Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 05

“Amy!”

“Amy stop!”

The young teen feels a hand pulling her to a stop. She finds Maria looking at her. For a moment, her friend searches her face.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Amy turns to her locker and fiddles with the few things inside.

“Nothing? You’ve failed two quizzes and forgot your homework. You never forget your homework or get a quiz answer wrong. So what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

Maria scowls, “Don’t give me that. You’ve been all morning. And I’m not the only one noticing. Even O’Connelly noticed and you know how dense he can be.”

Maria holds the smaller girl as she tries to back away. An icy hand clamps down around her heart as she sees the fear in her eyes again. She narrows her eyes.

“Is he back? Did he talk to you?”

“What?” Amy whispers, “How did you know?”

“Uh. You told me. And I was there for when it all went down. I thought you had a court order against him. I can talk to my dad.”

Amy shakes her head, “No. No. He hasn’t talked to us for months now.”

“Good. Now. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Please.” Amy pleads as she pulls free, “I’m okay. I’m fine.”

The teen turns and practically runs down the hall. Maria sighs in frustration and slaps the locker.

“Miss Olympia. Please refine from aggressive behavior.” A professor intones as he walks by.

“Yes, sir.” After a moment, she pulls out her communication device, “O’Connelly. You there?”

“Hello? Maria? What’s up?”

“Something is wrong with Amy.”

He mumbles.

“What?”

“Nothing. Let’s meet up with her after school.”

“And how do you plan to do that? She leaves while we’re in advance physics.”

“Right. I’ll talk to Witwright. Maybe he’ll let us out.”

“Maybe. Offer to do an extra assignment.”

“Oh, good idea.”

“Let me know what he says.”

“Will do.”

The call ends. Maria glances out the window as the bell rings.

“Amy. This isn’t like you.” With another long sigh, she turns to go to her class.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a dog-like creature wander through the school’s central courtyard. Maria frowns as she wonders at the unease she feels at its sight.

“Maria!”

She looks over and sees two of her classmates.

“Oh, Hey Raven. Robin.” She nods to the teens, “Just got an odd feeling when I saw that Caninitis.”

“You mean that common monster from Dungeon Field?”

Maria nods her head.

“Why would you get a weird feeling about that? That game character has been around since they launched the Immersion System.”

“I know.” She shrugs, “Like I said. Weird feeling.”

“Let’s go!” Robin says as the bell rings again, “Or we’ll be late to history.”

“Right.” Maria glances down the hall and wonders what is troubling her friend.

X

Amy stops just around the corner of the hall. She leans against a locker. The small teen takes comfort in the cold metal against her back. Maria’s voice echoes down the hallway. Her back stiffens.

“Oh. Hey Raven. Robin. Just got an odd feeling when I saw that Caninitis.”

“You mean that monster from Dungeon Field?” Robin answers.

“Why would you get a weird feeling about that?” Her sister answers, “That game character has been around since they launched the Immersion system.”

“I know. Like I said. Weird feeling.”

The bell begins to ring, a sharp shriek guaranteed to wake any dozing student.

“Let’s go! Or we’ll be late to history.”

“Right.”

”History.” Amy thinks to herself, “That is what is happening here. History is repeating itself. What did I do wrong?”

“Erm.”

Amy jumps at the sound.

A young girl with bright red hair. She smiles at Amy and gestures at the lockers. Amy stare dumbly at the redhead. She shifts her weight impatiently.

“I need to get to my locker.”

“Sorry.” Amy mumbles before turning down the hallway.

“It’s okay.” The teen quickly taps in her access code and pulls out a small folder.

Amy takes three steps down the hall when she feels herself being jerked into a side hall. Before she can make sense of what is happening, her head explodes in pain. A moment later, the world swims back into focus. The teen realizes that she is in one of the maintenance halls. She looks up and freezes.

The man from yesterday stands and grins at her.

“Imagine this.” He whispers to himself, barely audible, “Of all the people to happening to run into, I run into you.” He shrugs off the line of thought. In a clear voice, he focuses his attention on the small girl, “I see you behaving yourself. Haven’t told anyone?” He asks as he draws a long knife.

Amy shakes her head, her voice frozen in fear.

“Good.” He kneels down and places the tip of the blade underneath her chin, “I would hate to have to visit you like I visited your neighbor.” He runs his blade down the side of her neck.

Amy shivers and closes her eyes.

The man laughs and flicks his wrist.

The child yelps as the blade cuts into her flesh. Her hand automatically flies up to her throat. She feels a small trickle of blood running between her fingers. Panic feels her.

The man chuckles as he drops the blood-drenched blade into a plastic bag.

Without another word, he walks out of the hallway. Amy stays still as she listens to his footfalls echo down the hall. She finally moves long after the sounds of his feet fade into silence. The young girl opens the door and steps into the empty hallway. For a moment she debates whether to go to class or to go home.

Glancing at her hand she makes her choice.

To be continued…

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Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 04

With a shrug, Amy heads towards the trailer park. The night is coming on in full. The sounds from neighboring units fill the air with noise. Televisions systems, music, and shouting matches are matched by dozens of bright lights. Dogs howl and children wail while others scream at each other.

Wincing at the onslaught of sound, the teen walks towards her unit. An old man nearby cat whistles.

“Hey baby!” He calls out, “What’s the rush? Ain’t nothin goin on in there!”

She slams the door, muffling his harsh laughter.

For a moment she stares at the trailer she calls home. Cheap wood and hard plastic are used in the construction. There are a few photos mounted on the wall in broken frames or even missing glass. In one photo a younger version of her smiles out beside two other kids. Another one shows her a few years older but missing the other kids.

With a sigh, Amy opens the nearly empty fridge and pulls out a small bag of food.

She cooks the food while the sounds of neighboring trailer units slam out harsh noise.

She glances out of the window and sees a black car roll up. The tires and headlights are rimmed in gold plating while the body of the car is painted a glossy black. The windows are tinted. Music pounds out of the speakers mounted on the sides of the car.

It comes to a stop just outside her neighbor’s unit.

From the shotgun seat, a large man emerges. Broad shouldered and six feet tall, he is imposing. His black suit and drawn pistol easily show that he is not from the unit.

Amy ducks down and turns the stove top.

She waits as the man slams on the door, barely audible over the pounding music. A moment later, the music dies away. The teen peeks over the edge of the countertop. She sees the large man returning to the car. In his hands is a large wad of cash. And bright blood on his hands.

The teen peers out at the trailer. The man is leaning heavily against the doorframe. Blood drips down from a gash over his right eye. He cradles the bloody mess that was his hand.

The man opens the door leans in then glances directly at Amy.

Alarmed, she ducks out of sight

Her heart pounds inside her chest. She closes her eyes.

“Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away. Please go away.”

Bam.

The door to her trailer is kicked open. The flimsy door is nearly ripped off its hinge. The doorframe is nearly splintered to pieces. The man squeezes through the door frame and towers over her small figure.

“Hello miss.” He rumbles.

The girl forces herself to look up at him.

Scars decorate the left side of his face. His eyes are hard and cold. Thick armor plating has been added to his arms and legs. Beneath his skin and clothes are the soft glow of internal technology.

“You alone?”

Amy tries to shake her head but feels her body trembles and won’t obey her.

With a deep sigh, he leans down and grabs the front of her shirt. She yelps as he lifts her to his eye level. At this distance, she can smell the alcohol on his breath and the smell of gunsmoke.

“Did. You. See. Anything?”

She shakes her head rapidly.

He tilts his head slightly.

“I wish I could believe you. I really do.” He spins and throws her down the length of the trailer.

Pain explodes through her body as she lands in a heap in the small living room. A heartbeat later, Amy feels herself being slammed into a nearby wall. The girl hears something under the attack. She wonders if it is her body that is breaking.

The man throws her into the ground and she hears a scream.

Something hard slams into her stomach. Vomit explodes out of her mouth from the blow. She curls into a ball as pain floods her.

“Listen, you little wench. You are going to keep this and what you saw to yourself. Or you’re going to see me again.” He chuckles lightly, “And you’re never going to forget what happens when you snitch. Do you understand me?”

She nods her head slowly.

“Good. Are you going to talk?”

She shakes her head.

“Good.” He checks a device on his left arm, “Amy Gunther. Freshman at Allen Ridgeback High School. Father skipped out of town with another woman. Mom works at Ryoka as a cleaner.” He stands up and says in a casual tone, “If you tell anyone I’ll visit your school. I’ll kill everyone there. I’ll visit mommy and I’ll kill her. Slowly. And then, I’ll come here and take whatever you have of value.” He glances around, “Not that you have anything of value. I am sure you’ll be able to give me something of yours.”

Amy props herself up on her elbow and watches the car back up.

X

Amy limps through the trailer. The door is somewhat back in place. The trailer park continues as it had every night. Her device buzzing. She glances at the screen. The young girl takes a deep breath as she answers the call.

“Hi, mom.”

“Hi, honey.” Her mother sounds tired, “I’m sorry sweetie but it looks like I can’t come home tonight. Work has me here due to something in the lab. I’m not in danger but they say it is just standard procedure.” She laughs lightly, “They’re giving us pizza for dinner. And I will be able to take some home for you.”

“That’s great.”

“Amy. What’s wrong?”

The man’s face flashes through her mind. She nearly drops her phone.

“Nothing mom.” She forces out as she struggles to breathe normal, “Just tired.”

A moment passes, “Okay. Looks like we’re being called in for some paperwork. I’ll probably be home after you’re asleep. Be good. Listen and do well. I’ll see you after school tomorrow. I love you.”

“Love you too, mom.”

The phone clicks.

She puts her phone down when it vibrates.

Curious, she looks at the phone and sees that she has a new message from an unknown user. The message simply reads:

Good job at keeping your mouth shut. See you in school.

Amy drops her phone and retreats from the device. Her body trembles.

To be continued…

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 03

Amy sits near the door of the shelter. Her fellow students and classmates huddled in smaller groups. Their conversations are a low din. Some are doing homework. Others simply spend the extra time talking to one another. The teachers either walk about, helping students with assignments, or stand in small groups talking. The young girl leans against the wall just as Zoe appears.

She flashes the smaller girl a bright smile.

Amy nods back in answer.

“Whatcha doing?”

Amy shrugs and Zoe chuckles. The second girl looks across the room at the students. She relaxes against the wall. Both girls observe the rest of the students. Some are playing video games. Others work on their homework. The walls are covered with screens, displaying news and movies.

“Bit noisy, right?”

Amy nods her head.

“I wonder how long we’ll be down here.”

Before Amy can offer an answer, a wall of white light emerges from the left side of the room. It passes through the room without pausing. Devices flicker and the screens falter as the wave moves through the crowd. After a few moments, the screens and devices go dark, triggering a wave of outcries.

A moment passes and the devices come back to life.

The student exchange glances but without a few moments, they returned to what they were doing.

“What was that?” O’Connelly asks with concern.

“Was that an EMP?” A small girl with dark brown hair asks. Her voice shakes.

“No.” O’Connelly answers, “If it was an EMP, none of the devices would be on right now.” He offers a warm smile, “More than likely it was just an update. Most of the time the updates happen at night.”

“Oh.”

“Don’t worry. Most people don’t know what the updates look.”

“Oh. Thank you.” She smiles.

“No problem.” He sticks out, “O’Connelly.”

“Amber.”

“Nice to meet you.”

“And you.” She shifts uneasily, “Uh. I better get back to homework.”

A low buzz passes through the speakers. The games and the displays fall silent.

“Greetings. This is Principle Richards. All students may return to their regular schedules now. As the pulse that passed through a few moments ago, I am told that is nothing more than an update.”

The students laugh with quiet relief.

“Told you!”

“Students.” A professor calls out, “Please line up in an orderly fashion.”

“Well.” Zoe says, “I’m heading back to chemistry. What about you?”

“History.”

“Oh, fun.”

Amy manages a small smile as they join the long line. Amy glances out the window. To her surprise, she sees one of the zombie characters shambling through the schoolyard. She comes to a stop and studies the sight.

“Move along miss.” One of the professor says, “We need to resume classes.”

“Why?” One of the boys calls out, “Lab rats aren’t going to get far in life.”

His friends chuckle as an answer.

“Come on!” One of the other student snaps at him, “That was uncalled for.”

“Why not? She’s as dumb as they come.”

“She’s smarter than you!”

“Annabell!” The professor snaps, “That is uncalled for! Detention!”

“For what?!?”

“For attacking him.”

“But he was attacking her!”

“Regardless. He comes from a hard life and we must allow for his behavior.” His eyes narrow, “Unlike you who had life handed to you because of your family money.”

“Mister Vindi is correct.” A second professor approaches. Her heels click against the floor, “This is where such behavior can lead it racism and insensitivity.”

“Yes, professors.”

“Good. Now. All students return to your classmates.”

X

Amy closes the door to her locker. She waits by the locker as her classmates stream pass. Most chat to each other in a casual manner. Some move quickly to get to after-school jobs. In a few minutes, the hallway is empty save for a dozen zombies wandering through the halls.

She takes a deep breath and walks out the front door.

The teen watches as a bus shifts gears and leaves the school grounds. Another bus rolls in to take its place. With growing dread, Amy boards the bus. The bus is almost full. She finds a spot just behind the driver.

The gears grind as the shift and the bus rolls out again.

The young student focuses her attention on the world outside. The various sports teams are already hard at practice. Several smaller groups of students are walking together. They are hunting zombies and other generated game characters.

The travel back to her home doesn’t seem to take as long.

The teen walks slowly back to the trailer park. She stops at the edge. Next to the park is a small area overlooking the city. Amy smile to herself as she sits on the park bench. The young girl studies the city. A complex train systems threads through the city. A wide river cuts its way through the city. Bridges for walking and for driving cross over the river. As the sun disappears, lights flicker to life.

Her small phone buzzes.

Amy pulls the phone out of her pocket. She stares at the display for a moment before taking a deep breath.

“Hello.”

“Hi, honey.”

“Are you coming home?” She asks hopefully.

“I’m sorry. No. I can’t. I just wanted to talk to you. I’ll probably here all night long.”

“Why?”

“Because something happens at the Ryoka. There was an accident. I can’t go into much more than that.”

“Oh okay.”

“I’m sorry honey. We’ll celebrate tomorrow after school. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Amy hangs up. She looks up at the city again. Without warning, pillars of white light explode throughout the city. Energy pulses and lightning crackles between them.

“What in the world is that?”

Her phone buzzes again.

The teen glance at it. On the screen is a single word in bold, capital letters.

BEGIN

To be continued…

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 2

“Alright, kids.” The bus driver growls out, “Watch out for those zombies!”

The front of the bus erupts into groans. Amy looks out her window and she sees several teens walking into the brick building. The oddest thing was a teen standing off to the side with what appeared to be an extra from a zombie movie. Several more are seen moving around the campus in groups or alone. Several students are holding brightly colored weapons and are attacking the zombies. Some disappear in a cloud of dust.

The extra was of average height and had the dried out corpse look. It was also chewing the top of the student’s head. His friends snap photos with their phone as he makes different faces.

“Oh yeah, the new game came out. The one for the full immersion system.”

The students at the front of the bus work their way off the bus. Zoe and her circle of friends follow suit. They pass the group of teens with the zombie. One of the girls steps forward drawing out a yellow sword.

“Come on! If you don’t get out of the way, I won’t be able to get the points before school starts! And you know this becomes a null play zone.”

“Right.” The boy says as he steps away from the zombie. “But it does tickle.”

“Oh, that feeling.” A muscular teen answers, “Is the projection field interacting with your body. Especially your own body’s electrical field.”

“Really?”

“Do we really want to know?” The girl says as she steps towards the zombie as it staggers in place. It swings around and takes notice of the girl.

“Whatever.” The zombie lurches forward as the girl steps forward.

It growls and waves its arm weakly at the girl. As she approaches, the number three appears overhead. White lines form a box around the number.

With two quick strikes, the zombie falls apart. It turns to dust leaving behind a small white window. On it is a display for points and in-game currency. She taps the floating screen. It spins and disappears into a small device attached to her belt. A chime emits from her device.

“Happy now?”

“Yes.” She says with a smile, “I’ll get my next level soon.”

The teens make their way into the school. Here and there students walk past with screens floating above their watches or their eyes covered by semi-transparent visors.

They stop next to a row of blue lockers.

Each child taps their access number into their locker. It opens with a small chime. They pull out their school books while putting their belongings into the lockers. Scattered throughout the hallway are small, fantasy creatures and zombies meandering throughout the hallway.

Amy stops to watch a girl with bright red hair duck it out with a zombie marked with a ten floating above it. Three other zombies shuffle towards the girl. Each has a floating number that between ten and thirteen.

The kid grins as she clicks her watch. From the menu that appears, she selects two icons. Bronze-gold scythes appear on either side of her. Her smile broadens as she grabs the floating weapons. The teen moves quickly and takes out the first zombie with ease.

The bell begins to ring. All at once, the zombies scattered around the campus vanish. In their place is a small message box informing players that the area has become a null zone– an area where gameplay is not allowed.

The girl groans and stares at the ceiling.

“Come on!”

“Well.” O’Connelly says as she gives the redhead an odd look, “I’m off to chemistry.”

“And we’re off to history.” Zoe and Maria say.

Amy waves at each of them slowly before turning towards her own class. Hundreds of students clog the hall as they make their way to classes. The crowd jostles Amy. Many don’t even notice she is there. A few minutes later, the teen enters a classroom.

At the front, a teacher smiles warmly at her. He finishes turning the computer on. The board mounted on the way comes to life. It flashes a logo for Imporium Technologies.

“Good morning class! Please take your tablets and pull up your Knox book. Turn to spot number 337. Today, we are discussing Full Immersion System and how it has changed the world as we know it.” He smiles as the screen displays a cylinder-shaped device with multiple rings mounted to it.

“This is an Immersion Generator. The largest one is five feet in height and two feet in diameter. The smallest is about half a foot high and a quarter in diameter. The smallest one can deploy a field of sixteen feet in diameter. The largest one produces a sphere measuring twenty miles. Within this field, the digital world is now part of the physical world. Most cities hold anywhere from ten to a hundred units. Providing full coverage. This allows us to interact directly with the internet. Much like the smartphone a century ago, this system revolutionized how we did business, socialize, and interact.”

“Uh, we know this already.”

“True but do you know some of the pitfalls?”

“Pitfalls?”

“Yes. Technology, inherently, is neutral. In most cases. There are always exceptions. But what you do with it is what makes it evil or not. Today, you will partner up with one other person and research technology that has been used for good and for evil.” The teacher looks around for a moment, “Actually, let’s do this. Groups of four. I want each of you to discuss the different aspects and impacts of the system.”

Amy sighs and looks around. The students scrape the floor with desks and chairs as they form groups. Every now and then, a student will glance her way but then inch away.

“Mind if I join you?”

Amy jumps at the sound of the voice.

An average teen smiles down at her. The first thing Amy notices is that he isn’t wearing anything flashy. Just a simple jeans and a simple shirt.

“Mind if I join you?”

She shrugs.

“Great.” He drops into a seat next to her. “What do you think?”

“I think you need to wait for the rest of us.” A black haired girl with pale skin. Next to her is a light brunette girl with skin that is fair with a touch of brown. “I’m Ravin. This is one is Robin.”

“Hi.” The boy answers, “I’m Charlie.”

“Amy.” She answers.

“Alright, class. What do you need now is four techs.”

As Robin, Raven, and Charlie begin arguing over which piece of tech is the best choice in the history books. All around her, the thirty other students argue back and forth.

“What do you think of the full immersion system?” Raven asks.

Charlie shrugs, “I wasn’t around before then so I couldn’t tell you.”

Raven rolls her eyes, “Bud. None of us were here before then. We’re all fifteen. Remember?”

“Um… Yeah.”

“Anyway!” She says with a wave of her hand, “the FIS, or FISH as it is often referred to, consists of four major components. The generator system is the main component. It allows the second element, pixels, to function. The small crystals are biodegradable and are able to reuse. The crystals can be grown like trees. The last components are simple computers. The last thing to make the system to work is the Interface. A simple rectangle block that allows individuals to interact with the system and to pull out the data.”

“Right, Miss Raven.” Their teacher interrupts, “Now. How can this be used in the wrong way?”

“Uh, it can’t be?” One of the other students opens his arms wide, “The system is infallible.”

The teacher laughs, “There is no system is infallible. Given enough time, it will be broken. Tell me how can it be broken?”

“Well… I guess it is the old way internet works. False information. Invasion of privacy.”

“Sells of illegal copies of stuff.”

“Fine.” Another teen says, “But why are we talking about this? Everyone knows this!”

“What about the reason behind the creation of the system?”

“What?”

“Why is the system in creation?”

“Uh duh. Better communication system. Everyone knows that.”

“Are you sure about that?”

A low wail fills the air. It reverberates. The windows shake and the ground and rattle the windows. The professor glances out of the window.

“Hmm. Must be the test of the emergency system.” He smiles, “Class. Please move to the designated safety zones.”

Amy stands up and follows the rest of the class. She pauses just at the door. The young teen notices their professor looking out of the window. He frowns in thought. The adult notices the kid is watching.

“Go ahead, Amy. I’m right behind you.”

To be continued…

Monday Stories: High School – Chapter 01

An older woman steps out of the bedroom. She checks the mirror to make sure her hair is in place. With a sigh and picking at some cat hair off her business suite. The woman checks her watch. Worry crosses her face. She leans out of the kitchen’s doorway.

“Amy! Amy are you up?”

Silence answers her.

She sighs and stares at the ceiling. The woman starts down the narrow hallway. She comes to the third door and knocks on it.

Silence answers her again.

“Amy? Amy are you up?” She pushes the door open. She flips the switch and floods the room with light. Clothes are piled on the desk chair. Her walls are decorated with black designs. On the bed a small pile of blankets and pillows shifts.

“Amy? Amy time to get up for school.” The woman sits on the bed and gently shakes the pile. “Come on, you need to get up.”

A muffled groan answers her. The blankets and pillows shift aside and a girl appears. The child has shoulder-length dull brown hair sticking out in several directions. Her light brown eyes looking around sleepily. She sighs. Unlike her mother, the girl has a round face with a small chin. Her eyes are large and child-like.

“Morning mom.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Weird dream.” The girl answers quietly.

“Well, it is only a dream. But I need you to get up or you’re going to be late for school.”

The girl flops onto her back.

“Stop. You need to get going.” Her mother glances at her watch, “And I need to get going.”

“Bye.” Amy says sleepily.

“Have a good day sweetie.” Her mother glances at her watch again, “Please, be careful okay. Joseph Miller is back and I don’t want you near him.”

The teen groans, “How did he get out so fast.”

“I don’t know. Just be safe.” Her mother smiles, “I love you. You’ll be great.”

“Thanks, mom.”

Ten minutes later, the young girl is dressed in a gray shirt and a black skirt. Ankle-high shoes complete her outfit. She hurries to finish a bowl and cereal. A clock in the hall rings out the hour. She drops the bowl off into the sink and heads out the door. On the way out the door, the girl grabs her backpack.

The morning air cuts into her skin. She shivers and pulls a hoodie out of her backpack.

The gravel crunches under her feet and a stench fill her nose. Amy wrinkles her nose at the sewage smell. The kid looks around. She walks down the small RV. Several mobile homes are sprawled out in front of her. Rubbish and junk surround most of the mobile homes.

With a sigh, the kid heads out of the mobile park.

The small teen draws the hood over her head just as she rounds a corner. Ahead of her is a school bus stop. Already a half dozen teens are waiting.

Some wear letterman jackets. Others wear regular clothes like the girl.

Several of the teens notice her approach. One teen nudges his friend. A cruel smile crosses their face.

“Check it out.” The larger one says, “The trailer trash finally joined us.”

The teen feels a muscle twitch in her face.

“Do you see her clothes? Where did she get them? Out of a trash can?”

“What do you expect from a rat?”

The young girl comes to a stop a dozen feet away from them. The teen focuses on the ground in front of her. She does her best to ignore their barbs.

After a few minutes, the teens turn to other topics.

“Hey, Amy.”

The girl turns towards the voice. A dark-haired girl with rich brown skin walks up. She wears jeans and a long sleeve shirt. A bright smile covers her face. Although she is of average height, she is almost a foot taller than Amy.

“Hi, Maria.”

“You doing okay?”

She nods her head.

Maria glances towards the group of teens. She narrows her eyes.

“Was Edward and Jake being a jerk again?”

One of the boys notices her staring. He gives her a wink and licks his lips. Maria sticks out her tongue.

“No.” Amy says nervously.

“That means they were.”

“Oh great. The two freaks are here.” One boy mutters loud enough for everyone to say. “What are we going to do now.”

“Ignore the freaks.”

“Ignore? What about just put them where they belong. In the trash.

The other teens chuckle. They form a small group away from the two girls. Amy and the blonde girl step down the street. Close enough to see the bus but far enough away not to be heard by the other teens.

The sound of creaking gears announces the arrival of the bus. Amy and Jenna rejoin the teens as the bus comes to a stop. Amy lets out a deep breath in relief. She follows the others onto the bus. The driver shuts the door. The vehicle jerks back into motion.

“Have you heard?” One of the teens were saying, “The Devon Core’s has successfully released artificial blood. And they have successfully tested the stuff.”

“Great.” His friend chuckles, “Great achievement for mankind. Making things happen in the world without some use of weapons or something.”

The kids take their place on the bus. Several teens are already sitting in the seats. Two of them wave a hand. One is a dark-skinned girl with black hair. The other is a short boy with red hair.

“Good morning!” The boy says in a thick accent, “What’s cooking?”

Zoe shakes her head and gives them a small smile. They take a seat in front of them. “O’Connelly. How are you guys doing this morning?”

“Not bad. Got my homework done.” He turns to the girl next to him, “Sara?”

“Not bad.” The brown-skinned girl says with a thick French accent, “I was able to run this morning.”

“Nice.”

“You know you like the run too.”

He chuckles as the bus lurches into motion. He points with his chin, “Look there.”

The girls turn out the window. A large building with a glass front stands on a hill. A decorative wall divides the compound from the city. Well kept landscapes and large trees create a beautiful scene.

“I’m going there one day and work.”

“At Ryoka Industries?” Maria says, “Doing what?”

“Genetic engineering.” O’Connelly answers with a bright smile, “I’ll unlock things no one even thought of yet! You just wait and see. I’ll be there. Working hard and unlocking the world! And that compound is the best place to do it. And I am going to work there.”

“As what?” Jake says from the front of the bus, “A janitor?”

He and his friends burst out into laughter.

“At least I’ll have a job. Unlike you.”

The bus explodes into the sound of “ohs” at the reply. Amy turns her attention back out the window as the barbs go back and forth between the two groups.

The brown hair girl chooses to ignore them. Instead, the teen studies her own reflection. Pale skinned and thin as a rail. Unlike her friends and the other teens, she has no muscle definition. Amy sighs as wishes not for the first time that she wishes that she was pretty are at least homely. Or even plain. With an effort, she looks past her reflection.

Amy notices a silver semi truck winding its way towards the Ryoka compound. In front and behind the truck are heavily armored cars. Armed guards walk along the length of the road. The brunette watches the strange procession as long as she can.

“Hey, what is it?” Maria asks in a whisper.

Amy shakes her head quickly.

“Nothing. Just thinking.”

“Oh. Well. Don’t over think.”

To be continued…

Monday Stories: The Crescent Moon

The winter night settles in the forest. The only sounds that can be heard are the whistle of the wind and the hoot of an owl in the distance. Snow lies unbroken beneath barren trees. Far above the silent forest are empty skies.

The moon passes overhead as the night grows in the same silent way.

The crunch of snow echoes through the forest.

An old man wanders through the empty woods. His hair is old and gray. His flesh is tanned by years of being in the sun. But is scarred by many battles. He pauses at the base of a tree. His gray eyes search the woods.

“I know you’re here.” He calls out into the night. “I know what you’ve done.”

Silence greets him.

“I can smell you.” He draws out a small stone and tosses into the snow.

It sinks out of sight.

“Now come out.”

Minutes tick by before he hears the snow shifts. Snow shifts and part of the earth rises, revealing a black hole. A young man emerges. His hair is black and his eyes green. Though his skin is not as weather beaten, his flesh is already layered with scars.

“What is your name?”

The man narrows his eyes, “How did you find me?”

“I followed your trail.”

He chuckles, “Hoping to cut in on the action?”

“Not at all. I was hoping to offer you a different path.” The older man glances towards the hole in the ground, “Though I must ask, is she still alive?”

“For now. And what path are you talking about?”

“Your life. Your choices are leading you down a shadowy path. I am here to offer you a better path to follow.”

The younger man laughs, “A better path? Ha! You are old and out of date. This is the way things work now.” His eyes narrow, “We hunt. We kill. We mate. We hold the power. We do what we will.”

The man stifles a frustrated sigh, “Why do you think this?”

“Because we have the right to live as we will. What right do they have to order us about? We are oppressed and we shall have our right.”

“By hunting them? By terrifying them every day? Keeping them up at night? Never knowing if their child will be gone or their livelihood destroyed?”

“What do I care? They held us beneath them. Hunted. Killed for sport. I’m, we’re, just equalizing things. Having our rights restored.”

“By oppressing the oppressors? That changes nothing. Only the roles.”

“Listen, Old Man, half of the problem is that you started this? With your own actions and wars, you destroyed what little you had. My generation is simply doing the best we can to fix it.”

“By twisting and turning things around?” The man growls, “You have shouted and screamed for equality and rights but you go about and doing the same thing.”

“Because we are tired. Tired of being treated second class citizens. Tired of being judged on our appearances.” He stalks towards the old man, “Tired of all those humans looking down on us. Their money and their power. Denying us rights they have.”

“What rights? You can own a home, property, get married, and move around freely! What more do you want from them?”

“I want their power.” He snarls, “We want their powers and their positions! They have reigned over us for three hundred years! Being handed their elite status without working! How is that right? How is being born into money and influence giving them a better start in life.” The younger man laughs, “We’re just wanting to make things fair.”

“You do realize that each of their generations worked hard to give the next generation a better position? That it took hundreds of generations to get to where they are. Hours of work and thousands of sacrifices.”

“It doesn’t matter.” He comes to a stop. “You are here to stop me. Aren’t you?”

“As I said, I am here to offer you another choice.”

“And if I don’t want that choice.”

“Then I will stop you.”

He snarls, “Then you’re a fool. And a traitor.”

“I have already walked your path. I know where it ends.”

“You don’t know anything. You are part of the old vanguard. The generation, the so called greatest generation, and you produced some of the most wicked individuals ever.”

“Well, one that title belongs to a select group. Not the entire group. Second, we earned that title by rising up and defeating those wicked ones.”

“You have destroyed us. We are merely working to undo your mistakes and making this a better place to live in.”

“By causing destruction. By causing pain?”

“Enough. If you won’t support us then you are just as bad as all of them!”

He snarls and his flesh begins to twist and turn. Black hair extends out of his flesh. His bones grow longer and warp. His nails extend and curve into long claws. His faces stretch and become wolf-like. His teeth extends and curves. Where a young man stood three minutes before, now a tall beast stands. Long hair shifts in the air.

“Please don’t.” He sighs, “A battle can be easily avoided. Simply let her go.”

“Please.” He finishes changing, “We are what we are. We were born to battle. We have always battle. We will always battle.”

“You may be the sum of your past but your past does not define you.”

“Come.” He snarls, his voice deep and echoing strangely, “There is only one rule to follow. Battle.”

“No. I cannot.”

“Why?”

“Because you have terrorized this town long enough. You have left a trail of blood and bodies. I cannot let this stand.”

He chuckles, “Too bad you haven’t transformed yet. It takes time to transform.”

He lunges across the distance.

The old man twists out of the way. As he dodges the younger man’s attack with ease. Turning to face the other as he skids to a stop, the old man turns and twists into his own wolf-form.

They are an odd contrast. Where the younger man has black hair with white fur in front covering his chest. The older has dark gray fur.

“What do you expect to do? Stop me?” The younger man growls, “You don’t have the strength or the stamina for battle. So why even try?”

“Because I must. Because there is no one else so I must take action.”

“Then you shall die tonight!”

“And if I die, I die. The question is this. Will you die with me tonight?”

With twin snarls, they leap across the empty space. Claws reaching and jaws open wide. The younger baying for blood. The older howling his battle cry. The two of them clash. Snow swirls as they claw at one another. Their teeth and claws tear into each other flesh. The snow turns red with their blood.

They part after an exchange a furious round of blows.

The younger man chuckles as he surveys the damage their fight had wrought. Three trees have been knocked to the ground. Another three have chunks missing from their trunks. The snow has been kicked aside. A ring of blood divides the snow from the earth.

The young man has deep scars across his chest and stomach. His left-hand hangs limply. The older sinks to a knee. His back is torn and blood flows freely down his face. He clutches a deep wound on just above his heart.

“What now?” The younger man wheezes, “Will you give up?”

“I cannot.” The older man struggles to his feet.

With a snarl, they lunge at one another.

Short Story: The House – Chapter 12

Mike whistles to himself as he walks down the alleyway. The light from the emergency vehicles caste white, red, and blue on the lights. The harsh lights ruin Mike’s night vision but he is unafraid of being spotted. The fences and tall trees easily shield him from prying eyes.

He laughs as a helicopter flies overhead. He climbs up a nearby tree and takes a look at the street. The house is a wreck. Emergency workers are carefully carrying out covered bodies. A news reporter is already on the scene with a camera man.

The wails of mothers and shouts of fathers reach his ears as well.

The sound makes him laugh.

“You laugh? Why?”

Mike spins. He waits for a moment. Only the sound from the house breaks the silence. The teen continues to wait. His eyes slowly scan the region.

Slowly the shadow beneath a tree stretches until a piece breaks off. It rises out of the ground until it has the shape of a man cloaked.

“Did you get what we need?”

“The blood of three in pain. Yes.”

“Very dangerous, releasing a shade. You’ll bring them down on us.”

Mike snorts, “Let them come.”

The shadow laughs, “You were never one for avoiding trouble.”

“I have been trapped here for decades!” Mike growls, “You try living here for that long.”

“Speaking of which, an interesting form you have here.”

“Borrowed, I assure you. A boy was running from the house. I decided to take his form. Just in case people asked questions.”

“Your father would be so proud of you.”

Mike looks away.

“No. He wouldn’t be. He would have been disappointed.”

“What of those you leave tonight?”

“What of them? Two dead. One will be blamed and the last one traumatized for life.”

“Blamed?”

He shrugs his shoulders, “I left this one’s face alive but in the company of a dead girl.”

“Then why did you not take her blood?”

“She wasn’t on the grounds when the symbol was activated.”

“Right. It seems my time is up. Shall I carry word back to your father?”

“Yes. Tell him I am returning. And I am not alone.”

The shadow begins to fade. “I must ask though. Why children?”

“Why not? They’re the most vulnerable of any age.” He laughs, “And this age has made them even more so. Placing more and more adult responsibilities on them. They’re growing up before they’re ready. Making them easier prey.”

“Perhaps I shall join you there for a hunt.”

“Perhaps.”

“We wait for you. When shall we expect your return?”

“In one more year. There is one more house. I have all I need. I just need one more thing.” He smiles cruelly, “And it will happen soon. Then the streets will run free with blood.”

“What about the survivor? She could derail everything.”

“Maybe. But I doubt it. She didn’t know what or why.” He scowls, “Except the writers knew I was here. I will have to send them a message.”

“Then what?”

“Then I shall return and there will be a few more dead mourned then forgotten.” Mike laughs once more as the shadow vanishes, “Forgotten and dead but they will return.”