Chapter 15.4

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Jacob didn't respond at first, except to shrink away. The mouse stared at Ward. Its eyes were pupilless black buttons and there was an uncomfortable directness in its gaze. He wondered if mice did that normally.

"Hu-hi," Jacob said, his voice was high-pitched, as if the words had caught in his throat. Ward couldn't reconcile it with the deep, powerful Voice from before. Another light popped and fizzled and darkened nearby and the reactor cycled down again. Can it read my mind? he thought.

Jacob wore scuffed black shoes and grey pants: it struck Ward, somehow, as part of a school uniform. The black shirt that flapped on his body was oddly devoid of buttons, and an unreadable, spidery script was emblazoned across the front. Perhaps, Ward thought, it was a symbol, like the Sign of the Beast. Jacob's arms were white sticks. His neck and face were pale, his hair parted in a straight line down the middle, and long like a girl's. His teeth were crooked, and crammed into a narrow palate, making his lips protrude outwards and giving the impression that he was perpetually hurt by some insult. Ward understood now why Jacob had been afraid they would laugh at him. Bullies would gravitate towards him like flies to rotting meat. If attacked he would curl up in a ball and cry, or would scream, fighting dirty like an animal, spittle flying. His opponents would withdraw more from disgust than fear. Adults would defend him, but without much passion, for secretly they would find him repulsive too. Small children would assault him in packs. Girls would ignore him as if he were a slug.


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