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Westley D.

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About Westley D.

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    Superheroes. Lots and lots of superheroes.

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  1. Nick led Sam and Owen through a path of destruction to the garage, which was oddly cleaner than the rest of the house. In it, a ring was already set up. In fact, it was a makeshift studio made just for boxing. “You know the drill, O,” Nick spoke as he strutted over to a rack of equipment, picking up a pair of gloves and headgear. “Remember what I told you last practice.” Owen did the same and nodded nervously. “Yeah. Got it, man.” Sam picked up gloves and headgear of his own, but sat on a lawn chair just outside of the ring to spectate. He felt a strange set of unease bubbling in his stomach. Not just because of Nick, but because of Owen. The blonde was showing similar signs of anxiety when he eavesdropped on their phone call. At least, that was by voice. Looking at him now, a degree of concern went out to him. The cousins, now ready, squared up in the ring, the younger one taking a defensive stance and the older standing stiff tall. None of them moved for a few seconds. Nick, on offense, rushed in and went for a one-two-three-four combo. Owen agilely maneuvered side by side, evading the punches completely. The older male chanced for an uppercut, but the younger one stepped back just in time. Sam was quite impressed. Already, he could see why his adoptive brother would have such an arrogant attitude in the ring. He was as well polished as others would claim. However, he was up against a boxing titleholder, and that was as much as Owen was going to accomplish. His apprehension was due to catch up to him. Nick sped forward once more and delivered two hooks. The first one caught his cousin’s shoulder, but the second was guarded by his forearm. To Sam’s shock, the man didn’t stop there. He sent fist after fist in Owen’s direction, who tried his best to block most of them. The younger teen noticed his brother was suppressing a horde of pained cries. “Come on, O!” the older cousin spat, sounding a bit gleeful at unleashing such an onslaught. “Protect yourself!” The scene was way too familiar. Suddenly, Owen stopping Eduardo from killing Salmon made sense. Nick paused from his assault to glare at his relative. Sam’s throat closed up at the penetrating coldness radiating from it. This was going south real quick. “Gotta keep that guard up, boy!” The brunette swung his leg toward Owen’s head, who flinched in response, but the limb never made contact. The blonde’s face dropped, horror taking over as he realized his mistake. What that mistake was, Sam didn’t know, but he could deduce. Nick wasted no more time darting into his cousin’s face and recklessly tossing all kinds of punches. One crashed against Owen’s lip, busting it open instantly. Owen stumbled back and grasped at his mouth, wiping off a string of blood. “W-Wait, Nick!” he panicked. “I think-” A slug to the stomach cut that complaint short. “You think anybody’s gonna care about a lil’ blood!?” Nick snarled in his face. “Stop being a pansy and guard! You're worse than last Saturday!” And the attack continued. This time, Owen was caught off-guard, allowing for most of the blows to connect. This time, he couldn’t help but scream. Tears blurred his vision, and he was unable to remain standing. Nick pummeled him even on the ground, showing no indications of stopping. “I said get up, pussy!” And that was when Sam came in. He stood up and jumped into the ring, grabbing Nick’s shoulder and pulling him back. The single motion was fluid, surprising the older male when he found himself several feet away from the boys. “That’s enough!” the adopted teen snapped. The brunette was still wide-eyed. “What-” “You’re beating the crap out of him! I’m almost sure that’s not allowed.” Nick’s gape, a moment later, lifted into a nasty sneer as he took a step forward, attempting to intimidate the boy. “Shows what the fuck you know! I’ve done it plenty of times, and no one stopped me! It’s the way to win! Every time.” Owen, regaining a few his bearings, tried to stop the argument. “Guys, I’m fine! I-” Sam wasn’t having any of it. “You lost control. And he’s bleeding. This isn’t the professionals, man.” “Well, if you know so much, why don’t you take his place, kid? You could use a few lessons in respect.” At that, Owen began to freak. “No! Nick, he’s just-” “Sure,” Sam responded, “but I’m pretty sure I learned those lessons a long time ago.” Nick snorted. “Then you need a reminder. And who’s better to reeducate you the boxing champion himself?” “We’ll see about that.” Sam was just glad the older male won’t be beating anybody else for today. He would make sure of that. Nick bolted forward and started throwing fists at Sam, eager to resume his onslaught on the mouthy bastard. To his and Owen’s shock, said bastard was dodging each and every punch, barely moving from the spot he stood upon. Nick stopped and took a second look at the younger boy before him. Physically, there was nothing out of the ordinary, but he had to admit, at age sixteen, he wasn’t this good. Not even close. “Nimble little shit,” the twenty-year-old cursed before throwing another punch. Although, this one froze at the last second. He was hoping to make the kid wince or make him believe it was coming. He was greatly disappointed to find his opponent unfazed. Nick feigned a kick. Nothing. He seethed in frustration. “You’re smarter than you look.” Sam replied by getting ready to attack, but Nick stole his chance away by hurling forth and sending another flurry of hooks and jabs. The dark-skinned teen simply recommenced his skillful elusion. The more Nick missed, the more he got angry, and the more his ire rose, the sloppier he got. The Anderson pulled back and growled like a dog. “Fuck! Stop moving and stand still, bitch!” “Nick-” Owen attempted peacemaker for the third time, only to fail once again. Nick tossed his entire body at the boy, seeking to crush him in between his arms. Sam ducked and slid out of the way, making absolutely no contact with the boxing champion. The latter’s face reddened in boiling rage, the thin line of spit trailing down the corner of his chin making him appear unhinged. “That’s fucking pansy shit! Fight me, you lil’ coward!” Sam didn’t want to, knowing it’ll be a mistake, but he could not help but smirk. “You sure?” Owen couldn’t be any more horrified. “Sam! Stop!” Nick trembled with fury. “Oh, you’re gonna get it now, you little shi-” Knock, knock! The light noise brought silence to the garage. Nobody moved for a moment. When the knocking occurred again, it was Owen who made it to reality first, practically running to the door and opening it. Outside stood Coach Alan and a smiling, elderly woman that reminded Sam of Roy. “Hey, Owen!” Alan clapped a hand on the blonde’s shoulder, subconsciously minding the bruises. “How’re you doing?” Owen was quiet for second before realizing he should respond, moving over for the two to saunter in. “H-Hey, Coach! Hey, Auntie Cass! I, uh, didn’t know you were coming over.” “I just wanted to check up on you guys and Nick. Is Sam with you? He’s met Nick by now, right?” “Don’t forget about me, honey,” the lady spoke. “I want my turn to meet the new addition to the family.” “Yeah, yeah! He’s right in here,” Owen pointed over to Sam. “We… we were just practicing.” Cassie was about to greet the boy-in-question, but she finally got a clear sight of her nephew. “Owen, sweetie! Your face! Your lip is bleeding!” She inspected the bruises of the now uncomfortable blonde. She appeared to know the culprit immediately, her head snapping to Nick, who was glaring daggers at Sam’s feet. “Nicholas Anderson! How many times have I told you to never go so hard on him!? This isn’t professional boxing, it’s high school!” Her grandson shook his head. “Sorry…” Cassie huffed and set her sights on Sam, her stare apologetic. “I’m sorry about him. Nick can get quite rough with poor Owen. He doesn’t realize his cousin’s still just a child.” Leaving a flushing Owen behind, she ambled over to the adopted boy. He raised a hand for a shake, but Cassie ignored it and hugged him, making Sam blush this time. “I’m Cassie Willis-Anderson. Your new father’s sister and your coach’s mother. That must make me your aunt.” “Hello, ma’am. My name is Sam,” Sam replied monotonously replied. He didn’t mean to say it in such a way, but the situation was a bit too sudden. Fortunately, Cassie was impressed. “Such good manners, but, please, call me your aunt Cassie.” “Alright, Ma,” Alan waved his mother off, “let’s not overwhelm him. That’s what grandmas are for.” “Not true! Nick, I don’t overwhelm you, do I?” Nick was quiet for a moment, but muttered, “You know I love it, G-Ma.” Cassie gave her son a triumphant look, who rolled his eyes and whispered under his breath, “He says that, but…” “Oh, hush!” Cassie chuckled, then returned her focus to Sam. “Enough about me. Let’s get to know you, Sam.” Sam did not know what else to do but nod. “Sure, I guess.” He glanced at Owen and Nick. The former seemed to be relaxing. Still uneasy, but fading, too. Nick’s eyes, dark and irritated, never left the surface of the ring. He was seriously going to need to keep an eye on the guy. ~|~ On the car ride back home, Sam had to ask, “What was his deal?” Owen struggled to find an answer. “I…” He squirmed in his seat, a conflict raging in his head. He ended up shaking his head and saying, “Don’t worry about it. He… He gets like that sometimes. Just let him win next time, alright?” “Owen.” The blonde looked at his adoptive brother from the corner of his eye. “What?” “Whenever you need to go see him, take me with you.” Owen was left gaping for a few moments before his face scrunched up, preparing to protest. “I-” “Know what you’re going to say,” Sam finished and continued, “but I’m not taking a no for an answer this time. Promise me you’ll take me with you whenever you visit him?” The strong finality in the younger boy’s tone astonished Owen. He was hesitant, wanted to prove he was tough enough to face his cousin alone, but the prospect of not having to be alone with Nick was way too appealing. “Y-Yeah. Okay.” Sam only nodded and remained silent for the rest of the trip back home. It was faint, but he heard a sigh of relief beside him.
  2. Westley D.

    Chapter 12

    I'm glad your still interested. And yes, for now, new characters will pop up every now and then, some more important than others. While this story is slow-moving, Sam has to balance a supernatural life with a regular life, so I understand it being so disconnected. Hopefully, Sam will keep your interest intact, and I'll definitely take in your consideration to account. Thank you!
  3. The first person Aubrielle came across was who she was expecting to see. Sam cam stumbling out of the gym emergency exit, which seemed unaffected despite the light show earlier, adorning a gray sweater a bit too large for his frame – probably Owen’s – and black sweatpants. The most surprising part was the cuts and small patches of dried blood on his face. The younger teen appeared to be in a hurry, trying to shoulder his duffel bag while keeping eye contact with the floor. If Aubrielle hadn’t piped up, he would have run right into her. “Sam?” Said boy froze, his complexion paling just the slightest bit. When he looked up, a pseudo smile immediately graced his face. “U-Uh, hey! You’re…” “Aubrielle Osborne,” she reminded him. “Your tour guide?” Sam nodded rapidly in recognition. “Oh, right! I remember you, now! How’s it going?” “Um, fine. Are…” the girl’s eyes scanned over the incisions in concern, “are you okay?” “Uh… am I…” Oddly, Sam was just as surprised to finally notice the wounds decorating his dark skin. He stammered for an explanation. One Aubrielle could tell would be completely fabricated. “Oh! Uh, this!? It’s just, uh, boxing practice. Got a little rowdy today.” The junior raised an eyebrow. “Your first day?” Sam faltered for a second, fingering the strap of his bag nervously. “Y-Yeah! Newbies on the team apparently get a rough start. It was the same for a few others.” Aubrielle considered pestering the boy for more information, but the growing anxiety on his face swayed her to move on. She’ll figure it out later. Eventually. “I’ll take your word for it. That storm was something else. Just wanted to, you know, check up on everyone still here.” The change in topic only made things worse. Sam’s slight smile vanished into a wavering frown and suddenly appeared ready to get out of there as soon as possible. “Oh, yeah! It was a doozy! I need to go find Owen, though. He’s probably freaking out in his car by now wondering where I am.” “Of course. I-” Sam was already speed-walking away and waved goodbye. “Okay! See ya!” Aubrielle watched him go, hurrying towards the front parking lot. Yeah. She’ll find out, eventually. She’ll have to. ~|~ “The hell happened to you!?” was the first thing that came out of Owen’s mouth upon taking in his adoptive brother’s current condition.” Sam hid a grimace before responding, attempting to seem nonchalant. “That earthquake really did a number me.” The older boy blinked, bewildered by the younger one’s unconcerned attitude. It was as if he didn’t even realize the red stains and cuts on his face. “Did something fall on you or what? Your face is all fucked up!” Sam pursed his lips, debating answering that. He decided to be curt. “Sure.” Owen stared, expecting a further explanation, but none came. Sam just sat still, gazing out of the window. The older male sighed and shook his head, resolving to just start the car. “Whatever. It might help you in the long-run, anyway.” Sam quirked an eyebrow and turned his attention to the boy beside him. “What do you mean? You mean… Nick?” At hearing that name, Owen didn’t bother hiding a shudder. “Yeah…” The adopted boy inspected his brother. The cocksure attitude. The well-maintained but fragile swagger. All were gone at the prospect of their destination. Sam felt an iota of sympathy for the Willis. What was it about Nick that made Owen shrink? “You look nervous,” he said aloud. Owen’s face snapped into irritation an instant later. “Ain’t nervous!” then it diminished again. “Well, maybe… it’s just that… he’s more… brash.” Sam shrugged. “Well, it’s not anything I haven’t dealt with before.” The Willis huffed. “Just know that he’s not gonna take your shit. And if you see him drinking, tell me.” The seriousness in Owen’s eyes made Sam want to start asking questions, but he relented for now and nodded. “Alright.” ~|~ Owen pulled up to a nice split-level house at the edge of a quiet neighborhood’s cul-de-sac. Sam did not mean to sound conceited, but he expected more. Considering the living conditions of his adoptive family, he expected his new relatives not to be far off. Nevertheless, Sam followed Owen out toward the entrance. The former was surprised to watch the latter reach over and open the door as if he lived there. It seemed Nick didn’t lock his doors. The younger teen trailed right behind and took in his surroundings. And it’s safe to say that he didn’t feel all that guilty for his earlier judgment. It was as if a tornado hit it. Empty or half-full liquor bottles littered the floor or couches, which were torn and stained. Faint discolorations besmirched the beige of the walls and the single ceiling fan was missing a couple of wings. And unless Sam’s ears needed to be checked, he thought he could hear the indistinct noises of moaning coming from upstairs. “Nick!” Owen shouted, appearing unbothered by the state of the room. “We’re here!” They stood in silence for about five minutes before somebody decided to show their face. Stomping down the stairs was a brutish mountain of a man, the first noticeable feature being the burly, solid muscles stretching out the sleeveless shirt. However, what Sam stared back at what not only was a Coach Alan look-alike, but the same face from the picture near his and Owen’s room, only a few more years in the making. Brown hair. Green eyes. Hardened and dark. Those eyes laid upon Sam, forcing the young boy to suppress a cringe. “So,” he drawled, “this is the new addition to the Willis clan, eh?” “Uh, Sam,” the smaller teen replied awkwardly as he stuck out a hand. An unnerving smirk twitched upon Nick Anderson’s face as he examined his adoptive relative. “I know who you are, kid. And I bet cousin O here’s told you all about me, yeah?” Sam nodded stiffly. “He’s said things.” Owen’s eyes glanced between the two, Nick’s presence making him slightly tremble subconsciously even when those green orbs found his cousin’s gray ones. Sam would not be bewildered if the blonde pissed his pants right then and there. “Good things, I hope?” Owen’s head bounced briskly. “Yeah, o-of course! What else, man?” He was not pulling off the casual and relaxed demeanor as well as he wanted, Sam could tell. The sophomore could practically smell the fear radiating off his adoptive older brother. “Just want to keep my legacy intact,” Nick nodded approvingly. “They’ve probably talked about me during practice today, right. Started a close-knit gang of talented, popular athletes, vicious on the field, won the boxing championship senior year, yadda yadda yadda.” A fake proud smile was slapped onto the Willis’ face. “Every year since you graduated, dude.” The Anderson nodded again, accepting the confirmation. “Good. And soon it’ll be you they won’t shut up about. If we pull our cards right, it might be even longer than me.” “Just wanna make you proud.” At that, Nick chuckled and pulled Owen in close to him, wrapping a burly arm around his cousin’s neck and affectionately driving his knuckles into the younger male’s blonde hair. It was such an affable scene that Sam had a bit of trouble processing it despite only knowing the two for a short time. The massive brunette did not seem the cordial type, what with the faded scars covered by tattoos across his face, neck, and arms. And Owen… wasn’t much of a welcoming person. So, it was an odd sight, indeed. “That’s my boy!” Nick kept Owen in a noogie while addressing Sam. “I’ve been training this kid since he was in middle school. Taught him everything I know.” Sam didn’t know what else to say, so he smiled lightly and responded with, “Cool.” The brunette relinquished his cousin and allowed for the air to tense again, Owen’s brief cheerful mood waning back into the fearful mouse he was coming in. “Alright,” Nick clapped his meaty paws together. “Let’s get started. I’m assuming you guys learned about throwing punches, right?” Sam heard Owen gulp anxiously. “Yeah.” “Then, show me how you did it. How they explained you might fuck you up, so I’m gonna do right by you and show you how to fight like your life depends on it.”
  4. Sam’s eyes fluttered open to amethyst. His body stung, pricks of pain making him flinch every few seconds. Still, he forced his forearms to pick himself back up. Drops of blood smeared across the glass-covered floor as he rose. “Hello!?” he shouted into the dark, empty gymnasium that seemed to have a strange, purple tint to it. “Coach!? Owen!? Nobody answered his calls. He cautiously examined the area. The air felt odd as if it was frozen still. For one crazy second, Sam wondered if he could float. He was about to yell out again when the abnormal atmosphere whirred, and wind rushed past him from behind. Only, it wasn’t any normal wind. This one was potent. Thick and visible. It was a darker shade of the purple he was surrounded in. A sense of déjà vu nicked at his mind. Why? He didn’t know. He was almost sure he never faced this before. Though, he did know one thing. This wasn’t any kind of breeze. This was pure energy. The streams of energy assembled before him, right in the middle of the gymnasium. Sam could only watch as a sphere of unknown power gathered, building a sphere that lit up the otherwise darkened room. “H-Hello?” Sam tried uneasily. This time, he was met with a response, albeit not a friendly one. Sam only had about a split-second to put his guard up as the energy ball split up into hundreds of threads once more, all of them flinging them toward the only other living thing present. Said boy moved on instinct, dodging the tendrils expertly – sidestepping, ducking, and hopping – despite his injuries. He kept evading even as the multiple currents turned around and began circulating the gym, some trying to strike Sam at his back. A plum, violent tornado appeared in place of the energy sphere, the pressure not only drawing everything from heavyweights to the very earth of the ground, but uprooting the very ceiling itself. Within the whirlwind, Sam noticed an unfamiliar, hunched silhouette, partly covert by the energy. “H-Hey,” the boy called out by reflex. The figure lifted its head. Sam knew it was glaring right at him. ~|~ Aubrielle Osborne was just driving away from school, heading toward another one, when the storm hit. It was sudden. Too sudden. So sudden that she couldn’t bring herself to go down the road any further. Up ahead, where she had just come from, bright lightning flashed incessantly. It was difficult to look at, but it was an astounding sight, nonetheless. The junior almost didn’t notice the crowd of neighbors that have gathered on the street to witness the unusual phenomenon. The audience was big enough to block one side of the street. Well, can’t go anywhere now, she thought. Aubrielle climbed back inside her car and put it in reverse as another thought hit her. If what she was thinking was what was currently happening, then it was crucial she trekked back and checked. Besides, Sam was there, and he just might be able to help her. ~|~ The tornado had dissipated, leaving debris to just remain suspended midair, but Sam could barely see the figure in front of him. Its own energy was veiling most of its shape. Sam frantically looked around for something. Just then, baseball bats that have fallen out of a crate that tipped over earlier levitated by his head. The moment he went to grab one, the figure raised a limb. A second later, a fifty-pound free weight came soaring toward him at the speed of sound. Sam reacted immediately, swinging the bat at the weight with as much power as he could. Of course, the wood shattered to pieces, but the surprising force put behind it redirected the metal to a corner of the gym. Several more weights raced toward him, but Sam was swift with his hands, grabbing the baseball bats near him and striking the metal projectiles that came at him. However, an entire bench, the barbell attached, was thrust his way. There were no more baseball bats, not that that would do anything, so, he resorted to what he used best. With lightning reflexes, he punched forward. He felt the bite of his fist coming into contact against the bench even as it split in half, letting the barbell fly out and crash noisily onto the cracked ground. The entity did not skip a beat, going on the offense with the weight disks of varying heaviness. They were tossed like frisbees, which Sam took advantage of. He sprinted forth, ignoring the floating glass, wood, and earth held above ground by an invisible force suspended, and hopping onto the flat surface of each disk and leaping off a millisecond later. He had to weave around a few that tried taking his head off. When he made it past the barrage, he found himself only several feet away from the figure. Its features weren’t any clearer than they were from far back, but Sam attacked anyway, placing a well-aimed, powerful kick to its midsection, or wherever he hit it. Nevertheless, the teen felt the sole of his shoe hit something solid, and the entity went spiraling back. Sam didn’t stop there, though. He chased after the thing figure, dashing toward the other end of the gym the moment he hit the ground. More tendrils sprouted from the entity’s being, attempting to blast the boy away. The latter proved to be nimble even when moving, swerving sharply inches from being hit. When he was close enough, he stuck an arm out and clotheslined the figure, and the two barreled through the gym wall. Whatever Sam was touching felt lukewarm, not hot but not cold either. Not wanting to do any further damage to the building, he skipped back into the room, landing in the center. He almost didn’t notice large rocks he displaced being psychically tossed at him from behind. Sam was back on defense, veering out of the altering pathways of the earthly projectiles. Just like the streams, the rocks congregated, forming a humanoid stature with black, empty holes for eyes. As Sam maneuvered out of the way of one particularly huge boulder, the entity clapped its massive paws over its opponent, encasing him. The prison didn’t hold up for too long, for Sam utilized every ounce of strength in his arms and legs to shove the rocky grubs away. “Y-You’re… gonna have to… try harder… than that!” he gritted his teeth as he pushed. With one final burst of power, he thrust out, causing the arms to explode by the elbows. However, that not the only thing that detonated. It was as if the entire gymnasium suddenly decided to blow up, a multitude of invisible bombs going off one by one. And all that debris flung themselves toward Sam. “Shit,” the teen cursed. “Special move time!” There was only one other thing he could do besides punching and kicking, fortunately. He counted the seconds until impact and drew in a deep breath. His chest puffed out, stretching the torn fabric of his ruined shirt. And when he found himself fenced in on all sides, he let out an ear-splitting, thunderous scream that either sent the rocks back or disintegrated them completely. He kept at it for a full minute before spotting an opening to escape. And escape he did, springing from his spot and zipping through the destruction faster than sound. He was outside, the dark clouds cracking with pink and purple electricity, but he had guests. Sam groaned when he saw what was waiting for him. Behind the curtains of the auditorium – where he attended theater class – was the dressing room. It was a wide, long corridor full of mannequins adorning eccentric and bizarre costumes. There must have been a hundred of them. And now, they were right above him, outlined in amethyst, and glaring down stonily. “Alrighty then,” Sam said as he stretched out his arms. “Ultimate move!” He amassed as much energy and stamina as he could and transferred it into his arms. He was going to have to punch his way out of this one. The mannequins bolted forth. “Here it goes,” he told himself. He’s only done this a handful of times, the move tiring him out quickly, but it was all he had left. As soon as they were close enough, Sam let loose an onslaught of fists, his knuckles repeatedly smashing into porcelain. His limbs were like machine guns, the speed and force rendering the controlled mannequins useless and in pieces. All the while, the black sky flashed, shrill thunder drumming to the beat of Sam’s sound barrier-breaking strikes. He felt a bit guilty for ruining the mannequins, knowing somebody had to pay for the devastation, but he couldn’t give up now. Seventy. Fifty. Thirty. Ten. One. Sam bulldozed through them easily, but it still wasn’t over. Out from the demolished school gym shot the entity, a purple mist covering its shape as it soared towards the teen. Sam feeling himself descend toward the ground, remained steadfast and raised a fist. I have to put everything into this punch, he clenched it tighter. I need to finish this now! Sam waited and the figure got closer. Closer… closer… They were face to face, about to collide… …but that never happened. The entity, its shape, suddenly shuddered and dropped to the ground. Bemused, Sam let gravity do its job and followed it down. The second the being hit the floor, it burst into an intensely bright light that had Sam shielding his eyes. Then, it began to dim, and the entity was taken alongside it, vanishing in a fading luminescence. Sam swore he heard a human screech. In ten seconds flat, it was gone. The storm that it had brought with it receded as well, giving way for the late afternoon sky. Even stranger, Sam’s environment shifted, too. One moment, he was standing amidst a destroyed gymnasium, and the next, he was back in the same spot he was after the windows imploded, the room quiet and unlit. There was no evidence of the battle except Sam’s shredded shirt, shorts, and the cuts over his skin. He searched for the entity that he had fought, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. Did that happen or not? Question after question only served to muddle his brain even more. And still, throughout that entire bout, that sense of déjà vu never left. He’s done this before, but when? His eyes scanned his tattered clothing once more and he groaned. “How the hell am I going to explain this?”
  5. The redhead awoke momentarily, sitting. A deep rumbling resounded beneath him, the vibrations massaging his body. Groggy, he lolled his head to the right and found himself staring out a window. He deduced he was in a car. Houses passed by at a swift pace, making the boy’s head spin. So, he looked toward the left… …and came face-to-face with a complete stranger. Whoever was in the driver’s seat was wearing a gold and purple Letterman’s jacket. A football player most definitely, judging by the helmet patch on the sleeve. “Uh… who…?” The guy pulled his attention off the road to smile down at Noel, revealing a handsome, chiseled face under a golden, neck-length, and gelled hair. Brown bore into hazel in the few seconds of silence. “Well, look who’s awake,” the bigger male beamed. “Enjoy yourself, sleepyhead?” Noel blinked confusedly. “Who… are you?” “I’d tell you, but it looks like you’re gonna catch a couple more snoozes and lose your memory.” “Where am I?” the ginger tried examining his surroundings, but his eyes instantly went heavy. “What…?” Marshall sent a reassuring smile. “You’re okay now. That thing back there won’t bother you anymore. I made sure of that.” Noel was shocked. That thing back there? That horror movie monster that probably attacked him in the forest? He wasn’t hallucinating? “You… you saw that?” The driver nodded, his smile straining just the tiniest bit. “Yup. It’s ashes now. Marshall, by the way.” “What?” “That’s my name, Marshall Osborne-“ Noel fell back into unconsciousness. ~|~ Sam, having changed in the restroom instead of the locker room, made it to the gym first. He didn’t feel like having Owen and his buddies stare at him while he switched to his practice clothes. He spotted Coach Anderson setting down a blue mat in the center of the wide room. “Sam!” the man briefly waved when he faced up. “Hey! You’re an early bird, aren’t you?” Sam sat his gym bag down at the edge of the bleachers. “Just don’t wanna be the last one in.” “I can relate. Say, how’d the first day go? Everything going alright?” Sam nodded. “Sure, but it’s not over until practice is done. I’ll consider then.” Alan laughed heartily, patting the boy on the back. “I see. I ain’t over until you’re under the sheets. Sounds like something Nick would live up to.” The teen had to hide a grimace. The sudden coldness in his stomach told him that he didn’t exactly appreciate having similarities to Nick. ‘“I would hope.” “Oh, speaking of Nick. I think Owen’s coming by to get some extra practice. Nick wants him to take State, you know? Continue the legacy and all that. You should come along, too. Nick’s been meaning to meet you.” Sam didn’t like the sound of that. He was going to have to deal with another sour attitude. Stil… “Okay. I’ll see what I can do.” At that time, the rest of the boxing team, including the two other coaches, began to file in, chattering loudly and spreading themselves about the room. “Yo, Sammy!” Jason called. “What’s up!” Sam was frozen for a second before waving silently at the brawny teen and Markus beside him. Owen, a few paces behind them, gaped before sending a hateful glare at his adoptive brother. The latter frowned, but turned away from him a moment later. He was going to try and stay out of Owen’s way. “Alrighty lads,” Coach Griffith spoke aloud. “Let’s get your gear on and get started.” ~|~ Practice wasn’t that bad. Overall, it was basically just one big review session for everything Sam already knew. Where he was from, it was practically the only thing he needed to know. Practice started off with warm-ups in the weight room, in which they did rotations. Each boy took their turn at punching a heavy bag, limited to three strikes in five seconds. Coach Gardner supervised this part, counting off the hits and letting them know his thoughts in a word or two. “One, two, three! Next! One, two, three! Good! Next! One, two, three…” Allan hurriedly stepped forward and lashed out at the bag with a trio of weighty slugs. It was obviously sloppy. The types of punches dealt to break bones. Sam saw it, and Gardner knew it, too. “Lower energy, Dunlap!” he said, narrowing his eyes in disapproval. “Next!” Allan scowled, but moved out of the way, grumbling his whole way to the back of the line. Owen came after him, taking confident steps toward the back. He wasted no time, placing two jabs and an uppercut in quick succession. It took up all of two seconds, but it got the job done. As expected, he was met with nods of approval. “Good, Willis!” Gardner praised. “Next!” As he made his way back, he turned to smirk smugly at Sam, who promptly ignored him. The adopted Willis just sauntered forth to take his turn. Sam took the first three seconds positioning his feet, his heels raised just a little bit and the space between them not too wide or narrow. Then came his attack, consisting of a jab and a cross that were a bit too fast to catch and powerful uppercut that had the bag swinging back. The spectators behind him gasped in amazement at the display of strength. Sam didn’t wait for anyone to say anything, trudging toward the back. Gardner clapped in genuine astonishment. “Nice! Well done, Sam-o! Next!” More compliments were uttered by both the coaches and some of his teammates, but Sam ignored them in favor of grinning at Owen, who appeared as if he wanted to spit fire. They kept at this for fifteen minutes, having them go at it a total of four or five times. And each time, Sam echoed his movements, garnering commendations from those around him except Owen and a couple of others. “Alright, gentlemen!” said Gardner. “Take three and we’ll start back up with shadowboxing!” The boys went about their business, grabbing a drink of water, stretching, or conversing with their friends. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam spotted Jason and Markus sauntering over to him. He noticed Camren close behind as well, his expression a bit tight. “Dude!” Jason slapped the adopted Willis on the back. “You were amazing! Like, seriously, are you even tired?” Sam had to laugh. “I’ve… been doing this for a while.” That was a bit of an understatement. He wanted to say his whole life. “For a while?” Markus raised a brow, sounding incredulous. “Must have been doing this your whole life. You looked like Coach Gardner back in his prime!” He was caught red-handed, but he decided not to confirm their suspicions, shrugging instead. His eyes found Camren’s, who only stared at him, expressionless. Despite that, Sam knew he was scrutinizing him, so, he gazed right back. “I think we should set up a sparring match between you two and find out if you’re The Gardner 2.0,” Jason smiled, glancing at said coach. Sam’s attention snapped away from Camren and smirked at the idea. “Won’t that be fun.” ~|~ The forest surrounding the Limion Mountains was eerily silent in the late afternoon. Despite the remaining daylight, the inhabitants stayed quiet as if in reverence for the stony highlands. Today, though, the soundlessness was broken by the footfalls of a group of physical geologists. “Okay, guys!” a tall, brunette female at the forefront spoke up. “Get your masks on and stay close! We don’t know what ‘strange activity’ has been going down here as of late, so, we need to stay extra cautious.” Marissa Laymark loved to travel, and, speaking from experience, the forestry near mountainous areas were some of the most beautiful places she has visited. However, there was only so much she could enjoy for she had a job to do as an orologist. There was note-taking to be done. “Ya think it’s another kid?” one of her colleagues asked. Marissa shrugged. “Could be. The motion sensors certainly picked up on something, but the thermal sensors kept quiet. Whatever is over there… might not be human.” It might not be like Sam. She thought of the dark-skinned, teenaged boy she found comatose near a cavern opening in the Limion Mountains. The kid was pretty calm throughout his duration with Marissa until she shipped him off with Teresa Willis, her long-time best friend. For an amnesiac, or what he seemed like at the time, he was well-mannered, soft-spoken, and very tranquil. Marissa couldn’t help but smile. Another of her colleagues, who appeared to be more nervous than the others, piped up. “Maybe we should-” They were interrupted by the shattering of rock. Gasps and yelps rang out as a loud hissing noise reverberated ahead of them. “Stand back!” Marissa waved back at her group. “What just happened?” one of them questioned frantically. “Just stay here! I’ll go check it out. If anything happens, you know what to do.” There was hesitation, but somber nods signaled her to move forward. Not much in this world scared her, but this place was known for strange happenings. And if finding an unconscious, young boy near the mountains wasn’t enough to unsettle her, then maybe this will do the trick. The orologist traipsed forth, brandishing a knife from her beige waist bag. “I think something’s followed you, Sam,” she said to herself. When she reached the small opening in the side of the mountain, leading to God-knows-where, she paused at the strange sight. What looked like rose-colored, thick smoke raced out of the cavity, which was much wider than before. It streamed out and into the atmosphere. Marissa felt no heat, as detected, so it couldn’t be the fumes of a flame. All of a sudden, several more pillars of the gaseous substance rapidly billowed out, tails of it rising high above the forest and the mountains. There was a sense of sentience Marissa felt as she gaped at the scene. The smoke whipped around wildly, but seemed to stay close together, trying to assemble only to repel once more. “Get out of there, Mari!” she barely heard one of her colleagues yell out to her, but she remained still, entranced. The sky, which had once been blue, now began to blacken. The dark clouds quickly gathered, faster than anything Marissa has seen before, rumbling piercingly with unproduced lightning. “I think it’s making it storm!” Sure enough, there was a clap of thunder and a shot of lightning. Only, and oddly enough, the current of pink in color. Marissa and the others were so spellbound by the peculiarity that they almost missed the fact that the smoke stopped flying out. Yeah, Marissa thought. This certainly did the trick. ~|~ The energy zig-zagged throughout the darkening sky, searching and searching for its host. Noel closed his black and white checkered notebook, laid back on his bed, and sighed heavily. The silence of his room was comforting. It was the only sense of pea- What? What was this? With the speed of a cat, Troy reached down and clutched the collar of Noel’s t-shirt. In one fluid motion, the larger male’s fist hammered into his cheek, blowing him back toward the ground twice as hard. Surrounding students who stayed to watch- Why were the memories cutting short? This has never happened before. The energy had to right itself from running into a few sky creatures as they dug for more reminiscences to sense. Noel frowned in disappointment, his chest constricting at the refusal and his eyes lowering to the concrete ground. He and Daxton, earlier in the week, had agreed to meet up at Baylor’s Dinery, the restaurant where they had first met and befriended each other. The eatery had a play place for children, and it was when the two eight-year-old- Ever since the plan had been halted more than a year ago, a majority of the power had been vanquished. Maybe that was it. If it weren’t for that Altearth dweller, issues such as this would not have to be dealt with. The energy, instead, had to use a different approach. The third option. It scanned the realm of its inhabitants and homed in the strongest current power. That should be the host. ~|~ Practice ended after an hour and a half, and Sam found himself no less tired than he was at the start of the session. The other boys were sweating, huffing and puffing like they just ran a mile. Sam tried to look the part, but gave up after a few minutes, choosing to stay in a secluded corner. “Better get home, boys,” Griffith said as he observed outside the gymnasium windows. “The sky’s not gonna be too hot in a bit.” Despite their exhaustion, the boys peered out to find fast-approaching storm clouds. Sam, staying at the back, suddenly had an uneasy feeling settle in his stomach. This was no normal thunderstorm, he knew that much. The group swiftly dispersed, hurrying to get to their cars and get home. He almost missed Owen sauntering up to him. He expected to see a glower, but instead, he came face-to-face with a tired, solemn expression. “We need to go,” was all he said. Sam stared for a moment before nodding. “I know. Just… give me a second.” His eyes went back to the storm clouds. If the younger teen was expecting an explosion of rage or anything of the sort, his pleasantly disappointed when his adoptive brother just sighed and turned to leave. Jason, who had been watching the short exchange, reached over and rubbed Owen’s shoulder in a comforting manner. He crossed by Sam, patting his back, before running off with the others. Ten minutes later, Sam found himself alone in the gym. Regardless of the impending tempest outside, it was quite peaceful in the wide room. Then, it wasn’t. The ground began to shake, steady trembles corresponding with the booming thunder. Sam caught the clattering and clanking of metal resonating from the weight room. He remained still, but the uncertainty in his gut progressed into dread. Something definitely was not right. This was no ordinary cataclysm. And to prove his point, the glass of the gym windows instantaneously burst inward. At first, everything slowed down, shards glinting in the dim room, but then it sped up again. And a bit too fast. Sam had about a millisecond to put up his guard before a torrent of glass shot toward him and cut at his body, the force somehow knocking him back by yards. The sharp fragments were relentless.
  6. ‘Note to fucking self…’ Noah Carpenter, beaten and bruised, thought as he trudged across the sidewalk, passing by the town’s woodlands, droplets of crimson leaving a bloody trail in his wake. “Do not trust anyone.” The fifteen-year-old – going on sixteen – practically went into war every day he sauntered past the entrance of Grand Mount High School, even if it was always one-sided. What could a rail-thin, little redhead with a temper as short as his height like him do against five or six beefy, burger-breathed thugs he had the unfortunate fate of sharing a grade level with? “Well, you took the words… right out of my mouth.” Noel jumped, his head whipping to the left and right. He could not afford to be beaten up again. “Who was-“ “I’m guessing… you’ve just come from a bad situation?” The redhead spotted a figure within the bushes, the bottom half of their shape lost in the cluster of leaves. Against the red warning signs going off inside his head, he curiously strode forth. Considering his current thought process, and life in general, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if he got shanked, right? He stood at the beginning forest’s border line. Who, or rather what, he saw was someone – thing? – out of a nightmare. Some white, pasty humanoid was smiling creepily at him, its mouth stretching from ear to ear and its heterochromatic eyes – black and purple – sending cold chills down his back. One arm, along with half its body, appeared to be lodged into the ground while the other helped the thing keep upright. Strands of black hair hung from its oval head. A gaping Noel tried to backpedal, but his legs wouldn’t respond. “What… in the world… are you?” “Now, you’re speaking… my language,” it chuckled, sounding oddly normal for a grotesque, creepy creature. “Don’t worry. Once I’ve remained here… for a bit, you won’t have to wait half an hour… for me to finish.” “Um, o-okay?” the teen stammered, unsure of how to act. It looked like the thing couldn’t move from its spot inside the surface. “So… what are you, exactly?” “I…” the creature gaze down at the ground, contemplating his next words, “don’t know if I should tell you that, now. You. You’re great. I can tell. I don’t want to accidentally… kill you or anything.” Taking into account that he wasn’t dead yet, Noel was more confused than anything. “By… telling me what you are?” “I guess there’s no way out of it, but…” those different-colored eyes inspected him, making the redhead feel extremely uncomfortable, “maybe we should heal those… wounds of yours, yeah?” The creature started to move toward the human, its body burrowing through the dirt ground. Noel winced, falling back on his rear. “A-Ah, they’ll heal on their own! Just stay right there!” It didn’t listen. “Oh, don’t worry. I won’t… hurt you,” it stuck out a wrinkled hand. “Promise. Just keep still.” He kicked at it frantically, trying to back away on wobbly arms. “Hell, no! Stay away!” “By the way, my name is T@#(*$----- “Wha- #($(##@!(#” !!!!!!404040404040404040404040404040404040404040404040404040404040!!!!!!!!!!!! …………………………. …………. ….. Noel woke up groaning. His head was pounding. He lay flat on his back, his vision of the sky a gray blur. The redhead found it difficult to turn his head, much less pick it up. His legs were pretty much useless. Same with his arms… What the hell just happened? “It’s okay,” the creature looked down at him sympathetically. “Lie down. Sorry. I was careless. I shouldn’t have… told you that. It… it still has too much power.” Noel tried speaking, but even that wouldn’t work. All that was iterated was, “Uh, huh… whuh…” It suddenly beamed, making Noel wonder if it was about to eat him. “I’m surprised, though. You’re strong. Maybe even stronger… than you think. You were supposed to die. Again, I was careless, so it wouldn’t have been… your fault.” “Wha… what? What… are ya…?” “Later. Later,” it shook his head. “Now, you should get going. You need to be… home right now, yes? Don’t worry. I’ll take you there. Just go to sleep. We’ll… talk later.” Noel wanted to refuse the strange being, but the exhaustion and pain convinced him easily. “Hm…” he moaned as he shut his heavy eyelids closed. “Sweet dreams, Noel.” ~|~ AP Psych was Sam’s next class, another junior level as expected. Once more, he prayed Owen wouldn’t be in this class. He sat in the front, not wanting to trudge through the aisle in case he needed to be introduced. The teacher, Mr. Lenard, was the complete opposite of Mrs. Stalworthy. Five minutes into the lesson, Sam watched him carry himself in a lethargic manner, his monotone voice being enough in revealing how much he hated his profession. It bored him so much that the muttering, which gradually rose in volume, went uninterrupted. No introduction for Sam, no control over his students, and no care in the world about the subject he taught. ‘Well, this should be an easy A,’ was all Sam could think at the moment. He could complain later because fifteen minutes into the class, an unwanted sight swaggered into the room, striding by the mumbling Mr. Lenard and loudly dumbing himself in the seat behind Sam. Owen did not glance his adoptive brother’s way once. For a couple of minutes, the two ignored each other, but a hiss had Sam spinning around and facing an angry Owen, glaring heated daggers at his dark head. “What the hell are you doing here?” Sam snorted. “Believe or not, I’m actually smart. I’m taking this…” he looked at the tall drone that just so happened to be their instructor, “class? Would you call this a class?” Owen was quiet for a moment, ruminating whether to indulge in casual discussion with his number one enemy. Sam surprised him when he spoke. “Lenard hates his job. He gives out random A’s or B’s just so his profession doesn’t leak anymore into his everyday life.” Sam quirked an eyebrow. “Why doesn’t he just quit?” The blonde opened his mouth to respond, but he must have realized that he was fraternizing. He shook his head feverishly and hardened his eyes and deepened his scowl. “Anyway, what… what was that…” he carefully looked around to make sure no one else was listening, “that you did on Friday night? You punched me and I went flying! Are… Are you some kind of freak or what?” Owen flushes darkly. The mortification of being manhandled at a huge party had yet to leave him. “I should be questioning you,” Sam narrowed his eyes. “That crap you pulled with the freshmen? That was horrible, do you realize that?” The junior flicked his head flippantly and snarled. “So what!? We were just having a little fun with them, that’s all! What Eddo did was unplanned. It…” his expression softened a bit, “it wasn’t supposed to go that far.” Sam wanted to throttle the guy. What could a person like Owen gain in beating down on smaller individuals? “It wasn’t supposed to start at all! You could have stopped it a lot sooner.” “Don’t tell me shit!” Owen went silent as a degree of familiar uneasiness passed through his face. “I couldn’t have, anyway.” Sam recognized the tension in his adoptive brother’s gray eyes. That spooked glint that he tried to wash away in beer. Sam was interested and, dare he say, slightly concerned. “What do you mean by that? What about that Nick guy.” For a second, maybe even a millisecond, the younger Willis caught the blanching of Owen’s fair skin. The blonde crushed his eyelids and shook his head, opening them to glower coldly at the younger teen. “It’s none of your business! Just don’t talk to me anymore! I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea that we’re actually cordial with each other.” The following stare-down lasted a full minute before Sam turned back around and decided to daydream. There was no point in paying attention to whatever Mr. Lenard was buzzing lowly on about. If what Owen said was true, which was shaping up to be the truth, then he might as well spend that time thinking. Owen, along with a majority of the class, ditched early. Still, the miserable man pitched no complaint. Sam went a few minutes later. With the extra time, the sophomore went to grab a snack on his way toward the theater. He was almost sure Owen and his friends, seeing as how he could spot a bunch of younger-looking folks on the same path, weren’t in this class. The wooden scent of the auditorium greeted Sam as he strolled in. The class seemed to be taking place in one corner, close to the stage, of the wide room. Sam made his way to the front in case of introductions, but the sight of a familiar bandaged boy sulking in the back had him wandering over to the back. “Salmon?” Sam said, making the freshman jerk up in surprise. “Shit, Sam!” the boy placed a hand over his chest. “You scared me!” “Sorry. Just wasn’t expecting to see you here,” the sophomore smiled sheepishly as he settled next to his younger friend. Salmon shrugged. “I wouldn’t expect me either. Not exactly a drama geek like Roseman over there.” Sam followed his line of sight to see a blonde, petite girl caked in makeup speaking animatedly with enthusiastic hands. “I see. You doing okay?” he cast worried glances at the yellowing wraps and patches all over the kid’s face, head, and arms. “That guy who… did he bother you much?” Salmon, not expecting the concern, smirked a bit. “Oh, uh, no. Didn’t even look my way. Although, that limp in his strut you gave him is a pretty sight to behold! Almost got caught staring.” Sam chuckled. “I bet. I can’t believe someone would do something like that to a kid.” “Well, it’s not so impossible to believe considering who it was.” “Ed, or… Eddo?” “Eduardo Byrd,” a grimace overcame the freshman’s face when he uttered the name of his attacker. “Complete and utter asshole. And very, very violent, evident by moi.” Sam sighed, waves of sympathy pouring out for the hurt boy. “Sounds like you’ve had to deal with him for a long time.” Salmon shook his head. “Way too long. My sister… she…” he gulped as if recalling a particularly frightening nightmare, “she had the misfortune of acquainted with Owen’s c-” “Sam?” The two turned to face a Chastity, who squeaked and covered her mouth when their attention snapped to her. “Hey, Chastity!” Sam greeted jovially, glad to see another one of his new friends. “You’re in this class, too?” The girl, ever so shy, meekly nodded while sitting down next to the sophomore. “Uh, y-yeah, I mean, y-yes! Yes, I am! I-I like, um, theater and acting and… stuff. Do you?” Sam shrugged honestly. “Not sure, but we’ll see. I just chose this class out of the blue.” Salmon smiled at the Chastity, his gaze brightening up when she caught his eyes. “I’m no drama geek, but I know Chas is one excellent actor. That shyness really blossoms into something else once she’s on stage.” The blonde female went as red as a tomato and looked down at her lap. “Is that true?” Sam asked, truly amazed. “Totally,” Sam answered for her. He peaked over Sam’s head while he continued his appraisal. “And I have a recording of the winter play in middle school to prove it.” The adopted Willis nodded his approval. “Well, that should be interesting.” ~|~ Study hall was his last period. Since he had no coursework from the three other classes, he leaned back and daydreamed. During his reflection, he sensed a pair of eyes burning holes in the back of his head. He peered behind him and found a freckled, curly-haired in green, stained jersey blatantly sneering at him. Sam said nothing, but he felt as if he should’ve realized who was attempting to kill him with vision alone. The sophomore tried smiling lightly, but the boy scowl only worsened. It reminded him of Owen. For the entire duration of the period, the unknown boy glowered at him, and Sam did his best to disregard it. Finally, the shrill noise of the bell sounded, and everybody was up and moving out, just about ready to head home. As Sam moved toward the door, a shoulder knocked into his. He didn’t really feel anything, but he did tense when piercing green eyes lasered into his. “Watch your back, Willis.” And he was gone. It was when the kid faced forward did Sam recognize him. One of the boys in the pack plotting his demise, not realizing that the dark-skinned teen could hear every word. The one called “Gary.” The right-hand man. Sam’s first day of school was over, and things have already gotten strange. No. It wasn’t over yet. Boxing tryouts was afoot, and he could only imagine what was about to go down.
  7. Westley D.


    Saturday, December 4, 2010 Something unexpectedly pleasant occurred today. Dan didn’t see it coming, but he was thankful to God or whatever force out there directed his life to this moment. It wasn’t anything big, but it’ll stay in the forefront of mind for months. The youngest Michaels boy was in the kitchen eating from a bowl of cereal, ruminating about the perplexing events of last night, when the doorbell rang. Dan froze and waited. Since they have moved here, Derrick, who was currently at work, had forbidden him, Tommy, and Rory from opening the door for anything since they weren’t high school age. The doorbell rang again, and Dan was about to go look out the window, but soon enough, the twins came bounding down the stairs, murmuring excitedly between each other. By the looks of it, Joey seemed agitated about something. “Last time you guys wrestled,” Jason spoke, “you tore up Dad’s favorite beanbag.” Joey shook his head. “All I’m sayin’ is that he better have a good reason for not showin’ up last night!” “Leave ‘im alone, man.” The younger twin took the chance to run ahead of his brother to open the door. Dan lost sight of them at that point, but tuned his hearing to the upcoming conversation. “Yo!” he heard a deep but young voice greet. “Big-D!” responded Jason. “What’s up, bro-” “You fuckface!” Joey suddenly exclaimed. Dan could imagine him glaring down at the receiver. “Where were ya last night!?” “Sorry,” the voice said sheepishly. “My lil’ bro here was practicin’ for a project presentation, so Mom forced me t’ stay.” Jason snickered, to which the voice noticed. “What?” Joey was the one who enlightened him. “You really tried to fuck with us. Your lil’ bro was there last night, dipshit! We met ‘im an’ everythin’!” Dan perked up at that. They couldn’t be talking about… “Shit…” the deep voice muttered, caught in the act of lying. “Shit is right, fool!” The sound of rough shuffling sounded out, and Dan instantly knew they were roughhousing. Another discussion went on, completely unconcerned for the small fray. “How ya doin’, little man?” Jason welcomed. “One heck of a party last night, eh?” “I guess so, bruh. I only stayed with my buddy Chip’s room th’ whole time, but I think it was a success.” Dan was already up and moving out of the kitchen. He knew that lovely voice anywhere. The boy stood in the living room and peered past his twin brothers, locking eyes with J.T. The older sixth grader stood there in a polo shirt and khakis, garments that he seemed to be adorning a lot lately. And in his arm was a football. Beside the boy was a taller, stockier male with the same brunette hair and tanned skin. However, instead of light green eyes, they were the typical brown. Darren, who must have been the older brother, was currently in an arm-wrestling competition with Joey, the two continuing their roughhousing. “Ay, Dan-io!” J.T. waved at him. “Wassup, bruh!” All eyes went toward the little boy a few feet away from them, and Dan instantly flushed. “H-Hey, man.” After exchanging a few more pleasantries and arm-wrestling matches, the Crewers brothers were let in. “I knew there was a reason why you wanted t’ come all of a sudden,” the older one mentioned. “That’s my big bro,” J.T. thumbed back at the bigger male. “Darren Liam Crewers.” Dan felt a bit intimidated when Darren strode up to him, but the handshake offered set him at ease almost instantaneously. “This lil’ squirt has a habit of introducin’ people with their full names. Just call me Darren. Or Big-D.” Dan smiled back. “Daniel. Or just Dan.” “So, you two gonna be hangin’ out?” Jason asked, looking curiously between J.T. and his youngest brother. The brunette grinned down at his newest friend and said, “If Big-D here wants to.” “Hey!” Darren exclaimed. Dan had to suppress a giggle, but was all smiles at hearing that. “Yeah, sure!” “Well, we’re gonna be shootin’ hoops later on,” said Joey. “You guys can come if ya want.” Once more, J.T. looked at Dan for the answer, who nodded. “Okay.” A wide smile appeared to overcome Joey’s face as he nodded in what seemed like approval. “Cool. You’re bein’ a good influence on my lil’ bro already.” “By th’ end of th’ day, you’ll know everythin’ there is to know about football,” Darren chimed in. J.T. shrugged. “Like Dad said, bruh, it’s a way of life.” “That ol’ man says that about every sport!” “Yeah!” the younger brother laughed. Jason waved at the both of them and followed his older twin up the steps, Darren close behind. “See ya guys at noon!” When they disappeared, Dan broke the silence. “You know, I’ve never really played basketball before.” “All th’ better we go with ‘em later, bruh. I forgot to invite you to th’ game yesterday, so I was hopin’ to make up for it with this.” Saying this, J.T. tossed the brown object several times. This time, Dan couldn’t hold back his mirth. “That’s a football, silly!” “Better than a b-ball, bruh. Don’t tell Chip I said that.” “If you can show me why a football’s better, than your secret is safe with me.” J.T. smacked the football in his hand and chortled. “Now you’re talkin’!” Despite coming from a family of sports players, Dan didn’t know much about football. His dad had never done any more than verbally encourage them to participate in extracurricular activities after school. However, as he and J.T. tossed the football back and forth in the backyard for a straight hour, he was beginning to see the appeal. Or maybe that it was just his new friend that he enjoyed being around more and more each day. “You gotta raise it above your head before ya throw it so it’s up in th’ air,” J.T. spoke. “Like this.” He demonstrated the maneuver, which looked so simple. The brunette was making everything look like a cakewalk. Dan shook his head. “I didn’t know there was this much to throwin’ a ball around.” J.T. snickered. “Trust me, bruh. There’s a lot more to it than that.” The two resumed throwing the ball at each other when three more guests made their entrance. “There he goes!” Joey cheered as he watched his youngest brother chuck the ball back at J.T., using the form he was taught in the last hour. “Nice pass, lil’ bro!” “He’s gonna be a pro at this rate if joins th’ football team,” Jason chuckled. “You mean when he joins th’ football team. What else is a man supposed t’ do?” On the inside, Daniel gushed. It’s been a while since his siblings have commended him over something. He was the smallest of the five, so it was only natural he would lack the most skill. After the fiasco that was the last hunting trip, the Michaels boy was quite desperate for any positive reinforcement he could get. “Speakin’ of goin’ pro,” Darren piped up, “tell ‘em what you’re chasin’.” J.T.’s eyes widened. “Now?” “You gonna be famous one day, right? Go on!” At that, J.T. blushed and smiled at Dan. The latter had never seen a more adorable sight. “NFL,” the brunette twirled the football in his hand. “Strivin’ since third grade.” Joey hummed, intrigued. “NFL, huh? Well, you should start playin’ for th’ high school team right now.” “Yeah,” agreed Jason. “You’re already better than most guys on there.” His teasing eyes found Darren, who pouted. “Ay, come on, now! Th’ skills had t’ come from somewhere! I taught ‘im everything he knows.” “Taught me how t’ eat grass is what I know best,” J.T. joked. Everyone, even Darren, had to laugh at that. “So, you guys comin’ to hoop or what?” Joey questioned when the mirth died down a bit. The two youngest boys responded by walking toward the porch, trailing behind the three older males as they led the way. “So,” Dan crooned over to his tall friend, “you really wanna get into th’ NFL?” A buoyant gleam sparkled in the Crewers’ bright green eyes as he grinned widely. “More than anythin’.” Dan wanted to cry for him, but nodded and returned the expression. “I believe in you.” “Shootin’ hoops” unexpectedly expanded into three games of basketball, in which Dan was taught the basics so he could play on a team, lunch at the nearby burger joint, a sci-fi movie, and tossing around the football at the local park. When it was time to go home, the sun was nearly finished setting. Dan had never spent that much time around the twins without being in the presence of his father, but he was willing to stay as long as J.T. was able to. In the end, it was the most fun he ever had, and he suddenly couldn’t wait for school to start back up again. Darren, who had driven despite only having a permit, dropped off Dan and the twins at their house. Dan bade J.T. and his brother farewell and began walking up the lot when they came face-to-face with a peculiar scene. Joey noticed the unfamiliar car, but didn’t think much of it. “Dad’s home early?” He was usually out late, particularly after midnight, but this was a bit too early. “That ain’t his car, though,” Jason shook his head, his shoulders going tense. “Whose is it?” Dan asked. “I dunno. Let’s find out.” The next thing they noticed was even odder. Jason appeared to be alarmed at the sight. Tommy was conversing with much older male none of them had ever seen before. The stranger had his hands in his pocket and was a good distance away from the second youngest Michaels sibling, but that didn’t mean anything at the moment. “I don’t like this, dude,” Joey stated “Hey, you!” Jason shouted before glancing at his older twin. The latter understood immediately, wrapping a protective arm around Dan and bringing him in close. The unknown person whirled around, surprised, to stare at the three brothers behind him. “Who’re you?” Jason stayed a few feet away from the man, but bravely glared back and spoke assertively. “We’ve never seen you ‘round here before.” The guy, even though he was much taller and larger than anybody present at the moment, suddenly got uncomfortable and scratched the back of his head. “Oh, my apologies. I don’t wanna cause any trouble here now. I’m just lookin’ for someone an’ I thought I could ask around.” The younger twin took the chance to glide over to Tommy and stand in front of him, shielding the little brother from the stranger. “How do we know you ain’t bringin’ any trouble?” “Don’t worry,” the man’s dark eyes rested on Dan, who squirmed slightly in Joey’s arm. “I think I’m finished for th’ night.” There was an uneasy, awkward silence that would have lasted a lot longer if a recognizable SUV hadn’t appeared from the end of the street. Seeing that, the man promptly went into a sprint toward his car, making the kids flinch back. However, they relaxed when they realized what he was doing. “Th’ hell’s your name?” Joey asked out loud, but the starting of the car drowned out any answer that he could have gotten. The stranger was gone just as Derrick’s SUV pulled in. Dan watched his dad quickly climb out and stare after the escaping car with a hard glare. “What th’ hell? Who th’ hell was that!?” his eyes shifted between the twins. Jason shrugged. “Don’t know. Asked his name, but didn’t give it up.” He looked back at Tommy, whose eyes suddenly found interest in the floor. “H-He was just some kind of weirdo. Said he was askin’ around for you, Dad.” All went quiet for a moment as Derrick processed the news. “Joey? Jason-” “We know,” Jason spoke apologetically. “We should have been here. We were just at th’ park shootin’ hoops. I didn’t think…” Normally, Derrick would chastise the twins for letting Tommy open door, or Tommy for disobeying the rules. Fortunately, he appeared to be too tired to do anything else for the night Instead, he sighed deeply, shut his car door, and curtly responded. “Don’t stress. Everyone inside. I think I’m gonna have to go scopin’ tonight.”
  8. I see. For me, there always seemed to be a subtle difference between the two growing up (going to a Catholic school while being raised under a Christian household, which required less "participation," for a lack of a better word), hence the alternatives. Thank you.
  9. After about half an hour of conversing about anything, Dan and J.T. headed back inside the house. The party was still full and roaring. However, everybody had seemed to arrange themselves into an oval around the living room, leaving Tommy, Peyton, and a couple of the housekeepers in the top center. J.T. and Dan watched the latter’s brother extend the shopping bag that contained his gift toward the seated girl, hope clear on his face. “Happy birthday, Pey!” Peyton quickly snatched the bag from him and dug inside. When she took out the makeup kit that was stuffed in there, she gasped so suddenly that it nearly fell from her slender fingers. “T-Tommy, you…” she stammered in shock, her eyes already beginning to brim with tears. The Michaels brother shrugged, trying to play it cool. “I think you’ve mentioned it once, but somehow, I just knew you wanted it bad. So, here ya go, darlin’!” Peyton was immediately on him, wrapping her arms around his body and burying her head in her chest. “Thank you so much! I love it already!” And to boot, she stood on the tips of her toes to plant a small kiss on his cheek, inciting the audience to whoop and ooh. J.T. chuckled at the scene. “Your big bro’s a real charmer, ain’t he?” Dan wasn’t so sure. Judging by the dark blush, the wide eyes, and the dopey smile that split his face in half, it seemed that Tommy wasn’t expecting the last bit to happen. He got more than he wished for. Despite this, Dan shrugged. “Hm. I guess so.” “Let’s go up t’ Chip’s room!” the older boy grabbed the younger’s arm and tugged him away toward the stairs. “He’s dyin’ to show you his b-ball jersey collection.” “Can’t wait,” Dan smiled and let himself be led. Chip’s room was a bit much for an eleven-year-old boy going on twelve, but that was only because of the amount of space. As a child obsesses with basketball, it was like walking into a miniature court, completed with a small hoop above the door and a whole line of posters of famous b-ball players. Aside from Chip, Blane, and Alex, there were a few more kids who watched the latter two play a videogame – which unsurprisingly had something to do with basketball. The blonde boy was mashing the controller’s buttons, his frustration obvious. Alex was just smirking, only having to press a few keys to dominate. J.T. burst out into laughter at Blane’s dismay. “Bruh. Are you really playin’ against A at 2K11?” His blonde friend bristled. “Dude, I’m tryin’ to concentrate!” “He said that five times before you guys got here,” Alex teased. “Shut up an’ focus on th’ game!” The girl scoffed and leaned forward slightly. “Try tellin’ yourself that, loser!” Watching from his large bed, Chip shook his head as if he predicted this moment. “I tried t’ tell ‘im. I swear.” J.T. looked down at Dan ad pointed at the television screen. “Th’ games came out only a month ago an’ Alex is already a freakin’ beast at 2K11. Girl got skills!” Looking closely, a wave of recognition washed over him. “I think one of my brothers has that game. They ain’t as good as she is, though.” He had seen the twins play tons of sports games, but it was Jason who had the most appreciation for basketball. Maybe even more than football. Either that or he was better at it than Joey. Alex smirked at Dan and spoke. “Maybe I should come over sometime an’ show ‘em how it’s done!” “It’ll teach ‘em a lesson,” Dan chuckled. Dan almost encouraged the prospect. The idea of a girl beating them at videogames won’t sit well with them. And so, they sat and viewed the game. Blane attempted to gain the upper hand, and, at some points, he did, but ultimately, his opponent prevailed at every turn. Chip disappeared into his closet while Blane cursed up a storm. When he returned, he had a red and yellow jersey in hand. “You wanna keep one?” he said, a kind smile on his face. Dan blinked in surprise. This was unexpected. Was Chip offering gifts on his sister’s birthday? “Uh? O-Oh, no. I, uh, I don’t wanna ruin your collection or anythin’.” Chip shrugged. “It ain’t really a big deal. I’ll replace it.” Da thought for a moment. He knew the jersey was an offer of friendship – Chip’s method of choice – but it was his brothers that he was more worried about. Rory, especially. Who knew what he or Joey would do if they saw him with some renowned basketball player’s garments? “Well, I’ll take one only if you get every jersey out there. You should always complete a collection before you start givin’ things away.” “Dang!” J.T. exclaimed in amazement, but was also nodding in approval. It seemed to do the trick as Chip beamed and backtracked into his closet. “You got yourself a deal, man! This entire house’ll be covered in jerseys! Don’t you worry!” “Guess we know what you wanna be when you grow up,” J.T. said, then turned to his blonde friend, who was slouching in shame over having been beaten once again. “Ay, Blane! Hand it over, bruh! Let me get a crack at it!” Blane didn’t hesitate to hand the controller over, shrugging and moving back to let J.T. sit. “It ain’t gonna make much of a difference.” He was right for the most part. Alex conquered the game against her tall, brunette friend over and over, but it did nothing to down the boy’s spirits. Dan found himself to be astonished every time a hearty laugh bellowed out of the energetic football lover when he lost. It lit up the atmosphere in the room to cheerful levels, and even Blane seemed jovial after several minutes. Nothing seemed to get him down. Not even losing to a girl. J.T. seemed to understand that things like this shouldn’t be taken seriously. It was all about having fun. Three hours later, while Dan was playing against Blane, there was a knock on the door. Chip broke from his conversation with J.T. and opened the door for two familiar figures. One of the random kids in the room piped up with, “Yo! Jace! Joe!” Dan’s older brothers took about three steps into the room and stopped. He noticed the cessation of several discussions nearby as all eyes were trained on the twins. The nervousness was almost palpable in the air. No one wanted to embarrass themselves in the presence of not just a couple of high schoolers, but two football jocks-in-the-making. Especially when the middle school was being moved into the upper-grade level building next year. “’Sup,” Jason replied absent-mindedly before smiling lightly down at his littlest brother. “Hey, bud. It’s time t’ go. Don’t wanna make Dad flip out now.” Dan nodded. “Yeah, right. Comin’.” The boy put the controller down and made to bid his friends goodbye, but Joey suddenly spoke up. “Ay. Aren’t you Darren’s lil’ bro? Jeremy was it?” J.T. smirked and nodded happily. “Yup! Jeremy-Topher, but just call J.T.” Joey ambled toward the brunette and shook his hand, more chipper than he was a second ago. “What’s up, bro! I’ve heard you’re pretty sick in football. You playin’ for th’ team next year?” “Probably for th’ rest of my life,” the sixth grader shrugged. “Love th’ game more than aythin’, bruh.” At that, the twins nodded in approval. Joey looked a bit more elated than Jason. “Now, that’s what I like t’ hear!” Jason tapped the brunette on the back twice. “You’re gonna go far, dude! Believe me.” Joey hummed in agreement. “What he said.” J.T. blushed, rubbing the back of his neck shyly. “Thanks, dudes! Seriously!” Dan didn’t know what to make of the scene before him. On one hand, he was pleased J.T. was getting along with his older brothers. Thank God they all loved sports. However, he remembered why he wanted Dan’s siblings to come along. It was all about popularity. Although, his new friend didn’t appear to be sucking up to the twins like he could have been doing. He conversed with them as if he was speaking with friends. Five minutes later, they were ready to go again, and Jason waved at Dan to follow. “Nice meetin’ ya, J.T.!” the younger twin said over his shoulder. “See ya around!” J.T. stepped in front of Dan before he could move and wrapped an arm around the blonde’s shoulders. “Hey, thanks for comin’, Dan. You’re th’ best an’ I really do owe you a lot, bruh!” He tapped the side of pants, hearing the pressing of paper in his pocket. Dan’s features brightened, and he couldn’t stop himself from beaming. “No problem. Thanks for bringin’ me up here.” J.T. laughed that wonderful laugh of his and ruffled Dan’s hair, making him giggle. “Anytime, bruh. Right, Chip?” “Yup!” Chip nodded and put a thumbs-up, not looking away from the game he was playing against Alex. A little while after the left, the three took to searching for Rory, but they ended up finding more dead ends than necessary. The third oldest brother was quite the evasive one. “Tommy’ll be easy to find,” Jason mentioned as the trio walked down a long hall untouched by the partygoers. “Rory vanished like th’ wind. Damn! Where is that asshole?” Joey looked down at Dan and asked, “You see ‘im around, D?” The youngest sibling shook his head. “No. Not even once.” Jason sighed deeply, all the vigor in him seeming to go out in that one release of breath. “Maybe he ditched,” the older twin offered, but Jason shook his head. “Nah. Th’ kid’s a slug. He wouldn’t waste his energy walkin’ from here to home.” “I dunno ‘bout that. I’ve heard he’s been askin’ Dad about goin’ to th’ gym-” Jason suddenly stopped and put up a finger. “Hold up! Shush,” he cupped his ear and listened closely. “You hear that?” Dan didn’t hear it at first, the background noise of the party reaching even the upper levels of the house, but a moment later, his hearing caught the sound of… breathing. Heavy breathing. “Aw, shit!” Joey’s jaw dropped. “No fuckin’ way!” Jason didn’t say anything just yet, pursing his lips and sauntering to the end of the hall. Dan and Joey followed after him. The inhaling and exhaling became louder and quicker. It was feminine, sounding as if a woman was running a marathon. Dan quirked an eyebrow, not knowing why his brothers were so stunned at the moment. Jason reached the very last door and placed an ear to it. He instantly blanched. “You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me.” Joey chortled. “You’re tellin’ me. We could’ve been watchin’ some girls instead of listenin’ to these preschoolers suck our dicks!” The younger twin glared at his older half in disgust. “Jesus, man! Cool it!” Dan looked between the two in growing confusion. “Hold on. What’s goin’ on?” Jason slowly turned the knob and opened the door, and the ongoing noise soared to new decibels. He peeked inside once and went red. Joey peered over his shoulder and gaped. “Oh. Oh, fuck!” Dan tried to get a glimpse himself, but the twins’ wide frames blocked the entrance. So, he kneeled and crawled in between Joey’s legs. The older twin looked down, chuckled, and allowed more space for his littlest brother to wriggle past. The blonde picked himself up and glanced inside… …which only served to perplex him further. They found Rory, alright, but Corey and Kurtis were also there. Alongside them were six other boys Dan had never seen. He wasn’t sure any of them went to their school. Although, that wasn’t what jarred his mind the most. It was the fact they were all naked from the bottom down, their pants either around their ankles or discarded on the carpet, and their hands were tugging at their groin. It was almost a repeat two days ago, except now, there were more privates out than last time. Their glazed eyes were glued to the screen, showcasing a beautiful, fully naked, platinum blonde-haired lady, her legs spread wide and three of fingers hurriedly scratching her middle part. Was she hurting herself or what? The boys seemed to be enjoying whatever she was doing, occasionally cheering aloud their astonishment of her body or voicing their lewd opinions of what they wanted to do with her. “Really, guys?” Jason chastised them. “Durin’ a birthday party?” Nobody reacted to the younger twin’s scolding but Rory, who sniggered as he brought a lit cigarette to his lips. “Nobody knows we here.” “Shit, that’s hot,” Joey hissed, gazing down the breathing woman on the flat screen. “Why didn’t you come an’ get me?” “Sorry, dude,” Kurtis slurred an apology. “I just showed up with my old man’s stash. Wasn’t invited. Just thought I’d treat my boys to somethin’ more interestin’ than some dumb bitch’s ego party trip.” “You’re tellin’ me! Now I’m all hot!” Joey turned to give Jason a hopeful expression. “Maybe we can-” The younger twin was immediate in his response. As he adjusted his pants, he rapidly shook his head. “Nope! We only got ten ‘til Dad shows up,” he momentarily leaned in and called, “We’re outta here, Rory!” Said boy grabbed a tissue from the floor and wiped at his exposed stomach. Dan couldn’t see what it was even when he narrowed his eyes. “Already finished anyway,” Rory pulled his pants up and departed from the others. “See ya guys later! Corey was the only one who responded. “See ya, bud!” The second Rory was out, Jason swiftly shut the door, blocking most of the sounds of the heavy breathing. Joey started in on his questioning, and Dan attempted to listen in, but he couldn’t comprehend three-fourths of the words spilling out of his oldest brother’s mouth. All went quiet when the four passed by a maid, who was cautiously searching the corridor for something. “What in the world was that noise?” When the Michaels boys were a safe distance away from her, they snickered, save Dan, who could not be any more lost at that point.
  10. Friday, December 3, 2010 Two individuals occupied Dan’s room. An occurrence that didn’t happen often. Certainly not for over a minute or two. However, Tommy randomly decided to prepare for Peyton’s birthday party in his room, stacking what looked to be several makeup kits into a purple, polka-dotted shopping bag. Still, as he sat and stared, having finished dressing up a while ago, Dan had to ask. “What’s that?” Tommy blinked in confusion, having been so wrapped up in his thoughts, before responding. “Oh, this? It’s just a lil’ present for Pey. I swear, she’s th’ girliest of girls.” He sounded a bit annoyed, but that small smile on his face told the younger boy something else. “Yeah. Alex said somethin’ about that,” he thought back to his new female friend lamenting about her hot topic-obsessed friend. Tommy’s eyebrows raised into his baseball hat. “Alex?” “Uh, just a friend. She knows Peyton.” And apparently, she wasn’t lying when she mentioned that they don’t hang out as much anymore. “A friend, huh?” a grin started to form on his fourth older brother’s face. “You sure there ain’t another prefix attached to that one?” Dan nearly gaped at the question, but a blush pushed its way forth and tainted his cheeks. “What about you an’ Peyton?” he attempted to change the subject. Tommy laughed, but thankfully obliged. “Dad said there was a point when boys would shout to th’ world about slavin’ to female. I guess I’m already there.” The younger sibling couldn’t help but think of J.T. at that moment, which was strange. J.T. wasn’t a girl, but wanting to show how much you loved someone while the whole world was watching did not sound that bad of an idea. Besides, what was the harm in exchanging gifts with a newly-found friend? Dan got up from his seat on his bed and sauntered over to his backpack by the bathroom door. He dug past the textbooks and notebooks to unearth the finished product of the assignment given to them in his Drawing class. Of course, he had aced it with little effort, but he wanted a specific someone’s honest opinion. He folded it up and gently placed it in his jacket’s pocket. A light smile graced his lips. It was a small gift, but the excitement could not be shaken. Five minutes later, the two went downstairs. The twins, Rory, and Derrick were waiting in various places, but they seemed to be outfitted nicely and ready to go. Tommy double-checked his brothers for the wristband invitation, which was crucial for getting into the party. Dan was quite relieved to know that all were on their person. “Ready, y’all?” Derrick gazed at his kids. “Yup!” Tommy answered enthusiastically for all of them. His giddiness appeared to be increasing every minute, the twins were giggling at their younger brother’s eager fidgeting, and Rory was blank-faced and silent, and it stayed that way even as they climbed into the SUV and drove off. Joey, as the oldest, took his anointed place in the passenger’s side, his twin, Tommy, and Dan sat in the middle, while Rory slumped in the back, unwilling to engage in any sort of conversation. “Just ask her out already, bro,” Jason snickered. Tommy furiously shook his head. “It ain’t that easy. If you want true love, you gotta take it slow.” Joey’s face scrunched up in revulsion. “Jesus, man. You sound like you’ve been drinkin’ soy lately. Jus’ go for it.” “You hush up!” his twin chastised him. “Ever since freshman year started, you couldn’t keep a girl for more than two weeks!” A wide leer spread across the older twin’s face as he leaned back in the front seat. “Yeah, but at least I got somethin’ out of it.” “What was that I just heard?” Derrick turned to him, his tone a bit gruff but not too serious. “What do you mean by that, Joseph?” Suddenly sheepish, Joey straightened himself and unconsciously rubbed his left shoulder with his right hand, scratching at the red flannel nervously. “Well, you know… all th’ other guys are doin’ it, too. I just don’t wanna be left out.” The large man shook his and clicked his tongue, something he did when he was disappointed. “So, you got mixed in with those cavemen? You boys really shouldn’t be hangin’ with them. Even without meetin’ ‘em, I can tell they’re bad news.” Jason shrugged. “I mean… Westford's cool. He’s like an older bro.” “You were on th’ football team, right, Dad?” Joey asked. “Didn’t you hang out with ‘em, too?” Derrick tilted his head from side to side. “Sure, but it wasn’t often. I was a loner by choice. If they decided to drop me for not bein’ cool or outgoin’, I wouldn’t shed a tear.” At that, Joey smirked grew as he stared at his father, mesmerized. “Damn! You were badass in school, Dad!?” “Nah. Just a guy wantin’ to get through it all without a fuss…” Joey went on about how awesome he wanted to be like his dad, completely missing the latter’s next mumbled words. “…but then your mother happened.” Dan was the only one who caught it. Though, instead of needlessly dwelling on it, he chose to zone out, receding into thoughts about the last two days. He’s never done so much socializing in his life than those couple of school days. It was exhausting, but, at the same time, exhilarating. Some time later, they reached a rather large house that could most likely accommodate three families at once. Chip had stated once that his folks were pretty well off, but he was pretty vague about it. Dan was shocked, to say the least, wondering how wealthy his parents really were. The party had already started, young kids filtering in and out of the house. “Jason. Joey,” Derrick spoke as he stared at the three-story house, a gleam of urgency in his eyes. “Remember what I told you about parties. Let your brothers in on th’ ground rules an’ what to expect, understood?” “Yes, sir,” the twins replied simultaneously. “I’ll pick you guys up at eleven sharp. No later than that even if it is a weekend. I still don’t trust th’ supervisors to do their job.” Joey waved him off. “Don’t worry, old man! We’ll be good. It’s just a bunch of brats anyway.” “Said the lil’ brat,” the man retorted, but smirked, nonetheless. “Alright-y, then. Y’all have fun now.” The boys got out of the car and watched as Derrick drove off into the night. When he was completely gone, they turned around and trudged toward the house. Tommy broke the silence. “So, what’s-” “No drinks,” Joey said. “No drugs,” Jason stated. “No sex.” Jason shook his head in a bout of exasperation. “You guys are lucky we told ya. Dad went on for so long when he told us, I thought I missed my entire four years of high school.” The five were greeted by a middle-aged blonde woman, who asked them to reveal their invitation. She carefully scrutinized each of them, checking for fakes. With all of the authenticated, they were allowed to progress. The only frame of reference Dan had of what to expect from a party were the small get-togethers his older brothers hosted from time to time. There was pizza, music, but nothing like the scene he now just walked into. The noise level – chattering, dancing, and stomping – made him instantly uncomfortable. There were a few kids he recognized and a lot more that he didn’t. He wasn’t sure the majority of them even went to his school. “Honey! I’m home!” Tommy suddenly shouted. A girl came barreling into him the next second, nearly making him drop the shopping bag in his arm. “Tommy! You came!” “It’s been a night since I’ve heard that,” Joey muttered to his twin. Jason smacked him on the arm, but started chuckling as well. “Shut up, dude.” While Rory sauntered off somewhere else and the twins were hounded by others who realized it was them, Dan studied the female chatting up a storm with Tommy. Both his brother and Alex were right. There was not one part of her that reminded him of Chip. She had height, but no taller than Tommy, blonde hair that reached the small of her back, and unblemished, pale skin. On a physical level, he definitely saw why Tommy crushed on her. However, his thoughts were now somewhere else, or rather, on finding a specific person. Dan searched and searched the great house for that familiar dark brown hair and caramel skin, but to no avail. Maybe he hadn’t shown up after all. Or maybe he came too late. Either way, it really served to bludgeon his mood into the pits. He reluctantly stalked off to the backyard, where only a few kids were sitting around and conversing. There was a small playground area and a couple of porch swings, one of which was empty and far from civilization. And so, he went there, planning to remain there until eleven hit. Fortunately, it wasn’t even a couple of minutes later when he heard, “I knew I’d find you sittin’ alone somewhere, bruh.” It took every fiber of his being not to let a crazed grin split Dan’s face open, only allowing for a small smirk to get through. “It’s th’ best way to get your attention.” That heartwarming laugh of J.T.’s spilled out of him while he sat beside the boy. “You got me there. So, why aren’t ya with everybody else? Partyin’ ain’t your style?” “Well… I’ve never been to a party before, and…” he swallowed first before continuing, “I, uh, only came here for you.” The older male’s eyes went wide, and despite the darkened sky, Daniel could clearly see the sparkle in his light green eyes. “For me? Really, bruh?” Dan flushed. “I mean, um, I-I had nothin’ else to, uh, do, so…” “No, man! I ain’t mad at ya or nothin’! I’m just surprised, is all. Although, I shouldn’t be. We’re friends now, right, bruh?” “Yeah…” the younger boy nodded, and then humorously added, “bruh.” He made J.T. chortle for the second time that night. Dan was promptly reminded why he wanted to see him so bad, and shakily plucked out the drawing and began unraveling it. “What’s that?” his companion asked. “Oh. Just the, uh, finished project.” He handed it over to the curious boy. J.T. took one look at it and gasped. “Ain’t that th’ picture of me you drew in class? Bruh, it looks even better now!” The crazed grin could no longer be helped. “Thanks. It’s… it’s for you.” “Seriously!? I thought you would’ve wanted to keep it since…” J.T. glanced at the picture before looking back up again, “are you sure, man?” “Yeah!” Dan nodded. “You’re supposed to give presents on birthdays, right?” The older boy giggled. “It ain’t even mine, but… thanks, bruh! When’s your birthday?” “June thirtieth.” J.T.’s face suddenly dropped, his mouth forming an “O” shape, and Dan briefly wondered if he had named the death date of a loved one or a unfortunate event in the elder sixth grader’s life. “Hol’ on. You’re not shittin’ me, right?” J.T. gently grabbed Dan by the shoulder and stared seriously into his blue eyes. “June thirtieth’s your birthday?” “Positive,” the blonde whispered. “What’s wrong?” The brunette’s face broke out into an even bigger smile than Dan’s as he happily exclaimed. “Nothin’! That’s my birthday, too!” It was Dan’s turn to gawk in shock. “Seriously!?” Who would have thought? “Straight up, bruh! Looks like our birthday parties are gonna be a lot bigger! Although, I still have to get you two gifts.” Dan chuckled right alongside him. “Then, I can’t wait!”
  11. Westley D.

    Chapter 9

    Fear not, my friend! 😁 It shall continue a week after"Gen Zues(The other story)'s" turn is up 😉
  12. Westley D.

    Stay Golden

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010 The next morning, after preparing for the school day, Dan stopped by his father, banking on the man’s seemingly infinite knowledge of the forest and animal life. He found the man alone in the kitchen already halfway through his breakfast while reading a newspaper. The man had grown up on a farm for most of his life. Technology was still alien to him. Silently hoping he wouldn’t sound crazy, Dan sauntered over to him and cleared his throat. “Hey, Dad?” Derrick looked over and placed the paper on the counter. “What’s up, kid?” That was when he noticed the slight bags under his youngest son’s eyes, and a sympathetic smile graced his bearded face. “Didn’t sleep too well, huh?” Dan flushed, a bit embarrassed. “Y-Yeah.” “What’s eatin’ ya? Is it Rory again?” The two looked over at the brother-in-question, who was situated on the couch and inattentive due to the headphones blaring rock music into his ears. Not only that, but he was partially focused on finishing a whole bottle of water, crushing the plastic to gulp down the remaining quarter of liquid. Dan shook his head. “No. Not this time. It’s just that… um, last night.” “Yeah?” “Well, do we have any…” Dan searched for the right words, “secret pets I don’t know about?” That was an odd question, and he mentally berated himself for how stupid it sounded. Derrick raised an eyebrow. “Erm? No, not after Spots. Although, I have been thinkin’ about gettin’ you guys a new dog or somethin’.” Dan pushed down the ache in his heart as a brief image of their dalmatian flashed in his head. The dog recently died of old age, Dad having owned him since he was a pup. Everyone, even Rory, loved him, and there wasn’t a dry eye among the boys when he passed on. “Oh, okay,” he thought how to rephrase his question. “Do you know about an animal that… uh, flashes?” “Flashes?” “Like… ‘flashes’ like a camera when it’s takin’ a picture. Does any animal do that?” Derrick thought for a moment, his expression morphing from confusion to concern, then back to confusion again. “Uh, again, not that I know of. Is everythin’ alright, kid? You see somethin’ last night?” The boy swallowed and nodded. “I-I think so. There was a flash at my window, so I went to see what it was, but when I got there, somethin’ was already hoppin’ over th’ backyard fence. At first, I thought it was a big spider.” “Hm,” the man’s brow furrowed. “That’s… that’s strange. You kept your window closed, right?” Dan nodded once more. “After I saw it, yeah.” “Good. Keep it that way. I’ve got no clue about no ‘flashin’ animal,’ but there’s a chance this may be entirely somethin’ else.” That worried Dan even further. What could ‘entirely something else’ entail? Noticing the anxious look, Derrick reached over and ruffled his boy’s blonde hair. “We’ll figure somethin’ out, son. Don’t stress yourself about it. You just save that for school.” A smile overcame Dan, and he went in for a hug. “Okay. Thanks, Dad.” Several minutes later, the Michaels boys boarded the bus. Jason and Joey forced themselves in front, Tommy sat all the way in the back so he could get in extra minutes of sleep, and Dan sat a seat across from Rory in the middle section. It was about a couple of moments into the ride when Dan noticed they weren’t going their usual route. The further they progressed, the shadier the scenery became. Soon, they entered a neighborhood of dirty trailers, littered grass, and cracked streets. Out of one of the trailers stepped out Corey James, one of Rory’s partner-in-crimes and good friends. Dan did not know much about the boy beyond him being from the poorer side of town and getting kicks out of aggressing younger kids, although, he did seem to be a closer friend to his sibling than Kurtis Langely. It was not often the stocky eighth grader visited the Michaels house, but when he did, Dan made sure to steer clear of him and Rory. “’Sup, man!” the third brother high-fived his friend when he went to sit by him. “Yo!” Corey smirked. “So, we still doin’ it?” “Hell, yeah. I’m about ready to burst. If only there was a… bathroom around here.” Dan watched in perplexity and growing trepidation as his brother fished out an empty, plastic water bottle. “Oh, look-y here!” The two snickered, and the younger Michaels brother’s eyes widened when he noticed Rory beginning to undo the fly of his jeans. Corey was looking, too, covering his mouth to stifle the giggles as Rory fished out his… that area… and inserted most of it into the bottle. “Well, there’s nowhere else I can go,” he grinned nastily, “and I need to go real bad, so I’ll just…” And he let loose, a stream of the yellow fluid filling up the container. The sound of Rory peeing was drowned out by the chatter around them, and others were too busy talking to realize what was going on. Dan viewed it for another moment before he could take no more, his cringe overwhelming him into turning away and looking out the window. The bus jostled slightly, and the sound of the swishing liquid made Dan want to hurl. “Ew!” Corey spat through his mirth, scooting away only an inch. Rory just laughed and continued. “Jesus, bro! How much did you drink!?” “Enough to leave ‘em smellin’ for weeks!” “An’ we have class with ‘im, too,” Corey mentioned. “You think th’ teachers will cancel class when their classes start reekin’ of piss?” Rory shrugged. “Probably not, but we’ll just skip.” The bottle was nearly filled to the brim, but the Michaels brother seemed satisfied. The bus arrived minutes later, and everyone filed out of the vehicle one by one. Dan got up, keeping an eye on the contained urine in Rory’s hand. Corey allowed his brother to step ahead of him, placing the Michaels right behind his youngest sibling. Rory, noticing Dan’s tense shoulders and occasional glances, sneered. “What? You want some o’ this, boy? Huh?” He shoved the bottom of the plastic container against Dan’s neck, and the latter squirmed at the warmness. He tried to lean away as much as he could without pushing into the person in front of him. “Stop!” he exclaimed, though, it came out as more of a whine than anything. The two just laughed at his dismay. When they finally off, Dan made a point to walk faster, widening the gap between him and his brother. Dan slowed down when he was inside the school building, but then, he paused. For some reason, the sight of Madden Withrows trudging grumpily down the hallway made his anxiety surge. Then it hit him. Oh, crap. Dan lifted a hand and struggled to utter a word. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get out a single syllable by the time he heard Corey’s gruff voice beside him. “There he is! He’s by his locker starin’ at nothin’! Th’ little freak.” He and Rory blatantly swaggered down the hall, bottle of piss being uncapped. Madden was too focused on the floor to realize what was about to happen. “Record this shit,” Rory muttered. Corey eagerly complied, taking out his phone and setting up the camcorder app. When they were just feet apart, Rory called him out. “What’s up, Maddy!?” The hateful scowl was immediately upon redheaded kid’s pimple face, but was swiftly replaced with a screaming, gaping mouth as he was drenched in Rory’s urine. There were gasps of shock, disgust, and even laughter, especially from the two bullies. Madden stood there as the smell permeated throughout the hall, and everybody was backing away from him, either jeering or complaining. “Did ya hear that!?” Corey pointed his phone at the stunned redhead. “He screamed like a lil’ bitch!” Rory smirked coldly at his damp victim. “Yeah, drink up all that piss, Maddy! I know you like it!” The crowd erupted as if it was the funniest joke they’ve ever heard. Dan remained silent, waved of repulsion, shame, and guilt crashing and colliding inside his stomach. He couldn’t believe Rory would do something like that. Sure, the kid was abrasive, but this was a whole new ballgame. “Catch you around, pissant!” Rory threw the bottle at the still Withrows before he and Corey nonchalantly ambled off, praising themselves for a job well done. At the same time, one of the seventh grade teachers, Mr. Yu, popped out of his classroom and surveyed the area, his nose twitching at the stench. “What is going on out here!” His eyes found Madden, who was still as frozen as a statue. “Mr. Withrows! What have you gotten yourself into now?” Dan left the hall, feeling himself grow sick. When lunch rolled around, he sat alone, figuring that was what he deserved for not warning Madden or stopping Rory on time. Conversations of the incident reached his ears, and he could feel a dozen pairs of eyes on his back as he reeled within himself. He could have snatched the bottle and make off with it, or at least tell the redhead to run the other way and not look back. How was it all perfectly timed? Why did Rory hate Madden so much? Why- “Now, hol’ up! We can’t allow this!” Dan recognized the voice instantly and was confirmed a second later when J.T., alongside Blane, Chip, Alex, and several other sixth graders, settled down at his table. “Hm?” he felt beads of sweat on his forehead at being surrounded. J.T. sat on his right while Chip took the left. “We ain’t gonna let you sit alone, bruh. Isn’t that right, guys?” “Yup,” Blane smiled. “You’re gonna have to deal with us from now on, man.” The younger boy couldn’t help the blush on his face. “O-Okay, but you don’t have to do this. I-I’m okay-” “Nope,” J.T. interrupted him. “You’re stuck with me, my guy.” Chip leaned in and spoke loud enough for his friends to hear. “An’ you’ll never be able to escape. Believe me, I’ve tried.” J.T.’s face screwed up comically. “Nah! You just can’t resist me!” Alex reciprocated Chip’s action and said, “It’s what he tells us. Don’t believe him.” Dan chuckled and decided to play along. “Thanks. I’ll start worryin’ then.” “Man!” the brunette crossed his arms and shook his head. “Look at them gangin’ up on me, bruh. At least, I have Blane on my side, right?” Blane’s grin suddenly dropped into a frightened mask, adding in shivering for effect. “Y-Yes, s-s-sir! A-Always a p-pleasure, s-sir!” The entire group, even J.T., could not keep from laughing uproariously. Dan felt his doubts and worries bleed away, but they were scrubbed clean for the day when J.T. wrapped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him in close. This is nice, he thought happily.
  13. A few hours after school, it was nearly a full house again. Derrick had yet to return from his work at the farm, which was a usual occurrence for them. Nothing out of the ordinary. Sometimes, he wouldn’t return until an hour before midnight, but he always made sure to leave an abundance of food in the kitchen to make up for dinner. The Michaels boys were lounging around in the living room as they feasted, either watching television, drawing, or focusing on his meal. Dan was situated at the countertop just outside of the kitchen, working on his latest piece while munching on a peanut butter sandwich. He didn’t have much of an appetite even after the end of the day of school, only consuming just enough to erase the lingering hunger. Rory was seated alone at the dining table, which was located in another corner of the house and right beside the TV area. Dan only took a few glimpses at him, not wanting to be at another receiving end of a scowl, but from what he could judge, the third brother seemed quite tired. He rested one side of his head in his hand as he chewed at a snail’s pace as if he was being forced to eat something disgusting. Tommy was in the kitchen, whipping up homemade noodles he had learned to cook a year back. Dan knew he was into the culinary arts, but kept it a tight secret. According to Joey and many of the boys at school, men did not cook. Dan briefly wondered what Joey thought how their dad made full-course meals for dinner. The twins were sitting in front of the television again, viewing some random reality show. They appeared to be intrigued by it, especially becoming animated whenever a busty, lithe tan woman was given screen time, but Daniel did not see the appeal. “Yo! Watcha doin’ over there, huh?” Joey’s attention had migrated from the TV to Rory, who glared back at his oldest brother. “Th’ hell you say?” A knowing smirk slipped onto lighter-haired twin’s face as he stood up. “You can’t hide from me, Ro! I know you have one of them lighter sticks up your nose. Hand ‘em over.” Rory’s arm nearly slammed into his plate of half-eaten waffles as he turned to respond. “What th’ fuck are you talkin’ about!? And don’t call me that!” “You know, th’ ones Dad used to put in his mouth,” Joey walked over to him. “He told me he did it when he was a kid to ‘cool down’ or somethin’ like that. Now, all th’ guys at school are doin’ it, too. We wanna try.” The third brother snorted. “They’re called cigarettes, you dolt! And I ain’t givin’ these out for free! Besides, your dumbass might could get us caught if we smoke all willy-nilly!” “Then let’s do it outside! Before Dad comes back!” Rory was a typically stubborn kid. He did not like being ordered around like some pet. However, when it came to Derrick, he might as well tuck his tail between his legs and heel. He was quiet for a few seconds before reluctantly nodding. “Fine. Just let me finish this first,” he turned back to his waffles, which were most likely cold by now. Joey groaned. “Eat faster!” Ten minutes later, Dan, Rory, Joey, and Tommy were out in the backyard while Jason had gone up to his room to fetch something. It was pretty sizable, fenced-in, and littered with stray sports balls and action figures. The youngest Michaels sibling sat awkwardly on the patio, just watching Rory and Joey light up the tiny sticks and do the same thing he saw the former do earlier in the day. He was worried, of course. Not only could they get into massive amounts of trouble if Derrick were to find out, but bad things could happen to their bodies. Dan’s heard the stories. Cancer, they called it. And it did not sound like a pleasant experience. His concern grew even as they offered on to Tommy. The fourth Michaels boy shared a sliver of Dan’s apprehension. “I don’t know, guys. Vince’s older bro offered us some while we were over at his house. I tried, but I started coughin’ an’ everything.” Today was full of surprises. First Rory, now Tommy? Dan figured the former would try anything, but finding out someone as well-behaved, funny, and carefree as Thomas did… drugs was a bit of a punch to the stomach. You really can’t judge a book by its cover. Rory shrugged nonchalantly. “That’s supposed to happen. You get used to it.” Tommy scratched his head, but extended a hand. “Just one.” “That’s what they all say,” the third brother muttered as he lit up another cancer stick. Joey laughed out loud. The two didn’t even bother to offer Dan one, completely ignoring him. He didn’t think they noticed him there at all. And, in a way, he was grateful. Jason reappeared, carrying a small pack of dark brown, glass bottles. “I’m back!” Rory's eyes bugged out and his cigarette almost fell out of his lips. “Oh, shit! You got beer!?” Jason smirked. “Yeah! Stephen, one of th’ senior guys on the football team, gave this to us as a present after we had our first shot.” “It was gross at first,” mentioned Joey, “but when they say these things wash th’ pain away, they really weren’t kiddin’!” “Don’t it make you do loopy shit?” Tommy asked. “Yeah, but that’s only if you’re loopy, to begin with!” Chortling, the four dug in, each grabbing a bottle of the alcoholic beverage, sat back in their folding chairs, and indulged in their freedom. Dan had yet to stand from the patio, and Joey was the first to take notice of this. “What?” he sneered playfully. “You want some? Too bad you can’t have any! You’re still a lil’, tiny boy!” Dan looked down, hoping his hair would hide the embarrassed flush that tinted his face. Rory laughed at this. “He’d probably drop th’ second he gets a load of this!” “I don’t want any,” the youngest boy shook his head, unwilling to face upward and see the disapproving stares of his elder siblings. “Don’t tease ‘im too bad,” Tommy said. “I don’t like this smokin’ crap anyway. Makes th’ beer taste bad.” “You wanna try, lil’ bro?” Jason proposed genuinely. “Just a quick taste or a drag?” As much as he wanted to be included, something in his gut just told him to get the hell out of there. Dan was good at recognizing danger when he saw it, and this had red flags posted all over it. It wasn’t worth it. “No, thanks.” And that was that, but, of course, Rory wouldn’t have it without having his say. “Just what I thought,” he spat snidely. “Pussy.” Dan couldn’t help himself this time, spinning around to shoot the third brother a hateful glare. One that wiped the mocking smirk off his face. Rory wouldn’t let him win, though, narrowing his eyes into dangerous slits in an attempt to silently get the little kid to back down or else. Dan sniffed before finally getting up. “I don’t care. I’m goin’ inside.” He stomped across the patio, and before he shut the door, he heard the twins speak “Man, he never wanna do nothin’ fun!” Joey complained. Jason was a lot more sympathetic. “Be nice to ‘im for once, y’all!” Dan didn’t stop until he was right back in his room, shoving the entrance open and jumping into bed face first. There was no stopping the droplets of tears that slithered down his cheeks. He let Rory get to him again. Sure, he could bark, but that bark could sure as hell bite him pretty hard. “You alright, bud?” He didn’t even hear Jason enter the room, but he got up and wiped at his face, attempting to hide the evidence of his sadness. He noticed Tommy had followed him. The two sat close on either side of him. “No,” he mumbled. “Those pansies,” Tommy rolled his eyes. “Can’t resist takin' a shot at ya. You know you’re gonna live longer than both of ‘em, right? They keep on smokin’ an’ drinkin’, but you’d be livin’.” That managed to get a small giggle out of Dan. “Yeah.” The other two laughed with him, but the mirth quickly died out as Joey stumbled into the space, slowly tailed by Rory. It suddenly felt like Dan’s privacy was being invaded, an uncommon sensation since Jason and Tommy, currently his two favorite brothers, were present. Jason frowned, realizing his twin was a bit tipsy. “Joe-” Joey lifted a hand in surrender. “Wasn’t gonna say nothin’ mean!” The other hand rose to reveal an untouched bottle of beer. His eyes connected with Dan’s as he uttered, “Just once.” “Huh?” the youngest boy blinked. The older twin strode over to him. “Come on, Danny! You gotta loosen up a bit! How you gonna be all uptight with your friends when you’re supposed to be havin’ fun?” “If he had any,” Rory snarked again. Tommy glowered at him. “Rory!” Dan was staring straight at the third brother resentfully, but spoke to Joey when he said, “Just one gulp.” Rory’s face dropped into slight shock, and he could feel rather than see Jason and Tommy’s concerned gaze on him, but he did not relent. The oldest Michaels brother grinned widely and nodded. “Just one.” Dan snatched the bottle from his brother’s hand after it had been uncapped. He sniffed it, and it took every fiber of his being not to recoil in disgust. Just one swig, he coached himself. Not even the whole thing. Not wasting another second, Daniel tipped the bottle forward and poured a mouthful past his lips. The taste was more vulgar than the smell. However, he could not back down. There was just one more step. Steeling his body, he forced himself to swallow the revolting liquid, burning his throat and churning his stomach. He let out an audible “Yuck!” as he coughed into his arm. The entire room burst into cheers and applauses “See! I knew you had it in you!” Joey slapped his littlest brother on the back, then turned around to smirk triumphantly at a stone-faced Rory. “Looks like you were wrong, bitch!” “Whatever,” Rory snorted not too convincingly, but there was a slight smile playing on his lips. The evening soon arrived, and the hours past midnight were upon them. Everybody had retreated to their own quarters – the twins mutually shared a room – and the house fell silent. Dan was practically on the edge of sleep when a bright flash from the window lit up his room. “What the-” it startled him awake. Is it storming? That was odd. If it was, why did he not hear any rain or thunder? Dan waited for another strike of lightning to brighten up the sky, but no such thing occurred. A shiver overtook him, knowing what he had to do to make sure. With a bit of a tremble in his steps, he trudged over to the window and pulled it open. He leaned out of it and searched the area, which happened to be an upstairs view of the backyard. Cold wind blew in his face, so there was that. There was no rain, no clouds, no thunder, and no lightning. So, what could have made that bright flash? He scanned the place more carefully and nearly called out “Hello?” when he spotted something in his peripheral vision. To his right was a dark silhouette, the figure too blended in with the night to discern the shape, hurriedly climbing over the wooden fence. It reminded the boy of a humongous spider. And because of that, it freaked him out. Dan yelped in fear and quickly pulled the window down, sealing it shut. He ran to his bed and slid under the covers, hoping to God the thing did not see or hear him. Now, most animals didn’t scare Dan, but there was this thing he had against insects and tiny, multiple-legged creatures. It made his skin crawl. He had never heard of an arachnid so big. Throughout the night, he began to wonder if monsters truly existed. He did not sleep at all.
  14. Sam was introduced to the class as a new student. It was a pretty normal procedure – his name, grade level, and his favorite food. He went with cheese pizza simply because that was his dinner last night. The class greeted him, and even several of them clapped. He scanned the area and spotted a familiar dark-skinned girl grinning at him. Sam’s smile widened as he waved at Renee Carson, and she did the same. With that, the boy, a bit reluctantly, sauntered over to the seat in between Jason and Markus. The former nodded at him, a tight smile on his face. Sam frowned, but reciprocated the action. For twenty minutes, the teacher, a rail-thin, old woman named Mrs. Stalworthy, went on about Western Asia. Of course, the students around him tuned her out, heads down and eyes toward the window, despite the fact that she sounded ecstatic about the subject. Sam was entranced, soaking up her words and taking notes. He was definitely going to like this class. Eventually, a worksheet was passed out, and Stalworthy allowed for partners. Sam didn’t bother with that. They weren’t into it as he was. The edge of a piece of paper tapped the wood of his desk and looked up from the sheet he had already started on to Jason eyeing him nervously. “Hey, uh, Sam? Wanna trio up?” The screeching of a chair being pulled up had him turning around to face Markus, who flinched when Sam glanced at him. He really didn’t want to waste his time with them. He assumed they were going to badger on about the part events. Unfortunately, they were already preparing to sit down, so it was too late to refuse. “Sure,” he muttered. Jason, settled by now, nodded and smirked lopsidedly. “Cool. So, you’re Owen’s new little bro, huh?” The urge to roll his eyes was strong, but he relented. “Unfortunately.” “Yikes. That bad?” The younger male studied the brawny junior before him. He was expected for him to be just a bit more peeved about that, but he found amusement in the place of vitriol. That smile remained on Jason’s face even as he continued. “Don’t worry, though. Owen’s like that with a lot of us. He’s a pretty… private person. You just need to break through his shell.” “I sincerely doubt that.” He figured the Willis kid was skin deep. A pampered elitist. “You don’t live with him.” The football player shrugged. “Though, I have been friends with him for… pretty much my whole life, actually. Trust me, there’s a lot more to him than being a rich snob.” “Whatever you say.” “So, uh, we cool now?” Markus said from behind him. Sam’s head snapped to him, making him wince once more. “What?” “U-Uh, I mean, um, a-are… shit,” the jittery boy sought out his friend’s help from across the desk. Jason leaned back in his seat and sighed deeply. “So, that party. That was… that was something, wasn’t it?” Remembering the frightened expressions on the freshmen’s faces, the beatings, Salmon’s injuries, and Owen permitting it to happen, he couldn’t help but glare coldly at the bigger boy. “It was horrible. Why is that even a thing?” “It’s not our fault!” came Markus’ reply. It was voiced too quick and too loud, earning the stares of surrounding peers. He was quiet for a few seconds before squeaking out a barely audible, “I-I mean… it’s not our… idea.” “Yeah,” Jason nodded grimly, “believe it or not, I don’t like it either. That’s why I was so smashed before it started. I… didn’t want to remember it. I barely remember the others.” “Can’t you stop it?” Sam asked. The burly football player snorted, the edge of his lip turning his smile into something bitter. “We may be buddies with the most influential kid in town, but even I’m powerless to stop it.” “As Owen talked about Nick yet?” Markus questioned. Sam thought about the name, then was reminded of the conversation he had with one of the coaches during his boxing tryouts. “Nick? No, but I recall Coach Anderson mentioning him. They’re father and son, right?” “Yep. And Owen’s cousin,” Jason added, although the sophomore knew that beforehand. “He’s the one who started the whole thing, too.” “Based on what I’ve heard, I can definitely see that.” This Nick, judging by his father’s description and Owen’s phone call with him that he overheard, did not sound like a decent person. He was able to make Owen Willis cower in fear, Sam would rather pretend such a person did not exist. Jason leaned in as if he was about to let them in on a secret. “Dude, you don’t know what-” “Gentlemen,” Mrs. Stalworthy trudged over to the trio. “I do hope you’re talking about Mesopotamia.” That goofy smile was instantly plastered onto Jason’s face as he looked up at the woman. “Well, what else would we be talking about, ma’am? I only live to learn.” Stalworthy chuckled. “Then you will get very far in life, especially, if you’re like Samuel here,” she gestured to the young teen, who was too busy answering another short essay question to acknowledge his instructor, “his eyes and brain on the worksheet. Perhaps you can learn from him?” Jason laughed and moved his chair closer to the dark-skinned boy. “Will do! Come on, Markus! Get your head over here!” Out of the corner of Sam’s eye, he noticed the jittery boxer ogling the back of a particular girl’s head. For some reason, he wasn’t all that surprised he was interested in Renee. She was an intelligent bookworm and he was a dumb, frazzled jock. Markus flinched for the thousandth time and scooted his chair in. “Oh, shi- crap! Sorry!” The previous discussion did not proceed. Instead, they spoke about mundane things and past school drama. Nothing too big or scandalous. Thanks to Sam’s memory and notes, they were able to finish the worksheet before the bell rang. “Hey, you should totally sit with us during lunch,” Jason said as he packed up. Sam grimaced, thinking about the rest of the boxing team. “I don’t think your friends would like that very much considering what happened on Friday.” “Don’t worry about that. I have class with some of them next period, and I’ll let them know that you’re actually cool. Right, Markie?” Markus’s head briefly turned into a bobblehead as he frantically shoved his book into his backpack. “Uh, yeah? Yeah!” The class was speedy in clearing out, loud chatter exploding while students stumbled into the halls. Sam was walking in between Jason and Markus when he heard a female voice call out to him. “Hey, Sammy!” He stopped and spun to see a tall blonde waving, a suggestive grin forming on her ruby lips. Sam nervously waved back. “Oh, uh, hey.” He had never seen the person before. Only Jason seemed to know why she greeted him as he slapped the boy on the back and chortled aloud. “Ay. Looks like you’re already popular with the ladies, dude. Might as well get a head-start on the game. You’ll probably catch up.” Sam blushed. Perhaps showing his strength at the party wasn’t the best of ideas. Jason and Markus bade him farewell and ambled off to their next class, and Sam took the chance to empty his bookbag of his World History textbook. In the case he received more, he didn’t want tear apart the new bag Teresa picked out for him. He reached his locker, and as he was spinning the lock, a certain chat caught his ears. “Man, we gotta do something about that new boy.” Sam acted naturally. He knew they were talking about him. Everybody was talking about him. He obviously did not recognize the voices, but the tone was snide. Bitter. A scowl was likely to accompany the way that sentence was said. “Yeah, Jett’s right. I bet he thinks he’s all high and mighty just because he’s Owen’s little twerp. Nobody could tell anyway!” There was a round of guffawing that had Sam recapping his boxing tryouts when they joked about him as if he wasn’t there. “That’s a good one, Gary!” one of them said. “We can’t do shit about Owen,” Jett spoke, and Sam could tell he was boss, “but maybe he’ll feel a pinch if we knock his bro down a few pegs, yeah?” “Want me to get the brass knuckles?” Gary, the right-hand man, asked. “Nah. We goin’ to start out slow. Rough him up a few times. Then we’ll give him a big present for the holidays that he won’t forget. Not until next year, anyway.” More laughing. And then footfalls to his left sounded off, making him tense up. Sam utilized his peripheral to get a good peek. It was enough to obtain a clear mental image for him anyhow. The one called Jett led the pack of five or six boys. He could only see the back of his head, but his hair was brown and long, made even lengthier by the backward cap. He was of average height, not the tallest, but his swaggering gave off an air of superiority. The one called Gary was right at his side, as Sam expected. Curly, black hair and the same height as his leader. It reminded Sam of a dog prancing beside its owner. All of them were dressed oddly. Low-hanging pants, studded bracelets, and stained jerseys did not exactly belong in a school such as this. They did stand out, and if that was what they were going for, then they were doing a great job of it. Sam committed the picture to memory and made a mental note to keep watch of them. Yet another problem to look out for. ~|~ Teresa speed-walked into a dimly lit observation room, nearly running into a middle-aged, black man in a white lab coat. “Sorry I’m late, Dr. Malcoy!” she breathed out. “What’s the agenda for today?” Steven Malcoy turned to her with a somber smile. “Well, my protégé, I think the time has come.” “Hm? What do-” When her eyes saw what was past the viewing window, she gasped, placing a hand over her mouth. “Oh, my. We’re starting that now? So soon?” Dr. Malcoy shook his head. “Oh, no. No. In unearthly situations like this, patience and shrewdness are key. We shall hold him until the new year. On the other note, how’s Sam?” The change in subject was much appreciated. Teresa beamed as she thought of her adopted son. “He’s doing quite well. Very sound, reserved, and respectful. It’s like raising a younger Owen all over again.” “You sound worried.” She shrugged. “Well, it’s not that I’m concerned about Owen rubbing off on Sam. I’m sure that ship has sailed. I just want them to get along.” Malcoy smirked knowingly. “I knew those two would butt heads. Though, I wonder what would happen if we were to put our young friend here under your care.” Their attention was back on the bound, lone figure in the wide, empty, and darkroom before them. “It’s a good thing we still have two months,” Teresa mentioned, wiping a bead of sweat off her brow. “Maybe something will change by then.”
  15. Sam did not go back home for two hours. Instead, he leaped and bounded through Orenburg on silent feet, reaching the limits of the stratosphere so he could inspect the entire town. It was a large place for a town, but he could easily tell from the prosperous areas to the shanty corners. It was a divided town, so it seemed. He breathed in the night air and his afro swayed wildly as he glided forward. The boy realized as long as he used his powers regularly, he could enjoy life ache-free. And he saw to that this weekend. Owen barely reared his head both days, choosing to sleep in the guest room to avoid having to face his adoptive brother. Sam didn’t mind, though. He didn’t want to face his new sibling either. A small part of him hoped the older teen’s conscience, if it existed, would overwhelm him with guilt and have him come running and spitting apologies off his tongue, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon. He could only hope Owen grew a heart in the near future. Saturday and Sunday passed by in a flash, and soon Sam found himself packing his bag for school on Monday morning, Teresa hovering in the corner and watching him. Teresa, still dressed in a sleeping gown, smiled and wrapped her arms around his head, pulling him in close. “You sure you don’t want any breakfast? I heard the kids like to avoid cafeteria food as much as they can.” Sam hugged back. “I’ll be okay. Thanks, though.” Truth was Sam wasn’t used to numerous plates of food being placed in front of him yet. It was nice, but a sudden bout of nostalgia had him going for the minimum. “You really are different from the herd,” Teresa snorted playfully. “Have a wonderful first day, Sam.” She planted a kiss on her adopted son’s temple, making him blush. And with that, Sam was out of the house. He had chosen to walk to school for today for two reasons. One was obviously Owen. And two was because of his powers. He was going to take every chance he got to use his abilities in order to stave from the headaches and pains. Looking from right to left, he made sure nobody was around to see him. He’s already exposed enough at the party. No need to add strangers to the list of people to worry about. He had a school full of teens and a boxing team to worry about. Seeing nothing but an empty street, he crouched down and sprung into the sky, not a sound uttered in his wake. He reached the school in twenty seconds flat, landing near an isolated dumpster. He walked around the large edifice to join a couple of students already headed for the entrance. Nobody had recognized him so far. The cafeteria was not hard to find the second time around, having remembered the tour Aubrielle gave him. In fact, he could recall each the excursion clearly in his mind. The only thing he needed to do was look for his lockers. His books would be provided by the teacher. Sam got his breakfast from the nice lunch ladies, three granola bars and an apple, and settled down at a lone bistro table. It wasn’t even two minutes into it when a group of older-looking students set out in his direction. “Aye, you!” Sam looked to the right to face a tall and stocky boy standing only a foot away from him. He tensed, anticipating a scuffle of some sort. “Me?” Sam asked, the word muffled by a mouthful of apple. “You’re the guy from the party, right?” the elder teen pointed accusingly. “The one who kicked those boxers’ ass?” Sam looked around at the expectant faces. “S-Sure?” “Dude!” the boy’s demeanor did a one-eighty, placing a big hand on his shoulder for a friendly pat. “You’re like a fuckin’ legend! God knows how many of us wanted to lay their dumbasses out ourselves!” “Yeah!” cheered another guy. “Those self-absorbed shitheads deserved a knocking around or two!” Sam stared at them blankly. “You’re welcome…?” They offered a few more of their congratulations, but through it all, Sam seemed quite perplexed. He had a hunch Owen was popular because he was well-liked. However, this little happening proved to be the contrary. Did people secretly hate them? If so, he didn’t blame them. Not after the incident on Friday. The group left him alone several minutes later, only to be replaced with another. Fortunately, he knew this certain set of teens. “You’re pretty popular already, huh?” Azariah, followed by Jonas, Chastity, Rebekah, and Salmon adorned in bandages, came up to him. They pulled up seats to eat their own breakfast. “I guess so,” Sam inspected the area, catching more than a few glances. “And not too many people are in favor of the boxing team.” “Oh, don’t get it wrong,” Salmon chimed in loudly, back to being the boisterous child that he was despite the bruises littering his face. “Unfortunately, that’s only the minority. Most of the boxers are on the football team, and you know how they love the football team!” Rebekah scowled at him. “Can you not swing around so much!? Your clumsiness is going to get you another black eye!” They continued to lounge and converse even after they finished their breakfast. Sam learned about the inner workings of the school, such as sports reigning supreme over all others and junior class siphoning authority over the other classes. The freshmen stayed by him even as he left the cafeteria to search for his locker. It wasn’t at all difficult when they were there to aid him. By the time the bell ring, he had garnered quite the crowd of ninth graders. He hadn’t realized it until now. Most of them appeared to be disappointed separating from him, but they went on their way to class. “Good luck out here, man,” Azariah tapped his arm. “And thanks again.” Sam smiled and nodded. “No problem.” And they were gone as well. All except Salmon, who remained still until his friends were a distance away. “And now that they’re gone, I can finally do this.” Sam gazed at the freshman oddly. Being up close, he couldn’t help but wince at the discolorations staining his skin. They wouldn’t have been there if he had acted earlier. Suddenly, Salmon dropped to his knees, earning a couple of weird looks from passersby, and lowered his head inches from the older boy’s sneakers. “Samuel something. Thank you.” “Huh?” The younger male looked up. “Az and Jo told me what you did at the initiation. Nobody has ever done that, and you saved a lot of freshmen, including my friends. Because of you, I was able to get back into their good graces. So, again thank you,” he rose and kissed the back of Sam’s hands. “If you ever need a favor, I’m here.” “O-Oh!” Sam flushed darkly, but grinned nonetheless. “You’re welcome. How about you do me the favor of taking it easy and recovering, yeah?” Salmon saluted. “Aye aye, Captain!” He ran off, and Sam watched him go. Jonas appeared to have stayed behind, watching the interaction in amusement. “You didn’t see anything!” Salmon glared at him. Jonas laughed and briefly took off his glasses. “I was blind until now.” Before he followed after Salmon, he glanced at Sam and gave him a thumbs-up. Sam smiled and did the same. He was pretty sure he had friends in them. That wasn’t so hard. “Okay,” he spoke to himself. “First up, World History.” He thought back to the tour and retraced his steps. It was only half of a minute later when he reached his destination, but the class seemed to be near its capacity. He scanned for an open seat. There were a few more in the back, but surrounding those seats were two particular boys he had hoped he wouldn’t run into. He could only count his lucky stars it wasn’t Owen. Jason and Markus found his stares and cringed, the latter more so. Sam sighed and reluctantly trudged to the rear. “And it’s started.”
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