6: Deja Vu
“I want these moments all to be false. I hope these are passing delusions”
“We are here today to pay our tribute and our respect to a child of God, our sister, Kimberly Masters. Some will say Kimberly was a child who died in vain...,” the minister’s words began to vanish as he glances at Johnny, who was clinging onto Anthony’s suit, uncontrollably wailing. The river of tears falling out of his eyes seemed to never end. Anthony didn’t mind the tears dripping onto his suit or the fact that Johnny was ruining it. He let his best friend cry on him, hoping that by letting out his emotions, it wouldn’t hurt much.
Anthony’s arm was wrapped around Johnny, bringing Johnny closer to his chest. Occasionally, Anthony would bring his hand up to Johnny’s hair and stroke it gently, trying to soothe him. He looked over to Johnny’s parents. His mom was clinging onto her husband while sobbing. Anthony could see that Johnny’s dad was supporting his wife so she wouldn’t collapse.
Johnny’s dad seemed to be trying to control his emotions for his wife, but Anthony could tell he wanted to fall to the ground and cry with her. Anthony glanced over to his left, where the Witches stood. They paid their respects by bowing their heads as the minister spoke. To his right, Kevin stands, looking at the closed casket decorated with beautiful flowers of all distinct colors on top of it. Anthony wrapped his arms around Johnny’s body to give him a tight hug, one Johnny gladly returned.
Since the night of Kimberly’s death, Anthony was always there for Johnny. While the Witches, especially Chris, would visit Johnny to check up on him, Anthony would spend the night with him to make sure he’d sleep and would leave school during lunch to make sure he’d eat. Anthony was known as their caretaker, but he wasn’t there to cure Johnny to fulfill his role. He was closer to Johnny than the rest if he was honest. In the times when Johnny didn’t want to leave his bed, Anthony would lie down with him and spoon him to sleep.
Johnny’s mom struggled worse than Johnny did, which is what Anthony noticed. While Johnny missed school for the past two days, Johnny’s mom had missed work. Johnny’s dad was the only one who continued working. Anthony took care of Johnny’s mom as well. He felt uncomfortable doing so but he knew the whole family needed emotional support right now.
Anthony would bring leftovers from his house for the family next door. Anthony didn’t mind bringing them food. However, his mom didn’t know he was taking care of Johnny and so, he would give up his food just to make sure the Masters would eat. Anthony’s dad was never home but his mom would always make his side of the meal. The nights his dad wouldn’t turn up, Anthony would mix his dad’s plate and his own to feed his neighbors.
Anthony didn’t mind helping but he knew this would affect his health. Still, he didn’t want to tell his mom because he didn’t want to pressure her to make more food and he didn’t want to tell Johnny because Anthony didn’t want to make this about himself. Somehow, the mother and son of the Masters family locked themselves away from the outside world. It would be an understatement to say Anthony was worried about them. When Anthony would leave plates of food in their rooms while they slept, Johnny was not the one who never touched the plate at all.
Johnny would never finish his plate. But Anthony never failed to notice he would only eat one or two bites from it. He would also never fail to hear the loud stomach growls from the pair whenever he would check on them. Mrs. Masters’ stomach growls were more desperate than Johnny’s. Anthony could have been more worried about her than Johnny. The leftover food they would leave, Anthony would warm it up and feed himself.
He would save some for Mr. Masters when he would return from work. Leftovers would turn to breakfast in the morning. Mr. Masters had asked to work during the day instead, therefore Anthony took care of them during the day and Mr. Masters at night. Although the situation seemed stable, Anthony would not lie and say it didn’t scare him. But because he felt he didn’t need to; he wouldn’t say anything and went along.
Anthony understood they were going through the worst. The only thing that distracted Anthony from all of this was school; especially these past two days. Since Johnny was absent, Anthony would have to write notes and do Johnny’s homework, hoping once Johnny feels better, he and Mike could tutor him so he could catch up. During Thursday’s lunch, Kevin spotted Anthony sitting alone with a stressed look in his eyes as he barely ate. Thus, he went to go sit with him without knowing where Anthony would go afterward.
Tyler was confused when Kevin went to sit next to this stranger he couldn’t see well, nor had never seen before. When Tyler followed Kevin to the table he was sitting at, Kevin introduced Anthony to Tyler as his close friend. Anthony was surprised to hear those words come out of Kevin’s mouth, but he felt rude to say anything or oppose. Before Kevin could introduce Anthony to Tyler, Tyler had left. It left the two boys confused but Kevin had shrugged it off.
Because of the fact the Witches weren’t supposed to hide anything from each other, it was easy for Kevin to detect something was wrong in Anthony’s life. He saw how Anthony and Riley were similar. He could see when they had something to say but they were too stubborn to say it. Sometimes Kevin wondered why he liked them so much and why he wanted to be close to them. Looking back, it’s all making sense now.
He wants to be their friend. Yes, they were mysterious, which anyone would be attracted to. But to Kevin, he felt he needed them in his life. Even just for a little while to teach him something or for a lifetime to teach him many things. He wanted to be their friend and be their shoulder to lean on.
When Kevin asked why Anthony looked so stressed, Anthony dodged the question and left the cafeteria. Kevin didn’t pressure him the rest of the day when he saw him later. Thursday night, Chris held a meeting, one Johnny did not attend. Anthony was there briefly to hear Chris tell the group the deal with Kevin was off. Everyone questioned why and all Chris responded with was ‘I don’t trust him.’
Anthony left before he saw and heard the following arguing. The next day, he tried to ignore Kevin, hoping he would get the message, but he never did. During lunch, when Kevin asked what was wrong, Anthony started to cry. Immediately, Kevin reacted by hugging him. Anthony didn’t even try to push him away.
Even though people around them glanced at the two hugging, Kevin ignored them to focus on Anthony’s comfort. As Anthony cried, he told Kevin about Kimberly’s death and how he had to take care of his neighbors. Sympathy developed in Kevin’s chest as he listened to Anthony speak. Kevin questioned if there was anything he could do, to which Anthony shook his head. Still, Kevin insisted on going to the funeral to pay his respects.
Friday, Kevin spent more time with Anthony. At first, Anthony didn’t want to be discourteous and push him away, though it was against what his conscience kept telling him to do. But as the day went by, he stopped minding Kevin’s presence. What was strange to Anthony was Kevin’s friend. Tyler didn’t hang out with Kevin whenever he was with Anthony.
Anthony guessed Tyler didn’t like him, not that it bothered him. It made him feel guilty like he was stealing someone’s close friend, but Anthony was hesitant to push Kevin away. He knew Kevin hung out with him because he noticed Anthony’s only friend was absent. Their ‘friendship’ was created by Kevin’s commiseration and Anthony’s fear of hurting Kevin. Yet Anthony didn’t mind the companionship.
Kevin didn’t force Anthony to have a good relationship with Tyler. He didn’t want to make Anthony uncomfortable or drive him away. Still, when Tyler would spot them together, he gave Kevin a strange vibe by the scowl he would send Anthony’s way. A vibe Kevin couldn’t explain, not even to himself. At the funeral, Anthony didn’t expect Kevin to show up.
Subconsciously, since Kevin seemed like someone loyal, Anthony sensed he would make an appearance. Chris seemed exasperated when he saw Kevin show up in fancy attire with a bouquet in his hand. He didn’t know who had invited him, but he would scold them once the funeral was over. Anthony whispered to Chris while the minister was talking. Chris heard him and turned his head to face him.
Anthony gestured to Chris to take Johnny from his arms. Johnny had calmed down, but Anthony could sense he would explode again at any moment. He knows Chris could take loving care of him while Anthony took a small break. Chris gladly took his friend in his arms and Johnny let Anthony pass him. Once Johnny was out of Anthony’s arms, Anthony turned to his other side to face Kevin.
Anthony nudges at Kevin, making him look at him from the touch. Anthony gestures Kevin to follow him. Kevin obeyed, following Anthony as he walked away from the section where the burial was taking place. Riley was the one to notice their departure. She didn’t say anything to anyone because she felt she didn’t have to.
So, she let them go, not chasing after them but she would glance at the duo occasionally to check how or what they were doing. Anthony stops walking once they hide behind a near tree. Kevin was a bit confused but went along with everything. “Kevin, why are you here?”
The question confused Kevin, but he answered truthfully. “You’re my friend, right? I want to be there when you need someone. You or your friends since I know how much they mean to you.”
The response made Anthony’s features soften. Now Anthony feels like he had to protect this kid too. He sighed after a while. “Come on. Let me show you something, okay?” Kevin eagerly nodded.
Anthony could see he wanted to smile but with the setting around them, it wasn’t appropriate. Anthony appreciated Kevin’s politeness. They walked away farther from the service. Kevin followed Anthony without a word as he guided him. The first place they stopped at was at a tombstone that read, “In Loving Memory. Andrew Davis. 1992-1999” “This is Chris’s brother. He didn’t die long ago. He was a good kid who didn’t deserve his life to end so quickly.”
Kevin didn’t know what to say. He remembered the portrait he once saw when he went to Chris’s house. He admitted, everything made sense now. He asked how he died to which Anthony told him he drowned in the bathtub. After minutes of silence, Anthony started walking again. Kevin followed him respectfully. “If Chris is ever mean to you... please understand. He’s not like that. He’s just... going through a challenging time right now. I hope you understand.”, Anthony said as he walked without looking at Kevin behind him.
“Of course I understand.” And he did. He couldn’t imagine what Chris was going through. Kevin wouldn’t even know what to do if he lost his older sister or his younger brother. The next tombstone they stopped at read, “Susan Garner Hood. 1956-1999. Daughter, Wife, Mother.”
“This is Riley’s mom. Chris’s brother and she died the same night.”
“How did she die?”
Anthony shook his head as he looked at the grave. “We don’t know. Riley is the only one who does. Because of how recent it was, I don’t think she’s ready to discuss it.”
“How is she coping through it? She doesn’t seem like Chris.”, Kevin wondered.
“Riley and Chris are two different people. Chris will grieve one way and Riley will grieve in another.” Anthony explained. “I’ve seen her dad more affected.”, Anthony whispered but Kevin still heard it.
Before Kevin could say anything, Anthony had begun walking again. Kevin wondered if the way Riley’s dad coped was by hurting his daughter, which made Kevin’s anxiety rise at the thought. He looked at Anthony in front of him, who was just quietly scanning the tombstones until he found the one he was looking for. This tombstone read, “Penny Harvey. 1982-1997. Will always be remembered.”
“This is Penny, Pepper’s older sister. See, two years ago, she was hit by a car while crossing the road, making her the first family member to go.” Anthony tried saying all of this in one breath but failed. Kevin didn’t fail to notice the voice crack when he started to mention how she died.
Anthony wiped the tear falling down his cheek quickly, not saying anything until Kevin broke the silence. “Anthony, why did you show me... this?”, Kevin gestured to the tombstones of the family members.
“To show you our bad luck. To protect you by telling you to stay away from us so nothing happens to you or your family.”
He did it. He pushed him away. Kevin was about to protest until he saw the dead serious look in Anthony’s eyes. Kevin never believed in superstitions like bad luck. He didn’t buy the bad luck excuse, but he knew what Anthony was telling him.
Kevin had to respect they didn’t want him around, even though he didn’t know what he did wrong. “Okay, if that’s what you want, I’ll leave. But if you ever need me for anything, you know where to find me.” Anthony nods, thanking him.
He wasn’t happy or satisfied, he felt awful for dropping a bomb on Kevin as he did. He didn’t want to hurt him, and he didn’t want anyone else to hurt him either. Anthony told himself those words once they returned to Kimberly’s funeral and Kevin left on his bike before it ended.
After the funeral on the bright sunny day, each Witch headed their ways. Johnny wanted to go home to sleep since his eyes were heavy from all the crying. Anthony’s mom drove Anthony home then he walked to Johnny’s house. On their way, Mrs. Foster confronted Anthony, explaining how she noticed his changes in eating, constant sleepovers, and attendance calls from the school. She understood when Anthony explained what happened, even giving him her permission to spend as much time with Johnny to console him of his loss. He was thankful his mother was understanding.
Unlike Anthony’s absent father, she successfully created a strong bond with her son, and it made her happy. Anthony and Johnny laid on Johnny’s bed together. Anthony’s presence these last days has soothed Johnny. Yet to see his best friend taking care of his family out of his will was a sight Johnny disliked. Yes, he was grateful for Anthony’s actions but knowing he and his mom could be negatively affecting Anthony worried him for his friend as well.
Though selfish, Johnny acknowledged he needed him. He needed his closest friend right now. Johnny wanted to stop feeling the hole in his heart. The sense of rage towards a monster out of his imagination was indescribable. He wanted time to stop, just for a moment, a tiny break from this world to take everything in and process it.
It’s what he wanted to feel: peace. Anthony fell fast asleep next to Johnny. Usually, Anthony would wait until Johnny fell asleep and then would leave. Today was a reversal of that. Once he heard Anthony’s soft snores, Johnny made a move to get out of his arms.
He slowly, careful not to wake his friend up, entangles himself out of Anthony’s arms, replacing his body with a large pillow. Johnny never knew Anthony was a heavy sleeper or he could have not been getting enough sleep these days. The thought tugged on Johnny’s heart. Walking down the stairs, not at a slow pace or a fast one, he exited the house.
After a few minutes of riding his bike across town, he arrives at the house the Witches went to when they needed somewhere to run away to. He knocked on the door a few times and waited. A familiar man opened the door, his eyes widened slightly seeing the boy in front of him. “Johnny, hey. Chris said you’d be home. What are you doing here?” Johnny could see the sympathy behind his eyes though the man tried to hide it.
Sympathy was something he had never felt before since no one had ever given him some. Now, as he receives it, it’s nice. Even if it’s fake, it’s nice. “Hi, Mr. Davis. I’m here to see Chris. Is he here?” Mr. Davis nods, opening the door wider and stepping out of the way to let Johnny in.
Johnny muttered a thank you as he stepped inside to the house he has been at many times. “Upstairs. You know where to find him.”, Mr. Davis informed Johnny as he closed the door. Johnny smiled and bowed his head, a habit he had developed when saying thank you, or being respectful.
“Hey, Johnny?”, Mr. Davis calls out when Johnny is about to walk up the stairs. He turns his body to face the man.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” There were five words he has been constantly hearing these past days. He expected to hear them from everyone at this point. Still, they reminded him of what happened. Pushing back the memory of finding his sister in her room lifeless to forget it was not the proper thing to do. He could mentally hurt himself.
Johnny knew that but he didn’t know what else to do. He swallows the lump in his throat that suddenly formed and ignored the pain in his chest. “Thank you. I’m sorry for yours too.”
And he left upstairs before he could hear or see Chris’s father’s response. Once he had reached the known hallway, he walked past the doors to his destination. Johnny noticed how Andrew’s room was closed, possibly locked but Johnny didn’t want to snoop. He came for only one purpose. He knocked on the closed door next to Andrew’s, hearing a quiet ‘come in’ from the other side.
Hesitantly, Johnny opened the door. Chris was on his bed reading a book when he looked up. As soon as Chris’s eyes locked with Johnny’s, Chris rushed over to him, practically jumping off the bed. “Johnny? What are you doing here? Is everything okay? Wasn’t Anthony supposed to care for you? Where’s Anthony? Are-”
“Chris, I came to talk to you. I left Anthony at my house. He’s fine.” Johnny cut Chris’s rambling. Chris immediately stopped talking and relaxed knowing everything was fine.
“Then, what do you want to talk about?” Chris went to sit on his bed, gesturing Johnny to the same. At first, when they sat down, Johnny didn’t say anything and started to fiddle with his fingers, looking down. Chris was patient with Johnny’s response. He didn’t want to rush the latter.
“The pain...” Johnny quietly says. “How did you get over it so fast? You lost someone special too. How did you do it? Can you... can you teach me?”
A few tears fell out of both their eyes by Johnny’s desperate voice. Chris whispered a quick ‘come here’ and pulled Johnny into a hug. With Johnny’s head resting on Chris’s shoulder, he lets out more tears he didn’t know he still had. The more he cried, the tighter he hugged Chris. Chris pats his back, letting his friend cry until he couldn’t anymore.
Seeing the younger cry brought back memories of his little brother. Soon, he started to cry with Johnny, finally letting someone see his tears rather than waiting until dark and softly crying to sleep. The two let each other cry in each other’s arms. It was a moment they needed. The moment of acceptance.
A time to let go and move on. It was hard to say goodbye to their loved ones, but they didn’t want to be held back anymore. They were ready to let go. After a few minutes of sorrow, the two had calmed down. They held each other, sniffling once in a while until they pulled away and wiped their remaining tears with their hands.
“It never went away, Johnny. I don’t think it ever will. We can’t lie to ourselves and say they’re still here in spirit. We’re going to feel like this forever, Johnny. But instead of forgetting about this pain, let’s embrace it. Let’s grow from it. It’ll take time, I know but eventually, we’ll be okay. When we think about them, instead of crying, we’ll laugh at the happy memories. We’ll be fine someday, I guarantee it.”
Johnny understood him. He was right. Johnny didn’t want to cry at the extraordinary moments with his sister. A favorite memory of Kimberly appeared in Johnny’s mind and he chuckled.
“I remember one time during sunset. She wanted to take a picture of it from a great view, so she decided to climb a tree in the forest. I remember going with her and she helped me climb the tree so I could see the view too. I was terrified of climbing but she told me she would always take care of me. I remember the view being breathtaking and indescribable. It was the kind of thing you had to experience it to feel it. The climb was worth it, and Kimberly got the picture she wanted. That night, she gave me her camera. I never leave my house without it. Except... today.”
That’s true. Johnny wasn’t carrying his signature camera. “Johnny, would you be comfortable telling me how you found your sister?”, Chris carefully asked.
For a moment, Johnny stays quiet, not moving but zoning out. Chris stayed silent as he waited for his answer. Talking about an event helps, it’s common knowledge. But there are times where one can simply not bring themselves to say anything because they can’t. Because they feel weak. Johnny doesn’t want to feel weak anymore.
“I felt something before I went to check on her.”, bluntly, Johnny stated, not caring to take a glance at Chris.
“What did you feel?” Johnny inhales and lets it out in a sigh before he continues.
“Powerless. I think... Daemon took over my body. I stopped feeling... anything and... I wanted to move or do anything, but I couldn’t. I felt like I had nothing. As if I didn’t have a body or control. What doesn’t make sense was the headache I felt and the feeling of almost passing out.” Chris listened to every word Johnny said but became confused by the mention of something not making sense.
“What do you mean it doesn’t make sense? It makes perfect sense.” Now the latter is confused. He asked ‘how?’, to which Chris gets up from the bed and tells him to go stand by the wall. “Alright, I’m going to try not to hurt you.” Johnny nods.
Johnny is suddenly pushed against the wall by all of Chris’s strength like he was trying to push him through the wall. A yelp escaped Johnny’s lips, a new pain was forming on his back and on his shoulders where Chris was pinning him from. Then Chris lets Johnny go when he sees his pained expression. Johnny placed a hand on his back where the pain was worse, trying to ease it. When he looked up to Chris’s concerned eyes, Johnny stared back at him with annoyance.
“Why the hell did you do that?”, he questioned, still rubbing his back.
“Daemon did that to your mind, it hurt, which explains your headache. When you’re hurt or being hurt, passing out is a reaction most of us have.”, Chris explained. “Daemon was pushing you against the wall while THEY took over your body. Your brain is what controls your whole body. Our brains are THEIR main target.”
Johnny gasps, finally looking at Chris with wide eyes. “They didn’t want me to save my sister...”
The bewildered look on Johnny’s face turns somber. Tears start to fall out of his eyes again. They’re not sad tears. They’re tears of rage. Now, all Johnny sees is red.
He turned to the wall he was previously pushed on and started aggressively punching it. Chris’s instant reaction was to stop him, but he held himself back. Instead, he left to get the first aid kit from his bathroom. He was in such a hurry that when he entered it, the traumatic memory he had in the bathroom didn’t cross his mind. Chris came back running into his room to find Johnny on the floor with his knees tucked into his chest, sobbing.
Without any words, he walked up to Johnny, grabbing his now bloody hand and began to treat it, just like how he had watched Anthony do it whenever any member got hurt. Suddenly, Chris’s walkie talkie goes off.
“Guys. Guys, this is Anthony. We have an emergency. Are you there? Over.” The panic in Anthony’s voice made both their anxieties rise. Chris stopped treating Johnny’s wound to answer it.
“This is Chris. What’s going on? Over.” Instantly Anthony replies but he seems to be crying now.
“Chris... I lost Johnny. I don’t know where he is-”, Anthony kept rambling, but Chris blurred the rest of the words as he sighed in relief.
“Anthony, don’t worry. Johnny is here at my house. Over.” Anthony sounded like he had let out a breath of relief. He asked how Johnny was doing and Chris replied saying he was fine, and they were only talking about a few things. Lastly, Anthony thanked Chris for taking care of him. Chris walked back to care for Johnny’s wounds once Anthony hung up.
As he did, he noticed how Johnny would just stare at his hand being patched, lost in thought. “You should take a break.”
Johnny looks up to his leader, shaking his head. “No. You didn’t take a break from us so neither will I.”
Stubborn, Chris thought.
“I’m your leader. I can’t take breaks.” To this, Johnny shuts up and Chris finishes taking care of him. After this, Johnny decided to go home. Chris let him, walking him outside.
“Chris, can we visit Andrew and Kimberly more often now?” It was an innocent question, but it made the leader smile.
“Of course. Whenever you want, we’ll go.”
Johnny returned the smile.
The distance back to his house was a short one. The cemetery was near the school he attended with Anthony and Johnny. The whole way back, he wondered what he had done wrong or why Anthony didn’t want to be his friend. He thought it was for the fact Anthony had trouble letting people into his life. But at the same time, a little voice in Kevin’s head said spiteful words to him.
As he arrived home, he spotted Tyler sitting on the small steps of Kevin’s porch. Tyler looked up to see his best friend arriving and he at once perked up. They greeted each other, even doing their signature handshake. Kevin was happy he still had his childhood friend beside him. But there comes a time in life when one wishes to have more friends than they already do.
Kevin could have been in that state at the moment. He invited his friend into his house. When they entered the house, Kevin could hear the faint sound of the radio and water dripping, most likely his mom doing the dishes in the kitchen. Kevin predicted his sister was with a friend, his brother was asleep, and his dad was at work due to the lack of sound from the rest of the house. He walks over to the kitchen.
As he predicted, his mom was washing the dishes while listening to the radio. He let his mom know Tyler was there and they were going to hang out in Kevin’s room. Mrs. Grant approved and greeted Tyler before getting back to washing the dirty plates in the sink. The boys walk upstairs to Kevin’s room. “So, have you completed your project yet? It’s due on Monday, you know.”
Kevin hums in response. “Yes. You?” Tyler nods as well.
“So, what do you want to do today?” Kevin shrugged. “Do you want to play chess? Or cards?”
“Honestly, Tyler, I want to talk to you about something.”, Kevin admitted, grabbing Tyler’s attention.
“How have you been doing these days?”, hesitantly, Kevin asks.
Tyler frowns in confusion. “Fine. How about you?”
“I’ve been good too.” For as long as Tyler had known Kevin, he always had a habit of looking at the ground while biting his lip whenever he had something to say. He never told Kevin this habit so Kevin wouldn’t try to stop himself, therefore Tyler could always know something was on his mind.
“Kevin, spit it out. What’s going on?” Kevin looks at Tyler, letting out a sigh after a while.
“You know that kid I’ve been hanging out with? Anthony?” Tyler’s worried expression turned annoyed. He muttered a low “yes” but the change in Tyler’s face was noticed by Kevin and he didn’t want to let it slide. “Do you not like Anthony or something?”
Silence took over them and the more seconds passed, the more impatient Kevin got with Tyler’s answer. To be honest, he doesn’t know what came over him. “Kevin, can you do me a favor and stay away from him, please?”
To this, Kevin got offended. “What? Why? Now you’re telling me to stay away from him when he already told me himself? Is it me? Is it something about me?”
“They pushed you away?”, Tyler asked, interrupting him.
“Anthony told me to stay away from him and his friend because of the bad luck they carry, which is complete bullshit. It’s something I did, right?” Kevin was frustrated and confused.
Tyler sighed. “You should listen to him.”
“Why do you hate him so much?”, Kevin questioned. He didn’t understand. If Tyler was his best friend, wouldn’t he be supportive if Kevin wanted to make a new friend? Shouldn’t he be consoling Kevin right now because someone didn’t want to be his friend?
“I don’t hate him, Kevin. I just want you to be safe. You’re my best friend. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”, while Tyler’s words were true, he wanted to stop the argument. Kevin’s face softened.
“I’ll be okay, Tyler. I don’t need your protection anymore. But my gut tells me-”
“Stay away from him, Kevin. You don’t know them-”, Tyler had interrupted Kevin only to be interrupted himself.
“Neither do you, Tyler. But since you’re my best friend, I’ll stay away.”, Kevin lowly says. Tyler smiles and pats Kevin’s shoulder. Kevin returns a sad smile with his fingers crossed behind his back.
While there are cities that have views of mountains, Lylac, being a small town, had its view of a forest. It was a large forest of bur oak trees. Insects and animals called it their home years ago. This place was called property. Trees were cut down for the man who wanted to build his mansion there. The man seemed to be hiding or running away. No one knows the real story of that man.
Rumor says this place was deserted once the owner died. Years later, another man found the abandoned setting and built a town out of the remains. The original owner’s house became the town hall, which stands in the center of Lylac. The whole town is surrounded by trees. In total, three neighborhoods made most of the town.
Two middle-class neighborhoods and one neighborhood of apartment buildings to be exact. Anthony and Johnny lived in one of the two middle-class neighborhoods. Their houses faced directly to the forest. Years ago, Anthony and Johnny decided to explore the forest together. Minutes after diving in, they realized they were lost.
Determined to go back home, they continued to walk until they spotted a house in the middle of the forest. The house held a family. Though not fluent English speakers, they helped Anthony and Johnny find their way home. Still, the best friends kept coming back to hang out with the family. They picked up some of their language but forgot what they learned as they grew up.
But one day when they came to the house, no one answered. They entered inside through the broken door to find the family shot or stabbed to death while sleeping. The moment finding them was traumatic, but they honestly don’t remember it. Nothing could trigger the memory to return. Either way, they never returned to the house.
Five years later, after they met the rest of the club, developed their reputation as the Witches and their hideout was revealed, they needed a new place. Deja Vu hit Anthony and Johnny when they remembered the house in the woods. Upon arriving, nothing changed in the house. When they entered the rooms, the family’s bodies were left to rot, leaving behind their bones. The 11-year-olds took the mattresses and sheets stained with dry blood and piled with the family’s remains, burning everything down somewhere far away to not reveal their new spot.
They replaced the broken door with a blanket, kept the furniture where it was found, kept the clothes the family left behind, kept the photos on the wall, threw away whatever was in the fridge, and made that place their own. The abandoned house of the Chinese family was rebuilt by all of them. It’s why the house was so special to them. It holds a lot of old memories and they make new memories too.
Some were good and others were bad, like the one happening right now. “Who the hell invited that untrustworthy son of a-”
“Language.”, Mike calmly cuts off his leader. Chris sends an annoyed glare at Mike, but Mike’s not intimidated by it. Instead, he waits for the rest Chris had to say, making Chris roll his eyes.
“Who invited him after I forbid you to talk to him?”, Chris’s voice was now calmer than before. Still, no one in the living room answered. They stared at one another confused or mentally accusing.
Pepper suddenly raised her hand. Chris nods at her to speak. “May I ask why we are forbidden to interact with him?” The question sparked an agreement from more members and soon, they argued with each other.
“Enough!”, Chris shouted, clapping his hands together to look at Pepper. “Pepper, my orders have been given. Questioning them won’t make me change my mind.”, he stated.
Nathan suddenly raised his hand. “Pepper is allowed to question what you say, Chris. Our club is a democracy and as a democracy, we have the right to vote against your orders.” Nathan turned his attention to the silent members sitting down. “Everyone in favor of Chris’s rule, raise your hand.” The whole club but Mike and Chris raise their hands. Chris is more stunned when he sees Riley raising her hand. Nathan was satisfied. “Chris, I know you’re our leader and you’re looking out for us but please remember, we are Witches too. You’re not alone to make your own decisions for us.”
Yes, Nathan was mature for his age, despite being three months younger than Chris. In another life, Nathan would be their leader. He had grown these last years. However, with Chris as the leader now, Nathan would have to wait until his time came. Somehow, Chris was ready for it to become a reality.
Along with voting with the rest of the members, Anthony’s tension faded, and he was able to grin now. “Mike, why didn’t you vote with us?”, Lincoln innocently asked out of the blue. Mike’s gaze was turned to Lincoln, calm yet somewhat being cold.
“Because I agree with him. I can’t see if he’s a traitor or not. After seeing the newspaper article, he lost my trust.”, Mike admitted, not making eye contact with anyone. “Riley, why did you vote?” Everyone directed their attention to her.
She thought about what to say. She didn’t know either. Did she trust him? She was sure she didn’t. But what was it about him, she thought. In the end, she admitted, “My gut tells me he’s a nice person.”
Anthony secretly smiles at her response when no one was looking at him, for he could confirm her statement.
The first quarter moon shined above them. The many stars accompanying the moon made the sky shimmer in delight. The local cemetery they were heading to was locked this late at night. They came prepared for it. The plan was for all members with a loved one in the cemetery to go in while the remaining four members stayed outside.
Before this week’s incident, they were supposed to meet on Thursday to get ready for the full moon next week. Once the incident happened, Chris decided to do the same ritual they did when someone in their family died. It was that their souls were rested and even reborn into a new life in peace. Riley usually did these as she did it for Chris when Andrew passed. Chris volunteered to do it for Kimberly and the rest wanted to tag along to visit their loved ones.
The fence surrounding the perimeter of the cemetery was made of black iron bars. Thankfully, it wasn’t topped with barbed wire. Either way, this place was so familiar to them, there was even a hidden hole under the fence. It was in a place only they knew, and it was used to slip under the fence to go in and out. Riley, Pepper, and Chris brought their own flashlights and white candles.
Chris was the first to crawl under the fence, mostly using his upper body strength to drag himself. When Riley was about to go next, they heard a hushed shout directed toward them. It was extremely familiar, so they weren’t scared. They were more surprised at the person coming out from the shadows with his own white candle and flashlight. “Johnny?”, in sync, everyone questioned.
Johnny simply nodded. “Yup. It’s me.”, he clarified.
“What are you doing here? I told you to take a break.”, Chris protested from the other side of the fence.
“Just as you didn’t take a break, I’m not going to either. I’m a Witch. It’s my responsibility to be here. Besides... I wanted to say goodbye to my sister.”, he stated. There was so much emotion, strength, passion, determination, and power in his voice. The moment of grieving for his loss is over. It’s time to stand up again, put one foot in front of the other, and just keep walking on.
Everyone didn’t stop him. Soon, Riley, Johnny, and Pepper were on the other side of the fence. “If anything happens, you know what to do.”, Anthony handed the walkie talkie through the fence to Chris. He nodded at Anthony before the four walked further into the cemetery.
The four boys sat down against the fence, minds wandering off. “Don’t you ever laugh as the hearse goes by...”, Lincoln suddenly started singing. “For you may be the next to die. They-”
“Lincoln?”, Lincoln turned his head to the smaller boy next to him. He hummed when he looked at him, showing Nathan he was listening. “Could you please not sing?” Anthony and Mike looked over at the two boys. Lincoln could see the slight anxiety in Nathan’s eyes and his song was not helping. So, Lincoln nods, knowing Nathan wasn’t trying to be rude but he was a bit scared about being at a cemetery at night. Nathan smiles at Lincoln’s understanding.
Meanwhile, in the cemetery, each Witch is kneeling in front of their loved one’s graves with the lit candles on the tombstone. The graves weren’t so far from each other that they couldn’t see each other. After minutes of silence, Riley was the first to open her mouth. "You and I must make a pact.”, she sang. “We must bring salvation back." Due to it being quiet, everyone could hear her voice. She kept singing while the rest didn’t look at her. “Where there is love...”
“I’ll be there.”, Chris harmonized with Riley, making her smile a bit. Their voices weren’t angelic, they were average. But it didn’t matter now. A song was what everyone needed for comfort at the moment.
“I’ll reach out my hand to you. I’ll have faith in all you do.”, Riley and Chris sang together. Pepper and Johnny unknowingly started to develop tears in their eyes. None of them took off their eyes from the graves. Still, the song being sung made them feel emotional, along with the reason everyone is here. “Just call my name and I’ll be there.” That was when everyone broke down into tears or wails, not being able to hold themselves back anymore.
Back on the other side of the fence, Nathan is asleep on Lincoln’s shoulder and Lincoln is resting his head on Nathan’s head. Anthony is resting his head on Mike’s shoulder, asleep. Mike remains the only one awake. He looked over the sleeping boy and started to shake his shoulder to wake Anthony up. Anthony softly whines as he opens his teary eyes. “What?”, he asks in a morning voice.
“Anthony, what do you think is going to happen after tonight?”
Anthony furrows his eyebrows. “I don’t know. Why?”
Mike doesn’t say anything for a minute. “I don’t want to be surprised anymore.”, he quietly says.