As far as anyone in year 7 was concerned; there were four types of people in the world:
1) ‘Popular’ kids
4) And ‘losers’
First, the ‘popular’ kids were the pretty, fashionable, rich kids that hung around in exclusive groups. They were the ones that enforced this sick, unpleasant system. Everywhere they went, they were followed by a hundred heads turning their way.
Then you had the ‘suck-ups’ – the kind of kids that stood to attention each time one of the ‘popular’ kids so much as sneezed. They would smother them with complements and back them up in whatever circumstance – even if that meant going against another ‘popular’ kid.
And then the ‘neutralists’ were the ones that had plenty of friends, and were usually nice enough people, but would rarely associate themselves with the ‘losers’. They seemed pretty happy with being put in their place and weren’t about to protest – being a ‘neutralist’ was better than it could have been.
Finally, you had the ‘losers’. They turned heads too, sometimes, but heads with looks of disgust instead of admiration. And here, was where I fitted in. I didn’t mind, I had friends, a brilliant family and I did pretty well in school. My life was pretty much perfect.
Isabelle Right was going to be one of the ‘popular’ kids. I could see that from the minute she walked into the Grey Dog Inn on Christmas day.
Silver and red tinsel was draped from the ceiling and glowing models of Christmas trees stood upon tables. I sipped my cola absent-mindedly, humming along with the songs the juke-box was playing, losing myself in the friendly buzz. Waiters wearing Santa-hats carried tray upon tray of drinks to guests, and teenagers with Christmas jumpers sat at the big table at the back.
Then in came Isabelle Right.
She swung the door open purposefully, and paused for a few seconds for us to take a good look at her. It was all there: fur lined boots (with an unnecessarily high heel), thin black coat and shiny, waist-length blonde hair. Her face was virtually a pallet of make-up – not that it needed to be; she was beautiful. And the worst part; she could have been the right age to be in my year.
I don’t mean to sound prejudice, but anyone with that kind of ‘physical attitude’ (as my friend Ashley would put it) would be the kind of person that the year would swarm around for the first week or so, but by the end of the month would have securely fixed a place in a social group. And I knew exactly the kind of social group she’d join…
Finally, she swept through the doorway and gave way to two equally fashionable adults who were presumably her parents.
Most eyes landed on her – even though the most people there were adults – but her eyes landed on me.
She stared with a harsh and unimpressed gaze until I stared directly back at her; she turned to face a waitress and smiled one of those syrupy, sweet smiles, almost a smirk, and the waitress, returned it.
I turned away, and my grandparents quickly struck up conversation with me. I perked up keenly, grateful for the diversion.
“So Chris – you’re a full term through year seven!”
“Yes – yes I am.” I replied, not knowing what to say next.
“Well – what’d you think to it?” said my grandfather, enthusiastically.
“It’s good. It’s good.”
“Are you looking forward to going back, or are you glad to be off?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but a tall woman with dark hair leaned over the table. The woman with the girl. “Sorry, but did I just hear you say you were in year 7?”
“And what school do you go too? Not Clifton Secondary, by any chance?”
“Sorry, but can I just introduce you to my daughter? This is Isabelle. She’s joining Clifton this term, and she’s is year 7, too. I’m Clair, by the way. We just moved here from Cambridge.”
She stepped aside to show me the girl from the doorway.
“I’m Izzy…” said the girl, and then became interested in the table next to ours.
“Crystal. Or… Chris.” I replied.
“Hi Crystal,” and she smiled awkwardly with raised eyebrows, before dragging her mother over to where the man from the door was sitting.
“Bye, Crystal. We’ll see you when term starts!” said Clair.
My first thought was that she could have been a little shy – they just moved to a brand-new neighbourhood, and I’d been through that myself. But then I remembered the look she gave me when she first walked in. That wasn’t a look of shyness, or even curiosity. That was a look of hate.
– I know this starts off sounding purely like domestic fiction, but I’m planning to add a fantasy/adventure side to it. Sorry – just wanted to make that clear…
I lifted the hood of my thermal jacket as freezing rain began to fall from the dark grey clouds in the sky. The bus stop was just around the corner, but for some reason it felt like a million miles away. My hands were turning a pale shade of blue by the time I’d got the bus stop.
I sat down, folded my arms across my chest and swung my legs under the bench. Months of being alone waiting for the bus was all about to change.
Kelfield was the bus’s first stop – so that meant I was always (up until now) sitting alone for a few awkward minutes, until we reached the Tollerton bus stop.
A click-clack of heels against the tarmac reminded me that I wasn’t spending this journey alone. I caught a glimpse of Isabelle’s striking blonde hair, now tied back neatly in a long ponytail, before I actually caught a glimpse of Isabelle. She gave me something of a smile before her lips returned to her usual pout. She sat down about a metre away from me, and I didn’t expect her to speak, or even acknowledge my existence for the rest of the journey, but she opened her mouth to speak after a while,
“So, Heden Day is a girls only school, right, so – how often do we have parties with boys?”
I blinked. “Well… um… about every half term. But I don’t really care about that kind of thing just yet.” The moment the words left my mouth, realised it was a bad idea. I really don’t know what would’ve happened if the bus hadn’t pulled up just then.
I stood up and picked up my school bag in one quick motion, and sprinted onto the bus. I reached into my bag and began searching for my bus pass, while Isabelle rested hers on the counter. She swept past me casually and sat near the back. Just to be social and friendly, I sat next to her and smiled.
Isabelle refused to make eye contact, but instead stood up, sighed loudly and sat behind me. I didn’t bother to join her again.
“Chris! Chris! Guess what!” My friend Ashley burst onto the bus and raced down the aisle to sit next to me.
“I don’t know…” I didn’t, but knowing Ashley it would probably be something to do with Pokémon, turtles or Alex Rider novels.
“Well… last night, I had this dream. You were there, and so was my brother,” Barney, Ashley’s twin brother, went to Aysgarth Grammar School – boys only “and Ryan Timmis. Plus this other girl I’d never seen before.” She shrugged.
“Alright then.” I said, hoping she’d stop there. But Ashley never stopped.
“And then we had this new history teacher at Heden – I think his name was Mr Wickers or Mr Wicken… but anyway, we were all in his classroom and he came in and started teaching us history. And then, he turned into this… eagle thing… it’s hard to explain, actually, but he was the size of a horse – and blue and red and purple. I’m so confused.”
“Ash – it was just a dream. Weird stuff happens in dreams. I don’t know what you’re worried about.” But by the end of that week, Ashley wouldn’t be as confused, and I would know what she was worried about.
“A warm welcome back, to what promises to be an eventful, enjoyable and successful term at Heden.” Principle Andrews’ soft but purposeful voice cut through the assembly hall. I sat next to Ashley, swimming in my own boredom. I drifted off for most of it, but I remembered an announcement involving a social with Ayesgarth Grammar on Saturday night. At least Isabelle would be happy…
Once assembly was over, history began. I loved history, purely for the reason I had it with Ashley.
Ashley had this way of making everything seem fun. However dull the activity; if Ashley was there, it was the most exciting thing in the world.
But then I found out Isabelle was also in my history class.
I sat next to Ashley filled with anticipation. We had the new history teacher: Mr Wickener. And yes, I notice how close that is to the teacher in Ashley’s dream.
The door creaked open. We stood up politely, like we were expected to.
“Good morning, Sir.” we chanted in unison.
“Morning, girls.” This man had dark hair and grey eyes and smiled at us. He seemed nice, friendly, and casual. But Ashley grabbed me by the sleeve.
“What’s up, Ash?” I whispered.
“He’s the- the teacher from my dream!” she whispered back. I was a little scared too, now.
“I’m so sorry I’m late, Sir.” An angelic face of apology blinked at the doorway. I knew that face – it was Isabelle’s.
“That’s all right.” smiled Mr Wickener. “Take a seat.” Ashley did so, next to Gina Arisova. Gina was one of the most popular girls in my year – Isabelle was making friends quickly! Not that I expected anything else of her.
“Now, I have been told we’re working on the medieval church this term. I know how dull it sounds, Medieval Church.” He lowered his voice, rolling his eyes, “But actually, it’s really gory in some parts.”
Mr Wickener seemed bouncy, energetic, smiley, exactly like Ashley. I looked forward to history for the rest of that week.
Saturday night, and I was sitting in Ashley’s dad’s car, next to her brother Barney. Ashley was talking (nothing new) about a new encounter with Gina. Gina and Ashley’s lockers were next to each other, which made for an interesting series of events involving insults, threats and sometimes even fists.
This time, Ashley had been taking too long with her combination, and it had escalated into them both getting detention for two nights.
“Y’know, Ash, maybe you shouldn’t always be so quick to retaliate.” said Barney, voice of reason.
“Meh.” Ashley replied. Sometimes I wondered if they really were raised in the same household.
“Okay, out you get.” ordered Ashley’s father. We snapped open the doors and stepped onto the wet car-park.
“Bye Dad!” “Bye Dad!” “Bye, Mr Clouse!” We walked into the school hall and took in our surroundings. Music thumped loudly. Lights flashed hysterically. Most of the girls we knew were talking, dancing, mingling, and we were standing by the wall awkwardly. Ayesgarth social? Ayesgarth antisocial, more like.
After about ten minutes of just standing awkwardly, Mr Wickener approached us.
“Hello, girls! Having fun, I see.” he said sarcastically.
“Oh, hey Mr Wickener.” Ashley waved slowly.
“Now girls, this won’t take long, but would you mind just coming into my class room for a bit? I have something I need to discuss.”
Yep. I haven’t stopped writing this. I just like writing loads of stories at once. Thanks for reading!
In Mr Wickener’s classroom, Isabelle, Barney and Ryan were sitting on the desks. Yes, the teacher let us sit on the desks. You didn’t need to know that this was the exact collection of people from Ashley’s dream to know something strange was going on. As we sat down, I looked at Isabelle. She was wearing a short, pink strapless dress and wedges higher that Mount Everest. Ryan had dark hair that reached his ears. He was wearing a blue hoodie and tight, red trousers.
“Now children, I am here to tell you that everything in your lives is about to change. You are about to experience something you never would’ve considered before. Except, maybe you, Ashley.”
“What?” she frowned.
“Never mind about that.” Mr Wickener said quickly, in a no time to ask questions fashion. “Anyway, be prepared for what I’m about to show you…” and then, a reddish, purplish light flashed where he was standing. I shielded my eyes with my wrist, bewildered.
Mr Wickener had disappeared. In his place, stood, what could only be described as an immense eagle kind of bird. The feathers on its head were maroon, and its eyes were large and golden. Beneath lay a strip of emerald, and then the rest was gold, including its massive wings.
Ashley squeezed my wrist. “That was it. The creature from my dream.”
“Ashley, you recognise me, don’t you?” chuckled the eagle. Its voice was exactly like Mr Wickener’s. “You’re the psychic; I should have appeared in your dream.”
“Ashley, Isabelle, Ryan, Barney and Chris. The marked five… Psychic, elements, technology, stone and animals.”
“Um, excuse me?” Isabelle snapped, as if everything else hadn’t taken her by surprise.
“Look on your shoulders.”
“Look on your shoulders.”
I did, and what I saw made my lungs freeze up for a moment. An orange circle had appeared, with an unclear stick drawing, of what looked like a four-legged animal in black.
“Look, Chris!” Ashley modelled her right shoulder at me. In the same place as mine, a bubble-gum blue circle with another stick drawing, this time of a thought bubble – the kind in comics and cartoons lay.
Isabelle peered at her shoulder, and shrieked. We all looked to see her shoulder branded with a pink circle, and four other smaller circles inside it.
Ryan had two straight lines, joined up by a jagged line in his green circle, and Barney’s was a grey circle with lines supposedly resembling cracks.
Barney had a grey circle, in which smaller lines curled in from the sides, as if to resemble cracks.
“Your marks,” said Mr Wickener, “Are the most important parts of you. Try touching them, let’s see where that gets you.” He smiled slyly.
I cautiously stretched out my fingers to the circle. As soon as they made contact with it, first, I could see nothing but white-light, then I was sat down on the desk again.
Except, now I was dressed in an orange and black short sleeve T-shirt, mini-skirt, and leggings.
So was Ashley, except with blue and black. I would’ve told her she looked nice, if we weren’t in the situation we were in.
“I would’ve told you you looked nice anyway.” Ashley remarked.
“What?” I whispered.
“I would’ve told you you looked nice anyway.” Ashley repeated.
“Yeah, I know what you said,” I frowned, “but how did you know I would’ve told you…”
“Didn’t you just say so?”
I shook my head slowly. Isabelle was in pink and black, and she was admiring herself, in spite of everything. So were Barney and Ryan.
“Oh, sorry… um…” Ryan hesitated at what to call the bird-thing, “Sir?” Barney and Ryan averted their eyes from Isabelle quickly, and hastily touched their circles.
A flash. Barney was dressed in a black and grey T-shirt and trousers, and Ryan wearing black and green.
“Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. I’m about to give you a set of very interesting instructions:
“Chris, think of a… black Labrador. Now think of being a black Labrador.” the bird grinned.
I did so, without arguing. A black Labrador… Well, I guess I’d be shorter; my arms would serve as legs…
More black Labrador thoughts passed through my brain – but just like that, I had shrunk slightly, had four legs and my mouth was open, and a long pink tongue was hanging out. Was I a…
I looked at Ashley, who was wide-eyed in disbelief. You and me both, Ash.
“Good, and now think of being a person again.”
I did, and I was (unstably) standing on two legs that were no longer covered in dark fur. I sat back down next to Ashley dizzily.
“Mmhmm,” It nodded casually, not regarding the fact that I’d just turned into a dog and back. “Now, let’s see… Ah, Isabelle! Look at the water in this glass.” He nodded his bird-like head at a tall glass of water on his desk. “I want you to move it without touching it.”
Isabelle stood up and approached the glass. She looked at it tensely – and then, the water began to rise… and rise… and it was floating. She blinked, letting the water fall over the desk, and herself.
“Ah!” she cried, smoothing her uniform mournfully.
“It’ll dry.” The bird – or maybe it was Mr Wickener, rolled his eyes. “Now, who’s next?”
“Barney!” Ryan shouted.
“What? I don’t want to go ne…” He trailed off after noticing Mr Wickener’s stern, business-like eyes and smiled nervously.
“Barney, put your hand on the table. Think about something that makes you angry.”
Barney reached out and touched it, and looked back at the four of us, closed his eyes, and I heard a crack in the table. I leaned forward, and noticed that half of the table was covered in dull, grey stone.
He opened his eyes and let out a scream, withdrawing his hand. Ashley and Ryan laughed and high-fived, smiling evilly.
“Not bad at all. Ashley, what was Barney thinking of when he turned the table to stone?”
Ashley looked up, and frowned. “I don’t get it…”
“Something’s telling me it was Ryan that made him angry, for making him go next?”
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s it!” Barney pointed at his sister, and received a glare from Ryan.
“You see? Because you’re physic! Anyway, that leaves you, Ryan.”
Ryan gulped, and Barney grinned at him smugly.
“Ryan, I want you to hack into my laptop.” That was the first time we’d ever heard a teacher say that.
“What? But I don’t know how to hack computers!”
“Just trust your instincts.”
And so, seemingly, that’s just what he did. He literally just stared at it for a while, and then it came on, just like that.
“All done, then!” Mr Wickener smiled cheerfully, and then, the flash from before came, and he returned to his usual form. “It would probably be best if you didn’t tell anyone about this. Oh, and no pressure, but you may eventually find you need to, ah, save the universe.
“But anyway, well done, and have a good evening!” Mr Wickener strutted out of the classroom, and we sat there motionless for the next few minutes.
“So…” Ryan began.
“How do we get out of this?!” Isabelle growled, looking at Ashley expectantly.
“I think… we touch our circl- marks.” Ashley thought out loud, as if reading a book when a glass of water was in front of the page. “It’s really blurry. Like you said, Chris. It feels like I’m reading through a glass of water.”
“I didn’t say it!” I shouted.
“Oh, right…” Ashley laughed. I saw a flash in the corner of my eye. Barney was dressed in what he was originally wearing: a green T-shirt and jeans.
“Hi kids! How was it?” Ashley’s dad beamed at us after arriving.
“Oh – it was… okay…” Ashley smirked.
“Cool. Where’s Barney?”
“I think he’s getting his coat from Mr Wickener’s classroom.”
“Why would he be there?” Mr Clouse enquired.
“Oh, um…” I began.
“There was a cookie stall.” Ashley thought fast, and obviously, her excuse was utterly random. Not that it wouldn’t be if she had had time to plan ahead.
“Right. It’s been a while since we’ve had you over, Chris.”
“Yeah. I can’t wait.”
“I saved the three of you cupcakes from the shop, by the way.” Mr Clouse owned a bakery, and it was actually the grand opening when I met Ashley.
“What’s going on?” Barney bent down.
“Dad saved us cupcakes.”
“Oh, thanks Dad. Wow, it feels like ages since Clifton last got together.” Barney reflected.
The hyper buzz of conversation, the slight aroma of the bakery, the landscapes we drove past quickly made me forget the disturbing experience I’d had that night. But, before we got into bed after we’d snuck the ample amount of cakes up from the bakery, we heard a distraught cry come from Barney’s room.
We quickly exchanged an uneasy glance, before darting along the landing to see him, horrified, standing in the middle of his floor, and from where he stood a grey, stone patch grew under his feet. He stepped back slowly, and his hand banged the wall, and it cracked and turned to stone where it touched it, and it expanded even when he took it away quickly. A horrid crackling sound was let out, and I gasped as the stone on his floor covered his bed, a chair, the door… even my shoe…
I screamed as it began to creep up my ankle and I lost all feeling below my knee.
Ashley looked at me, to Barney, to the stone room. “Change.” she whispered.
“What?!” I asked.
“Into a… fruit bat?”
“Huh?” I asked, and now my whole leg was (literally) stone cold.
“Just try it.”
Fruit bat? Um… when I was in the classroom, I had to imagine being a Labrador. So now, I had to imagine being a fruit bat?
Before I knew it, I was two metres in the air, flapping my arms – no, wings wildly. And best of all, none of me was covered in stone. I looked at Ashley. I tried to thank her but it came out as an eerie screech.
“Barney, stay calm! We’re going to get you out of this, I promise! Calm down, calm down, it’s all okay!” she shouted to her brother.
Ashley thought for a moment, then said, “Barney, try your mark.”
“Yeah. Try it.”
Barney shrugged, but reached up his sleeve to touch it. Then suddenly,
“AH! Ow, ow, ow ow ow…” The whole room flashed white. When it cleared, the room was in colour, I was human again, and Barney was sitting in fetal position. He looked up, blinked, and stood. “Whoa.” Was all he, or anyone said for a while.
“How did you know what to do?” I asked Ashley.
“Mr Wickener told me. Or, thought.”
There was an awkward silence. “Well, goodnight.”
Morning came. I got dressed, had breakfast with Ashley, and didn’t tell anyone about the crazy/awesome/scary dream I’d had last night. Ashley and I headed over to the animal kennel (my request), where I spent most of my free time.
“N’aw, look at this one!” Ashley held up a King Charles spaniel under its arms.
“Yeah.” I nodded.
“Oh, hi Chris!” The kennel owner, Harriet, smiled at me through the bars of a cage. “You must be Ashley.”
“Hello!” Ashley waved, her friendly, energetic smile on her face.
“I haven’t seen you since you went back to school. How are things?”
“Oh, they’re good.” I beamed. “Can we help anywhere?”
“Hmm, none of the cats in aisle 3 have been fed yet.”
“I’m on it!” I stood to attention, grabbing Ashley by the wrist and running over to food storage.
“Wait! Hey, that Labrador looks so much like you did when you changed last night.”
“W-what?” I stammered.
“You know, when we were in the classroom and- Wait, you think it was a dream?” She said, obviously reading my mind. Because she was psychic, and it hadn’t been a dream at all.
It wasn’t a dream. Not a dream. I thought about Barney losing control over stone… what if Isabelle and Ryan were having the same problems!
“Oh yeah, you’re right!” Ashley face-palmed. “H-hang on. I- I’m pretty sure Mr Wickener said I could communicate with you telepathically. Let me see what I can do…”
As I was brought into light consciousness, I just heard a chorus of sparrows in the garden, but I brought my quilt over my head in an attempt to get back to sleep. My eyelids stuck together with sleep, and my dark hair sat on my forehead in multiple directions.
Oh, was there anything more beautiful than this moment?
’Ryan? Ryan! Oh my gosh, I think it’s working!’ a somewhat familiar voice echoed in my mind.
“Ashley?” I sat bolt upright in my bed, suddenly recalling everything that had happened last night.
‘Yeah! Whoa, this is so weird… I can, like, hear what you’re saying in my mind.’
“Wh-what’re you doing?”
‘I’m talking you telepathically!’ her eerie voice was momentarily innocent, offended.
‘Oh, that… Well- Hey! Are you talking out loud or in your head?’
“Out loud. Why?”
‘Just wanted to know. Anyway, last night, when Chris was at my house, Barney kind of lost control of his powers. Like, he turned his whole room to stone.’
“Right…” I began, “And you’re telling me because?”
‘Because, I was wondering if that had happened to you. Has it?’
“Nope.” I said truthfully. “Can I go back to sleep now?”
‘Sleep? It’s like eleven a.m.! And no, I need to talk to you some more. If, uh, that DOES happen,’ I jumped at the her sudden expression – it was loud and awkward, ‘Just touch your mark. We good?’
“We good. Now, night night.” I droned, pulling my covers back over my head and lying down again.
‘No, not night night. I need you to meet me at the animal shelter – kennel thing.’
“Why are you at the kennel? Oh, let me guess, Chris wanted to go.”
“Ugh, do I have to go?”
“And if I don’t?”
‘I’m going to make these really annoying sounds in your head.’ Then a sharp ringing cut through my brain. I clapped my hands over my ears, but of course it made no difference.
“Fine! Fine! Okay, I’m coming!”
I forced myself out of my bed and felt my legs moan at me. ‘Sorry, Ryan.’
“Just don’t even.” I grunted.
I quickly changed and ran downstairs, my throat a little sore and my stomach empty.
‘Ryan?’ Ashley asked me after a few minutes of absence, ‘You on your way?’
“I’m literally just outside. Hey, I think I can see y-” but then I shut up as I received some interesting glances.
‘Oh, yeah, I see you too.’ “Hey Ryan!” Ashley actually spoke to me as she and Chris ran towards the gate.
“Hi.” I mumbled.
“I called Isabelle and Barney.” said Ashley, “They should be here soon.”
“Great…” I rolled my eyes.
“Ryan? Ashley? Chris?”
“Barney? Oh, hello.” I waved at my best friend as he marched towards us.
“Hi! How’s the… you know?”
Barney nodded, to show that he did, then whispered; “It’s been fine – nothing around me has turned to stone since last night.” Ashley and Chris laughed.
“Umm… Ashley, right?”
“Right!” Ashley swung round to face Isabelle, who stood there with a hand on her hip arrogantly. She looked amazing, wearing tight skinny jeans and a light blue half-dress half-shirt thing.
“It’s called a tunic, Ryan.” Ashley looked at me, then beamed.
“That… is really creepy.” I shuddered. She laughed.
“Um, why did you call me here, again?” Isabelle asked.
“You know, last night and stuff… we found out we were…”
“That’s the one!” Ashley winked at her brother. “Um, are you sure you haven’t had any uncontrollable outbursts?”
Everyone shook their head. “Really? Like, nothing weird happened?”
“Um…” Isabelle began, “I think when I woke up this morning there were some cracks on the ceiling that weren’t there before. Because didn’t Mr Wickener say I could control all the elements, not just water?”
“Yeah.” said Chris, “So that includes air, fire,” Isabelle looked slightly worried here, “And earth. Which would explain the cracks.”
“Yes. Wait, everyone be quiet.” Ashley said suddenly, and narrowed her eyes, supposedly in concentration. I looked at Chris and Barney, who looked back at me and shrugged.
“Oh…” Ashley mumbled. “So, it looks like we need to meet Mr Wickener to discuss all this.” She gestured to her shoulder, now covered by an orange sweater.
“Burger King. Where else?”
“I love Burger King.” Barney stretched his arms as the sharp fragrance of junk food hit us.
“Mmhmm.” I nodded, frowning in search of Mr Wickener.
“He’s not here yet.” Ashley said, clearly reading my mind. “He’s telling me to get a seat and wait there.”
“He has telepathy, then?” Isabelle asked quietly.
“Has he contacted you at all before the time at the shelter?”
“Nope. Hey, do they do those crushed ice drinks here?” Ashley asked, peering over at a table.
Seriously? We’d just discovered we had powers and we were probably about to find out even more, and she wanted to know if they did slushies? Ashley.
“Hello, where would you guys like to sit?” asked a waitress casually. She was wearing a black apron and shirt, and her slick brown hair was in a ponytail.
“There?” Chris pointed to an isolated booth in the corner, where pretty much nobody would be able to hear us. That was probably a useful factor to have, actually.
“Sure!” she said, then took out a bunch of menus and led us over there. “Just give us a call when you’re ready to order.”
“Thank you!” Ashley said, then focused primarily on the menu. The menu. I swear, that girl… Oh, wait she knew what I was thinking, didn’t she? “You betcha.” she winked.
“Are we eating? I didn’t have breakfast.” Isabelle shuffled down in her seat.
“May as well. Uh, guys, it’s Mr W.” I whispered, nudging Chris’s ankle under the table as a familiar man walked through the doors.
“We’re over here.” Ashley whispered, so quietly I could barely hear, but Mr Wickener looked straight at us and nodded.
“Okay, so, that’s pretty cool, even I’ll admit that.” I said, and Ashley grinned.
“Hi, everyone. I hope you haven’t been having any issues with your marks?”
“Uh, yeah…” Barney said slowly, raising a hand sheepishly.
“And you knew what to do?”
“Well, Ashley did.”
“Okay. So, if it happens, you touch your marks, got it?”
“Got it.” we chorused.
“Good. So, I need to talk to you a little more about this… Chris, do you want to start?”
“Um, sure?” she whimpered.
“So, as you may have gathered, you can turn into any animal. Well, actually, you won’t be able to do so yet – you’ll need to become more advanced with your powers first. But for now, you should be able to turn into any small mammal. The limit would probably be broken at around… Great Dane. You need to practice whenever you can, daily, preferably, when nobody’s around. Just go through the motions, like, try changing from an animal straight to an animal, without changing back to yourself.”
“When do I start other things? Like insects and panthers and giraffes and tortoises?”
“It won’t be long… Ryan?”
“Uh huh?” I was truly dreading what was coming next.
“So, in the same way, you have powers over technology. You can hack into things, electrocute people at will, make electronic devices explode, make them start or work, and best of all…”
“Yes?” I sat forward.
“Wi-Fi wherever you go.”
Barney high-fived me.
“But, most of that still won’t be very in your control yet. You can’t hack into machines that’re very well protected, and your shocks will be very weak.”
“And the Wi-Fi?”
“Unlikely.” Barney looked distraught at his answer. “But, if you keep practicing these things, you’ll be more advanced more quickly.”
“Great…” I moaned.
“Barney, you’re next. So, you have stone. What happened last night?”
“I accidently turned my whole room to solid rock.”
“I see… Well, your abilities range from turning things to stone, turning yourself to stone and moving objects mentally.”
“Cool! I think.”
“Except you’ll only be able to turn things to stone for now. Isabelle – for you, you have four commands. Tsunami, Avalanche, Flamethrower and Airblade. Tsunami controls water, Avalanche controls earth, Flamethrower controls fire and Airblade controls air. You will be able to use all of them, just not in a particularly advanced way yet.”
“So… last night I was using Tsunami?”
“Yes, but one so small it didn’t need a command. And Ashley? I think you generally know what you’re doing, because you will have read my mind earlier. But it still isn’t all that fluent or advanced.”
“Oh, it’s fluent. She knows every though that comes into my head.” I folded my arms.
“You will also be getting dreams, messages for all five of you, but through just you, Ashley.”
“Pressure, much?” she whispered to Chris.
“Much.” Mr Wickener said darkly. “And you’ll also be able to use telekinesis, and control minds as well as read them.”
I think we all jumped at that.
That was scary. Very scary. I didn’t even want to think about the day Ashley would be able to control my thoughts. It was uncomfortable to have her read them, let alone…
“Let’s go back to my house.” Barney said chirpily as we walked up the North Lane.
“That sounds great.” Isabelle said, as if it sounded anything but great, “But I’m meeting with Gina now…” she began to turn around and walk away.
“Oh, fine.” Barney sighed. “You guys?”
“I’m in.” I shrugged.
“Me too.” Chris added.
“Great!” Ashley smiled. “And Isabelle?”
“What?” she paused, but turned just her head.
“Have fun doing nothing! Like, not with Gina!” she smiled, reminding us all that lying in her presence was useless.
“Whatever. I’ll come with you, then.”
“Yay!” Ashley smiled, her body and face filled with hyperactive bliss.
We made our way back to the Clouse’s place, Ashley hyper, Chris still in slight shock, Barney talkative and Isabelle clearly annoyed.
“Hey, you know your Dad owns a bakery?” I asked amid the different vibes of everyone around me.
“Yeah?” Barney frowned.
“Well, I was thinking-” I cut myself of quickly as a sharp pain exploded in my body.
“Did anyone else just feel that?” I struggled.
“Feel what?” Chris enquired.
“Uh-oh,” Ashley murmured.
I felt it again, a hard, stinging shock. It lasted a few seconds longer, and I keeled over, panting with my hands between my legs.
“What’s happening, Ash?” Chris asked.
“Electric shocks.” she mumbled.
Oh, that would work out. Struggling to my feet, I winced, waiting for the next one. Nope, “I’m okay.” I said quickly.
“You sure?” Barney whispered.
“Yes, I’m sure!” I cried, aggressively.
“Whoa, calm down!” Barney put his hands up in surrender.
“Sorry,” I mumbled. “I just…” I was about to trail off, when “Gah!” It was back, worse than before, and continuous. Like, so badly I didn’t care if this was the price to pay for free wireless internet connection. I thought I was about to die. Kind of aware that sparks were now bursting out of my body, I remembered what Mr Wickener had said about losing control of your powers…
Please work, I thought as I struggled a hand up to touch where the green circle was under my shirt.
“Phew.” I sighed, then melted to my knees. “That definitely works, for the record.”
“Anyhow,” Ashley began slowly, “We should…”
“We should.” I nodded, “Come on.” I got up, not the least bit weak, and sprinted, “Last one there!”
The others laughed/shrieked/gasped and tried to catch up with me. Even Isabelle. She, believe it or not, actually looked like she was enjoying herself – well, for a moment.
Soon, she stopped in her tracks and smoothed out her blonde hair. For the sake of it, we all slowed down.
“What’s up?” Chris asked her.
“Nothing.” she muffled, setting her gaze on the pavement.
“Is something up?” Barney asked, “Like, mark-wise?”
“No.” Ashley answered for her, one eyebrow up, as a cue for everyone to move along.
We walked the rest of the way in silence.
“Hi, Barney, Ashley…” the twins’ Dad greeted us. “Chris… Ryan…” He identified us individually. “And who’s this?”
“This is Isabelle. She’s new at Heden.” Ashley smiled.
“Hi, Isabelle.” Isabelle beamed.
Out of nowhere, Chris twitched uncontrollably. Nobody else seemed to notice but Ashley, who nodded at her quickly. “We’re just going upstairs now,” she cut in.”Come on.” Taking Chris by the arm, she led her upstairs faster than you could say ‘Oh, what now?!’.
The three of us followed obediently.
“Sh! Calm down!” Ashley’s voice came clearly from her room.
“Can’t.” Chris muttered. They were sitting on the bed, Chris out of control.
“If you’re going to change, please make it small.”
“Okay…” Chris began, then, in her place was a moth.
“Nice wings.” I remarked. They had her mark: a stick animal on an orange circle.
In an instant, she was herself again, with her hand on her shoulder. “Right. So, touching it doesn’t work until I actually change.” Then she thought about it, “That may serve as a problem.”
“If you touch it it won’t do anything?” I asked to confirm.
“Not until I change.”
“So how’re you going to get by in school?”
“Well,” Ashley began, “We get those attacks less the more we become in control.”
“Okay – I’m ready.” I said dutifully, holding the card firmly in my hand.
“Me too.” Ashley confirmed. “You can look.”
I raised the card up to my face to study it – three of clubs.
“Yeah?” I asked.
“Two of- wait, no, THREE of clubs.” Ashley said, correctly for the nineteenth time that day.
I sighed, jealous of how easily she got to grips with her powers. “This is too easy for you, Ash.” I rolled my eyes.
“Then what am I going to do?”
Barney smiled coyly, “You could try and mind-control Dad into letting us skip school tomorrow!”
“No!” Ashley exclaimed, then, looking around, at Chris having to change form every now and then, Barney obliviously turning her bed to stone and Isabelle accidently blowing books of her bedside table, she frowned, “Well, maybe we could use the extra practice time.”
“Right?” Barney agreed.
“Hey, if you used it flawlessly on all of our parents and school, that would totally work!” Chris realised.
“Yeah…” Ashley began, then sighed, “But it’d just feel wrong.”
“Well, whatever,” Barney shrugged, “You’re going to have to learn to use mind-control one day.”
The awkward silence was interrupted by a squeal from Isabelle. We turned to see fire erupting from her hands and setting the room alight.
“Mark!” I tried, but choked instead, as a thick layer of fog began to cloak the room.
“It’s not working!” I heard Isabelle scream.
“It is!” Ashley shouted, “But you need to put out the fire!” Then she burst into a coughing fit.
“Um, Tsunami?” Isabelle whimpered. That’s when an enormous tidal wave rushed through the room, drenching the fire. And the rest of us, but still.
“Sorry about that…” Isabelle murmured.
“It’s fine!” Chris dismissed it, and then she, Isabelle and Ashley burst out laughing.
I looked at Barney, who shrugged at me. “Girls are really weird.” he said.
“Is everything alright?” asked their dad, who had clearly noticed that something was wrong.
Ashley stepped forward bravely. ‘You can do this!’ I thought.
“Yeah, Dad.” Ashley said sweetly. “Everything’s fine!”
“Are you sure? Becau-”
“Everything’s fine.” she said again, though this time, with the expression of a robot. “Everything’s fine.” she repeated darkly.
Her dad did nothing but nod his head and step out of the room.
“Way to go, Ash!” Chris yelled, greeting her best friend with a high-five.
“Please never do that on me.” Barney said, but was laughing.
“That was very scary, you know?” I asked, eyebrows raised.
“I know.” she faced me, her eyes solemn, “For me, too.”
I was up at eight the next morning, ready to go to school, when there was a knock at my door. From upstairs, I heard my mum open it and a faint conversation started.
A while later, Ashley, Chris, and Barney were in my room. “Why’re you wearing uniform, Ryan?” Barney asked happily.
“Wait… you went through with it?” I asked.
“Yep.” Ashley grinned proudly, sitting casually on my bed.
“What about school?”
“We already took care of that.” Chris said, high-fiving Ashley at just the notion.
“Are you ready for today?”
“Yup.” I smiled devilishly, “And I have a feeling it’s going to be a good one.”
“Right – so you’re sure nobody will see us here?” I checked with Chris.
“I’m positive. And if anyone comes, Ashley will be able to feel their presence.”
“Okay then.” We were in a clearing in an overgrown wood, just about ten yards by ten yards. The clearing, that is, not the wood. Ha ha!
“It’s really not that funny, Ryan.” Ashley frowned.
“Can I start?” Isabelle asked. Her enthusiasm was on a high today, right from the moment we picked her up at her house.
“Go ahead.” Barney nodded. “Do, um, Avalanche!”
“Okay then.” Isabelle knelt down and touched the ground, then whispered, “Avalanche.”
A massive crack began to shoot through the ground, and the other four of us had to leap to separate sides to stay standing. Out of insecurity, Chris even changed into a hovering beetle.
“He really wasn’t kidding when he said you’d be able to change into other stuff soon.” I remarked.
Chris returned to normal, “Yeah, but insects seem to be the limit. Ever since I changed into a moth, kind of unwillingly, yesterday, I can do insects now. But that doesn’t include arachnids or invertebrates.”
“Whatever that means.” I whispered.
“My go! Okay, okay…” Barney said, getting unnecessarily worked up. He touched the nearest tree and shut his eyes. A greyish web began to spread, along with crackling sounds.
“What’s he thinking about now?” I asked Ashley.
“He doesn’t even need anything to make him angry. We really are adjusting to this quickly, all of us.”
“Anyway, while he’s in the zone, let’s move on. There isn’t much technology here, you know.”
“Hey…” I heard Isabelle say.
“Could you fix my phone? It’s been out cold for days, and I would kill to get it working again.” She dug into the pocket of her dark skinny jeans and brought out a polished smart phone.
“I’ll… I’ll try…” I said worriedly.
“Thanks!” she exclaimed, thrusting it at me.
“Okay…” I held it up in front of me and blinked. What was I supposed to do? But, wait, what had Mr Wickener said to me the night we first discovered all this? ‘Just trust your instincts.’
My instincts, apparently, were to send an electrical current through it that would put everything wrong in its circuits in their right places, and my instincts also told me how to do that.
The screen flashed, and I sighed with relief. “Yay.” I said out loud. “Uh, here.” I handed Isabelle the phone, and she happily took it off me.
“Well, I think we’ve already all made some progre-” Chris began.
“Are we just going to leave this place like this, or what?”
We looked around; the clearing now had an immense crack in the middle, and one of the nearby trees was solid stone. “Nobody really ever comes by here.” Chris shrugged.
“Yeah, but if they did, then…”
We stood in silence for a few beats, until we began to notice, one by one, the gold figure in the sky. As it drew closer, I noticed other colours: deep purple and green. It was like a huge eagle, with massive wings, and landed majestically in front of us.