story

Mirror Image

Run, he told himself. Run as fast as you can, and don’t look back.

It was a cold night, and his skin prickled beneath the protection of his dark blue hooded jacket. Dry leaves crunched under the soles of his Vans, and he could see his breath steaming from his nostrils and mouth.

Where was she?

He fretted, chewing on his bottom lip with worry. The right side was bruised and already starting to sting.

Had he finally succeeded in losing her?

It’s too early for relief, he cautioned himself. Yet as he surveyed the still, twilit woods, it did seem likely that she had given up pursuit.

“Daniel….”

His heartbeat picked up its place and he backed into a tree, looking around frantically for the source of the voice. It didn’t seem to come from any particular direction.

Daniel began to hyperventilate. His heart was drumming so hard that he thought he was going to pass out. He imagined small, white hands closing around his throat, choking him…

“There you are.” A girl popped out from behind him with a mischievous smile. “I thought you’d left me behind!” She reached out and gripped his slack hands with her tiny, cold ones while peering up at him.

“What’s wrong?” She finally asked, looking concerned. For a few seconds, Daniel was mesmerized, staring at the girl who was a smaller yet almost exact replica of himself. If only not for her longer hair and more elfin features, she would have been his mirror image.

“Nothing,” he mumbled. “We’d better get going. It’ll be really dark in a few minutes.”

And we don’t want that…

“Mmkay,” she answered, looking slightly confused. “Are you really all right?”

“Yeah. Don’t be silly, why wouldn’t I be?” He drew her close and ruffled her dark hair, then discreetly wiped the blood spatters at the back of her neck with his palm. He put his hands in his pockets. “Let’s go.”

They trudged home, silent and contemplative.

Damn, thought Daniel. It’s impossible to kill her.

✝✝✝

“Danieeeeeeel,” her voice started as a soft whine and rose to a wailing shriek. “It hurts! Stop it, please! It really hurts!”

Scared that someone might hear, he dove on top of her and slammed his hand over her mouth to muffle her cries. “Shut up, Cassie!” he hissed. “It’ll feel better in a minute, I promise!”

She shook her head violently, frightened tears streaming in hot rivulets down her cheeks. A pool of red had started to form at her stomach, darkening and staining the pale skin. The blood spread out in a crimson bloom, pooling on her sharply jutting hipbones and spilling over to the sheets.

“Don’t cry, sweetheart,” he whispered, loosening his grip on her and kissing her damp forehead. “Don’t be scared. I’m here. I’ll always be here. It’s going to be over in a few minutes anyway.”

“Why are you doing this?” she sobbed.She looked so beautiful and innocent, not like the monster she really was. It angered Daniel to see this…this abomination take over the body of his beloved twin sister and use it to wreak havoc.

“Because you’re not Cassie, you demon,” he said through gritted teeth. “Cassie is dead.”

“It’s me!” she cried. “Please stop it, Daniel. Don’t you love me?”

“I loved my twin,” he answered. “Not you.”

Sensing she was weakened sufficiently, he got up slowly and reached for the bottle of dead man’s blood on the nightstand. He dipped his index finger into the dark liquid and began to draw the ancient sigils on Cassie’s bare flesh.

Every time the blood made contact with the girl, her skin sizzled. Her restrained body reared in pain, and she screamed so loudly that the window panes splintered.

“You’re insane!” Cassie yelled at him. “Look at what you’re doing to me!”

Undeterred, Daniel snatched a leather-bound book from under the bed and flipped the onionskin pages until he found the particular spell he was looking for. When he found it, he stood over his twin, who was chained to the bed and was lashing out at him, trying to free herself.
He began to recite the Latin spell.

Cassie didn’t drop dead.

“I told you! I’m Cassie!” Her voice broke. “Please believe me, Daniel. Your spell would have worked if I were…if I were something else, right?”

Daniel backed away, a trickle of sweat sliding down from his forehead. His eyes were wide with fear and his uncertainty was palpable.

“I don’t know,” he whispered. “I don’t know!”

He really didn’t.

✝✝✝

Daniel tossed and turned in bed. He couldn’t believe how badly he’d messed up earlier. A quick glance at the clock told him that it was almost three in the morning.

It was an unusually bright night. The sky was lit up with millions of pinpricks of light, and the bloated moon sat, immobile, to the west. The wooded area around the house was illuminated and the bare trees cast inky shadows on the leaf-strewn ground.

He threw the blanket off his legs and kicked it to a corner.

“I fucked up really, really badly today,” he murmured to himself, putting an arm over his eyes.

The patter of light footsteps outside his door made him sit up in bed. His hands slid under the pillow, automatically feeling for the knife hidden beneath.

“Danny? It’s me,” Cassie’s small voice pierced his train of thought. “Can I sleep here? I’m scared.”

The door opened with a creak, and his twin sister stepped into a swath of pale moonlight. Her bare toes curled and uncurled in apprehension. She bit her lip. “Please, Danny?”

Daniel exhaled in annoyance. “Fine, but try not to squirm too much, okay?”

“Okay,” she answered meekly.

Cassie climbed into bed with him and fluffed up the pillows before lying down. They were both silent for a few minutes. After the awkwardness had passed, Daniel cleared his throat and looked away shamefacedly.
“Look, I’m sorry for what happened today,” he said in a hoarse voice. “It’s just that I saw you kill that man, and I thought…I thought something had taken over you.”

Cassie said nothing, but she turned to him and wrapped her slender arms around his waist, burying her face in her twin brother’s shoulder. “It’s okay,” she answered in a muffled voice.

He hugged her back and patter her on the head. “I promise I’ll believe you next time.”

He felt her lips stretch in a smile. She giggled.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” said Cassie. Her arms tightened their grip on him, and he could not twist them off no matter how much he tried.

“Cassie! Oh, fuck.”

His twin sister raised her head and smiled at him. Her eyes were black as pitch and in her mouth were rows and rows of razor teeth.

“Oh, hello, Daniel. I didn’t notice you were here.” She placed a palm on his stomach, and felt a jolt of white-hot pain spread through his body. Cassie tossed his limp body back on the pillows unceremoniously. She tilted his head sideways, exposing his neck, which was throbbing with pulse.

“You know what? I’m going to have so much fun killing you,” she whispered, before sinking her teeth into his throat.

 

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Night Shift

I have never wanted to become a nurse.

But, somehow, because of the twists and turns of fate, that despised occupation became compulsory for me to take. The harshness of life made it necessary for me to pursue a nursing course in college, and made me stick to my choice even though the clinical subjects and the difficult internships always made me want to break down and quit. 

My family wasn’t poor, we were upper-middle-class, but my extravagant lifestyle and mounting credit card bills made me realize that I wasn’t helping my parents in any way. I was excited to break free, to live alone, but I also wanted to support myself and not come crawling back to my parents. 

After I graduated from university and passed the nursing board exam, I aced my first job interview and I moved out of the house.

 

So, I became a nurse.

 

Suddenly, my comfortable, ho-hum existence became fast-paced and unpredictable.

Every day, I would wake up at five in the morning and rush off to work in the hospital, getting off at four in the afternoon. I’d be too tired by then to go clubbing with my friends. Before, I’d go shopping or bar-hopping with them, but now all I wanted to do was head to my condominium unit, eat an early supper, soak in a hot bath to scrub off all the memories of the ER from my mind, and collapse in bed. 

A lot of things changed, too—now, my parents were proud of me. My sisters envied me and my salary, I felt confident of myself. But I was morphing into a different person. Now, I didn’t have time to apply make-up or dress up in the latest fashions. I seldom watched television, seldom went online, and I even forgot to check my cell phone sometimes. My social life was a perfect zero, as dating seemed like a waste of time. My life was revolving around different things now.

 

Thursday.

 

I gently massaged my aching nape as I walked out of the hospital. I had been on night shift for almost a week, and I don’t deny that I prefer my old shift. I was terribly sleepy, and the ground seemed to be moving in circles. It took five tries to get the car keys inside their slot. Seated on the driver’s seat, I leaned my head on the steering wheel and tried to calm myself, closing my eyes and breathing deeply until the dizziness faded.

 

I made it home before I fell completely asleep.

 

I woke up at about one o’clock in the afternoon. My stomach was complaining of its emptiness and I staggered up, dusting off the cobwebs of sleep that still held me captive. My condo seemed deathly silent. I went over to my living room, plugged in my iTouch to the iPod dock, and put on music before heading to the kitchen in search of something to eat.

I pulled the refrigerator door open and gazed inside, contemplating what to prepare. My mom always made it a point to drop by my condo once a week and restock my food supply. She always saw to it that my cupboards were full of canned goods, my refrigerator filled to the brim with vegetables, fruits, juice, and milk. Thanks to her, I almost never did any grocery-shopping.

I decided on a veggie salad, tuna sandwich, and a glass of milk.

After eating, I paced around, feeling restless. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like going back to sleep, so I tried checking my emails and my Facebook account. After a few minutes, a smiley icon popped up, indicating that someone wanted to start a YM conversation with me.

Shinigami09: hey Sheryn.

It was my fellow nurse, Keil. He had been posted on the same floor for the same shift. We had been friends since.

GlassBallerina: hi Keil!

Shinigami09: hav u heard?

GlassBallerina: abt wat? Tel me alrdy.

Shinigami09: 3 nurses & 2 interns resigned ths wk. 

Shinigami09: they all claim 2 hav been attacked by a patient. a kid.

GlassBallerina: oh! (Oo)

That was a surprise. A very disturbing one.

Shinigami09: u knw wat’s more disturbing? the patient’s alrdy listed as dead!

GlassBallerina: omg thaz crazy! pls tell me ur just tryn 2 creep me out

Shinigami09: don’t want 2 scare u, Sheryn, but it’s true. all of the guys hu resigned were assigned in the night shift. same as the 2 of us.

GlassBallerina: can we resign 2? :p

Shinigami09: shut up. Evry1’s running scared now. i stil don’t know whether 2 believe it or not.

GlassBallerina: guess I nid 2 wear my silver cross to work 2nyt. 

Shinigami09: don’t ya worry. I’ll watch out 4 ya. 😀

GlassBallerina: tnx Keil. that’s very nice of u.

Shinigami09: aww I get my kicks frm rescuing damsels in distress. Esp the pretty ones! ;p

 

That Night

 

 I went to work as usual, the YM conversation entirely off my mind. When I arrived at the hospital, it was quiet and lethargic as usual, as had been for a few days now. I went straight to the third floor, to one of the paediatric wards, after I had reported to the nurses’ station.

Keil was already in the children’s ward, checking the patients one by one. They were all asleep. He looked up when I entered and gave me a wink. “Hey Sheryn. Been here a while now?”

I shook my head. “No, just arrived. Been keeping busy?”

“As you can see.” 

We laughed. It seemed as if it was going to be another long night.

All of a sudden, Keil was summoned to the nurses’ station and I was left alone. He was requested to assist the EMTs in a roadside accident. According to what I heard, the freak vehicular accident cost more than thirty people their lives. Because of that, I was left alone.

 

I was moping because of boredom when the head nurse called my attention. She wanted me to take care of one of the dead bodies in the morgue because it was going to be picked up the following morning. 

So I went, heavy-hearted. I didn’t want to see dead children because somehow, they made me feel like a failure. Even though it wasn’t my fault that they died, I had a feeling that somehow, I could have done something to make things turn out differently.

I was already tagging the dead little boy, when a sudden noise made me straighten up nervously. “What was that?” I asked aloud. My hands were shaking.

Of course no one could answer me. I carefully picked up my clipboard and walked outside the morgue. Eyes seemed to be following me. I was scared, and I made it a point not to look the dead bodies in the face. If I did, their images would haunt me for weeks.

I quickly ran to the elevator and pressed for the third floor. But before I could close the door, I saw something reflected on the metal wall. I wasn’t alone in the elevator after all.

The doors closed.

“Hello,” a voice said.

I turned around, and came face-to-face with a little boy, wearing a white hospital gown. He was cute, with curly brown hair and dark eyes.

And he had a tag on his wrist.

I suppressed a scream, then pressed the emergency exit button on the elevator. It wouldn’t respond. I stabbed it with my forefinger desperately, cringing against the wall. My eyes filled with hot tears and my breath came in quick spurts. As I stood there, trembling, I heard a quiet, chilling, little laugh.

The boy smirked at me openly, then said sweetly, “You can’t get out, can you?”

I sobbed. “Wh-what do you want?”

In response, he clutched at his chest, then coughed. A spray of bright crimson blood spattered on my white uniform. He looked up again, his eyes white with fury and his teeth stained with blood. “You. I hate all of you for not making me better.”

The elevator lights faltered and the boy advanced towards me.

Then came darkness.

 

Presently I woke up, clutching my aching head. I was on the paediatric ward, sitting on one of the couches by the wall. I glanced at the clock.

2:13 AM.

Have I dreamed everything?

No. There were the bloodstains on my clothes to prove otherwise.

Suddenly, all I wanted to do was get out of the hospital. Unseeingly, I ran to the emergency exit but my knees buckled halfway. So I stepped into the elevator, which had another passenger. This time it was a teenage boy dressed in jeans and a black sweatshirt, with cuts and bruises on his face and neck.

“Going down?” He asked politely, finger poised on the ground floor button.

“Yes, please.” I leaned on the wall in fatigue.

The doors began to slide close. But before they completely blocked everything out, I saw a patient pass by. At that exact moment, he looked at me and smiled mockingly.

It was the little boy!

“Shit,” I said weakly, breaking out in cold perspiration.

The teenage boy looked at me curiously. “What’s wrong, nurse? Are you all right?”

I shook my heard. “No. Are you?”

He laughed pleasantly. “I got banged up in an accident a while ago. But what about you? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

I began to tremble. “I have. That—that little boy awhile ago..? He was dead, you know. I was the one who dressed him up. I was the one who tagged him, he had a tag like all the dead bodies have…”

The boy gazed at me in amusement. “Oh?”

I stared at him, realization hitting me like a sledgehammer. His eyes didn’t seem so friendly anymore. Not knowing what to do, I repeated, “He had a dead-body tag on his wrist…”

“Oh,” he repeated, pulling up his sweater sleeve and showing me his wrist. “Like this one?”

 

The End.

 

Blood and Strawberry Wine

I’ve never been a committed person in my too-long existence. 

I’m more of a drifter, cruising from one town to the other, assuming a new identity with each new address. Most people would find my lifestyle exhausting, but for me it was fun, interesting and convenient.

Oftentimes, I’d suddenly feel my spark of wanderlust ignited from within and I’d pack up and leave town, one hand on the steering wheel and the other scrolling through Google Maps, looking for the next quick fix.

Sometimes it’s not so random. Sometimes I’d follow a certain trail of sparkles in the air, knowing that it would take me to a place with bakeries and patisseries and sweet-shops that would keep me fed, with quaint-looking streets and houses that I could paint and photograph, with soft throats and wrists that would soothe the burning in my parched throat.

This time, the shimmer that floated in the air led me to a mountain town that grew strawberries and cherries as their main crop. The moment I drove into Main Street, my senses were assaulted by the fruity, sugary sweetness and I knew that I had found a new home.

The white bakery near the park served me strawberry cinnamon rolls with a flat white latte. I consumed it, feeling the sugar dissolve on my tongue and invade my bloodstream. They had a HELP WANTED sign posted on the window, and I plucked it off before heading to the manager’s office in the back.

☩☩☩

My new house was near the edge of town. It was a small, two-bedroom building, but it had charming eaves, a pristine white picket fence and a lush garden surrounding it. I set out votive candles everywhere and unpacked my belongings by candlelight, indulging myself by dipping big red cherries in a white chocolate fondue.

I first saw the old Victorian house during one of my late-night walks. It was a large, sprawling house and had Christmas lights blazing every night of the year. The moment six o’clock rolled around, the house transformed into a fairyland of blinking white light.

I had taken to trespassing through the strawberry fields at night to stand in front of that house,  watching the lights, camera in hand. Its weight was comforting in the cold. 

☩☩☩

The owner started coming out after my third time. I was a bit worried that he would tell me to get lost, but he never did. At first he would just stand by the window and watch me, hidden behind thick velvet drapes. 

After a few nights, he got used to me and abandoned his post behind the curtains, standing right in front of the window and smiling at me, his black hair moving slightly in the breeze. 

We never talked, but he finally invited me in.

He has bruised, bleeding lips and I think he’s trying to tempt me.

We talk about random topics, jumping from subject to subject over our cups of tea, but I’m distracted and my eyes keep straying back to his lips.

I wonder if he bit them?

I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose? 

He’s telling me a story about his job, something about volunteering overseas to help the less fortunate. I listen half-heartedly, my gaze trained on his mouth like someone hypnotized. Sometimes he stops to take a sip of his chai, and he runs his tongue over his lips afterwards. 

He asks me a question and I answer in length, while he sits and stares and nibbles worriedly at the corner of his lip. His teeth break the skin and a thin trickle of red stains the tip of his tooth. 

I didn’t notice that I was leaning forward until I realize that I’m only a few centimeters away and his breathing has become rapid. I can hear his heartbeat hammering in his chest.

He waits.

I close the distance and start sucking on his lower lip.

His blood is sweet.

☩☩☩

Afterwards, I spent part of every night with him. 

I’d read in bed and he’d write poems on my back and sometimes I’d draw on the surfaces of his too-pale skin. 

But mostly we’d just lay in bed and indulge in each other, drunk on blood and strawberry wine.

☩☩☩

It was a pleasant arrangement and I’d sneak out in the morning, tired and bruised but with my lips red with his sweet, sweet blood. But he had begun to get attached to me, and with it brought a feeling of unease. I was sure I saw him a couple of times during my shift at the bakery, hunched behind other people, his eyes watchful and on me.

I knew I had to leave town that night.

He knew. 

The moment I stepped inside his door, I smelled the trepidation, ripe and thick in the air.

He was holding a gun with his finger on the trigger, and a thin sheen of perspiration gleamed dully on his forehead.

“I can’t let you go,” he whispered. “Take me with you.”

I smile at him lovingly, trying to work my compulsion on him. But his eyes are crazed behind their outward calmness, and I know that no amount of compulsion would work on him now. 

“What you’re feeling is all an illusion,” I say, trying to reason with him. “My saliva produces a chemical that drugs you and makes you feel euphoric. It’s not permanent – you’ll recover after a week or two.”

“I don’t want to recover!” He shrieks. “If you leave me, I’ll die. So I’m going to have to kill you unless you stay here with me.”

“Don’t be like that,” I beg him, because I don’t want to kill him. 

His eyes are filled with tears. He has gone completely white, and the red wounds on his throat and wrists blaze starkly. The wounds, made by my teeth and loved by my lips. 

He raises the gun to eye-level, and his hands are no longer shaking. His eyes have lost their last vestige of sanity.

I shake my head sadly and smile. 

“Good-bye,” I whisper.

There’s a gunshot, and to both of us, it’s like a clap of vicious thunder.

☩☩☩

I leave town that night, my belly full of blood and my eyes full of tears. I still taste him on my lips and I sigh with regret. 

Why does it have to end like this every time?

But I don’t have time to wonder for long – I see a faint trail of sparkles in the air, and feel a smile tug at the corners of my mouth.

There will be a new town.

There will be bakeries to feed me with sweets, picturesque houses to watch, and soft, warm flesh to feed from.

And maybe, I’ll have another chance to lie supine in bed, drunk on blood and strawberry wine. 

 

Disclaimer: Photograph credited to Google Images.

13 Reasons Why You Should Never Annoy Your Homeroom Adviser, Part 4

The next day, Zelda got out of bed groaning. That horrid section B-13! And still nothing was relevant about the drug trade. She began talking to Nyurka, her half-wolf, half-Siberian husky as she got up and headed to the shower.

“You know, I can’t wait to get back to Luna Plateau and the Base so I can kill Reinhardt.” Zelda stepped into the shower stall and turned the water on full force.

“And, Nyurka, I’m not getting much progress on teh case. All I know is that the drugs are passed through the school before they’re distributed to potential clients.” She began to wash herself. Nyurka barked and wagged his tail.

Zelda stepped out and began to towel herself dry. Ten minutes later, emerging from her room in her usual goth-y fashion, she ran back to the sink to brush her teeth.

Her morning rituals done, Zelda patted her dog on the head, grabbed her satchel and a cropped blazer, and rushed out of the suite so that she wouldn’t be late for class.

☩☩☩

“Here she comes,” Sean Felton announced, looking towards the door. “Y’all think she’ll like the surprise?”

“Is she crazy?” Jason Harker muttered to Ren Monteiro. “Running in the hallway is forbidden.”

The ‘surprise’ was a skeleton sitting in one of the students’ chairs. A new one had come to the biology department, supposedly donated by one of the teachers. The boys had sneaked it out of the lab and smuggled it into the classroom, inside an extra-long gym duffel bag.

“Heya. Good morning,” Zelda called out, slamming the door and rushing inside. Her eye caught the skeleton seated on her chair, grinning at her.

She stopped dead.

The class waited expectantly for her reaction.

Zelda dropped her bag to the floor and picked the skeleton up. “What’s this doing here? I thought I dropped this off at the bio department.”

Sean blinked. “You two…know each other?”

“Sure,” their adviser answered, flashing something that could be classified as half a smile. It was sort of twisted, and plenty spooky.

“Sure?” Section B-13 echoed.

“Yep. He’s a friend of mine who died in last year’s war. Since he had no family to bury him and he was dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, I decided to donate his skeleton for academic purposes.”

Zelda frowned a little and shook her head. “Oh, well. Might as well take him back there.”

“I’ll help you,” Sean said, jumping up and picking up the feet.

The skeleton jangled as the two of them carried it out sideways.

Sean and Zelda walked back to their corridor in silence, until they spotted a tall boy with spiky black, red-streaked hair enter the classroom.

“Who is that?” inquired Zelda, turning to the boy beside her.

“He’s Rick Brighton, of the prestigious Brighton family,” answered Sean, making air quotes with his fingers. “He’s got a brother here, too. The Brightons were one of the first British families to migrate to Nianta.”

“Oh,” Zelda tapped her lip thoughtfully, her eyes narrowing a bit. She didn’t say anything at the moment, but she filed the information for later reference.

Back inside the classroom, Zelda checked the attendance and began to start their Intro to Psych lesson. “Hey, everyone. Where did you stop last week?”

A few voices volunteered “Interpersonal adjustment, miss.”

“Oh. Okay, thanks. Can anyone tell me a quote made famous by John Donner?”

Rick Brighton raised his hand. “‘No man is an island?'”

“Right. We are all biological and cognitive beings, but we are at the same time social beings. Other people play important parts in our lives, and in our lesson for today, we will learn all about interpersonal adjustment.” Zelda set down her tablet and strode to the front of the room. “Adjustment involves understanding how we perceive other people and social situations, and how we respond to other people…”

After an hour, she sat down with a pounding headache while the others went to different classes. Two minutes later, she heard the sound of footfalls. She sat up and took off her jacket.

“Where’s the new teacher?” A male voice demanded.

The arrogant tone of his voice made Zelda seethe. “I am the new teacher,” she answered, a slight lilt of disguised rage in her voice. “What–” the hell “–are you doing in here?

“Relax, please. I just wanted to see if Querada was telling the truth about their hot new teacher. And I can see that they’re not mistaken.” The young man gave her a tilted smile. He had fair skin, blonde hair and liquid green eyes. The colour of his necktie indicated that he was from the Honours class.

“I’m Kevin Brighton.”

So what, Zelda thought. “Karyna Dereveau,” she responded cordially.

“You’re French. You don’t look like it,” smirked Kevin. “New to the job?”

“Yes.”

“Then you may find it difficult, indeed. I regret that my brother belongs to this section, we he could be exposed to bad influence and questionable behaviour.”

Despite her misgivings, section B-13 was in her charge, and no one was going to come in, poke insults at them, and get away with it. “Really?” Zelda said sarcastically.

“Yes. Don’t you believe me? But you will see.”

Zelda fixed him with a glare. “I don’t believe you. MY class may be…spirited, but they’re not bad people.”

Kevin shook his head and started for the door. “You will see, sooner or later. So long, mademoiselle Dereveau. A pleasure.”

Zelda stared at his retreating form and gritted her teeth. The battle lines had been drawn. So, B-13 was despised by everyone in the school. She would not allow her class to be picked on, no matter how much she hated them personally.

“Troublesome, huh? I’ll show you what trouble really looks like.”

☩☩☩

Rick Brighton was staring at the floor.

“See him?” Ren pointed at the dark-haired, somber-faced boy. “He’s always like that. He needs to be calm and quiet while communicating with them.”

“With whom?” Zelda asked, wrinkling her eyebrow and watching Ren sit at the corner of her desk.

“With them. He sees things.”

“Who? Sees what?” repeated Zelda, exasperated.

Ren rolled his eyeballs. “Spirits, you know. Ghosts. Phantoms. Apparitions?” He counted them off one-by-one using his fingers. “They say he’s psychic.”

Interest piqued, Zelda glanced over. Rick must have felt her gaze, because his brooding, sea-grey eyes slid over to her direction. She turned back to Ren. “Are you sure?”

He shrugged. “Be my guest and check him out.”

☩☩☩

Rick Brighton was moderately surprised when the new teacher took a seat in front of him. He could sense her urgency, and her need for…something…some palpable. She needed to know something. Something that, he sensed, she was better off not knowing.

“Rick. All by yourself?”

He smiled. He was indeed a loner, but by no means unsociable. Now the girl before him, he knew that she preferred to be alone and had no talents whatsoever when it came to socialising. “Yes, I am all alone.”

“Oh.” She looked at her hands. Rick looked at her body-fitted t-shirt. It was black and had WHAT ATTITUDE PROBLEM? printed on it. Beneath it was a forlorn-looking stick drawing of a child with big, empty eyes. The child was clutching a bleeding teddy bear.

“Do you need something?” he asked, more suggesting than inquiring.

“I…I need…” her voice was breathless, desperate. There was an air of intense urgency in her eyes. But suddenly, as she opened her mouth to speak, her features shuttered down as if someone had pulled a curtain over a window. Rick blinked, salvaging what little he had seen – vast, black stillness only with small gaps of light in between. A patched-up memory.

He flinched.

“Sorry about that,” Zelda said, giving him a calm smile. “I didn’t know what I was thinking.” She got up, her face unreadable. She walked away, leaving Rick once again all by himself.

The B-13 section had no interest in Mrs. Smith’s history sermon. Well, to state the truth, no one was. The teacher herself looked sleepy, but rambled on and on about the four empires and the wars that had divided them. Most of the students were blissfully asleep, and Mike, Rick, Ren and Ted were the only ones sluggishly awake.

“What did Karyna want to know?” demanded Mike, leaning back on his chair.

Rick shrugged. “Nothing, really.”

“Well, what did you find out about her?” Ted wanted to know.

“Very little. She’s deep…and no one’s seen through her yet.”

Ren doodled listlessly on his textbook. “Does she have a boyfriend or something?”

“Or something,” Rick murmured.

Ted’s eyes opened wide with horror. “Oh no…it wasn’t the skeleton, was it? Oh, NO.”

Rick looked puzzled. “What skeleton?”

Ren ignored Ted. “Does she love him?”

Rick turned to Ren and shook his head. “No…I don’t think she quite understands what love is.”

This is Goodbye

And there was at least one girl in your grade who never wanted to speak to a boy.
Photo taken from Google Images.
We see each other again three days after our screaming match, and I’m the first to turn away.
 
It’s strange, being the one to let go this time.
 
I hear her footsteps stop, followed by a loud sigh. “Wait,” she calls, and I do.
 
Later on, we’re at the swings and we are enveloped by a sticky, pressured silence. No one is willing to go first, and our eyes dart from one corner of the park  to the other, anywhere really except at each other.
 
“I guess you probably want an apology, don’t you?” She asks finally. I look at her sideways, and she’s gnawing on her lip and fiddling with her button-down’s collar, the way she does when she’s agitated. I want to grab her hand to make her stop, but I don’t.
 
“I honestly don’t care anymore,” I say remotely, feeling my eyes cloud over.
 
Her head snaps up and she looks at me, raw naked fear in gaze. “You can’t mean that,” she half-pleads, stopping the swing with her foot and turning to face me.
 
I laugh shortly, shaking my head. “Oh, sweetie. I gave up on you a long time ago.”
 
I stand up to leave but she tugs on my skirt to detain me. I look back at her, take in the flush on her face and the tears that rim her dark, dark eyes and I feel a tiny twinge of something strange, deep in my gut.
 
“Please,” she cries. “Not like this. I can’t bear it when you’re mad at me.”
 
“Can’t you?” I ask her in a detached manner. “You seem to have forgotten that we have made a hobby of ignoring each other for the past few weeks.”
 
“I was mad at you!” She protests. “You don’t have any time for me at all, and yet you’re always with those boys,” she spits out, her tone one of distaste.
 
“You’re not my only friend,” I tell her tiredly. “Of course I need to spend time with them, too.”
 
“Well, I don’t want to share you!”
 
We look at each other, both defiant, both at the breaking point. I know that if I  unleash my anger, I will regret it later.
 
I sit back down on the swing and pat the space beside me. She sits down gingerly. I put my arms around her and feel her relax against me, and I lean close and press my mouth close to the soft skin just beneath her ear.
 
“Let me tell you the story of two little girls,” I whisper. “One was small and dark and brooding, while the other was golden and bright and full of light. They grew up side-by-side, finding their way through life together and pulling each other out of harm’s way. They were closer than anyone could ever dream of being–they even kissed and touched and cuddled and touched when they were feeling particularly affectionate.
 
“But when they were grown, the golden girl changed. The other cried over her bitterly and made her feel guilty. She promised to change — but she never did.”
 
She shudders, and I feel the tremor in her body as if it had happened in my own.
 
“What’s going to happen to them now?” She asks in a broken, tear-stained voice.
 
“This is what’s going to happen,” I hiss sweetly. “I’m going to go away, because it’s not possible for us to exist in the same place at the same time. I’m going to act like I never knew you and reinvent myself without you to hold me back. And I’m going to be happy, and you’re not, because I’m not a horrible friend who flakes out on people like you do.”
 
She begins to cry, huge sobs wracking her shoulders as she clings to me in desperation. But as she starts to weep and I start to smile, I realize that this is the happiest she has made me in a very long time.

13 Reasons Why You Should Never Annoy Your Homeroom Adviser, Part 3

CHAPTER THREE – THE SUBSTITUTE TEACHER

Cory Jansen’s vivid green eyes sparkled and he and Pierce Desrosiers readied the traps in their classroom, the dreaded section B-13. The principal was expected for his routine monthly visit this morning, and the entire class wanted to be especially…welcoming.

“Yo Cory, I think we should’ve gotten green paint instead of red,” Pierce commented, struggling to balance the paint can on the makeshift platform they had rigged up on top of the doorway.

“That’ll do,” Cory replied, checking in on Tatsouya Sagara and Jeff Querada as they set the snake cage by the door. Two de-fanged rattlesnakes hissed from inside their prison.

Dave Barker snickered as he set the timers for the smoke bombs by the door, right next to the rattlesnakes. Without doubt, Principal Murray was going to have a very memorable, very explosive visit to B-13 this morning.

Taylor James and Rommel Croft ran into the room just then, flashing a thumbs-up sign to Cory, the leader of the rebellious contingent in their section. “Everyone to their places! And look nice,” Rommel called out, running a hand through his mussed-up hair and trying to look as normal as possible.

And so twenty-eight students posed in their various and usual positions around the room. Seeing the entire B-13 class looking still and studious, so different from their usual state, was creepy to say the least.

“Ready,” whispered Cory, as the footsteps began to increase in volume. “NOW!”

The classroom door opened.

The explosives gave out a heroic bang, smoke billowed throughout the room, and the rattlesnakes slithered onto the floor around the ankles of the principal’s entourage (were there really only two snakes?). And last but not the least, the paint can began teetering and tottering and finally fell in a splash of brilliant colour.

“Bloody hell!” A muffled, outraged voice boomed. When the smoke finally settled down, a very wet, very angry, very red Principal Murray reemerged right before their eyes. “BOYS!” he roared. “Is that what we teach you here? Such delinquency! Such disrespect! I will NOT tolerate behaviour like this! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!”

The drenched man began marching off in a huff. “Mrs. Barrow,” he spat over his shoulder. “Please introduce Mademoiselle Dereveau to that…that…that class.”

“Bye-bye!” the boys called out, waving gleefully. “Come again soon!”

Two straight-faced aides rushed into the room and began cleaning up the spectacular mess. They put the snakes back in captivity and began mopping up the paint. Jeff grabbed the cage and ran back to his seat before anyone could protest.

“Well, well. What a nice way to welcome Miss Dereveau to her first day of class,” snapped Mrs. Barrow, the school registrar. “Step in, Miss Dereveau. And please forgive their plebeian behaviour. So mischievous, non?”

Zelda stepped in uneasily, all her courage oozing out at the sight of the tall, scrutinizing seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds staring at her. She did need her gun, all right. And so much more. They looked to her like monsters waiting to swallow her whole.

“Good morning,” she said faintly, attempting an apprehensive little smile.

“This is Miss Karyna Dereveau,” said Mrs. Barrow, her voice like a whip. Zelda flinched, allowing the older woman to lead her to the front of the room. “She will be your new homeroom adviser, as well as your intro to psychology teacher. Miss Dereveau, I leave you in charge.”

With that, Mrs. Barrow sailed out of the room, leaving Zelda to steel herself and face the class. All of them were a good five inches taller than her, so she had to look up at them.

She was inwardly freaking out, but thankfully had the ability to remain absolutely solemn and expressionless, no matter the situation. Breathing in deeply, she summoned common sense to her side and attempted a light smile. “My name is Karyna Dereveau, and I’ll permit you to call me by name. I’m new to teaching, and I’ve just turned 21 a few weeks ago. Um, we’re going to start by checking attendance.”

Zelda quickly spun around to retrieve the attendance sheet in her desk. Her hand landed on something cold and squishy. She picked up the rattlesnake (so there was a third one) and held it out to the class. “Pets are not allowed in class, so please keep that in mind. Okay. Ted Armstrong?”

A boy with a fauxhawk and a t-shirt spray-painted with an anarchy symbol scowled at her. “Here. Whadda ya want?”

Zelda’s anger momentarily surged. Why, you disrespectful little punk… She cleared her throat and faked a smile instead. “Ivan Avdeitch?”

“Present!” A brown-haired boy with smudged eyeliner and wild hair yelled.

“David Barker…?” and so on and so forth. Halfway through the roll, someone began strumming an electric guitar and the classroom erupted into chaos. A slightly pink flush of anger appeared on Zelda’s white face.

“Keep quiet.”

Nobody paid attention to her. They kept on shouting insults at each other across the room.

“I. Said. Keep. Quiet.” Zelda’s eyes were black with anger. Confused by her quiet rage, the class settled down.

Reminding herself to rein in her mounting rage, she calmed down and resumed checking attendance. “Is Bryce Blythe here?” Another one of the punk-rock contingent, the one who had threatened to hit David with the guitar, looked up and raised his hand.

“No hitting in the classroom, especially with guitars. Barry Bronson?”

All went as merry as a whistle until she called on Ren Monteiro.

“Ren Monteiro?”

She looked at Cory, who was the obvious ringleader. “Where is this person?”

Cory shrugged. “Why’re you asking me? Ask the goth guys over there at the back.”

“Oh. Um, goth guys?”

They all glowered in response.

“Where’s Ren?”

They glowered again.

Impatiently, Zelda began cracking her knuckles out of habit. “Mitchell Varona,” she called out, glancing away from her wafer-thin tablet computer. “Where is Ren.”

Mitch, one of the ‘goth guys,’ opened one eye and looked at her languidly. “Sleeping.”

“Sleeping? Where?”

“By the basketball court.”

Groaning, Zelda told them to read three pages of their psych textbook and left the room to find Ren Moteiro. Whoever he was, she hated him already.

It was hot outside, and Zelda didn’t really want to risk sun exposure. Her eyes roamed over the vast expanse of the school grounds, mentally mapping out a route that would be sunlight-free. Sighing, she set to work scaling the wire fence of the football stadium to take a shortcut across, completely unaware of the stares from her students, who were by now clustered around the classroom windows.

After all, what teacher could climb wire fences that fast? And who would risk it? Didn’t the principal forbid climbing fences? No doubt this teacher was strange, far weirder than anyone paid to teach them before. What a pity she probably wouldn’t last – the record so far was six weeks.

“Maybe she’s not too bad,” suggested Kyle Louis, one of the skaters.

Everyone glared at him.

☩☩☩

“Where in the world is that guy?” muttered Zelda, looking around the covered court. So far, there was no sign of human life anywhere. Angrily, she stormed out of the court and squinted in the bright daylight. The sun was merciless today, despite the fact that it was technically still winter.

Her ears pricked up at a slight scuffling noise, and her gaze suddenly zeroed in on the soccer field, where a tall boy was asleep, reclining on the bleachers.

“There you are, you pain in the neck,” murmured Zelda, sprinting over, sun or no sun.

Ren Monteiro couldn’t express his feelings when he was jarred out of a peaceful nap by an odd, tense-looking girl. “Wake up,” she had ordered, prodding him with a sneaker-clad foot.

“Who are you?” he challenged sleepily, sitting up and raking back his platinum blonde hair.

“I am your new homeroom adviser. Get up. Go.”

Surprised, he got up and gaped at her. What were the school trustees thinking, giving them a young, pretty, fragile-looking thing? Did they think that sweet, coaxing methods would instantly turn them into little angels?

“Let’s go back,” Zelda said, heading back towards the fence “and stop staring. I’m not as helpless as you think.”

“Are you crazy? We’re not allowed to climb fences!”

Zelda reached the top of the ten-foot fence and jumped down on the other side. “Well, I’m telling you to.”

“I’ve never climbed a fence in my life,” Ren informed her crossly. “If I fall and break my neck, it’s gonna be your fault.”

“I’ll risk it. Now don’t look down, and don’t jump. Scale down.”

Ignoring her, Ren carefully held onto the top of the fence. He started to get ready to jump, but his foot slipped suddenly and he ended up on the ground sooner than he intended to. As he sat there groaning, Zelda raised an eyebrow and began to walk towards the school building. “That’s why I told you not to jump, idiot.”

“This is all your fault!” he accused. “I can’t walk. I’ve broken my ankle.”

If the teacher was the least bit alarmed, she didn’t show it. Ren watched her slow down and look back, however. “I remember telling you specifically not to jump,” she repeated, somewhat testily. She bent down and began feeling his ankle with her slender fingers, which were cool to the touch. “Wait. Nothing’s–“

“Sucker!” He cried, springing up and running ahead, leaving her white-lipped with anger and embarrassment.

Great. Just great. On her first day, she had witnessed a deliberate commando attack on the principal, almost got caught in a clash inside the classroom, and had been made to look like a fool. In three hours, they succeeded in making her feel more moronic than ever in her life.

Please, she prayed ardently. If there are any deities listening, please let the ground open up and swallow me alive before I start killing these kids one-by-one.

13 Reasons Why You Should Never Annoy Your Homeroom Adviser, Part 2

CHAPTER TWO – TOO TIRING

Zelda ate lunch with Gabriel before she left.

It was Sunday, one of their rare free days, and exactly 24 hours before their scheduled departure. They had decided to dine in a restaurant in the city, far from the Base so no one would recognize them.

“Over here,” Gabriel heard the girl speak up from behind him.

He turned and flashed her a sheepish smile, then started over to the table occupied by the black-clothed, frail-looking girl. “Hey, I didn’t notice you over there.”

“I’ve ordered for both of us. I hope you don’t mind,” she said, her unreadable gaze shifting from the tabletop to the young man, watching as he took the seat across from her. He looked relaxed and put together, as usual.

“Thanks,” he said, taking a sip of water. “We seldom go out these days,” he sighed, reaching across the table for her hand and playing with her slender fingers.

Zelda shrugged. “There hasn’t been any free time.”

Gabriel watched her intently, his eyes narrowing. “I know you didn’t ask me out just for a social visit. What’s the matter? Do you want to talk about something?”

The girl took a deep breath and exhaled before speaking. “They gave me a really long assignment,” she muttered.

He gazed at her over his water goblet. “Is that your problem? Because I don’t believe so.”

She felt a flash of irritation. Getting inside peoples’ heads was Gabriel’s unique and very annoying special ability. Of course it wasn’t her bloody problem! Her problem was that she was afraid, and that she’d rather die first than admit her weakness.

“I’m afraid,” she bit out resentfully, at last.

The boy stared at her, his hawk-yellow eyes wide and surprised. Zelda was scared? And this was coming from a girl who didn’t flinch at the sound of artillery fire, handling firearms or mecha, or crouching next to bomb-blown corpses. “You’re…afraid.”

Zelda sighed and closed her eyes. “Not exactly…afraid, I suppose, but I’m more unsure and nervous than I’ve ever been. I did a background run on my class and apparently, they’re all troublemakers.” She stopped and opened her eyes to look at Gabriel’s handsome Hispanic face. “Honestly, I don’t want to do it. What if they annoy me and I lose control?”

She began tapping on the tabletop, a frustrated, nervous gesture that made the whole table vibrate. “What if I have a reaction in class? What if our enemies show up in class and harm the students? What if I accidentally hurt them?” Suddenly, she realized that her voice was rising in panic and visibly tried to calm down. “Goodness. I’m rambling on, am I not?”

In response, the boy laughed lightly and patted her clenched, white-knuckled fist. “Would you relax? I’m sure you feel a lot better now that you’ve gotten that out of your system. Trust me, kitten. Everything is going to be fine.”

“Gabriel, I don’t know what to do,” she groaned, burying her face in her arms. “I’ve never felt uncertain about anything before.”

“Tell you what,” he said suddenly, his face breaking into a grin. “I’ll take you to school on Monday. Once your class sees your tough, handsome boyfriend, they’ll quail before you afterwards.”

Zelda blinked, a blank look on her face. “Thank you,” she said. “But you’re not my boyfriend.”

She did not notice him wince. Someday, Gabriel told himself, she will notice. “Can’t we pretend?” He said casually, looking up as their food arrived. “Now, gorgeous, before we tackle the rest of your problems, let’s sample these appetizers. Beluga caviar on toast points and mocktails – a bellini for you, and a mojito for me.”

Zelda peeked at him from beneath her hair. “Gabriel? Do you really want to be my boyfriend?”

Gabriel stared at her, a faint blush tinting his face. Truth be told, Zelda was one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen. She had a pale complexion that contrasted with her long, dark wavy hair. She possessed a particularly pixie-like face with sharp cheekbones, a tiny freckled nose, and pointed chin that made her look mischievous all the time. When she smiled her quirking one-sided smile, her full lips parted to show the points of tiny white teeth.

“I…of course. Of course I do, Zelda.”

The girl’s catlike eyes, her most distinctive feature, looked thoughtful. “Okay then,” she said, giving him a small smile.

“Okay,” he said, reaching for his drink. Then he choked. “What?!”

She looked at him obliquely for a few seconds, and then laughed a secret laugh.

☩☩☩

Yuri crept into his sister’s room that evening, bringing with him a dose of her old prescription medicines concealed inside his coat. They were illegally made now, being potent enough to spill over to illicit drug status. They were ridiculously expensive, but money was the one thing Yuri never lacked.

The air-conditioning in the room was freezing, way too cold for January.

“Zelda!” He hissed, switching on the lamp next to her bed. The sudden illumination made him squint, but as soon as his sight could adjust, he saw his twin sister lying on top of her unmade bed. She clearly was not finished yet with undressing, because although she was in shorts, the black corset she had been wearing earlier had not yet come undone. Its straps were tight in places and loose in some, as if yanked in a fit of silent rage.

Sighing, Yuri knelt beside the bed and began loosening the corset. “Zeldele? I’m taking it off. Don’t worry.”

I’m asleep, you idiot, Zelda thought to herself. She preferred to feign sleep, because if she demanded to know what in hell he was doing in her room in the middle of the night, they would just bicker. He always got so offended and defensive.

Yuri knew that his twin was not asleep. His soul, his very essence was intertwined with hers and she would know that he was nearby. Their emotions were in sync, and when one was hurt, the other ached in sympathy as well.  She finally gave up and turned towards him.

“I brought you your medicine,” he said.

Silently, she sat up and shrugged the now-loose corset off. She reached for the t-shirt Yuri handed her and pulled it over her head.

Yuri followed her movements with his sharp, fire-coloured eyes. “Did something happen? Don’t try to lie your way out of it, because I can feel it.”

She offered him a weak smile. “Oh yeah?”

He sighed in exasperation. “Tell me.” They had no secrets from each other. They tried, but the other always, always found out.

“I was just mad,” she muttered, uneasy in her brother’s presence. She could shut everybody out, except for him. “As usual. The corset, I couldn’t get the damned thing off…” Zelda crossed her slender arms, looking defensive and daring him to argue.

“I know you did. But that’s not your problem.”

She had to tell. Biting her lip, she inclined her head away from him and whispered, “I had a reaction.”

He was silent. Then he lay down beside her and wrapped his arms around her slim frame, burying his face in her hair and breathing in her scent. She smelled just like him. “Were there…casualties?”

“No. No, not this time.”

“Oh, Zelda.” His voice was sad.

She turned to him and clutched at his shirt. “Will you sleep here tonight? Please?”

In response, he hugged her tight, and everything seemed all right again.

☩☩☩

Kirsten yawned as she and Zelda finished stacking the last of the clothes into the suite’s spacious closet. They had quite an uneventful trip to Riverville, except for an overspeeding violation.

“Well, are you all set?” Kirsten asked an hour later. “Do you need me to coach you through your dialogue?”

The other girl shook her head. “No. I’m set, but thanks for asking.”

Kirsten gave another giant yawn. “No offense, Zeldele, but I think early morning just not suitable for this kind of job,” she complained, sleep and fatigue evident in her hazel eyes. “Why not catch a few hours of rest? That police chase through the Undersea highway just about finished me. Now I’m a nervous wreck.”

“I can’t sleep,” Zelda informed her shortly, deftly folding a pair of jeans and then looking at it in curiosity. “Wait, I don’t own jeans. Are these…?”

“Your twin brother bought them for you,” Kirsten said absently. “Now come on, let’s tackle the bedroom.”

Twenty minutes later, the two girls collapsed side-by-side on the queen-sized bed in exhaustion. “You owe me a big breakfast,” said Kirsten, even though she had just announced that she was starting a new diet. “Eggs, hash browns, vegetarian bacon, croissants and orange juice.”

“I’m going to have chocolate milk. You want, you cook.”

“Dammit, Zeldele. I’m dying of hunger here.”

Zelda sighed and got up, tapping the panel on the wall to call for room service.

“You really ought to get out and explore your new surroundings,” Kirsten reminded her, sounding sleepy. “And please, Zelda, please don’t bring weapons to school tomorrow.”

Zelda just smiled. She would show up in class tomorrow, armed to the teeth.

She had to. Just in case.