Lucivur looked into the fearful eyes of Dominik, a centuries-old Seer who'd worked for him for over fifty years.
He bowed deeply. “Master, I have come across a vision of great importance. A prophecy, so to speak.”
“Well don’t just stand there like a fool. Tell me this prophecy of yours before I succumb to old age!”
Dominik nodded frantically and recited:
“A child of Earth is the greatest pleasure; his gifts are ones you will treasure. Eyes of a lynx and skin like rust; he will be the last you can trust.
“A child of the Sea is the next you will find; beware of the trickery of his kind. Liquid sight and head of Night; his gifts will inflict the most fright.
“A child of Fire will come next; her gifts will be quite complex. Raised in confusion and the unknown; she will walk freely into your home.
“A child of Air is the last you seek; capturing her will be the hardest feat. Eyes like a storm and head of Fire; hers are the gifts you most desire.”
“It sounds as if these children could pose a threat,” the great sorcerer mused. “Then again, a child’s trust is easily gained. If I locate these children, they’ll be the ultimate weapons.
"Dominik,” he said, making the immortal servant jump slightly. “Search for these children. It can’t be that hard to find them.”
Dominik bowed again, murmured a quick, “As you wish, Master,” and scurried out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Kade was eight years old when his parents told him the family secret. Robyn was seven. His father, Jim, came home one night and said, “Your mother and I have agreed it's time to tell you something. Go get your sister and meet me in the living room.
Kade did as he said, and after they were all settled his mother, Mary, began, “Do you want to know what your dad and I do when we leave for work?”
Kade nodded eagerly. “Well, it’s a family business in a way. Let’s start with this: Demons exist.” Robyn went white, and she held onto her brother tightly. Kade, however, was intrigued. “So do werewolves, Loup Garou, lamia, elves, ghosts, and much more.”
“What are ‘loo guroo’?” Despite her fear, Robyn was a little curious.
“Loup Garou are people who can turn into wolves. They can control when they transform and they’re always in control of their bodies. Werewolves, on the other hand, transform into wolf-like monsters, only Change during the full moon, and have no control over themselves once they’ve Changed.”
Jim added, “And you can only be born a Lou Garou. You’ll turn into a werewolf if you’re bitten by one.”
“But I thought that stuff was all fake.”
Jim smiled. “It’s real. And it’s our job to hunt them.”
Kade stared at his father. “Huh?”
Mary held her son’s hand. “Only the bad ones. The ones that hurt humans. We’re like the magic police.”
Mary gathered her breath and said, “Centuries ago, bad creatures roamed the streets of Europe and early America. People were terrified of being killed any time they went outside of their homes.
“One day, the biggest and strongest families came forth and promised they would protect the humans. You see, they knew the weaknesses of every magical creature. They proclaimed that they, and all of their families, would fight to the death to protect the humans.”
Kay licked his now dry lips. “So that means…” his voice trailed off, afraid to admit the terrible truth.
“We’ll hunt them too.” Robyn had already accepted their grim future. “Why tell us now?”
Their parents looked at the door. Jim called, “Come on in.” The door opened to reveal a tall, broad-shouldered man with a full head of uncombed brown hair. He wore a plain black t-shirt and crumpled blue jeans. He stepped inside, helped himself to a water bottle, and sat down across from Kade and Robyn. “This is my brother, Jon.”
Kade looked at his dad accusingly. “You never told us you had a brother.”
Jon leaned forward and held out his hand. “Pleasure to meet you kids.” Kade and Robyn stared at his hand until he pulled it back, clearing his throat loudly in an attempt to hide the awkwardness. “I run a school for kids who need training in the defense of the supernatural.”
“Of course. You’ll need to be able to defend yourself if you’re going to fight the supernaturals.”
Mary squeezed Kade’s hand. “We were your age when we started training.”
Kade ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up at the top. “What about school?”
Jon looked bewildered. “Well, you’ll be attending my school, of course. As far as anyone else knows, you never existed. Christ, Jim, I thought you said they were ready.”
Kade forgot about his shock and fear. “We’re ready for anything. Always are. We were just…surprised.”
Jon scoffed. “Scared, more like,” he muttered.
Kade’s temper flared. “We’re not scared of anything! Take us to your school. Let us fight some monsters. You’ll see!” He ran to his room and started packing.
A few weeks after they’d settled in at Jon’s school, which turned out to be a mansion not far from their home, they were introduced to two new trainees: Alex and Nick, identical twins. They were small for their age, and it was easy to tell them apart from their hair; Alex’s was cut short and sat completely flat on his head. Nick’s spiked out in all directions, some locks falling in front of his eyes.
Although they shared the same face, they were nothing alike. Alex, older by six minutes and seventeen seconds, never went anywhere without his iPhone and MP3 player. He was a genius with computers, and his skills only grew with age.
Nick didn’t know a thing about computers, but he could read at an incredible speed and read at least four books a day. When he wasn’t reading, he was practicing his martial arts techniques. From time to time, he would write a letter to one of his friends in Japan or Australia or India, which he didn’t have a problem with because he could speak every language fluently.
A couple days after meeting the twins, Kade and Robyn met another two trainees: Jade and Michael. Jade was petite, had light brown hair, and was deathly pale. Michael was tall, had curly dirty-blonde hair, and was tan from many days spent outdoors. Like Kade and Robyn, the only feature they shared was their eyes, a mostly brown hazel.
Jade was trouble from the start, because she had an uncanny ability to walk silently. Unfortunately for the rest of them, she enjoyed scaring people.
Mike was also a lot of trouble. Because most six-year-olds can’t pick up their friends and toss them into the air. Or throw a baseball through a wall. Obviously he and Jade were special. As were Nick and Alex. Jon said that they were “battle gifts,” and that most of their ancestors had them.
One night, a little over a year after meeting the others, Robyn started dreaming about things that had happened already. Then she started dreaming about things happening in the future—and sure enough, they eventually happened. Robyn realized she could see into the future. Some visions would make her sick if they were more important than others, but altogether they weren’t a big problem for her.
Kade was starting to feel left out. And to make things worse, he was hearing things.
After he’d beaten Michael in a weekly scrimmage one afternoon, he heard Michael say, “Jerk. He thinks he’s better me because he got here first.”
Kade whirled and shouted, “What did you say?”
Everyone froze, eyes on Kade.
“What?” Michael asked.
Kade glared. “I heard you! You're just cranky because I beat you!”
“Don’t play dumb. You called me a jerk! Said I think I’m better than you because I got here first!”
Robyn put her hand on his shoulder. “Kade, he didn’t say anything.”
Kade huffed and stomped out of the room. A week later, after Kade beat him in another scrimmage, Michael said, “It just isn’t fair!”
Kade replied, “How is it not fair?”
Michael turned around and stared at Kade. “How did you do—that?” he stammered fearfully.
“Do what?” Kade looked around, embarrassed that everyone was looking.
“I—I didn’t say anything, Kade.”
“What do you mean? Of course you said it. I heard you say it.”
Michael licked dry lips. “I didn’t say it. I—I was thinking it.”
Kade blinked. “But—what do you—How could—”
Jon ran over, a broad grin on his face. “I knew it,” he exclaimed. “Since last week. That little outburst of yours made me curious.”
Kade stared at him. “But…how? I…can’t.”
“What, do you want more proof?” Kade nodded. Jon laughed heartily. “Okay, then. Michael, would you step back please?” Michael nodded and joined his sister in the corner of the room. “Kade, close your eyes and listen very closely. Tell me what you hear.”
Kade closed his eyes and listened. At first he could only hear Jon breathing deeply, obviously excited. Then, as if he’d flipped a switch, a flood of voices rushed into his head. He was overwhelmed by all of them. Then images started flashing across his eyelids. He saw himself through others’ eyes. He heard their thoughts and opinions of this experiment. The perspective flashed back and forth from person to person, until he couldn’t take it anymore. He sank to the floor, saw the action reflected through six others’ eyes. It was too much.Then he heard—actually heard, with his ears, not his mind—Jon say, “Kade! Kade, open your eyes. Calm down. It’ll be okay if you open your eyes.”
With more difficulty than thought humanly possible, Kade opened his eyes. And the images faded. The noise died away, the following silence oddly comforting. Kade looked up to see Jon and the others crowded around him with worried thoughts. Wait—thoughts. He could still hear their thoughts. Well, the strong ones anyway. Jon looked delighted. “What did you hear?”
Kade shook his head, trying to clear it. “I heard…everything. I heard your thoughts. And theirs too. I relived their memories! And—I saw what you all saw! I saw myself from everyone’s view. But…it was all so confusing. I’m really tired…”
Michael had to carry him to his room. Kade couldn’t help grinning like a fool the whole time.
“Was it really that great?” Michael asked. “Hearing our thoughts?”
“Actually, it was the most confusing time of my life.”
“Then why are you smiling so big?”
Kade looked away, blushing slightly. “Well, it was kind of weird. You know, being the only one without some cool power.”
Yeah, especially when Robyn could see the future, Michael thought.
“Exactly,” Kade said.
Michael stopped and looked at him. “That’s gonna get annoying."
TEN YEARS LATER…
Jade was not alone. She knew it as soon as she went into the poorly lit room. She unfocused her eyes, putting all of her energy into her sense of hearing.
To her right, slightly behind her, she heard a faint squeak. When a wooden sword came crashing down, she was ready. She leaped to the left, just out of her attacker’s reach, where she spun to face him. Jade knew who it was before seeing his stunned expression accompanied by a few clumsy steps forward.
It was Michael.
Faster than the eye could see, Jade darted toward him and struck his wrist. Before the sword even hit the ground, she had grabbed his golden hair and held a gleaming silver dagger to his throat.
He grumbled, “Come on! I had you that time!”
Jade stepped away, sheathed the dagger, and grinned up at him. “Obviously.”
“It’s just because you’re older, and you know it,” he complained. “How’d you know it was me?”
“Because you’re the only warrior on Earth who fights while wearing Crocs." She glanced down at his pitifully conspicuous red shoes.
Michael looked away, blushing intensely. “They’re comfy.”
Before his sibling could continue her ruthless bullying, Kade walked in and flipped the lights on, illuminating countless mats littering the floor of the makeshift gym. “I don’t understand why you insist on fighting in the dark.” He looked at them. “Don’t beat yourself up about it, Mike. She does have an affinity,” he said, noticing the dropped sword, Michael’s red face, and Jade’s triumphant one.
“It’s not fair.”
“Not fair?” Jade play-punched Michael. “You can pick up a car without a problem and you’re saying I have an advantage?"
Kade chuckled. “Come on, guys. It’s your turn to set the table.”
They groaned and followed him out of the gym. Jade couldn’t help staring as they passed the countless weapons and paintings depicting ancient battles which adorned the walls of the mansion. Gazing at the weapons of her ancestry, she always felt like she was reliving their lives; the weapons changing slightly over time, the painted battles leaping through centuries of her family’s history.
She was so engrossed in her thoughts; she didn’t realize they'd reached the kitchen until Michael elbowed her in the gut. She blinked and curled up a bit, more out of shock than pain.
“You jerk,” she bellowed, and slapped him. And thus, the battle began.
Kade rolled his eyes at their scuffle and joined his sister at the stove. He inhaled deeply at the scent of garlic and lemon-pepper seasoning. “Have I told you you’re my favorite sister?”
Robyn giggled. “I'm your only sister. You're just lucky I know how to cook. Without me, you'd have starved by now. Or accidentally poisoned yourselves,” she added, almost as an afterthought, turning back to the meal.
Kade’s eyes widened in mock horror. He reached out and covered her mouth. “Don’t speak of such things! You’ll ruin our good fortune!”
Robyn started to laugh, but it was cut short by a choking sound, followed by a gurgle, and then without warning she doubled over and retched. Kade immediately sobered and held her hair out of her face as she went pale and was sick all over the floor.
Jade and Michael hurried over and helped Kade half-carry Robyn to a chair. She’d stopped vomiting, but her whole body shook as she dry-heaved. She looked around blindly with swollen eyes that had turned a more electric violet, the irises almost swallowed up by incredibly huge pupils. The whites had turned a gruesome, bloody crimson. Eventually the heaving slowed down, and Robyn sat trembling in her seat, clinging to her brother and friends. She closed her eyes gingerly, afraid to put too much pressure on them. When she reopened them, they weren’t as puffy and the redness had faded to a slight pink. The pupils gradually shrunk to a regular size as she regained her sight, though the irises remained bright, the electric spots pulsing like lightning.
Jade gently held onto her best friend’s frail shoulders and whispered, “What was it, honey?” Robyn shook her head. “You know talking always helps.” Robyn shook her head again and started muttering nonsense.
Just then Alex and Nick ran in, paper and pencil in hand.
Kade said, “How—?”
Nick smiled and tapped his temple. “Dude, you’re practically broadcasting to the whole neighborhood.”
“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “Not fun. Just to let you know.”
Robyn disentangled herself, snatched the paper and pencil from the twins’ hands, ran to the kitchen counter, and started writing furiously. Two minutes later she slammed the pencil down, shouted a triumphant, “There!” and shoved the paper into Kade’s waiting hands.
He read and reread it, unsure of what to make of it. He looked at his sister, whose head was already clearing. “Do you know what this means? Or even who it’s talking about?”
Robyn’s head bobbed excitedly—and stopped, as she grimaced at the sharp pain behind her eyes. “Well, not really. I know it has to do with us, though. A lot to do with us. I saw flashes of us the whole time.”
Kade shrugged. “Well, I've got nothing on the translation. But if it has to do with us, I guess we can ask Jon when he gets back tonight.
"But,” he added, “He’ll probably be more willing to hear it if there isn’t—uh, a mess—to clean up.” He pointed at the floor. Everyone else nodded and immediately started cleaning.
It wasn’t like Jon was a clean freak—he was fine with dirty dishes, old pizza boxes under the bed (in fact he had three under his), dirty clothes in the back hallways—he just couldn’t stomach the smell of sick people. He and Kade’s dad were only half-brothers; they had different mothers. Jon’s grandmother was half Loup Garou, so he had a sensitive nose and eyes, with great reflexes for a man in his late thirties. Which he would use on them during sparring practice if he came home after a week-long hunting trip to find vomit in the kitchen; his not-so-secret haven.
“Oh God, Kay, hold on!” Tyler said, running for the loops of rope lying some distance away.
I rolled my eyes. Every time I hesitated, Tyler acted like I was gonna freaking die. Not that I wouldn’t die if I fell. That’s the risk when you climb without any gear. Believe me, it’s worth it. The feeling you get when you’re in danger, drenched in sweat with your adrenaline pumping, is the most exhilarating thing in the world. I live for it.
But I hadn’t fallen since my first climb, about five years ago. I’d gotten better. A lot better. Then again, I wasn’t climbing a ten-foot-high plastic wall with a soft mat to land on. Today I’d chosen a big rocky cliff right on the edge of the ocean. She was about forty feet tall, give or take, and you could only reach the top by a long narrow path that gradually inclined.
At least, people thought it was the only way up. They didn’t know about the narrow strip of land that separated the rock from the ocean. Problem was, there was a slim chance that I’d hit land if I fell, and that water was filled with sharp rocks.
I spotted a thick crack in the rock, a little over a foot to my right, just high enough for my puny little arms not
to reach. Go figure. Maybe if I jumped....
I tested the strength of the rock supporting my feet. If I made the jump I could reach the top without a problem. I took a few deep breaths, gathered my strength, and pushed off—
The rock crumbled under my feet, unable to handle the added pressure. Wonderful.
For a split second I was airborne, legs kicking and arms flailing for anything to anchor my self with. It was the longest second of my life.
Then my foot hit what was probably a boulder sticking out from the cliff. I pushed up with all my might and launched to the top. I managed to grab the big jagged crack, and hung there by my hands for a few seconds before swinging my legs up and scrambling over the edge, where I collapsed, exhausted, blood pumping in my ears.
Tyler was at my side at once, nagging and fussing over every scrape and bruise. “Amazing! No broken bones or anything,” he would occasionally mumble.
I smacked him between the eyes, making him blink blindly for a couple of seconds. “Dude. Will you stop that? I’m fine.”
He stared at me, not in the least making me uncomfortable. “Oh, 'I’m fine,' she says,” he drawled, doing a bad imitation of a girl’s voice. “How can you be fine? You almost died and you’re fine?”
I failed to smother a giggle. “You sound like my mom.”
“Kay, you were free-falling. I was already planning what I would wear to your funeral when you jumped back up.” He arched an eyebrow dramatically. “How did you jump back up, by the way?”
I shrugged. “My feet hit a boulder or something. I don’t know. And I don’t care. ‘Cause that was awesome.” I stood up and wandered to the edge, spotting more hidden cracks in the rock. Maybe if I had enough time—
“No.” Tyler pulled me back a little.
“What?” I asked, and made my eyes big and innocent.
They were probably a mixed color right now. Like sea green or night blue. That’s the thing about my eyes—they change color. Usually according to my mood. The doctors say that I have an extremely rare eye condition, something to do with a shortage of some eye particle I can’t pronounce or spell. Let me think.... (Bifocofjsklvs? Bodjvjjas?) Whattaya know? I can’t spell it.
Unfortunately Tyler is impervious to my would-be baby face. “I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no. How would I explain it to your family? ‘Oh, don’t worry, Mrs. Kelley. She was an adrenaline junky, so she was really happy when she plummeted to her death.’ I don’t think so. Besides, we don’t have time for another climb.”
What? I looked at the setting sun. Crap. Just after seven. I don’t know how I knew, I just did. Crapcrapcrap. I was gonna be late.
Tyler tossed me some rope. “C’mon. If we run we’ll make it there in no time.”
We were five minutes late. But to my sister Sarah, it might as well have been an hour. Darn. I could’ve gotten in a couple more climbs.
At five-foot-seven, Sarah had just turned seventeen. She was thin, blonde, pretty tan but nowhere near my bronze coloring, and at the moment really, really, really mad.
“Where were you?” she screeched as soon as we stepped into my house. I thought about lying to help her calm down, but she was just so funny when she was mad.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Tyler sag with despair.
Sarah’s face went pink. “Climbing? You went climbing on my birthday? I’ve been planning this party for months, and you went climbing?”
“Yep. Don’t give me that face! It’s not even your birthday. Which I think destroys the whole point of it being special. I mean, why would you have your birthday party two days before the actual event? Everyone’s doing that lately and I find it stupid. And stereotypical, to be honest. Really, why—”
“Shut up! I’m having my party today because that hag Juliana just has to have her pool party on the day that I turn seventeen!” Her hands clenched into fists. "This is a big leap in a girl’s life and she knows it! She’s hated me for years, and I’ve been nothing but nice to her from the start!”
“You did just call her a hag.”
I enjoyed seeing her face get redder and redder until she matched her flashy dress.
Her boyfriend Jason chose that moment to join them. He wrapped an arm around Sarah’s shoulders, and for a second I imagined clawing his eyes out. Jason towered over Sarah with his six-foot-three height. He intimidated Tyler but I matched his height so he didn’t threaten me. His skin was a gross yellowish tint because he snuck smokes any time he could. When he smiled his teeth looked like dead wood, with all of their holes and jagged tips. Of course no one else noticed, but it was always uncomfortably clear to me. I could deal with all of his nastiness, but one thing about him just plain ticked me off: He was always too close to Sarah. I don’t mean physically—although he was a little closer than usual tonight—but intimately. When Sarah pulled up to school he was there in a flash, nuzzling her neck or just plain making out with her. He just seemed way too eager to actually be believed when admitting his virginity, you know what I mean? That—plus the fact that he was strong enough to snap her like a twig—made him seem unsafe to me. I was always cautious when he was around, especially tonight, since Sarah was surely to be in a “great mood” for while. She may have been annoying as all Hell, but she was still my little sis.
“Hey, Kay. Hey, Tyler,” the vile excuse for a man said.
Tyler nodded and mumbled, “Hi.”
I gritted my teeth and crossed my arms, feeling bold. I was incessantly hinting my disgust at his very presence. I was starting to think he was catching on. He caught my eye and the corners of the would-be smile drooped—Yes! He finally caught on!—as he quickly looked away. He squeezed Sarah a little harder. “Do you want to go open some presents? You can open mine first.”
Sarah’s anger dissipated at the mention of gifts. “Sure,” she said. Jason gave us a thumbs-up behind his back as led her away.
Tyler breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank God for Jason. Your sister’s scary when she’s angry.”
My mouth drifted open on a growl. “He’s the product of feces and bile.” Tyler’s eyes widened as he glanced up, startled.
But my mind had already refocused on the second part of what he’d said. “You really think she’s scary? I don’t really think so.”
Tyler snorted. “What, do you actually enjoy her yelling at you?”
“Yeah. A lot. ‘Cause her face goes all red and her lips go white and she clenches her teeth and narrows her eyes at you, and then altogether she looks kind of funny.
"What?” I said, seeing his expression.
“Why do you always do that?” he asked.
He sighed dramatically. “Babble. Every time you’re required to say more than five words, you drift and say whatever comes to mind.”
“Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen? Like—you’re saying I’m actually gonna have to think about what I say…before I say it?”
He erupted in a fit of laughter as he realized I was seriously worried about he was saying. “No, no,” he rasped. “That wouldn’t be human.”
I must have visibly relaxed because he started a whole new round of cackles.
“Good. Well, I’m starved. Do you want something to eat?” I was fully alert as I went searching for a decent snack, which meant just about anything. I chose not to think about why Tyler was giggling under his breath the whole time.
Jon got home about half an hour later. His eyes narrowed suspiciously as soon as he entered the kitchen. His nostrils flared at the lemon-scented cleaning spray and he caught Robyn's still bloodshot eyes. “What did you see?”
She looked down. “Well, it was confusing, but I know it has something to do with us.”
Kade stepped forward, presenting the slip of paper. “She wrote this down after the vision. We were hoping you could make sense of it.”Jon took it and read, shaking his head when he came to the end. “I’ve never heard of this, nor seen anything like it. Robyn, what else did you see in your vision?”She hesitated before answering. “Us. I saw different flashes of us. And—four faces. But they kept changing. I could only catch glimpses.” Kade eyed his little sister. She seemed close to tears, hugging her hands to her chest and breathing shallowly.Jon took notice as well. He smiled at her reassuringly. “Not all visions come true, Robyn. Remember that what you saw was only one possible future.” His gaze returned to the slip of paper. “But I think we should be cautious about this one. You never know.” Robyn spoke up. “Do you know what Lucivur means?”Jon’s eyes widened slightly and he flinched, as if the word had taken a physical toll on him. “Why do you ask?”“I saw the word in my vision,” Robyn said. “I heard it too.”Her uncle heaved a tremendous sigh and rubbed his eyes. Somehow in the past few seconds he’d aged visibly. Robyn spotted the gray hairs and purplish bags even with her eyes still screwed up. “Not what
,” Jon finally murmured. “Who
.” He rubbed his surprisingly small belly. “I’m hungry,” he grumbled. “Why don’t you guys go into the dining room? I’ll meet you in there in a minute.” He walked over to the cabinet and pulled out a few pots and pans. As they fled for fear of the inevitable flames to come, he called, “Do you guys want anything?”They responded with an instantaneous “NO
!” Jon gave a throaty cackle and turned on the stove burners. ___________________________________________________I yawned. I was sitting next to Tyler, kicking his butt in “Call of Duty: World at War” in my bedroom. He hit pause and stood up, wiping his hands on his patched up jeans. “I’m beat,” he said, walking toward the door. “Don’t forget about the Literary Terms Quiz tomorrow.” I was so forgetful all the time, so he always had to remind me about stuff like that. He was the only reason I was barely passing. I didn’t know what I’d do without him. I nodded, unable to speak. My head was throbbing and a cold sweat had started up on my forehead and neck, as well as the small of my back. I was shaking by the time the door finally closed. I stumbled toward my tall twin bed, barely even reaching it before my legs buckled and gave out. By the time I flopped gracelessly onto the bed, I had already been sucked into the alternate reality of my unconsciousness.___________________________________________________Four burnt meals, fifteen deadly sparks, and two fire extinguishers later, they were seated in a lopsided circle in the dining room, though it hadn’t been used for dining in some years. It was tall and oval in shape, and it seemed to go on forever. Piles of trash and forgotten items filled the corners and edges. In the years that they’d been there, Jon and the kids had only cleared out enough of it in order to form a long path which lead to a large cleared-out space in the shape of a circle. They each sat in a different chair; Kade in a plush blue one with the foam coming out in patches; Nick in a hard wooden one with high curved arms; Jon in a plastic black one that could be bought in any convenience store in the country. Every one of the teenage warriors were charred at the edges, their eyes a matching watery pinkish where the whites were, and staring furiously at Uncle Jon, who was grinning contentedly while holding an empty paper plate. “Now, that was an exquisite omelet. Don’t you agree?”“I wouldn’t know,” Jade huffed. “I was too busy putting out the flames to notice.” She turned to Alex. “Did you happen to?”“As a matter of fact, I was pouring water on the fire,” he said. Jon clapped his hands together. “Alright, that’s enough chitchat for one day. What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”Kade ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up wildly. “Who is Lucivur?”Jon’s kind humorous brown eyes darkened to a near black. “Yes….Lucivur is a sorcerer, you see. One you’d not want to cross. He has an immense amount of power over the Supernatural world.” He looked up at Robyn, now sobered. “And if you saw him in your vision, we are in big trouble. “Lucivur is an evil power-hungry man. Has been ever since he discovered his powers. And very dangerous if you catch his attention. He’s used his influence more than once throughout history. In the late fifteenth century, the Native American leaders on the coast refused to teach him a spell which required human sacrifice. Next thing you know, English and Spanish explorers are suddenly eager to find the Northwest Passage to Asia.” Jon looked at Jade. “You remember reading about the Irish potato famine?” She nodded. “If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find it wasn’t just food going rotten; it was all of the plants and animals. Acres of land within Ireland were reduced to little more than lifeless dirt. Tons of people died from disease and starvation.“Lucivur has started wars, destroyed whole civilizations. He’s more powerful than you can imagine.” Jon went pale. “And he has control over the Seer, Dominik. The immortal.” Kade knew what that meant without reading Jon’s mind. “And he’s probably had the vision by now. He’d want the Elemental Children for more power. Hell, he’d be the most powerful sorcerer alive with control over them.” “We can’t let that happen,” Alex said. “How?” “Well, that part, at least is obvious.” Everybody turned to stare at Alex, who shrugged nonchalantly. “We find these kids first. If we can convince them not to give in to Lucivur, they should be safe if they stay with us.” Uncle Jon stood up and stretched. “Might as well try.” Nick’s eyes flashed a bright emerald as he started. “I know how we can find them easier,” he announced.“How?” Jade asked. “Well, Robyn said she saw their faces.”“But I only caught bits and pieces,” she admitted. “If you think about it, it’s just like a puzzle.” Nick shrugged. “Put the pieces together and before you know it you’ve got the whole picture.”“I like to draw,” Alex said, leaning forward. “I’m sure if you describe what you saw, I could draw it.” “Alright,” Uncle Jon exclaimed. “Let’s get started.”___________________________________________________Images swam before my closed eyes. My breath came in rapid gasps, my heart fluttering hysterically in my chest. The pain in my temples peaked—and suddenly I was standing in a clearing, surrounded by trees of massive heights. It was nighttime and the world was shrouded in an ominous darkness.To my left, a woman with brown hair crouched, baring her teeth with a feline hiss. Across the clearing, three men approached calmly, fathomless shadows following in their wake. They wore long black cloaks that seemed to have minds of their own as the wind blew over the scene. They were deathly pale and bald, and from where I stood I couldn’t make out their faces.The man on the left stuck out a palm glowing red-white. The air crackled with electricity, and the woman’s eyes flashed liquid silver as her fangs extended until they poked her chin. A bolt of pure red electric current shot from the fair man’s hand and demolished the place where the woman had crouched only a moment before. She was now running towards them, fingernails growing into jagged points. I observed all of this with a kind of grim acceptance, only mildly shocked as she leapt over them, literally fighting tooth-and-nail to survive.Then I caught movement in the corner of my vision, and my attention was captured by a small child with curly red hair held up by a long red ribbon. Her teal eyes shined as she gazed at the violence in front of her. “Mommy!” she cried at the lady, who I assumed still fought the cloaked men.Suddenly a huge pair of hands wrapped around her little waist. I opened my mouth to scream, thinking it was one of the pale men, but no sound came out. The girl was hoisted up into massive muscular arms, and a fourth guy came out of the shadows. He had matching red hair, and a huge figure. He towered over me, cradling the doll-like child. She, however, didn’t seem to be fazed by his shocking resemblance to a giant. “Where have you been?” the man grumbled. “I was looking everywhere for you!”“Daddy,” she exclaimed. (Daddy? Are you freaking kidding me?) “Where are we going?”The giant, now satisfied that she was unharmed, released a colossal sigh and answered, “Somewhere safe, sweetie.”“Isn’t Mommy coming?”“Of course.” I almost would have believed him if I hadn’t seen the glazed look in his eyes and the frown etched onto his face. “But she’s playing with those scary guys! When is she gonna be done?” She squirmed around to look back at the battle raging only meters away.“Soon, honey. Soon.” He glanced at the woman with longing, then turned and carried his daughter into the woods with an almost inhuman speed, just as an agony-filled shriek filled the air. Just before they reached trees, the little girl’s eyes flashed silver and she reached out for her mommy. And then I was back in my room, back arched and breathing deeply. For a few seconds I blinked blindly, forgetting where I was. Then I recognized the soft linen sheets underneath me and remembered I was in my house.I sat up, shivering. Why was it so cold? We lived in Florida, for gods’ sake. I went into the hallway, glancing at the digital thermometer on the wall as I passed—wait, whaaaat? Did that say 38? Fahrenheit? What the hell was wrong with this world? As I reached to turn the heater on, the number changed to 39. I paused, and it increased by two. Huh. I guess it was my lucky night. I went downstairs for two reasons: first, another blanket from the storage closet; and second, the annoying growl in my stomach. After I gulped down some lunch meat and peanut butter with a side of milk, I headed for the closet. It had gotten noticeably warmer since I’d come down. Thank goodness for that. A snickering sound came from my left, making me stop. I listened for a moment, but heard nothing else. Hm. I was probably still wacky from my dream. Anyway….I grabbed a couple blankets and a quilt and was closing the closet door when I saw a golden flicker out of the corner of me eye. I stared at where I’d seen it, but it was gone. At first I was ready to just pass it off as a trick of the light, but something made me hesitate. I’d heard the noise coming from this direction. I looked in all of the inside corners, checking for the usual stuff; bugs, ants, worms, stuff like that. When I was satisfied there was nothing in there, I closed the door and jogged upstairs. When I passed it, the thermometer read 53 degrees. I tapped it and it rose a few notches. Hmph. Must be broken.When I reached my room I was glad I’d brought the extra blankets; it was practically an igloo in there! I laid out the blankets over the first one on my bed and burrowed my way under them, not bothering to turn off the light. I couldn’t if I wanted to anyway; as soon as I got settled, I was out cold.___________________________________________________Three hours later, Uncle Jon slouched in his armchair, snoring softly. He’d tried his best to stay awake, but it was late and he’d had a long trip.Robyn eyed him in amusement. He wasn’t getting any younger, and this wasn’t exactly what you’d call an easy job. He’d tan her hide if he heard her say that, but it was true nonetheless. With an immense effort she went back to her work. Over the past few hours, all they’d come up with were four cartoonish drawings of the Children that probably would get them nowhere. Alex beeped for the fourth time. His drooping eyes flashed open and he took out his iPhone, scrolling through his emails till he found the right one. He cleared his throat. “Guys, that’s the last of ‘em,” he said.All around him, things that had originally looked like heaps of trash came to life, stretching and revealing themselves to be Kade, Jade, Michael, Nick, and Jon, and standing to go to his side. Robyn came to her feet and joined them. Alex attached all four files to each other and showed them what he’d found. “Basically nothing helpful. I ran a search for every kid in the U.S. who fit the descriptions, but you’d be surprised at how many there are.”“But how’s that possible?” Michael asked. “How many boys out there have lynx eyes?”“Well the search wasn’t that specific. Robyn, you have to take a look at these and see which kids look my like the ones in your vision,” Alex said apologetically.Robyn huffed. “Fine. And people say I have a gift,” she grumbled as she snatched the iPhone and walked to her room. “G’night, guys.”“Night,” they chorused, picking up their drinks and snack wrappers and following her lead. ___________________________________________________Robyn awoke to the sound of pots and pans clanking together. In an instant she was up and running for the kitchen, hollering, “NO!” She rounded the last corner and skidded to a halt at the in the doorway, glaring at an incredibly innocent-looking Uncle Jon. He froze, one arm holding a large pan filled with pinkish mush and the other extended toward the stovetop burners. “Good morning,” he said confidently.“Put the pan on the counter and back away from the stove. Slowly,” she said.Frowning, he did as she said. Her hand came forward and slapped him on the arm while she hurried to make sure nothing was cooking.“Oh, come on,” Uncle Jon pleaded. “I can cook, you know. You just have to give me a chance.”She narrowed her eyes at him. “That’s what you said last time. And the time before that. And the time before that.”“If I’ve told you that many times, why won’t you let me try?”“You burned the kitchen,” Kade interjected from the hallway.“Only a little.”“It cost thousands of dollars to fix!” Robyn pointed out. Now that the potential crisis had been averted, she got busy with making a non-explosive, non-poisonous, fire-safe breakfast.“Details, details,” Jon waved his hand absently. “Hey! Why are you throwing my food out?” he asked her.She glared at him over her shoulder before dumping the whole pan in the trash can. “Because it was moving.”“…So?” Jon said halfheartedly, clearly having lost this fight.Michael thundered into the kitchen, followed closely by Jade and the twins.“What happened?”“What’s wrong?”“Who’s attacked us?”“Is the fire put out?”“What fire?”“Jon’s cooking again, right?”“I don’t know, ask him.”“What’s going on?”“There’s a fire?”“HEY,” Kade yelled over the noise, silencing the sleepy crowd.“Jon was cooking but Robyn got here just in time,” he explained.“Ugh, am I really that bad?” Jon exclaimed.The crowd looked at him. “You set the place on fire—”“Had to put it out ourselves—”“Cost a lot—”“Tons of cash down the drain—”“And you did it four times—”“In a row—”“And we let you—”“We were so naive—”“Bah!” Jon said, throwing his hands in the air in defeat. “Mutiny! This is mutiny!” he grumbled, sitting down at the dining room table. “So Robyn, did you eliminate any kids from the list?” Kade asked, even though he already knew the answer. “Yeah, I think I narrowed it down a lot,” she replied nonchalantly.“How many kids are left?”“None,” she said after a pause.“What?” Alex said. She filled a pot with water and set it on a burner, tapping her fingers on the counter until the water boiled. “None of them matched what I saw,” she said, emptying a box of dry noodles into the pot.“But you only saw a little bit of them, right?” Alex asked. “Not the whole thing.”“It doesn’t matter; no one on the list was in my vision.”“Then who did you see?” Michael asked of no one in particular.Robyn shrugged and turned back to the pot of noodles.___________________________________________________“Ugh.” My groan was muffled by the mountain of blanket on top of me. I could barely breathe through the ruffles. I rolled over, flailed around a bit when I hit dead air, and flopped onto the floor. “Wha?” Where was I? How did I get here? A ball of light shot into my consciousness, and I reached out to it. My hand protruded from the blankets and basked in the fresh air. I started to wriggle my way out of the mess, but then I detected something …an odor. The most wonderful smell I’d ever sniffed. Without a thought I darted to the door, threw it open, and crawled down the stairs, losing the blankets in the process. I lifted my head, sniffed the air once more, and followed the scent to the kitchen. I inspected the counters until—there. A steaming pile of bacon sat on a massive serving plate. Thank gods for Mom and her cooking. I snatched the plate and sat on the floor hunched over my food, inhaling about half of it before I heard a noise. My eyes shot open, wide and alert. I could hear the faint sound of feet slapping the linoleum. I shoved the rest of the glorious food in my pockets and ran for the high heavens. I’d just dived onto my bed when I heard thundering footsteps resound behind the bedroom door. Dad slammed the door open in a fit of fury. His eyes blazed and his copper hair stuck up, unkempt. He faced me—just as I slid another slice of bacon in my mouth—and narrowed his eyes. “You,” he barked, pointing a stubby finger at me. “You ate it!” I munched noisily on another piece with big, innocent baby-blue eyes.His chest sagged and he looked crestfallen. “That was mine…I love bacon and you ate it all….”I considered eating the last one, but another look at his sad face made me lose my nerve. I handed the bacon slice to him.“Thanks, you’re so stupid sometimes,” he grinned maliciously and ran out. What the
Not a moment later I smelled that sweet scent, and heard the crackle of frying meat. I rolled my eyes at the door and passed out again.I dreamed of bacon.
A pillow slammed against my face with the force of a freight train. “Get up. Get up
. Get up you lazy hobo!” Tyler said, whacking me again.“Ung.”“No. Get your ass up now!”“Ung!”“No! It’s 7:30! Get up!”“Eh!” I waved him away, only to have another pillow connect with my face in an explosion of fluffy pain. Still. I was sleepy and stubborn.Tyler hopped onto the bed, jumping, and slapped me until I opened one eye. “Go. Away,” I ordered, my eyes black with frustration.He was undeterred. “Never,” he replied, pinning me down so I couldn’t fight back. “Unlike you, I’m full of energy and have no problem with doing this all night if I have to.”“Bud I doned wadda geddup,” I whined.He turned my head so I faced him and peeled my eyes open, staring intently at me. “I. Do. Not. Care.” He grabbed my arms, pulled me into what passed for a sitting position. He leaped down, grabbed a Three Days Grace T-shirt from my dresser and threw it at me. “C’mon, the fireworks are gonna start soon.” He left the room so I could change. Every year on New Year’s Eve, Tyler and I walked to the beach to see the fireworks. Our parents always had to work so this was the only real tradition we had. We used to bring Sarah along, but over the years she drifted away from us and started going to parties with her popular high school friends. She was at one tonight with that jerk Colby, in fact. I met him outside on the porch. “So,” I said, turning to lock the door, “where’s this place you told me about?”On the way home last night, Tyler revealed that he had found out about this abandoned building in the darker part of town. Apparently it had a view perfect for fireworks. I was acting nonchalant, but I was burning with curiosity. “Oh, a little out of the way, but it’s worth it, Kay. It really is.”“You’re not going to go all soft on me, are you?”He tried to cover up his blushing face with a sneer. “Of course not. Just trying to be nice. You’re the sissy who’s into this wimpy fireworks crap anyway.” He sped up, probably not realizing that I’d already seen his face. “Yeah. Whatever.” Guys were such idiots. Always making such a big deal about being the alpha. I snickered; Tyler’s shoulders hunched and he quickened his pace until he was panting. I jogged up to him, grinning wickedly. “Macho-Man, you tired?” I teased.He narrowed his eyes and pulled away. “I hate it when you do that,” he huffed.“Do what?”“That eye thing. Most of the time it’s cool but tonight…I don’t know. They just look—different.” I opened my mouth to question him further, but then became aware of a crashing whoosh up ahead. “The ocean?”“Hm? What about it?” “Why did you take me to the beach, Ty?” I wondered. “But, how do you—?” He paused, cocking his head to the right. “Crap. It was supposed
to be a surprise, you know.”I ignored his complaints. “What beach are we at?” I waited for a response, but heard none. I whirled to face him. “Ty, what beach are we at?” I repeated edgily. He suddenly found a particular interest in the road. He glued his eyes to it like his life depended on it. And you know what? At that moment, it probably did.“You don’t know, do you?” And then my best friend puffed out his lips and pouted at me like the whole thing was my fault. I lost it. “Do you know how alike the beaches here are?”“If they’re so similar how do you think I can memorize which one’s which just by looking at them?”“That’s the same reason why we’re going to have a hell of a time getting back home!” I started to head back but he pulled me to a stop. “But we’re almost there!” he whined. “Kay. Kay
,” he said. “No. You know I hate being lost. There’s no way we can make it back after dark.”“Kayla.”Shit
! My full name. He’d said it, the bastard. That, coupled with the big green eyes he flashed at me, took down my defenses faster than the speed of light. I instantly wasn’t mad at him anymore. In fact, I think I felt…bad
about upsetting him. My shoulders rose as I heaved an enormous sigh of defeat. Ty’s face lit up like a match, he dragged me toward the crashing sounds without the slightest hesitation. When we reached the water we made a sharp turn left and trudged through the sand for another ten minutes or so until we came to an abandoned building. “Jesus Christ!” I muttered under my breath. The thing had to be ten stories at least. The top two floors were leaning at such an extreme angle that I was shocked it still stood. Though the windows had been boarded up the wood looked like it had been rotting for years. Patches of wall could be seen through the various holes in the first floor, probably pushed in from past storms. There was a rectangle of empty space where the door had once been; the bottom of a staircase was barely visible on the inside from where we stood. The fact that no one had noticed this monster since now was even more mind-blowing. Hotels and apartment complexes obliviously surrounded it. “What do you think?” Ty asked earnestly. I peered at him, noting the tense shoulders and tight face. He looked so cute and scared! He wouldn’t even look me in the eyes! I had to mess with him.“About what?”His breath came out in one huge puff, his shoulders sagged. “About that building, right over there.” He gesticulated to the pathetic wooden structure. I blinked stupidly and followed his gaze, pretending to have just noticed it. “Oh,” I said in a disappointed tone. “I, uh, I think it’s cool.”“Oh. Okay, then.” He turned around and began to head back. I watched him go a few meters or so, torturing him just a bit more, then erupted in a fit of laughter. He whirled around with a look of bewilderment. “Dude, you’re such a chick, it’s awesome,” I cackled. He opened his mouth to most likely yell at me, but was interrupted by flashing red and blue lights. I looked up to see if they were fireworks, but the sky was clear and silent, though it had gotten considerably darker since when we’d started our trek through the hot sand. The blinking lights turned off, the sound of a car door shutting came from the front of the old building. Crap. The police. I guess they didn’t want “riffraff” like Ty and I snooping around. We raced through the large hole and up the seemingly endless spiral of stairs. We passed countless number of doors and hallways that branched away from the steps, but we didn’t even hesitate. I was about to remind him of just how much trouble we would get in if we were caught when he skidded to a stop at the last door on the right. “You ready?” he asked. For a few seconds I was caught between opening the door and running back home before the cops saw me. I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling at the back of my head…. I mentally shrugged it off, throwing open the door to reveal an old faded brown rooftop. I was relieved to breathe in the sweet scent of night as I stepped confidently outside, instantly perfecting my balance on the poor excuse for a ceiling. “This is awesome
,” I said, gazing up at the sky as the first of those overly bright balls of fire exploded above the town; the fireworks had started. I now knew why Ty had gone to such lengths to bring me here. The view was the most beautiful thing I’d seen. He smiled warmly and walked cautiously to the edge. “I knew you would love it. Now we can see the fireworks better than anyone else.” He sat down and began inching further out until his legs hung over the side of the building. I plopped down next to him. “How’d you find out about the rooftop door?” I asked, swinging my legs over the ledge.“I don’t know. I was bored, and I’d already explored the rest of the place.”“Well, thanks for showing it to me.” I could feel an unknown heat rising to my cheeks and knew that I must be blushing for some reason. It must be puberty messing with me
, I thought, looking away to hide it. He shrugged.” Yeah, well,” he mumbled. Huh, this wasn’t going well, was it? I sighed loudly. Nothing. Not even a blink. “Sigh
.” He glanced at me. “Hm?”I leaned over and gave him a big wet kiss on the lips. I think I was more surprised than he was. I’d actually done it. And it…tasted like bacon. How odd. He must’ve snuck some on the way out of my house—He grinned and kissed me some more.Whoa, whoa, whoa! What was that? I hadn’t even planned on the first one! What the hell was I supposed to do the second time around? Oh my gods, I couldn’t do this. I wasn’t prepared. How was I supposed to—He pulled away, a little breathless. At least he
seemed satisfied. “What took you so long?” he asked.I shrugged, hunched over to hide my face again. “I don’t know. To be honest, I’m just glad I did it right.”“Speaking your mind can really ruin the mood, you know.”Huh? “What do you mean?”He chuckled and leaned in to kiss me again but then he saw my face. “What?” he asked, concerned.I shook my head and motioned for him to be quiet. I’d definitely heard something. I could practically feel another presence nearby, and it was bothering me. I wanted to say it was the cops, but it didn’t feel like a bunch of fat guys munching on doughnuts and drinking ale. I surveyed the other buildings, peering into the shadows until my eyes settled on a particularly dark corner on a nearby roof. There wasn’t anything that odd about the shadow; at least that’s what I thought until I spotted a pair of black eyes staring back. Tyler followed my gaze, jerking back when he noticed the thing crouching not twenty meters away from us. I saw movement to my left, noticing another pair of dark eyes looking at me. Squinting at the other patches of roof that weren’t lit by the streetlights and fireworks, I realized that there were more. Many, many more. After a signal from the eyes I’d first seen, the things stepped into the light.Gargoyles. My best friend and I were surrounded by gargoyles. That’s what they looked like, anyway. They had skin and bones and muscle and all that, but they had snouts and horns on their heads, and huge bat-like spiked wings sprouted from their backs. Their eyes were pits of darkness that could see right through you. What was this? How was this even possible? Was I in another dream?“Get away from her!” Tyler swatted away a gargoyle who had been reaching for me. Faster than I thought possible, it grabbed Ty by the neck and lifted him off of his feet, constricting his airway. Ty struggled and managed to kick the creature in the knee before his eyes glazed over and rolled back in his head. It was right about then that I started screaming bloody murder. I let out a series of high-pitched screeches that could break glass. Actually, it did.The windows on all of the buildings around us shattered, and the old rooftop started to crumble. It was very effective, to say the least. The gargoyle choking Tyler was forced to drop him so it could cover its ears along with the others. The roof started to shake and I lost my balance, my screams cut short as I fell. I hit the ground, rolled away from the monster, and reached for Tyler. Before I grabbed his limp arm, he was dragged away by a black-gloved hand. My gaze traveled up the arm, coming to a stop at a slim girl’s face. Apart from her pale brown hair and complexion, she was covered in black from head to toe. Her pockets and belt bulged from silvery objects; upon closer inspection, I realized that they were knives and guns. Behind her, several teens dressed in similar attire came crashing through the door, led by a muscular blonde boy. Oh gods, what had I gotten myself into?I was so shocked that I didn’t even feel the roof breaking until it gave way under me. I grabbed frantically at the brunette girl’s hand, but not quickly enough. She watched in horror as I fell to the concrete more than one hundred feet away—as I plummeted to my death.Holycrapholycrapholycrap
. That’s what ran through my mind when I realized I was going to die. Holycrapholycrapholycrap
. That’s what ran through my mind when an ashy claw wrapped around my waist and hoisted me up just before I smashed into the ground. Oh, thank gods. I looked up at my savior with a smile that disappeared when my mind registered the fact that a claw was wrapped around my waist. One of those devils had me. I did the most embarrassing thing I’d ever done: I screamed like a little girl.I looked back at the old building, thinking of the teenagers dressed in black. They had tried to help me. But they were nowhere to be seen. Fat lot of help they were. I guessed I’d have to get away on my own. I kicked and scratched at the creature holding me, but it was no use. I got angry. Really, really
angry. These things had hurt my best friend. I wasn’t even sure if he was alright. And they weren’t going to get away with it. I grabbed the gargoyle’s arm and used it to pull myself up. I waited for the wings to come down, snatched one, and pulled hard. The thing screeched as we started to fall. I yanked again, this time breaking the skin just where the wing met its arched back. The monster howled and kicked at me, its wound spurting blood. My eyes matched its blood: a fury-fueled crimson. Instinct flooded my mind. ESCAPE. ESCAPE. ESCAPE. I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing; I just needed to get away from these horrid things. I didn’t falter when my teeth elongated, shaping into large sharp fangs. I didn’t even hesitate. I just let my rage take over. I bit the creature’s arm, the one that held me. My fangs broke right through the skin and even pierced bone. The gargoyle growled and tried frantically to fight back without dropping me. Its claws raked my back before I managed to bite through its nerves. The arm went limp and once again I was soaring towards the buildings of St. Augustine. I don’t know how, but I hit the ground running. After bending my legs to absorb the force of the impact, I sprang into motion, leaping from one rooftop to the next without so much as a glance behind me. I’d seen all the horror movies. Looking back makes you run slower, and I was not
going to get caught by those terrible creatures because of a classic mistake. No, way. As I flitted across countless buildings, I realized I couldn’t run forever—well, unbeknownst to the winged things, I could
run practically forever, but they didn’t need to know that. Landing on a particularly long roof, I decided I could risk just taking a peek at my enemies. Peering over my shoulder, I counted fifteen, not including the one with the wrecked claw—which I felt especially proud of—following close behind in a tight group. I couldn’t tell if they were getting tired or not; their faces were too grotesque to hold any visible emotion. Well, whether they got tired or not, sooner or later I was gonna run out of buildings close enough together to jump to and fro. I needed to find a hiding place soon. And in order to do that. . . I looked down at concrete streets below. There was only one thing I could do. I skidded to a halt, allowing the monsters time to catch up to me, and dove out into the open air yet again
. The gargoyles were dangerously close and one managed to knick me on the shoulder, pushing me a bit harder down, before I landed, rolled, and bounced back up into a standing position. When the dust around me finally settled, I backed up to a dark corner, my eyes—the irises glowing orange—glued to the sky; my head cocked to the side, listening for any sign of them. The sound of urgent light footsteps reached my ears. I crouched down, trying to make myself shrink, and attempted to steady my breathing. But that was considerably difficult, seeing as I’d just outrun giant bat-things. Try as I might, I just couldn’t quiet myself in time. That’s why they heard me. The footsteps came to a sudden stop, followed by urgent whispers. Odd. Had the gargoyles spoken before? I had assumed they couldn’t. Perhaps they were more intelligent than I gave them credit for… I became aware of shuffling feet edging closer to the crossroad in front of me. Taking a deep breath to calm myself, I thought about my options. Years of war video games had made me fit for this type of thing. I could keep running and see where that got me. So far it had led me to this trap, and it was going splendidly. Or I could fight, see where that
got me. So far I’d neutralized one of those beasts. That felt pretty good, to be honest. It was obvious: There was no choice. I’d rather fight and be taken down than run and be found crying like a baby in a corner. I crept toward the wall nearest to the shuffling footsteps, inching forward with my back against the wall until I reached the edge. Then I waited. And waited. And finally…The shady tip of a foot—or claw, I couldn’t really tell from that angle—slightly stuck out from the wall edge. After a moment’s hesitation, I raised my leg and, with a roar of determination, brought it swiftly down. There was an audible crunch
, followed by a pained howl. My enemy bent over to inspect its injured foot, and I grabbed its head and slammed it onto my raised knee. The thing slumped to the concrete and I turned to face my other attackers—Only to see the faces of five bewildered kids. Slowly, I rose from my fighting stance and stood blinking, dumbfounded, at the kids. Eventually, when the adrenaline ran out and my brain continued to function, I recognized them as the ones from the rooftop. The ones who rushed out and started fighting the gargoyles. The ones with weapons…I narrowed purple eyes, putting my weight on the balls of my feet in case I needed to move fast. “Hi, how are you? I’m—Kate. And you are?” They just stood there, staring at me. More importantly, they were staring at my mouth. I touched my mouth to see what was wrong, and my hand came away red. Then I realized that I still had blood on my mouth from biting that gargoyle thing. Ew
… I thought, wiping at it furiously until I was sure it was completely gone. “Bleh!
, gross! I actually had blood in my mouth! Bleh
”They visibly relaxed. Hm. I guess they thought I
was a monster. How odd. “We’re here to help you,” replied a petite, spiky-haired Asian boy with intriguing emerald eyes flecked with gold. I couldn’t help myself. I had to let out my frustration. “Then why did you let me fall off the roof?” I snapped, to which the boy just looked down and paled a bit. “Well, you’ve got weapons,” I stated, waving a hand at the many knives and guns strapped to their black belts. “Are you gonna use ‘em? ‘Cause I’m kind of tired.”The dark-haired boy shook his head. “There’s too many. We can’t beat them. We have to get to safety.”Rolling my eyes, I asked, “And where exactly is
a safe place, dude?” “Our place,” he answered. Hmm… I eyed the brunette girl who’d failed to catch me. “Where’s Tyler?” “Your friend?” “Duh.”“He’s right here.” She gestured to a broad-shouldered blond boy who was holding my unconscious friend. “He’s okay,” she assured me. Yeah. Right. “Give him to me.”The brunette boy frowned, looking doubtful. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”“Give. Him. To. Me,” I demanded. “What if you take him and run? We can’t let you do that; the Shadows will get you.” Shadows? “Or even worse, what if you attack us again? Look at what you did to Alex over there,” he said, pointing to the still-passed-out gargoyle I’d fought. Oh…whoops… that gargoyle actually turned out to be another Asian kid, probably the other one’s brother, but I couldn’t see the resemblance because of the bruises and welts covering his skin. Oh, crap
… I pursed my lips and silently apologized to the poor kid before turning back to the others. “If you won’t even give me my friend so I can make sure he’s alright, how do you expect me to trust you?” I said. They were all silent for a moment. Touché
, I thought to myself, giving me a little pat on the back. The brunette boy gave a sigh of defeat (yes
), motioning for the blond boy to come forward. Just as he was about to hand me Tyler, a horrible screech resounded from the sky: the gargoyles were getting close. “We have to move now
,” said the short purple-eyed girl. “You think? You,” I said, eyeing the blond kid. “You’re big and strong, ain’tcha. You mind carrying that dude?” I pointed to the kid on the ground and Mister Strong Man nodded, shifting Ty to one arm and picking up Alex with the other. “Is your hiding place close?” I asked him as he passed. He nodded. “Then let’s go before they find us.”We ran. We ran like we were being chased by the Devil himself. And at that moment, it felt that way to me. After about five minutes I looked back to see the gargoyles tailing us, slowly gaining on us. “Are we almost there?” I yelled.“Not really,” the brunette girl called back, “Why?”“They’re getting pretty freaking close, that’s why!” I snapped, my heart pumping faster and faster as I struggled to keep up. I looked back at the blond boy. “I thought you said it was close!”“I lied!”“Ugh
” I screamed, frustration clouding my thoughts. I couldn’t believe this was happening. To me
, of all people! I was a nobody. An awkward outcast. Not physically; I was fine with my physical appearance—in fact I prided myself in not being obsessed with my figure like most teenage girls—but mentally. I was always the quirky one that drifted off to other worlds in class. No one knew my name except for Tyler—and I was fine with that, believe me, I actually preferred it that way. But now suddenly I was being attacked by monsters
, for gods’ sake, and to get away from them I was following a group of weird kids who weren’t even fazed by the monsters! And they fought them with freaking guns and knives!
I mean, what the hell? They all seemed a bit off-kilter, especially that blond kid. He was carrying two massive deadweights and
managed to keep up with us!My thoughts hindered my movements, and before I knew it I started to fall back. I only became aware of it when the blond kid caught up to me, eyeing me nervously. “You okay?” he asked, only slightly out of breath. While I, on the other hand, was breathing raggedly. “Fine.” A stitch in my side made it harder and harder to match his speed. “How much farther?”“About a mile,” he said. I looked back again. “We might not get there in time.” The monsters were dangerously close now. “Hm. We’ll just have to speed up.”“Why don’t you guys fight them? Isn’t that what the weapons are for?” I asked, pointing to the holstered gun on his belt. “We would, but we have you guys,” he said. “Hey! Tyler couldn’t punch someone if he had a gun to his head, but I can fight!”“Please
,” he snorted, raising his eyebrows. “You barely made it away from the Shadows.”“The what?”“Shadows. Those things that are chasing us, trying to capture you. You know, the ones with the wings
.” I literally growled at him. We were being chased by things that you see in horror flicks, and he was being sarcastic
. Boys. I stayed quiet, saving what little breath I had left. I guess it was working that well, because soon enough the blond kid was eyeing me again. “What
” I demanded. “Are you okay?”“I said I’m fine,” I snapped, holding my side. The stitch was getting more painful. More importantly, my back had been burning since I’d jumped off of that roof. When I reached back, my fingers touched the edges of a nasty gash, instantly causing more pain. Damn. I had forgotten that the gargoyle—or Shadow, I guess—had clawed me when I bit its arm. Ow. That was gonna be a major problem if we didn’t get to their hideout soon. I didn’t snap out of my thoughts until I heard the beating of wings. “Watch out!” Mister Strong Man screamed, tackling me to the ground. A Shadow swooped down, clawing at the air where I had stood only a moment before. It rose, circling back for Round 2. Mister Strong Man jumped to his feet, still carrying Ty and the Asian kid, yanking me up with him. “Ugh!” I grunted, clutching my shoulder. The others turned back, pulling out their weapons. “You guys alright?” the brunette asked when they reached us.
“She’s not,” the blond replied. I rolled my eyes as everyone stared at me.
“Ugh. Gods, I’m fine! I’m just tired!” I insisted.
“They’re coming back!”
We all ducked as the Shadow grabbed at me again.
“We’ve got to get back to Jon's,” the purple-eyed girl said. “You think?” said the boy with the spiked hair sarcastically.
“Jon?” I asked, trying to blink away the black spots in my vision. Just then the Shadow screeched in rage, flying down again.
“Later,” said the brunette boy. “For now, we’re gonna fight.”
For some reason a feeling of warmth spread over my body. I didn’t know if it was a good or bad thing, but the pain seemed to go away. My eyes turned a sly black as I grinned. The brunette boy looked at me with eyes of steel. “You’re going to stay in a corner. You guys,” he said, pointing to Mister Strong Man and the brunette girl, “are going to stay with Kate and make sure she doesn’t get hurt or caught." His companions nodded, leading me to a dark corner where we could see everything coming, while the rest of them turned towards the Shadows. I almost regretted that I couldn’t help too; now that the pain in my back had dulled, I felt way more in control. I heard another screech in the distance. I looked up and saw the other Shadows getting closer and closer.
Mister Strong Man gently set the boys on the ground in front of me, their unconscious bodies sort of forming a barrier. He and the brunette took out their guns and cocked them, keeping their eyes on the approaching Shadows. I finally took time in making sure Tyler was okay—no biggies, just a few scrapes and bruises. But his face was a sickly pale that made my stomach twist. Once I was completely sure that there was no serious damage, I looked at the brunette. “Who are you, anyway?”“Is this really the time?” she said, her eyes still glued to the sky. “If you’re not fighting, you can talk,” I insisted. She sighed. “There’s too much to tell you right now.”“Names, at least?”“I’m Jade.”“Well, hi, Jade. And Mister Strong Man?”She fought back a smile as she answered, “My brother, Michael.”“Ah.”“The spiky-haired boy and the one you beat up are Nick and Alex. They’re twins.”“Yeah. Sorry about knocking him out, by the way,” I apologized vaguely. “Don’t worry about it. And the other two are Robyn and Kade, they’re brother and sister.” “So how do you know about those things?”“They’re called Shadows.”“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. So?” If they were going to keep me on the sidelines, they could at least let me know what the hell was going on. “We were raised to know about them.”“And the weapons?”“Relax. We won’t use them on you,” she said. “Yeah. Sure. How do you know about me? How do the Shadows
know about me? And what exactly are
they? They look like freaking gargoyles! Why do freaking gargoyles
want me? Why me
? No one knows me! I didn’t tell anyone where I was going tonight, so how did they know I was here? How did you guys
know I was here? I’m freaking being attacked by gargoyles and to get away from them I’m following kids who carry guns. Do you even realize how ridiculous this is? I already had a near-death experience yesterday, why the fuck
should I go through it again today?”Jade whirled and put her hand over my mouth. “Shut up. They’re going to find us soon if you don’t.” I nodded and took a deep breath to calm myself down. I didn’t see what the big deal was. They’d already found me. I was gonna die anyway. Why not make it sooner? No. I couldn’t let myself break down like this. If I wanted to make it out of this—and I did—then I had to be cool. I had to be collected. I had to be awesome. The Shadows soared above us, going into nosedives and clawing at Robyn and Nick. I could feel my cool and collected aura fading, quickly replaced with adrenaline. A sharp wind picked up, whipping the Shadows around and giving Kade time to clip a few of them. One wailed, hand covering a bloody hole in his chest, and crashed to the ground. It didn’t get back up. Strangely the violence didn’t bother me. In fact I sort of envied Kade. I don’t know if it was the heat of the moment or my natural thirst for excitement, but I yearned to join them. Michael took out a short dagger and threw it up. A second Shadow fell, Michael's dagger buried hilt-deep in its neck. I turned to Jade again. “Why do you call them Shadows?”“I don’t know. Maybe because they blend in with the night, and they’re almost silent when they move.”“That’s stupid. I saw them when we were on the roof.” “Then you’re a rare individual,” she replied. “’Rare individual’? Who are
you people?”Jade stayed silent, raising her gun and firing off a few rounds at a Shadow that was getting close to us. He flew away and knocked Kade down, the gun spinning away, leaving him with only his knives. A twinge of doubt ran through me. I almost jumped out there to help but Robyn beat me to it, punching the Shadow in the jaw, stunning it, and jammed a knife into its shoulder. The Shadow backed off but was quickly replaced with another. Nick sprang into action, shocking the Shadow with a roundhouse kick to the head. It staggered, blinking hard and shaking its head. Nick spun into another pose, preparing for another attack but the Shadow lashed out at him with inhuman speed. It ferociously raked its claws across his face; he collapsed, blood dripping from three semi-shallow cuts on his cheek. I thanked the gods that he’d had time to pull back—if he hadn’t he wouldn’t have gotten off so easy. “Nick!” Robyn screamed in fear. She ran to his side while Kade tried to finish off the Shadow. But try as he might, he couldn’t best the creature’s strength. I rose, getting ready to run at it, but was restrained by Michael. “Believe me, you don’t understand what you’re getting yourself into,” he said. I looked at him evenly. “You haven’t seen me fight.”Michael looked to Jade for help. “Kate,” she said, “You have to understand that these are not your average person. They’re stronger than three men, quicker than a cheetah, and their claws can split hairs. If we let you out there, you will be torn to shreds.”These idiots. The Shadows were winning. They needed all the help they could get. My eyes burned scarlet and Jade backed off. I smiled. “I’m not an average girl.”I don’t know why I was pushing them so hard. For some reason I just really wanted—no, I needed
to fight. A part of me, one that was buried deep inside, was starting to rise. It had ignited an anger within, and I had an urge to let it out. Whoa, whoa, whoa. What the hell was I doing? These were monsters
, for gods’ sake! Why was I so keen on fighting them? Wasn’t I supposed to run? What was this strange feeling? Why was it exhilarating? This wasn’t my fight. I’d just gotten caught in the middle of it. I shouldn’t want to take the Shadows on. So why did I anyway? I shoved those thoughts to the back of my mind. I had to focus on what was going on. I looked back at the Shadows closing in on us. Obviously, the predicament had gotten even worse; Nick’s cuts had stopped bleeding, but they needed to be bandaged. Kade was only barely keeping up with the Shadow—his body was riddled with nasty cuts and bruises, and he couldn’t fully lift his left arm. Jade gave Michael a big push. “Go,” she said, and he took off, drawing a sword and gun. Despite the horror of the situation, I couldn’t help but marvel at the odd combination of the weapons. After shooting at the Shadows in the sky, Michael drove the sword right through the chest of the Shadow fighting Kade. It grabbed at the gaping hole, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood. Eventually it sank to its knees, and the light went out in its eyes. “We have to get back to Jon’s,” said Kade, hands on his knees and gasping for air. “We’re still outnumbered.”“Get ready to run,” Jade said, looking back at me. “Oh, my gods!” she gasped, staring at my back. I sighed and kept my eyes on the Shadows. “It’s nothing! I barely even feel it.” “No, it’s—” I didn’t stay long enough to hear the rest; the winged monsters were diving straight for the others, ambushing them. I couldn’t let that happen. It wasn’t that I felt responsible for them, but they were my ticket to safety. If they died, I died. I had to do what I could. I smiled momentarily. They were finally going to see me in action. I couldn’t wait to rub it in Michael and Jade’s faces. Finally, with an unexplainable feeling of pleasure, I jumped into the fight. Grabbing hold of Michael, I pushed down as hard as I could, brought up my feet, and kicked an incoming Shadow right in the face. My smile widened as I felt the creature’s bones crunch under my feet and it shrieked in pain. “Hahaha!” I laughed wickedly, landing next to Kade, who stared at me in bewilderment. Jade ran from the corner, yelling at me to come back, but the Shadows had caught up. Before Jade reached me, I whirled into a series of kicks and punches, stunning my victims. By now, it seemed like the Shadows didn’t care if they got me dead or alive, they just wanted me. I was jumping out of the way of one claw when a Shadow came up from behind and shoved at me, sending me sprawling a few feet away. “Kate!” Robyn screamed with a face full of fear. I barely even registered the pain. When I caught sight of the gargoyles coming at me with grotesque smiles, something happened. That hidden anger was rising once again, and this time I failed to contain it. My clenched fists shook, my nails growing longer and sharper and piercing my palm. The veins in my neck were straining, and my teeth grew longer until they resembled fangs. I didn’t notice my gruesome appearance, though the others did. The Shadows all stopped in their tracks and I growled deeply, smiling around my fangs. A split second passed, and then I lunged at my prey, raising my clawed hands like daggers. I slashed through the first two easily, their necks spraying crimson blood as they fell. Kicking off from the third, I launched myself into the air and rammed into another opponent. I almost floated in midair as I bit it, held its wrist, and slammed it into the Shadow next to it. My feet had hardly hit the concrete when three others jumped at me. I turned to the one on my left, took hold of its head, and twisted violently. There was an audible crack!
and it crumpled to the ground. The other two swung their claws at me and I dodged at the last minute, letting their momentum make them stumble and fall. Kade and the others had finally gotten over the initial shock of my ability to kick ass (ha!). They drew more guns and shot at the remaining Shadows, managing to take care of four more before the rest finally realized they had lost this fight. They took flight and fled before we could kill them all. Once we’d lost sight of them, we all relaxed and caught our breath. It took me a few minutes to calm down, but once I did, I became aware of a nagging sore in my hands and mouth. My fingers were in such agony, I could barely move them. But I didn’t care. I was experiencing an unimaginable exhilaration. For the first time in my life, I felt alive
. I’d thought rock climbing was adrenaline-inducing, but this topped it tenfold. And then I realized what I’d just done. I had just killed
people. Never mind that they were ugly monsters who had hurt Tyler, I’d actually killed them
. How could I have done that? That wasn’t me. I’ve always appreciated all forms of life. How could I just let that go? My gaze dropped to the dead Shadows. Pools of blood surrounded them all. The same blood that my hands and teeth were covered in. What the hell was wrong with me? They weren’t the monsters…I was. Everyone else seemed to agree. They all kept their distance from me, as if I might be sent into another frenzy. I didn’t blame them. If I couldn’t trust myself, how could they? Kade seemed to know what I was thinking. His eyes shined with concern and he walked over to me, ripping a bit of his sleeve off and handing it to me. I systematically wiped my face and hands until they practically sparkled. “Thanks,” I said at last. At least now I was a murderer with clean hands. “You may not look the part, but you're definitely what we're looking for,” said Kade as he stepped back again. “What's that supposed to mean?” I said. “Nothing, sorry,” he said. He started walking back toward the others before he made me mad. I sighed heavily, following close behind. I didn't mean to be a hag, but this was kind of a stressful situation, you know? I think I deserved some tantrum time. I tossed the ragged, stained sleeve away, not wanting to look at the mess I'd made. Kade glanced back at me. “You're littering.” “Shut up,” I snapped. “Come, now, we wouldn't want some poor kid finding that thing. Go on and pick it up; Put it in your pocket for later,” he said. “Shut up
,” I repeated, and leaned over to smack him. Kade laughed and walked out of reach. Well. As much as I wanted to hit him, I was actually starting to feel better. Thank gods, 'cause my ankle hurt. I must have landed on it funny when I jumped off the roof. Big freaking shocker there. At least that pain was distracting me from my rising inner-panic. At last, the full shock of the night's events was hitting me. Please, please,
please wait until we get to their place. Please....
“Exactly how close is your place?” I asked. “Not far,” Jade said, “Just under a mile.” Okay, cool. I could hold back my hysteria until then. Just then, a small groan escaped the lips of the Asian boy—Alex. He opened his eyes and stood slowly, hand held up to a nasty purplish bruise on his temple. Nick rushed over. “You okay man?” “Ugh. Yeah, I think so. I think you're worse off than me,” he said, eyeing his twin's bloody face. “So what happened—?” He looked around until he found my face. “Who's she?” he said. “This,” said Michael, “is the girl who kicked ass, more importantly yours. This is the one we were looking for.” He swung his hand in a grand gesture at me. “Hm,” said Alex, and he narrowed his eyes suspiciously. His eyes darted this way and that, taking in the bloody scene before him. His jaw dropped. “Did you—” “Can we please get to your place?” I mumbled. “There could be more of those things....” They all snapped back into, well, military mode, I guess. Within seconds they were on full-alert, guns loaded and knives unsheathed. Michael stooped to grab Tyler, and, throwing him over his shoulder, jogged north (don't ask me how I knew that).
My breath came in gasps by the time we got there. I didn’t know what we were looking for, so I ran right past it at first. When I realized the others weren’t following me and turned around, I didn’t believe we were at the right place. Robyn walked under an arch with a large sign that read, ENTER
. “You live here
” I said incredulously. “No time for questions,” said Alex. “The Shadows could come back at any moment.” He grabbed hand—which I tolerated only because I was too shocked to do anything else, at that point—and led me under the arch and through a hidden door on the side of an old shack. “How could you live here?” I asked. “It’s different on the inside,” said Alex. “I should freaking hope so.” I was starting to really doubt them now…. I mean, really? No one lived at the Fort. It was just old and rundown. It wasn’t fit for living in. There was no way they had any electricity in there. It was an old castle, not a mansion. We turned into a dark tunnel. For what seemed like hours, we walked in silence, deeper and deeper into their hidden home. I noticed a gradual decline as the tunnel steadily grew darker. After about ten minutes of total blackness and extreme discomfort on my part, we eased into a stop. I felt someone on my left—I think it was Nick—shuffle forward, reach up, and put his hand on the cold wall of the tunnel. He moved his hand up and down, side to side, forming some unseen symbol. I started to ask what he was doing but then the wall shimmered
—and I mean shimmered—and faded away. I gasped at what lay before me. Beyond huge double doors was a grand hall that literally outsized my house, second story included. A glass chandelier lit up the hall and most of the tunnel, nearly blinding me. Two massive staircases lined the walls. The floor was made up of ashy marble, smooth and cool to the touch. The walls were the same stone that made up the Fort above, minus the roughness and the mold. Mismatched couches, a coffee table and a TV stood in one corner of the room. They filed in, leaving me to continue staring in outright shock. Michael carefully laid Tyler’s limp body on a faded pink couch and joined the others, who were all flopping on a couch of their own with tired sighs. I stood in the doorway awkwardly before stepping inside. The humid air was sucked away immediately, replaced with a constant cool breeze that seemed to come from every direction. The empty space behind me shimmered and faded back into a solid wall. Two things happened: My curiosity tripled and my stomach growled. I took a couple of seconds to debate which one was more important and turned to the others. “You got a kitchen?”“You’re seriously hungry right now?” Kade asked. “I just had the rush of my life, not to mention nearly died several times. You bet your ass I’m hungry.”“Uh, the kitchen’s down the hall on the left,” he said, nodding to the stairways. I headed that way, eager for some food. It was about thirty minutes later when I trudged back into the main room and groaned. “I can’t find it.”Michael tried to hide a smile. “But you made it back here, didn’t you? It shouldn’t be that hard.” I slowly shifted my gaze his way, my irritation increasing with each second. Robyn jumped up to help me, and just in time. One more second and I would have bitten his head off. I followed her into the kitchen—which was deceptively easy to get to—and practically ran at the refrigerator. I thanked the gods that it was full of food. Normal food. I grabbed as much as I could hold, ripping open packages and pretty much inhaling their contents. At some point I looked up to see Robyn looking away in what looked like revulsion. Whatever. I was starving. I had consumed a half-gallon of milk, four slices of bread, two frozen hot dogs, a package of cheese, and a slice of watermelon when someone else entered the room. He was tall, barrel-chested, and his hair looked like it hadn’t been combed in years. For some reason I already liked him. He was wearing a giant t-shirt and ragged jeans with brown combat boots. “Oh, you made it back okay!” he exclaimed, giving Robyn a bear hug. He turned to me. “You’re one of them?” “What?”“Oh, nothing. I just expected you to be…younger. “ He stepped forward, offering his hand. “I’m Jon.”We shook hands. “Sup.”There was an awkward pause. “And you are?” he asked. “Doesn’t matter. Not until you tell me what’s going on. Why were those things—Shadows?—after me? How do I know I can trust you?”“We saved you from the Shadows,” Robyn said. I shook my head, taking another bite out of the watermelon. “I could have gotten away okay. You gave me a hideout.”“What about your friend?”“Who?” Jon asked. Robyn mumbled that she’d tell him later. “Hm. Fine. You helped Tyler. Still not enough for me to trust you with personal information.”“But you’ve already told us your name,” Robyn pointed out. “Ah, I did. But how can you be sure that I wasn’t lying?” I said. She didn’t know what to say to that. Jon was silent for a moment. “Fine,” he said. “We’ll do it evenly. We tell you something, you tell us something. Deal?”I considered his proposal. It seemed fair to me. “Alright, deal.”I reached for another watermelon slice, but Jade ran in at that moment, followed closely by rest of the bunch. “Your back,” she said. “I completely forgot, your back! How is it?” For a few seconds I didn’t have the slightest idea of what she was going on about, but then I remembered the Shadow’s claw raking my back as I jumped off the roof. “I don’t know. It hasn’t hurt in a while—“Jon was already behind me, peering at my back with concern. “Damn.” “What?” I reached back—and felt the shredded remains of the back of my shirt. My hand came away red. I gasped as I realized it was blood. I reached back again and felt soft, solid skin. Jon saw it too. “What the hell?” he muttered. I couldn’t believe it. My back was unharmed. As if my life hadn’t gotten weird enough already. Ten minutes later I sat in a cluttered room wearing a tank top I had borrowed from Jade. The fact that it wasn’t pink was a miracle; I almost died from shock when she showed me her closet. I don’t know what they did with my shirt. Maybe they burned it. Everyone else sat around me in mismatched sofas and recliners. A coffee table covered with cups of tea was in the middle. No one spoke. It was torture. I’m not particularly social but this was getting to be one of those days, you know? Everything was setting me off, making my blood boil. The not-so-subtle Jon cleared his throat. “Are we going to talk?” “You first,” I said. “Or I’m out of here.” “In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly normal.” “That much has been established, yes.”“We hunt… things.” “I’d guessed.” “Monsters.” “Mmhmm.” He looked nervous. He probably thought I was gonna hightail it out of there right then. He obviously couldn’t see how determined I was. “And where do I play into this?”He paled. “We – we’re actually not sure about that. Not a hundred percent,” he replied. “Then what do you know?” I asked. He bit his lip. That was it. My temper had spiked. “One of you had better tell me, because I just got attacked by freaking gargoyles
. I don’t know about you, but this is a whole new experience for me. This does not happen to people on a regular basis. Not normal people.” Kade jumped up. “Are you saying we’re freaks?” “That’s exactly what I’m saying! You people hunt monsters, for Christ’s sake! That’s wrong. Totally and completely wrong. Do you even know how much you’ve messed up my life already?” “Hey!” Robyn yelled. “Everyone just calm down. We need to have clear heads if we want to figure this thing out.” I sat back, fuming while she pulled Kade back onto the couch. “She was about to hit you,” she whispered into his ear. “Damn right I was,” I mumbled. “So what do you know?” Kade smirked. “It depends. What’s your real name?” “A secret. And it’ll stay that way if you don’t stop being an asshole.” He clenched his teeth but said nothing. “At least give us your first name,” Jade said. I’d happily give her
my full name. She was nice to me. “Kay. Kelley.” Kade laughed. “You’re name is Kay Kelley?”“Yes. If you don’t like it you can suck it, because honestly I just don’t have the energy to go through this again,” I sighed, rubbing my forehead. It was starting to ache. “Are you okay?” asked Jade. “I’m fine. Just tired. And you don’t know me well enough to be concerned for my well-being. We just met.” Alex took a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it to me. As I read it they explained everything to me. Let’s just say I did not take it well. I’ll spare you the gory details, the spouts of anger and confusion. I ended up with my head in my hands, laughing hysterically. “Of course. Why didn’t I see it before? I’m Kay, the almighty Daughter of the Wind, wanted by all for her mysterious powers of mystery
. And this all happens a week before my birthday.” “Your birthday?” said Robyn. “Yep. In eight days. Oh, didn’t you know? I thought you would, seeing as you know so much about me already.” I said in a mock-nice voice. “You know this is crazy, right? This is all psychobabble. “ “I would agree with you if we hadn’t just been attacked by Shadows,” she said. I looked at her and grinned. “You know, I’m actually coming to terms with the fact that there’s more in this world than just us. I really am. It was naïve to think otherwise. But the idea that I’m a part of it – a big
part – is ridiculous.” “Then why did they come after you?” “I don’t know! Maybe this Lucivur’s got the wrong person. He must have been human at some point, right? Everyone makes mistakes.” I knew I was grasping at straws here, but what was I supposed to do? Believe these people? This whole day was insane! I let out a massive stressed-out sigh, running my hands through my hair. “I want to go home.” Jon hesitated. “I don’t think you can, honey.” What was that supposed to mean? “Are you gonna keep me here as your prisoner?” I wished I was joking.“Not at all,” he said. “You’re free to come and go as you please. But I don’t think it’s safe. If they can find you on an abandoned beach, they can find out where you live.” “Are you sure?” “There’s not a doubt in my mind.” I thought about it. “Fine. But only if you admit that I’m not the person you’re looking for.” “Then why would you stay?” Jade asked. “Those things are gonna come after me again, that’s for sure. I’m not stupid. I know how to stay away from trouble. But I’m not an Elemental Child. So I’ll stay here until you all find the real ones. Hell, I’ll help if it means I can go home sooner.” They looked at each other, silently sharing their thoughts. Weird. “Alright.”“I don’t think Tyler should stay,” Kade said. “What?” Jade frowned. “He’s her friend. Of course he can stay.” “No, I agree,” I said. “I don’t want him to be a part of this. He’s better off not knowing.” Nobody was after him. He’d be safe. “Okay. Mike can take him. What’s his address?” “162 Oakland Street, right off of Racetrack Road. It’s a big blue one with two floors. There’s a black SUV in the driveway.” “Got it.” Michael stood, picking Tyler up and tossing him over his shoulder. I smiled despite myself. Ty was so small. It was cute. I thought about our kiss, wondering how long it would be before I saw him again. I wished he could stay and make this whole thing more bearable, but I didn’t want him to get hurt. Not again.
Text: All characters and events belong to J.C. Kelley. The picture was taken from Google Images.
Publication Date: 01-14-2011
All Rights Reserved
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