Chapter 1, Shock
- Now -
Oh. My. Gosh.
My breath hitches. It’s hard to breathe. I feel like I’m frozen, unable to move. The color drains from my skin. My stomach churns. I start to see dark spots in my vision.
I close my eyes, hoping that I’m dreaming. Hoping that the dark spots go away. Hoping everything just goes away.
I slowly murmur a count to ten.
I drag out the number ten for as long as I can until I know I have to open my eyes. I have to know if what I saw is real or not. I have to come back to reality.
My blue eyes slowly open, and I peer down at...it.
On the leaf-covered ground of the woods, there is a body. Unmoving, unbreathing. Lifeless.
I can’t tear my eyes away from the grim sight. The victim’s pale throat is slit so that it looks like a creepy, red smiley face.
Black jeans cover long legs, black Nike sneakers cover limp feet, and a dark red Harvard hoodie covers the non-moving chest.
The hoodie’s color is very similar to the blood but where the blood touches, the hoodie is darker.
If not for the slit throat as evidence, the hoodie would look like it just got wet by a bit of innocent water.
If only that was the case.
I shudder and finally make myself look at something else, anything else other than the body. I glance to my right, where the other girls are standing.
Sophia’s pitch-black hair curtains her pale, porcelain face as she crouches, throwing up behind some dead bushes, her back to the body.
Zanaria has her pink, full lips in a thin line as she looks at the body and tries to comfort Chloe, her tan face dripping with big, fat tears.
I start walking to Chloe to try to help, but reason with myself that I’ll probably only make her cry harder because I’m not the best at comforting people.
So I continue studying my friends’ reactions to the body.
Riley has her hands limp at her sides, her forest-green eyes staring blankly at the body.
Faith has her back to the body, her thick, raven-black hair flying left and right as she punches a skinny birch tree so hard and so many times, her knuckles are starting to bleed.
That’s going to hurt a lot later.
Iris, Logan’s new girlfriend, has her head buried into Logan’s chest, her storm-grey eyes producing an unending waterfall of tears that soak Logan’s blue shirt.
Logan’s head is down, his black, wavy hair covering most of his forehead. He has one hand in his cargo shorts pockets while the other hand is holding Iris, comforting her.
I feel a zap of jealousy but quickly push it away. I wish he hadn’t come. But Xavier just had to invite him.
Feeling my gaze, Logan looks up, his eyes meeting mine. While his face is a mask of coldness, I can practically see the emotions swirling in his eyes. I almost look away, but something defiant in me makes me hold his stare. He’s the one that looks away, his attention back on Iris.
With a shake of my head, I look to my left, where the rest of the boys are standing.
Miles shifts from foot to foot, his chocolate-brown eyes going back and forth between looking at the body and his red Jordans.
Jack, Riley’s boyfriend, quickly walks over to her. His snow-white hands slowly turn Riley away from the body as he pulls her closer to him and gives her a comforting hug.
Seeing the couples almost makes me wish I wasn’t single. Almost.
Lucas’ green, gold speckled eyes watch as Xavier starts walking to the body. My eyebrows shoot up in surprise. What is he doing?
Before I can say something to stop him, Xavier crouches down and hesitates. I watch as he takes a deep breath before he slowly touches the blood on the body with his trembling pointer finger.
For a moment, his face is expressionless. I can almost see the cogs turning as Xavier realizes something. He ducks his head for a moment, hiding his expression.
He shudders as he slowly stands up. His steps are stiff as he walks back to us.
Finally, Xavier lifts up his face to look at us. His eyes meet mine, face frozen in a horrified expression. A shiver of fear runs down my spine.
I have a feeling things are going to get a lot worse. Part of me wants to put my hands over my ears, close my eyes, and just block the whole world out.
But I can’t. Because I brought my friends here. Because of my human curiosity. Because I have to know what’s scaring Xavier more than the body.
I have to look. I have to know.
Xavier murmurs something just above a whisper. I have to strain to hear him. And now, even though Xavier is whispering, he suddenly has everyone’s attention.
“The blood...” He stops. Takes a breath. I feel like shaking him.
“What?” Logan asks, impatient. Took the words right out of my mouth.
“It’s still warm. The blood is still warm!” Xavier cries out, yelling now. He’s becoming hysterical. Lucas runs up to him and wraps him in a hug, telling him to calm down and take deep breaths.
I didn’t think that my friends and I could be any more shocked, but somehow we are. Panic is rising up in me, but I push it back, locking it away for the moment. I need to think logically. I need to stay clam.
My attention inevitably returns to the body, my brain processing what we all we’re just told. I almost go up to the body and touch the blood myself, just to see if Xavier was lying or not. But deep inside, I already know he wasn’t lying. No one could be that good at acting.
So I force myself to accept the fact that the blood is still warm.
The murder was recent.