I stare at the ceiling with a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why did I wake up so quickly, yet calmly? It’s so quiet, it’s almost deafening. Swinging my legs around, I sit on the edge of my bed, rubbing my stinging eyes. And just then, a figure moves by the window. My heart races and without thinking I call out, “Hey!”
It turns around in panic and faces me with eyes as wide as mine, and a face half ignited by the moonlight. I rise to my feet, but she jumps out of the window in a fraction of a second. Taken by surprise, I rush to the window just to see her shape float away in the air. I don’t know what did I expect when she jumped out, and neither do I now, but the important thing now is, what was she doing in my room?
Slowly, I sit back on the bed and grab my sketchpad. I had always been a fan of half portraits, and now I know why I was destined to like them. I start putting the lines on the paper, roughly bending them into the rounded features of the lady, starting with her panicked eye and then moving to her pointed nose, narrow lips and small chin. After adding further details from my memory, I give it a final look and I can’t help the feeling of its familiarity.
Have I seen her before?
I place my sketchpad in my backpack and change into my jeans and maroon sweater. My watch reads 6:00 AM. Still too early for school, but I better take the advantage of everyone sleeping and have a walk for the sake of clearing my head.
I climb down the stairs, make instant coffee and grab my coat before rushing out the door, my backpack safely strapped to my shoulders. The cold winter air hits my skin the moment I step out, sweeping away any left out of sleep in my eyes. I sip on my coffee, and head slowly in the way to school, taking in all the surroundings. This side of the city looks so different down here than up from the roof, not just that, it feels different to be in the middle of all the tall buildings and closed cafes, I feel tiny, of no significance if left to freeze to death.
A few feet ahead, I see a group of girls, and I walk up to them in a natural kind of way, I mean, they’re the only ones around, better show them they aren’t alone. I flash them a smile when our eyes meet, and one of them whispers something to her friend next to her. Feeling offended at the absurdity of them not just ignoring my gesture, but worse yet, whispering God-knows-what about me, I step up closer to them.
“Excuse me?” I say, trying to be polite at first.
“Yes,” The one who whispered to her friend answers me.
“What’s so interesting about me that couldn’t wait until I leave?”
“We don’t know what you’re talking about.” She denies.
“Look, stop playing dumb or I’ll choke you. I was being nice, and all I got in return was a piece of disgusting judgement.” I snap at her.
“I don’t consider calling you a messed up tomboy a disgusting judgement. It’s just an observation.”
“I see,” I say smirking, “look who just fell in my trap. Well, then I hope calling you a judgemental rat doesn’t pull a nerve. It’s just an observation.”
Her face reddens in outrage and she approaches me with a raised hand. I hold it in the air and twist it back at her side, whispering to her ear, “Whenever your mind drifts to this situation, remember that I was the one who smiled, and yet you went back with a twisted hand. Watch out for what lies beneath, love, thank me later.”
Letting go of her and getting back on my track, I replay the whole incident in my mind over and over again, realising how absurd this society is each time. The worst of all the horrid things humans committed was their role in the low thinking of their society. Their ideal principles in any sort of matter proved only one fact; they either have hearts of stone or no hearts at all. They don’t seem to care how a word uttered in a moment of haste might make somebody’s head roll over it a million times before ending up in believing it, even if it weren’t true in the first place, but how would it have been avoided when the confidence is already wiped out? I’ve noticed, though, that the first thing that catches their attention at the first glimpse of another person is their mere appearance. Is it sleek, stylish, or a messed up useless being? It’s frustrating how they care about beauty, not the real beauty, but the one they created, the one they defined and worshipped, the most worthless and absurd. It’s the outer beauty, the one we don’t even have the ability to change or enhance in any way, so why look up to it when it might be hiding a serial killer beneath? In my opinion, at least, accepting your appearance is a sign of your inner beauty and maturity.
Whenever the word beauty pops up in my mind, I picture a forest with the sun refreshing the leaves of its trees, the rushing of waters on the beach, or the stars at night when they form delicate patterns with their flickering every few seconds. To me, it’s a grand word that deserves to describe grand and magnificent things, not just any pretty or pleasant views to the eye.
I cut my thoughts off when I step into the school. Throwing my empty paper coffee cup in the bin outside, I rush in the school and head to my class.
Still early, I say observing the empty classroom with nobody else but I and a sleeping guy who’s drooling on his desk- oh wait, that’s Jimmy. I shake my head and chuckle lightly before throwing my backpack on the back seat of the front row.
I keep my eyes fixed at the entrance of our class, lazily watching random students take their seats, recognising none of them and secretly wishing my friends enter through that door in a second. Just then, Ms. Emma appears at the front and practically runs to her desk in a rush, throwing her handbag on her desk and sitting, burying her face in her hands.
My face lights up at the opportunity, and I take advantage of it. I shut my eyes and connect to her mind, wondering why she’s not immune like Max.
I knew you would do this, She says, and for a moment I was confused whether it was out loud.
Yeah, sure you did.
Drop the sarcasm, Zoey, I’m here to tell you something important.
And why would I trust you?
Because you have to, you got no other choice.
Just spill it out.
I know when the attack will hit.
Exactly a month from now, on December 11th, 10:25:05 AM; make sure you’re ready before that.
Wait, did you just say December 11th?
Yes, what’s wrong with that?
That’s my birthday! Oh, dear God!
I’m sorry this is happening on your special day but that’s all I can help you with.
I’m just doing what feels right.
She cuts off the connection, and we both slump our backs on the chair at the same time, gaining interested glares from everyone in the class. They must be thinking how hell of a coincidental this is, but then again, what do they know, anyway?
I flash her a grateful smile, and she acknowledges it with another.
“May I come in?” Jo asks, standing by the door.
“Yes, please do.”
Jo enters in a slight fast pace and throws herself next to me, the guys sitting right in front of us.
“Why didn’t you wake me up, idiot?” she rants, shooting me her common death glare.
“Don’t look at me like that, I have my reasons.”
She scoffs, “What reasons?”
“I’ll explain when we’re back home.”
“Fine, they better be about how close we are to go back to Polina, or I’ll push you down the staircase.”
I snicker. “That’s related to this. You got it right.”
She sits up straight and picks up her collar in pride. “I’m never wrong.”
I smack her on her shoulder and she lets out a chuckle.
“Stop giggling.“Peter mutters in a bored tone.
“They better explain what’s going on, right, Peter?”
“So you both are teaming against now?” I ask, teasing them.
“As long as you’re hiding stuff, we team up against you.”
“We’re not hiding anything, I’ll tell you everything after school.”
“Quiet!” Ms. Emma yells across the room , and we stop chattering immediately.
Jo narrows her eyes at me suspiciously after Ms. Emma shot me a smile right before heading out.
“What?” I ask her.
“Care to elaborate the mutual friendly gestures?”
“Well, she helped me, I thanked her. That is all, really.”
“Whoa, stop right there. What?”
I take a deep breath. “We contacted, telepathically, and she gave me the date.”
“The date of the attack.”
“What!” she exclaims, her voice suddenly too loud.
“Keep it down, Jo!”
“Okay, okay, but how do we know she’s telling the truth. We can’t trust her.”
I scratch the back of my neck nervously. “Well, you can say that changed a little.”
“No freaking way! You trusted her, didn’t you?”
“I did, and I know that’s letting Peter down, but she’s really not who we think she is. I had to do this, Jo.”
“Talk to him, and deal with it. Now, tell me when the attack is?”
“You must be kidding me.”
“I’m dead serious, Jo.”
“Dear God, you’re doomed!”
“Saying it makes it much worse.”
“So, what now?”
“We get ready, that’s what we should do.”
“What?” Jo mutters out, her eyebrows knitted in confusion.
After I sat them up in the living room and told them my little encounter in the morning, they just stared at me as if I had just declared my betrayal- which I didn’t, by the way. There had been nervous neck scratching, worried glances and Jimmy’s widened eyes, until Jo said what’s running in all their minds at the moment- which I didn’t sneak upon, no, not this time.
I let out an exaggerated sigh before hopping on one of the dining table’s chairs.
“Look, I’m telling you she is familiar to me.” I say
“Could you show us the sketch?” Edward asks.
I nod, swinging my backpack off and unzipping it. Pulling out my sketchpad, I display the half portrait of the woman who was in my room this morning.
“That’s weird.” Peter comments.
“What is it?” I ask, still holding the sketchpad for them to see.
“She’s actually familiar.”
I turn to Jo and Edward to see if they agree, and they nod.
“See,” I say, putting it down and get on my feet again, pacing around the living room, “I told you.”
“So, that’s why you’ve been acting differently today?” Edward asks.
“Well, not exactly,” I say.
“Well?” he pushes, and I hesitantly throw a glance at Jo, who shrugs and cracks her knuckles.
Great, just great.
“I sort of talked to Ms. Emma.” I murmur.
“You sort of talked to her? How?” Peter asks, his tone changing.
Seriously, Zoey? How can you even sort of talk to someone?
I curse myself internally.
“Fine, I actually talked to her. She’s the one who started, though.”
“And?” he pushes, his tone growing so intense, it’s scaring me.
“Okay, let’s get it straight. She made a connection and started talking telepathically. She had important news for us.”
“What could they be? They better be as important as you say, Zoey.”
“Calm down, Pete.” Jo mutters to him.
“No, seriously, I trusted you, Zoey.”
“She did nothing wrong, she just talked to the woman, dude.” Edward addresses him reasonably.
“Okay, fine, tell us what you have.”
This isn’t going well.
I take a deep breath of air. “The attack is on December 11th, at 10 AM.”
Edward scoffs, and I send him my expect-your-head-on-a-silver-plate look.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve never thought your luck would get that beautiful, Zoey.” He remarks sarcastically.
I roll my eyes at his casual leaning figure on the wall, and turn to send Peter an apologetic look, who shakes his head and slumps his back on the couch.
“What now?” Jimmy speaks up for the first time since our tensed talk.
“We’re going to need some weapons; our powers might be completely useless.”
“Why?” Edward asks.
“They’re immune to us, our powers don’t work on them.”
“What kind of weapons?” Jimmy asks again.
“Guns only, I guess.”
“I can actually make those in my laboratory.”
“Really? How?” I ask, my eyes widened in astonished.
“I can use my dad’s gun to shape molten iron or steel and cool it down, the same with the bullets. I won’t be exactly making them, I’d just be making copies of my dad’s gun.”
“That’s really great, Jimmy. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Do you guys need anything else?”
“No, thanks again.”
He flashes a smile and heads out of the door.
I stop pacing and sit back on the chair.
“I’m sorry, Pete.” I mutter out, already feeling the guilt in my veins.
“Don’t be, you did nothing.”
“No, seriously, I am.”
He turns to face me this time, “It’s okay, Zoey, it really is, all right?”
I nod, looking down at my feet.
“So what’s your plan?” Jo asks.
“Honestly, I don’t have one.”
“I see, but I think you’re already putting one in action.”
“Yeah, the let’s-wait-until-they-kill-us plan.” She comments, sarcasm dripping over from her tongue. I roll my eyes at her as she folds her arms.
“Jo is right, we must have a plan.” Edward says.
“Look, it’s not like we’re defenceless, okay? Jimmy will arrange the weapons problem, and I’ll start training you tomorrow.”
“Wait, what?” Peter asks.
“Yes, I know you’re not stupid, and you can defend yourself, but I just thought, maybe I could teach you some of the moves my babysitter taught me when I was nine.”
“Really? How come we’ve never heard of her?” Jo asks
“Because she’s dead.”
“But how did your babysitter learn those skills?” Edward asks.
“She worked as a volunteer in the army, and because it was compulsory even for volunteers to learn how to fight, she got those skills. She knew I loved fighting, so she taught me the basics.”
“Impressive.” Peter mutters.
I lean back in my seat and close my eyes to clear away my exhaustion.
This is it, we’re just a month away. I can’t wrap my mind around how fast time passes, especially when it comes to approaching something you despise. But, what if it’s the other way around? What if time is on our side this time?
Don’t put too much hope in that, it’s never true, a voice whispers in my head.
I shut my eyelids harder, pushing the thought at the back of my head.
But that’s when it happens; my head spins around in internal spirals, and no matter how hard I try to get a grip on it and open my eyes, it gets worse by the second. A bolt of electricity shoots through my nerves, shaking me up.
What on earth is happening to me? In a second, my view of utter blackness shifts into figures walking around in a dark place, and then the image sharpens, and I realise it’s a building made of metal, shining echoing walls and the footpath made of steel that shows a broken reflection of the nurses, doctors and who seem to be scientists, walking on it. A door opens, and a perplexing view gets in my line of sight. A middle aged man is being injected with blood so dark, it’s almost black, forcefully by a nurse who flashes him a wicked smile with her other hand muting his screams.
But that’s not the perplexing part yet, somewhere in this vision, I was aware this man is related to me, and that this place is London.
The vision fades away and crumbles like a piece of used paper.
I hear my name.
I hear someone call my name.
The voice is foreign, distant.
But then it grows closer, louder. It’s familiar.
“Zoey! Open your eyes!” It’s Jo.
I hear her panicked yells, Peter’s distinguishable nervous paces, and I almost saw Edward’s concerned face with his eyebrows knitted at me. I can’t tell if this is real or a mere hallucination.
I feel Jo’s hand hold mine- no, pull it off my face. Why are my hands on my face? Is this a part of the fake visuals?
“Zoey!” Jo yells louder this time, and my eyes bulge open.
I jump up from the chair, sucking in a big chunk of air at once.
“Are you okay?” Edward asks.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening. Are you real?” I find myself saying.
“Yes, Zoey, we are.” Jo says softly, pulling me in a hug so tight, my shaking almost stopped.
“Put her to bed, I think she needs to rest.” Peter suggests and Jo nods to him, slowly climbing me up the stairs.
And while everything in my mind is in immense chaos, I still wonder; was that a memory or really just a fake insight?