• ((PRLG))

    Everyone wishes they had a little more adventure in their lives, always seeking it as a constant, driving goal. Now speaking to you, I won’t lie, the world of adventure is thrilling and exciting place to be, but it there is risk involved filled with perils that people of feint hearts may not find good meaning in. Still, at nights I find sleep difficult to grasp because of the new sense of reality that I so willingly dedicated myself to. Some days I wonder if it was worth it, thinking about the things I lost and the new face that is now me, with the second half of me still bubbling to the surface, criticizing me with my own critical, blue eyes.
    Have you ever heard that everyone has an enforceable force that blisters inside of them, or that maybe everyone has a potential they can tap into that they don’t know about now? There is more truth in that corny suggestion than you may think, I even believed in it to a mild degree before my change. Super man is kind of extreme, and Spider man was an accident; I’m talking about the invisible blood that lies inside most people; the kind that wraps around your brain and infuses with the very core of your heart, and if used just right it can do the impossible. It takes practice, most of these people find it straining just to move a morsel of paper.
    There are some, though, who took this simple concept and blew it out of the water. I’m proud to say I was a good friend with one of these prodigies even before I knew of his true form. It wasn’t till the Epiphany stage of my story that my life truly began…

    ((CPT. 1))

    Layers of clouds, creating an orange crescent that streaked across the sky, blotted out the setting sun. A cool breeze swept down the streets of Chicago streaming threw blonde locks. The sun dipped deeper into the horizon and kissed the slanted paved streets. The sky blushed, but the air only got colder. Normally I would have been shivering, pulling the jacket tighter around my neck and swearing at Mother Nature who put me in the coldest city in the US, but instead it gave me further reason to tighter embrace the shady figure who held me so close to his heart. I could feel my own swell as he read me and complied with a passionate smile.
    “You look cold.” He said in a melodramatic manner. Grinning feverishly I shoved him to the side. He toppled, for a moment, and then with his arm still around my shoulders and our jackets still linked, I was forced to fold into him. He caught me and we both laughed.
    “I should have thought that threw!” I wheezed between breaths. He only shrugged his narrow shoulders, still supporting me, surprisingly strong.
    “Eh, why start now?” I faced him and hit him in the chest. He pretended to take the blow and keeled over. For a moment I thought he would drop me, but the acting was only a feign and he shifted my weight between hands until I was face up and my feet were dragging as he totted me across the sidewalk like luggage. I couldn’t keep a strait face and weird sounds erupted from my mouth that I could only assume was giggling.
    “Put me down right now!”
    “That is a very poor choice of words, care to rephrase?” I allowed myself to fall slack for a moment.
    “What are doing?”
    “Oh, y’know, just taking out the trash.”
    “Okay, that is just mean.” Using the weight of my body to my advantage I flung myself upright high enough for me to tuck my legs in then come back down hitting his calves. His knees buckled and he landed on top of me falling backwards. This would have been perfectly normal behavior if it weren’t for the fact that the streets weren’t quite empty at this time and cars still buzzed up and down the streets. A man slowed and rolled down the window on his little car.
    “You two okay?” asked the stout man. Our…position you might say…wasn’t something to be awful proud of. Both our faces flushed red and we replied in unison.
    “Yeah, we’re fine.” The man nodded with scrutinizing eyes that almost seemed envies as he rolled up his window and putted off. When we stood up and turned around onlookers snapped back into motion like someone hit the Play button. We exchanged glances of embarrassment and unease then continued on in silence- for a moment. Though I wasn’t sure if he was looking, I continued to smile, my face beaming with absolute satisfaction and overwhelming content. But there was no way I could have known what the future had in store for me, and nothing that could prepare me for it.

    ((CPT. 2))

    The door exploded with sudden clamor as Garrett dragged me over the threshold of his parent’s apartment. Technically they weren’t his parents, he was adopted several years ago; what a weird family they turned out to be. (An adopted, freaky, younger sister, too.)
    Garrett’s “father” sat at the table reading documents. Until I saw his father, I didn’t think anyone could get taller than Garrett. Though relatively the same height, they share very little in common. Unlike Garrett, Brax was a very heavy build and appeared to be a black ox, an unstoppable force of nature. Brax had strange symbols and ruins carved into his skin. Garrett was very lean, appeared frail even, but from experience, that is far from the truth.
    Garrett dropped me to the floor and took my jacket just to toss it onto the designer sofa. He took his own and did the same, and immediately you could see what separated him from the rest of humanity.
    In his white, worn shirt were two slits on the back allowing vivid, speckled, folded feathers to unfurl and relax. It had been only a week since I was introduced to the world of science fiction in such context, and every time this week I could not take my eyes off the great brown wings of what I could swear were the patterns of the Eagle Owl. Presently he had his wings tucked neatly into the groove of his back.
    “…And hello to you too Ms. Hearth.” Came a booming voice from the kitchen, shocking me out of my trans. I was still lying sprawled out on the floor but lifted my head in acknowledgment.
    “O-oh, uh, evening Mr. Brax!” I said appropriately. A satisfied grunt fallowed. I could practically feel Brax shaking his head at me. I got up and followed Garrett like a lost puppy but then decided better of it and sat down at the black sofa that looked though someone splattered a different array of colored paint on a wavy shaped, black couch. He joined me and wrapped one awesome wing around me, pulling me close. He knew I was uncomfortable with the idea he had wings, yet he insisted on showing off. I starred at my shoes bashfully, hands in my lap, face steaming crimson. The gentle rush of feathers felt softer than any other material as it rubbed against my short-sleeved arms. Up went his wings ‘till it seemed we were bathed in a cocoon of warmth and the Chicago cold was nothing more than a myth. He pressed his forehead against mine and mine against his. Mind buzzing, heart pounding; part of me wandered what was going to happen next, the other part knew. Then came the muffled cry of Mr. Brax:
    “Hey, what’s going on in there? Garrett, that’s far enough!” Immediately Garrett’s penetrating gaze broke and his wings fell slack. He seemed frustrated with himself and reached for the remote. He rested his feet on the glass coffee table and switched on M.TV.
    Both of us were as uncomfortable as we have ever been in the three years we’ve known each other. Out of that time we had only been dating for a month, and in that time my world was flipped up side down and replaced with a new reality. He had trusted me with a great secret, and I wasn’t going to let it spoil us, even if in the end we could only be friends. I moved closer to him, rested my head on his shoulder, and cooed softly for comic relief. I could feel him physically relax, and appropriately his right wing curled snugly against my arm. His hand slipped into mine and I squeezed for dear life.
    On the HDTV, the screen fizzed with action, “Okay, see this crappy car here is Alicia’s, and she doesn’t know this yet, but we gunna Pimp Her Ride!” I suggested we change the channel.

    ((CPT 3))

    Nala, Garrett’s sister, intrudes into the flat, breaking the comfortable rhythm that had so naturally taken place after the TV had been set into motion. Her snazzy pinstriped vest was worn over something dark purple and buttoned up with a pair of nice black dress pants that were cut fashionably on the outside cuffs. Her mysterious royal eyes of lavender peered out threw a thin layer of dark night sky known as hair, ominously and foreboding. Her smile mocked the reality in the room and gave a false sense of welcoming warmness. I learned quickly not to take her actions personally, but that factor did little to stop the unease of the idea that not even my thoughts were safe anymore. And they weren’t.
    Nala looked from me to Garrett, broadening her crushing, Asian smile; face not wrinkling with her perfect, white complexion, emboldening dark flawless features. Garrett and I sat up. He knew what was to come; I, nervous to find out. Garrett taunted me all day with the idea that I was to be “evaluated” later tonight. Nala, as a “mind reader”, manipulator, and pusher of thoughts was going to see what I had, if there was anything to see. Most people end up human; I figure that’s what I’ll be. Either you have ability or you don’t, simple as that…I think.
    Garrett tensed as my unease grew greater as the black cat strutted closer. Off fizzed the TV. The room was dead silent, Brax had gone to bed, and there were no formal greetings, no need for any. Nala sat on the curve of the couch; knees pointing together and she faced me with a sympathetic smile that seemed to pity. No, scratch that.
    We all sat attentively. With any other person, this wouldn’t have had to be so nerve-racking; it was Nala’s presence projecting fear into us. Or maybe it all was in my head, then again, where else would it be?
    Reaching for my hands and searching my eyes (like open doors), Nala broke the silence that consumed the room, other than that of the ticking clock.
    “This wont hurt a bit, do you trust me?”
    My voice was collected and calm “W-well of course I do; you havnt given me a reason not to.” Nala glanced down at the knot of hands.
    “I guess not. But know, at times I have difficulties keeping promises.” Before I had time to respond she looked up, more intent this time. “I want to take you with me so you can see what I see, and feel what I feel. There is no abnormal energies coming from you, light nor auras, but since my brother seems to love you, it’s only right you gain something from this experience.” She giggled softly to herself, lost in her own thoughts; she flashed a toothy smile at no one in particular, showing the hardly noticeable, elongated canines that separated her from the rest of humanity. Coming back to reality, she continued: “Introducing this experience to any mortal would give them ability to contact me if they figured out how it worked. You will go under some training that will allow you to send simple thoughts and emotions to people with like abilities; like Garrett or I.”
    With Nala’s lecture, the outside world was black and didn’t exist, so it shocked me to hear the soft croon of Garrett’s voice so close to my ear. “Get on with it Nala, Karen has to be home by 10:30.”
    Suddenly a ticked look struck Nala and her gaze hardened, then the world of logic and reason melted with that of a new and different understanding. The Apartment was not blurred, just indiscrete. I found it difficult to concentrate. There was a tight feeling on my left temple that soon changed to something like a slug creeping threw a hole on the side of my head, and then plopped in. I found the sensation rather amusing, but the strangeness became intermingled when the presence of second conscious. I felt myself physically fall backwards, but Garrett was there to catch me.
    “Are you okay? Have you had enough?”
    “No!” I hissed, and even though no other words were spoken, I felt the idea that Nala would like to continue if that was the case. I sat up and made no other motion than approval within myself, and with that said, Nala drew me in deeper.
    Completely intranced, it did not feel odd as a feather tickled a trail in my brain as we investigated a path. We came across a color, probably the most beautiful shade of purple I had ever “seen”. It was pure, dark, royal, and constantly shifted in hues. Besides, who can be defined by one solid color? Slowly, we crept to the back of my brain, where thoughts were calmer, less cluttered and far from the original chaos. The smooth ocean blue faintly touched the purple that had followed us threw the length of our travels. Strands of rose pink webbed and weaved the two colors together.
    The blue looked air brushed and powdery, remaining only in that one area, and noticing this, I saw a single strand of black. It ran down the length of purple, but Nala grew impatient with my lingering and forced me onward.
    We hit a wall. Dark, black, solid, in the very back of my head where the medulla hides. It was a prison. An intense, narrow beam of gold light could be seen just on the outside wall, and then horizontally shot into the obis. Wherever the light was, it seemed you could see for an inch or two until it faded out completely. For the first time, I felt unease from Nala.
    There was no physical up or down, every direction was the same, but there was a key. Rusty and old. The teeth were the shape of an eighth note; its short handle had the embroidery of a bells organized in a functional manner to play music with like ancient gongs, the other side was a classic example of a grand piano waiting to be played. If there was an “in front of me”, you could say the key had been floating there. I thought about taking it, and it disappeared. Back to the black boundaries, I saw me pressing face, hands and body against the glass. It was my purple, but that was not me. It had gold chains around its neck, ankles, and wrist leading to the gold beam that now seemed to burn hotter and turn white. Pure energy restrained the figure staring madly at me with a psychotic grin and striking blue eyes that were just superior to my own. The me seemed whimsical and was driven by a sense of madness.
    I lost all connection with Nala; my guide was gone and my mind was free and open to the spirit who took full advantage. Sinister purple snakes that seemed so dark and murky, it was the consistency of blood, reached for the outside walls, and the key… “Karen.”
    It knows my name?
    “Karen, I know that’s you. Let me out to play.” Its words like ice froze me solid in my tracks. It came again, more frantic this time…
    “Karen? Karen!” what?
    “Karen! Wake up! Nala, get some ice, she’s burning up.” No, that’s not true; my teeth were chattering, hairs on skin prickling, I was drenched in cold sweat. The room must have dropped ten degrees, then why did it feel so good when bags of frozen peas landed on my forehead and arms. For the first time I was aware of the angelic presence next to me. What had happened? Suddenly a feathery, loving embrace was crushing me.
    “Oh God Karen, I am so sorry. I promise it wont happen again. We didn’t know. We didn’t know.” The world slowly came back into the focus that it never had seemed to leave.
    “Unless you want to be my new barf-bag, I suggest you get off me.” And I wasn’t kidding. I was sickly ill. I wasn’t really going to be sick per say, I expected it to last another, say, day ‘n a half?
    He loosened his grip and sat back still holding my wrists. His eyes glittered in mine, and his hands slipped down to hold my own. The right hand was successful, but the left was preoccupied with something more morbid. We both looked down at an ancient Bell themed key. And for the first time in my life, I’m proud to say, I blacked out.
    The most draining 5 minutes of my life.

    ((CHP. 4))

    Light streamed threw a curtain of umber brown and a cheek rested against a pillow of covered, warm flesh. I shifted positions when the reminence of an ancient headache surfaced, then faded. The air was comforting and humid. Never cared for that particular combination, but today it was hardly eminent.
    A sluggish hand reached in and rubbed my shoulder. After a soft swish of feathers a familiar face appeared with hair for the first time ever shaggy and eyes still constricted from a trancelike sleep. Was it morning? What was I still doing on the couch?
    Garrett must have seen the color drain from my face, because as the fear seeped into my very pores, his smile faded. Suddenly frantic, I opened my hands and checked my pockets. The wing pulled away and Garrett looked at me half serious, half worried.
    “Around your neck.” He said in a half whisper. My head shot up and our eyes connected; Hands flew to the cold chain around my neck. Garrett lifted the key that weighed it down to show me that it was indeed not a dream. I looked away, though having the key in my possession was a crime. Stricken like a dog. I was not sure what it all meant.
    “What, might I ask, happened last night?” I asked. Garrett tucked in his wings and shifted, struggling for words.
    “I’m…I’m not quite sure.” He finally said.
    “Well, you’re either… or you’re not, and…”
    “So I’m a freak?”
    “You’ve always been a freak, but no, I mean you seam both.” We both sat awkwardly on the couch when I allowed my mind to wander.
    “Wait, what about school! My mothers going to kill me” at that point I was practically jumping out of my skin. Garrett grinned and pressed my shoulders back down into the sofa.
    “Chill, its Saturday. I called your mother last night and gave her a legitimate reason you couldn’t go home. Hungry? It’s nearly ten.” A wave of relief washed over me. And for the first time I realized, I was starving! Garrett smiled; lifting himself, he headed for the kitchen behind the sofa. There was a counter where the not-too-empty sink sat behind the couch. To the right of that was a double doored fridge and from there L’d to more counter space. Garrett popped in several bagels into the toaster and brought out all the fixings for several omelets and omelets of different styles. Seemed he was feeding an army. I got up to help him in the kitchen. Only two seconds upon entry, and he had me at work.
    “Could you be a doll and set the table dear?”
    “Don’t call me doll, ‘dear’.” That unexplainably charming grin crept across his face to once again give me my daily dose of Garrett. I couldn’t help smiling foolishly. It dawned on me I didn’t know where the dishes were (this was only the second time I had been to his house). Garrett, busy at the sizzling stove glanced at me, and then back to business. Something clicked in my head, something so obvious it almost hurt to think I didn’t already know. I also felt compelled to set the table for four.
    I attended to the task at hand with full knowledge of the kitchen and set orange juice in a pitcher in the center of the table. All the while feeling a strange throbbing in my head. It didn’t hurt, it just existed, though oddly comforting.
    After busying myself with buttering the bagels in the silence of my companions company, I was not too surprised to turn around and see Nala suddenly materialize eating the first complete omelet on the table. She looked up at me and eyed the key suspiciously. The only difference between Nala of last night and this morning were her cloths, a black-sleeved shirt and similar colored pajama pants.
    “Did you sleep well?” she spat.
    “Fine actually.” I said setting the bagels on the table with a silver platter.
    “Oh.” Her expression stayed the same as she starred dreamily at her cheesy vegi-fied omelet. A quiet moment was aloud to pass.
    “Did you sleep well?” I asked. She merely shook her head and looked back to me with a horrible sense of sadness and knowledge that only seemed to burden her at such a tender age, and with pity of my naïve-ness.
    “I don’t sleep.” And more was said in those few words than in a wise mans’ speech. Garrett saved the day when he arrived with a trey of steaming eggs of various ingredients that made each one unique. There was an astonishing quantity of food in the center of the table.
    “Eat up!” Garrett demanded bringing back a comforting wave of liveliness after the famine that followed the production of breakfast. “Whatever you don’t eat, Dad and I will.”
    “Is that a promise now?” I questioned. He winked at me with a face already stuffed with food and somehow managed to smile without disgusting his guest.

    ((CHP. 5))

    The math teacher droned on over the lulling murmur of the class. Two boards were littered with triangles, angles and methods for the Pythagorean theorem. Desks were lined in relative order. I squinted from the light refracting off the bald man’s head and puffy cheeks. Nope, still didn’t get it. All the notes were written perfectly but despair took over and I rested my head against my desk and felt the key clink against the surface.
    There were to many thoughts racing through my head to concentrate on whatever logic was taking place here. The events of the previous day left me in disarray, the persistent notion of Garrett’s every motion, and that strange feeling I was not alone.
    Well technically, I’m not alone; I’m talking about in your head alone. You know, the thing normal people live with, but since last night and Nala’s presence, I haven’t had that feeling…it’s so hard to describe, it now does seem no more than a dream.

    The low murmur of the class mimicked the buzz inside my head so closely I would confuse the two. Mr. Bald-Headed-Math-Teacher continued on about the magical world of triangles of different colors and angles and how they applied to the beautiful hieroglyphic plug-in equation of the Pythagorean theorem. As much as I was enthused by his captivating speech, more pressing matters raced threw my head keeping pace with my heartbeat. All the while I fidgeted with the key that dangled around my neck. I placed it on the desk piano side up and eyed it curiously, cautiously, and with a fear and respect I didn’t understand. I absent-mindedly pressed the tiny keys with the narrow lead of my mechanical pencil remembering a song I could play.
    It was hardly noticeable at first, but slowly I began to hear the sound of small distant notes. I paused, then it paused. Beginning again, I realized that the lead would sink in slightly, almost unnoticeable. The notes still increased in sound, but even then were barely a whisper. Goosebumps ran the length of my arms, and my neck prickled. My heart rate increased ‘till the point of explosion. I felt myself hold my breath when I also heard a voice, something that told me I wasn’t alone and could help me.
    I was still pocking at the key with an expressionless face when I heard my name called from someone in reality.
    “Karen, are you understanding this stuff? Wait, are you okay? You’re as pail as a ghost!” Kat looked concerned. I could feel my face was void of any emotion, contrary to the encapsulated inside feeling, but how bad do I really look on the outside? “You should really go see doctor Karen.” She said firmly. I felt like snapping at her, I felt like wrangling her little Indian neck for suggesting that I see anyone for help. I closed my eyes and let the moment of tension pass.
    “I’m fine, thanks for worrying though.” I said pleased with my tone, pulling off my typical ‘during math’ tone.
    “ You sure don’t look fine.” She retorted. I glared up at her uncharacteristically.
    “I’m FINE!” I snapped…maybe a touch to loud. The class went silent, thank God, they were giving me a headache.
    “Gees Karen, I was just trying to help.” She stopped, looking harder into my very dry, watery eyes. “Karen,” she said touching her left eye “your eyes, they changed color.”
    After that little comment I turned my head and rubbed my temples with closed eyes. I didn’t want to be here, I hated math class, I hated blowing off my friend and making me look like a fool, and I really hate being indoors and not feel the wind against my face, the sun against my skin. The class went back into its routine annoyance, but louder than usual. Brushing my hand against the key, it was warm, but suddenly decreased in temperature. I was so focused on this I didn’t notice the fast fading noises of the outside world as I entered somewhere dark, quiet and secure. When I half opened my eyes, I noticed dark nylon green griding black floor, ceiling and two walls that stretched away from me for infinity. I was backed into a corner.
    A wave of sudden relief flooded over me. The temperature was neutral; the green lines gave me depth and light so I could see. I had imagined this place before, but this time it was an actual location deep within myself. I heaved an audible sigh. It echoed eerily into the infinite space ahead. Normal quiet rooms would still leave a buzz in my ears, but the quiet in this room was all consuming. I wasn’t even unnerved to see an indiscrete purple fog headed in my direction out from the Infinity. It came closer, seeming to go at its own pace. It turned from its soft purple into something deeper, redder and more royal. Coming out of my daze that the class had put me in, I began to wonder what it was. Slowly it began to take the form of a human, into something I recognized, into myself. Finally, it knelt down to my level in front of me. Fear that hadn’t been there before started to creep into my system, but I refused to allow it to show on my face. The figure handled the key around my neck delicately like the old thing was a precious gem. Her expression was soft and sympathetic and she held a deep attachment, love and respect for the key. She looked up at me solemnly like she noticed me for the first time. The clone was nearly pressing her dissipative forehead to mine and breathed on my face.
    “ Karen,” her voice was barely a whisper next to my ear. She went down on both knees and folded into me “you have something I want,” her weightless body soaked into mine “give it to me.”

    I gasped in shock as I woke back to the land of the living. I slammed my hands on my desk and laid my head on it ready to burst into tears. Folding my arms around my head, under my hair, I hoped no one would notice, but that would be too much to ask.

    “Karen?” Kat’s voice so filled with worry I thought she would burst into tears before I did. “Karen, what’s wrong? And don’t tell me nothing’s wrong, I know there’s something wrong.”

    ((CHP 6))

    I was in my designated class a few minutes before the bell rang. Garrett took a bus of campus for gym for this hour leaving me stranded, so I felt it best to get my mind on track with this class before school began. Math is the only class I struggle in, -B, go figure. Before Garrett’s bus left, we saw the same dark figure in the office signing papers and purchasing a Kraken’s High book bag; not to snazzy a style, but it gets the job done.
    There was a desk in the front of the room littered with the teacher’s random teaching supplies. His actual desk, though, was in the back corner. The board was already filled to the brim with notes for the over achievers, like myself, to copy down before class officially started. Sines and Cosines, sounds like a ball of yarn.
    As I jotted down notes, one of the students that flowed in through the flood of kids was Creepy-Casper, the all to friendly ghost boy from earlier this morning. I tried not to heed him any attention, but couldn’t help myself from glancing at him sideways a time or two. Already the class was bustling with teenage voices and morning madness. Most seats had already been taken, I was hoping he wouldn’t take the only free desk next to me, but even that was to good to hope for. The signature school kraken had a white bordering circle on a plain red bag with black draw straps. Mr. Casper here probably didn’t know they had the black bag option; it would have matched his shoes perfectly.
    While these thoughts ran through my head, I realized I didn’t feel much of a threat coming from him at all; without Garrett around, he would have passed by no different than any other stranger. Actually, there seemed something appealing about him, and it was there that I caught myself, but then only because the bell rang and brought me back. I blinked twice frustrated with myself, but not knowing why. The key that still loomed around my neck began to warm and I grabbed it absently getting over myself.
    “Okay!” sensei Edward boomed. Or as we call him, Mr. E. “Time for role call. I’m going to call your name, and you answer so I know you’re here!” he demanded. The room was silent, something I enjoyed for the few seconds I had them because that was the only time the class would be quiet for the rest of the hour. Some kids snickered, and in a lower tone they carried on in idle conversations. Mr. Ed shook his head and began calling names. He arrived to one on the roster and squinted at it threw narrow, rectangular glasses causing his brow to furrow.
    “Ramen?” Mr. Ed called over the crescendoing voices. The shady figure looked up from a book titled ‘Cardinals and Canaries’.
    “It’s pronounced Rumen, sir.” He replied coldly. Mr. Ed smiled as he read the rest of his name.
    “ So it’s Rumen Casper Oleander? Fancy name you got there.” Poor Mr. Ed was just trying to strike conversation. “Sounds like a ghost. Y’ know, Casper, the friendly ghost.”
    “The only positive outcome in our conversation was that you learned something new. Congratulations. As for my lineage, it would be wise to keep my information confidential, and childish phrases as you spoke of are degrading to my family and myself.” I was actually surprised to hear Rumen speak with such careful wording, and sad to see Mr. Bubbly pop like a dart was thrown at him. Ed fumbled with the stack of papers in his hands and some words while trying to hold up a melting smile.
    ”Well, I’ll be sure to remember that.” Said Ed before stalking off. Mr. Edward stood in the front of the room, waiting for the class to quiet… that took about five minutes for anyone to really notice. The class finally silenced waiting for Mr. E to instruct them on today’s assignment. He clapped his hands together and began his teaching with little respect from the class. During this eventful hour, I entertained myself by hitting keys on the piano from the old key, barely able to hear it over the roar of the class, and hoping no one else could hear it themselves. I got only one suspicious look from Rumen, but he had little impute on anything, and let me curiously slide. Even the mystery of the key did not satisfy the boredom that math plagued me with, and all I could think of was leaving the muggy confines of the room, feeling terribly claustrophobic all of a sudden.
    After twenty minutes in, I struggled to stay awake and could feel myself detaching from my body. I was pressed securely in the back of my chair when suddenly I was manifested by a sense of weightlessness. I fell back threw my chair and onto the floor, I could feel my feet being drug down slowly like the ground was quicksand. Everyone was looking at me, apparently it looked though I fell out of my seat, and it sent the class into a tizzy of laughter. I was even more disconcerted to hear my own voice laughing mockingly. I looked for it and found a purple me looking down at me in a spare seat sitting with folded hands. Her ghastly, transparent features were still snared by golden rings around her neck and wrists; her lower half was foggy and unidentifiable. For the first time, I noticed locks on her restraints. She shook her head and looked back up at me like I was a naïve child. She motioned to the front of the class and observed with a satisfied grin.
    I looked to the front to see a dark hand reaching out to me. I took it absently, too disturbed to be embarrassed about the event, or care whom the hand belonged to.
    “Thank you.” I said to Rumen who slunk back down into his seat. I did the same and buried my head into the fur of my foux fox jacket as everything painfully sunk in. I chanced a glance at Rumen who caught my eye and turned his head away, and the thoughtful look on his face hardened.
    “Are you okay?” asked Mary, the smart blond, half concerned, half bubbling with hysteria.
    “I’m fine!” I managed to squeak back. She smiled, not convinced.
    “Okay, if you say.”
    The rest of the class period the boys would explode every time I moved or made threatening expressions at them, and Purple Me would talk me through math I didn’t understand (I figured no one else could see my hallucination, so I limited verbal conversations, not that anything had to be said. Most things were exchanged by thought). At long last the bell rang and I was the first out the door burning up and fuming. Garrett was already on campus and waited for me in the Arch smiling up a storm. When he saw my haughty steps and serious look, he turned from yearning to concerning. I was sure Purple Me was following close behind.
    “Karen, what’s wrong?” he asked the moment I was in earshot. I debated on telling him, and when Purple me stood next to me I gestured to her.
    “Can you see it?”
    “See what?” he asked concerned squinting his eyes and looking directly at her but like it was an empty space.
    “Her, right here, no one else can see it.” Purple me looked deeply offended and put a hurt hand over her chest.
    “I am not an “it”, I am you! And another thing, my name is not,” q dramatic quoting fingers “ ‘Purple Me’. If I might be so rude to impose, my name is Rani, and should be addressed as such.” She said chest puffed out. I rolled my eyes.
    “Never mind, I’ll tell you later, I have a headache and need a nap.” I held my head in my hands and Garrett took a step forward ready to embrace me in a reassuring hug. The bell rang, and with me all wired up, I didn’t want to be touched, and I was reduced back to the state I was two years ago. “Class calls, I’ll tell you at your apartment where I can talk freely.” And as I turned to run, I felt something alien, familiar and warm creep into my head, and I was calmed by a wave of love and peace. I turned around to see Garrett still watching me intently, but not quite understanding.
    ‘Oh brother.’ mouthed Rani who fallowed, pretending to be sick pointing a finger into her mouth.

    ((CHP 7))

    A violent storm thundered and roared like a beast outside. There had been a flash flood warning and power was down in the apartment complex. This storm was out of season and completely unexpected; no one saw it coming.
    As rain pounded against my window and lighting shattered the sky into a hundred pieces, I stared intently at my black beanbag as I sat on the bed. I sat dead still waiting for the next bolt of light.
    It came and I squinted my eyes. There she was, still looking back with blue eyes in vivid contrast to her purple body. A perfect, flawless copy of me, but she wasn’t me. She mocked me! Her eyes, her grim smile! Though, as quick as her image came, it went.
    A cold shiver ran down the length of my spine, hairs prickled on the back of my neck, and I closed my eyes rubbing my temples trying to get Rani’s image out of my head. Thunder bursted into the room tempting to shatter my window and the wind picked up speed whistling in the chaos outside. I nearly jumped out of my skin, frightened as a pigeon chased off by a dog. Whatever was happening was messing with my head; I couldn’t even enjoy the weather we were having. Instead, I was terrified by what had used to bring me so much awe.
    I bit on my lip holding back a scream feeling drained and alone. I wished Garrett were here, I wish I could charge my phone so I could hear his reassuring voice, I wish I could see the moon in its full glory, I wish I knew what was going on and why I was hallucinating; but of course, there was no light at the end of this tunnel until the storm is over.

    Lying down clinging to myself for warmth and comfort, my mind was left frozen. I ignored the consoling voice in the corner of the room. ‘It’s okay Karen, it’s only a storm, it will pass. Don’t you like storms any way? Wasn’t that “your thing”?’
    Lighting struck, and I saw an image painted against the splattered window. I rolled off the bed onto the floor. Was Rani now outside? The figure banged against the window violently. The roof vibrated harder as raindrops turned solid and pelted it.
    “Karen! Ouch ow.” came a muffled voice. “Karen! Let me in! It’s me!” a sense of ease entered my mind like a warm blanket. It was Garrett. I flung my knees onto the bed, shoved the curtains aside and I unlocked the blurred glass window and flung it open. Garrett was drenched, short hair soggy and the rest of him unidentifiable in the dark and grim. He folded in his wings in that he had used to balance himself. Garrett toppled in on top of me letting the bed springs creek under our combined weight. Hail and rain spilled in on us like a faucet. After putting our efforts together to force the window shut did I see the panting, exhausted, smug and grinning Garrett. The quite that followed left my ears ringing, and we were both forced to hold still for a second or two. At long last, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. Garrett did the same, and we almost fell into a fit of nervous laughter, but our own thoughts, or at least, what I hoped was our own thoughts stopped us both.

    “What you did was very dangerous, Garrett.” I said finally.

    “Oh, that’s some greeting. Whatever happened to ‘Oh I missed you so-o mu-uch’ or ‘I’m so grateful you would take time out of your day to come console me. Besides, I can fly, no biggy.” My gaze didn’t falter or soften. Our breaths were fogging evenly in the room and the hail began to melt on the covers and floor.

    “It didn’t take me physics class to realize the stupidity of your actions. Flying in this weather is worse than walking!”

    “Chill! I have been trained to fly in this kind of stuff; besides, I haven't had the chance to stretch my wings-“ I didn’t give him time to finish his sentence before I gave him a big bear hug. Garrett wrapped his arms around me half dumbfounded groaning involuntarily from the pressure I put on his lungs.
    “Karen, what’s scaring you so badly? I couldn’t stand staying at my house; you were bugging me too much.” I pushed him away for a moment.

    “What is that supposed to mean?”

    “Remember my sister Nala. She taught me some of her ability, and now I’m more susceptible to your emotion than ever. We’ve already explained this to you.” He made sure to pronounce every word slow and clear “ I know something’s wrong but I cant read your mind like in the movies. You love storms,” he pointed out “why is this one freaking you out?” lightning flashed again and the image of Rani chained in gold appeared in the corner of the room looking at us thoughtfully and smug, then disappeared with the light. Garrett followed my gaze “Karen,” Garrett began again locking my wrists in his iron grip “Karen, what did you see?”
    With an edge of hysteria in my voice, I answered, “I saw me.” He sat there frozen for a moment.


    “You don’t think I’m crazy?”

    “Well of course you’re crazy, but that’s beside the point.”

    I hesitated, fiddling idly with the old key around my neck, hearing the softest chime from the mini piano and bells as a result. “It’s complicated.”

    “Oh? I think I can manage.”

    “Well, lately… lately I have been…” I grasped for the right words “followed by this person.” He raised a suspicious eyebrow.

    “I think if it was anything like that I would have spotted him.”

    “Her.” I corrected “And it’s technically not stalking if you’re connected.” Garrett’s eased attitude turned serious again, and very confused. He had his fingers laced together with a chin rested on top weighing my sanity with deep level eyes. I took a deep breath shaking off his mood. “Ever since Nala… um, ‘Entered’ I guess it’s called, ever since then I’ve been having hallucinations.” He raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Um, I think Nala did something wrong.” His eyes switched from me to the key around my neck and experimentally reached for it. I tensed, and before he could touch it I had his wrist in my hand like a vice and I was practically snarling at him like a dragon guarding a treasure. I was so shocked with what I was about to do to Garrett I dropped his hand at once and bit one hand behind the thumb and gripped the key with the other. “I’m so… Garrett I didn’t mean...” apparently he didn’t quite understand the full extent of what I wanted to do. It was only a game to him. I hid growing anxiety and paranoia I knew was only in my head.

    “We need someone more experienced than me Karen, I don’t know exactly what’s going on, nor have I seen anything like this before. It seems like whatever it is, you have the key, and as long as you know right from wrong you should be fine… for now.” Hot, held back tears brimmed my eyes and I reached to hug Garrett tightly, still holding the key tightly.
    Rani patted my back sympathetically.

    ((CPT cool )

    Garrett and I walked next to each other at an easy pace, my hands behind the straps of my backpack and his dangling loosely to his sides. The sky was clearing up from the gloom and large patches of warm blue sky filled me with life and relief from the cold. Everything seemed so, normal. The only sounds were that of cars passing and birds singing their morning dues. We passed apartment complexes until we arrived at a subdivision of cookie-cutter-houses. Two old friends turned a corner, one grinning stupidly and the other laughing, supporting her weight against his side.
    We waited there until she noticed us. Surprisingly, her face brightened up further once she saw me. She spread her arms wide with enthusiasm yelling “Karen!” probably wanting to wake the neighborhood. Liz ran the rest of the short distance and squished me with a big hug.
    “It’s not like we ran into each other by chance.” I managed to wheeze out.
    “I know! I just get really excited after big storms.” She signed exploding thunder with her hands dramatically. “The smell, the atmosphere, the calm after the storm.” Liz inhaled deeply.
    “Don’t I get a hug?” Garrett asked. Two seconds later his wish was granted as Liz clung to him like a cat to a sofa. He looked like he was about to laugh at her when suddenly his expression changed, like he just smelled something really bad. “Enough of that, we’re going to be late for school.” His voice came of testier than he anticipated. Liz put her hands on her hips challengingly even though she was considerably shorter than he, skipping sideways to keep up.
    “Well Mister Mood Swings, lead the way. Wouldn’t want to get lost.” Andrew snorted trying to cover his stupid grin with a hand. I had almost forgot he was there, you think it would be harder to lose a tank of that size.
    Garrett was tense, which made me tense, but neither of us were wanted Liz or Andrew to notice, which never really worked for me. Liz came in pace beside me frowning.
    “What’s up? You look upset about something.” I rolled my eyes and made a convincing smile for good measure.
    “I’m fine, there’s nothing to protect me from… today.” She pursed her lips nodding like she wanted to believe me. Not wanting to talk about it I trotted up to Garrett who had been walking with Andrew and talking quietly.
    “What’s up?”
    “The sky.” Which was code for ‘lets not talk about it.’ I didn’t want to pry so I switched between looking at my shoes and my surroundings. I was spooked to hear a voice to my free side.
    “Good morning Karen, all is well I presume?” my hairs stood on end and my spine froze, but I didn’t want Ruman to see my shock so I turned casually and smiled ruefully trying to get humor irritation out in one look. I didn’t know why Garrett would let him sneak up on us like that, but when I looked back at Garrett he looked confused as I was.
    “Hi,” says Garrett “I’ve seen you around Campus.” They both looked at me, Ruman mixing disgust with curiosity, Garrett with a question.
    “I guess… you could say that. I help her in math, strictly. Hello,” Ruman said reaching across me to shake Garrett’s hand “I’m Ruman Oleander, pleasure to meet your acquaintance….?” Garrett took his hand. When they released Ruman flexed and clenched his hand.
    “Garrett, just Garrett. So you’re an Oleander?”
    “Oh, so you know of our research to better understand our world?”
    “Um, yea, I’m familiar with your work.” This seamed to greatly please Ruman. He smiled brilliantly at nothing for a while before saying something.
    “Well, I will leave you and your friends to your morning routines.” Ruman was saying “I hope to get to know you better.”
    “I’m sure you would like that.” But even as Garrett was speaking, Ruman had already gained several paces and was soon out of earshot.
    “What was that all about?”
    “I don’t know but I think I have a lead.” He began grinning foolishly. Just starting to get creeped out I backed away until I was at Liz’s side.
    “What was that all about?” she echoed my thoughts. “Garrett looked like he was ready to tear his face off. Who was that?” I thought about that, Garrett looked tense but no more than that.
    “A guy in one of my classes who helps me in math. Ruman.” Liz looked off to the side rubbing her chin with a thoughtful look.
    “You know, I thought he looked familiar, I have in my 4th hour. Wait, okay, Karen, there’s this guy who sits behind me who keeps talking to me. I try to ignore him, but I can’t help but talk with him. He keeps getting us in trouble!” I rolled my eyes “What? He’s not even my type.” I shook my head disdainfully. “Pssh, fine, think what you want.” I couldn’t help grinning myself. Andrew was spacing out in his own little world seeming to ignore us. Sometimes he made me nervous even though he never really did anything to earn the title. The rest of the walk to school mainly included talking with Liz about random theories and planning another group trip to the library but she kept bringing up going to the mall instead. Didn’t much like that idea.
    It seemed so much like old times that i nearly forgot about things on the other hand. Almost, but I kept having that nagging feeling that would never quite go away.