Ashes Magic

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How could she be late on her first day of school? It was not just the beginning of a new school year, it was her first day at the University of Alcantes. The culprit for the delay was her hair. When she woke up and looked in the mirror, she was surprised by that black disheveled and laughed at herself. She looked like those girls in Japanese horror films that scared people using their hair. She repented bitterly for not having fixed it earlier. It was not so easy to tame rebellious hair. It became disheveled as she slept. Actually, she didn’t sleep at all. The nightmares marathon had been horrifying. But, what worried her now was her first day in college in another new city. This was a sudden change; her parents had received a better job offer.

She was anxious. As in any other educational institution, her circumstances never changed. Everyone was stunned by her. Kate was characterized by her exotic beauty and had clear, striking, blue eyes which contrasted with her dark, straight hair. After having a quick coffee, she picked up her old backpack. Before leaving, she returned to the room and took one last look in the mirror. She only wore eyeliner and lip gloss, jeans, and a tank top. She had always preferred basic and modest clothing. Kate did not have many sophisticated clothes. Her family was modest and they did not have access to many modern niceties. Her allowance was little that it did not cover the value of a new backpack. Her parents took up a bank loan to help her with future college expenses.

The weather was sultry. The sun insisted to infiltrate the dark clouds that filled a cloudy sky. It had not rained for weeks. As she had only been living a week in the new town, she had not yet become accustomed to the sinister atmosphere of Alcantes. Kate entered the gate and admired the new university. It had a smooth and picturesque structure. Students circled the courtyard where several huge trees provided shade for them.

Kate tried looking for the coordinator but saw no one. The room was large and consisted of two tables with computers, some filing cabinets, a huge bookshelf, and a comfortable sofa.

“Alas! I’ll miss the first class!” she swore, sitting on the couch. Ten minutes later, the door opened and into the room entered a young, chubby woman with light brown hair wearing a striped blouse and twill trousers.

“Hello, dear! Sorry for the delay. I had to attend to something. You must be the new student. Let me get your file,” the woman said as she sorted through a lot of folders. “Here, I found it!” She took off her glasses and wiped them on her blouse. She said, “Kate Miller you’ve recently moved, right?”

“Yes, I moved here a week ago,” Kate replied. She hugged her backpack that was in her lap tightly.

“Let’s see. Looking at your history, you have lived in several other regions.” With a gentle look, the coordinator added, “It must be unpleasant to be moving so often.”

“Yes, it is. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong anywhere,” Kate confessed, her head down and not bothering to reveal her feelings for the strange.

She said, “It’ll be alright, my dear. Soon, you’ll be full of friends!” She gave a wink to the girl. “Certainly there will be many candidates for a boyfriend. You’re cute!”

Clearing her throat, Kate said timidly to her, “Thank you.”

With a smile, the woman handed her some papers. She continued, “This is the schedule grid and its authorization.” She looked over her glasses. “By the way, my name is Diana. If you need anything, just come to me. This is also in case you need to kick the ass of some asshole guy who harasses you,” the woman said smiling. “Welcome to the University of Alcantes!”

Kate went towards her classroom and concluded that an ally would be welcome. As indicated on the grid, she confirmed that her first class was Modern Art. Approaching the room, she clutched her old backpack. Kate always carried articles about spirits and people who possessed unusual gifts. There were also many magazines and research involving alien life on other planets. She opened the bag absently and placed her schedules in it. She remembered the mantra that she always recited before she would enter a new classroom. She began reciting it with a tone of suspense, “Alien coming ... Three ... Two ... One.” When she raised her head, she was surprised as she bumped into a stocky and tall boy.

“Ouch! Look where you’re going!” Kate screamed in amazement as she tried to balance herself. Embarrassed, she squared her shoulders, straightened her hair, and looked at the boy. The only reaction he gave her was a crooked smile. He seemed amused. Kate was shocked. She repented for not being more careful and mentally recorded that she would be more careful in her new university.

“Good day to you, too!” said the boy with a charming smile plastered on his face. He straightened his shirt which Kate had pulled for balance and gave her a friendly look.

Kate said, “Sorry, I was distracted.” She apologized and continued, “Damn! You scared me!” Watching the boy closely, her bag almost fell to the ground. He was beautiful. Returning to logical reasoning, she improvised. “I did not expect that someone would be coming out of that door. The class has already started. Actually, should it not be there?” Kate pointed towards the room.

He answered, “First, thanks for the scare. A sensitive guy like me could be traumatized by all this amazement. And to answer your question, yes, I should be in that room.” He passed his hand across his forehead. “It turns out that I woke up with a terrible headache today and thought I’d enjoy this class. What about you? What’s your excuse? Are you new here?”

Kate replied, “Yes, I moved here this week and today is my first day.” Away from the intense gaze, she concluded, “I’d better go. I’m late.”

He turned his head sideways and looked at the girl. Shrugging, he said, “I think my headache is gone. Come, I’ll walk with you.” She entered the room followed by the boy. The teacher gave them permission to enter and found a good place to sit. When she sat down, her old backpack opened up and dropped everything on the floor. Several items, including her personal effects, rolled everywhere. As a result of the pathetic scene, she heard some giggling classmates. Kate always felt insecure in her acts. She felt strange and displaced anywhere she went. When she started to collect her things that were scattered on the ground, she felt someone’s presence. She looked up and noticed that it was the boy whom she had bumped into earlier. Feeling grateful for the help, she managed to gather all of her belongings. When she realized that her magazine about aliens and ghosts had fallen into someone else’s hands, a huge despair came over her. A curious girl flipped through it and laughed at all the paraphernalia. Suddenly, Kate stood up and pulled the magazine from her hand.

“Wow! What kind of normal girl would be interested in that kind of nonsense?” She looked at Kate and did not want to question her disguise. Laughing, she wondered, “Are you the one?”

The boy who assisted in gathering her belongings came close to the girl and spoke with a raspy voice, “What a lack of education, Amanda. In addition to not greeting the new student, you have the nerve to pry through her stuff without permission!” Staring at the girl with an icy look, he added, “Don’t they teach you manners? Do you think you’re still in elementary school?”

Amanda, feeling chastened and embarrassed in front of the boy and the disapproving glances from other university students, she looked at Kate and said, “Sorry, I think I overdid it a bit.” While she apologized, Kate looked at the girl. Amanda was a beautiful young woman but had dry and yellowish hairs. The thinness of the girl also got her attention. She wore a floral dress with heeled sandals.

Obviously, Amanda was right. After all, why did she have to walk with all that shit in her bag? At least after seeing all those articles, no one would call her “princess.” Kate was reserved and had a few friends. She had a lonely life. She did this just to preserve herself, to avoid the sinister life, and not to let the past resurface. As anonymity was part of her repertoire for the school year, she did not take it personally. She just looked candidly at the girl and said, “No problem. If you like, you can look at my articles which have to do with some research I’m doing for a friend who is interested in UFOs.”

Kate looked behind her and noticed that the teacher was wide- eyed and his mouth was ajar. Had he also been intrigued by the alien magazines?

“Kate, could you sit there?” the teacher said, still dazed. He specifically indicated the seat next to the same guy she had bumped into earlier. She found it strange that the teacher suggested for her to sit there. There were a lot of vacant places. Kate would rather have chosen a more private corner but even before she opened her mouth to argue, a girl redhead who was sitting next to him protested that someone was already occupying that space. The professor stared at the girl with eyes scorching in anger and asked her if the person who sat there was invisible. The redhead frowned and said no more. Kate watched the angry teacher question the girl and sat down. Softly, she said to herself, “My God, what did I get myself into?”

After the chaos, Professor Mark introduced her to the class. He informed them that she was new in town. After that, he asked the students to look at their books and press ahead with the lesson. He asked Kate to join his seatmate as she did not have all the textbooks yet. She glanced over and saw that the boy was eager to share his book with her.

“I see you do not have that particular book,” the teacher said, poking his finger into Kate’s arm. “What you waiting for? You can join him.”

“It’s not necessary, sir. I can keep track.” She said this even if she knew it would be impossible. Kate did not want to get stuck with that boy for the whole class even if he was kind to help her out. She had a feeling about him that made her alert. She did not know if it was good or bad. Nevertheless, chose to avoid it.

“How will you catch up? With a crystal ball?” said Professor Mark with a defiant look. Right. It was enough for the whole class to laugh again.

She just needed an intelligent response. “Actually, my intention is to stop by the library after school.” she said even if she abhorred libraries, especially after the disaster that happened the last time. However, with the determination of her teacher who was a tall and dark man with a wry smile plastered on his face, she knew the man would not give up.

“Kate! Come on, hurry up! We do not have all day!” He was clearly losing his patience. Pointing to the boy, he added, “Jake does not bite. He is usually well receptive to beautiful and smart girls like you.” The teacher threw a wink at him. “Correct me if I’m wrong, boy!” The boy said nothing and just rolled his eyes.

“Okay!” she muttered softly as she picked up her stuff and approached him.

Jake said, “Thanks for the vote of confidence and for embarrassing me in front of everyone!” He glared at Kate. “Why all this hesitation to sit near me? I’m not part of the club of blondes. I’m quite the contrary. I behaved like a gentleman before, remember?” He intimated her in a smug way. “Perhaps you are afraid of falling in love? I realized how much was stirred during our meeting out there.” He stared at her, full of conviction. Kate thought that any girl would feel embarrassed by that comment and his provocative attitude. Well, in her case, it would take much more than a nice guy to get her intimidated.

“Keep on dreaming!” Kate looked at him with a scowl. “Just to clarify, what happened in the hallway was no meeting!” Gesturing towards him, she said. “You’re a clumsy guy. You didn’t even watch where you were going and ended up running over me, unfortunately!” Sighing, Kate looked away from him and said in a low voice, “Thanks for helping me anyway.”

Jake was silent for a moment and kept his gaze at her. Containing his thoughts, he said with a soft smile, “I told you it was you who was ...”

A cough echoed through the room and Professor Mark appeared in front of them, interrupting the discussion. With folded arms, he said, “Look at you! You are coming together nicely!” He threw a warning glance at the boy. “Now, enough talk and get back to work!”

Jake snorted and took the book. Kate looked at his face. He was gorgeous! His dark brown hair fell over his forehead in a misaligned manner. His eyes were green, framed by long eyelashes and he looked like he forgot to shave his beard that morning. Staring at his lips, Kate noticed that he was also watching her. She turned her face away, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and pointed to the book.

Throughout the lesson, Jake remained silent as he remembered the moment he bumped into the girl. Soon, he realized that there was something wrong with her. Kate’s aura did not appear to be human. It was different and completely distorted with no possibilities of identification. What kind of creature could she be? Was she from another planet? Or worst, could be that her body was the target of some demonic entity. Her aura indicated that she was being possessed. But, he found no signs or marks of a possession. She looked like a normal girl. Jake was intrigued as he had never seen anyone like her. He felt the need to investigate this closely. When the bell rang, Kate grabbed her bag and quickly left the room. He raced after her.

“Hey, why the rush? Do you have an encounter with an alien?” Jake asked between giggles. He was putting his plan of research into practice.

She replied, “My! Are you always so a jerk?”

He replied, “Ouch!”

“Exactly. That approach of yours is not very smart. You leave me no other choice,” she said, hoping to get rid of him. Kate was already losing patience with that petulant boy. She thought of the possibility of telling him that she could see creatures of darkness to scare him and make him stop pestering her. Who knows? She could ask for a little help from Diana in kicking his ass.

“Don’t get mad! We haven’t even introduced ourselves. With much pleasure, my name is Jake Cassidy,” he said, all pompous as he pulled her arm for a handshake.

“Hey, don’t touch me!” Kate shot him a menacing look.

He said, “What’s wrong? Stop being grumpy and have lunch with me. I’m feeling depressed and lonely today.” He reached out to remove a hair that was plastered on her lip. With his best smile, he continued, “You deeply hurt my feelings in the classroom, rejecting me like that. You owe me lunch!”

“Do not worry. I’m sure one day you will overcome it,” she said smiling while she turned and headed towards the courtyard.

He pulled her by the elbow and said, “Come on, it’s just lunch and nothing else!”

Kate replied, “Thank you. I’m not hungry.”

The Guardian insisted, “Maybe a snack?”

She shook her head and said, “No!”

“A soda or juice?” He continued, “Come on! I’m an easy guy!”

She stared at him suspiciously and wondered why he was so interested in her. They barely knew each other! To get rid of the persistent young man, she said while walking through the courtyard, “Nice try, but sorry.”

“What a tough girl! How should I approach her?” He scratched his chin thoughtfully, smiled, and talked to himself, “I need to fix this.” Jake just knew he was starting to have fun with her cantankerous way. The teacher appeared at the door and called him into the room to talk. The other students had already left. “What now, Mark?” he asked the professor, who was also the regent of the congregation Jake was integrated with.

“Are you kidding me? The girl ... Did you notice her aura? Totally distorted!” he said. “Those articles about the abominations which she carried in her purse? That lame excuse about her UFO-ologist friend, for me, is not glued.”

“Do not exaggerate, Mark. Anyone can upload strange items. She may really be researching on something,” Jake said.

“On what? Herself?” he chuckled. “Beware Jake, do not let her beauty blind you. She does not seem to be human. I do not know what it is, but if we analyze the logic, the only plausible explanation is that the girl is being targeted by some entity.” He arched an eyebrow. “At worst, she might be in cahoots with the creatures of darkness.”

“No, this case is different. Despite her aura matching what would be most likely, it does not present evidence or signs of possession. Certainly she does not have any connection with the creatures of darkness. With my experience, I’ve envisioned Kate to be a medium. These types also have a confused aura,” argued the Guardian, trying to convince Mark that she was not a threat.

Mark replied, “Do not try to alleviate the situation. She’s not psychic. Even these types of humans have some abnormal characteristics. They do not have much power to the point of distorting the aura itself.” Mark was suspicious; the girl was a real mystery. Directing an inquiring look at Jake, he said, “Did you see the way she hesitated when I asked her to sit beside you? She seemed to know you were a Guardian. That would prove my theory that she is actually associated with the darkness.”

Jake said, “Very clever, this theory. Explain to me why she would be in a university fraught with Guardians? ”

“You’re right. I had not seen it from this angle. In hindsight, she did not want to sit next to you because you were not her type,” the conductor said laughing. “A cheap womanizer like you should have stayed with his wounded pride as well!”

Jake stared angrily at Mark and felt immensely relieved that he had not seen her refusal to go to lunch with him. “Save me from your delusions and unfunny jokes! What was that Mark? Why did you ask her to sit beside me?” He sighed and brushed the hair from his forehead. “You think I do not know? Obviously you had a copy of the book in your drawer. What were you thinking?”

“I did that as a precaution. The girl is totally out of human patterns because of her creepy aura. For God’s sake, Jake! What kind of girl at her age would be walking around with magazines about aliens?” he said thoughtfully. “I suspect that behind that beautiful and angelic face hides trouble, and big.”

“Got it. Are you insinuating that Kate is an alien? Is this a joke?Honestly, if you want to make me laugh with this absurd theory, you must try harder,” Jake replied.

“I’m not trying to imply anything, you moron. I’m just thinking of the sinister girl.” The conductor looked at him warily. “I doubt that possibility has not crossed your mind. Don’t lie to me.”

Jake rolled his eyes. Unfortunately, the conductor was right. There was absolutely something wrong with her. Even without knowing how to distinguish which exact species she belonged to, he sensed that Kate was a special girl and did not represent any danger.

“You haven’t even talked to her. She just takes your questions,” Jake said.

Mark said, “We cannot reveal anything until we are sure. I want you to keep an eye on her.” Rubbing his eyes, he was obviously tired. “Investigate this girl. Invite her out. Put your charm to work! If she is a victim or at worst a threat, we must be prepared.”

As he thought of her, Jake prayed silently that his instinct was right and that she did not actually represent any threat. Otherwise, he would really regret it.

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