I can move things with my mind.
I know, crazy right? Me, Stormi Griffin, a sixteen-year-old nobody living in the middle of the desert—I, of all people, have powers?
Trust me, I was surprised too. I’m not sure where they came from. One day, stuff just started floating around me when I got focused or excited or angry.
No one knew about this but me. I realized the day it started that it would have to be kept a secret. Humans famously don’t respond well to things they don’t understand; I wasn’t about to risk being locked up in a lab somewhere.
After the discovery, I went on with my life. I did my schoolwork, hung out with my sister, visited the library an absurd amount of times, wished I had friends, doodled myself as a superhero—you know, the usual. Other than occasionally using them to summon something I was too lazy to go get myself, I pretended my powers didn’t exist.
Life went on.
That is, until I exposed myself.
I was at the town library, all curled up in one of the comfy chairs with a book in my hands. The librarian, Emily, was organizing shelves nearby, her dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Emily was a kind woman in her early twenties, and pretty much my only friend so far since moving to New Mexico. She was very smart, and very observant—which was bad news for me. It wouldn’t surprise me if she figured me out right away after a slip-up like this.
I let myself get immersed in the story I was reading, let it take me away to another world. That was my first mistake: I was off-guard.
I was brought back to reality quite suddenly when I felt the adrenaline rush, the jittery feeling of energy flowing down my spine and through my limbs.
That’s when the books started floating off the shelves.
Encompassed by a soft, light-blue glow, they floated around the room like they were haunted. I began to panic—which, naturally, only made things worse. They started floating around faster, zooming in a circle around me.
No, no, no! Stop!
And just like that, they did. I took a deep breath, regaining my focus. The books obeyed my thoughts, floating back onto the shelves—just as Emily walked over to me. Perfect timing.
“Is everything alright, Stormi?” she asked. There was concern and curiosity in her dark brown eyes, fixed on me from behind her glasses.
“Yep,” I chirped, giving her my best attempt at an innocent smile. “This book is really good so far,” I added, trying to change the subject so she wouldn’t ask me any more questions.
I nearly cringed at how terrible a liar I was.
She offered me a smile, then went back to organizing shelves.
I watched her out of the corner of my eye, making sure she hadn’t noticed…and my heart stopped when I saw her do a double take, peering at one of the shelves that the books had floated off of.
She knows, I thought, horrified. I put the books back out of order, and she noticed. She knows what I did.
As I watched her, stiff as a board, Emily simply rearranged the books in the correct order and moved on.
I relaxed a bit. Maybe she didn’t figure it out after all.
But someone else did.
There was a boy, about sixteen with disheveled black hair and porcelain skin, sitting in a lounge area across from where I was. He looked away quickly, but not quick enough. I saw him staring at me with wide, dark eyes full of shock before he turned.
Oh, great. He definitely saw me.
“Here’s your backpack, Stormi.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin when Emily reappeared next to me. “You startled me,” I said with a nervous chuckle.
“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “It’s getting late. I figured you should probably head home by now.”
“Yeah, probably.” I took my backpack from her gratefully. “See you later, Emily.” I waved to the librarian, who waved back as I started to leave the library.
But when she turned away quickly and held up a phone to her ear with urgent haste, I stopped. I knew it was rude to eavesdrop, but I had to make sure she hadn’t figured out my secret.
I cocked my ear toward her as she said into the phone: “May I speak to Author Jonathan Chambers please?” She paused for a moment, then continued. “Author, you remember that girl I told you about? She’s one of us.”
Getting the impression I wasn’t supposed to hear any of that, I silently stepped away and slipped out the door. I pulled on my backpack and started to head home, praying that Emily hadn’t figured me out, when I nearly ran into a boy who was waiting just outside the door.
I gave a start, jumping away from the boy. My eyes went wide when his features caught my eye; dark hair, skin like porcelain—this was the boy who’d seen me using my powers.
"Sorry about this," the boy said. He snapped his fingers, and the shadows around us blew off the ground and surrounded us in a torrent of black smoke.
Then everything went dark.
* * *
It was pitch black when I opened my eyes. I was sitting in what felt like a wooden chair and could feel something rough pressing tightly against my wrists and ankles.
Realization dawned on me. I was tied up.
A blinding light came on out of nowhere and I squinted at the sudden brightness. When my eyes adjusted, I saw the boy standing over me, holding my backpack in one hand and a midnight-black sword in the other.
“Hello, Stormi Griffin,” he said solemnly.
I tensed. “How do you know my name?”
“It was on your backpack.”
“Who are you?” I demanded. “What do you want with me?”
"My name is Kai," he said. "I have some questions for you."
He lifted his sword and pointed the tip at me, his hand wobbling a bit as he did so. I would have been more intimidated if he didn't look so uncomfortable. “Where is the last Library?”
I blinked. “Sorry, what?”
“Don’t bother playing dumb, Storyteller,” he said.
“We know the Authors Guild still has an active portal in that Library,” he continued. “Now, just tell me where it is so we can dismantle it.”
I just gave him a blank stare. “Okay, look,” I said. “I don’t know who you’ve mistaken me for, but I don’t know about any portal, and I’m certainly not part of any guild. I’m just a normal kid trying to live her life. So if you would be so kind as to let me go—”
Kai cut me off with a laugh. “Like I’d fall for that,” he muttered. “I know all about how the Guild members are excellent liars. You’re not going to fool me.”
“But I’m a terrible liar!” I protested.
He rolled his eyes. “Drop the act, Storyteller.” He spat the word storyteller as if it was some kind of insult. “I saw you, remember? No untrained Guild member has that kind of raw power. Just give me the information and no one gets hurt.”
“I promise I have no idea what you’re talking about!” I exclaimed. “I’ve never heard of an Authors Guild or Storyteller before—well, I’ve heard of a storyteller, but the way you say it makes it sound like it has a second meaning that I’m not aware of—”
Kai pushed the edge of his sword onto my throat, his hand trembling. I winced; the metal was cold against my skin. “This isn’t a game,” he growled. “I don’t want to have to hurt you—I didn’t even want to bring you here. But we can’t let your recklessness release destruction on this world again. Tell me where the portal is, or I let my brother deal with you. And trust me—he won’t be as nice as me. Now, where is it?”
I leaned forward, irritation filling my voice as I snapped, “I. Don’t. Know.”
He stared at me for a moment, and I stiffened, praying he wasn’t about to kill me. He pulled his sword back and said, “I didn’t want to have to do this.”
He swung his sword at me and I flinched, thinking he was about to impale me, when he sliced the ropes off my wrists and ankles. I rubbed my wrists in relief.
Kai yanked me up off of the chair, holding his sword tip against my back to keep me from running away. He took me out of the dark room and down an equally dark hall. I heard eerily faint voices from all around, like whispers of the wind, and footsteps walking back and forth. We weren’t alone here.
“So where we goin’?” I asked casually.
“I’m taking you to my brother,” he said. “He’ll get answers out of you.”
“You know, as lovely as this brother of yours sounds,” I said, “I really should get going. So…”
I yanked my backpack from Kai's hand and stomped as hard as I could on his foot, causing him to cry out in pain and drop his sword. “Ow!”
And then I ran.
“Stop!” he called behind me, almost sounding desperate. “You don’t know what you’re doing!”
“Yeah, I do!” I shouted back over my shoulder. “I’m escaping!”
I dashed through the halls, searching for a way out. This place was like a maze. I pushed past people in dark clothes decorated with weapons, ignoring their sounds of shock and focusing only on getting as far away from that kid as possible.
“Leave her!” I heard him shout behind me. “I’ll take care of it!”
I pushed my legs to go faster. I nearly leapt with each step I took, flying down the halls. I looked for a large door, hopefully with windows showing the outside. Finally, with an ache in my legs and a stitch in my side, I came across a hallway with a set of double doors at the end. This had to be the way out.
I almost made it, too. But just as I made to sprint toward the door, a swirling black portal appeared beneath my feet and I fell through it, landing hard on the floor ten feet away from where I had been before.
Kai now stood between me and the doors. He stood over me, pointing his sword at me. “You didn’t really think it was going to be that easy, did you?”
“Not really,” I said.
Then my instincts kicked in.
All I remember was thinking of escaping, of being anywhere but there. I clenched my fists, and in a flash of blue light, I vanished.
Well, that was new.
I reappeared in a forest in the middle of nowhere. Not much better than my previous situation.
It took a moment for my heartbeat to slow down as a wave of exhaustion crashed over me. My chest ached; it was tight with anxiety. I hugged myself with trembling arms as nausea swirled in my stomach and crept up my throat. I should’ve expected an episode after an event like that, but anxiety attacks—however mild mine were—were never inviting. I tried to slow my shallow breathing, feeling as though I simply couldn’t get enough air. After a few minutes, the knot of anxiety in my chest loosened, and I was able to get oxygen in my lungs again.
I lay back against the tree I sat by, going over this beyond-bizarre day in my mind.
First, I had exposed my powers at the library and gotten caught. Then, I got kidnapped by a teenager at said library who appeared to be able to make portals out of shadows. And finally, I’d somehow teleported myself from the strange place he’d taken me to and landed in the middle of nowhere. So…what now?
My stomach growled. Food it is, I thought. I rummaged through my backpack for a snack, when a metallic glint caught my eye. Curious, I reached for it.
It was a large bronze key. It was about the size of my hand and it reflected the evening light, nearly blinding me when I looked at it directly. I noticed a note tied to the key and held it up. My eyes widened as I recognized Emily’s handwriting. The note read:
Gsv Nbhgvirlfh Yiznyovh.
Gibberish? I think not. The words were in code. I immediately recognized the Atbash Cipher and managed to figure out the translation. Gsv Nbhgvirlfh Yiznyovh, when decoded, read The Mysterious Brambles.
Still nonsense? Allow me to explain. The Mysterious Brambles is the name I jokingly gave to a patch of forest in the mountains that surrounded the city. The brush was so thick, full of bushes and briars, that it blocked any way into the area. I called the spot the Mysterious Brambles because I used to think the brambles were hiding something, planted there so no one would find it. And now, it seemed my theory could be true.
I glanced around the woods I was in, and realized I was near that area. With nowhere else to go, I stuffed the key in my pocket, pulled on my backpack, and headed toward the Mysterious Brambles.
Along the way, I pulled the key out again, turning it over in my hands. I was beginning to get the feeling that this key, and whatever it led to, had something to do with my powers. Who knew, maybe I’d finally discover what they were, where they came from.
I’d read and researched everything I could find about telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind. All I could find were sci-fi stories and articles about superheroes, which weren’t much help. But a little flame of hope burned in me as I walked through the mountains; maybe this time, I’d finally find answers.
“Ouch!” I yelped. I was so lost in thought that I ran into a tree branch.
I brushed my hair out of my eyes and looked up. I had reached the Mysterious Brambles.
I took a deep breath as I faced the thick vegetation. “Here goes nothing,” I said.
I held out my hands and summoned my mental energy. For the most part, I’d been repressing my powers, so I didn’t have much control over them. I barely managed to pull away some of the shrubbery with my powers, forcing a small path through it. It was tough, and I came out with a few scrapes and scratches, but I made it through.
I now stood in front of a giant set of gleaming bronze doors embedded in the side of the mountain, etched with patterns of stars and swirls.
I stared at the doors in awe and pulled out the key. I held it up to the doors; it matched perfectly. I inserted the key into the lock and, my heart pounding with curiosity and anticipation, I turned it.
The doors swung open to reveal a stairway leading deep into the mountain, lit by lanterns with blue fire flickering inside them. I eagerly headed down the stairway. It went on until the doors were no longer in view. When I finally reached the bottom, I stood in front of a smaller door that looked similar to the one outside, except this one was silver. It was already unlocked. I gingerly pushed it open, revealing an arched hallway with a wood floor and star-swirled paintings on the walls that were reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
I ambled through the hallway, marveling at the beauty of the paintings, when I heard voices coming from the end of the hall. I immediately froze, then silently crept forward. I stopped at the end of the hall, peeking out where it opened up into a large room shaped like a figure eight. A curved couch sat in the center of the room, along with some comfy looking chairs and ottomans. The walls were all bookcases, filled with the most books I had ever seen in one place. In between the bookcases was an open entryway leading to another twisting hallway.
I tore my eyes from the beautiful room and focused my attention on the conversing voices. I couldn’t see the speakers from where I hid, but I could hear their voices clearly.
“You’re sure you saw this?” a deep male voice asked.
“I’m sure,” replied a female voice that I almost instantly recognized.
“But I wasn’t the only one. There was a boy there—one of Kenneth’s sons.”
“Oh dear,” the first voice said. “She’s certainly in danger now… You gave her the key?”
“Yes,” Emily confirmed. “I put it in her backpack.”
The key? I looked down at the bronze key still in my hand. Oh shoot. They were talking about me.
“Then there’s no time to lose,” said the deep voice. “As soon as she gets here, we’ll start her training right away. She’ll need it to be able to defend herself. They’ll be after her.”
Lovely. I slipped up one time and now I had a target on my head. How could I have let this happen?
“We should let the others know,” said Emily. “Come on.”
A thousand questions raced through my mind. Who was this guy that Emily was talking with? What was this place? Who was after me, and why?
I heard footsteps retreating from the area. I peeked out again just in time to see Emily and a man I didn’t recognize turning down the hall and out of sight.
My common sense was screaming at me that this was a terrible idea. I had no idea what was going on and I could be walking right into a trap. But my curiosity was stronger. In the library, Emily had said I was “one of them,” whatever they were. I was so close to answers, I could feel it.
I couldn’t not follow them at this point.
I scanned the room quickly to make sure no one else was in there, then set out after the two. Staying well out of sight, I trailed Emily and the man through the halls of the strange place. I was beginning to realize that in all the rooms, except for the hallways connecting them (which were painted like the hallway I’d walked through earlier), the walls were all bookshelves. This whole place was like one giant library.
Finally, Emily and the man entered the largest entryway I’d seen so far and disappeared from view. I waited a few moments, then followed them in. I caught my breath at what I saw.
It was the tallest library I’d ever seen. It was a cylinder-shaped room with a ceiling that was so high I couldn’t see the top; it just seemed to fade into darkness. There were ladders and winding balconies, all made of dark wood, so you could reach each shelf. And in the center of the room, there was a giant portal.
At least, that’s what it looked like. It was a huge, bulky metal ring propped up on a metal platform with steps leading up to it. It glowed faintly, and I noticed a rectangular slot on top of it that looked like something needed to be placed inside it for it to work. It seemed a bit out of place in the warm glow of the room.
My gut churned at the sight—was this the portal that the boy had been talking about when he was interrogating me?
I turned my eyes away, attempting to quell the anxiety by examining the rest of the room. Four people sat at a table on the right side of the portal. Upon further inspection, I realized they were all…kids? Teens, to be exact. Interesting.
They looked up as Emily and the man approached them, and I ducked behind the doorway. I waited a few seconds, then peeked my head out and studied the strangers. The man Emily stood next to looked about fifty, with neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper hair and a short beard. The four teens looked expectantly at Emily and the man, appearing tense. The most peculiar thing that struck me about these people was that they all wore silver bracelets with blue pendants embedded in the center. As I looked closer, I noticed they all had their own unique designs.
“So, what was it you guys needed to tell us?” asked one of the teens. He was on the older side, with dark skin and hair weaved into cornrows.
“Emily says she’s found us a new member,” said the man.
“A new member?” The second teen, a girl wearing all black, tilted her head and brushed back her long ash-blond hair. She gazed at Emily with curious golden-brown eyes.
Emily nodded. “I gave her the key to the base. She should be here soon.”
“We could definitely use some help around here,” said a third teen, adjusting his olive-green beanie. His dark green eyes sparkled with humor. “’Specially since Brad almost, y’know, nos mató on our last mission.”
The older boy punched him in the arm. “That was on you, Logan.”
“Rude,” the second boy said, rubbing his arm and frowning. “It’s not my fault you’re losing your touch.”
The fourth teen rolled her eyes at the boys, tossing back her short, vibrant red hair. “Dimwits.”
I started to step forward, about to demand to know what the heck was going on here, when my whole body stiffened.
A shiver ran down my back and I went limp. I collapsed on the ground, capturing the attention of Emily and the others, and their shouts of surprise were the last thing I heard before I blacked out.
* * *
“What happened to the girl?”
Kai gulped as he stood before a dark, looming figure. “She escaped,” he said shakily. “I wasn’t able to get anything out of her—I think she really doesn’t know anything.”
“Dimwit,” the figure hissed. “That means her power is raw, untapped. If what you saw was her repressed power, just imagine what she’ll do once she’s trained. Stormi Griffin will be our downfall.”
Kai nodded. “I understand, Kievan.”
The shadowy figure turned its glowing yellow eyes on Kai. “Your job, little brother, is to track this girl down,” the figure growled, “and kill her.”