Ansel lit the cigarette in blatant violation of the little prohibition sign on the wall. He was two drags in when the door opened and Miss Teller poked her head through the gap. Her mouth was a thin line and her eyes narrowed as she glared at him.
“Just what do you think you are doing?” she demanded. Ansel took a third long pull, and his words were spoken through a thick cloud.
“I’m already getting tagged for the fight. Might as well get it all at once,” he said.
“Get in my office,” she ordered. Her face looked like she had sucked on a lemon. As he passed, she snatched the smoke from his lips and crushed it on the tile beneath her heel. A well-practiced hand shoved him into the closest of the chairs in front of her desk as she waved a paw to clear the smoke smell.
He looked at her with an expression that spoke of numerous previous meetings and an expected outcome that would not be in his favor, but he kept his mouth shut. She looked at him, waiting for him to speak. After a long period of mutual staring, she broke the silence.
“So do you want to tell me what happened?”
“Fight,” he said simply.
“That much I could have surmised from your appearance if I had not been told already. Bloody, filthy, and with ripped clothing tells a story all its own.”
“Must be Thursday,” Ansel shot back.
“Is that when they pick on you, then?”
“Lady, nobody picks on me,” he said. He slapped a paw on his chest for emphasis.
You’re a liar.
“What?” he said, half-rising from the chair. His nostrils flared. Miss Teller looked at him across her graceful muzzle, head tilted to the left.
“Please remain in your seat, Mister Phillips.”
“You called me a liar.”
“I said no such thing.”
“I heard it!”
“Perhaps you did, but not from me. Tell me, if they don’t pick on you, why do you end up back here every other week?”
Because you can’t control yourself.
“What the hell?”
“Language, Mister Phillips!” she snapped, slapping a hand on the desk.
“Tell me you heard that!”
“I did indeed, and there are things I do not have to tolerate.”
“No! The voice!” he said, craning his neck to look all around the office.
You’re the believer here, Ansel. Not her. Why would I talk to her?
“This isn’t funny!” Ansel shouted, jumping to his feet. He knocked the chair over in his haste, and Miss Teller rose from her chair as well, planting her paws on her hips.
“I daresay it is not,” she replied. She pointed to the chair. “Pick that up and plant your butt in it, young man.”
It was the first time Ansel had heard anything even approximating a curse come from the principal, but he did not take the time to appreciate that he had been the one to make her lose control. He was too busy looking around the room.
“Who are you?” he asked aloud.
You really are a dense one, aren’t you? You pray to me and you don’t think I might just listen every now and then?
“No. No fucking way.”
“That’s three days detention!” Miss Teller barked. Ansel was paying no attention to her at this point. He was looking now toward the ceiling, his eyes wide.
“It can’t be,” he said.
“Why didn’t you do anything? I was getting my ass handed to me every damned day!”
Does this sound familiar, then? “Oh, Gann, just let me be strong enough to fight back and I’ll serve you forever.” And you got stronger. Faster. Meaner. You opened your heart to me and I filled it with raw power. How many of your classmates could stand after fighting six at once?
“That was you?”
I have need of warriors, Ansel. I need guardians for the temples. I need those willing to fight that will carry my words to the masses. Rest assured, it will be a fight. I am not some god of love and peace. My people need me in the trenches. In the mines. In the dark of night, when the monsters come, there will you find my priests, standing as a bulwark against their dark incursions. You said you would serve me. Will you live up to your word?
Ansel nodded, struck dumb by the words. He had always imagined Gann to be a psychological construct of some sort, there to help people deal with whatever was in their hearts or minds, but the thought that an actual god was speaking to him banished that image. He knew now with full and complete certainty that everything his father had taught him was real. It was like opening a door into a room full of pure light.
Miss Teller had flipped the red toggle on the edge of her desk when Ansel stopped talking to her. The office door flew open to reveal the twin wolfhounds that acted as security officers during school hours. Neither one looked to be in a friendly mood.
“Mister Phillips here –” she began, but Ansel cut her off.
“I need a ride,” he said, his voice low and deep. “Whichever one of you two idiots can actually drive needs to take me to the Gannite monastery.”
He turned back to look at his shocked principal. He half-bowed from the waist.
“My apologies for my behavior,” he said. “We all find our way to Gann differently, but He has shown Himself to me today. I will finish my school in His temple.”
Prompt – Awakening