"You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Blonde hair flopped lazily over one eye, large black glasses balancing at the bridge of his nose. My best friend — who went by the name of Jett— sat opposite me on the screen of my laptop, pulling the sleeves of his signature chequered shirt over his wrists so that just his fingers were showing.
Facetiming him as soon as I’d gathered my thoughts seemed to be the best and only thing I could do at times like this. Times when my brain felt like scrambled eggs. He was always here to listen when I needed him, and now he was staring at me intently in digital form, eyes shining.
Explaining today’s run of events was exhausting, especially since every word I spoke of it made me feel like I was re-living the nightmare all over again.
“So let me get this straight...
your house is still under surveillance by the men in leather?” Jett questioned.
I rolled my eyes into the back of my head and sighed, “It’s not funny, I can’t even leave the fucking house without being questioned.
Where are you going? Who are you meeting? What time will you be back? It’s like they want to take away every last bit of freedom I have in my life. Like swiping away only most of it wasn’t enough.
And every person that walks into the house is checked like some sort of criminal. What if I wanted to bring a guy home? He’d leg it as soon as he caught sight of those creeps.”
Jett didn’t dare even breathe as I fired off my little rant. It was only when the flame burnt out that he began to speak again.
“You? Bring a boy home?” he laughed, “That’ll be the day!”
The words that left his mouth were nothing I was expecting, but at the same time everything I would expect from my best friend of 10 years.
“If I could hit you right now, I swear I would” I replied through gritted teeth.
“Funny, but Astrid?” he spoke in a hushed tone, “You are part of ‘those creeps’ now.”
“I never wanted to be” my voice cracked but I willed it to return back to normal, “it’s my job Jett.”
He looked away from the camera for a few seconds, as if in deep thought, before looking back at me with a pitiful expression on his face.
“Astrid, can I be honest with you?” I gave a little nod, “I wouldn’t count this... organization as a job. Holding people hostage just isn’t right, because they are exactly that. People. Snatching away their forever just because you aren’t lucky enough to have one is selfish and cruel.
Is your life really worth living when all you spend it doing is taking others lives away?”
And that was it. That was my wake up call.
I repositioned myself on my bed, crossing my legs and tilting my head up to meet his eyes. Familiarity washed over me when I looked at Jett Howard, the person I had met back when life was simple. A seven-year-old girl and an eight-year-old boy, wanting nothing but simplicity and fun. Crayon stained fingers and rosy cheeks, he had kicked me from underneath the table in maths class, smiling from ear to ear.
“That’s not the right answer.” He’d pointed down at my textbook, little finger darting across the page.
“It is.” I had stubbornly replied.
That whole lesson was spent with him correcting my mistake and me refusing to admit that it was wrong. It turned out that neither of us had gotten it right, and from that point onwards we did the same thing in every class we had together. Him proving me wrong and me denying it.
Then, as the weeks went on and the school years passed, Jett and I had grown closer than ever. The teachers couldn’t separate us and neither could our parents, the other kids envied our friendship.
I told him everything, from the gossip on the playground to the secrets I heard late at night. The ones about mysterious creatures roaming among us, with eyes like crystals and lives that had no end. How these creatures were threatening every one of us with their abilities, and that this threat was increasing every day.
Jett would tell me he’d heard the same, and how his mums petrified screaming would keep him awake at night. He’d cry into my shoulder and tell me how afraid he was, that his mum had been driven insane. But once the tears had stopped flowing and he had said all there was to be said, I would muster up my biggest and brightest smile and tell him that everything was going to be okay.
The fear and the worry was ongoing though, and it was only until I had decided to tell Jett the truth, that his mind was put to rest. I was going to be part of an organization that would save us all from the wanderers of the night, as we used to call them - and that when I was old enough, I would be able to protect him and his mum.
But with age came questions, and with questions came answers, and soon enough Jett and I had a completely different perception on the organization that was supposed to save us all. We began to doubt it all together. Arguments were had, tears were shed and apologies were exchanged but through it all Jett and I stayed glued together, inseparable.
It was only when hormones came into play that things began to change, and at the beginning of high school mine and Jett's relationship became more than just friends. I wouldn’t say he was my first love though, we were too young to even understand the meaning of it.
It didn’t last long, we were quick to realize that it didn’t feel right. The expectations of being something more than friends was unknown territory to us and threatened to ruin our friendship altogether.
Returning back to what we originally were was the best and most comfortable feeling ever. Like two puzzle pieces slotting into place, we felt normal again. It’s been that way ever since; and even though we made countless mistakes within that time, I don’t regret a thing.
“You know what?” I broke the silence.
“What?” Jett asked, looking back at me expectantly.
“You are so much smarter than I give you credit for” I concluded.
“I’ve been telling you all along, but you’ve never listened” Jett replied, grinning and running his fingers through his tousled hair.
I returned his smile before welcoming silence once again and glancing over at my window. It was darkened with nightfall and accompanied by the howling wind. The stars hanging above the towering forest trees signaled to me that it was way past 9 pm and that the EDO guards would be shutting off the lights soon. I sighed at another reminder of how controlled my life was by these people, that I couldn’t even decide what time I went to bed. The reason they did it was because The Eternals were attracted to light, and they would be drawn towards our house if it wasn’t absorbed by darkness.
But that didn’t explain why they burst into my room in the middle of the night, checking that I was asleep. Maybe they didn’t know I knew they did that because I always pretended to be asleep when I wasn’t. Even breathing and closed eyes, they wouldn’t suspect a thing.
What they didn’t know, is that I could hear every footstep they took and every word that glided through the darkness. I knew that they were keeping things from me, even if I was now part of the EDO, I knew they wouldn’t tell me everything. My dad was too afraid of putting me in danger—as if battling an Eternal wasn’t dangerous enough —and the EDO had dark secrets that would change everything if word got out. I could practically sense it.
“Lights out, I know. You’ve got to go.”
“Thank you” I was glad he understood.
“No problem. Plus we have school tomorrow, so maybe a good nights sleep isn’t such a bad idea?” Jett knew of the sleepless nights I had been having, some of them due to worry and others because of the burning curiosity I had for finding out whatever it was the EDO was hiding from me.
“Remember, curiosity killed the cat” Jett stated as if he’d read my mind.
“I hate that saying” I spat.
“I know” he smirked.
Suddenly, the lights shut off and the room plunged into darkness, leaving my laptop the only light source left on in the room. Jett's face began to distort as my laptop shut down, Facetime glitching as not only the lights turned off, but the technology did too.
“Goodnight Astrid” was the last words I heard before everything got cut off, and the air stilled to nothing.
Left alone with my thoughts, I slipped beneath the duvet on my bed and let my head sink into my pillow. I heard the door creak open as an EDO officer crept in, heard his gentle breathing as he paced my room and his muttered words as the night grew old. My mind wandered as sleep took hold of me, and I couldn’t remember what I had heard in the last few seconds of being alert and awake. I wasn’t sure if the officer had left the room at all. Wasn’t certain if anyone had even entered in the first place...