Book 1 – One of Us
Here it came again… that sickly-sweet, all too familiar feeling of change.
People are going to tell you that it happens to everybody, and that even though sometimes they’re forced upon you sometimes you will have a say in them, and that eventually, everything’s going to work out and you’ll be happy.
Well, they’re totally, totally wrong.
I turned around to wave my father goodbye, and he looked up from his paper and met my gaze: wistful, hateful and most of all, sad.
“Oh Ariel.” he shook his head, putting down the paper with a ‘tsp’.
I headed for the back door, not wanting another awkward, cheesy encounter, but before I could leave his arm was around my shoulders.
For a while, neither of us spoke, until I shook him off and said, “Why did you…”
He sighed; “Ariel, you may not be ecstatic about moving again, but the job I got here…”
I’m pretty sure I was in tears by now. “Yeah, but, it’s the third time since… since…”
“Hey, third time lucky, right?” he smiled. I sort of laughed, covering my face with my arm as the laughter forced more sobs. Dad bent down in front of me, one of his hands on my shoulder, the other in mine. “Look, we both know it hasn’t been easy for you since your mother left us,”
I spluttered, and Dad pulled me in closer.
“And I know you’d prefer it if we just stayed in one spot for more than… three months?”
I laughed again.
“But by moving, by taking new jobs, you know that I’m trying to support us better. Do you know what I mean?”
I did. I absolutely did. My father has been going completely catastrophic since then, but he was trying so, so hard to make it better. I dare say he was failing.
A/N – Thank you for reading! I decided to write a trilogy, but haven’t come up with anything for an overall series name, so for now it’s just ‘Trilogy’. Catchy, I know…
Chapter 1 – One Of Us
I shrugged my school bag further over my shoulders. My new garden was fairly small, with a hedge either side of it and a stone path down the middle. The gate at the end creaked when I pushed it open.
Opposite mine was a row of other houses, all slightly bigger and grander. I stood on the pavement: grey, but with odd second layers different shades, and looked around at my new neighbourhood.
Just across from me, a boy with floppy brown hair stepped out of a bungalow, and as he came out of his garden, we both noticed the similarities in our uniforms and the identicalness in the logos on our school bags.
He met my eyes and grinned. Without checking the road for cars, he ran across the road to where I stood.
I forced a smile that looked well and truly pathetic compared to his. “Hi! You must be… Hang on; I swear I know your name…” He bashed his forehead with the palm of one hand and clicked his fingers with the other.
“And how would you know that?” I said quietly.
“My mum told me there was a new family moving in opposite us… and that there was a girl in my year…” he said, still bashing and clicking.
His mum? Well, good for him.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“You look like you’ve been crying.” He frowned.
“Oh, really?” I scrubbed my eyes hard, “Never mind.”
“Hey… I have a bunch of friends coming over after school tonight. Do you want to come? You wouldn’t be the only girl…”
“Then, yeah. That’d be great. Thanks. And, it’s Ariel.”
“Hi, Noah.” said a boy with dark ginger hair as we walked through the painted-black school gates. The playground was near enough empty, except a group of girls sitting on a bench outside the school playground.
“Hi Kyle.” Noah said, then, in a whisper, “Did you do your maths homework?”
The boy (Kyle) smirked, and laughed as he shook his head. Noah joined him.
“Ah, well – we’re toast.” Kyle smiled.
“Yeah, probably. Oh, Ariel, Kyle. Kyle, Ariel.”
“Hello.” An awkward silence followed. I shifted around on my heels, fidgeting, as a group of girls walked past us.
One of them, dark haired and pretty, looked back at us and whispered. “We still good for tonight?”
“Yeah.” Noah nodded, not looking up or making a thing of it. Quickly the girl turned around to engage back in conversation with her friends.
Kyle grinned at something behind me, and I turned my head to see a boy with black hair and eyes walking through the gates. He returned the tiniest hint of a smile, before his face neutralised back to emotionless.
“The girl over there’s Emmy.” Kyle told me, “And the boy pretending he’s emo is Orion.”
I nodded as Noah suddenly launched into conversation with Kyle – something about buildings that I didn’t even try to follow. Instead, I stared aimlessly at a boy that slipped out of the school doors. He looked around slowly until he noticed the three of us, then ran forward and yelled, “Kyle! Noah!”
The two boys in front of me shut up at the interruption of their discussion to look at him.
“Happy Friday!” they smiled as he stopped to meet us.
“I’m sure it will be a very happy Friday…” the boy smiled coyly.
Noah bit his lip and stared at him. “You really did it?”
He laughed subtly, with a hint of menace and delusion.
That was about when I saw a window crack into spidery pieces, and then shatter, projecting thousands of glass segments half-way across the playground. A horrid ripple of CHINK!s erupted as water began pouring out of the broken window.
Screams exploded from the two groups of girls, but the girl that had spoken to us earlier didn’t even gasp. She quickly stepped away, creating distance, but stood sensibly and bravely. Turning towards us, she… Kyle said she was called Emmy, clearly mouthed, ‘[censored], you guys!’
The boy ‘pretending to be emo’ didn’t do anything more than raise an eyebrow at this. He, sitting fairly near the window, looked at us and I swear I saw him smirk.
A flustered, plump old woman scrambled out of the doorway, followed by a man in a purple and white shirt. “Can everyone please stay calm!” she shouted, though she was freaking out massively herself. “We’re going to be calling your parents. No school today.” she sighed.
“Was anyone hit by the glass?” asked the man seriously, and everyone’s automatic response was to check any bare limbs. The only one to be successful in a search was the boy by the window.
When he noticed the glass in his upper-left arm, his eyes widened with a jolt and he sucked in a slight breath. But, in a second, he returned to his state of gothic calm to cover it up with his jumper, not to the attention of the adults.
“Orion. Glass. Blood.” Kyle whispered.
“Uh-oh…” Noah began. I didn’t understand what made them stress this much – it was just a cut.
“Don’t worry, he covered it…” said the boy that hadn’t introduced me to himself yet, then noticed me and clapped a hand over his mouth. “Who’s this?” he muffled between his fingers.
“This is Ariel. She’s new. I know we probably shouldn’t… but…”
“But?” Kyle and the other boy said in unison.
“But could we possibly let her come back after school with us?” Noah blurted.
Kyle’s mouth opened and closed, before settling on, “I guess just for now.”
“Yeah. Just for now sounds fair enough. I’m Ron.” I didn’t understand why they came across as so exclusive. Just for now?
“Hey.” came a rough whisper. Orion was standing behind us, his hand clamped to his arm.
“Are you bleeding bad?” asked Ron.
“Nah, I just… you know…” he became slightly more alert when he noticed me. “Hello.”
Orion gave Ron a knowing look. “I’m guessing we’re going straight to yours, Noah.”
“Yeah! Let’s wait for- Oh, hey Emmy.”
“Hi. Ron, you burst a pi-” without a transfer of emotion or steadiness, Emmy noticed the newcomer and shut herself off.
“Oh yeah, this is Ariel, for those of you that don’t know.” Noah smiled, resting a hand on my shoulder. I waved a hand awkwardly as Emmy and Orion’s eyes burned me. “She’s coming back with us, if that’s okay.”
Orion quickly snagged eye contact with Noah, who looked back pleadingly. Orion rolled his eyes and nodded in reluctant confirmation. With Emmy, however, it was a different matter.
“What? She can’t. N-no offence.”
“It’s just for today, Emmy. It won’t make that much of a difference.” Kyle reasoned.
“Yes it will. We have to put all our time and energy into this, we decided!” She began to raise her voice. And if I had to guess what ‘this’ was for my life when given a million guesses, I don’t think I’d have got it.
“Oh, come on!” Ron began to whine.
“Go with it, Em.” said Orion.
“No! Sorry, A-Ariel?” I nodded about a millimetre. I couldn’t get why they were so secretive. The five of them didn’t even hang around the playground all the time. “You, uh, can’t co-”
“She’s coming, Emmy.” Kyle said, with a firmness I hadn’t expected from the likes of him.
Emmy was, clearly, not satisfied. “Emmy,” began Noah, “Sometimes you just need to put sentiments before duty.”
And that’s basically how I ended up trailing along with a group of strangers to one of their houses. “What school did you go to before you moved, Ariel?” everyone (excluding Emmy, who was moping angrily behind us, and Orion, who seemed quite antisocial) was making light conversation in a failing attempt to reduce the awkwardness.
“Have you ever heard of… Never mind, you wouldnt’ve.”
“Right… So why’d you move?”
“My dad got a new job here.”
“Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“What’s your dad’s new job?”
“Sales director for a department store in the next town.”
“What about your mum?”
Well, that one just had to be asked, didn’t it? “She- she doesn’t have a job.” I thought fast. It was the least I could do not to add a ‘she’s dead’.
“Ah.” said Noah, peering over to a paved driveway where a little boy was standing and waving. “Hi Benji!”
“Hi Noah.” the boy replied.
“Is Dad back yet?”
“No, just Mum.”
It seemed like fate had decided that today my life was going to be extremely difficult and unbearable. Because my life was really missing those qualities.
“Okay. Do you guys want to go up to the tree-house? I’ll just get some… food.” Noah asked. Man, they sounded so serious and organized. They definitely… knew what they were doing.
“’Kay.” Kyle nodded. Noah headed into his house, but the others ran alongside it down a narrow path. I paused before following them, but before he began running, Orion looked at me and gestured to come with a flick of his ebony hair.
I followed cautiously, and then stopped when the path stopped and gave way to a huge garden. It was sort of like mine, except much bigger, and a massive oak tree grew at the end. “C’mon.” Orion whispered, so I did.
Kyle approached the tree and sprang up onto its trunk. I watched in awe as he scrambled up to the top, where six thick branches grew out, and lay down on one, followed by Emmy, Ron and Orion. Kyle looked down at me. “Can you cl-”
First a ringing sound in my ears… then the thick smell of ashes… then feeling returned in my body and I opened my eyes. Was I alive? I sat up. Where were the others?
My vision was blurry, but I made out two figures coming towards me. “Ariel?”
I attempted to make a noise in return, but it just came out as a whine. “It’s me. It’s N-Noah… Are you really alive?”
I slowly stood up, though my knees were shaking. I nodded sharply and as my eyes focused and I saw Noah and Kyle. “I’m okay.” I said.
“Ariel?!” I heard a voice. Emmy’s. She was running to the three of us with Ron and Orion. “You… you’re…”
“Not dead.” Ron finished.
“So…” Orion began.
“You’re…” Kyle carried on.
Noah opened his mouth. “One of us.”
Chapter 2 – Two Seconds
I don’t clearly recall doing anything in those few deluded moments. Not even things people do sub-consciously, like blink, or breathe. It wasn’t until a sharp gust of wind crashed through the six agility podiums we had formed for it that I spoke.
“One of you… how, exactly?”
Kyle waited a beat. “Man…” he said, with irritation, but also worry.
“What?” I asked.
“Where do we start?” he finally murmured, in total despair.
Noah sighed, “At the beginning.
“It was ages ago now, but it’s one of those things that you remember with disturbing distinction. You know?”
“Yes.” I knew well. I knew so enormously well. “What’s ‘it’?”
“One day, I climbed the Oak tree, and I noticed…” he ran up the garden to where it still stood, not harmed or chipped at all. He scrambled up the trunk with the same agility the others had, then took a folder that was lodged between two of the six massive branches, then, hugging it to his chest, jumped down to the ground, only crouching a little. “This.”
Noah held up a leaf pressed between two pieces of transparent plastic. It was large and still its natural green, but in neat lines on its star-like figure, was writing, “The equation.” Noah read. “The equation.” He said again. “That’s all it says, over and over. I took it down and preserved it, then the next day, there was this:” He turned a page in the folder to show me another laminated leaf, “And all this one says is ‘Strength is not immortality. Immortality is not strength.’ Then, well, this happened.”
“Yup. And I found this one.” On the next page, a bigger leaf was pressed, “You are strong. Others would not be alive to read this ensuing.” In the corner, there was a smaller leaf that said, “Except for the other parts of the equation.”
“And that’s us.” Ron added, eager to have his name in record. “And you.”
“We all got the messages too,” Kyle explained, “In that order. But differently. I had dreams about it. I was lying in a cornfield, and everything was completely silent, then I suddenly heard a voice telling me about equations and the difference between strength and immortality.
“I barely got any sleep, and Noah noticed there was something wrong. I told him about the dreams, and we realised…”
“Anyhow,” Emmy said as Kyle began to get sidetracked, “I may have heard the whole conversation, and this fitted in because I had the massages too. I’d… hallucinate letters, big, gold ones, in random places and random times, then they’d just kind of vaporize. So, I came forward and told them, then we agreed to meet up every Friday evening at Noah’s place to try and figure out what this was all about.”
“That was how our Friday evening things started up.
“I was staying the night at Kyle’s” Ron launched into his own side of the story, “And he woke up at about two screaming. I wouldn’t let him rest until he explained it all to me, and when he finally did…”
“You had known about it because of some delusional method, right?”
“Right. That method being voices in my head. While I’m awake.”
“What about you?” I asked Orion with one eyebrow raised. It wasn’t like I expected an answer in full sentences from him, and it wasn’t like that was what I got.
“I was around when Emmy hallucinated the first time.” he told me, as if to suggest ‘I’m sure you’re smart enough to fill in the gaps.’ “Speaks to me through other people, though nobody acknowledges them talking.”
“So PEOPLE talk to you about that equation stuff?”
“In short.” And seemingly, ‘in short’ was the way this kid rolled.
“Hey! We need to rebuild the shed!” Noah cried suddenly.
I looked around. While the Oak tree stood firmly, and the only damage to the house was a sheet of soot, what was once probably a garden shed was now a pile of rubble and wood.
“Rebuild it?” I echoed, “Before your parents see? Isn’t that going to be a little tricky?”
Kyle bit his lip, smirking with excitement and Ron laughed. “Let me show you something out of this world.” Noah proclaimed, taking my wrist and dragging me over to what was once his shed. “Brace yourself.” He held up his hands, and stared angrily at the rubble. Was I imagining it, or was the shed literally growing out of the ground? A ridged shed wall seemed to be sprouting from where the bottom few inches of it hadn’t been destroyed, and the Earth shook a little. If I was imagining it, I had a pretty decent imagination (that should probably be checked out be a professional).
The wall was a tasteless, boring grey, and looked awkward doing something like this. Sort of like it was too dull to do anything remotely interesting, let alone whatever it was doing now.
It was now above my head, and I came to the diverse conclusion that this was actually happening. Noah tossed a piece of broken roof into the air and repeated, until, we had ourselves a shed roof. “Help?” he asked, and Emmy and Ron rushed over to lift the roof onto the walls.
“That doesn’t look very stable…” I said quietly, in spite of having my reality smashed for the second time in one day. And we were about to have a third.
“Kyle?” Ron asked expectantly.
Kyle nodded: the nod being grave, but his smile hyper and determined. He narrowed his eyes and clicked, then nudged the roof. To my surprise, it didn’t even move.
“O…kay then.” I slurred.
“Look, we appreciate that this may be astonishing, but-”
“Can you all do that?” I asked, slightly excited about the possibility of being able to do these things myself.
“Well, no…” Kyle said, “I can stick objects together and Noah can materialize objects as long as they follow a specific pattern.”
I paused, “Are you like, mutants?”
“Um, no-” Emmy started, but she was cut off by Kyle.
“No, but it would be awesome if we were.”
“Wouldn’t it?” I agreed.
“We should totally be mutants. Argh, why aren’t we mutants?” A long conversation between me and Kyle concerning mutants, comic books and games followed.
“Did you see their last movie?”
“No, but I heard it was amazing.”
“It is!” I nodded eagerly.
“Um, if we could not get sidetracked.” Noah said dutifully.
“Orion can do this thing-”
“Shttt.” Orion buzzed, “Do you want to see something really cool?” he asked me.
I bit my lip, pondering this question, before finally deciding to go with, “Sure,”
“Okay, watch this.” Orion took a shiny piece of metal from his pocket and grazed it along his hand. I winced and asked him to stop, but he proceeded with the truest smile I’d seen on him. A drop of blood fell from his hand and onto the grass, and as it caught the sun, it glinted with iridescence.
Um, but the iridescence was growing, rising, glowing innocently. I drew in a breath and tried to let it out, but found I couldn’t as the light rose up to our eyes, then above our heads, then it caught alight and a blaze of fire shot up, scorching my face, then settled down to a controlled flame.
I put my head in my hands, happy to see that my facial features were all intact, but still feeling slightly anxious, and was hyperventilating massively. “Ariel?” Noah whispered faintly, but a buzz in my brain tuned him out. I could kind of feel myself falling backward, and my right leg shot out just in time to catch me. I brought my hands away from my face with a jolt, shaking my head.
“Are you okay, Ariel?”
“Just…” I breathed, “Just let me take two seconds.”
I walked away to the corner of the garden to be alone. The ashes were clearing, and the wind was cleaning up the soot.
And my two seconds turned into ten, then thirty, then two minutes, then ten, then probably thirty. I had stopped thinking about today now, and started thinking about… something that I didn’t really want to.
“Ariel?” whispered a voice cautiously. A girl sat down beside me and smiled a little.
“Hi, Emmy.” I sighed
“Hi… Look, I know I may have a little… quick to judge… and now I know that it was a good thing that we brought you here…” Emmy ranted awkwardly.
“Yeah.” I paused, “It was.”
“Well, I’m sorry… I’m going out with my friends tomorrow. Would you like to come?”
“Sure.” I shrugged.
“Then I’ll pick you up at 10? Where’s your house?” she said with a slightly brighter tone.
“I live right across from Noah.”
“Oh, I remember that being for sale. I have to go now… I’ll see you soon?”
“Yeah,” I whispered, “Thanks.”