Authors: J.W. Lolite
y father. Taboo subject, that one. Truth be told I didn’t really know much about the guy. He died when I was still a baby, leaving me with nothing but forgotten memories. Hell, I didn’t even have a picture of the guy. Growing up, my family hadn’t been the most forthcoming about what he was like, especially Auntie. From the uninhibited sneers, I got the feeling she wasn’t overly fond of him. Uncle Sebastian didn’t have much to say about him, either. So, yeah, he wasn’t exactly grooving with the in-laws. Well, there was one exception . . .
I remember now.
“Your father? He was just like you, of course!”
She would always laugh and say it like it was the most obvious thing in the world. I remember how she would always talk about how strong he was and how handsome he was. I remember how she would look out the window, a sad smile on her lips, a distant look in her stunning light green eyes.
I felt my eyes begin to sting, and I pushed the painful memories back. There was no need to keep dwelling on this. She was gone and she wasn’t coming back. No matter how much I wanted her to. No matter how much I needed her.
I opened the front door and stopped in the entrance. A pitch black void awaited me. It was too early for Auntie to go out on her late night binges. Where was she? I pushed down the fear that was rising in me. What if I wasn’t the only one those guys attacked. What if they got . . . Auntie . . .
Coming into the living area, a flicker of light caught my eye, and I turned to find the source. Relief washed over me as I took in the image. She sat on the ground, a small, dim candle burning on the table in front of her.
“What are doing, Auntie? Just sitting on the floor like that . . .” I trailed off. She didn’t even acknowledge my presence when I walked towards her. Stepping closer, I noticed her clothes looked even filthier than this morning. Her top had some new dark stains, and looking at her bare arms, I saw her pale skin was covered in a light film of sweat and dirt.
“Is that dust, Auntie? Just how long were you in the attic?” I asked, peering over her shoulder and looking at her face. She didn’t
so much as blink when I reached forwards and wiped her cheek. The dust was everywhere. Looking at her again, I looked into her eyes. Her gaze was deep and yet somehow lost, sadness glittering in the flicking flame. Following her line of sight, I felt my heart stop. A group of smiling faces peered back at me, and I felt the sadness that haunted my aunt’s eyes drift into my own.
The photo must have been at least seventeen years old, but I still knew the faces all too well. It was them. Aunt
Kaline looked so young and innocent back then. She couldn’t have been more than 13 years old, her bright smile beaming at the camera. Uncle Sebastian, with his black shoulder length hair and rugged smirk, must have been the envy of every guy in the country. He looked every bit the perfect big brother, too, with an arm slung around each sister. I looked at the last figure, and my chest burned. It was her. She looked so beautiful – long dark brown hair and soft, milky skin. A gentle smile graced her lips; a smile I so painfully recognized. I absorbed the whole image, three pairs of light green eyes staring back at me. They looked so happy, so perfect. The world collapsed.
I clenched my eyes shut, the flood of misery and remorse threatening to break through. This was too much.
I can’t take this
. I straightened up and rushed for my safe haven. Why did she have to have that out? She wasn’t the only one suffering. A flood of anger joined my depression as I rounded the corner. Blood rushed in my ears, and I almost didn’t hear the soft “Ingrid” that came from behind me.
I ignored her and continued on my way. I didn’t want to talk. I didn’t even want to look at her. They all looked so much alike. I slammed my bedroom door hard. Collapsing on my bed, I pulled my pillow to my face and screamed, the tears soaking the old pillow case.
This is so shit!
This wasn’t a messed up evening. This was the worst evening that ever happened. Why did this have to happen to me? Why couldn’t I be happy? Just like they had been . . . so long ago. I cried harder as the image of the beaming faces came back to me. I couldn’t suppress it anymore. The memories came flooding back, flowing just as forcefully as my tears.
I shuddered violently as the images began to change. Flashes of blood and slashed bodies danced across my mind. The scent of blood . . . charred flesh . . . wafted to my nose. I gagged and rushed to the bathroom, the contents of my stomach rising in my throat. I kneeled in front of the toilet for a few minutes, my meager dinner coming up. After I was sure my stomach settled, I turned to the sink and washed my mouth out before splashing cool water on my face. I glanced at my reflection and willed the memories back into their dark safe. My eyes glowed back at me, the light shimmering from my tears.
I stumbled back into the bedroom and made my way to the bed. Without even taking my uniform off, I buried myself under the covers and took in several deep breaths. My sobs turned into silent weeping, and I began to forge my mental barriers, pushing all the pain away.
was wrong. I wouldn’t need an alarm clock to get up in the morning. I wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight; nightmares and anxiety would see to that. Finally numbing my mind, the pain in my body began to become evident. My hands and knees ached as I pulled the covers in a cocoon around my body. It didn’t matter. I was finally safe, here in my haven, and I wasn’t about to move an inch until the sun forced me out.
“I knew I should have just stayed in bed today.”
thin sheen of light crept through the blinds of my window and into my eyes. I didn’t even flinch when I glanced towards the source – the crack of dawn.
. I pushed my covers to the side and slid out of bed. Shutting the door to the bathroom, I didn’t even bother to turn on the light before I made my way over to the mirror. I looked like a banshee; dark circles lined my bloodshot eyes and my hair was a tangled, dirty mess. After stripping off my uniform, I turned to the shower. I wouldn’t have to hurry today.
As I waited for the water to heat up, I thought about all that happened yesterday evening. Well, about the first part. I had long since locked the second part away and I wasn’t about to bring it out anytime soon. I was still very confused about everything. One minute I was walking home like usual, and the next my life was on the line, threatened by guys that had glowing eyes like me no less. I let out a sigh and stepped into the hot stream of water. My knees and hands burned in the water, and I set about cleaning the scrapes. I really should have done this last night. Finished with my wounds, I went about cleaning the gray sand out of my hair and off my pale skin. After about thirty minutes of washing and relaxing in the shower, I stepped out and grabbed a towel. It felt good to enjoy a long shower.
I toweled off before picking up my uniform off the ground. It was even worse than yesterday and that’s saying something. The gray
covered every inch. On the bright side, Ursa wouldn’t be able to single out my lack of ironing skills. I shook the clothes trying to free some of the dirt, only to end up creating a mini cloud in the bathroom. Coughing and wheezing, I rushed into my bedroom and opened the window. With my uniform gripped in my hand, I thrust the clothes out the window and began to beat them against the side of the house. Satisfied with the small pile of gray on the grass below, I pulled my clothes back in put them on. They weren’t spotless, but hey, it was better than looking like I’d rolled in from a dingy desert.
I glanced at my watch and saw I still had some time to kill before making my way to school. I grabbed my bag and took out the small amount of homework I didn’t get to do last night and set to work. I made a
promise, and evil attack or not, I was going to keep it. Going over the work, I realized it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d always believed. I could do this. After about twenty minutes of writing, I smiled and put the finished product into my bag. Easy-peasy.
I stood up, picked up my materials, and began to make my way out the door. It was still a little early, but I decided I would rather wait for my friends at the intersectio
n than stay here. Walking past the living room, I felt a rush of relief when Aunt Kaline was nowhere to be seen. It was too early for her to be up if she made it back to her room – if not too early for her to be back at all. Either way, I was glad to not see her. It was still too soon. They looked so much alike.
I made my way out the door and set off down the street. I cast a nervous glance down the street, taking in my surroundings. Unlike last night, there were people out leaving for work. This combined with the presence of the morning sun began to put a gradual ease in my mind. By the way they rushed off last night, I got the feeling those guys weren’t likely to make an attack with a lot of witnesses. And if they were anything like me, the light would put them at a disadvantage should my heroes appear again.
I came to the intersection where my friends had been waiting for me the day before, and I stood against the wall. My mind spun again with unanswered questions. While knowing
those guys were would be nice, I soon discovered that knowing
they were appealed to me more. I wasn’t one for supernatural nonsense, but just this once, I figured I’d humor myself.
Let’s see, what goes around preying on teenage girls and likes the dark?
I felt my mouth twist in revulsion as the most obvious answer popped into my head.
Oh, hell no.
I didn’t drink blood, I didn’t fear garlic, and I sure as hell didn’t sparkle in the sun.
, I thought as I rolled my eyes. Maybe I was going about this all wrong. Although those guys wore cloaks, they still had humanoid shapes, and as far as I could tell so did I. Maybe humans, only with some kind of weird alteration.
I nodded my head. That had some potential. Remembering the way they spoke about humans, it did seem there was some hatred floating around. Or maybe I was all wrong and we weren’t even human at all, like some kind of foreign entity or ali –
“Ingrid! Is that really you?”
I turned to look at my nearing friend, a smirk creeping up. “That’s right! No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I’m really here . . . early!”
“You still may need to pinch me,”
Lesia replied. “I think I may still be dreami –
What was that for?”
“You said –”
“Yeah, but I didn’t really mean it,” she muttered while rubbing her arm. “So why are you here so early? Did you sneak off and buy a clock last night? You shouldn’t have done that; it was starting to get dark.”
“Well, actually, I didn’t. I just had some trouble sleeping last night,” I admitted, sliding down the wall into a crouch. Now that I was on the topic, I felt pretty sleepy.
She didn’t make any attempt to dive further into the subject, something I greatly treasured about my best friend.
Lesia knew my mother was dead, but that was really the extent of her knowledge of my past. I got the impression she suspected there was more to it, but she never probed, and I never brought it up. I couldn’t explain it, but somehow she could sense what I was feeling. When I was happy, sad, or times like this when I didn’t want to talk about something. It had always been like that ever since I could remember.
“Ingrid,” she gasped, “what happened to your knees?” She knelt beside me and ran a hand gently along the scrapes.
“Oh, that.” I frowned, my mind whirling for an excuse. I couldn’t exactly tell her I was attacked by two something-or-anothers in cloaks . . . not yet anyway. She would only overreact, and I needed time to figure out just what
happened. “I just got in a hurry to get home last night and ended up eating concrete. No big deal. Besides, they’re already healing.”
Unfortunately, in addition to sensing my feelings, she could also tell when I was lying. I knew this by the vague “uh-huh” and the unimpressed look she shot me.
“But you’re right,” she said, looking closer. “It looks like the scabs have already formed. Don’t pick them or it’ll scar,” she finished in a motherly fashion.
I smiled at her and then looked around the intersection.
“I’ll be sure not to do that. Anyway, where’s Tybalt. He’s going to make me late. What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
gave me a piercing stare before responding. “Now you know how we feel.”
I chuckled for a few seconds, shaking my head. “Yeah, but this is different. This is my big return to homeroom. I can’t have Ty ruining my grand entrance. Do you think Mr.
Alcor remembers what I look like?” I joked. Then I thought about it a second and turned serious. It had been two months.
“I wouldn’t worry about that. You do stand out.”
She’s got a point,
I thought as I caught my reflection in one of the windows of a building across the street. Bright lavender gleamed back at me. “Like a radiation hazard.”
“Oh, Ingrid, your personality isn’t that bad,” she teased before laughing at my half-hearted glare. “I’m sorry. I was just joking, but I really do think you’re wonderful.” My heart warmed with little
fuzzies at that. “And here comes Ty. He can tell you as well.”
I turned to look down the street, and sure enough, there strode our charming friend. He pointed at us and shrugged his shoulders.
“Damn, I really am running late this morning. Even Ingrid’s here before me.”
“For your information,
Tybalt, I got here first,” I bragged, feeling rather proud of myself. “And get this, I was early.”
Ty gave me a skeptical glance before turning to
Lesia. “It’s true,” she confirmed.
Upon hearing the affirmation, Ty broke out in wide grin and slug an arm around my shoulders.
“I guess finally getting your dear friends sent to the lair really set you straight. I’m proud of you,” he said, sniffing and pretending to wipe a tear. “My girl.
I felt my face heat up. “Yeah, well, I’m a team player,” I replied, looking at the ground in an attempt to hide my face. Why couldn’t my hair be just a little longer?
“Let’s go team!” Ty exclaimed, throwing his other arm around Lesia. I tried to sneak a look at her through my hair, but Ty’s body blocked my path. “Today is the day we finally escape Ursa’s cycle of pain and discipline. The three of us together in homeroom at last!”
“Jeez, Ty, you don’t have to be so enthusiastic about it.”
Not that it would have made much of a difference if he wasn’t. As we walked into the schoolyard, we were soon the focus of every set of eyes on campus. I couldn’t blame them; this was a momentous occasion. For the first time in months, Ingrid Fairheit was at school on time.
I let out a huge yawn, trying to force my concentration on the blackboard in the front of the room. The wonders of the early Twentieth Century floated delicately through my left ear and straight out the right. I was way too tired for this, but I did make a promise. I bit the inside of my cheek trying to jolt some energy back into my body. It didn’t work. I vaguely wondered why I was so excited about being on time today. Other than a flabbergasted look from Mr. Alcor, the day had proceeded as it normally did – long and boring. My eyelids started to feel like closing bear traps when an announcement rang out over the intercom.
Fairheit, please report to the principal’s office.”
I creased my eyebrows in confusion before standing and gathering my things. Ignoring all the “
ooh’s” from my mature classmates, I excused myself from the room and made my way down the hall. While this certainly wasn’t the first time I’d been beckoned to Ursa’s office, this was the first time I couldn’t think of a reason why. A smirk found its way to my mouth as I imaged her really checking to see if I was sick. Maybe she really did enjoy those morning conversations.
“Kids still okay, Tania?” I asked, walking into the office and looking at the secretary. She didn’t even pause in her phone conversation as she pointed her pen over to the principal’s door. I took the hint and knocked. I waited for the entrance cue and walked in.
“Good to see you are indeed alive and well, Miss Fairheit, if a little,” Principal Dipper stopped and glanced down at my knees, “worse for the wear.” She indicated to one of the chairs in front of her desk, and I walked over and took a seat.
“Yeah, well, some of us have to be the ducklings,” I replied, pushing my skirt down so it covered my knees.
She leaned forward, the light bouncing off her thick frames. “That is true,” she commented. “Did you have some kind of accident?”
My mind sped into overdrive.
Ursa had a knack for picking up on falsehoods. Many years experience from lying students, no doubt.
“Uh, kind of.
I got into a rush going home and tripped,” I lied. I looked at her face as she leaned back and the light shifted off her lens. Stone gray bore into me thoroughly unconvinced.
“You should be more careful, Miss
Fairheit. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to one’s surroundings. I wouldn’t want one of my students missing school over a careless running away incident.”
I didn’t respond as I continued to hold her gaze.
This old woman. She knew I was lying. That much was certain, but what else did she know. She hadn’t said anything to indicate she knew exactly what happened, but what was with that look and . . . could it be possible?
, I pressed firmly into my mind,
she doesn’t know what happened.
She just knows I’m not being completely honest. And even if she did have a few good guesses, I seriously doubted any of them involved cloaked creepers.
“I’ll be sure to do that, Principal Dipper,” I said at last. “Is that all you wanted to talk about? The next class will be beginning soon.” I leaned over and grabbed the strap of my bag.
“Not quite so fast, Miss Fairheit.” She stopped me. “The reason I called you here is to give you this.” She reached into one of the vast amounts of drawers that lined her desk and pulled out a white envelope. “A very dear friend of mine wanted me to give this to you. I think it would be in your best interest to consider it carefully,” she added with a stern voice, handing the envelope to me.
I reached out and grabbed the envelope with care. Flipping it over, I
noted the envelope was blank of any writing, but instead had an image on the front. My eyes wandered over the sketch. It was a strange figure made of dots and lines. The dots were arranged in an odd pentagon on top of a thin-topped trapezoid. From two heavy dots on opposite sides of the pentagon, a pair of stick-like arms were attached. One of the arms was sticking up and ended in rectangular V. The other arm was more horizontal, and at the tip, a squiggly vertical line of dots formed the shape of a backwards C. Ursa’s friend really needed more practice making connect-the-dots patterns.