Mind of Darkness

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Chapter Twenty-Three: Emily

I wake up tangled in my sheets with the sun shining through the blinds.

I immediately startle and sit up. “I’m going to be late-”

“It’s Sunday,” Violet mumbles from her bed. “Go to sleep or shut it.”

“Oh.” I sink back onto my sheets, but can’t seem to find the sleep that used to be there. No, something else is there. A nagging feeling that something’s not right. That something’s been forgotten.

“Did we talk about something important last night?” I call.

“We didn’t talk at all. You came in late and went straight to bed. Now be quiet before I make you.”

I close my mouth and purse my lips.

And then stumble out of bed and into the bathroom.

Bleary-eyed, I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I’m still wearing my top and skirt from yesterday, now beyond wrinkly, and my makeup is smeared all over my face. And when was the last time I brushed my teeth?

Confused, I reach up to touch my tangled hair.

And see the ink markings on my wrist.

My whole body begins to shudder, and I slowly lower my hands to read the markings.

See top drawer.

Hands trembling, I grab the top drawer in the sink.

And see a crumpled note inside.

I bite my lip against the scream and take the note out. And read:

You almost made him die last night.

The scream escapes, as does my sanity. My hands tear the paper to shreds before dropping it into the sink. Then I turn the water on and scrub at my arms. Got to get it off. Got to escape the lies-

Violet pushes open the bathroom door. “What was that? You better have a good reason or I’ll give you a good-”

I push past her, out of the bathroom, and then out of the bedroom.

Out of here.

~~~

When a semblance of sanity returns to me, I stop running and take in my surroundings. I’m in the part of the campus that contains the soccer park. It also contains a strange-looking building that appears to be setting its own trend in weirdness. Maybe it has a map or a nice person who could give me directions.

I try to smooth down my hair so I at least look halfway decent before approaching to knock on the front door. No one answers, so I open it. Then I find myself looking into a large, dimly-lit room with a bar in one corner, a DJ booth in another, and several sets of tables and chairs in the middle. The place is packed with students talking, drinking, and dancing.

All are wearing matching gray berets with identical badges.

A couple of teens standing near the doorway grin when they see me.

“We have a newbie!” one of them- Donald- cries, and a couple others push me towards the bar.

“Excuse me?” I say, but no one seems to hear me.

The bartender, who looks like how Christopher described his fencing teacher in a beret, smiles at me from underneath his French mustache.

“Welcome to Club DM,” he greets with a thick French accent. “We welcome all students of the Yin Program, but the best of us get special advantages. Please show me your student ID.”

“Uh…”Not really sure what else to do, I hand it to him.

He scans it with a gadget next to the cash register before handing it back. Then, in a loud voice, he asks, “Who nominates Emily Rogers as a member of Club DM?”

“I do!” Donald cries.

“Actually-” I squeak.

“Does anyone second that?” the bartender asks.

Destiny steps forward from the shadows. “I do.”

Turning back to me, the bartender hands me a card that says ‘Club DM Honorary Member’ along with a beret with a sewn on badge. “In that case, Emily Rogers, you are now an official member of Club DM.”

Holding the beret up, I study the badge. It’s a depiction of the strange daisy statue in the front hall with the stranger motto printed below it on a ribbon.

The bartender leans against his counter. “Now, Rogers, Club DM members are expected to be smart, ambitious, and proud. Bad conduct of any kind would shame your brethren. But excellence will take you far. Are you ready for this responsibility?”

“Well, actually…” I suddenly realize that everyone in the building is watching me. I clear my throat. “I just wanted to ask for directions, but this is fine too.”

The bartender laughs. “Well, we’re directing you to the future. Welcome, Miss Rogers. In honor of your joining, have a drink on the house.”

I lick my very dry lips. “Um, I don’t drink that kind of stuff.”

He laughs again.

“We don’t serve alcohol or drugs here,” Donald explains. “We at Club DM believe in sharpening our minds, not dulling them.”

I force a smile. “In that case, I’ll take whatever you recommend.”

“That’s more like it!” Donald cries, thumping me on the back. “Just wait until you initiate your first member. It’s going to be great!”

I force another smile and slap my new beret on my head to cover my hat head.

~~~

“Where have you been, Emily?”

Startling, I whirl around to see Christopher jogging across the field.

I put my hand over my startled heart. “At Club DM.”

He comes to a stop in front of me and gives me a once over and frowning in confusion. “And why would that be?”

“I was trying to ask for directions and I accidentally got enrolled instead.”

Christopher raises an eyebrow and shakes his head.

“Oh, and I think they’re expecting me to convince another student to join,” I add. Actually, I know they expect me to get another member to join- Donald’s words were the first of many like it.

“After saying no to Donald, you want me to say yes to you?”

I frown. “I don’t know what I want.”

“That’s actually what I wanted to talk about. I feel like we were talking about leaving yesterday, but we didn’t come to a conclusion.”

My head hurts at his words and I wince.

Then, suddenly, my phone rings. I check the caller ID. It’s Hunter.

What in the-?

“One moment,” I tell him before turning my back on my boyfriend to answer the superhuman calling out of the blue. “Hello?”

“Hello. Is this Emily Rogers?” It’s a female’s voice. Ninja.

I try to swallow. “Yes. What’s going on?”

“We got your phone call last night. Are you okay? This is Ninja, by the way.”

“I know- wait, what phone call?”

“You mean you don’t remember calling us frantically in the middle of the night before getting dragged off or something?”

I blink and search my memory. I can’t remember last night at all, and it hurts my head. “No.”

“Wait, so that was like a prank call?”

“No! I mean, something happened last night. Something I don’t remember.” I glance down at the smeared ink on my wrists. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I can’t get out.”

“Can you… describe the danger a little better?”

I glance back at Christopher, who is looking just as confused as I feel. “It’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before. Like… someone else is in my head. I don’t feel… in control anymore.”

The words surprise me. That is how I feel. But why am I only know acknowledging this?

“So you need to be rescued after all?”

I glance back at Christopher again and remember the threats in ink. “Yes.”

“Then we will come to your assistance as soon as humanly- well, superhumanly- possible. Until then, lay low and try to find out as much about Mulan Yin and her family as possible.”

“Uh, okay...”

“See you soon. Bye.” The line goes silent.

“What was that?” Christopher asks.

“I think… I think help is on the way.”

A mental list of times when one should have music in the background:

(1) Romantic music for every time Christopher is in the scene;

(2) Suspense music whenever I’m getting grades back;

(3) Humorous classical music whenever I trip on something;

(4) Hopeful music just now;

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