She stares at me in confusion. “Okayyy... but if you tell me you’ve got a girlfriend, I’m going to punch you in the face. I’m just warning you.”
“No! That’s not it at all. Come on, let’s sit down.” I tug at her hand and move to sit on the swinging chairs. She sinks down next to me. I can’t stop now. There’s no looking back. “Uh... I know this is gonna sound bizarre. I don’t even know why I’m telling you, but something’s driving me to.”
She doesn’t say a word. I pull my feet up on the cushion and wrap my hands under my knees because they’re trembling so much.
“I’m not from this time,” I begin to say. But I stop immediately when I hear the sound of two familiar British voices.
“What do you—?”
“Shh!” I say, cupping my hand over her mouth, yanking her to the ground.
I crawl towards the window and peek out. I glimpse Naima and Axel surveying the area… for me. They’re following my travels.
“What’s wrong?” she whispers urgently as she crawls over to me.
“Those people… they’re after me.”
She pokes her head out and slips back down. “Why are those weird people after you?”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you. I’m like... a time traveler, sort of. Except that I do it through photos.”
I stop and wait for some response from her, but she remains silent. I replay what I just said in my mind and figure she probably thinks I’m crazy—but instead she erupts in a low laughter. “How much did you drink? You are funny.”
I loudly place my finger over my mouth. “I’m not kidding. Those people are really dangerous. I’m not lying. I can prove it to you.”
She turns over and leans against the wall. “Fine” she teases. “Then prove it, time traveler.”
I quickly glance outside again. Naima and Axel are no longer in sight, which makes my stomach flutter with nerves. I reach into my back pocket and pull out the other two photos I have of her. “Here. I bet you can’t remember these moments. You haven’t taken these yet. They’re from the future.”
She stares at them blankly. She obviously doesn’t know what to say.
“I told you I wasn’t lying.”
“I don’t understand... how is this even possible?”
I was worried that she would feel scared or threatened, but she seems more curious than anything. Still, I have to say it anyway.
“Don’t be weirded out please. I’m not a witch, or some freak. It’s not black magic. And I haven’t put a curse or spell on you,” I grin. “It’s something in my family. We’re photo travelers. We can travel through photos. That’s pretty much it. Oh, except that when we travel, our eyes turn purple.”
She turns her head. I can see that she’s still having trouble understanding what I’m trying to tell her.
“So, you’re telling me you come from the future?”
“That’s exactly what he is telling you darling.” Naima’s voice echoes from the doorway.
We both jump to our feet and I take a firm stand in front of Alanna.
“Don’t start trouble here.” I say.
“What do they want, Gavin?” Alanna asks.
“Yes, tell her what we want.” Axel sneers.
“Let her go and I’ll stay and talk to you.”
“I’m not going to just lea –”
I whip my head around and whisper, “I’ll be back I promise. Just go.”
“She can go. She does us no good anyway,” Naima says.
I try grabbing her hand but she pulls it away. “Please.” I ask.
She nods nervously and begins walking for the door, having to pass between Naima and Axel. She turns back around and I can see her face crinkle as if she’s planning something. Naima grabs her hand. “I don’t think that would be wise.”
“Let her go!” I demand. “She’s not going to do anything. Right Alanna?”
She stares at Naima with disgust. “I’m not going to do anything,” she says flatly.
Naima smirks and releases her wrist as if it was dripping in slime. “Nice shoes,” she says.
With Alanna gone, Axel closes the door and the place is illuminated by three sets of burning violet eyes.
“Pretty girl, that one. Good taste.” Naima says.
“How do you guys do that? Find me and intercept my travel? Can I do that?”
Naima takes two steps to the right and places a hand on her arched hip. “I could make that happen if you’d like. Axel and I are the only Peace Hunters with the ability. It was sort of a bonus when we converted.”
Axel stands guarding the door like a bouncer to an exclusive members-only club.
“When you converted?”
“Mhm. We weren’t born into this lifestyle, darling. We chose it. And more so, we live fiercely by it. But we’ll have plenty of time to get into that later. First we have some business to discuss.”
“Why do you want the vials? We’re not gods. Changing the past can mess with everything, even your own lives.”
Axel lets out a breathy laugh. “If you’re trying to negotiate with me then you are taking the wrong route. If my childhood were to change, then I would consider that a plus. The world is poisoned and it is our oath to draw the poison from it.”
“By becoming the poison?”
“Cute. Very cute.” Naima says. “Where are the vials? We will find them. We will follow your every travel until we locate you in present time. There is no length we would not travel to retrieve them. Remember that.”
“You know we don’t have all five, right?”
“We are one step ahead of you. The remaining will be taken care of. Not for you to worry.”
“I won’t give them to you.”
“Then we’ll take them from you.” Axel finally puts in, pulling the same gun from his jacket.
“You’ll have to find me first.”
The window slides open and Alanna’s voice calls out, “Gavin! Jump!”
I dive out the window and onto the grass. I grab Alanna’s hand and pull her into a blinded run.
“You need to go!” she screams.
“I’m not going to leave you alone.”
I turn my head and spot Naima and Axel, now outside of the clubhouse, but down on one knee. Both have their white guns aimed at us. Then from out of the guns’ barrels, a charged violet net shoots out.
“Watch out!” I say, tackling her to the ground.
The net misses us by a hair, instead hitting a light post and wrapping itself tightly around it.
“I need you to run that way. I’m going to leave, but I need you to know you’re safe.”
“I mean it this time. No tricks.”
I quickly smile. “Thank you.” I give her a quick kiss and help her to her feet. “I’ll be back.”
Alanna darts in the direction of a row of houses and I split towards the empty street. Naima and Axel are now chasing after me. Once I am confident that Alanna has found refuge, I shout the chant.