It wasn't that I loved being almost late to class, or that I was hanging out at a bar after curfew. For crying out loud, I was saving the world! And in my other two forms, no one would recognize me, so of course I still got in trouble for it. Shadow has it easier with that most of the time, after all, his family knew the truth about him—they adopted him knowing most of the truth, sixteen years ago.
Oh, by the way, I'm Sonic the Hedgehog. My friends call me Eric Sarali. I should back up, huh?
Five months ago, if you had seen me at all, you would have seen a kind of pale kid with short black hair, a kind of pointed nose, scrawny limbs, and bright green eyes. I usually wore jeans or sweats and whatever t-shirt I happened to grab each day—they tended to be video-game oriented. It was usually Sonic the Hedgehog stuff, which is pretty ironic now. I went to school at Washington High in the town of Wakewater, right up next to Lake Michigan.
My two best friends were Miles Prower and Amy Hills. Miles was an eight-year-old kid that was so smart, he was in in my freshman class in high school that particular year. He was funny as well as intelligent, and he actually tutored me for a little while in eighth grade. He had tanned skin and dark blonde/ light brown hair. He had light blue eyes and always wore a bomber jacket and jeans. Amy was my best friend since kindergarten and the prettiest girl I know . . . I mean, the nicest girl I know . . . anyway . . . Amy had a heart-shaped face, a small round nose, dimples when she smiled, a blonde bob of hair just above her shoulders, and she usually wore a solid colored dress with a matching headband. I think she had about ten different shades of pink.
Since we were neighbors, we walked to school together on that first day of high school—luckily enough for us, it was just the freshman welcome day, where we could figure out where our classes were and how our schedules worked. Amy and Miles were on either side of me.
"I wonder if John or Scarlet will be in our classes?" mused Amy after a little bit.
It was with disgust that I replied: "Of course they will!"
John had beat me up at least every other hour at school since third grade. It only got worse every year because he got bigger fast, and I only grew a little taller. He was already taller than Miles and I combined, and three times as big around as me—he was always in football or training, no matter the time of year. He had dark brown hair and a big, blocky face that went with his hugeness. The only thing that made him seem any different than the other jocks (besides the fact that he was the bulkiest of them all) was the violet eyes he had—they were strange, but no one ever asked if he had contacts, because he would probably haul them into the dumpster out in the back of the school if they did.
His on-and-off girlfriend, Scarlet, was the stereotypical cheerleader, except for the fact that she was very, very smart. Scarlet had wavy red hair to the middle of her back, was super skinny, and always had perfect makeup on. She got straight A's and was the captain for the cheer squad—she was always at the top of the stunts because she was tiny. Not to mention she viciously attacked any girl she didn't like, and never got caught. They seemed to be perfect for each other—John was captain of the football team and took both karate and boxing, and Scarlet was captain of the cheerleading squad and took both dance and judo. However, they fought constantly over the most random things.
When we got to school, the doors were still closed and locked, and people were hanging around on the front lawn. I immediately spotted them with their group of followers, talking about their summers. I scanned the crowd for anyone else and sighed. The only person I didn'trecognize from eighth grade was a guy my age with white-blonde hair and pale, bone white skin. He wore all black, and it was clear he didn't want to talk. The doors finally opened and we all flooded into the halls to find our lockers and classes. As I passed by the new guy, I noticed a scar across his right cheek, from the edge of his lip to the outside corner of his eye. It was barely visible, but it was pretty big—what could have caused it?
The thoughts were driven out of my mind as I looked for my locker, which was in the section near the end of the hall. I got the top one, and Miles got the one below mine, putting his books in. Amy was messing around with the lock on hers, next to me, and an empty one was below hers. Next to the empty one was the new guy, and on the other side of him were both Scarlet and John. I put away my books and headed for my fist class—Biology.
When John turned from Scarlet and his locker, he sneered.
"So you decided to show your face around here, huh?" John came closer to me, and I had to crane my neck to see his face.
"You'd better watch it, Sarali, or you'll never survive high school. I hear it's really rough . . ." he cracked his knuckles. I backed up quickly.
"And what do we have here? Amy, testing out the retro look again?" asked Scarlet, and Amy turned red. She started to stammer, just like usual, that it was her style and not anyone else's business. If things went like normal, John would suddenly turn and try to beat up Miles, and I'd get a black eye protecting him, and Amy would be crying when Scarlet was done with her. As John turned, something changed from the normal, though.
"Don't even think about it," said a sudden, low, smooth voice. Everyone snapped their attention to the speaker: the new guy, who I still didn't know the name of.
"What—did—you—just—say—to—me?" snarled John, looking like a bull ready to charge. He'd run him right over.
"You heard me," he said calmly, crossing his arms.
"What's your name, new guy?" John asked, but I got the feeling that he had meant: what should I engrave on your tombstone, new guy?
"I'm Damon, Damon Von Garthe, and I'm heading to class." He walked away like it was nothing to ignore the biggest guy in the building. Before John could turn on us again, Miles, Amy and I ran to class—we got into our seats just as the bell rang.
The teacher was not exactly the most pleasant person in the world.
He was bald, sweaty-looking, and fat, and had wisps of a mustache on his red, blotchy face as well as a plain, beige outfit. I happened to be taller than him, which was saying something, considering that I was only five-foot-four at the time. His glasses looked like they were pinching his head and rested on his huge nose.
"My name is Mr. Namggerd. I expect you all to follow the rules on the class syllabus, which should be on your desk. Since you all just say at the first seat available, I am going to assign where you sit—the chart is on the board." His voice was scratchy and wheezy, like he had just run a marathon and had no water. We all got up and looked at the chart, finding our spots after we got close enough to see it. I was in the second row, second seat from the left at one table—each one had two chairs facing the board. In front of me was Miles, and to his left was Amy. Scarlet ended up being behind me, with John next to her. An empty table was to my right, and the person I was sharing my table with was Damon.
We all half-listened to his lecture on how he wouldn't tolerate lateness, goofing off, or talking. " . . . I will pay special attention to you throughout the first quarter in order to make sure that you understand my rules clearly." I shuddered inwardly, thinking that he sounded more like a prison warden than a teacher. The rest of the morning moved on much the same way: We'd go to each class, get a speech from each teacher on rules and expectations, and move on. Next was P. E, then Algebra, then art. Then, finally, came lunch.
"Amy! Miles!" I called out, seeing them coming in from the other end of the cafeteria.
"Hey Eric!" said Miles. We looked for a table to sit at, either not knowing anyone or not wanting to sit with most of them. I saw Damon alone at one table, picking at his Spanish rice.
"Maybe we should sit with him," Amy said, pointing him out. I nodded and we went over.
"Can we sit here?" asked Miles. He shrugged and motioned for us to take our seats if we wanted them.
"Thanks for earlier," I said after a few minutes of silence, "John's been a pain since anyone can remember. Scarlet too."
"No problem. I had worse before here—I don't take bullies. That's kind of how I got this," Damon motioned to his scar.
"Whoa . . . so where did you go before here?" I asked. He shifted uncomfortably.
"I was tutored at home. It was a while ago, and I hung out with some neighborhood kids who were dropouts . . . they got a little rough one day and my mom decided to send me here. That John kid is nothing on them—he wouldn't be so bad if he got a clue that the 'I'm-bigger-so-you-can't-take-me' gig isn't going to work for the rest of his life. And Scarlet needs to lose the holier-than-thou attitude . . . then they might actually be okay," he reasoned.
"You're right. But they'll never get it, especially John: he's such a knucklehead," chuckled Miles. That got a good laugh out of all of us.
"So do you play Sonic the Hedgehog games?" I asked. I played a lot of them, and I happened to have two Wi-Fi accounts. Amy and Miles knew that, but they only knew the name of the one I played with against them: the other, I used constantly against random players, and that was really how I got good. I was kind of surprised when he nodded.
"Yeah, almost daily. Shadow the Hedgehog is my favorite."
"I prefer Sonic Heroes," said Miles.
"Sonic and the Black Knight is the one I'm the best at," Amy added.
"Hm . . . Sonic Adventure 2," I decided, before asking, "What's your username on the network?"
"Well, you know mine's Rose 4567," said Amy.
"And mine's Prodigy 540," said Miles.
"Black Arms General," said Damon as I said the name of my other account, "Speed Demon 1." The two gaped at us.
"You two are the best players I know! You're pretty much famous!" said Amy with a slight squeak in her voice.
"Well, I suggest a rematch soon," I said. We were often rivals, as we were really evenly matched.
"I agree," he said, folding his arms in a very Shadow-like pose. The bell rang and we headed off to our other classes. I had English, then Spanish (No comprende!), and finally study hall. I stared at the clock, willing it to tick faster, when finally three o'clock came around. I headed home with Miles and Amy, and they went into their houses first before I passed the one alley that I should have known not to look at.
Six-year old Eric is taking a shortcut home with a boy that looks exactly like him except for hair and eye color. The other boy has yellow-amber eyes and strawberry blonde hair rather than green eyes and black hair. They are both laughing and talking as they go when something strange happens. A purple light flashes, and it becomes a strange glowing hole in thin air, leading to what appears to be the edge of a cliff at nighttime. A man with a jumpsuit and a visor covering his face steps out of the hole and grabs Eric by the back of his t-shirt, and Eric starts kicking and screaming. No one comes. The other boy stomps on the man's foot, and the man drops Eric. Angrily, he grabs the other boy and drags him into the hole, which disappears in another flash of light. Eric is alone, and yells:
I shook my head and kept moving. I had only told Miles and Amy about the portal part; my parents, the police, and everyone else just knew that my twin brother Jason was kidnapped by a guy in a jumpsuit with a visor helmet on. I still wondered if he was okay, or if he was even still alive. I put on a brave face most of the time, but occasionally, I would have a dream about an older version of him, scarred and battered, smiling at me and saying, "Long time, no see, Eric," in that same cliff area. I didn't understand where it was or even what it was, but I saw it, and I refused to think I was hallucinating or crazy. When I got home, I quickly let my parents know that I was going for a walk before heading back out.
As I walked, I couldn't help but stop in the alley. Jason and I had been best friends as well as brothers—this had been before Miles was even born, and Amy had been an okay friend for both of us then, which was pretty good considering we thought girls were gross at that age. I imagined, every day, that somehow he was going to be found. It depended on whether I was feeling optimistic or not if he was dead or alive in my fantasies. I kicked a rock and realized that I was standing right where the glowing . . . portal . . . thing . . . had been. I looked straight up at one of the first few stars to appear in the sky as the sun was most of the way below the horizon. I wish I had the time to go look for him . . . I wish I were strong enough to go through with it . . . I wish I were fast enough to be able to catch up with him, wherever he might be . . . Was the star getting brighter? I wish I could be a hero so that doesn't have to happen again to anyone else . . . losing their family . . . their friends . . . I realized that it was actually something, a meteor maybe, coming towards me.
I dived forward in an attempt to dodge it and succeeded when a bright flash and the sound of a bomb going off erupted behind me. When the dust somewhat settled around me, I got up slowly and looked at the crater, in which a dark blue gem half the size of my head was sitting. It glowed brightly when I got closer, and started to float. Alright, Eric, so you're crazy now. What else is new? I thought as I reached out to touch it.