I stare helplessly at the grey walls outlining the room. There are no windows, no doors, no means of escape. I search for any open routes. There aren't any. We are all here for a reason. We are here, because we are the problems no one wants to solve.
I glance behind me at a wooden row of desks. No one looks truly focused. Probably because all the focused kids sit in the front. It kind of is your basic class. We just don’t learn math or English. And our textbooks were published before the public school system was established. And also we learn about mythical creatures that are not so mythical.
Luckily, this will be my last year in this class. I'll be doing a different set of courses next year. The faculty finally realised that I’m a special case and should be given a specific schedule for my particular set of skills.
I wish they let us out of this school more frequently. We all do. The Finishing academy for elite students. Very elite, considering you have to be part of an endangered species to enroll. We hardly get to leave even though we are only an hour away from New York City. I would love to go see the skyline.
This is decidedly the worst class on my schedule. Everyone is starting to get restless. The atmosphere in here is humid and claustrophobic it feels like someone has sucked all the moisture out of the air in the room, and then sucked all the air out of the room
It’s difficult for me to focus right now, because I don’t sleep very well at night. This place has a bad vibe. All those abandoned rooms and dark hallways with negative energy coming from them, My dorm room is at the end of the hall next to a door that no one is allowed to open. My roommates and I swear that we’ve heard footsteps outside our door more than once. I’ve had one too many nightmares waking me up in shrieks or tears. I’d love to just take a quick nap and it can’t hurt. If I have a nightmare everyone will think I’m having some kind of break down or panic attack and send me to the nurse.
And then I finally do start to dream, because I'm exhausted and this lecture on fairy species variations is so dull that I want to die and I am a second away from announcing that to the entire class and get sent to some mental health ward for suicidal behaviour.
Suicidal behaviour. It has been a long time since any of our kind has shown any inclination of wanting to end our misery. We haven’t had any misery to end lately. I don’t think we have had any suicides since the before I was born and there was a lot of suffering and dying and war.
Oh great now I am going to fall asleep feeling all depressed and thinking about death and have a nightmare. I hope that I at least don’t drool.
I'm in what I think is a meadow or was at some point. The flowers crowd my bare toes. They are all dead. Lifeless. I bury my toes in the yellow, straw grass. I'm wearing a beautifully woven garment with yellow fibres to make a radiant, glowing sun dress.
I walk along the meadow alone and start humming a song. I don’t recognise the tune, but I start singing the lyrics randomly. “Walking alone. Alongside the stones. The place I’ve been grown, to always find home. This place is empty, but I’m surrounded. There’s no one around, but it is crowded. People are so fragile, they are so easy to break. Just look around at my broken dolls, this is their storage place. It’s where I keep a keepsake of all my rotting broken dolls. Like memories of my youth as I begin to fall. I miss them all, but now it’s dark and time to sleep. Lay down and let yourself dream.
I write down the time that I got to play with them before they broke and don’t work anymore. I don’t like playing with broken dolls. They’re no fun at all. Dig a hole and throw them away. Unless I feel like bringing them back another day. Dead dolls, dead dolls, cemetery of dolls. Lay there a long time, there my toys I’ll do what I want because it’s my choice,” I sing out the lyrics to an ominous harmony.
I’ve never heard those words before; at least I think I haven’t . . .
Then, suddenly it all comes back to me.
The scenery changes, now my dream melts into a memory.
I’m in a wooden house and my family is below me. This place is a small, one story, little, remote cabin. The walls are all a dark blue colour except for the occasional streaks of dark red. Old blood stains that were remnants of stories I will never get to hear. There are about six rooms. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, the dining room and the office. My cousins, siblings and I aren’t permitted to enter the office. One bedroom is for my mother and my aunts and the other is for my cousins, siblings and I. We were not rich if it isn’t obvious enough.
There’s also a small balcony type perch on one of our two windows. It’s located higher up on the roof’s infrastructure. I’m the only one who knows how to get up there. There aren’t stairs or anything, just a set of intervening beams creating a passage that can be climbed to reach my perch. It is hard if you don’t know what you are doing like I do. My mom made sure I had the strength and know how to fight, because who else would protect my sister Karly?
I crouch there now staring in the distance out the window. All of our neighbors’ have even smaller even more crowded houses. My house holds 15 people. Then again, this is a poor community. Then again, our people are all poor. We are going through some kind of a financial problem. No one ever told me why, but I remember the fighting, lots of fighting.
For the first time ever, my mom crawls up my perch and kneels next to me quietly. If I were anyone else I wouldn’t have noticed her. I didn’t even know she knew about my hiding place, but I guess she is more than capable of tracking plain old me.
“What are you thinking about?” my mom asks quietly after several, long minutes of silence.
I turn to look at her beautiful face, my features reflected in her own. Same long blond hair, light tanned skin, deep red lips, medium in height,- even though I always get treated like I am tiny- muscular build, nearly overweight from all the muscles, but still some nice curves. Of course I am not as muscled and fit as my mom was I got more fat luckily it goes to the right places.
“Nothing in particular,” I lie smoothly. “I just couldn’t sleep and Rochelle snores so loud. My classes are so boring I am sleeping through one right now.” My mom smiles and opens her mouth as if to say something and then shuts it; resulting in another long period of silence. She tilts her head curiously and nods.
Oh damn it. I am completely aware that I am not living this moment and it is a memory with some details probably altered by my brain. This will probably mess up a memory I don’t remember and could be very instrumental to my future or to piecing together my path. Can I tell her? Tell her I miss her? She’s already dead. It won’t change anything. She will still be dead whether or not I tell her, but maybe it will give me closure, but it could also tamper with this memory that might be vital. Maybe after.
“What’s going to happen tomorrow? I have a bad feeling and I’m getting stronger, you can’t keep secrets from me forever!” I exclaim.
“It’s your birthday,” she replies lightly.
Suddenly, my senses seem to sharpen at the word birthday, there’s something not right there. It’s my birthday, but there’s something bad about that date too. That date marks something. May 11th it’s someone else’s birthday. Somebody else is getting older and stronger too, and not someone good. Wait this isn’t part of the memory this is my own instincts, my own senses.
“Whose birthday is it tomorrow?” I ask.
“Yours,” she replies.
“Mother besides me,” my tone getting a sharp edge.
“Someone’s …” she says her voice drifting off.
Her face is chalk white, she doesn’t want to talk to her six year old daughter about this, but at the moment I feel much older than I am. My face is one of a child; but my eyes could’ve been a thousand years old for the amount of grief they hold. I am not a little kid now I’m 15 year old Lacey Night who can take it. I think she realises this.
“Oh, I can’t tell you that; you’ll make your way towards the answers. The truth will just sting you and you’ll get burned. I don’t want more little girls to die, like how he killed me.”
“That doesn’t make sense! Please elaborate,” I say widening my eyes.
“Mother? Who killed you! Mother what happened! Talk to me who, who killed you?” I know my mother was burned alive … burned alive I the house, in the neighborhood, in the city that all went up in flames. Thousands of deaths, hers was hardly remarkable or recognisable; barely heroic.
“I can’t stay for long, it uses too much energy. My energy consumption is almost at an all-time low. You’re too strong for me.”
“What? I thought- but you’re- you’re way strong than me!” I say shocked.
“Not anymore,” her voice is ghostly and drifts. “But, you’re developing and I’m dead and I’m pushing alone. It would help if you could give me a hold. If you used your abilities too …”
“Is this a dream or a memory?” I’m confused and disoriented.
“Oh, my dear Adeline, you are asking the right questions, to the wrong people,” then suddenly the dream shifts as if the dream refreshed and returns to the original course of the memory.
“Why don’t we go down and get you tucked in? Aren’t you tired?”
Now that she’s mentioned the word tired I realise she’s right, the use of power has drained me Almost entirely.
I allow her to lead me down the beams and towards my sister and cousins and I’s bedroom. I glance around at all the beds and girls within them. All my male cousins are gone now so it’s just me, Karly, my sister and my cousins: Rochelle, Minnie, Katy, Diane, Sarah, Molly, Lana and Tori.
My sister is sleeping all curled up under my sheets, although she sleeps with my mother. She must have had a nightmare or At least sensed the unease and restlessness and came to my bed for security.
I carefully and silently slide in next to her as to not wake her up; but at that moment Rochelle had a particularly loud snore. She began to stir and finally opened her eyes and meets my mother inquisitive look.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she says quietly. “Can you sing a lullaby for us?”
“Ok,” says my mother. “Walking alone. Alongside the stones. The place I’ve been grown, to always find home. This place is empty, but I’m surrounding, there’s no one around, but it is crowded.” My mom pauses to see if we are asleep and Karly is, but she doesn’t notice that I’m not so she continues with the less appropriate lyrics. “People are so fragile they are so easy to break, just look around at my broken dolls, this is their storage place. It’s where I keep a keepsake rotting broken dolls. I write down the time that I got play them before they broke and don’t work anymore. I don’t like playing with broken dolls. They’re no fun at all.” I don’t understand the lyrics, but they scare me, but I continue to listen curiously. “Dig a hole and throw them away. Unless I feel like bringing them back another day. Dead dolls, dead dolls, cemetery of dolls. Lay there a long time, there my toys I’ll do what I want because it’s my choice,” as my mom finishes this ominous harmony.
The temperature in the room seems to have dropped, but only I acknowledge it.
Quietly my mom exits the room, but I don’t fall asleep, all I can do is replay the song over and over in my head. The song scares me and I don’t even understand what most of it means. This frightens me even further.
"Who can tell me what that is?" Asked Mr. Timmins "Lacey?" Suddenly I'm snapped back into reality.
"Oh, what? I was busy napping. I mean seriously that's a sea shore underwater firefly fairy. But honestly, who cares? I certainly don't. They are rare and why should I care Mr. Timmins? Maybe you should teach me that." I retort annoyed
"How about that your aunt is the HEADMISTRESS. In fact why don't you pay her a visit right now!"
I walk down the hall reiterating our conversation. "why don't you go pay her a visit." well fine I will. See if I care, I don't. I pass the portraits of the past headmasters and headmistresses. There's the first headmistress Ms. Amber Night. My great, great, great, great, great lots of greats grandmother. She was The first Night. I'm the second last one. Well not really, there are my aunts, my father, my cousins, my uncles, my second cousins and all that. But me and my sister are the only remaining direct relatives and remaining heirs of the Night family. No one else got the name. My grandmother was very pretty. She was slaughtered at age 24. It sucks to be her. She was killed by "the most powerful demon ever" I don't believe that. I think they just don't want it to seem like she died in vain. Also, he died with her. That doesn't add up. When there’s so much power there's always a match or something stronger brewing on the other side. And, she fought impossibly hard, they both died. Whenever I mention this: my aunt screams about how I can't do better until I shut up.
Then I recall the dream. I think I understand the lyrics now.
‘Walking alone. Alongside the stones.’ That’s about someone walking by stones, pretty self-explanatory.
‘The place I’ve been grown, to always find home.’ It’s someone’s home, but something is wrong.
‘This place is empty, but I’m surrounding, there’s no one around, but it is crowded.’ They’re alone, but at the time they’re not. Maybe they are actually alone, but they think the people are still there. Or they feels alone or are emotionally detached, but people are still there.
‘People are so fragile they are so easy to break, just look around at my broken dolls, this is their storage place.’ I’m wrong, I’m wrong, oh I’m so wrong.
‘It’s where I keep a keepsake of all my rotting broken dolls.’ I was wrong I didn’t understand at all, she is alone, but then again she’s not. ‘I write down the time that I got play them before they broke and don’t work anymore.’ My mother knew … how’d she know?
‘I don’t like playing with broken dolls. They’re no fun at all. Dig a hole and throw them away. Unless I feel like bringing them back another day.’ Who wrote this song, this song it’s. It’s …
‘Dead dolls, dead dolls, cemetery of dolls. Lay there a long time, there my toys I’ll do what I want because it’s my choice.’ This song is about dead people and someone in a graveyard. My mom sang me this song the night before she died . . .
I open my eyes, how much time has it been? How long has it been? Where am I? Then it comes back to me. I was thinking of my mother and the emotions got so strong, I must’ve had a power surge and feinted, because I had no control and nowhere to direct my energy.
Then I remember aunt Ronnie, I have to go visit her office.
My aunt Ronny. The woman who raised me since my mom died. Who knows of my faults, of my talents, of my issues, everything but my secret. she knows I have abandonment issues, but she thinks that my distrusting of people is all from my cowardly father leaving me behind, because he blames me for my mother. Just because I had been there and I'd done nothing. Well what was I supposed to do? I was eight.
I knock on the heavy, locked door that opens after several long minutes. I kick it open with ease. My aunt sits on a plush velvet chair behind her mahogany desk covered in trinkets and gadgets nowhere near as complex as the precious items stored in the cabinets along the walls. A woman with skin the colour of coffee and dark jet black hair brushes by me looking high class with a maroon low cut designer dress and tall, classy heels.
"Move," she barks.
"What? Who the hell do you think you are?" I ask recoiling.
"I'm from hell," she says flaunting her demonic features and cackling. "I just came to pay a visit to your dear headmistress, next stop to talk to the king." She says as she walks out the door, slamming it hard forcing me to jump out of the way.
"Pay a visit?" I inquire.
"We had some business to discuss," she said with a hard expression.
"As a headmistress as Veronica Landers or as a former night?"
"All three ...." she replies quietly as her voice trails off. She quickly composes herself back into headmistress.
"Paying a visit?" She asks with evident irony.
"Why yes I am from hell," I say with just as much sarcasm.
"To what do I owe this pleasure-torture? Let me guess Mr. Timmins class?"
"Maybe, but auntie-"
Her expression says everything before her mouth does. She’s too angry and frustrated already, she doesn’t want to deal with me. Something has happened and especially pissed her off enough so that she loses control and lets it all come pouring out like rain.
"No buts Lacey this is the eleventh time this week and its TUESDAY. You’ve only had 18 classes! Right now is your nineteenth. THAT'S MORE THEN HALF. ALMOST TWO THIRDS!!!! You know what that lady demon thing WHATEVER wanted? She wanted to inform me that the demon king and his three sons are coming. You know why? BECAUSE THEY'RE LOOKING FOR A WIFE! OH AND THAT'S NOT EVEN THE BEST PART! THERE IS GOING TO BE A WAR, YOUR FATHER TOLD ME. HE WANTS HIS DAUGHTERS TO BE PICKED SO THEY'LL BE SAFE." She yelled.
"But doesn't he . . ." I start, choking on my words.
"Yes, he already has exactly three daughters supposedly. Seem convenient? He wants them to be safe. He got married so many times on purpose. To have three daughters. Haven't you wondered why all of his wives haven't gotten pregnant?" she replies.
I can’t believe my father, I sicken at the thought. If I didn’t hate my father before I despise him now. My aunt also loathes him also, but my sister doesn’t.
I stare at her blankly. Trying to take in what she'd just said. This new information just doesn't seem possible. I can't contemplate it. One look tells me it's true and she's sorry for saying anything. Demon war, dad doesn't care, three half-sisters, three demon boys, wives, dead mother, going to die, going to die, going to die, going to die ...
"Am I going to die?" I ask.
"Now Lacey I can't give you a direct answer-"
"Am I going to die!?" I demand.
"Most likely yes," she responds solemnly.
“But, I am going to do everything in my power to keep you alive and safe,” her voice falters.
“Because my mother doomed me? Because the Night name is a curse disguised as an honor? Because, we will be classified as immediate threats?” I hiss with a gnarled expression.
“LACEY!” she appears outraged and ready to slap me, but she wouldn’t dare, too many consequences. I’d knock her out in the blink of an eye.
“To be a Night is not a curse, do you know who your ancestors were!? Generals and Royalty and-
“Will Karly die?”
She stares at me quietly trying to dissect my emotions from my face. I quickly compose myself so she can’t read me.
"Is there anything I can-I can do?" I ask quietly.
"Your mom wouldn't want this. Lacey, what you want is too much ... I know you care about Karly, but this is just horrendous; no one should do this Lacey, not even you. It’s too much to ask and the consequences are too great. It’s not even worth it, modifying yourself just to convince some demon to love you so you can increase your chances of survival"
"Please Aunt Ronnie this is Karly we are talking about the sensitive little girl who ," I say quietly. "Please Aunt Ronnie, how?"
“Teach Karly how to seduce the demons, they'll take her with them and she’ll be safe. Know this though, You'd better choose carefully, only one of those boys will be crowned so there is a chance that they’ll be killed off or assassinated. That’s what happened to your father’s sister. Also, think of it this way, how many wives has your dad had? A lot. Half of them are less than half his age. She can be thrown out just as she can be taken in. One wrong move."
"What do I have to do?" I ask, not exactly eagerly, but anxiously.
"You'll need to pay more attention in class, also I'll have to move all her classes up to top schedule. You and I’ll need to wax her, trim her hair, put her in a dress, and make her presentable and give her a new sparkly, but superficial personality. I can let you be her guardian, but you’ll need to make yourself presentable. The other guardians will be older, wiser, more trained, more presentable, and likable!" she replies with a bit of a snicker at the end.
"Ugh,” I think I just threw up a little bit. The thought of it all has made me woozy and nauseous. Seriously ‘be a girl’, that's the key to survival? Beauty and textbook? What about strength and cunning and street smart and fighting? But, sexual appeal is apparently more important!
"Well some boys like independence, but knowing these guys they like girly girls, they need to feel like the man. Think of it this way, you are both very pretty, if you just stopped wearing gross clothes, washed and brushed your hair, cared for yourself maybe others would too. At least Karly is something to work with. Some people like you, but they're SCARED to approach you. On the contrary, everyone likes Karly!" she says in a smug voice.
I sigh. What can I do? I don't want her to die, so what else can I do? I stare at the beautiful carvings of past headmasters and headmistresses. I look at a carving of Samuel K. Pimkstorl. He had cruel eyes with dark circles around the surrounding area. His cheeks are pale and flushed. His hair is dark and streaked with grey. He looks like a mean ghost. I'm so happy I wasn't alive when he was the headmaster. Of course I'd be dead for all the punishments and times I’ve gotten sent to the headmistress's office this week.
I stare at my aunt; my solemnness reflected in her white face. She recomposes herself and her tan skin returns to its usual colour.
“Do we tell her?” I contemplate this. My sister is very sensitive; she could refuse to do this from disconformity.
“She needs to know,” I whisper quietly.
“Then tell her …” mutters my aunt.
"When do we start?" I ask.
“Where are we?!” I demand as she suddenly leads me through the hall and down several flights of stairs.
“Sit!” yells my aunt fiercely. “Watch and learn.”
I take in my surroundings. We must be in one of the former training facilities. It’s musty and abandoned and dark. They were considered too violent and dangerous so the academy stopped using them, because of injury complaints from parents. So of course they were forgotten and left to rot. No one has kept track of what really happened to them, but a lot of rumors surfaced that the teachers were secretly training a select few.
I watch as she lifts up something metal and reflective and turns to face the wall.
“I haven’t done anything like this since I was your age. It was apparent quite early who the fighter in the family was. And it still is now. Just because it is just you, Karly and I, doesn’t mean there isn’t still a fighter amongst us. That is how the Night family works. One of us has to be the fighter in the family full time. That’s you,” she says.
She runs towards the wall and I’m not sure … she tries to flip? She manages to build up enough force to push herself onto the wall, but she falls or rather slips off.
“AUNT VERONICA!” I run forward to help her. But she immediately refuses and shoves me away lightly.