'Jen….. C'mon, hon, open your eyes, you need to see this….'
Oh no, it's that voice again! I thought worriedly. It wasn't the voice of anyone I knew, but I had heard it before, right here in my dreams.
'Jennifer, open your eyes now, sweetie, you have to see this.' the voice urged me.
Not knowing what else to do, I opened my eyes, the way I always did when I had dreams like this. What I saw was almost always the same.
I was in a long pavilion, the architecture being unmistakably Greek. White columns lined the pavilion, and a small reflecting pool full of crystal blue water was just in front of me. About three or four yards above me, stained glass windows lined the pavilion, depicting what could only have been different scenes in Greek mythology, casting patterns of multicolored light across the floor, prettier than the Aurora Borealis, while the air was crisp and cool, smelling faintly of cinnamon and jasmine. As beams of light in several different hues washed over me, I noticed that, while I was still in my white flannel pajamas, a long gold cape had been draped over my shoulders.
'Glad you could finally make it, hon.'
I looked up, and standing in front of me on the other side of the reflecting pool was the owner of the strange voice I was constantly hearing in my dreams. Or, what I could make of him, anyways.
I couldn't see his face, or any of his other features for that matter, but the person before me was definitely a man, I could tell from his voice. He seemed to be made completely of light, and I couldn't look directly at him because it was like staring at the sun. As a matter of fact, I was seeing purple sun spots just from looking in his direction.
'Well, kiddo, I think I've been visiting your dreams long enough for you to know what to do now,' the man of light said to me. I was pretty sure he nodded, but it was hard to tell when I had to squint to look at him.
Hearing what he said, I immediately cringed. Just like the man of light had said, I'd had this dream enough times to know what would happen next. The man of light would have me go into the reflecting pool, and what I'd see while I was in would freak me out enough for me to wake up shrieking.
'Well?' the man of light asked me. I'm pretty sure he beckoned me forward, but like I said, I couldn't see him very well.
'I-I don't want this..' I murmured, and it was true- I didn't want these dreams to keep coming to me.
The man of light's disposition seemed to soften a bit, and his tone was a little gentler as he said, 'I know, sweetie, I know, but these are just things that you'll have to see. I'm sorry, but that's just the way the Fates have made it.'
I paused before I answered him. What did he mean "that's just the way the Fates have made it"? The Fates were just a part of Greek mythology, what did they have to do with this? But my feet started moving towards the reflecting pool, like my body was moving ahead of my mind, bending to the man of light's will, and before I knew it I was up to my waist.
'Wait!' I called, 'Who are you?'
I'd never asked him this in any of my previous dreams, but enough was enough; I had to know who this guy was, and what the heck he thought he was doing in my dreams.
I was up to my shoulders before the man of light finally answered me.
'I'm your father, Jennifer Graye,' he said.
Then the man of light was gone, and my head went under.
From outside, the reflecting pool seemed to only be two or three feet deep, but once under its surface, I could see that it was much, much deeper. Once I went under, the floor of the pool disappeared, and the whole thing was as endless the Pacific, just blue water in every direction with nothing else in sight. For a moment I just floated there, trying to process what had just happened, but I never got the chance, because that's when the visions started.
The visions came forward like rapid fire, flashing before my eyes, one after the other:
~ A girl that looked so much like my best friend, Violet Digsby, it was scary. I knew it couldn't be Vi, though, because her legs looked like a donkey's and she had hooves for feet. The girl's expression was part determination, part sheer terror as she shakily held up a wooden club, and there was a snake the size of two or three school buses looming over her, its black eyes glittering with malice.
~ A beautiful one-sided sword, a Japanese katana, blazing with golden light. The blade seemed to be made of bronze, and the handle was wrapped in shimmering gold silk. Written on the hilt in intricate lettering was the name of the sword. It was in a language I'd never seen before, but I could read it nonetheless, the characters spelling the name έκλειψη, Eclipse.
~ A beautiful cherry blossom tree standing at the edge of a forest, its pink flowers glowing in the moonlight and their petals falling gracefully into the grass.
~ A see-through girl made of mist; a ghost. She had dark hair and eyes, and wore jeans, a silver jacket, and a green cap on her head. She seemed about two years older than me, and she had a bow in her hand, along with a quiver of glowing silver arrows on her back. She smiled gently at me, her eyes sparkling with strength and confidence.
~ A boy about my age with dark eyes and hair, like the ghost girl, and clad completely in black. He was standing in the middle of a crowded airport and wielding a short sword as black as the night. He was facing off against an army assorted monsters, and I heard a girl's voice, which I realized with a double take was my own, shouting "FOR ZEUS'S SAKE, NICO, BE CAREFUL!"
~ A group of teenage girls dressed in silver. Each girl carried a bow and had a quiver of silver arrows on her back, also like the ghost girl I'd seen, and silver timber wolves stood among the small crowd. An auburn-haired girl about twelve years old stood in front of the group, obviously their leader, and her silver eyes studied me critically.
~ Lastly I saw a throne room the size of several houses. The architecture was Greek, like the pavilion, and there were twelve intricate thrones there, each one unique, as well as about twenty feet high. One throne was made of grapevines, another looked like an office chair, and yet another was glowing silver. But the only thrones that were occupied were two in the back. Two men sat there, arguing in a different language. Was it... Latin? Greek? I couldn't tell, I only knew that they were arguing. One had long black hair and a flowing beard to match, bright, electric blue eyes, wore a pinstriped suit, and when I saw what was in his hand, I nearly fainted. In his hand was a real, genuine lightning bolt, crackling and sparking at its master's displeasure. The second man also had black hair and a beard, just like the first, although his beard was cut shorter. This man had green eyes, a tan, and wore a Hawaiian shirt, khaki Bermuda shorts, and sandals, and in his hand was a green trident, its tips glowing with energy. I stared at the two in wonder, and, unlike the people in my other visions, these two noticed me. The man in the Hawaiian shirt turned towards me, raising an eyebrow in my direction. When he spoke next, he'd switched to speaking normal English.
"Humph," Hawaiian shirt guy grumped to the man in the suit, "It looks like your granddaughter is beginning to realize her future."
The man in the suit regarded me carefully before replying, "Not quite. Her father is helping her for now, but you may have a point, brother. It appears that the girl's potential is shining through. She won't be able to stay in the mortal world for much longer."
He said the last part so gravely, he could have been writing an obituary, but then he stood up. The man had to be at least twenty or thirty feet tall, I had to bend my neck all the way back to keep my eyes on his face, but then he shrank, all the way down until he was around the height of a really tall human, about six or seven feet in height.
The guy didn't seem to be the humorous type, but there were traces of a smile on his face when he looked down at me, like my being there amused him. He reached forward with his free hand- the one that wasn't holding the creepy doomsday bolt- and gently touched my forehead with his index finger. He had a tone of amusement in his voice, and he talked to me as if I were a young child he was scolding for doing something silly, "Patience, little heroine. Your time will be coming soon enough, and you will know what to do. But for now, little heroine, it is time for you to return."
There was a flash of light, and for a moment, I was back in the reflecting pool, floating aimlessly in the endless blue water. Then it all faded away as I finally woke up.
"Jen? Jen, wake up!" my sister's voice broke in.
I opened one eye halfway, but, seeing as my room is positioned so the morning sun always hits it and I tend to sleep with my head at the foot of the bed (yes, people, I sleep upside down), I was only met by intense light. I let out an indignant cry and dove under my covers, though that didn't really help. The song Check Yes Juliet was blaring, since I also tend to sleep with my radio on.
"Jen, are you okay?" my sister asked worriedly.
Wait... what the heck was she doing in here? It was a weekday, so my little sister should've been rushing around, getting ready for school the way she always did. You'd never find Jessie in my room on a weekday morning.
Giving up on getting any more sleep, I sat up, rubbing my eyes. My little 11-year-old sister Jessica crouched next to my bed, her brown eyes wide with dismay and worry. She was still in her own pajamas, and her long brown-blond hair was still a mess. She held one of our home phones in her hands, like she'd been about to call 911.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Wa'sup, you need to borrow underwear or something?" I replied. Jess made a face, scrunching her nose at the stupid joke.
"No," she shot back. "You weren't breathing!"
I blinked. What now?
"Huh?" I asked.
"You weren't breathing," Jessica repeated, her eyes wide again.
I stared at her. I knew I'd been dreaming that I was underwater, but how could I have just stopped breathing?
I decided to put the thought aside for now. If I didn't get moving, I'd be late for school. Again.
"Well, I'm breathing now, 'kay, sis?" I said breezily, inhaling and exhaling deeply for effect.
My sister didn't quite seem convinced, but she hates being late, especially if it's because of me, so she hurried off to get ready for school.
It wasn't until she'd left that I noticed something else was wrong. I was wet.
NO, I did not wet my bed! I mean that I was soaking wet from head to toe, like I'd just gotten out of a-... a pool. Okay, now THAT was weird. I shook my head and went about getting ready, trying to push those rather disturbing thoughts out of my head.
I toweled myself dry the best I could, running a brush through my curly dark brown hair and changing into the St. Mary Private School's girls' uniform; a white blouse with the St. Mary School logo on the corner and a black and blue plaid skort. I then put on my glasses, slipped on a pair of silver running shoes, slung my black messenger bag over my shoulder, and headed downstairs.
After a quick breakfast, my dad drove Jessica and I over to school and dropped us off outside. You see, we both go to this Kindergarten- 8th grade private school in BG, Illinois. Jessica was in the fifth grade, and I was in my last year here before high school.
Anyway, my sister and I parted ways, and I headed up a flight of stairs, made a detour at my locker to grab my books, and walked into room 206 for homeroom, managing to get in my seat just before the tardy bell.
"Gosh, ya wanna cut it a little closer next time, Jen?" Violet snorted as I sat down next to her. It was kinda weird seeing her, especially after that dream-vision where she'd had donkey legs and hooves, but she was still my best friend.
In a word, Vi was a punk. A rebel. She'd come to our school at the beginning last year, and she was the only girl in our homeroom who wore the boys' navy blue uniform pants. As if that weren't enough, she always wore a black leather jacket, black combat boots, a spike collar, and matching wristbands with her uniform. Her silky, shoulder length hair was mostly black, but she'd dyed it with purple streaks down the left side to match her name and amethyst-colored eyes. She claims she comes from around Long Island , but she's got the thickest Brooklyn accent I've ever heard, and whenever I ask about it, she just gives me this sideways smile, like it's an inside joke or something.
"Sorry, I slept late again," I replied, smiling apologetically.
"Figures," Vi muttered, and my smile widened.
When it came to St. Mary's, "tardy for class" was my middle name, and it's a miracle that I hadn't been kicked out yet. Sure, I got into fist fights every once in a while, but that was only because I was protecting Vi from bullies. And yeah, being late so often really racked up detentions, but when the teachers label you "demon-child" the way my teachers do me, detentions are kind of hard to avoid.
"Aw, is Little Miss Devil Spawn late again?" a voice behind me crooned snidely.
I rolled my eyes and slowly turned around to see the girl I usually got into fist fights with when protecting Violet, Sammi Larson.
Sammi Larson and her twin sister, Martia, had mysteriously arrived at St. Mary's about a month ago, and it was rumored that their dad was a famous business tycoon. When asked about the girls' unexplained arrival, the administrators only gave us a sketchy story about an exchange program. The other kids and staff had seemed to buy it, though, and I was pretty much the only student who questioned the Larson twins' being here. They seemed normal enough, but there was just something odd about them that I couldn't put my finger on.
Sammi was the typical "pretty girl". She had long, waist length black hair, piercing ice blue eyes, and her personality made her a stereotypical "popular girl" as well. The teachers treated her well enough, but the other kids kissed the ground she walked on (insert gagging sounds). If Sammi was nice to someone, so was the rest of the school. But if Sammi Larson shunned someone, the person became an automatic reject. Of course, this made Vi and me total outcasts, but let's not dwell on that, please.
Martia and Sammi may have been twins, but they sure weren't anything alike. They both had black hair, sure, but while Sammi's was really long, Martia's was chopped short and uneven, and she kept it in a series of small braids. Also, where Sammi's eyes were blue, Martia's eyes were two different colors; her left eye was jet black, but her right eye was a snowy white, which was something I'd always secretly wondered about. Sammi had tan, Mediterranean skin, but Martia's was such a pale white it was blue underneath.
Another thing that separated the two girls was the way they acted. While Sammi chatted and gossiped and bossed her followers around, Martia was absolutely mute. I mean, seriously, I don't think anyone's even heard her voice before, and I know I haven't. Martia always hung out around at the edges of Sammi's little cloud of followers, but she never included herself; she just sat there. You'd think that we'd hear her speak when she got called on in class, but the minute a teacher called her name, she'd blush rose red right up to her ears until the teacher got fed up with Martia's silence and called on somebody else. It'd come up to the point now where the teachers just stopped calling on Martia all together.
Now Martia sat silently as ever behind me, looking on glumly as her twin did the best she could to drive me nuts.
"Wow, Sammi, you're right! I bet you used all three of your brain cells to figure that out, huh? Good for you!" I crowed mockingly, feigning applause.
"Why, thank you, Jennifer! And you know, that's three more brain cells than your dear friend Violet uses everyday," Sammi replied with a smirk. I moved to hit her, but Vi caught my arm and shook her head, frowning.
That's the one annoying thing about Vi. She's a total pacifist, and never gets into fights, not even to defend herself, which is why I normally stepped in. Vi hated it when I fought her battles for her, but she didn't hate it as much as fighting itself, so I was, like, the constant unwanted-but-not-so-unneeded defender.
I glared at Vi, trying to say I can take her, you know I can, but Sammi saw Vi's gesture and smirked triumphantly.
"You should take your friend's advice and back down, Graye," she said snidely. Then she smiled at me almost evilly, saying, "But don't you worry, hon. I'll fix you soon enough. Hey, it's the least I can do! I mean, we're practically family..."
I turned and flat-out stared at Sammi. What the heck was she talking about? The two of us weren't a thing alike; how in the world could Sammi even think we were related?
But then it hit me, heavier than a ton of bricks; the scary dream I'd been having over and over since I was three years old, with only the visions I saw differing, starring the man of light who claimed to be my father, even though I'd been adopted by my current guardians before I was even an hour old. But... Sammi couldn't possibly know about that dream, I hadn't told anyone! But then, why couldn't I shake the feeling that Sammi's eyes, cold as ice, were trying to pry straight into my soul...?
I didn't stay long enough to find out, because at that moment the bell signalling first period rang, and I rocketed out of room 206 like the devil himself was chasing me, not looking back for a second.
I didn't feel a trifle safe, not even when I'd gotten securely into my assigned seat in room 109, my first period- and, more importantly, Sammi-free- Science class. I just sat there, trying to calm my racing heart, which was beating like a bass drum on overdrive. I just couldn't get Sammi's last words out of my head, or erase the vision of Sammi's ice blue eyes delving into the deepest parts of me, which had been stamped straight upon my own eyelids.
For the rest of the day, I was distracted- restless. I couldn't seem to give straight answers to anybody, and I was sent into the halls on three separate occasions, though I didn't care. I was almost completely lost in thought.
Because Sammi's words, coupled with last night's dream, had reminded me of the terrible secret I kept. I'd carried its burdens with me since I was a child, but what was happening to me today had brought it all to the surface. I'd never told anybody about it, because nobody would ever believe me, but it was true, nonetheless.
I see monsters.
You may laugh at this, you may think I'm joking around, but this is no joke. On the contrary, there's not a shred of humor to it. I see monsters as clearly as we all see normal humans, and plenty of them have tried to kill me. But these aren't your cute little 5-year-old Oh-my-gosh-mommy-there's-a-monster-under-my-bed-an d-another-one-in-my-closet type monsters. They aren't your horror-movie, lurking-in-the-dark type of monsters either. For one thing, these monsters are flesh-and-blood real, a thousand times scarier than something any toddler could dream up, and they don't need to lurk in the dark. They walk around in broad daylight, right along with all you regular humans, and nobody else ever seems to see them. Just me.
Now, for those of you who actually believe me, though I doubt any of you truly do, let's get something straight. You could be trying to picture these "scary monsters" that I see all the time right now, but trust me, you're not thinking anywhere near scary enough. I've been seeing them since I was about three, around the same time I started having the dream about the man of light, and you have no idea how terrifying things have been for me.
The first monster I ever saw, like I said, was way back when I was three. I'd been in my front yard, sitting at a little white and blue plastic picnic table. My mom had given me a pad of paper and a neat little box of Crayola crayons to draw with, and I remember I'd been sitting there calmly, clutching a red crayon in my tiny fist and contentedly making my 3-year-old scribble-drawings. It was a pretty spring morning, with neighborhood kids playing around in their own front yards, and most of the men on the block were washing their cars. You'd never think that this would be a place that a monster would visit, but, the thing is, one did.
I'd been drawing away, happy as anything, but then, out of the blue, I heard it. Growling. I really shouldn't have, but I looked up, and there she was, right across the street.
She looked quite a bit like an old lady, and maybe that's what she looked like to everyone else. She could have been normal enough, wearing a crumpled velvet dress, lace gloves, and a green, floppy, broad-brim hat. But then there were the monstrous aspects of her, the aspects that no one but three-year-old little me could see. Her face was way more withered and crinkled than any old lady's, and her eyes were blacker and glassier than volcanic rock. Giant, leathery bat wings sprouted from her back, and in her hand was a fiery whip, crackling and smoking as though it were longing to be used on somebody. Nope, definitely not your average old lady.
Anyway, there she was, growling up at a house across the street, 419, I think it was, as though it had just spit on her mother's grave, and I hadn't learned until years later that the woman who'd lived there had been beaten to death by her husband for being unfaithful. I stared at the old-lady monster incredulously before rising from the picnic table, about to go get my mom or dad. My red crayon slipped from my fist in my haste to get up, clattering onto the plastic bench before rolling into the fresh grass. The noise should have been next to inaudible, but it somehow caught the bat-lady's attention. She stopped growling and slowly turned around to stare at me.
I made a move towards my front door, which had been propped open to let in the nice spring air, but the old-lady monster was in front of me before I even got the chance. I could've sworn that she'd been across the street a moment ago, but in the blink of an eye, she was standing right in front of me. I gasped and backed up a few paces, and the monster bat-woman grinned at me crookedly, giving me a lovely view of her chipped yellow teeth.
"Why, hello," she rasped triumphantly, "What have we here, now?"
Her voice was hoarse and raspy, ancient even, and the way she was smiling at me, almost hungrily, it sent shivers ricocheting down my back.
"Say hello, to me now, girlie," the demon woman demanded, sounding more like a scolding grandmother than anything else.
I'm not sure how I managed it, but I squeaked out a hello, making the bat-lady beam at me, though I was still partially in shock. Come on, though, I was being stared down by an evil demon grandmother, can you really blame me?
"There, thank you now, girlie. I'm sure you're wondering who and what I am, now aren'cha? I am Tisiphone, avenger of murder, lieutenant of Hades," she said without pausing for my answer.
By this time, I was literally shaking in terror, but Tisiphone seemed to absolutely love the state of fear I was in. She was living it up.
"Ah, it's so nice to be feared," she sighed happily, "Heck, it feels even better knowing that I'm scaring you all by myself! For once, I don't have to share the credit with Alecto or Megaera, my sisters. Do you have any idea how nice that feels, girlie?"
I couldn't answer her. Aside from an occasional squeak or two, my voice seemed to have stopped working. Tisiphone regarded me for a moment, then broke out smiling again, like seeing me scared was better than a bag of happy crack.
"You know, I really should kill you, girlie... But you know what? I won't! Eh, I've already done my work here, and besides, I'm sure someone'll come and kill you eventually. Only a matter of time now, am I right, girlie? Nice talking to you!" she exclaimed.
Then Tisiphone disappeared. It was like one moment, she'd been there, but then she'd vanished while I was blinking. Either way, she was gone, but years later, I'd learned that the man who lived at 419 Silver Lane, the one with the unfaithful wife, had died of a mysterious heart attack the day after my talk with Tisiphone.
My encounter with the avenger of murder had left me in a state of total fear. For weeks I was afraid to set foot outside my house, and to be honest, I still have nightmares about it sometimes. My real problem, though, was that Tisiphone had had a real point. Over the years, many other monsters came, and quite a few tried to kill me.
Anyway, by the time I was seven, enough monsters had attacked for me to learn to carry a knife with me at pretty much all times. My knife is short, with the stainless steel blade being about seven inches long, but it does its job- which is bloodthirsty monster slaying- nicely, and its black plastic grip is molded perfectly for my fingers. You see, by the time I was seven I had come to a decision: those monsters were going to beat me into the ground if I didn't stand up and fight, so I had to take matters into my own hands. Or at least, that's what Aunt A had told me.
Who's Aunt A, you ask? Only the craziest- and possibly the most psychotic- babysitter you'll ever meet.
It's funny, because I'd never seen her before my 7th birthday, but on the day I'd turned seven, there she'd been, watching me carefully as I blew out the candles. She'd never given out her name, she'd just insisted that we call her Aunt A or Sister A or whatever, depending on who was talking to her, though she'd always insisted that she was my aunt. No matter what she did or said, no matter how psycho it was, she'd tell me over and over again that she was my aunt, and she in return would call me nothing but "my young Niece". Whenever she came over, my parents would act sort of dazed, like they were seeing things through a kaleidoscope. I never understood that, but they seemed to trust me with her 100%, because whenever I needed a babysitter, there she was.
Let's get one thing straight here: Aunt A is NOT your typical babysitter. She had these piercing silver eyes, like there wasn't one thing about you or anything else that she couldn't see. I'm not sure how, but she seemed to know all about the monsters that plagued me, and every time she babysat me, she'd always take me to this wooded section of the local park, and she'd have archery targets set up when we got there. She'd hand me a bow my size and a quiver of silver arrows, and insist that we couldn't leave until I hit one of the targets.
Another thing we need to get straight? I AM NOT AN ARCHER, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. I have literally NO aim- I can't even throw decently. I couldn't hit a kid in dodge ball to save my life, and hitting a target fifteen feet away with an arrow? Forget about it. But try telling that to Aunt A- go on, I dare you. Whenever I'd even attempt to tell her that we really should try accepting the fact that I just wasn't made for archery, she'd fix me with a silver-eyed stare so intense, it just quashed any hopes of convincing her of anything different from her beliefs.
Anyway, I can tell you pretty straight that I'm not the type of kid who'll sit down and take punishment. If something irks me, or I'm being treated unfairly, I won't take it- I'll stand up and confront it. And, though to this day it might've been the stupidest thing I ever did, that's the same approach I took to my little, ah, issue with dearest Aunty A. The next time she took me in front of those archery targets, I fought back. I showed her my knife, which I'd stolen about a month before from my kitchen utensils drawer, and I told Aunt A point-blank that I wasn't an archer, I never had been, and I never would be. I could get along just fine with my knife, so cut the archery, please. If I really was her "young niece", why couldn't she accept that, huh? Then I wound back, months of frustration behind me, and threw my knife as hard as I could in the direction of one of the targets. Schwip! Like magic, the knife cut through the air like it was butter and embedded itself directly in the center of the bulls-eye. To say I was dumbfounded was the understatement of the year.
Thing was, I never saw Aunt A again after that day in the woods. It was like she'd walked right off the face of the earth, poof! And the even weirder thing was that after that incident, no one seemed to remember her anymore, like they were all playing a big joke on me. Every once in a while, I'd mention her, and the relative I was talking to would stare at me like they wanted to call the straitjacket patrol. I never understood that, but...
I looked up as a stern voice broke me from my deep reverie. For a second, I couldn't even remember where I was, but there was a very irritated woman looming over me, scowling at me over the rims of her glasses.
I said something real intelligent, like, "Mmmm... huh?" and the woman's disapproving frown deepened.
"Answer the question, please, Miss Graye," the lady demanded, and I stared back rather blankly.
I had to sit there for another minute or two before I started remembering things. I was in History class, my second-to-last period, and the stern woman in front of me, who was now obviously very peeved, was my teacher, Ms. Blakely. As for the question...
"Erm... 1896?" I said hopefully. There were snickers from the rest of the class, and I blushed apple red as the teacher continued to glare at me.
"No, Miss Graye," Ms. Blakely responded disapprovingly, "I'm afraid that the assault on Argonne Forest in World War I was not lead by Sergent... 1896..."
I blushed harder and looked down, mumbling something about paying more attention, and the teacher walked away with one last glare.
I was still coming back to Earth when Vi leaned towards me across the aisle, annoyance etched on her face.
"What da' heck, Graye?" she whispered, "Ya said ya knew all this!"
"Hm? Oh, well, I do know this, I-I just wasn't paying attention, V, sorry," I responded quickly, fiddling with my glasses the way I do sometimes when I'm nervous.
"Oh yea?" Vi asked, obviously not buying it, "'Den answa' Ms. Blakely's ques'ion! Wha's da Sergent's name?"
I thought for a moment before answering, "Erm, it was Sergent Whittlesy who led the attack on the Argonne Forest, wasn't it? See, I know this!"
Vi didn't seem very convinced, but she righted herself in her seat so the teacher wouldn't tell her off.
I payed attention to the World War I armistice lecture for about five minutes- a new record for me- before I zoned out. I've got ADHD, see, and sitting still has never been my cup of coffee. I have to keep myself occupied with something or I go nuts, whether it's tapping on the desk, taking my pen apart, fiddling with my smiley face earrings- whatever, I've just got to keep busy. Today I was twirling my pen with my right hand, staring aimlessly out the windows. That only lasted a few minutes though, because just a few minutes later, I spotted them- monsters.
Their heads and bodies were human enough, but their exposed bare feet were clawed like those of a chicken, and tawny feathers sprouted from their arms. There had to be at least a dozen of them, all marching out of a black army van and into the school with the purpose of drill sergeants. They all had straggly blue-black hair pulled up in messy buns and wore sleeveless pantsuits, and each pantsuit was a different color- one pantsuit was black, another was blood red, and the pantsuit of the chicken lady leading the procession was a morbid pink. I wasn't sure what the weird bird women were doing or what they wanted, but I had a few ideas.
I stopped twirling my pen so abruptly that it flew out of my hand and hit Vi square in the side of the head. Vi turned and glared at me, tossing my pen back, but I didn't move to catch it. I was trying to gauge how long I had before the Chicken Sisters found me. My hand instinctively crept toward my glasses case, the place where I kept my knife during school hours.
"Yo! Jen! What giv-" Vi started. She followed my line of sight and immediately paled. I wasn't sure how it was possible, but Vi could definitely see the Chicken Sisters for who they were.
Vi bit back a curse and mumbled "Harpies," under her breath, then stood up quickly.
"Ms. Blakely!" Vi called to the teacher, "Jen an' I 'ave ta get to da office right away!"
It took me a few seconds to realize what Vi was doing, but I quickly understood. She was trying to get me out of the school and away from the Birdie Sisters before they found me and turned me into Jen-flavored chicken feed.
"Erm, yeah!" I exclaimed, standing up next to Vi, "We, uh, have a doctor's appointment!"
Ms. Blakely raised an eyebrow. "Both of you?"
"No," I responded, setting myself to Lie-To-Get-Away-From-Monsters mode, "Vi has a doctor's appointment, but she needs my mom to drive. Don't worry, we worked it all out with the principal, Ms. Blakely."
Of course, this was a complete lie I thought of off the top of my head, but you've got to admit, it sounded pretty convincing, and Ms. Blakely let us go.
"C'mon!" Vi exclaimed the minute I closed the classroom door. She grabbed my wrist and started jogging up the stairs, dragging me along.
"Vi, wait!" I exclaimed as we raced upstairs towards our lockers, "You saw the chicken ladies too, didn't you! You've been able to see the monsters, too, and you never told me?"
Violet didn't slow down, but she replied, "Those weren't "chick'n ladies", Jen, they were harpies. An' I can't necessarily see 'em so much as I can smell 'em."
"What the heck do monsters smell like?" I demanded, stumbling along. Vi chuckled.
"Trus' me, ya don't wanna know," she responded. Then she got all serious on me again and said, "Now hurry up, we don' 'ave much time. We need ta get you outta here."
"I- wait, where are we going? !" I asked in confusion, "Cuz, you know, most monsters know where I live!"
Vi waited a moment before answering, "No, ya right. We can't risk goin' ta your house. I think i's finally time to take ya to Camp."
"Wha- what Camp? Vi, what's happening?" I cried out. By this time, we'd reached our lockers, and Vi spun her combination into the lock at light speed, as though she'd run drills for this.
"Camp's da only place where people like you are safe, Jen. Now c'mon, pack only essentials, we gotta hurry," Vi said hurriedly. She pulled her purple backpack out of her locker and tossed it to me.
I couldn't help but notice how Vi had said "people like you", not "people like us", but I put it aside. I unzipped her backpack, but it seemed to have already been packed for this occasion. There were a few changes of clothes, some food rations, a Ziploc bag full of lemon squares, a canteen of what looked a lot like the Lyle's Golden Syrup my mom and I would bake with sometimes, about fifty bucks in cash, and...
"Are these coins gold? !" I exclaimed, pulling one out. The coin had the diameter of the bottom of a large water bottle, with a picture of the Empire State Building on one side, and pictures of a bunch of good-looking people who could have been movie stars stamped on the other side. The coin seemed to be made of pure gold.
"They're called drachmas, now c'mon, quit wastin' time!" Vi muttered. I put the coin back with the the other thirty or so in the backpack and took the bag over to my locker. I didn't put the combination in as fast as Vi had, but the fact that she was obviously panicked was starting to get to me, so I picked up the pace.
"The bag's magic, it'll hold whateva ya want it to, but don' pack too much, Jen, we gotta get goin' before those harpies pick up our scent," Vi said hurriedly. I wasn't quite sure how Vi's backpack could be magic, but I was starting to feel the hysteria and didn't argue. I'd brought my glasses case (with my knife inside) with me, so I threw that into the bag, along with a spare pair of glasses and my wallet. The way Vi was talking, I wasn't sure if I'd ever see St. Mary School again, but homework was the least of my problems now, so I left my school books behind.
"There, now let's roll!" I exclaimed, slinging the backpack over my shoulders. Violet nodded and finished strapping something to her back, and it took me a minute to realize that it was a brown metallic baseball bat.
"Erm, Vi? What are you doing with a baseball bat?" I asked quizzically.
"Pray ya neva find out," Vi returned vaguely, smirking at me. Then she took my hand and we started running again, her smile fading.
We figured that the harpies would be coming in through the main entrance, so we ran as best we could towards the back of the school, past the first grade rooms, the science lab, and the library, and then down a flight of stairs to the Cafeteria exit. We burst into the courtyard, and raced across the gravel toward the parking lot.
"Vi, how are we going to get out of here?" I asked breathlessly, "We can't drive, and no cabbie worth his espresso would be driving down a road in suburban BG during work hours!"
Violet gave me one of her sideways smirks again and pulled a key ring from her jacket pocket. "Now who says I can't drive?"
I think I could feel myself paling as I exclaimed, "We can't drive legally, Vi!"
"Le's jus' say I'm older than I look, ok?" Vi grunted. We ran up to a little black Ford that you'd never guess was Vi's until you saw the purple metallic skull ornament hanging on the rearview mirror, and hopped in- Vi on the driver's side, and me in the shotgun seat.
Vi slipped her key into the ignition and started the car, but as we pulled out of the parking lot, I turned for one last look at St. Mary School- only to catch sight of a nightmare-inducing scene.
Sammi and Martia Larson were walking calmly out of the school towards the black army van, the harpies flanking them like an honor guard. Thing was, the harpies were kneeling. Almost like Sammi and Martia were their leaders.
OK! the first chapter is FINALLY done! According to Microsoft Word, this thing was 7, 225 words and 12 pages, not including the author's notes. That's longer than most of my stories altogether, people.
Look, I'm sorry if some of this (a lot of this) seems random and completely unnecessary, but it'll be essential to the plot later on, and don't worry, there'll be a lot more action soon. Hey, next chapter will be Nico's POV, so huzzah to that, right? I'm sorry that this chapter was so long, the next ones will (hopefully) be shorter.
Important things that I'll tell you so you won't be all like "Wait, Zara, what happened?": 1) Sammi and Martia are both half-bloods, and they know it too, though I won't tell you their parentage for the sake of the story. 2) The harpies weren't really after Jen. Jen and Vi just thought that they were. 3) The harpies DID NOT capture Sammi and Martia. Read between the lines, y'all.
Again, Chapter 2 is Nico's POV! If you're planning on just leaving, at least stay for that!
Even though I'm a total fail, please R&R anyway! Please!