Innocent and Guilty This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

March 30, 2017
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The wind was blowing, his branch trembling in the wind, but he wasn’t afraid.  He loved the gentle rocking of the tree, so high above the ground that he could imagine just for a moment that he was one of the birds flying so free up in the sky.
“Hey Kid! Tucker Grey! Could you please come down from there?” the voice cut through his mesmerized state.  His hands instantly tightened on the branches.
“C’mon kid you can’t just hide yourself away up there forever.”  Tuck wavered, then decided that he’d better obey until he knew what exactly they had planned for him.  He worked his way down the tree, not aware that he wouldn’t see that tree again for a long, long time.
“That’s a good boy, come, we have to figure out what to do with you.”  They walked together, Tuck hurrying to keep up with the lawyer’s long strides, to a idling little gray car peppered with mud from the long drive up the deeply rutted dirt road.  Tuck climbed in and curled up against the door, his arms hugging his knees; he never spoke, just stared out the window, watching the rushing trees turn into buildings as the car finally made it to the town of Leadville. 
The city was bland: everything was made for functionality, and not a single advertisement nor a single colorful sign could be found: even the street signs were covered with rust and dirt.  The car pulled up to a building, squat and gray like all the other buildings in that town.  The lawyer told Tuck to come in and take a seat in the lobby.  He waited there, completely still but for the slight movement of his chest.
The lawyer walked into an office at the end of the only hallway.  The lawyer glanced at the sign before going in.  It read ‘Brenton Stidge, Social Worker and Consultant’.  The lawyer took a seat in one of the wooden chairs in front of the plain steel desk.  He handed a folder to Mr. Stidge.  Mr. Stidge sighed and opened it.  The report was highly abnormal especially for Leadville, and Mr. Stidge’s eyebrows shot up.  It described the murder, how the entire Grey family had been found hacked to pieces right outside their house, and the gang who had taken credit, accusing Higner Grey of cheating them out in a ‘perfectly legitimate business transaction’.  It mentioned the boy, Tucker, who was now the solitary member of the Grey family because he had been out in the woods at the time.  The gang, the Dreamers, could not be prosecuted: their wealth and influence in the county government was far too great; they were untouchable.
“Well, what do you think?” said the lawyer.  “You knew the Grey family closely, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Higner and I served through the Second Great War together, I was quite upset when he lost himself to the drugs.”
“My apologies, but Mr. Stidge, I meant the child, we have to find someplace to put the boy until he is old enough to fend for himself.  That is why I am here.”
“I do know a place: a large school, private, used to taking in children year round.  He’ll be safe there, and he’ll get a decent education...  Higner and I went there ourselves: Corinth Military Academy.”
The lawyer frowned, “You realize you just made a ton of paperwork for me.  It is highly abnormal for a private school to virtually adopt a child”  He considered it a moment and then continued, “Hmph, transfer of custody to the school itself… the school gets his family’s assets, after I’m paid of course?”
“Yes, that is SOP for orphans.  It will also cover the school’s tuition so he doesn’t become indebted for the rest of his life.”
“I think that’s everything.”  Mr. Stidge moved as if to stand, but the lawyer waved him back, “I’ll walk myself out; I’m hardly going to get lost.”
The lawyer walked back to the lobby.  Tuck was staring at a copy of yesterday’s paper, the one with his family’s story in it.  He did not appear very upset about the incident; he was very precociously unemotional for an eleven year old boy thought the lawyer.  The lawyer tapped him on the shoulder and told him it is time to go, and they walked out of the building.  They entered the filthy little car once more.
It was a quiet ride to Corinth.  They stopped only once on the seven hour drive, the lawyer bought some bread and cheese for Tuck.  He himself didn’t eat.  When they finally arrived, the lawyer brought the boy inside the massive building, noting with slight satisfaction the boys awe of the ornate seven story mansion.  The lawyer indicated for Tuck to sit in one of the chairs in the lobby and walked into the school office to sign paperwork.  Tuck looked around the grand lobby with extreme interest, imagining the columns carved with vines as it might have been when it was made two centuries ago.
The lines spiraled upward, constantly entwining themselves, a portion of them clustered into a single living flower, surrounded by dead ones.  He traces the vines with his finger, entranced with the flowing smoothness of the imitation of life carved deep into the stone by hands hundreds of years before.
The lawyer exited the office with an enormous man wearing an enormous smile beside him.  “Tucker, this is Dr. Kinaid, he is the director of Corinth Academy.  You will listen to him.  This place is to be your home until you are sixteen.  Understand?”  Without waiting for an answer, he turned and left.
“So this is Higner’s son,” Kinaid muttered to himself.
“Tucker Grey, you will be placed in a dorm.  You will have classes every morning, and physical training every afternoon, six days a week.  This isn’t a farm.  You will be everywhere on time, and you will conform to school expectations.  Come now.  Your roommates will explain day to day schedule and rules for you.”
Kinaid led Tuck to the stairs.  They went up one flight and went down the third hallway on the left.  At room 287, they stopped, and Kinaid opened the door with a key he wore on a necklace.  Kinaid smiled again, gave Tuck an encouraging push inside and said, “Welcome home, Tucker Grey, welcome home.”
That night he lies awake, and at 0300 hours, there is a tap at his window.  He sits up and opens it, judging that by his new peers’ snoring, they weren’t going to take notice.  A raven flaps in with a messenger pouch on its leg.  He opens it gingerly and reads the letter within.
Dear Mister Tucker Grey,
Our portion of the bargain is upheld, see you in five years, but for now, be comfortable and expand your mind; a Dreamer’s skill is limited by his/her own imagination.
You’re Welcome,
Erak Starfollower
The Dreamers, Founder

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HereSheIsThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 14 at 10:37 am
Beautiful imagery all the way through, and an amazing twist ending
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