Not the Only One
Peter Thompson stood over the graves of his parents with a feeling of relief.
Every night he visited their graves, so no one would disturb his favorite moment of the day. They were gone, but he felt gone as well, like he was in another dimension with his parents. Surprisingly, his visits were worth the grief that overcame him, for in these precious moments, he realized that they were in a better place. And yet, at the same time, it still grieved him that they were not with him.
How could death cause so much pain and relief at the same time?
“Will you ever come back?” he murmured to the graves, wondering if, after everything he knew, the dead could come alive. Part of him still refused to believe they were dead. There were no bodies, he told himself, only dirt lay beneath those headstones.
He wiped the tears from his cheeks, looking around. What if someone saw? He didn’t like to be thought of as weak.
“Peter!” whispered a voice behind him.
He nearly leaped into the tree above him. How long had Ethan been there? Peter turned to face his best friend.
“Ethan!” Peter stuttered, quickly stepping into a tree’s shadow to hide his tears. “What are you doing here?”
Ethan edged closer to Peter, careful not to step on any grave. “Just follow me, would you?” Peter gulped as he scrubbed the tears from his face. He felt like a child caught in misbehavior. He gave the graves one last glance before leaving.
He followed Ethan, who was dramatically jumping over all the graves. “How did you know I was here?” asked Peter.
“Don’t you usually come here like every night?” asked Ethan, still in a low whisper. Peter’s expression confirmed his thoughts. “Nothing wrong with it, just asking.”
Peter didn’t know if Ethan’s words eased him. It didn’t seem like he had seen him crying, but what would Ethan think of him if he had? However, it didn’t seem as if Ethan even saw his tears, so he left the matter alone.
They remained silent and respectful, even after they exited the shadowy graveyard. The cemetery was in a field of plain grass, a couple of miles away from a gloomy forest Peter thought of every so often. Thankfully, Peter and his friend headed the opposite direction of the forest, towards the city of Jemnis, which was not nearly as far as the forest, but still distant enough to isolate the graveyard.
It was not long before they reached their familiar neighborhoods, and they walked on the sidewalks as a guide.
“Where are we going?” asked Peter, not willing to be led blindly.
“You might want to fix your hair,” said Ethan, glancing at Peter’s black, wind-blown hair. Ethan was just quite the opposite of Peter: organized and efficient, with combed, shiny blonde hair.
“Why?” laughed Peter, wondering why Ethan cared about his appearance.
“We’re going to see Julia.”
Peter deliberately reached for his hair. “Why would I care?” He looked at Ethan, hoping he had not perceived the change of tone in his voice. Peter did not like it when others knew of his personal feelings, especially his best friend.
“Please,” Ethan laughed, leading Peter into another, unknown neighborhood. “I’ve seen the way you look at her, but don’t worry-- she probably has even stronger feelings for you.”
“You really think so?” Peter hoped so, but he tried not to sound too desperate. Out of the many girls he had caught the attention of, Julia was the only one he enjoyed being with.
“I know so,” replied Ethan, impatiently. “I’ve told you before but you never believe me.”
Peter sighed, knowing he had been told this several times before- but he didn’t want to believe Ethan, afraid of how he would feel if it was proven false.
“So why exactly are we going to see Julia?” asked Peter, frowning at how fidgety Ethan was acting, as if prepared to do something mischievous. By now, they were deep into unknown territory, and the familiar sound of a ball pounding echoed throughout the silent, cold night.
“You’ll see,” said Ethan, a grin pulling at his mouth.
They turned another corner, and a few streets ahead of them they could barely make out a group of teenagers at the neighborhood park, with a few boys playing street basketball, and a few girls either gossiping or gawking at the guys. Among the girls, Peter could spot Julia, who was in the center.
The girls stopped whispering and the boys stopped dribbling once they saw Peter and Ethan approaching. There was a moment of silence, then,
“Happy birthday!” they all yelled along with Ethan, loud enough to wake whoever were asleep in the next few blocks. Hopefully no one would be too disturbed.
“Thanks, guys,” was all Peter could say, raising his eyebrows. No one said a word to him about his birthday the entire day, and he thought they had completely forgotten. Peter was glad they recalled, though he wished they had mentioned it a bit earlier.
He and Ethan walked closer to the group of girls while the boys in the back dropped the ball hesitantly and joined as well. Peter was hoping they had continued so he could join, however it seemed they had all gathered there for more than just sports.
“Hey, Peter,” said the tallest boy, and the others greeted him with a clap on the back. They all clustered behind Peter, and it felt right. He was naturally the leader of the gang of jocks. Peter watched as the girls stood behind Julia as well; and so this happened to be one reason why Peter and Julia seemed so perfect for each other- both were popular, attractive and intelligent.
However intelligent Peter may have been , he was distracted quite easily in school, for he was an active teenager. He soon realized the reason for this unexpected gathering was because of these problems.
“So we’re all here for Peter,” smiled Julia, stating the obvious facts. It sounded as if she stifled a giggle at the sound of Peter’s name. “I don’t know if you know just how bad his grades are in school, but it’s not his fault,” she quickly added, hoping she didn’t offend Peter in any way. Peter could sense the boys behind him nodding in agreement. “That final test we took last Friday- the one that was a major grade- he failed. But it’s funny because our answers were not that different from Peter’s, yet we all passed but him.”
Peter tried with difficulty to not look confused. Was his terrible failing grade the reason why they had gathered? He couldn’t link his birthday and his grades, but he was willing to listen to find out.
“I was told by the principle that because he failed that test,” continued Julia, hesitating on the next part, “he has failed the entire seventh grade.”
“What!” yelled the boys, outraged. “It’s because of Mr. Horn, isn’t it?” They all seemed quite irritated that Peter wouldn’t be able to go onto the eighth grade with them, but Peter- however livid he may have been at Mr. Horn- did not worry.
“Guys!” yelled Peter in frustration, clenching his fist at the thought of his unjust teacher. “Obviously, Julia should have a solution if she’s going to bring it up... right?” He added the last part, turning to Julia with a pleading look.
Julia grinned at such an ignorant question. “Of course I do,” she said. “Because it’s your birthday, we’re going to help you, but you’re the only one we know who could possibly do this and pull it off.”
“Do what exactly?” asked Peter, hoping the answer would satisfy him. He had a strong desire to pass onto the next grade with his friends, and a certain distaste of staying behind with the obnoxious soon-to-be seventh graders.
“Remember how you somehow broke into the school before not once, but twice?”
“Yeah,” said Peter, not knowing where this was leading to.
Julia took in a deep breath, as if scared Peter might reject her idea. “You might have to break into it one more time to change your grade.”
Peter was impressed by how far his friends were willing to go for the sake of them being in the same grade together. He was also quite stimulated like an adventurer. He had no fear of breaking into his school in the evening- his reputation with the principal was too negative for him to care anymore.
Peter smiled, his heart pounding as if he was already inside the school. “Alright,” he said. “When?”
Julia seemed glad Peter accepted, and she let out a sigh of relief. “Now,” she said.
“What are we waiting for?” shrieked a few girls in wild excitement.
Some of the boys seemed reluctant to leave the basketball court, but they all followed with a greater eagerness after a few seconds. In total, there were six boys and five girls. The rest of the seventh grade apparently did not know about the adrenalized event or were simply not allowed out by themselves. Peter, for one, was preferred not to be out by himself, especially at night, for Eritus- his guardian and father-figure- was very protective of him. Peter decided to leave his house to visit his parents’ graves- not directly against Eritus’ orders, but he never warned him either.
They walked on with an atmosphere of electricity, all animated and scared at the same time. Peter dug into his pocket to reach for a stone he usually carried, and began to fiddle with it nervously- a stone his parents had given him years ago. They turned paths and walked towards where they knew their school was at. However, half way there, they met with an unwanted small group of wrongdoers- much more troublesome than Peter or any of his friends.
Grayson, the leader of the pesky high school boys, was fortunately not paying any attention towards Peter’s group; however, he and his over-sized, buff friends were harassing an unfortunate teenage boy. Julia stopped in her tracks, and a couple of boys pulled Peter back.
“What’s the matter?” asked Peter, who tried to escape from his friends’ grip. Their wary expressions told Peter they didn’t want anything to do with the three, even though they outnumbered them. “I can’t just let them do that,” insisted Peter, not able to resist the urge to help the victim and stop the dishonorable act.
“I’m not messing with them,” said one boy, eyeing Grayson with an attentive stare, who pushed his victim roughly into a tree.
“Alright, but let me,” persisted Peter. “You guys go ahead. I’ll meet up with you in a bit at the school.” After convincing his friends he could outrun even Grayson, they reluctantly went the opposite direction of the bullies, leaving Peter alone.
Peter turned around and faced Grayson, who finally noticed Peter and stood frozen, looking at him. A grin formed on his mouth.
“Oh, it’s the Thompson freak,” said Grayson, pushing his victim away and facing Peter. Luckily, none of the bullies noticed their old victim stumble away.
Freak. Peter despised the word. Grayson and his friends were one of few who knew Peter had special... abilities. Although his companions were bulky, slow and stupid, Grayson was not, and sometimes Peter would have no choice but to use his paramental abilities to escape him. Being a paramental- a magical race that can manipulate certain elements- he felt superior then all three of the bullies, and at the moment, he was forcing himself not to use his magic to harm any of them.
“Oh yea, Thompson freak,” laughed the boy on Grayson’s right, then stopped, puzzled. “Why is he a freak again?”
Grayson ignored the dim response. “What you gonna do now, Thompson?” he sneered. “Use that wind of yours to make those rocks fly at me?”
“Just don’t be bullying people that you think aren’t cool, alright?” suggested Peter. “If you want to bully someone, bully one of your own guys.” Peter pointed at one teenager who had failed tenth grade so many times, he was already growing a beard. The teenager looked at Grayson, aghast.
“You know you’re really lucky I don’t know where you live,” stated Grayson.
Peter laughed. “I don’t think you want to attack someone like me,” he said, attempting to anger the bully. Peter turned around, about to follow the path his friends had taken to the school when a rock whizzed by his right ear, landing a few feet away.
Peter turned. “You missed,” he teased before turning again and sprinting towards the right in between two houses. Grayson and his two jerks went running behind Peter, only a few meters away. Peter jumped with effort and climbed over a fence slightly before Grayson reached the wooden fence. He climbed over it as quickly as Peter had done, but the other two ran into the fence clumsily. They were no longer a threat. It was Grayson who could possibly harm Peter now.
Luckily, they passed a trashcan, where Peter waved his hand, making a gust of wind knock it down in between him and Grayson. The bully nearly fell jumping over it as another gust forced a piece of wood to extend out from a fence. This caught him completely unaware, and Grayson fell down from the hit. As Peter looked over his shoulder, he laughed at the sight of Grayson huffing in anger, covering his bruised nose.
“Thompson!” Grayson yelled in frustration, getting up and running faster than ever.
It were times like these that made Peter relish his everyday life in his neighborhood- Raven’s Nest. Running away from someone like Grayson did not frighten Peter but instead entertained him. There was nothing to fear. He never got caught, and most of the times, Grayson would be the one to have misfortunes befall him. One time, Peter had even managed to break the bully’s leg after a door was slammed shut on it with a swift wave of Peter’s hand. It impressed him how many times Grayson tried to chase him, but Peter knew he would never allow someone younger than him to best him. Perhaps Grayson was as dimwitted as his companions.
They were now in open ground, near the park, where there were no houses or fences to use as obstacles. This was a mistake made by Peter. It was true he could outrun Grayson, but only if he was in a useful surrounding. He did not have complete mastery over his abilities, and he had no idea how to use his magic against Grayson in an open area. It looked as if it might be this mistake that cost him his escape.
Just when Grayson was about to grab Peter and do him harm, out of the darkness came a blue flash as quick as lightning, and to Peter’s astonishment, it appeared to be water! The jet of water hit Grayson squarely in the face, knocking him directly to the ground and leaving him motionless.
Peter stopped running. Still panting, he was dumbfounded as to who had thrown the substance. Water? Was there another paramental in the neighborhood? To Peter’s knowledge, the only paramentals he knew that existed were him and Eritus, but never had he imagined there could possibly be another one like him.
Peter looked in the direction the water had come from, but there was no person to be seen in the dark. It appeared to be only Peter in the park.
His interest had definitely been drawn, but he recalled that he had almost no time left to even meet with his friends, much less to search for other paramentals in the neighborhood. Maybe another day, he thought.
“Peter,” said Julia, her light eyebrows scrunched in terror. Peter found his friends five minutes later, huddled together in front of the entrance of their school. Julia was pointing out something odd about the entrance.
The double doors were completely torn off from its hinges, as if something very powerful knocked it down. As Peter peeked in, he could see the alarm was completely destroyed as well. Besides that, everything else seemed normal, as if the intruder only entered violently but did not disrupt anything else.
“What happened here?” asked Peter, frowning at the doors on the floor.
Ethan shrugged. “It was like this when we got here,” he answered. “But there is no way I’m going in there now. Sorry, Peter.”
Peter nodded at Ethan in comprehension. He then turned to Julia. “You don’t have to go inside if you don’t want to,” he said. “All of you. I’ll go inside by myself.”
“O-o-h the brave boy now, huh?” asked one boy. “Who knows who the hell’s in there?”
“I doubt there’s someone in there now,” responded Peter. But in truth, he could not override his curiosity. He was interested to know who- or what- had entered, but Peter had a feeling no ordinary man could’ve broken into the school like this. As he entered the school ignoring his friends’ constant pleadings, Peter began to wonder if he would find the mysterious paramental within these hallways. It would be exhilarating to find other magical beings like him; it made him wonder if magic was not as sparse as he once thought.
Everything was silent. There was no sign of life whatsoever. It was as if the intruder had entered the school then left, deciding the school was not interesting enough to rob or explore. After a few more minutes of looking around, Peter got bored and disappointed with his progress in his search for the paramental, so he decided instead to keep a lookout for the janitor, Cender, who usually stood late these hours and was not particularly fond of Peter after leaving behind so many messes.
He began to walk towards room 118, Mr. Horn’s room, deciding to continue with his original plan. He didn’t bother to invite his friends over now despite the fact there was no threat. He quite enjoyed the peaceful silence. However, he didn’t have much time to stay and admire the tranquility in the hallways that were usually filled with loud and unpleasant noises. It was much darker outside when he had entered the school, and Eritus was bound to notice Peter had left.
“Not you again,” groaned a familiar voice. Peter jumped and turned around, facing Cender who was a few meters in front of him. “Did you do this?” the janitor asked, looking at the set of doors on the floor, his furry, dark eyebrows raising close to his stringy hair. If Cender didn’t know about Peter’s magical powers, he might have not accused Peter.
“No,” answered Peter, disappointed the janitor had found him, but not distressed.
“But, let me guess,” said Cender, folding his formed arms, “you probably were planning to break in anyways again- am I right?”
Peter thought for a second. “Yes,” admitted Peter with a grin.
Cender let his arms hang and sighed. Then, out of nowhere, he burst into a great velocity towards Peter. If he hadn’t been several feet away, Peter would’ve been caught.
“This is the last time I have to clean up and lie for you, Peter!” yelled Cender, enraged. Peter ran up the stairs, two steps at a time, thinking of how unfortunate it was for him that Cender was a fit man.
Peter went into classrooms and turned hallways, trying to get Cender off his trail. It never occurred to him to use magic here, but eventually, after a few more minutes of running, he dove into a luckily opened door and waited there, covering his mouth with his shirt to quiet his loud puffs.
He heard the hurried footsteps of the janitor pass the room Peter was in and he let out a deep breath of relief. He wouldn’t like to know what would happen if he did finally get caught.
Peter cautiously opened the door and walked back in the direction he had come from- the opposite direction in which Cender took. He walked downstairs back towards Mr. Horn’s room, making every step as noiseless as he could.
He quickened his pace as the room numbers began to increase, until finally, he reached room 118. He found it odd how all the classroom doors had been closed and most likely locked, but Mr. Horn’s was not even shut. The door was left wide open, like during school hours allowing students in.
Peter frowned, wondering if Cender had abandoned his search for Peter and continued with his work. But all was silent. No sucking sounds of vacuum cleaners or the sounds of cleaning blinds were heard. So then why was the door opened? Was Mr. Horn still in his classroom?
Peter inched closer to the doorway. He peeked inside and saw that Mr. Horn was indeed inside the classroom, but fast asleep on his desk. Peter walked in, laughing quietly. Mr. Horn usually slept sitting up during class, but Peter found it odd that tonight he was with his head buried into his crossed arms.
Peter found a pile of packets at the edge of the science teacher’s desk. As Peter flipped through them, he wondered why it was Mr. Horn hated him so much. Perhaps it was because Peter was not necessarily a good model when it came to following the rules, but it seemed that no matter what he did, Mr. Horn was always short-tempered with him. This occasion, Peter knew he passed the test, because it was the only test he had actually studied for and his answers were not much different than his friends- who all passed commended. The strange thing was that the grade Peter had gotten was pitifully below his friends. He had even tried to discuss the matter with the principal, but she unfortunately trusted Mr. Horn.
He finally found his test, and he found it amusing that most of the questions were checked correctly. His correct grade was at the top in green numbers reading a high B, but the problem was not on the paper but in the report card on Mr. Horn’s laptop. It was the only other place the report could’ve been at. But how was he going to figure out the password?
He looked at Mr. Horn and frowned, being aware of just how silent the sleeping teacher was. Mr. Horn slept many hours during the school years during class time, having no desire to teach, and his snoring was extremely frustrating to turn deaf to. Now, however, the stationary teacher was as quiet as the cemetery Peter had visited, but he had no time to ponder on this as someone- most likely Cender- was heard walking very slowly in the hallway.
Peter quickly hid underneath the teacher’s desk, being careful not to touch Mr. Horn, and waited for the janitor to pass by. The slow walking was eerie to Peter, making his heart beat violently to Cender’s strange serenity. Peter could barely see the image of the feet of the person, however, they were not that of any janitor. Another man was in the school with them.
The man’s feet were not visible, covered with a long, pitch black cloak sweeping behind him as he passed by the entrance of Mr. Horn’s room. The man soon left Peter’s proximity, however his air was that of might and power. His very aura made Peter chill all over, and he could almost see his breath visible in front of him.
Peter stood up and frowned, his heart pounding drastically. Was that peculiar man the intruder? Peter had only one possible explanation and everything that was occurring had a connection. From the water knocking Grayson out, to the entrance of the school being torn down, and to the silence of the sleeping teacher, it all summed up to be a horrifying conclusion: there indeed was another paramental, but not one Peter would want to have met.
He slowly turned to Mr. Horn with wide eyes. His assumptions couldn’t be true, but as he checked the teacher he had loathed for two years, he realized the hapless man was dead! The warmth was receding surely, but Peter could tell he had not died long ago. Mr. Horn had been stripped unexpectedly from life, and what was worse, his murderer was present in the very same building Peter stood in.