Andrew reached up and felt his neck. There was a bandaid. It was gone.
He was just like everybody else now.
"Washed out, Andy?" asked a boy who sat across the aisle and behind
him. Couldn't think of his name. Peter. No, that was someone else.
"Quiet, Mr. Stilson," said Miss Pumphrey. Stilson smirked.
Miss Pumphrey talked about multiplication. Ender doodled on his desk,
drawing contour maps of mountainous islands and then telling his desk to
display them in three dimensions from every angle. The teacher would know,
of course, that he wasn't paying attention, but she wouldn't bother him. He
always knew the answer, even when she thought he wasn't paying attention.
In the corner of his desk a word appeared and began marching around
the perimeter of the desk. It was upside down and backward at first, but
Ender knew what it said long before it reached the bottom of the desk and
turned right side up.
Ender smiled. He was the one who had figured out how to send
messages and make them march -- even as his secret enemy called him
names, the method of delivery praised him. It was not his fault he was a Third.
It was the government's idea, they were the ones who authorized it -- how else
could a Third like Ender have gone into school? And now the monitor was
gone. The experiment entitled Andrew Wiggin hadn't worked out after all. If
they could, he was sure they would like to rescind the waivers that had allowed
him to be born at all. Didn't work, so erase the experiment.
The bell rang. Everyone signed off their desks or hurriedly typed in
reminders to themselves. Some were dumping lessons or data into their
computers at home. A few gathered at the printers while something they
wanted to show was printed out. Ender spread his hands over the childsize
keyboard near the edge of the desk and wondered what it would feel like to
have hands as large as a grown-up's. They must feel so big and awkward,
thick stubby fingers and beefy palms. Of course, they had bigger keyboards --
but how could their thick fingers draw a fine line, the way Ender could, a thin
line so precise that he could make it spiral seventy-nine times from the center
to the edge of the desk without the lines ever touching or overlapping. It gave
him something to do while the teacher droned on about arithmetic. Arithmetic!
Valentine had taught him arithmetic when he was three.
"Are you all right, Andrew?"
"You'll miss the bus."
Ender nodded and got up. The other kids were gone. They would be
waiting, though, the bad ones. His monitor wasn't perched on his neck,
hearing what he heard and seeing what he saw. They could say what they
liked. They might even hit him now -- no one could see them anymore, and so
no one would come to Ender's rescue. There were advantages to the monitor,
and he would miss them.
It was Stilson, of course. He wasn't bigger than most other kids, but he
was bigger than Ender. And he had some others with him. He always did.
Don't answer. Nothing to say.
"Hey, Third, we're talkin to you, third, hey bugger-lover, we're talkin to
Can't think of anything to answer. Anything I say will make it worse. So
will saying nothing.
"Hey, Third, hey, turd, you flunked out, huh? Thought you were better
than us, but you lost your little birdie, Thirdie, got a bandaid on your neck."
"Are you going to let me through?" Ender asked.
"Are we going to let him through? Should we let him through?" They all
laughed. "Sure we'll let you through. First we'll let your arm through, then
your butt through, then maybe a piece of your knee."
The others chimed in now. "Lost your birdie, Thirdie. Lost your birdie,
Stilson began pushing him with one hand; someone behind him then
pushed him toward Stilson.
"See-saw, marjorie daw," somebody said.
This would not have a happy ending. So Ender decided that he'd rather
not be the unhappiest at the end. The next time Stilson's arm came out to
push him, Ender grabbed at it. He missed.
"Oh, gonna fight me, huh? Gonna fight me, Thirdie?"
The people behind Ender grabbed at him, to hold him.
Ender did not feel like laughing, but he laughed. "You mean it takes this
many of you to fight one Third?"
"We're people, not Thirds, turd face. You're about as strong as a fart!"
But they let go of him. And as soon as they did, Ender kicked out high
and hard, caching Stilson square in the breastbone. He dropped. It took
Ender by surprise -- he hadn't thought to put Stilson on the ground with one
kick. It didn't occur to him that Stilson didn't take a fight like this seriously,
that he wasn't prepared for a truly desperate blow.
For a moment, the others backed away and Stilson lay motionless. They
were all wondering if he was dead. Ender, however, was trying to figure out a
way to forestall vengeance. To keep them from taking him in a pack tomorrow.
I have to win this now, and for all time, or I'll fight it every day and it will get
worse and worse.
Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was
only six. It was forbidden to strike the opponent who lay helpless on the
ground, only an animal would do that.
So Ender walked to Stilson's supine body and kicked him again,
viciously, in the ribs. Stilson groaned and rolled away from him. Ender walked
around him and kicked him again, in the crotch. Stilson could not make a
sound; he only doubled up and tears streamed out of his eyes.
Then Ender looked at the others coldly. "You might be having some idea
of ganging up on me. You could probably beat me up pretty bad. But just
remember what I do to people who try to hurt me. From then on you'd be
wondering when I'd get you, and how bad it would be." He kicked Stilson in
the face. Blood from his nose spattered the ground. "It wouldn't be this bad,"
Ender said. "It would be worse."
He turned and walked away. Nobody followed him. He turned a corner
into the corridor leading to the bus stop. He could hear the boys behind him
saying, "Geez. Look at him. He's wasted." Ender leaned his head against the
wall of the corridor and cried until the bus came. I am just like Peter. Take my
monitor away, and I am just like Peter.
Copyright © 1985 Orson Scott Card