Authors: Kayla Bruner
The Centerpoint Triology
(Part One of the Point Trilogy)
by Kayla Bruner
They were just children. A handful of them sat, huddled together inside the dark room. There was light, light from outside that made a vain attempt to weave through the cracks in the thick curtains. Some had cried, but after being struck for doing so, those who cried were now silent. The little girl was only seven. She figured that the others were close to her age. She backed herself into a corner. She focused on The Man.
The man was old. Well, not as old as her grandfather, but a little bit older than her daddy. He was kind of fat. His skin was pale and it glowed in what she realized was candlelight. The women with him were lighting some kind of weird candles. He had a beard that was thick and full of hair that was the color of pepper. He wore thin, round glasses that looked like they were made from the ends of glass bottles. They shimmered in the candlelight. He had this smile on his face that told her he was so happy with what he was doing. It was wide and full of glee. It reminded her of the smile of a kid her age, not the reserved grins she usually saw on adults. He was full of joy. The man didn’t care that they were hurt and scared. He was so happy. How could anyone be happy that kids were scared?
The girl, whose name was Anna, looked across the room at the other children. She saw a boy with dark skin and pretty brown eyes. He was looking at the floor and shaking. She could actually see the faint tremors of his little body. He let out a soft cry and she could hear him muttering the words, “I want my mommy,” over and over again. One of the women who was with The Man looked at him angrily and rolled her eyes. She then struck him. Her fist slammed into his face and he screamed, then was quiet. Anna could see blood. It pooled up behind him, a little puddle. More flowed from his lip, which he had obviously sunk his teeth into when he was hit. She buried her head against the nearest surface, which happened to be the back of another little boy.
“We need to hurry, Lord Kahn,” the woman muttered. Her voice wavered. She was scared. The candles illuminated the room in a scary way and it seemed, to the terrified child, at least, that the flames were rising higher and higher. It was rising, inch by inch, like an animal crept upward to stalk its unsuspecting prey. The man had sat down on the floor. It was not a soft carpet like the floor of Anna’s family home. It was wooden and made out of long, lean slats. Anna focused her eyes on the floor, but pretty soon she was drawn away from her focus by a flash of light.
The candles had raised to a terrifying height and the small dark skinned boy was in the blonde woman’s grasp. She had clawlike hands that rested on his shoulder. They flexed in and out like the bird’s talons, once it had caught prey. She squeezed, lightly. The boy screamed, not because he was hurt, but because he was scared of her. She made him stand up and she led him over to The Man. “You should be pleased Child,” The Man said, speaking to the little boy like he had a grown-up respect for him, “for you are one of the blessed.”
The man picked up a knife from the tray beside him. The blade gleamed in the candlelight, a beautiful silver. He then took the shaking child’s arm and turned it so that his wrist was upward. He cut a small line in the skin, a thin line that became redder as blood darkened it. The blood bubbled up a dark red against his skin. Anna couldn’t help herself - she screamed. She screamed, not just because of the blood. She screamed because she felt something ripped out of the boy and changed. She could feel that there was something hot and light being pulled out of the boy, darkened and then pushed back in through the line of blood. She did not understand what, but he’d been altered, forever. At her cue, the rest of the young children began to scream. Anna wasn’t sure why they screamed, but she was pretty sure it was because of the same deep instinct that told her something evil was occurring. She had known, even at that age, that the damage being done was forever.
One by one, the man had each child brought to him, cut their arm and pooled the blood into a bowl. “One day, you will be the Rulers of the Earth,” he assured them. He laughed and his happiness was so serene that it took even the small children off guard. His look was that of someone who had just stepped into a hot bath after a long evening. “The Children shall inherit the future, so says the decree of The Celestial Centerpoint.”
When she was cut, Anna felt something change inside of her too. Something was drawn out of her, spilled onto the floor in front of her. In it’s place something warm, something powerful was put into place. She wasn’t as sure if it was evil as she had been when it was done to the boy, but she knew that it was something beyond her in every way.
Anna Donovan, age twenty-seven, woke up in bed. She blinked a few times. The Kidnapping had occurred almost exactly twenty years ago. Twelve children were kidnapped and taken by a man who was later identified as Kahn North. He was the leader of a cult called The Celestial Centerpoint. Anna was never entirely sure what he intended with the children that he kidnapped. No injury had been done to any of them, except for the single cuts on their inner forearms. It was a cut that left a scar. It wasn’t just the cut that left the scar of course. Now, as an adult, Anna knew the true nature of scars. They were forever and would never be gone.
Anna turned her wrist and looked at the long scar. It was white with age and mostly gone, but she knew that it was there. She had not dreamed about The Kidnapping in a very long time. She had figured that it was now just a strange thing that she had endured as a young child and now, as a grown woman, she was completely done with the trauma that it had caused. She was beyond being traumatized by an ancient wound. She was no longer seven years old.
Still, she had been changed after that night with The Celestial Centerpoint. There was no denying that she had been changed irreversibly, but it was often much easier to forget that the incident had occurred. Anna told herself that what happened to her and eleven other children no longer mattered. It was not something that had anything to do with their current lives. They were all adults and the coincidental abilities that she had; well, those had nothing to do with what had been done to her as a little girl. They could not. She also knew that denial was idiotic. She was far too smart of a woman to give in to total denial, yet here she was. It was hard not to deny, when the only other option was to accept the wounds.
Now, she had to wake back up. Dreams did not have any value in her life, but there were things that did. Not that she wanted to do what she had planned for the day. She had been set up. One of her friends from work had set her up with a friend - for a date. Anna had truthfully believed that blind dates went out in the nineties. People didn’t do that anymore, did they? Well, evidently, she did, because she’d been in an odd mood and agreed.
Now she had a date. It was with a man by the name of Ethan. Ethan was twenty-six, a teacher and very sweet according to her friend. Anna was less than pleased with the idea. She was even a little bit on the nervous side. She did not date. Was it a crime? She had just never met anyone that she hit it off with. It was not something she was about to be ashamed of. It was just a thing and it was okay.
Anna had to admit that she was lonely. She was, by her nature, not a very social creature. She did not spend that much time with groups of people and dating was difficult for her. It wasn’t that she didn’t date; it was just that she had not and really never expressed a great interest in such. A date really wasn’t the worst fate, but she felt very awkward because of it. She never knew how to talk to men, especially strange men. This was going to be unusual. At least, she told herself, it was the type of unusual that was normal.
As she dressed, Anna looked at herself in the mirror. She didn’t think that she was anything special, but had been told that she was pretty. She was of an average height and had a curvy body. Her hair was an auburn red and her eyes, she was told, were a striking color of green against her pale skin. She didn’t really think of herself as striking in any manner, but that was what she had been told. For her date, she had decided the night before on a skirt that fell to her knees and a short sleeved top with adornments on the sleeves. It complimented her form, but was not too forward or presumptuous. She assumed it was appropriate.
Assessing herself in the mirror, she smiled. She looked nice and approachable in her point of view. This man would have to think so too, of course. She was really nervous and hoped she came off as nice. She was definitely trying to be nice.
Quickly, she migrated to the bathroom. There she began brushing her hair. Her hair was very straight and pretty easy to manage. She decided to wear it down, hanging loose over her shoulders. Anna was never the type to wear much makeup, so that too was done quickly. She put on the light eyeshadow and lip gloss and smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She did look nice and didn’t think there would be much of an issue. It was a quick process. As quickly as she’d begun, she was done.
It was stupid to be so worried. Even if the date was an absolute disaster, it was just coffee. She knew that she could handle this. If it went badly, she could call it off quickly. That was the beauty of a small date. It was more like a pre-date than anything. It was just a stupid cup of coffee! She had to stop being so anxious. It was an awkward social situation, yes, but she was a grown woman and more than capable of handling it.
Despite her own assurances, Anna felt odd. She felt this strange grasp lingering over her. The part of her that was different was screaming inside of her. She was confused about what the next step her life would take would be. She also had no idea why such strong feelings would arise from what was really just an idiotic date.
The coffee shop was a local one that Anna visited often. It was not a chain, but a small store that had been in town for decades. It was located in the corner of a shopping center. Cheerful green paint and a matching awning greeted guests. The inside featured rustic but adorable decoration. Anna had chosen it because it was one of her favorite coffee places in the universe. The peppermint mocha that was served was nothing short of delicious. It also seemed like it would be a safe, comforting date location.
She saw him the minute that she arrived. Her friend had showed her a picture of the man; plus, he was the only person sitting alone in the outside patio. She smoothed out her hair, took a deep breath and then walked up to the coffee shop, opening the gate and entering the patio. She walked over to where he was sitting, just as he looked up at her and smiled. “Hi,” she said, watching as he stood up to greet her. “I’m Anna.”
The man smiled. He had a very pleasant smile, a warm one that made her feel naturally comfortable. He was very handsome. He had a good half foot of height on her, so she looked up when they shook hands. He was relatively thin with soft brown hair and very beautiful brown eyes. There was a light speckling of a beard on his chin. His jawline was strong and he had a gorgeous smile. It was wide and filled his whole face. It was not like the usual fake smile of someone you’d just met. It was real and it was definitely warm. Wow, Anna kept going back to the smile. She had to hand that one to the man. He had a lovely smile.
“Nice to meet you Anna,” he said pleasantly. “I’m Ethan. Shall we order something?”
“Of course,” she said cheerfully. “Thank you for waiting for me, by the way.”
“Not a problem,” he replied.
The pair ordered their drinks rather quickly. Anna could tell by watching him that Ethan was just as nervous as she was. His hands were clenched tightly at his sides. He kept clenching and unclenching them. He also licked his lip a couple of times, glancing at her and then away. Good, she wasn’t the only one feeling intimidated by this whole thing. “So, I’m told that you’re a teacher?” she asked, as they waited for their drinks. She was trying her best to relieve the tension that both of them were obviously feeling. It was stupid to have to be nervous, but here they were.
“Yes, I am,” he said, turning to face her. He seemed a little more at ease because of her question. That made her feel rather successful. “I’m a high school English teacher, actually. It’s my second year.”
“How’s that?” she asked. She had to imagine that it took a great deal of patience. It probably took a lot more patience than she truly had for such things.
“It’s amazing,” he responded, his eyes lighting up. He seemed very enthusiastic about his job, something that she instantly admired. No matter what a person did in life, her mother had once said, the key was to have passion for what you did. “I really love the kids and I think I may have found the school I want to be at for good. They’re difficult at times, but I think that I can develop an enthusiasm for the subject in them. It’s fun and I think I’m really doing what I am meant to do.”
“That’s really great,” she said, her admiration definitely showing in the way she looked to him.. “I think that it’s amazing to find what you’re passionate about. I think I’m getting there myself.”
“You’re a journalist, yes?” he asked.
She nodded. “Well, sort of,” she added with a slight laugh. “I work for the local paper, The Lakeside Review.” She had really been trying to rise in the group, but it was definitely a struggle. She had to admit that she was generally heading in the direction that she wanted to be.
The pair returned to the outside patio, but this time they chose a corner table. “I don’t usually do blind dates,” the man admitted to her, smiling over the edge of his coffee cup. “In fact, I pretty much outright refused my friend Michael, the guy who set me up, but he insisted that you were amazing. I guess he and your friend...Brianne was it?.. I guess that they really worked hard to set the two of us up.” He laughed and shook his head. He seemed to also share her opinion on blind dating. This was, of course, getting better and better.