I ran as fire engulfed me. Spasms of pain coursed through my torso and my lukewarm blood soaked my cloak. Looking behind, I saw that he was still flowing me. The darkness seemed to speed as it edged closer.
I barely heard him laugh over the sound of blood rushing in my ears. Then, with one swift motion, the shadows sped past me, under my legs and above me, blocking my path.
I stopped dead in my tracks and whirled around trying to fruitlessly calm my quick breaths. The shadows in front of me melted into the one man I feared the top of all. A pang of hope coursed through me and I raised my silver sword and took a defence stance. At the worst possible moment, I felt a particularly nasty shock of pain that sent me down to my knees. He laughed again towering over me. Blood soaked from my hip into the darkness beneath me.
I felt the room start to spin and black spots danced around the edges of my vision. His evil chalky face was the last thing I saw before darkness claimed me. Just how did I end up like this?
Not a year ago....
I am Kaya Agni. I am well aware that my name is well far away for the average British girl’s name, but I learned to live with it. Plus, I liked the difference, to be special to some point, to be unique.
My name is the least of my problems. Kids and people generally hate me from the first look, my name did not matter to them. It was just another contributing factor to isolate me socially.
As I lay down on my worn out bed, I thought about why I was such a social outcast. Most of the time, I do not mind. Being alone was much more comfotable than having to lie and pretend,to become a whole different perosn and admire those you hate in order to fit in.
But, today I was starting a new school, and a part of me wanted friends. Not a whole group, one or two were more than enough.
My new school is called Rookwood Junior Middle School. It is almost five miles away from our home. My uncle made it clear that he will neither waste his fuel nor his time and energy driving me, so I had to walk there. My old school was closer. He never allowed me to ride in his car, so I had to walk always. I havehad to walk wherever I wanted to go ever since I could walk in the first place. My cousins always complained that I embarrassed them in school with being a weird outcast.
Uncle Mitch often gave them sympathy looks followed by either a beating or when he was in a good mood I was slapped and shoved into my broom-closet like room and forgotten about for a week or two.
Next summer, we would move so that my cousins could start a new. It was clear who the favourite in the house was. We move every year, and every year before term starts a small part of my heart swells in the hopes of finding new friends.
This year, my cousins were going to a close by private pompous school, while I went to a faraway official school. I did not really mind. Anything was better than being stuck with Justin and Jared.
Before I knew, it was 12 o’clock. For some reason, the first few days of school were going to be a single lesson before the actual schedule was decided and put into work. School did not start until two in the afternoon these few days. But I needed time to walk five miles and then find the school and my class.
Uncle Mitch's voice was barking at me from downstairs to go too. I quickly grabbed my backpack, slid it on my back, grabbed my sketchpad from under a loose floorboard under the bed, and jumped outside the window.
The jump was not that terribly high for me. I preferred it to meeting Uncle Mitch and his sons down the stairs and by the door. I ran the first few blocks before starting to walk. I grabbed the I-pod (My cousin Justin’s old one, I nicked it from his room a while ago.) and had a high Skillet song playing through my earphones loudly.
My mind buzzed with all sorts of thoughts as I walked. The weather was icy and my threadbare hand- me-downs made me freeze.
I got lost a couple of times before actually finding the school. It was a six story ragged grey building. I ran up the stairs, ignoring the weird looks I got, and quickly found the school map. After a quick look, I ran to the principal’s office to get the number of the room I was supposed to be in.
Seemingly out of luck, I ran into a boy while I was at it. Both of us got up and I wanted to continue to the principal’s office but the boy grabbed my wrist.
I turned around and studied him as I ripped my wrist away from his iron grip. He was short, just as tall as I was and very thin. The boy had jet black smooth messy straight hair that fell down to his face almost covering his electric blue eyes. He had a fair skin complexion and was dressed in what I guessed was the school uniform; baggy pants, a school sky blue jacket with the school emblem on the left upper side and a shirt with a woollen vest over it.
It made sense; it was freezing cold in this city after all. The boy looked at me with annoyance on his face.I broke out of his grip and was about to continue before he spoke.
“Well?” He said in a voice that was soft but had an icy chill of annoyance into it.
“Well what?” I replied just as coldly.
He narrowed his eyes before sneering, “No apology?”
“Why would I apologize? You ran into me!”
“If I recall properly you ran into me!”
He was right about that, but I had no time and was not willing to. He looked at me studying me. Our eyes met and his surprise invaded his face before it was gone. He hesitated before mumbling an apology. What was wrong with this boy?
“What class do you need to go to? The principal’s office is still far and class has started already.”
What was he doing here if class had already started? I did not really care for missing class but school sent notes for tardiness, and those notes about me put my father into a bad mood. A bad mood meant a bad day for me.
Before memories started to assault me, I shook them away.
“I have no idea what class I am supposed to go to.” I said bracing myself for him to laugh about what an idiot I am. The school sent a letter about everything, but my father burnt it the fireplace. I guess that explained why was everyone wearing a uniform but me. Not that he would have used any of his fortune on me, I thought bitterly.
“You’re probably with me in class anyway, come on, let’s go.” He said without a hint of taunting in his now soft voice.
We ran together to the supposed classroom. By the time we got to the class the second bell had already rung. We stopped in front of the door panting slightly and trying to catch our breaths. He smiled at me as we both had our hands on our knees, crouched, and gulping in air greedily. I smiled back at him hesitantly. Maybe we could be friends?
We leaned on the door for support. Just as we were about to knock the door opened.
A man in his thirties was standing regally, his kind but serious yellow (?) eyes studying us. Like everyone (but me), he wore a uniform, but it was slightly different from the one for students and it seemed old and worn out.
He had long sandy hair that was groomed neatly with his fringe sliding to the left side of his face. He skin was like mine, pearly white, but his had a more healthy shade to it. Lastly, many scars adored his face and palms; almost all of them were long straight wounds. The most noticeable one started from the tip of his right eye and continued passing his lip to his chin. He seemed... Familiar. Oddly so, like a passing sense of de'ja vu.
I stared at him not really realizing that I was gawking. Why did I feel like I had met him? The boy from earlier punched my arm lightly waking me from me trance. I apologized for being late. He looked down on me studying me.
I did not understand what was there to see. I was short, skinny, and pale. My hair was jet black; curly at the ends, with many bangs falling to my face. My eyes were a shade of golden amber. Strange right?
I was wearing a thin maroon shirt under a black sweatshirt, ripped up old dark jeans (Not a ripped up style, just torn and old), and the only thing I had from my mother, a yin yang necklace with a fireball in the centre, I looked like a punk, did I not?
The boy was tugging at my arm now and I realized that the teacher had moved aside and was motioning us to go in. The boy (I really need to learn his name) apologized for being late again and went to his seat.
The class was plain weird. There were five rows of seats. Each row having six seats separated in twos. The class was circular and the rows went up, sort of like a college lecture hall.
“You are Miss Agni, I believe?” The teacher said.
I nodded my head.
“I am Jaya, your arts teacher. I see you have not had the chance to get your uniform, so I could help you get that after class, now if you please take a seat.” He said with a smile.
I nodded my head and walked into the weird classroom. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. I looked around for an empty seat and found one on the very last row. As I walked to it, the boy from earlier nodded and smiled at me, I smiled back nervously this time. He seemed nice enough. I sat at my place, two rows behind him.
Mr. Jaya looked around the class, smiled warmly, and then started his lecture.
“Good afternoon class,” he said and a few people greeted him back, “please, put away your sketchpads.” Everyone did so hesitantly.
This was art class? I had no idea. Mr. Jaya seemed rather weird. Art was my favourite subject, I hoped that he would not ruin it.
“Today, we will discuss art before drawing anything.” He said.
Everyone stared at him strangely including me. Discuss art? That was new. I wondered what he meant. No art teacher that taught me has done that, I wonder what will the rest of the students answer.
“Art is to everyone one of us,” he said starting to walk around the class, “has a certain meaning. Not all of us favour art or consider themselves talented with it, but,” he paused as if dramatically, “I believe that each and everyone of you has n artistic talent buried deep within his or her soul.”
By now, everyone was gawking at him except me. I understood what he meant, well sort of. I was not sure about everyone having an artistic talent, but I knew that art was an extension of one’s feelings and a mirror to their soul. Too poetic? Maybe that is what he meant by discussing art.
Mr. Jaya was still walking around the room, he got closer and closer until he was standing right beside my desk. Everyone’s eyes were following him with curiosity and well, a sort of is-that-guy-insane-look, but I think most people were excited to have such a unique teacher.
I waited for him to move on and continue his lecture, I was a bit curious to hear what he had to say. As he stood there, I met his yellow kind eyes. I did not break eye contact with him and neither did he, breaking it first was a sign of weakness in my opinion.
“Miss Agni,” He said and I was surprised as my name escaped his lips, “tell me, what opinion do you hold of art?”
I gulped and said nothing. I could feel everyone’s heavy gaze on me. I could feel many people smirking to their friends and making fun of me. I wondered what the black-haired boy was thinking now. I cursed Mr. Jaya for bringing their attention to me. It stunk to be the centre of attention.
Mr. Jaya seemed persistent to get an answer from me, and the longer I stayed silent the heavier their gazes got. I cleared my throat and said what I had on my mind earlier.
“Art, sir, is an extension of one’s feelings and a mirror to their soul.” I said still not breaking eye contact.
I heard laughs and gigels all around me. Everyone seemed to be expecting Mr. Jaya to insult me or taunt me for such a weird answer, I did not care. That was my opinion and he was asking for it.
“Excellent Ms. Agni! That is a plus one on your average.” He said smiling warmly at me. I smiled back and he got back to pacing around the class.
Everyone was glaring at me now. Mr. Jaya continued his lecture talking about different artists throughout history and asking what they might have meant by their famous paintings. Everyone seemed ignorant of what he was talking about, that probably meant that not many people passed this class, not that they cared.
Mr. Jaya seemed to ignore me for the rest of the class, which I was thankful for. At some point, a note hit the back of my head. I was about to turn around and glare at whoever did so, but I remembered that I was at the very last row. I picked up the note that fell to the ground not really expecting anything short of insulting and discouraging.
Be gone you little weirdo. We do not need more losers like you!
I sighted, re-crumbled the paper and threw it to the ground. Great, I have barely been in this school for an hour, and I already have a fan club. (note the sarcasm)
Awhile later near the end of the class, another note was thrown at me. I was about to rip the whole thing into a million pieces and glare at the whole class untilthey no longer dared tom he black-haired boy who gave me a sympathetic look, smiled, and turned back to Mr. Jaya.
I slowly unfolded the note and opened it, it read:
I’m sorry about those guys, they’re jerks. Don’t mind them.
I stared at the letter and could not help shoot the boy a grateful look. Maybe this was not so bad after all.
“As an assignment-” everyone groaned, “-you will choose an artefact from the closet at the front of the class and recreate in any form of art you choose.” Mr. Jaya said.
“What do you mean by form of art?” A girl snapped at the teacher clearly trying to come up with any question and to make him feel hated and unwelcomed . She had long golden blond hair, slightly tanned skin, and two piercing dark blue eyes. She seemed like on of those popular girls.
Mr. Jaya did not seem to mind the rude tune. He smiled and was about to answer before someone else answered her.
It took me a second to realise that that person was me.
“A form of art means that you can paint it, sketch it, sculpture it, or make a figure of it in clay. I don’t think any idiot would miss that.” I said the last sentence heatedly. Why was I talking?
Mr. Jaya seemed surprised. He looked at me, smiled with gratitude, before turning to the blond haired girl.
“Miss- what is your name exactly young lady?”
The girl seemed outraged that he did not know her name. It only made it worse that he knew mine. She laced her voice with as much hatred and venom as she could manage before snapping at him.
“Mandy C-" She said in a pompous voice. Yet, just before she could continue the bell rang. Everyone sprang up to the front of the class were Mr. Jaya was standing on a small ladder opening a strange cupboard. He handed out paintings, small statues, and strange object to everyone. Nobody seemed to care about knowing that girls name.
Feeling a pang of guiltand walked up to where she was standing behind everyone else.
"I am Kaya, Kaya Agni. You're Mandy, right? What is your surname?" I asked in a kind voice.
She looked down at me, her eyes narrowing to slits. She clenched her fists and answered in a tight voice,
"Listen punk, I am way too sophesticated to be talking to the likes of you," She spat the last word like poison, "Beat it Agni." She continued in a deadly serious voice. Then, she turned around, her golden locks whiping behind her, before walking up to the front. She pushed her way in and snached the artifact Mr. Jaya was handing to a short plump boy. Both Mr. Jaya and the boy opened their mouthsin process, but before they could either say or do anyting, she glared and stomped out of the classroom.
I felt my temper dangerously rising. How dare she do that? I was the one who took pity on her and decided to cheer her up! Is that her way of saying thanks? This was my first day here and so far, everything was not turning out the way I had expected.
That was my problem. I always clung into this stupid hope, I always tried. Fuming at myself, I stared at my shoes my thoughts running a million miles a second. I was standing at the back with more than two dozen people ahead of me.
Not before long, everyone was gone but me. Mr. Jaya was smiling that smile of his, his eyes inviting me to step forward.Hesitantly, I walked up to him, remembering that I had to go with him and get my uniform. How in the name of everything was I going to pay for that? I had no money!
"I am afraid there is still only a single artifact left." He said stepping down from the ladder. Walking up to me, he gave me what looked like a vase wrapped up in pacrchment. I opened the parchment slowly to reveal an antique small vase.
It was coloured a maroon shade of red with symbols, almost like runes, carved in golden colour to it. I absolutly had to sketch this!
"It is the hardest Kaya, but I think it is the most beatiful of all I own."
"Do you draw Kaya?" He asked curiously as he closed up the ladder and went through a door behind his desk.
"May I see then?" He asked coming back from the store room.
I dug in my back pack and got my sketchbook before handing it to Mr. Jaya.
He flipped through my drawings a smile slowly being drawed on his features. His eyes shined with fondness as he reached the end of the sketchpad.
"You drew these yourself?"
I am starting to get bored of nodding.
"A verbal answer please."
"No need to be so formal child," He said handing me back the sketchbook, "you can call me Jaya."
"You have such talent Kaya, use it. You cannot imagine how beneficial it could be later It might save your life."
Art was fun. It was a way to run away, to escape everything. But yet, it was not beneficial. Did he mean that I should grow up and become an artist? Escape my father that way? I change my answer to "Yes Jaya." At the last minute before I nodded or murmured "Yes sir.".
Just then the boy from earlier came back to the classroom. He seemed out of breath and was holding folded clothes in his hands.
"Kaito, I am glad you are here. Have you done as I asked?"
"Yes Jaya." Kaito answered. Then, he walked up to me and handed me the cloths.
As much as I wanted them, I shook my head and opened my mouth to protest. I was not going to accept charity.
"They are yours Kaya. Their price is included in the price paid for you to be here. It was mentioned in the letter remember?" Mr.Jaya said.
I almost face palmed myself. No of course I did not remember! I did not read the letter in the first place! But how true were his words. Looking at Mr. Jaya suspisously, I accepted the cloths from Kaito and murmured my thanks. Quickly, I set the vase down on the floor and stuffed the cloths to my bag.
"You got the Vase of Kaya? Lucky!" Kaito said pointing to the vase I had just picked up.
I look at him bewildered. That vase and I shared the same name? How strange.
Mr. Jaya, smiling as always, then said, "Yes it is most amazing Kaya is it not? Such a coincidence."
With that he said goodbye and stalked out of the classroom. I wanted to know more about the vase.
"Um, you wanna walk home?" Kaito's uncertain voice said.
"I don't think you'd enjoy it. My home's five miles away." I murmured.
"Five miles!" He exclaimed, "You're going to walk there?"
I nodded my head. It was not so bad, I was used to it by now anyway.
"Then I'll walk you halfway 'cause I gotta go home too. We could get to know about eachother, be friends you know." He finished uncertainly.
I can not believe my ears! He actually wants to be my friend? It is good he did not ask any questions.
I then realised that he was probably expecting an answer.
"Um... Yeah, sure-sure thing, it'd be cool..." I said stammering awkwardly. It is not that I did not want his friendship, far from it actually. It was just that I have never had friends in my life.
I was always singled out in everything. Home, school, my whole life! I do not want anyone's pity or to turn my life into a sob story, I was just full of joy. Nothing more and nothing less.
We walked out of the school building and down the grey concrete stairs. Kaito was rubbing his hands anxiously and I was fideling with the cuff of my sleeve. As you can see, I am not so great at making friends.
I do not think I can take this silence any longer, it is driving me mad! But what on earth could I say?
"So you like to sketch?" Kaito asked finally breaking the ice. Thought his question seemed more of a statement.
I nodded my head silently.
"That's pretty cool. I like to draw too! Though, I'm not that good. Sometimes I draw real good, but other times I get sort of like a writers block but in art. I call that my special artistic block, happens too often for my taste." He finished his blabering with the excitment seeping away from his voice.
"Uh, well can you show me your sketchpad? I'll show you mine. My drawings aren't that great, but still..."
Kaito reached into his backpack and grabbed a royal maroon coloured book of leather trimmed with golden leather. I felt heat rush to my cheeks as I pulled out my black ragged sketchpad and handed it to him. Kaito however, did not seem to take notice of the sharp contrast between the two books. Instead he started flipping through the crowded pages of my sketchpad.
As we walked some more, I played with my sleeve anticipating critism. I do not know why, but I felt as if my work was going to be rejected. Deep down I know it was pretty good, perhaps more than good, but for some reason my stomach seemed to churn with nervousness.
"You draw these yourself?" He asked bewildered.
I dared to look into his face. His mouth was stretched in a wide grin and his eyebrows had disappeared completly into his hairline. His eyes held a shade of bewilderment and enthusiasm so different from Mr. Jaya's reaction. So different from the way Mr. Jaya smiled fondly as if remembering something or someone as he flipped through my sketches.
Kaito stopped at one of the recent one's I drew. It was a circle and in it where two wings that met at the top as if fluttering. The one to the right was a pearly white while that to the left was an obsidian shade of black. Around the circle were runes. I do not even know what they mean. Kaito seemed to be analyzing it before looking back at me.
"Where did you learn how to draw this?"
"I dreamed of that symbol, so I drew it." I said wondering if I sounded like a lunatic. "It felt oddly familiar, so I thought I'd better have a sketch of it in case I remembered where I saw it."
He nodded grinning madly. Then Kaito handed me the sketchpad back. I seem to be having such dreams a lot lately. Normally, I dream a lot, but this was starting to get out of hand.
For about a month, I have been dreaming of angels and demons. Trolls, beasts, and flying seemed to come as frequently as well. The most vivid dream I had is of shadows engulfing me as a woman screamed my name, and a voice, so terrifying that it made my insides twist with fear and the hairs on the back of my neck stand, laughed shrilly. I saw a face sort of like a boogeyman's or a demons griningg at me from the darkness before I woke up covered in cold sweat.
I had the dream of the woman and the darkness ever since I could remember. But all the other stuff, and the boogeyman/demons's face were new additions. Everything looked so vivid and real.
As we walked, I continued listening to Kaito babble and joke sharing in with him and enjoying myself. I tried vainly to push away thoughts of the dreams and nightmares that have been plaguing my sleep lately. They were just dreams, fragments of my imagination, right?