Picture thirty-seven adolescent girls, already drained of colour at fourteen years of age. Their eyes have lost its spark of youthfulness, and most of them have strands of silver hair. Looking at them, one really wonders if they are fourteen years old.
Whenever he, their superior enters the room, their dead eyes will widen in sheer terror, and whatever little hue left on their faces will vanish completely, apart from red around the tearing eyes and running noses. They fall silent apart from quiet, desolate sobs and whispered foul words every so often.
Some refuse to cry even when he pushes their limits. Their pallid faces are closed-up, and insanity flashes in their lifeless eyes whenever he tries as they fight an inner battle with their emotions.
Take Number 16 for example, Michaela to anyone who bothered.
He has targeted her many times, yet she has never wept once. She straightens herself to her full height of five feet, but bows her head and looks at the floor when he murders her with his words, muttering incoherent words under her breath. When told to look him in the eye, she looks up to return his glare with soulless eyes burning like fire, as though something other than life and happiness is fuelling her.
Yet in those eyes, all the sadness of the world.
After he is gone, she shouts and rants into the night, crying at the hopelessness of the situation and fate of these thirty-seven girls. When he is there, however, her small hands clench anything around her in a death grip, as though restraining a chained monster within.
Number 16 has cracked.
Number 10, Meg to anyone who cared, had come in full of hopes, innocent.
Then it all went wrong.
Now Number 10 wonders what life is, or if she is just being used and then tossed away like a broken sandal. She knows the truth, yet she gropes in the bleakness, scrounging for a single ray of hope. She is quiet, quieter than ever now in Room M, sitting, huddled in a corner, paper-thin, speaking only when spoken to and answering only in the softest of voices, as though hoping that she could disappear from the despair just by making herself seem as invisible as possible.
Number 25, selected, by luck, as some may call it, though the situation was more grim than fortunate. to be the leader amongst these thirty-seven girls. She knows she can’t refuse, yet how she wished she could. There would be no other solution, as they all saw, was for her to bravely lead them forward in emotional battle, hoping, of course, with all their frightened little hearts that one day, some day, the flag of victory would be theirs.
Yet despite the hopes they place on her, and those she placed on herself like some kind of strange, demented emotional baggage, she knows she is only human. She tries not to crumble in times like these, yet even the mightiest warrior falls.
But she mustn’t fall. She has to stand strong, and keep going. They cannot see her silent tears. Nobody must ever know.
Not ever, no. The truth of Number 25 must remain a secret.
Number 30, also known as Catalina to some who listened, silent and resigned. She has not wept, not once, but if one looks carefully one may be able to see scars of blades on her hands. She has stopped now, but the pain he has drove into her – the hurt and hidden tears – will always be etched into her forever.
Number 32, called Emily by some, had come in boisterous and optimistic like so many her age.
But after one year under him in Room M, she has now given up whatsoever hope in life, her interests and passions now dead as her eyes. He has succeeded in making her cry for two hours before, something nobody would have expected such a cheerful soul to do.
Those who appear more well-off – the ‘lucky ones’, should we say, are the minority who grovel in submission to feed their own ambition, earning some kind of sick, twisted favour from him, and are definitely treated tons better.
Thirty-seven adolescent girls have been changed for good over the year. They will never be able to perceive the world in the same way again. They have become more cynical and lifeless like the group of girls in Room M before them, but they, like the generations of girls who have gone through the same before, have thrived through one year of this.
While most adolescent girls blossom and bloom into confidence at this age, the girls here have shrank and shrivelled instead, and grown in another way. They have learnt that life isn’t always a bed of roses.
Reader, I can safely assure you that this is not fiction, nor is it some sort of warped experiment to see how a group of young girls will change under such circumstances.
This is reality.
These thirty-seven girls are my class.
He is our teacher.
I am Michaela, and this is our story.