I grabbed Nathan’s hand and pulled both the boys into the dry tile showers. I slowly pulled the curtains aside, almost begging them not to make any noise. They crinkled a little when I let them go not-as-gently. I cringed as I imagined the creature now knowing where we were.
I could see, for the first time, fear in Nathan’s eyes. I could hear what I thought was the gym door start to open. Whatever was out there, would be in here in just a few seconds.
We rounded the shower stalls and I spotted the door at the end of the short corridor. It was connected to the teachers’ locker room. Dodging the small lockers and leftover water puddles, we searched for the door. It had a small square window in it, which let in light from the hallway outside. We were so close.
Then I heard it. Footsteps. From behind us. Panic surged up in my throat and Nathan’s whole body tensed as the boy scooted into me more.
Step. Step. Step.
Nathan looked back at me and mouthed a single word. “Go.”
We all glided over the floor in silence, Nathan glancing over his shoulder the whole time. I reached the door and applied just enough pressure on the handle to check the lock. The handle depressed and the door moved effortlessly from its frame. It was unlocked. I swung the door open and slipped through, leaving whatever that thing was behind us in the locker room.
“Come on,” I whispered, moving near the closest door. “I think this is the health room. It connects to the biology room. The science rooms go to the hall at the other side of the school.”
“Go, go!” Nathan whispered urgently.
I put my hand on the door handle and tried to steady my trembling heart. Cracking the door open, I peered inside. Silent. Nothing. I swung the classroom door open. The empty desks cast shadows from the hallway lights. I guess I should be curious as to why all of the doors were unlocked, but I was too grateful at the moment.
We moved into the classroom and Nathan shut the door silently behind him. We quickly passed the teacher’s desk and I felt pulling on my hood. I was yanked to the ground, but turned around to find Nathan’s hand clenched onto my sweatshirt. His eyes darted to the small window in the door, where a black silhouette moved across the light. I held my breath and tried not to look too worried. My heart was pounding, but then it passed and I let out the breath I’d been holding.
But then, it came back, shadowing the window again. It was smelling. No—Hunting. Like a dog does to track down a new visitor.
The handle on the door began to turn.
“Don’t look back,” Nathan whispered warm air into my ear and I sprinted with the boy into the other classroom.
It knows where we are and it’s closing in on us.
We should have kept the axe. It would have at least made me feel better.
I glanced back to find Nathan following behind, keeping his eyes on the door we just went through.
Nathan dragged us behind a long counter. I listened to my short, shallow breaths and tried to control them. The lab was divided by four counters running the length of the room, bordered by narrow alleys on either side. Test tubes, beakers, and other glassware sat atop the tables in groups, awaiting their next use. The hallway, I knew, lead to the school’s side entrance and onto the street.
“Let’s go,” I whispered. “We can make it if we run.” Nathan held my arm in an iron grip.
“No. We can’t,” He said quietly.
“Why not?” I whispered, almost pleading.
“Because it’s in here with us now.”
I heard the door to the classroom click shut. All the air was sucked out of my lungs and I felt the panic set in. The darkness felt suddenly alive all around me and I pressed the boy farther into the table. Then I heard it. The slightest sound of air. I could hear it breathing.
The pungent smell of earth decay, and something worse wafted off out of the darkness towards us. It smelled like death.
A scream rose up in my throat and I slapped my hand over my mouth. It took every bit of my strength to stop it.
I listened as it began to move around the room. It searched every aisle, inspecting and sniffing under the desks. The rolling chairs squeaked as they were shoved aside in this creature’s haste.
Nathan released me from his grip and mouthed his next instruction. “Move.”
On our hands and knees, the three of us rounded the second counter and headed for the third. The door was close now. My heart leapt as I realized we could make it.
It sounded like the ring of a delicate bell. The sound seemed to roll and disappear. I realized it instantly. A test tube has just rolled off the counter in front of me, and it was heading towards the floor. My realization was too slow as I watched Nathan stretch out his hand. Miraculously, I saw the delicate glass barrel dance across his reaching fingertips. It bounced, as if playing keep-away. Then it disappeared from his grasp.
The sound of the tube shattering sounded like a gunshot in my ears. It was followed by the most horrifying sound I’d ever heard. Instantly, I felt something grab me by the hood, and this time, it wasn’t Nathan; the fabric was tearing from the strain of my weight.
I shrieked and threw my arms up, wriggling out of the hoodie and slapping onto the cheap carpeted floor. I felt Nathan’s strong arm around my waist, instantly pulling me up, then flinging me away from the beast.
“Run!” He yelled at me and I grabbed the terrified little boy from under the table and slammed through the door.
I pulled the boy with me as we tumbled down the dark hall. I was terrified now, running blind through the darkness. Arms that were not Nathan’s or the boy’s wrapped around me. This time, I didn’t try to suppress the scream this time.
“Shh, it’s me,” Junto’s reassuring whisper heated my ear.
He let go of my waist and I spun around.
Still trying to catch my breath, I pointed towards the biology door right as he emerged, face showing anger and determination.
His facial expressions calmed as he took in the situation of his best friend being here instead of one of those things. Placing his hands on his knees, he leaned over to catch his breath. I scanned him over for any signs of injury, but nothing seemed to surface. He managed to take on a creature more than double his own size in the matter of a half-minute, without even getting a scratch.
There was an uncomfortable silence that surfaced, all of us looking at Nathan. I tore my eyes from the panting man and turned to Junto, but he only shrugged his shoulders.
“Alright, let’s go. I don’t want any more of those things coming back.” Nathan perused, finally able to catch his breath. He headed off in Junto’s direction and slapped him on the back as he passed, but continued walking.
“Umm, Nathan?” I curiously asked.
“Yeah?” He stopped walking and turned around to look at me.
I felt uncomfortable. “The exit is this way,” I mentioned, thrusting my thumb behind me.
His eyes widened before he put his hand out, gesturing for me to lead the way. “Yeah, of course.”
I walked back past the door to the room all the commotion just took place in. Pulling the little boy closer to me, I refused to look in there and continued walking.
We walked out the side door, not only because it was closer, but because I wasn’t brave enough to walk out the front doors yet. Outside the parking lot, there was a familiar old truck parked half of the sidewalk, half on the side of the street. It was as if the driver had to hurry and didn’t care to park correctly.
Nathan unlocked two doors and the little boy and I crawled in the back, the Shifters occupying the front. Nathan started his car and punched the gas. Not because he was in a hurry, but because that is just how he drives.
“Where should I take him?” Nathan asked, locking eyes with me in the rearview mirror.
I looked over at the boy and waited for a response. His little head hung low from his neck, showing his embarrassment. “Hey, do you have somewhere we can take you . . .”
“Derek.” He mumbled.
“Derek. My name is Derek.” He said a little louder, lifting his head to look at me.
“Well, Derek, is there somewhere we can take you? Your family? Home?”
Hanging his head in shame again, he whispered, “I have nobody.”
Feeling my heart breaking, I asked again. “Then where do you live?”
He seemed to get even more uncomfortable, and this time he looked up at me. “The Crookstens’. But they are just my foster parents, and they don’t even like me. Please don’t take me back there, they will hurt me again,” he whispered, tears glistening in his eyes.
Alright, its official, my heart is shattered. “It’s alright,” I soothed. “I will figure something out,” I said while unbuckling his seatbelt and laying his head on my lap.
I waited until I thought he was asleep before speaking up. “Let’s take him with us.”
“Absolutely not,” remarked Nathan, hardly hearing the words come out of my mouth.
“And why not? You did the same thing to me, why not him? He actually needs us.”
Nathan shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “That was different, we had no choice with you, but we can still shield him from this life we have. Trust me, he’s better off in the foster family than with us.”
“There’s always a choice,” I mentioned again.
Nathan snorted and tightened his grip on the wheel.
I thought about it for a minute, but there was no way I was going to let him go back there. “Why was that thing after him?”
My question seemed to catch him off-guard. “What?”
“That thing that we just saw. Why was it after him?”
Nathan tried to speak, but his mouth just opened and closed like a fish. Instead, Junto saved him. “They’re called Spiritwalkers. They can only live in the darkness, so they only come at night. They drain the powers of the supernatural beings, then the drained becomes one of them. They mostly go after foreseers, seen as though they are the most powerful and the weakest of the supernatural world, but sometimes they go after the others as well.”
I processed this information quickly so I can keep on track. “So, why were they after Derek?”
“I . . . I’m not quite sure,” Junto took over again.
I was a little afraid to ask the next question, in case they might laugh at me instead. “Is it possible Derek is a foreseer?”
Instead of laughter filling the space, however, silence rang out.
After a while, Junto answered again. “I guess it might be possible.”
Another set of silence ran through. “Can you check?” I asked Junto timidly.
“What?” He asked, turning in the passenger seat to finally face me.
“Aren’t foreseers immune to other Supernaturals’ powers?”
“Well, yeah, but—”
“Please, Junto. I want to help him.” I didn’t see Junto’s disagreement changed, so I continued negotiating. “If I’m wrong, I promise we can take him back to the foster home.”
Junto seems confused, so he turns to Nathan, who hasn’t taken his eyes off me in the review during this conversation. He looks at me, Junto, and then me again. A slight nod comes from him as he looks back onto the road.
“Thank you,” I whisper, but so light I’m not sure they heard me.
“Alright, Elana, in case he isn’t a foreseer, I need you to have a blanket to wrap him up in. I don’t want the boy to get sick.”
Searching around, I checked under the bench Derek and I were on. I felt a duffel bag and pulled it up to see the extra clothes Nathan carries around in case he needs to shift. Digging into it, I pull out a small dark green blanket he has tucked in the bottom. “Okay, ready.”
Turning around more in the chair, he reached his hands over the console and out towards Derek’s sleeping body. A stream of translucent light blue came out in strings and encompassed the small arms tucked into the boy’s torso. The color from Junto’s hands illuminated Derek’s sleeping face in the slightest way, making it glow in a way that made him seem like an angel.
The blue light receded and Junto retracted his hands from above the little boy’s arms and turned back around in his chair, still slightly facing us.
I took a deep breath and my shaky hands glided over the little boy’s arms in search of the cold Junto just illuminated. A mild temperature slightly warmed my own as my skin slid over his.
Relief sprang through me as I shared the news. “His skin is normal.”
Nathan’s face has at least three emotions, making it hard to read him. “Elana, we can’t just bring a strange little boy into our home. What if he’s lying, and his father is still teaching him the ways to use his powers? Not only that, but this is kidnapping. There is no way we can just bring him in,” Nathan argued, pulling over to he can face me.
“You guys took me in! I know that this is not the problem. We can ask Spencer to go in and take care of all of it, getting his papers from foster care, too.”
“You just don’t—”
“Nathan, if we don’t help him, who will? Look at him, he’s just a boy. Wouldn’t you rather protect him now while we still can rather than have him turned into a Spacewaker—”
“Spiritwalker,” Nathan corrected.
“—when he’s only eight? He has his whole life ahead of him, but if we don’t help him now, he won’t have a life.”
Nathan looked at me with an emotion I finally knew glistening in his eyes. Understanding. He looked over to Junto. “Don’t turn to me, man, I agree with her,” he backed me while holding his hands up in surrender.
After a second, he let out a breath. “Fine, we’ll talk to Stephan.”
My heart soared. “Thank you.”