we never won first place, we remained high up there with 2nd's, 3rd's or within the Top 10. It would be nice to secure a spot in Guevarra, to further challenge and improve ourselves. Best case scenario, we graduate from there and profit by doing what we love. We'll prove ourselves so that nobody minimizes or underestimates us ever again. And oh, how I wish for that to happen.
Brielle and I came from similar backgrounds—Your typical, lower-middle-class, filipino family. Generational wealth? Old money? Those things are foreign concepts to people like us. Due to this, our families have constantly pressured us to focus on pursuing a high-paying job instead of putting all our time into arts. "You're never going to find a job with that talent of yours," they usually say something along those lines. And no matter how much we've achieved to prove them wrong, they still remain skeptical against the concept of not being a doctor, lawyer, engineer—or whatever high-paying job that exists.
This constant of undermining creative jobs was getting old, because at the end of the day, shouldn't we all choose what makes us happy?
But… I get it. Pursuing something creative is very expensive and to some, it's not worth the risk at all. Resources are limited and sometimes, talent isn't enough or never will be. If only we were born into wealth and easily experience what us, normal people see as luxurious—Those overseas trips, household helpers, stylish cars, intense shopping sprees, or spacious homes.
The only notable "luxury" we've ever had was attending a prestigious private school, but even that was achieved by a full scholarship. This led us to studying alongside wealthier students and witnessing firsthand the ease and lavishness of their lives. It was a culture shock, and by not being able to relate to them, we were seen as "weirdos" or completely looked down upon.
"Grace, I'm done." Brielle called out to me as she picked up her canvas.
I dashed from my chair to have a look at the final product of her masterpiece.
"Woah, this is amazing!" I exclaimed, completely in awe of her painting. "I love the shadows and the way the colors blend so well~ But…"
"...But?" Brielle anticipated.
Brielle's painting centered around a sole girl. To my interpretation, the girl appeared trapped within a hollow, distorted universe. Surrounded and terrified of the darkness that was about to engulf her entirely, her glimmering eyes reflected her desperation to escape… to be free, flickering as her hope of living slowly fades away…
It was rather dark, I should say. I wonder what caused her to paint something so beautiful, yet dark and terrifying. Nevertheless, I found it deep, and meaningful—Something I could relate to.
"It's quite… melancholic. It's different from what you usually paint." I added.
"Hay!" I begin to stretch and make my way to the door, "After seeing your artwork, I'm starting to feel you could totally beat Megan!"
If it weren't for our talents and skills, we could've had it way worse in our school's disparities of wealth. I eventually managed to adapt, finding the strength to stand up for myself.
..I wish I could say the same for Brielle. As a quiet, introverted, timid girl, she became an easy target of those arrogant, rich kids—Particularly in the eyes of the richest of them all; Megan Guevarra.
Megan Guevarra was like the queen of junior high. Her family's wealth excelled the others by a ton, I can't forget to mention that it's none other than the Guevarra bloodline. Being a direct descendant to our country's legendary artist; Leon Guevarra, her family dominates anything relating to the arts and she is no exception. She's a painter, while Melvin, her twin brother, is a sculptor. And at a young age of 16, the both of them already made a name for themselves, even outside of school.
Every first place in art competitions was secured by those twins. With their achievements combined with their renowned lineage, it's natural that they've gained fame. I can't deny their talents as it clearly runs in the family, but my problem lies in the fact that… everywhere they go, they're worshiped like gods. It was like their talents were the only ones that exist, overshadowing other talented students.
"We shouldn't get your hopes up…" Brielle frowned, "Her dad runs Guevarra. It would stain their reputation if a commoner like me got a higher rank than her."
We could basically do the same things as them, sometimes even better… but they end up being the only ones praised by teachers, and heck, other students as well. They had the whole school wrapped around their finger and they definitely knew to take advantage of it.
Students and teachers favored them, doing anything to get on their good side. But Megan took it to a whole new level… She would give students the most bizarre requests; "Do my homework." or "Tell me the quiz answers.", and without a second thought, they would do it for her validation. We could've avoided all the ruckus, but as students who were talented in arts as well, she began to despise our existence.
She sabotaged us by countless ways—Damaging our reputation, which caused students to constantly insult us and vandalize our artworks… It was literally bullying! Not to mention, everywhere we went, those students would push us… throw papers at us, our desks would also have insulting words written onto them!
The worst part is, you couldn't even report them to the counselor. Every complaint was either ignored or brushed off. No student ever wanted to get on Guevarra's bad side, and no faculty wanted to risk the school's reputation. They can get away with anything just because of their influential family. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if her achievements were rigged… and part of me is convinced that they are.
"What a nepo baby…" I scoffed, "She has everything in the world, yet she bullies others and steals things from them."
Despite everything, it's impressive that Brielle and I still maintained our high ranks in arts. And even if there wasn't a moment of peace, it just made our friendship even closer.
I looked at Brielle with determined eyes, holding both of her hands.
"Brielle, we'll definitely make it in Guevarra. And when we study there, we'll work hard to prove to our families that we can pursue arts, we'll also get the whole school to admire our talents and…"
I paused as I noticed Brielle looking down onto my knees, and came to realize she was looking at my bruises. After everything she's been through, maybe what she wanted the most was…
"And we won't get bullied ever again…" I concluded.
Brielle's expression saddened, "I-It won't matter, Grace…" She said with a hint of fear, "As long as we're around, she'll bully us…"
"No," I denied, "We can change that!—"
Brielle cut me off, hastily letting go of my grasp, "We really should've picked a different art school! I know our chances in Guevarra are higher but…"
"Brielle, don't you want to stand up for yourself?! Prove everyone wrong?!" I began to encourage her, "Our talent… is a weapon—a threat to those kids. They're doing everything to bring us down, but we won't ever give up."
Just because they tore us down multiple times, it doesn't mean we can't do the same to them as well.
I held my phone, knowing that it lies a collection of evidence that can be used against her… to defeat her spirits once and for all.
The whole country… is going to know who you really are.