Magic & Monsters

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Chapter 2

The sound of pencil against paper was all that could be heard in the classroom. That, and perhaps the nervous breathing of the students that occupied the room. One girl in particular could feel her heart pound as she wrote furiously on the available blank page, continuing her essay. The subject was being taught as a dual credit and thus, they were to be graded at a collegiate level. Taking a moment to shake out a wrist cramp, she stole a glance at the clock and hurriedly resumed her writing. She didn’t want to leave out a single detail. She couldn’t afford to get anything less than a perfect score. Just thinking about the harsh grading made her anxiety rise.

“Pencils down.”

She had just barely punctuated the end of the sentence before the teacher called time and she leaned back in her chair with a relieved sigh. Her handwriting wasn’t the best as it tended to become more of a scrawl when she was rushed or panicked, which the test summoned the traits tenfold. Still holding the pencil in her hand, she gathered her books and stepped in line with the other apprehensive students so to turn in her test. At the last moment, she spotted that she had failed to write her own name at the top of the exam and quickly scribbled so that she could receive proper credit.

Marie LeBlanc

Stepping out of the classroom was like taking a breath of fresh air and she finally felt the tension leave her shoulders as she made her way down to the senior lockers. An arm suddenly slipped over her left shoulder, causing it to dip with the extra weight.

“Some test, huh?”

Smiling to herself at the all too familiar voice, she looked up to see her best friend, Donovan Solen. He wasn’t looking at her, his gaze was on the screen of the sleek phone he was never seen without. The tall boy had a slender build and easily towered over the auburn haired girl. She didn’t mind, especially since he had always been taller even when they were younger so it wasn’t a competition in the slightest.

“Tell me about it. I’m so glad that it’s over but now I’m worried about how I did,” she said with a sigh. He moved to lean against the wall still messing with his phone as she spun her locker combination.

“Don’t worry about it. You did fine.”

When she gave him an exasperated look, he looked up from the device and gave a teasing smile in return.

“Hey, I haven’t been wrong yet, have I?”

She gave a mock smirk and closed her locker, tossing her bag over her shoulder. “No. Technically you haven’t. You have the uncanny talent for always being right.”

“It’s not only that, even though it’s completely true, but I also have a strict rule to never lie,” he explained, pushing away from the wall. She raised a skeptical brow at the declaration.

“You never lie?” she repeated. “That sounds like a lie in itself if you ask me.”

His arm returned to her shoulder. “Well, then it’s a good thing I didn’t ask you, LeBlanc.”

Giving a humorless laugh at his smooth retort, the pair made their way down toward the gymnasium. As they walked, Marie couldn’t help but notice the attention that Donovan garnered because she knew they weren’t looking at her. Her friend didn’t even seem to notice or care for that matter, not even when Shelby Lomax called his name and she was the most popular girl in their year by far. The boy was strikingly handsome, with his lean frame and golden brown hair that seemed to have the perfect amount of textured waves, it was a no-brainer to at least acknowledge that he was an attractive person. Donovan didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, keeping his focus on his phone.

“What do you want to eat after the game?” he asked. “Poppy and I were thinking about ordering Mo’s. I know neither of you want to go out afterwards, plus it’s Friday.”

Friday’s meant ordering pizza from Mo’s and staying over at Donovan’s house since his parents were usually gone for a weekend conference of some sort. Their evening typically consisted of food, online videos, and streaming movies onto his family’s impressive flat screen television. If they had a volleyball game, like they did that evening, it would be the same festivities simply at a later time. They tended to be creatures of habit.

“Sounds like a plan to me,” agreed Marie. “We’re playing Stonewall tonight, so I bet we’ll be needing a pick-me-up. And probably some ice.”

Donovan glanced down at her at the remark. “That bad, huh?”

“That bad,” she said. “They’re the top team in the tri-county area this year. Did you know that they’ve haven’t lost a single game this season? They even beat last year’s champions in two games, twenty-five to zero.

“Should be an exciting game then,” he said with a shrug.

Marie gave a scoff at her friend’s nonchalance. “For you, from the safety of the stands. On the court? It’s going to be terrifying playing them.”

The pair stepped into the gymnasium to see their fellow classmate had arrived before them, tossing her backpack onto the stage before hopping easily onto the platform as well. Catching sight of them, she gave a wave. Poppy Verglas was a tall senior with dark brown hair that she typically wore in a thick braid. Her usually stern expression softened when she spotted her friends. Marie smiled and waved in return. Her typically frosty demeanor tended to keep people at arm’s length but the other two knew just how fiery she could be when the situation called for it.

“So, was the test as bad as you thought?” asked Poppy when they were closer. Donovan gave a snort at the question.

“She freaked out like always,” he answered for Marie. The girl in question gave an indignant huff before hopping onto the stage as well.

“I did not “freak out,” thank you very much,” she defended. Poppy shared a look with Donovan and gave a playful smile.

“So the usual panic attack then?”

The boy agreed, lying down on the stage with his backpack acting as a pillow. “Just a mild one, but yes. The usual frenzy.”

Marie gave a humored huff and dramatically turned her nose up at her friends. “You two are incorrigible!”

“Good word,” noted Donovan, giving a thumbs up in approval.

“Thanks!” she chirped, dropping the false-irritated-charade. “I’m sure I managed to use it somewhere on the test.”

Poppy gave a small laugh at the comment. “That ought to score you some bonus points.”

“Right?” she agreed. “But watch, I’ll get in trouble for using too big of words or something. That class is ridiculous.”

“I actually read a post online about someone who used an alternative word for something simple in their paper and their teacher docked them a point because they thought the word was too advanced,” said Donovan, still on his phone.

The girls shared an amused look and Marie was the one to voice their shared thought. “Playing on Tumblr again, Donovan?”

“Don’t judge--my people need me!” he answered dramatically, throwing his free hand up in an over the top gesture. Their collective laughter bounced throughout the gym in response.


The afternoon shifted to early evening and the girls grabbed their bags and made their way down to the locker rooms. They tended to just stay after class if there was a game that night because it was easier than making multiple trips back and forth from school. Still chatting, they found their own lockers and began to get ready for the game. It only took a moment to change into the uniform, wearing the school’s colors of maroon and white. A small sound started to play from Marie’s phone and she quickly shut it off, not needing to read the reminder since she had memorized.

Take medicine (2 pills).

With a sigh, she began to rummage through her school bag once more. When her hand wrapped around the familiar small bottle, she noticed that it felt unusually light. Bringing it to eye level, her stomach seemed to plummet at the sight of the empty orange container.

“Oh no,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. “Oh no, no, no…!” She started to dig through her bag with the hope that she had another bottle floating around, but the search was quickly proven fruitless.

Poppy noticed her friend’s distress, her brow lowering in concern. “Hey, is everything all right?”

She shook her head and they could hear the footsteps of their fellow teammates heading down the narrow hall and toward the locker room. Marie kept her voice low and showed her the lack of medication.

“I forgot to refill my medicine last night,” she explained. She always kept one in her bag so it would be with her at all times. How could she possibly forget to refill it? Her breathing was starting to quicken from fear and apprehension. She wasn’t supposed to forget. She was going to be in so much trouble. What was going to happen? Oh, what would her mother say?

Poppy’s face paled slightly as well.

“Do you think you’ll be all right until after the game?” she asked. “If not, I’m sure Donovan could go grab it for you.”

The chatter of the other girls filled the room as they started to get ready and Marie shook her head again, keeping her voice soft.

“N-no, I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ll just take it after the game,” she decided, putting her bag in her locker. She gave a tight smile to assure her friend but she couldn’t keep her own nervousness from growing inside of her.

She had never missed taking her medicine before, not once. Her mother was always severely strict when it came to medication times and Marie had the times set on her phone so that she wouldn’t forget when she was on her own. What would happen when she missed a dose?

An image of woman that was more monstrous serpent than human came to mind and goosebumps broke out across her skin.

She closed her locker with a bit more force than necessary. No, she was going to be fine. She would take it when she got home after the game. Finish the game, go home, take meds, and then go to Donovan’s for their usual Friday night. Simple.


The volleyball game, on the other hand, was anything but simple.

0-25

First match: Stonewall.

Marie barely heard the referee’s whistle as the first match as she bent over to catch her breath, hands on her knees. Stray hairs were sticking to her cheeks as her skin was covered in sweat, her entire body aching. She blearily looked across the court at the Stonewall team, wheezing.

“They haven’t even broken a sweat,” gasped Tori Baxter, their team’s libero. Her arms were trembling from the abuse they just endured. “What’re they freakin’ made of?”

Marie could only shake her head in equal disbelief. She didn’t want to walk to the other side of the gym to change sides let alone play another full match against the unnaturally strong team. It took an extra moment but the entire team began to gingerly make their way over to the opposite side of the court to get ready for the second round. Poppy walked alongside her, out of breath as well but she didn’t say anything regarding the team and simply retied her braid, pulling it tight. Her expression was unusually stern but Marie didn’t comment.

Unsure if she could keep anything down, she left her water bottle under her chair as the coach sent her back onto the court with her friend. Their coach really couldn’t tell them much, only to keep doing their best and to try and rally a point which would encourage the team’s enthusiasm and spirit to return. While it sounded like a small feat, there was just no way to really return their hits. They all were already sporting a variety of bruises from when they managed to connect with their serves.

Poppy took front row center and Marie took the right side, the girls sharing a concerned glance. Facing forward, Marie studied the girl directly across from her on the other side of the net.

Player number seventeen was a tall, intimidating girl with very broad shoulders and the shorter girl could see that her biceps were especially defined, even with the uniform shirt’s long sleeves. Swallowing with difficulty, Marie gaze wandered to the girl’s face only to find that she wasn’t even looking at her. Not at all concerned with her or her team.

The whistle blew again and the home team had the first serve, the sound of the hand connecting with the ball could be heard throughout the gym. The volleyball flew overhead, fast and low, just grazing over the net as it should be. The second it was over, the setter was in place then the ball was sailing high again and player seventeen was already in the air, her left arm chambering for hit.

In a split moment of insight, Marie could see the path of the ball and she dropped low, arms out to keep it from smacking the ground in a kill. Her arms stung from the intensity of the spike and she was pushed down to her knees, but the ball was sent back into the air. She couldn’t direct the ball due to the sheer force and it went right back over to the opponent’s side instead of toward her teammates so they could have the chance to set up an attack.

Bam!

The volleyball hit the ground again with a serious smack, the sound ringing in her ears since it hit the court just a few inches from where she was still crouched. Wincing, Marie grudgingly looked up to see number seventeen staring down at her from the other side of the net.

Goosebumps broke out across her skin despite the heat of the sport as she stared up at the girl. Her insides felt like ice and her mouth was dry. The girl that had been intimidating but normal in appearance was now glowering down at her and deep purple horns were protruding from her forehead, the sharp points glistening under the gymnasium lights. In fact, her skin entirely seemed to be a sickly shade of violet.

“Marie,” called Poppy, “are you all right?”

She moved jerkily as she stood back upright, dragging her gaze away from player seventeen to look at her friend. She couldn’t quite get her voice to work so she simply shook her head. Poppy looked concerned but there was no time to worry as the referee gave the whistle for the other team to serve. Marie had to focus on surviving the game and then she would take her medication once she was home. Clearly her mind was starting to play tricks on her. It was all in her head.

The second match was just as brutal as the first in that it was nothing but hard hits, bruises, and desperate attempts to score a single point.

Dripping with sweat, Marie pushed herself back to her feet as everyone took their positions again as the game drew to a close. It was 0-23 and Stonewall only needed two more points to bring the game to a grateful end. So far she was ignoring player seventeen and focusing solely on the sport and the method seemed to be working out so far for her. It was Stonewall’s serve, of course, and she as watched the ball roll over to their server she noticed the darkly dressed person leaning against the opposite wall. No one was allowed on the court during a game besides the players, coaches, and referees and the stands were only located on the elevated sides. The person was some guy given his obvious build, and she thought his hair was an odd color but that could very well been the fault of the sweat rolling down her face and interfering with her vision.

That was, until he lifted his gaze and she saw his eyes flash silver.

Her stomach dropped and heart threatened to explode all at once. This time, she managed to look to her friend and spoke in a hoarse whisper.

“Poppy…do you…do you see that man across the gym? In-in the dark jacket…?”

Her friend’s posture had gone rigid, her spine ramrod straight and her face pale. She was staring straight ahead, right in the direction of the man visible to Marie. There was a sliver of hope flickering within her.

“Can you see-?”

The whistle blew and the serve was sent over, cutting through the air, grazing over Poppy’s shoulder, and connecting with their libero. Tori was unable to send it back over and it was sent careening off to the side, costing another point.

0-24

While the ball was being retrieved, Marie tried to catch Poppy’s attention again but she was busy looking into the crowd and she followed her line of sight and saw Donovan getting up from his seat. He was moving quickly, his head lowered so not to attract any attention to himself.

“Poppy—what’s going on? You can see that guy?”

That guy that so happened to still be intensely staring at them from across the gym.

The referee blew the whistle and gave a motion of his hand, allowing the other team to serve the potential game point before she could even respond. This time Tori was able to somewhat return the hit, keeping it in bounds at the very least. Poppy brought her hands up and tried to send it over quickly instead of keeping with the bump-set-spike routine, hoping to catch them off guard, but alas, player number seventeen was already jumping to send the ball crashing back down onto their side of the court with a resounding smack.

0-25, Stonewall. Game over.

There was polite clapping from the home side and proper cheering from the visitor’s as the players lined up and walked by the net to shake their opponent’s hand in good sportsmanship. The handshakes were brief and the “good games” were mumbled from both sides of the net. Marie’s hand was gripped especially tight and she looked up to see player seventeen staring down at her. The girl’s skin was still an off shade of purple, the horns were still prominent, and now that she was so close to her, she could see that some of her teeth were razor sharp as well.

Marie choked out an obligatory congratulations and quickly let go of the girl’s hand. She really needed to go home and take her meds, she didn’t know how much longer she could handle her brain playing with her vision.

Next thing she knew, Poppy was grabbing her hand and pulling her away from the team and toward the back doors that led to the student parking.

“Wh-what’s going on? Don’t we need to help clean up—or grab our bags?” she asked. She was very worried by the look on her friend’s face. She was still very pale but her gaze was sharp with concentration, her mouth forming a firm line.

“Donovan already got them. We just need to get out of here,” she answered.

Bursting through the doors, she could see Donovan’s silver car waiting for them, lights bright and engine running. Poppy all but threw her in the backseat and climbed in after her. The door had barely closed behind her when Donovan hit the gas and they were moving. Disoriented, Marie glanced out the back window to see the man standing just where they were, looking from side to side. She flinched when he turned their way but they were already around the corner and heading for the street.

“What is going on?” asked Marie, so very confused by her friends’ action. “Could you guys see him too? That guy on the court?”

She could see them exchange a look and she noticed Donovan’s jaw clench in response.

“Donovan?”

“Yes,” he answered though clenched teeth. Poppy inhaled sharply at the admittance and quickly began to argue.

“Donovan—we can’t tell her—“

“—Yeah well we can’t afford not to tell her—“

“—What will the Courts think?”

“—If we’re wrong we’ll say it was a lapse in judgement—“

“—That’s lying—‘

“—Not technically.”

Marie was sent against the side of the car when they took an incredibly sharp turn that nearly put the vehicle on two wheels. When they straightened out, she moved in toward the two, holding onto the back of the driver’s seat for balance.

“What in the hell is going on?!” she asked, exasperated. “What do you two know that I don’t?”

Donovan gave a small laugh at the question. “Well—we’d need a whole book to answer that.”

Poppy gave a roll of her eyes with a huff. “We’re trying to get you as far away as we can from Marcus—“

“Wait—who?”

“The guy you’re seeing all of a sudden,” she clarified. Marie brought her hand to her forehead, a headache already beginning to pound away at her skull.

“So, you can see him? Both of you? I’m not crazy then?” she asked.

“You’re not to us,” said Donovan. He swore suddenly and Marie looked out the window to see that same guy, Marcus, in the middle of the road and walking toward their speeding car. Wheels squealing, Donovan made an impossible right turn and they took off down another road, leaving Marcus behind.

“Hard guy to ignore,” he grumbled.

“How fast are you driving?!” yelped Marie, her nails digging into his chair to keep from slamming into side of the car. “You’re going to get pulled over!”

“They can’t see me,” he muttered, his gaze locked on the road.

“What?” But she wasn’t answered as they were speeding up a familiar road and she could see Donovan’s house coming up.

“He’s right on our trail,” said Poppy. She was leaning against the back seat, eyes narrowed as she looked out into the night. Marie couldn’t even tell what she was looking at or understand how she could with how fast they were driving. Poppy brought her hand up and reached toward the back window. There was a type of light blue glow emitting from her fingertips and some kind of bolt darted out into the darkness.

“Oh yeah, real subtle,” commented Donovan, glancing at is rear view mirror. Poppy sighed as she turned to look at him, her eyes unnaturally bright.

“Well I had to do something—it’s not going to hold him but it should buy us a minute or two—“ She suddenly stopped and turned back to look out the window, expression worried, “—Make that one minute…”

The next moment, they had slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop in the driveway. She had no idea that the boy could move so fast because one second he was putting the car into park and the next he was throwing open her door and pulling her out of the car. Her feet barely touched the ground as he pulled her toward his house, Poppy already holding the door open for them.

She could hear the door cut through the air as it was slammed behind them, nearly catching her heel as they stumbled inside. Donovan passed Marie to Poppy and the taller girl pulled her down the entry hall to get away from the front door.

“Guys—what is going on?!” yelped Marie, voice rising in fright. “What’s happening?!’

The entire house then began to quake, the door and windows rattling violently. Poppy held onto her tightly, the two looking to Donovan who was standing in front of the door, his back to them. The house continued to tremble, the pictures hanging on the wall starting to fall, the glass breaking. Donovan held out his hand as a golden light started to appear around his body, particularly concentrated in the palm of his hand.

“You shall not enter the House of Helios!” he shouted, his voice ringing clear as a bell, louder than Marie had ever heard it before. “I am the Son and the Protector and I command you! This magic expels and revokes you! This is the Cry of Banishment—BEGONE!

A bright light exploded forth from his body and a moment later the house was enveloped in complete silence, no one daring to breathe. Flickers of ash and embers floated through the air as Donovan finally released the breath he was holding, his shoulder slumping with exhaustion as he turned to face them.

“So…Marcus the Monster?” He gave a humorless laugh. “You really know how to pick them, Marie.”

Instead of responding, the girl couldn’t stop her eyes from rolling up as her body went limp. Poppy kept her hold to stop her from dropping to the ground and she gave him an exasperated look.

He shrugged. “Well, that’s about what I expected her reaction to be. Let’s move her to the couch.”


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