Nikki - Mismatched Eyes
I stared at the mirror in front of me. It was neither clean nor dirty. But it was just enough to see my reflection. What made it weirder were my mismatched eyes. Mom told me that I have heterochromia. It was some kind of genetic disease wherein one person’s eye color was different than the other. My right eye had an intense shade of gray, while my left had a bluish hue. And there were times that it had an intense blue color. But honestly, it was kind of annoying. Mostly when other kids stared at them. I don’t like getting stared at. It was downright rude. But my mom would always tell me they were beautiful. As if that encouragement would work on me. It would have really been easy for me to agree, except that it made me look like a freak.
I dried my dark tufts of hair that goes out wildly as if I just had rolled out of bed. Getting my hair done was never my favorite part of the day. I would always try to comb and fix it. But a few minutes later, it would always find its way to being messy. It’s another annoying thing about me. I had mismatched eyes and messy dark hair. At least I’m used to it. And so were the people around me. It’s a good thing they never really took notice of it. What they would usually notice is my pale skin. To the point that I’m often mistaken as sick. My mom would just tell me that I got it from my dad, whom I never met. Don’t ask.
“Nikki!” Mom called me. Her voice was surprisingly soothing despite her urging me to move faster. I quickly put on my denim jeans and a plain black shirt that fit my thin body frame. I wasn’t really awfully thin. But I wasn’t stocky either. It was slim in a way that I was still physically fit. A little bit similar to a swimmer’s body, only scrawnier. At least I could run faster than most of my classmates. I guess I could boast myself in that. “Faster, or you’ll be late for school!”
“I’m coming, mom!” I yelled back. Then I ran down the stairs and grabbed my backpack on my way out. “Bye, mom! I’ll be back in the afternoon.”
Just in time, the bus arrived in front of our house. I quickly climbed aboard and sat down beside my two best friends—Otis Chase and Phineas Smith. The three of us exchanged glances and grins as we started to chat. We all met back in the second grade when Otis was bullying Phineas, and I stepped in to stop him.
It was the first fist fight I have ever gotten myself into. And it certainly won’t be the last. Otis was rash, but I was determined to protect the helpless kid. Boys will be boys, I guessed. A few battle scars shouldn’t be a big deal. Years later, we ended up being an inseparable trio.
“Nikki, did you do that homework? It was pretty hard.” Otis exclaimed. “I really wish our teacher would at least give us a breather. She’s been keeping at it for weeks! At least cut us some slack! I mean, we’re just in sixth grade.”
“Yep. I did.” I replied. “Although I’m not sure if I answered it correctly.”
“Since when haven’t you been so sure?” Phineas butted in. “You’re the smartest kid in class. I don’t think I’ll ever beat you in that.”
“He’s right.” Otis agreed and crossed his arms. His wavy brown hair was as almost as messy as mine. But he looked so much better because his crystal blue eyes would complement it. Otis may not be as smart as me, but he has a way with words. He’s one of those kids with puppy dog eyes that were utterly irresistible. “Now, may I copy your homework, please?”
Phineas just laughed as I quickly looked away, trying to look annoyed but failed. Otis was my best friend. Can’t turn him down. I’m going to make sure that Otis would pass the class with flying colors. Just like Phineas and I. I brought out my notebook from my backpack with the slightest bit of reluctance. “Here you go.”
Otis grabbed it like a rabid dog and quickly pulled out his own notebook. Phineas, who was by the window, stared outside. The wind blew his red hair as the light shone on his freckles. He had pale skin like me. Only mine was worse. His sea-green eyes would always look deeply into me as if he was constantly sending a hidden meaning. Other kids would often tease him as ginger, but he was used to it. Phineas was always bullied, but it didn’t bother him. Besides, Otis would make sure they would step no further. And if they do, things would not end well.
“You know, Otis.” Phineas started. “I have no idea how you do it, but you sure make it an easy task to copy from Nikki. I don’t think it’s wise to always copy from someone.”
“Oh, come on, Phineas. Don’t be a killjoy.” Otis frowned. “I’m his best bud! Nikki will make sure I don’t fail. Right, Nikki? He loves me that much!”
I just shook his head in disbelief. Otis may be a slacker, but he’s smart in his own way. He’s more of a street-smart guy and would always end up having the right friends whenever we get ourselves into trouble. One time, a ninth-grader tried to bully us. But Otis called for his eleventh grader friend to scare him away. For some reason, he always gets to save the day. It also added some bad-boy impression on him. But I knew that Otis is someone whom I could always depend on.
The bus arrived at school, and the students went out of their way to push each other. It was a typical morning routine for all of them. Everyone quickly went to their respective classrooms and waited for the bell to ring. I had a separate class from my two best friends that day. But it didn’t bother me much. I’m used to being alone most of the time.
On my way to my next class, I bumped into someone. It was a girl with a weird outfit. She somehow didn’t exactly fit in. Another loner like me, perhaps. I gazed upon her, and the girl looked away. Her skin was cold and pale. Eyes sunken and dark bags underneath them. Her pupils were dark and empty. A bit glassy even. And it wasn’t normal. Not at all.
“Sorry.” It was almost a hiss. The hair on my back stood up. There was something different with the girl. Even the air around her was sort of different. It was cold and damp. “I’ll be back on my way.”
“Wait.” I spoke with all of the courage I could muster. “Are you lost?”
“Sort of.” The girl chirped. She kept looking down her feet. “Have you seen Miss Schwartz?”
“What? I believe we don’t have someone like that in the faculty.” Weird questions, I thought. “I would’ve taken notice if there’s a teacher here with a name like that.”
“Are you sure?” The girl sounded more confused. “But I just talked to her yesterday! She’s a sixth-grade teacher. You’re not from middle school, are you?”
“Huh? No.” The conversation became more confusing. “Wait. Let me help you look for her.”
“Don’t trouble yourself. I’ll be on my way.” She snapped and walked past me. But when I turned around, she was gone. I took a step back and looked around to make sure that she wasn’t just hiding.
Right, your typical weird stuff in Madburrow Elementary School. Phineas told me one time that such things happen from time in this place. I shrugged it off and went to class. But as expected, my mind was fixated on that weird encounter.
My classes dragged on. I’ve always enjoyed studying, and I’ve found it exciting to keep learning new stuff. Facts would fascinate me. And it gets annoying if the teacher had nothing new to offer. I was a knowledge vulture, and everybody knew it. I enjoyed my classes too much that I didn’t notice it was over. Most of the time, the bell would simply ring, and the kids would pour out of the classrooms.
“Hey, Nikki!” Phineas called. His gentle smile seemed to radiate calmness. But the freaky girl was still on my mind. The thought wreaked of panic. “Ready for our next class?”
“Hey.” I squeaked. “I have a question.”
“What?” One of Phineas’ brows raised.
“Do we have a teacher named Miss Schwartz?” I asked him.
“Wait.” His eyes narrowed. “Did you say, Miss Schwartz?”
“Yeah. Why?” He had an alarmed look on his face. And all it did was to make me wonder even more. “Do you know her?”
“Huh? Kind of.” Phineas spoke rather grimly. “She’s dead. Died over a dozen years ago. What’s with her?”
My heart thumped. It raced. Made an unusual tap dance. She’s dead. But why was the girl trying to look for her? It was bizarre. Even for me. “I saw a girl looking for her.”
“Okay? That’s weird.” Phineas’ eyes narrowed. “Did you know about our school’s history? About the murder back then?”
“School history? No.” I shook my head. My eyes narrowed at Phineas in frustration. It was information I didn’t know. And one of the things I hate the most was being blindsided. “I don’t recollect hearing a story like that. How come you didn’t say anything?!”
“I think it was written in an old newspaper. You do know I have some friends from the school newspaper, right?” Phineas replied. “Do you want to check the archives after class?”
“As long as Otis is game.” I said. Obviously curious about what the deal was. Then Otis just arrived in time and put an arm around our friend’s shoulder.
“I’m game!” Otis grinned. His voice was as enthusiastic as ever. It was typical of him to be so. “So, where are we going?”
“Detective work.” Phineas muttered. He seemed to be uninterested. This was sort of weird since I always thought my friend is a bit enthusiastic when it comes to strange stuff. “Are you game?”
“And who are we stalking?” Otis flashed another grin. There’s no way he would turn the two of us down. Any of the three of us would find it hard to resist once the other two agreed. We were some sort of modern three musketeers. “Is it some pretty girl?”
“Well. Just a girl.” I admitted. “A weird girl, actually.”
“Why? Gigantic braces? A field of acne on her face? Or pointy boobies?” Otis suggested. But Phineas and I just frowned at his suggestions. We’ve always wondered the extent of his weird imagination. And his examples can be quite bothering. “Why on earth would you stalk for a weird girl?”
“If that girl is looking for a dead person. Is that qualified?” Phineas asked.
“Woah. Who’s the dead person? Are we going to open some grave?” Otis can be relatively slow. I could only imagine what his grades would be without Phineas and me. But before the two of us could reply, the bell rang.
“Great.” I snapped. “We’re late. Let’s go, Phineas. Otis, we’ll meet you in front of the library after class, okay?”
“Okie dokie!” Otis chirped. Then off he ran to his class. “See you later.”
On the other hand, the two of us ran too because we wouldn’t want to be late. Especially if it’s Mr. Kelly’s class. He would be furious if anyone was late in his class. The man was strict when it comes to punctuality. You boys need to learn how to be early birds, as he would often say. But when they enter the room, another teacher was in front of them. Nikki noticed all of their classmates were already in their seats. Most of them were staring at them. Probably as surprised as they were.
“Hello, latecomers.” He muttered dryly. “I assume Mr. Kelly would be shouting at the two of you right now. Don’t worry. I won’t bite. Just go take your seats.”
Phineas took a seat, and I followed. It was a good thing the two of us sat beside each other. The man introduced himself as Mr. Evans. He was probably in the early ’20s, which was a bit young for a teacher. The youngest I have ever encountered. His body was lean and a bit slender. He was a bit tall too. His hair was silvery blonde. Almost white. There were no signs of stress on his face. It was virtually delicate to touch his face.
“Now, this is an English class, I presume? I will be your teacher for the rest of the year.” He said with a weird tone of voice as if English wasn’t his first language. “You can call me Cain. I’m saying this because I don’t want you to call me Mr. Evans. It sounds so overused. Moving on, your previous teacher Mr. Kelly will be on permanent vacation. He passed away this morning. A murder scene, actually.”
No one reacted. But Phineas stared at me as if he was trying to say something. I found it weird as well. Glances were exchanged among the students. One of our teachers was murdered. It was a grim piece of news. Even though Mr. Kelly wasn’t really everyone’s favorite, he was still part of the faculty. As far as we know, he used to be jolly when he was younger in his teaching days. But age had robbed him of that.
“I am also a new teacher in this school, so you’ll find me out of the ordinary. In fact, I find it weird that another teacher in this school has been murdered. Seems like he followed Miss Schwartz’s footprints. But on the contrary, I want you to learn differently. So let’s take Mr. Kelly’s death from a different perspective. I hope no one here is offended of that.” The teacher said so casually like a dead teacher was normal. And when Miss Schwartz’s name was mentioned, both Phineas and I shifted uncomfortably in our seats. Was it merely a coincidence? And that was the worst part. Miss Schwartz’s name was tossed like a hot potato that day. For a teacher who has been dead for more than ten years, it really was weird. “So, let’s begin our class. I’d like you to think about your Greek Mythology. Since we have a dead teacher this morning, I want to ask what you think of Hades, the God of the Underworld.”
When the class ended, the two of us were a bit uncomfortable. There was an unexplainable feeling in our stomachs. Churning and turning. The others seemed to be unfazed by the news that Mr. Kelly was murdered that morning. Sure, the Hades topic was pretty interesting for the two of us. But the death part? The hair on our backs sure did stand up straight and tall.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to peek through the archives later.” Phineas muttered. He didn’t even look at me. We were both in a state of unease. The smell of death sound so fresh. It was giving us unnecessary goosebumps. “Maybe we can check it tomorrow after class.”
“I agree.” I nodded. “Let’s go find Otis.”
“You don’t need to look for me.” Otis boomed from behind. A grin flashed upon his face. The usual Otis expression. The three of us started walking towards the main gate. Students went along with them towards the exit. A typical after-class scenario. “So, no stalking for today?”
“Sorry. No stalking for today.” Nikki replied. “You’re free to stalk on your own, though.”
“I’m sure you have heard the news as well.” Phineas said. “Mr. Kelly has been murdered.”
“Yeah. Our teacher told us that it was just confirmed this morning. Which is funny because we were supposed to play detective today. Bummer though. I guess we’ll do it tomorrow, then?” He inquired. Otis scrunched up in the nose. It was one of the only few moments that Otis seems to be thinking hard. Not that I’m calling him dumb. He wasn’t exceptionally bright. Not that way. “I wonder if we could ask around. People just don’t kill off teachers. Unless Mr. Kelly is some part of the mafia, which I surely doubt.”
“You’re right. We can do that after we checked up first on Ms. Weird.” Phineas butted in. He seemed to be more interested in the girl than the murder. My eyes narrowed on him, but the other boy didn’t notice. It was one of the few things that made Phineas weirder. His thirst for knowledge isn’t for the everyday stuff. “I guess I’ll see you guys tomorrow.”
And off he went. Another weird occurrence. Phineas doesn’t usually leave us just like that. He was too fixed on this girl. Maybe it had something to do with him. It was the only explanation I could think of.
“He’s not even going to ride the bus home with is?” Otis asked.
“Yeah. Weird. But that’s Phineas.” I nodded at Otis. He then looked at Phineas, who was still walking away. Then we saw the bus coming. “I’m sure he’ll come up with something. He always does. Let’s go.”
The ride home was uneventful. Both of us were stuck to their own heads, thinking of different things. I was more transfixed on the mysterious girl that day. On the other hand, Otis was more interested in Mr. Kelly’s death. Two weird things happened. In one single day. And both didn’t sound good at all. The bus stopped at Nikki’s house first. I nodded Otis a goodbye and hopped off the bus then walked towards their doorstep.
“Mom! I’m home!” Nikki called. There was no answer. Weird. My mom would never stay out long. But it didn’t bother me. It was just unusual. Something that doesn’t happen so often. Since there was nothing to do, I decided to hit the sack.
When I entered my room, there was something different about it. It was definitely gloomier, and the shadows seemed to be darker than usual. There was this sinister aura that was dancing on the walls of his room. His hands grew colder as if there was a thin layer of ice that was covering it. The thump of my heart could be heard as if it was sending a distress signal. But I ignored it. My mind must have been playing tricks on me. But I knew better. Then, something on his bed had caught my attention.
I approached the object on my bed that was wrapped in a black blanket. It had an icy, chilling feel to it that my palms began to quiver. Then I slowly reached for it and unwrapped the covering, which revealed a black sword about four feet long. The blade itself had a nightmarish color as if it was going to suck me whole. Its surface wasn’t shiny. No way would it reflect light. It was almost as thick as his arm, and the handle was delicately designed with some sort of tiny marks and symbols. The blade was double-edged despite being a thin sword. There was no blade guard, and the grip simply extended outwards towards the base of the blade.
Suddenly, a man appeared beside me. My heart took a lunge to my throat from the initial shock. It drummed in my chest as I stared at the man before me. He spoke, “It is called the Nyxian Blade. I must say, I covet what you have. We’ll see if I can take it away from you right now.”