Calvin opened his school locker. The door swung open, its hinges squeaking sharply. It sounded a bit like a mouse, now that he thought about it. Hobbes would like it – his tiger-friend loved to toy with his prey, to make them squeal. Too bad the squeak could hardly be heard above the roaring babble of the school hallway. People of all shapes and sizes ran back and forth, screaming all the while. Others bunched in groups around the corners. They chattered and nattered and giggled. Calvin stood alone in the midst of it all.
With his locker open, Calvin's eyes settled on the picture he had stuck at the back of its door. It was a pterosaur, one of the flying reptiles back in the Triassic age. Its wings were outstretched in flight. Most people called them pterodactyls, but Calvin knew better. He had read all about them in the library. They were like dinosaurs, but with wings! They had long jaws and teeth. They could hunt then fly up into the clouds. Oh, it would probably feel awesome to fly. He'd have the wind in his face, the sun in his eyes. And it would be quiet, except for the sound of his wings flapping. There would be no noisy, shouting kids and lessons and teachers and –
A hand suddenly shoved into Calvin's back. He yelled in surprise as he fell forward into the locker. His hands shot out to break his fall and slammed into the wall inside. The locker shuddered and dropped a couple of books. A particularly thick one bounced off Calvin's blonde head before landing on the ground. Calvin heard a familiar chuckle as he picked himself up. He turned around and sighed.
"Hey Twinky," Moe said. The large boy was wearing his usual black shirt, his eyes obscured by a mop of shaggy hair. He crossed his arms on his chest and continued, "Looks like you dropped some books there, huh?"
"'Top of the morning to yourself as well, Moe," Calvin replied, his lips twitching into a small sneer. "Capital mood you're in today, marvellous, really!"
"Oh, don't mind me. I was just remarking on your usual anti-social behaviour," Calvin bent down as he spoke to hide a widening smirk. He gathered his fallen books as he continued, "-and how it's probably caused by escalating levels of hormone imbalance."
With all his books gathered together, Calvin looked up with a grin. "You should get that looked at."
"Yeah, well," Moe stepped closer and knocked Calvin's books down again with a swing of his hand. "You better get that looked at, Twinky!" Moe laughed uproariously as he started to walk off, pushing past the smaller kids in his way
Calvin stared after the bully, his books scattered all over the floor. People gave his area a wide berth and spoke in hushed whispers. At least no one was stepping on his stuff, Calvin thought, as he knelt down to pick it all up again. Only one book was left to recover before a hand tapped his shoulder. Calvin gritted his teeth in irritation and swung around, knocking the offending hand away. Didn't Moe have enough for the morning, at least? Why did Calvin have to take all this, every single day?
"WHAT?" He yelled, ready for Moe to dish out yet another beating. At least he'd get it over with already. The teachers would be forced to give Moe a little slap on the wrist, and the bully would stay away for a couple of days. It was a time-honoured tradition. Except that it wasn't Moe facing him, but Susie.
The blonde girl had taken a step back at Calvin's outburst. Her eyes were wide, and her face was a touch paler than usual. Calvin stared back, his mouth frozen into an O of surprise. "I just wanted," Susie stammered out, "Just . . . here, take it!"
With that, Susie pushed something onto the pile already in Calvin's arms. He reeled back, almost dropping his things again. Once he was balanced, he looked down. His geography book stared back up at him from the top of the pile – the one book he hadn't yet picked up.
"Now you better get to class!"
Calvin looked up, just in time to see Susie running off. "Susie, wait!" He cried out, and started to chase after her. The already-forgotten books dropped from his arms to land on the floor with dull thuds. They tangled with his feet, and Calvin yelped as he fell down for the second time that morning.
Right at that moment, the school bell rang, signalling the start of the first period. Lockers slammed shut all along the hallway, and people started shuffling toward their classrooms. They left a space around Calvin and his books. He stood slowly and took his time picking up his things. By the time he was done, the hallway was mostly empty.
Calvin stepped back to his locker. He stuffed a couple of books inside, keeping the one for geography under his arm. The pterosaur stared at him from his locker door, mocking him with its wings, its freedom. Calvin let out a low breath. For the umpteenth time, he wished that he could fly. Flying would be awesome.
Miss Wormwood was at her usual place in the front by the time Calvin reached his classroom. She was pointing up at a map pinned to the blackboard. She stopped her lecture as Calvin walked in, and turned to gaze at him in that disapproving way of hers. "Calvin. Nice of you to finally join us."
With a muttered excuse, Calvin moved towards his seat. It was near the back of the room, right next to the windows. He could feel his classmates' eyes on him as he walked. He ignored them all and slumped into his seat, its legs scraping noisily on the floor.
Miss Wormwood cleared her throat, the rasping sound pulling everyone's attention back to the front. "As I was saying," she continued, a finger pointing again to the map, "the state we live in is known for . . . "
Calvin stared up front. He listened for a few moments; he really did, before his eyes started to wander. The teacher's voice faded to the background, her droning words merging into a dull, incomprehensible buzz. She started to walk around as she spoke, her white hair bobbing in time with her movements. Her hands made strange gestures in the air, they moved back and forth, back and forth, back and –
A wad of paper crashed into Calvin's head. It slid to his lap noiselessly, followed along by a muffled chuckle. Calvin rolled his eyes and straightened the paper on his desk. A single word was clumsily scrawled in the centre: 'Twinky'. Of course. Calvin sneaked a look behind him and spotted Moe a couple of rows back. He was grinning, bent over his desk. His greasy hair blocked what he was doing from view – not that it was much of a mystery.
Calvin looked back to the front, just in time to feel another missile come in contact with his head. It rolled down to the floor this time, but just as he bent to pick it up, he saw a set of heeled shoes come to a stop in front of him. A bony hand picked up the roll of paper and crumpled it even further.
"Calvin," Miss Wormwood said, with her other hand tightly gripping her green, polka-dot dress. Calvin could tell how much effort she was putting in to keep her voice at an even level. "This isn't playtime, so save it for recess."
Calvin muttered something like an apology. He didn't bother pointing out that he wasn't the one who threw the paper in the first place – experience had taught him better. Miss Wormwood walked back to the front, paper missile in tow. Calvin straightened up in his seat, and almost missed a sharp, exasperated sniff from the chair beside his. Though there was no need to, he faced slightly to the side to get a better look at the source.
Susie stared straight ahead, pointedly not looking back at him. She scribbled furiously in her notebook, taking down notes. Her lips were set in a grim line. No point in apologising to her, either – she probably wouldn't even speak to him for a couple of days.
Calvin faced the front again with a sigh. Miss Wormwood was still up there, droning on about . . . something. As she spoke, sunlight poured in from the side, bathing everything in light. Calvin looked to the windows and saw wispy clouds pass along the too-bright sky. They brought shadows down in to the room, little patterns that danced up the desks and to the map on the board. As he watched, the lines on the map blurred and lengthened and merged with the shadows. Miss Wormwood buzzed above it all with her faux-calm voice, and Moe sneered and laughed with his hand pushing and shaking, and Susie stared silently, her blue eyes angry and disgusted and afraid –
Calvin leapt from his seat with a loud yell. Everyone fell silent and stared at him. Miss Wormwood stepped closer, but before she could catch him, Calvin ran to the windows and leapt. As the ground rushed closer, he spread his arms. They stretched out, long and wide and strong. They caught the wind as it came, a cool, upward current. Calvin soared up to the sky, his wings beating in powerful strokes.
He looked back once to his old classroom, and saw that they were all crowding the window, staring up at him in wonder. Moe and Miss Wormwood had frowns on their faces, while Susie had a smile. Calvin yelled a 'goodbye!' at them, but it came out as a piercing call from his beak. With another flap of his wings, Calvin turned his back to them and flew into the sky.
The world was different from up above. Everything was so small, so far away. School became a tiny dot behind Calvin, as he flew further and further. He passed roads and posts and houses. He passed over bicycles and cars and people. They called out and pointed up to him as he twisted between tall buildings and skyscrapers.
He was Pterosaur, and he was free.
Eventually the dull gray of the cities gave way to the brighter green and brown of real life. Hills of grass rolled below him, blending into the thick jungles. The deep blue of rivers and lakes cut their way all throughout the forests, till they merged into one rolling, crashing sea. Calvin passed over it, his eyes watching the waves.
"CALVIN!" A large dinosaur burst out of the water, right underneath Calvin. Its jaw was wide open, teeth gleaming madly against the red of its tongue. "PAY ATTENTION!" It roared, and Calvin squawked backwards, flapping his wings vainly as the monster came closer and closer –
Miss Wormwood slammed both her hands on Calvin's desk, and he startled back in surprise. A few muffled giggles rang through the class as she shouted, "Calvin, we're studying geography! Now, what state do you live in?" Her voice grew louder at the end, making no effort to mask her irritation. The giggles grew louder as more people joined in.
With Miss Wormwood watching, Calvin turned to look behind him. Moe stared right back and cracked his knuckles meaningfully, a grin on his face. Calvin moved on to look to his side, and caught Susie's curious gaze. She immediately looked away with a swish of her hair. Then Calvin looked up to the waiting Miss Wormwood, who looked like she was growing even more annoyed by the second.
"So, Calvin, you don't even know what state –"
"Denial," Calvin said, grinning widely. Miss Wormwood fell silent, as most of the class burst out laughing. He leaned back in his chair and let it all wash over him. What did it matter? Then his ears pricked up as Miss Wormwood sighed and made a faint response.
"I don't suppose I can argue with that . . . "
As Miss Wormwood started up her lecture, Calvin turned back to the window. He jumped out and flew up into the sky again. The wind streamed past his face, and the sun flashed in his eyes. Denial would do for now.
Notes: Made for an assignment, quite a while ago. Based on a particular C&H strip, though I did flesh it out a bit.