I spilled forward onto the soft, carpeted floor of my room, although it felt like I fell from the ceiling and face-planted at a painful angle. I stayed there, face-down, groaning in pain.
"Sorry..." I could heard Erika's voice whisper from right next to me. I turned my head to find my regular shadow on the floor, distorted and rough. I lifted my hand, it lifted it's hand. I tilted my head, it tilted it's head."I'm too drained..." The whisper came from my shadow, no doubt. "Get some rest, Era. I'll get to you tomorrow. " Her hand waved on it's own one last time before locking completely to my movements.
"Alright..." I muttered. I stood up unsteadily, climbing into my bed. I contemplated everything that had happened, pulling my sheets up to my chin, getting comfortable enough for sleep. I let it take a hold of me, pulling me into its depths and giving me relief ,preparing me for a new-
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!Aaaaaaand my alarm clock went off at the 6 am ring.
"REALLY?!" I screamed."Sorry..." Came a whispered reply from beside me, along with a little giggle. It was a Thursday so there was really no choice for me but to get up and go to school.
I groaned and unwillingly hopped out of bed. For about fifteen minutes I gathered my stuff, disoriented the whole time. I got my towel and dragged myself out of my room and into the bathroom I shared with my family on the second floor, because Lisa was probably busy flushing out the contents of her stomach in the bathroom downstairs. It happens after she has a wild party. I really, really hate her. The feeling is mutual. But when you’re siblings, what can you do?
So after nearly accidentally falling asleep and drowning myself while in the process of bathing, I got out of the bathroom and slipped on a blue sweater, dark jeans, and my trusty converse shoes. I got my backpack from my desk and rushed down stairs.
The living room was surprisingly clean, so I risked walking int0 the kitchen, only to find my mother, Mona Clarckson, sitting at the table . Her hair was a reddish-brown/ ginger color, like mine, except it was frizzy, like Lisa’s. She wore it up in a ponytail today, showing her bright blue eyes. She was sighing at her coffee mug on the table, but grinned widely when she noticed me in the doorway.
“Era, sweetie!” She greeted me. “Come, have breakfast. Did Lisa take care of you last night?” She asked in that friendly, motherly tone.
I plopped down on the seat across from her. “If by ‘take care’ you mean ‘not throwing me off the roof’ then yes, yes she did.” I replied, taking a slice of bread from the middle of the table where some food was placed. There was a basket of fruits, a loaf of bread, some peanut butter and strawberry jam. I judged it fifteen minutes before the bus arrived, so I still had time to eat.
“Did you eat anything last night?” My mom asked sarcastically. She knew I had this habit of skipping dinner, especially when she’s out. She leaned back in her seat, taking a sip from her coffee mug.
I simply smirked, giving her my you-know-the-answer look and took a bite from my freshly made PB&J.
“God, Era eat something for once.” My mom scolded, but not so angrily. Then she grinned knowingly. “I’m bringing home some roasted chicken on Sunday, okay?” she informed.
My ears picked up. “Roasted chicken? What’s the occasion?” I asked excitedly. I was surprised by the news about the food, but I was even more surprised when mom’s smile vanished instantly, as if it was never there. And I remembered: it was my father’s death anniversary on Sunday.
“Why do you even do that?” A sudden voice from the kitchen doorway screeched. Lisa stood there, dark rings around her eyes and hair frizzy and messed up. She glared at us, green eyes flaring. “How could you celebrate someone’s death?! That… That doesn’t make any sense!”
My mom cut in, trying to calm her down. “Lisa, it’s not-“
“That’s all you ever do! You never remember dad for who he was!” she screamed. “All you do is eat and party and… and do nonsense!”
Mom seemed to have had enough and stood up abruptly, but Lisa didn’t even flinch. “That is not true, Lisa.” Her voice was calm, but still furious. She was struggling to control her anger, letting just a bit leak out. “You know that’s not-“
“Whatever!” screamed Lisa. Then she rushed out of the kitchen, her footsteps heavy on the stairs.
My sister had always been sensitive of topics involving dad. She should be lucky to actually have memories of him. But I guess it’s more painful when you remember so much and lose just as much.
“Era, go.” Mom said, her voice brittle. “ You might not catch the bus, in time.’’
It was still early, but I did as she said.
I was sitting in my usual seat on the bus, waiting for a few more people. It was relatively quiet until I heard that voice again.
“There’s a lot of stuff you don’t know, Era.” Just above a whisper, it came from right next to me. I was startled at first, until I saw that it was just my shadow, Erika. I was still processing that this was all real. All of the shadows.
“Oh yeah?” I asked, intrigued. “What kind of stuff?”
“Stuff about…” She trailed off. “I’ll tell you later, but I gotta go.” Her voice completely faded, replaced by a new one, sturdier and closer.
“Good morning, Era!” Zach greeted with mock cheerfulness, sitting down next to me. He wore a simple white T-shirt today under his red jacket. His blond hair was fixed upwards a little, and his crystal blue eyes were bright and smiling.
“Hey Zach.” I smiled. And then I remembered the events of last night, and I turned serious. “Um, Zach, about last night…”
He turned serious as well, eyebrows furrowed, preparing for my question.
“About your wound… what really happened?” I asked. He smiled with no humor. “I told you last night- stray dogs, remember?” he said.
“Okay,” I said, and took a deep breath. “What about it healing so fast? That’s… I’m pretty sure that’s inhumanly fast healing.”
Zach looked uncomfortable. He wriggled in his seat and avoided my gaze. He didn’t want to have this conversation. I know that he’ll try to change the conversation, and I know that he knew that too. He was about to make up some sort of excuse when a water balloon hit him in the face.
Both lucky and unlucky for him, I guess.
Jessica Matteline, who was wearing a thin off-shoulder sweater and a mini-skirt, stood in the middle of the isle. Next to her, holding her by the waist, was her jerk-faced (but admittedly cute) boyfriend, Jonas Riff. They were an on/off and disgusting couple. Both popular, good-looking, and bullies.
Jonas was with the jocks, having the build and height. He had curly brown hair and steely blue eyes. He was currently smirking at Zach, holding another water balloon in hand.
Zach glared at him, handing his mp3 player over to me just before another water balloon landed on his chest, soaking his jacket.
“Aw, c’mon!” He groaned, taking it off immediately.
“Oops! Sorry, Tech Boy!” Jonas teased and sat down in the closest seat pulling his girlfriend with him. “It slipped.” He smirked before turning his attention to Jessica.
“I swear,” Zach muttered, glaring daggers at Jonas. “He’s going to wish he didn’t go to sleep tonight.” An unsettling smile found its way across Zach’s lips. He started to sound like a serial killer.
“You’re not planning murder, are you?” I asked, taking his jacket for him.
“What? No!” he exclaimed. “I’m just… you know, gonna have little fun.”
“Just make sure you won’t get arrested.”
Zach laughed. “Whatever, Clarckson.” He nudged me by the shoulder playfully, but I nudged him back harder.
His shirt wasn’t so wet, protected by his jacket which I was folding neatly. I took a look at his shoulder. The sleeve was lifted up but… there was nothing I could see. I swore that the wound was on that shoulder but there was nothing. Goosebumps appeared on my skin. How was that even…?
Zach noticed me looking and he immediately rolled his sleeve down. I could’ve sworn that he blushed. It’s one of the rare things that Zach Maeston only does once in a blue moon.
I laughed, despite myself. Which only caused Zach to tell me to shut up. Which I did after about ten minutes.
After catching my breath, I noticed that my friend was looking out the bus window, glaring daggers at whatever was outside. I looked back at the window, but I was forced to look away again because of a bright glare reflected from the sun by maybe a car’s windshield or some glass.
It was strange. It was too early for a glare from the sun.
I looked back again to find the familiar street rushing past us.
“What the heck was that?” I asked. I was wondering about whatever Zach was looking at, but he only said “Probably some light reflection.”
I was about to ask again when the moving bus suddenly stopped, causing me to almost smash face-first into the seat in front of me. Man, I hate it every time this bus stops. We were at the second stop, waiting for the other kid. The door opened with a hiss and the students trickled in one by one.
“Yeah okay,” I said sarcastically. “Then why were you staring at it?” I asked, tossing his folded jacket onto his lap.
He wriggled in his seat but said nothing, gazing hard outside the window. “Forget about it.” He muttered silently and plugged in his earphones.
It confused me how he could change from being all happy and sarcastic to serious and secretive. I didn’t pry anymore for the rest of the trip, quietly looking out the window.
I was contemplating last night and whether or not I would be able to talk to my shadow again. I figured calling for Erika again tonight, thinking that this was the strangest thing to ever happen to me.
I was wrong.
It happened this lunch break. I was sitting in the cafeteria, filled with the noise of multiple voices of people. Teachers, students, cafeteria staff. The ceiling was high and the hall was wide. The tables were all made of wood, painted red and brown and could easily seat twelve people.
I was seated at the farthest table to the right of the middle row, next to the big glass windows under arches of stone. It cast a fair, secluded shadow over the closest tables in that part, but when the sunlight streamed through the windows, it was a perfect place for reading.
Not many people like to sit there. Usually it was the differents who hung out at that spot, but even they didn’t find it that comfortable.
I was reading one of my favorite books under one of those windows. The sunlight was perfect, illuminating the pages just right. There were times when the clouds blocked the sun so that the light dimmed, and I would look up at the window waiting expectantly for the light to come back.
It usually happened every few minutes, but it became more frequent and I was getting more annoyed. I was in the middle of a sentence when the light blocked out again.
“Oh, c’mon!” I muttered under my breath. I looked up only to be blinded by another flash of light, much like the one I saw this morning on the bus- except brighter.
I didn’t scream, I didn’t squeal, I didn’t even gasp. I only put my hand up in front of my face, attempting to shield myself of the light. It disappeared fairly quickly, but I took me a few minutes of blinking at the wall before I restored my sight.
I looked around the cafeteria, but no one seemed to have noticed the light. It was like a supernova! How could they not have seen that?
I closed my book and stood up warily, making my way over to the window. It was high, about twice my size. And it’s base matched slightly above my knees.
Looking outside, I saw nothing but the metal fence just a few meters from where I stood, three trees, the green grass, and… a trail of blood next to a tattered red jacket.
My eyes widened.
I ran outside of the cafeteria as fast as I could, disregarding the confused glares of some students. I turned a corner and spilled out of the side-door. My feet stamped on the grass as I made my way to the bloody, tattered jacket beneath the tree. Except there was no blood, as if the red liquid had dried out, leaving no trace.
Its sleeves were ripped, as if an overweight cat with huge paws clawed at them. There was hole in the side too, as if someone had tried to stick a pair of scissors right through it. It was bitten and crumpled and looked like it was used for target practice.
But the worst part? I was a hundred percent sure that this is Zach Maeston’s jacket.
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