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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. After the introductions, Malcomb, Derrick, and his kids went out for another session of hunting. Dan had been apprehensive of joining in, considering what almost occurred last time, but a little bit of goading from his cousin did his doubts in. There was nothing to be worried about anyway. One, Rory did not participate. He wasn’t even asked, and Dan assumed it was because of the last session’s incident. Two, Malcomb’s presence really helped him. His cousin aided him in lining up the shot, staying hidden, and provided tips in being efficient in the sport. Dan was eternally grateful, for if it wasn’t for him, he wouldn’t have gotten two large deer. Like a good dose of medicine, Malcomb assuaged the guilt that always settled in the boy’s heart after killing an innocent creature. It was always a good sign t’ feel fault for things like this, an’ it only proves that you’re a good person, not a heartless psychopath. It did the trick in making Dan feel better. He was a good person. Several hours later, the guys came back to Briar, Deanna, and Zoe setting up a Christmas tree at the edge between the dining table and the living room couches. Deacon was there eagerly placing ornaments. Sophia was in her stroller trying to reach for the red-gold ornament strung to the canopy, and Tommy moseyed over to coo her. The heated aromas of roasted potatoes and bacon wafted throughout the entire house, and Mateo, adorning and apron, was found in the kitchen, going back and forth between the oven and the counter. He happily hummed an old tune as he organized the cups and plates. While the others inhaled the pleasant odor, Joey's nose crinkled just the slightest bit. “You cooked all this, Grandpa?” Mateo turned to him with a proud smile. “Whatcha think? Almost seventy and I still haven’t lost the spring in my step, aye?” He did a little one-two step that had the others snickering. Despite his old age, he did retain the mobility of his youth. “Smells good,” the older twin shrugged. “Just thought that Grandma or one of th’ girls would be in here.” Jason gave his brother an admonishing look, but the latter ignored it. Mateo was not fazed at all, his smile only widening. “Trust me, Joe-Joe. When you attach yourself to a winsome dame, you won’t want her to do all the dirty work.” As they waited for him to finish up, they sat around in the living room, either watching a football game or helping with the decorations. Rory finally showed his face, watching the television intently. “I swear, Derrick, honey,” Briar started as she continued working on the tree, “you should have a little more Christmas spirit. At least, put up stockings or some lights on the stairway.” Derrick glanced at his mother for a second before turning back to the television. “It’s only a day or two, Mamma.” “Hence the ‘spirit’ part!” she waved her arms as if revealing a big secret. Her son just shook his head. “Probably th’ chemicals in th’ air.” On his right, Jason snickered. “He’s just tryin’ t’ say he’s lazy.” As everybody had a good laugh, Derrick wrapped a beefy arm around his second oldest son’s neck, pulled him in, and playfully ground his knuckles into his dirty blonde hair. Throughout all that, the man’s eyes never removed themselves from the football game. “If not th’ Christmas decorations, at least keep up a cross or two,” Deanna pointed out. “I have a few Christian paintings in the basement that would definitely liven the household up. Christmas is Christ’s birthday, after all.” On his left, Dan watched his dad subtly wince. Even with the influence of Sahara and her family, Derrick was never really committed to being a Christian. He had some beliefs, but they were for his own ease of mind. “Is it th’ right time t’ say that I’m not big on that either? I’ve never been much of a church-goer, anyway.” Deanna stepped away from the nearly finished tree with a green ornament in hand and sauntered over to the stroller. “You know, Derrick. I was a bit of a zealot back in th’ day before I had my girls, but I’ve learned that you don’t have to follow a strict list of instructions t’ be somebody. Sherry’s certainly taught me that and I’m sure she has with you.” Only Deanna would be comfortable enough to bring up her late daughter in front of Derrick. Sherry Parker Michaels. Just as Derrick honored his older brother by transferring his middle name to Dan’s, he remembered his high school sweetheart through Rory. Sherry Parker Michaels. Dan could count on one finger the number of times he’s heard that name. However, through his mom, dad, and grandmother, Deanna, he knew plenty about her. Derrick was a bit of a philanderer in his early teens, but that came to an abrupt end when he went to retrieve an inaccurately thrown football in the bleachers during P.E. class. It wasn’t immediate, the two being two years apart in age, but it developed, and Derrick, for the first time, knew what it felt like to be in love. Their relationship was steady and strong throughout high school and college, and even through Derrick’s basic training and military career, only ever strengthening. Marriage was even planned, and Sherry would have been the mother to Derrick’s five kids if it were not for a random shootout between gangs outside of a beauty parlor one dreary afternoon. She, alongside seven unlucky others, wasn’t even apart of it. One day she was a bundle of excitement eager on tying the knot with the man of her dreams, and the next, she was gone. Just like that. It was a struggle, but Derrick was able to force a half-smirk onto his face. “I bet Sahara’s still learnin’ that, too, huh?” Deanna walked over to him and kissed his forehead. “She’s closer than ever.” Dan felt a pang of sorrow for his dad. He knew the topic of his late aunt was a sore one for him, rarely ever bringing it up. The boy leaned into his father and placed a hand on his large back. Even though Derrick didn’t turn away from the TV, his attention was surely caught, for he gently enveloped his youngest child in his arm and brought him closer. They stayed like that for the time being. “So,” Malcomb started, “how’s school goin’ for you guys? Didn’t th’ twins finish up their first high school semester today?” “Yeah,” Jason groaned, sounding very tired all of a sudden. “Ms. Carson wasn’t kiddin’ when she said it’ll be harder than middle school, but I still think we’re doin’ alright.” His twin spoke up with a lot more vigor. “Says you! Th’ teachers are so fu- freakin’ strict, you can’t even get away with a whisper! Enjoy middle school while it lasts, guys!” He looked pointedly at each of his other younger siblings. When he leaned over to eye Dan, the latter couldn’t help but giggle. An amused Briar dismissed the complaint with the shake of her head as she placed two ornaments at once. “Oh, don’t say that. You’ll be whipped into shape by senior year, I guarantee it.” “Nah, th’ seniors are chill as heck. We’ve been hangin’ with them since football practice during th’ summer.” Derrick also shook his head and addressed his oldest boys. “I’m tellin’ you two, don’t get too close t’ that crowd. I’ve known plenty who’ve done pretty questionable stuff.” “Sure, but these guys are cool,” Jason shrugged. “Especially, Westford. He’s always wantin’ to string us along.” At that, Zoe, who sat down Tommy to check up on Sophia, perked up. “Westford? You mean Reggi Westford?” The twins nodded, and Joey asked, “Y’ know ‘im?” She nodded. “I got to know his older sister during college when we were paired up for a computer science project. We’re still good friends. She was even there at our wedding.” Jason smiled gaily at her. “Reggi’s th’ best out of all of ‘em. He even got me into basketball. I’m thinkin’ about joinin’ th’ team next year.” “You better not be ditchin’ football for it, though!” Joey narrowed his eyes. “I’ll never forgive you if you do!” “Then, it’s a good thing basketball starts in th’ winter.” Mateo appeared from the kitchen and finally joined them at the couches, sitting near Tommy, Zoe, and Sophia. “Now that the screws in my noggin are starting to turn, I think I’ve heard that name in the news before.” The younger twin’s shoulders sagged, and his face went solemn as he thought back. “Yeah. Reggi got shanked his sophomore year by some psycho racist classmate. Drake Withrows, I think was his name?” Dan noticed Rory flinch at that name. Tommy didn’t, but he questioned his older brother anyway. “Isn’t he in your class, Rory?” Rory seemed to deflate a little in his reclined position. “Nah. That’s his younger bro, Madden,” he drawled lowly. “You watch out for ‘im, alright?” Joey’s gaze hardened. “You should start bulkin’ up so he don’t catch you off guard or nothin’.” Dan discreetly shook his head. It wasn’t Rory who needed to be watching out. “I am bulkin’ up,” mentioned Rory, his voice venturing near haughty, but then it sagged into sheepishness. “I was… I was wantin’ t’ do football or wrestlin’ sometime.” That was a shocker. Now that Dan got a closer look at him, Rory did appear to be a bit bigger. What the youngest brother thought was pudge was actually developing musculature. And the red shirt he was in clung to his body. “You serious, son?” Derrick asked, his eyes, for once, stripped away from the TV. Rory shrugged, his sights going down to his knees. “I’m just thinkin’ ‘bout it! Nothin’ big.” The third brother’s shifting demeanor was quite strange, Dan noted. Right now, he was the calmest the youngest Michaels had ever seen him. Was it the pills he caught him taking that did it? Were they keeping him from getting angry? “Next up,” Malcomb changed the topic, “Tommy-boy!” “Baseball,” the fourth sibling spoke firmly, full of confidence. “Always in th’ mind, body, an’ soul.” Joey’s face twisted into something in between disappointment and disgust. “Man! You ain’t gonna scorin’ any chicks if keep on getting googly-eyed for baseball!” Thomas just shrugged. “I can live with that. I’m even goin’ to a baseball camp over th’ summer for some practice. I need t’ be prepared for high school an’ all that.” Briar blinked. “Two years away?” He smirked up at her and winked. “Gotta stay ahead of th’ game, Grammy.” “Not sure your girl’s gonna appreciate hearin’ that,” Joey teased. “We’re just friends, but she knows me well.” “Mhm,” the oldest twin sounded unconvinced. “Joseph.” Derrick gave him the side-eye, to which the teen put his hands up in mock surrender, the smirk still plastered on his face. “An’ last but not least…” Malcomb turned his attention to the kid still in his Dad’s hold. A blush came over Dan’s face when everyone else’s attention settled on him. “What?” “What’re you into, kid? Basketball? Baseball? Anything?” Honestly, Dan felt like the odd man out. He was not all that interested in sports, preferring to be cooped up in his rooms surrounded by pencils and papers. He wasn’t averse to throwing a football around or dribbling a basketball across a court, but that was only if it was just for fun. The games they’d play in gym class and the extracurricular activities were taken too seriously for his taste. Although, speaking of “throwing a football around,” he was more than likely to be invested in that. Probably due to one person in particular… “Football.,” he muttered, then added in, “For now!” He ignored the way Rory tensed his shoulders and breathed in sharply, a sign of his anger on the rise. “And not because it’s on the screen right now?” Mateo joked, inciting a round of snickers. “No! I-I’m…” Dan stammered, flustered. “I like watchin’.” A mischievous smirk laced Jason’s lips as he said, “Is it because of Darren’s lil’ bro. Jeremy-Topher, right?” Dan couldn’t be any more embarrassed, but he rolled with the punches. “J.T., yeah.” “Jeremy-Topher?” Briar pronounced the name slowly. “Such a catchy name. Just rolls off the tongue.” The older twin nodded in approval. “Yup! Y’ have a good friend, Danny. He’s gonna be a real man someday, an’ he’ll teach you.” “And just how will he do that?” Mateo gave the boy an odd look. “Isn’t that the natural process of things?” “He wants to be an NFL star one day, Dan answered. “I… I think he will.” Derrick hummed, quite impressed. “Big dream. You’ll be down there cheerin’ for ‘im, Baby Boy?” For the hundredth time, Dan’s face went red, but he nodded anyway. “Hopefully, you’ll be playin’,” Joey said, leaning back into his seat, “but I guess lovin’ it is alright, too.” Malcomb pressed Dan for more info, and Dan felt himself loosen up as he talked about his other friends. Being around them had made tiny changes in the boy’s personality. He was slightly more outspoken than usual, his voice a tad louder. J.T. was most certainly rubbing off on him. The family later gathered around the dinner table to eat. Ten minutes into it, the doorbell rang, and Mateo went to answer it. He unlocked the door and swung it open, a bright smile adorning his face. “Hello!” he greeted. “And Merry early Christmas!” “Merry Christmas to you, too!” That voice. He recognized that clipped accent. He stood up from the seat and tried to peer over and passed his Grandpa. Beside him, Derrick was also wide-eyed and attentive. “We’re just here to drop off a few presents for someone,” the female voice spoke, “but we might need that someone in exchange.” Dan jogged over to the door just in time to catch J.T. tilt and look inside. Green connected with blue as the owner of the latter stood next to Mateo. His newest best friend and his mother were carrying shopping bags of what appeared to be gift-wrapped items of different shapes and sizes. “Hey, Dan-io! Wassup, bruh!” Dan beamed. “Hey, J.T.” The Crewers were allowed inside, introducing themselves to the rest of the family while they added to the pile of presents near the finished Christmas tree. In turned out that Derrick already knew Antonella, but that was to be expected after learning from Rodnell that he and Derrick go way back. “It’s real nice t’ see you again, Ant,” the man smiled warmly at his friend’s wife. “I hope Rod’s bein’ too much.” Antonella laughed. “He’s certainly mellowed out these years, and we both miss you, too, Der.” “How’s our future NFL star doin’?” Joey addressed J.T. Instead of getting flustered, the twelve-year-old puffed his chest out proudly and said, “Pretty great, actually! Just wanted t’ make y’all’s Christmas a lil’ merrier. My fam t’ yours.” “It was all his idea,” his mother mentioned. Briar placed a hand over her chest, blown away by the compassion of the boy. “My, what a sweet soul you are, Jeremy-Topher. I can see why Daniel took a liking to you.” Dan tried to hide his blush by pretending to rub his nose. “Hopefully, I won’t ruin it by stealin’ ‘im for a bit?” J.T. went to the blonde’s side and dropped an arm across his shoulder. “One of my son’s closest friends is having a birthday party, and he’s hoping he could bring Dan to tag along,” said Antonella, gazing down at Dan. “Most likely for a second opinion.” “I see no problem with that, Derrick nodded. “Gotta keep this one outta th’ house, right?” he poked his youngest son’s side. Dan meshed himself further into J.T., snickering at the touch. “Hey!” “I’ll wrap your food up so you can eat it later, Dan,” Deanna sauntered into the kitchen. “Okay?” The boy nodded. “Okay. Thank you.” J.T. ruffled Dan’s hair and made his way to the front door, bidding everyone else goodbye. Derrick watched the bigger kid go and nodded. “I like that kid,” he turned to Dan and smiled. “Have fun, Baby Boy. An’ be careful.” Glad that J.T. had been accepted by his family, Dan walked over and embraced his father before running off after him. “You got it, Dad.”
  2. Westley D.


    Friday, December 17, 2010 A week and some went by seamlessly. Dan kept up with his life as much as he could. He made it a point to greet Perry every day. The kid had a few friends, but what was the harm in having another older one, right? Rory never started up on Perry again, and that most likely may be attributed to the return of his favorite plaything, Madden Withrows. He had gone AWOL for a bit after the urine incident, but it appeared that he was back and ready for more pain, and Rory, alongside his gang of thugs, pounced on the opportunity with vigor. Not only Madden was a victim, but other younger students as well. Several more eighth graders even began to join in on the fun. However, they were not as wise to do it out of the view of authority figures. Dan made to stay clear of the fire, though, it never seemed to cross his path. It was like Rory was purposefully trying to ignore the presence of his littlest brother. During the last drawing class before the holiday break, Dan and J.T. conversed about the upcoming weeks. “Have any plans for Christmas, bruh?” the older sixth grader asked. “Traveling somewhere?” Dan shook his head. “Nah. I think my folks are comin’ over. What ‘bout you?” “Same, man. Though, I wanted to let you know ‘bout Chip’s birthday. Same day as Jesus’.” “Really?” the younger boy’s eyebrows raised in surprise. He had never known anybody who celebrated their birthday during Christmas. It felt like that day was only reserved for the Nativity. “Yup,” J.T. answered enthusiastically. “My boy’s turnin’ twelve this time.” “So, it’s extra presents for ‘im, then?” Dan joked, making his brunette friend laugh. “I guess so.” “I’ll be there for ‘im. We don’t really celebrate Christmas for that long anyway.” Ever since Sahara’s departure from the house, Christianity was practiced less and less by the day. Derrick was never really a religious person despite coming from a Catholic background and did not force it upon his children. “Ya know,” J.T. continued. “Christmas just might be my favorite holiday, bruh.” “Really? Halloween’s mine,” Dan replied. “Hm. That’s a lil’ too spooky for me.” It was not the “spooky” aspect that the young Michaels liked about, nor the dressing up and soliciting of candy from strangers and neighbors alike. It was the atmosphere of the entire month that lead up to the day. The transitioning from summer to fall, the cooling of the air, and the deadening of the trees brought a mysterious vibe to their little town in Indiana as if something… off had just taken place, but no one knew what it was just yet. That triggered the goosebumps all over Dan’s skin, and he loved it. “Are ya serious? With babies like these?” he reached over and pinched J.T.’s growing biceps. The brunette laughed even harder. Another period later, school finally ended, the semester coming to a close. Students jovially bounded from the halls to the outdoors, eager to start their break off as soon as possible. Dan bade J.T. and his friends farewell for now and took the bus alongside his brothers. Even the twins appeared to be looking to go home early. Nowadays, they usually whisked away by some friends or an older student. Their presence on the bus despite it being a long weekend could mean only one thing. Their relatives must have made it, and Derrick requested they show up together to greet them. It wasn’t a whole lot of people. The calvary typically consisted of their dad’s father and mother, his brother’s son and his family, and Sahara’s mother, regardless of the divorce. She held no ill will towards Derrick after the split. The grandchildren were more important than a failed marriage anyway. The five arrived home and were not shocked to see their dad speaking with a familiar man at the door. Malcomb Michaels was a treasure in the eyes of many, the son of Derrick’s late brother, Johnny. At twenty-five years old, he was well-to-do with a lovely wife and two very young kids. The tall, good-looking, and muscular noirette had Derrick’s middle name for his first courtesy of Johnny. In gratitude and remembrance of his dear older brother, Dan took over his middle name – Daniel Samuel Michaels. “Yo, Mal!” Joey called out. “Yo, Joe!” Malcomb spun around and walked over. He started off by fist-bumping the twins. “Yo t’ all of ya! How ya doin’ kids?” Jason sighed while shaking his head. “Oh, don’t we have some stories t’ tell you!” “Can’t wait t’ hear ‘em, Jace.” His attention then went to Rory and smirked. “Lion! How’s it roarin’?” Lion was Malcomb’s nickname for Rory, denoting his outspoken nature and moments of levity as a child, uncaring of anybody else’s opinion. Rory rolled his eyes at it, but a light grin twitched to life upon his face. “Loud.” They had a laugh before the third Michaels sibling trudged passed them and into the house, the twins following him. Malcomb looked down at Thomas. “Tommy Gun!” he high-fived the boy. “Still makin’ them grand slams?” Tommy scoffed and dramatically puffed his chest out. “I’ll be makin’ straight zingers in a few months, yeah!” “That’s what I like t’ hear, kid!” Finally, he took a few steps over to the last brother and kneeled. Despite that, the man was still stood over the eleven-year-old. Dan couldn’t help but beam as his cousin placed a hand on his head. “An’ last but definitely not least, youngin Danny. How’s everythin’, Baby Boy?” The boy blushed at his long-time nickname, something even his dad called him often, but it made him smile on the more. “I’m okay.” Malcomb gave him a pointed look. “Just okay?” “I’m feelin’ great now,” he corrected himself before going in for the hug. Dan was a touchy person. Naturally, he craved hugs, kisses, and all sorts of physical displays of affection. Malcomb chuckled as he returned the action, one burly arm around his youngest cousin and the other tousling his blonde hair. “Awesome. Let’s go meet th’ rest of th’ gang, yeah? Deacon’s been waitin’ to spend time with ya some more.” Malcomb was convinced his three-year-old son was interested in being an artist due to his initial reaction toward paint. Dan was sure that was how any small child would respond to paint splattering, but it brought him and his nephew – first cousin – together. Sure enough, the whole gang, save Sahara, was there. Zoe Peters-Michaels, a kind, teal-eyed woman and Malcomb’s beautiful wife, sat beside Deacon and his one-year-old baby sister, Sophia, at the dinner table, conversing with the twins. On the couch were Dan’s grandparents, Derrick’s parents, Mateo and Briar Michaels. Tommy was there, too, enjoying himself even as he was squished in between them. They were only about twenty years older or so than their son, having gotten married immediately after Briar finished college and given birth to Johnny a year later. The two were a cheery, old couple, always lightening the mood with their outdated jokes and clever quips. Deanna Holder, Sahara’s mother, was there as well, speaking to Derrick’s parents cordially. She was a soft-spoken woman having just reached the age of seventy. When her daughter wasn’t readily available, she filled in the gap. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Rory by the stairwell, his eyes subtly searching the entire living room for something, or rather someone, in particular. Dan knew who he was looking for and that it was a fruitless hunt. “Everybody, make way for the man of the house!” Mateo said aloud when he noticed Dan, his Canadian accent as thick as ever. Surprised, Dan swiveled around and made his way toward his grandparents for a much-needed hug, his face going red when everybody started clapping. Always count on his grandfather to make him feel like a VIP.
  3. Westley D.


    That's great to hear! And yes, everything will come together soon. Dan just likes to focus on what's happening in the now.
  4. Westley D.


    Thank you for giving it a try anyways. Mind I ask what you mean by "disjointed?"
  5. Westley D.

    Jerk & Jill

    The school day, once again, came to an end. However, this time around, Dan didn’t scurry to the bus with the rest of his brothers. He caught Tommy just as he was heading out and informed him of his departure with J.T. The fourth Michaels boy was happy for his youngest sibling. He noticed the kid isolated himself a lot, spending almost all days alone in his room and even at school. Tommy ruffled Dan’s hair and assured he’d let the others know. The blonde beamed. Tommy was now his favorite brother. Currently, J.T. was leading Dan toward the black Sedan he occasionally caught the former climb into. Although, the silhouette of the woman was absent. J.T. opened the door of the backseat and went in first. “’Sup, bro,” J.T. greeted the driver as he sat behind him. “Where’s Mamá?” Darren gazed up at the rear-view mirror as he answered. “She’s lettin’ me drive it back for today. Got a ride with Padre.” His brown eyes transferred to Dan, and the sixth grader would have felt a bout of unease if it weren’t for the warm, lopsided grin that graced his lips almost instantly. “Hey, lil’ man! What’s good?” Dan smiled back as he sat close to J.T. “Nothin’ much. You?” “Jus’ pickin’ up th’ lil’ runt over here. And, apparently, you.” Said runt feigned an angry scowl, smacking the back of Darren’s seat. “Who you callin’ a lil’ runt? I’m almost as big as you, bruh.” “That’s ‘cause you eat, runt,” his older brother snickered. “You go swallowin’ down anything in th’ kitchen.” “Just tryin’ t’ build up these babies,” J.T. smirked as he flexed his arms. Dan felt an unfamiliar stir in his stomach as he watched the slightest of peaks form on his bigger friend’s arms. For a twelve-year-old, J.T. did have an impressive build. He was one of the largest kids in his class and could be mistaken for a seventh or eighth grader, but it was little to no fat. They drove for a couple of minutes before J.T. brought up their situation. “Hey, bro. Can I borrow your stash?” “My st-” one of Darren’s eyebrows raised in confusion, but the shock was quickly taken over by realization. “You mean th’ magazines? Is it that time of year for y’all already?” J.T. chuckled alongside his older sibling. “It’s not that, bruh. We’re just workin’ on a… project.” Darren laughed harder, his hands momentarily releasing the steering wheel. “A’ight! A’ight! Jus’ don’t let Mamá see ‘yall with it. You know how she got when I stole her credit card to watch a private video on some porn site.” “You’re still grounded for that one, bruh.” “Hence the stash. Lock your door.” Eight more minutes flew by before they arrived at their destination. Judging by the clothes J.T. wore, Dan knew they were pretty well off, but he wasn’t expecting them to live in a large, two-story farmhouse. The sight was a sight for sore eyes, and even that might have been an understatement. Amid a neighborhood of unfinished wood stood a five brick roofs, adjacent to each other in the center and an open garage with a truck and a range rover parked inside on the left. The porch was lengthy with the flag of the United States poking out of the edge to top it off. It only got better as they traveled closer. “Woah…” Dan gaped. “It’s big, eh?” J.T. smirked. “It ain’t just us two, bruh. Six lil’ rug rats runnin’ around in there.” “You have younger siblings?” “And a few older ones, too. We’re a pretty big family.” The trio sauntered inside the house. And Dan was even further awed. Everything appeared so new. So fresh. The walls were clear shades of cocoa, containing aromatic whiffs of a delicious meal in the process of being cooked. The squealing and light stamping of children added to the homely effect. Just as J.T. said, six younger kids were present, either running around, playing with their toys, or watching some cartoons on the widescreen TV. “Hey! ¡Ningún correr!” Dan heard a smooth, low voice yelled from what he deduced as the kitchen. A tall woman marched out a few seconds later, a hard glare settled on her face. To say the least, she was stunning. Dan had never seen anybody of her… appearance. He could see where J.T. got his tawny skin tone from, but the glimmering, chocolate orbs for eyes were passed onto Darren. Her dark brown, parted afro flowed down to her broad shoulders, curling just at the ends. Despite her youthful features, her voice exuded matriarchal authority. Her sharp eyes turned to the three boys, and, while the two next to him didn’t react, Dan felt his back sweat at the look. Luckily, he eased up a little as it softened. “¿Alguna desgracia? Esté honesto,” she spoke in what he was sure was Spanish. Apparently, the Crewers boys understood what she said because Darren spun around to give his little brother a pointed look. J.T. laughed aloud and further surprised the blonde with his response. “Nah. Él debería tomar la prueba de su chofer ahora mismo.” Dan had no idea J.T. was bilingual. He only ever spoke English in school. Or, at least, when they were around each other, and even before they officially met. Darren whirled ack around to send the woman a smirk, to which she rolled her eyes. A smile spread across her ruby lips. “I’ll take it for now.” Her attention then went to Dan, who couldn’t bring himself to meet her gaze. “Who’s your friend? He looks familiar.” “Yeah,” J.T. wrapped an arm around his blonde friend’s shoulder. “Mamá, this is my friend, Dan. Dan, this is mi Mamá.” Dan looked up and was relieved to find a kind smile. “Hello, ma’am.” “Nice to meet you, Dan,” she waved. “I’m Antonella, mother to all these hyperactive delinquents.” Dan couldn’t help but notice the way she talked. She spoke without cutting down her words, however, they came out clipped, certain consonants honed every now and then. At that moment, a massive, muscle-bound black man that shared a close resemblance with Darren bounded down the steps, humming the tune to some song. Dan felt the need to gulp. The guy wasn’t as big as Derrick, but he had the intimidating factor down to a T. Those green eyes were exotic on his face. “Good timing,” Antonella gestured to the man. “That’s my husband, Rodnell. Blame him for any hard times my kids give you.” Hearing his name, Rodnell became aware of his surroundings, glancing around the living room. “Hm? We havin’ guests?” His wife pointed to the blonde. “This is Dan. J.T.’s friend.” The man looked down and spotted said friend. He approached him and kneeled, though his severed height still eclipsed the sixth grader. “Dan, eh? You wouldn’t happen to have th’ last name of Michaels, would ya?” Dan nodded swiftly. “Oh, that’s right. Daniel Michaels.” His voice had the usual articulation he was used to, being as heavy as J.T.’s. It set him at ease a bit. At that, a toothy smile broke out on Rodnell’s face as he went to shake the boy’s hand. “I knew it! Your dad an’ I are ol’ high school buddies! He was quiet, but everybody loved ‘im. Th’ best of friends! I’m glad more of our kids are meetin’ up.” Dan returned the look, albeit much lighter. “Nice t’ meet you, too, sir.” He must have met Joey and Jason beforehand. Darren surely brought them over to spend the night or something. J.T. took the time to introduce his younger brothers and sisters. From oldest to youngest, it was Terek, JaKhel, Veshone, Lucía, Israel, and Bella. Terek, Jakhel, and Israel were males while the other three were females. Their characteristics varied, spread out and in no particular pattern. Their personalities were easier to determine, and Dan found himself relating more to Lucía and Israel, the more reserved of the bunch. Dan was amazed to hear the existence of two more siblings, female and much older. They were absent due to being preoccupied with college, but J.T. promised he would meet them when Christmas came. “I hope you guys are going to work on homework,” Antonella stared at J.T., the same look Darren gave him when they arrived. “¿Sí?” Once again, the tall brunette laughed it off and nodded. “Sí, Mamá,” and with that, he took Dan by the hand and led him toward the stairs. “Let’s go, bruh.” “I didn’t know you could speak Spanish,” Dan mentioned as they went up. That carefree smile was once more pleasantly directed at the blonde. “Usted puede agradecer a mi Mamá por esto.” He tapped his chest, over his heart. J.T.’s bedroom was what Dan expected to be and more. It was essentially a hall of fame for football. There were sprinkles of basketball here and a dash of soccer over there, but the posters, trophies, bobbleheads made up the sanctuary that honored the great gridiron game. It wasn’t as messy, though, a few wadded-up pieces of paper scattered in a couple of corners, but the floor was mostly clear. Darren reappeared later, a stack of magazines in hand. He gently tossed them to the floor in front of the two kids. “A’ight, you boys. I’m gonna pawn some more off Jimmy, but that all I got for now. You two enjoy yourselves and don’t use th’ blankets t’ wipe. Mamá will definitely know what’s up.” J.T. gave a thumbs-up in thanks. “You got it, bruh.” The second his older brother left, the brunette sixth grader was quick to browse through the raunchy material, flipping through pages of images that brought an unconscious blush to the younger boy’s face. “Okay. I know its gotta be in here somewhere.” He leafed through title after title. Stage Flash. Apex Pleasure. Fiesta House. Still, somehow, J.T. hadn’t found what they were looking for. Although, one certain picture caught Dan’s eye. It sent him back to the moment he and the twins walked in on Rory and his friends watching the woman, breathing hard while she moved her hand… down there. This one was of a redhead, doing the same thing. Her mouth was wide open, so, it wasn’t exactly hard to infer she was making similar noises. “Wait. I’ve seen that before,” Dan pointed at it. “They called it masturbatin’, too.” J.T. inspected the image, his eyebrows raised. “Oh, that? That’s how girls do it, bruh. I think they call it jillin’ off or somethin’ like that. When guys do it, it’s called jerkin’ off. Or, that’s what Darren calls it.” He continued his search as Dan ruminated over the names. They were very strange. Who came up with them? “Ah! Here, bruh!” J.T. exclaimed, shoving the other magazines out of the way. “See what he’s doin’? That’s how guys do it.” “Woah…” Dan gaped. It was the cover of a publication named Rod Men, and it depicted a pale-skinned man with bulging muscles, his calloused hand wrapped around his sizeable male organ. He was inclined on a chaise longue, eyes closed and mouth wide open just like the woman in the last photo. While his unused hand was laying limp down the side of the chair, his other one was blurred, making it obvious it was going in an up-and-down motion. Dan's stomach stirred again, that odd sensation in his gut causing him to lose focus. He was almost thankful when J.T. turned the page… …but the next snapshot wasn’t any better. “I heard it’s supposed to-” J.T. stopped when he got a good look at the picture as well. This time, it was of two strapping males, one sitting on a couch and the other kneeling before him. The crouched individual was bent over his partner’s legs his lips wrapped around the guy’s- J.T. shut the magazine before Dan could fully process what he just saw. Regardless, the stirring returned with a vengeance, and it was even stronger than last time. “U-Um, sorry, bruh!” J.T. stammered, his face beat red. “That wasn’t…” The brunette suddenly started crumbling the magazine up. Dan had never seen the usually charismatic boy so flustered. So embarrassed. “Shit. That wasn’t supposed to be there, man. Sorry,” he raised himself on his knees and tossed the crushed-up publication into an empty trash bin beside his door. Sitting back down, he smiled weakly at the blonde. “I’m sure Dar won’t mind.” Dan didn’t know what to say, but he reciprocated the expression and shrugged. On the inside, he was more perplexed than ever before. What the hell was that all about?
  6. Monday, December 6, 2010 Slam! Dan was abruptly roused by the bang of his bedroom door shutting harshly. Suddenly jarred awake, his mind was in scrambles. He laid back down, needing a few minutes to mollify his shaken nerves. He didn’t want to muse on yesterday’s events, but they came flooding back anyway. His ear twitched, the sting of it being cruelly twisted long passed, the phantom pain his memories accompanied reminding it of the offense. Three minutes went by before Dan was able to gather the energy to hop out of bed and trudge toward his bathroom. He filled his mind with thoughts of J.T., Chip, Blane, and Alex. His new friends. He now had something to look forward to at school. Looking down, Dan realized he was still in his Saturday clothes. He remembered going straight to sleep after Rory blew up at him, not wanting to face his unreasonably irate brother’s wrath for a second time. No longer did he wish to be around Rory, but it looks like his dad was forcing them together. Dan never took long to get ready, so, he was out of his room in fifteen. Then, he froze, going no further than a step when he spotted a certain someone before him. Rory was just a few steps down the hall and nearby the stairs. In one hand was a plastic bottle of water, and in the other, another bottle, but for what he presumed to be pills. The third Michaels brother tilted his head back and slowly angled the opening of the white capsule to his lips, letting loose a single tablet into his mouth. After that, he brought the water and swallowed a couple of gulps. He stood silently for a moment or two before sauntering downstairs. If he had been aware of Dan’s presence, he never showed it. During the bus ride to school, the young Michaels ruminated on what he just saw. He didn’t know Rory took medicine but for what? That, he didn’t know either. Maybe it was what was making him angry. He wanted to ask Derrick about it, but him confronting his brother might lead it back to him, and Dan had enough of being at the receiving end of the moody boy’s ill temper. The halls were vibrant today, more than usual. Students were gathered in circles, conversing enthusiastically about this or that. Only, this appeared to be more than the typical mundane topic of interest. Dan went to go get a drink of water from the fountain when he caught on to a discussion between a couple of seventh graders beside him. “Were you there at th’ party?” the tall, brown-haired one asked, to which his shorter blonde companion shook his head. “Nah, but I heard they were showin’ porn.” “Yeah, basically!” the brunette nodded excitedly. “They found a bunch of kids masturbatin’ to it. Everybody had t’ be kicked out!” The blonde whistled. “Damn. Seriously? That’s crazy. What kind of porn was it?” “I dunno. I think it was of some girl or whatever. Man, I wish I stayed long enough to see it.” “Of course, you’d wanna stay for that, ya horndog!” The two laughed and ambled down elsewhere, their voices amalgamating with the constant chatter of the crowded hallway. Dan replayed the conversation in his head over and over again. It seems the moment when they found Rory was spreading like wildfire. However, only one thing in his mind stood out. Masturbatin’? During drawing class, Dan and J.T. sat next to each other and chatted about the ordinary until the latter’s curiosity grew too much. “What’s masturbatin’?” the Michaels asked innocently. J.T. abruptly made a choking sound before sputtering out a sound between a cough and a laugh. Dan reached over to pat him on the back as he wheezed. Their surrounding classmates were startled by the sudden noise and watched as their fellow brunette student’s hacking devolved into uncontrollable giggles. “Is everything alright, Jeremy?” Mrs. Wane asked, a hint of concern in her tone. She was graced with a red face and a wide smile. “Y-Yeah! Yeah! I’m good! Just me an’ my boy here crackin’ jokes!” J.T. gazed over at Dan and ruffled his blonde hair, making the younger boy flush but chuckle nonetheless. The older male’s mirth was contagious, and it had the majority of the class snickering. It took several moments for him to regather his composure. When he did, he leaned in close and spoke quietly, saying, “Man, you got me with that one, bruh. You bein’ serious?” Dan shrugged. “I mean, I dunno what it is.” “Well, it’s like… It’s kinda like…” J.T. scratched his head, looking around the room in growing confusion. There were still some lingering ears listening in on their conversation. And it discouraged the brunette more and more. Eventually, J.T. returned his attention to his smaller friend, a half-smile on his face. “Dang, I can’t do it here, bruh.” “I hope it’s a secret drawing skill you don’t want to show,” Mrs. Wane sang from the front of the class, proving that her attention never moved. The boy immediately beamed up at her, saluting several times. “You know I don’t reveal my secrets, Lady Wane!” There was another round of laughter. Dan wondered how it was so easy for his older friend to engender hilarity no matter his setting. It was a natural skill he could only fathom of possessing. “Here,” J.T. grinned down at him. “I don’t you come over t’ my house an’ I’ll show you somethin’. I think my big bro has a couple of pictures of it.” “When do you want me t’ come over?” Dan questioned. “We can head over right after school if ya can, bruh. My bro will take us.” The blonde blinked. He wasn’t used to going to other people’s houses. He only had the experience of visiting his relatives, but that did nothing for the nervous butterflies settling in his stomach. Despite that, the prospect of spending more time with J.T. was exciting. “Y-Yeah! I’d like that, actually.” “Cool, bruh,” he formed a fist and waited for Dan to do the same. The two gently clashed knuckles and sniggered to each other. Recess hit some time later. Dan watched as his four new friends played tag football. Blane underestimated the strength of his arm, the ball being thrown into a set of bleachers at the edge of the blacktop. Of course, J.T. and Blane sprinted after it, ending up tackling each other and commencing a round of play-wrestling. Alex, Chip, and Dan spectated in amusement up until it was time to go to lunch, and even that became a competition, this time between his four companions. Dan followed them as they ran towards the school, but stopped when he heard a familiar, angry groan. “Shit! I forgot my fuckin’ cash at home!” The youngest Michaels peeked from his peripheral to spot Rory digging inside his jeans’ pockets, growling in frustration when they came up empty. Corey frowned in sympathy and began inspecting through his own. “Shit, man. I’m sure I have a few dollars in here or…” Rory shook his head, a wicked sneer suddenly replacing his irritated scowl. “Nah, don’t worry ‘bout it. I got an idea.” With that, he, leading the trio, casually strolled over to an unsuspecting fifth grader Dan knew as Perry Morrison. The kid was an average kid, nothing special about him. Though, he seemed like Rory knew more than others. He always did. Now just behind Perry, Rory shot his hands out and tightly grasped his shoulders, causing the boy to yelp in shock. He wasted no time in dragging him to a part of the school wall, partially out of view from the authority. There was no need for that because the teachers had already made it inside. “Ow! Don’t-” “Ow! Don’t- Shut th’ fuck up!” Rory mocked prior to slamming the poor kid face-first up against the brick surface. “Listen here, Morrison! I know Mommy’s so generous she overloads your ass with cash because her regulars want another night!” “I bet she’s a superstar!” Corey jeered “She probably overcharges!” Kurtis joined in. The three laughed uproariously as they joked about Perry’s mother. All the while, Dan felt anger build up in his chest, but that was completely overshadowed by the fear of what his brother would do if he were to step in. He surmised that last night was just a love tap, and he did not want to give him another excuse to beat on him. “P-Please!” Perry began begging, tears of pain rolling down his untouched cheek. “D-Don’t hurt me! Please!” “Oh, you ain’t gettin’ anythin’ from us, Fairy Perry,” Rory snarled, “but you will fork over th’ money! It ain’t your ass bein’ shagged every night!” “I-It’s in my pocket! P-Please, just take it! Don’t hurt me!” The leader turned to Corey and nodded. The burly eighth grader delved into their victim’s right pocket and withdrew a single five-dollar bill. “Damn! Five dollars!?” “She really must be good,” Kurtis licked his lips and leered. “Ay, bring in a picture an’ we’ll just for ourselves!” Another round of callous delight in the form of chortling. Dan wanted to spit fire at them all. Maybe he should head over there, consequences be damned. Corey handed the money over to Rory, who, in turn, let Perry go. Without a glance back at their victim, the trio made way to the entrance. Though, the Michaels had to get in one last jest. “Better yet, record that shit. You’ll outshine that birthday party by a county mile!” They left behind a third chorus of cruel titters, and Perry sagged down the brick wall to huddle up and sob into his arms. Dan’s heart broke for the younger kid. He was in the same position less than twenty-four hours ago. And that empathy inspired his next actions. The youngest Michaels brother carefully sauntered toward the weeping fifth grader and crouched beside him. The sixth grader cursed his older sibling’s name when he noticed the slight cut on the child’s cheek. “Hey, lil’ guy. You okay?” Perry flinched even as he cried, and Dan felt tears of his own prickle at his eyes. “P-Please… d-don’t hurt me…” the hurt boy stammered. “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. Your name’s Perry, right?” Said kid nodded. Dan immediately dug inside his pocket and pulled out three one-dollar bills, presenting it to Rory’s latest victim. “Here. It’s not as much as you had, but it’s more than enough t’ get you lunch for today.” Perry sniffed as he stared at the money, stunned but unsure if it was a trick. Dan smiled gently at him, and that was enough for the younger male to shakily take the offered cash. “O-Oh. Th-Thank you.” Dan softly ruffled the boy’s caramel hair. “Your welcome. Those guys shouldn’t have done that to you. They were jerks.” Perry wiped his running nose. “They hurt you, too?” “Yeah. Well, only one of ‘em. He’s a real… nincompoop.” At that, a bit of the Morrison’s anguish was washed away by a wave of muffled giggles. “You said poop.” Dan beamed, encouraged to relieve the fifth grader of his sorrow. “Mhm. That’s what they are. They’re poop! They probably eat poop, too!” Perry snickered all the more.
  7. Westley D.

    All Out Of Shape

    Thank you for your review! And it's good to be back! Rory is certainly the most disagreeable character in the story right now, and it'll be awhile for him to, say, "see the light." And definitely keep an eye out for Sahara. The next chapter will come sometime next week, along with the three other chapters in the next three weeks after that, before another break.
  8. Sunday, December 5, 2010 The next day, Dan was awakened by a knock at his door. Before he could guess who it was, his father’s voice, regardless of being muffled, reached his ears. “You awake in there, baby boy? I’m comin’ in!” Dan rubbed at his eyes and stretched as Derrick entered his room. “Yeah?” came his delayed response. The large man sat on top of one of his son’s pillows. “Hey, buddy. How was sleep?” “Hm… It was…” the boy stretched and yawned before he finished, “okay.” Derrick chuckled. “That’s good. As soon as you’re ready, get down to th’ living room, alright? I need to talk to you boys ‘bout last night.” Dan had a feeling it would come to that. Nevertheless, he nodded and mumbled, “Okay.” “I think I might know what crawled up t’ your window th’ other day, kid.” That made him shiver a bit, recalling the black figure and the sudden bright flash. He nodded again. Seeing the slight tremble, Derrick reached over and ruffled his son’s hair, easing is mind. The meeting didn’t happen until fifteen minutes later, where Derrick and his five boys gathered around the dining table, each coming out of some stage of sleep. Dan subconsciously brought one of his pillows along. The twins arrived shirtless, most likely planning to go back into bed. Thomas was the most awake, bounding down the stairs in a baseball tee and sweatpants. Rory was in the worst state, looking irritable as he scratched at his dirty blonde hair. “Can’t I just go eat? I wasn’t even there,” he complained. Derrick gave him a pointed look. “Where were you last night?” At that, Rory shifted uncomfortable, his navy-blue eyes lowering back down at the mahogany table. “Sleepin’.” His dad stared at him suspiciously for several moments before shaking his head. “Somehow, I doubt that. Stay anyway.” Rory groaned audibly, but remained seated. Jason, who had been fidgeting nervously the entire time, promptly spoke up. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.” Derrick waved him off. “Don’t worry ‘bout it, Jase. I know you would’ve done th’ right thing if you were there. Besides, you finally got Dan outta th’ house.” There were a few chuckles, making Dan flush. “He gets out,” Tommy argued playfully. “To school, sure, an’ speakin’ of school, do they teach you guys about strangers at all?” Joey crossed his arms around his bare chest and leaned back. “T’ first graders, yeah.” Derrick stared at him. “An’ they teach you not to speak t’ them without a trusted adult around?” “Dad, we know th’ rules,” the older twin sighed. “Who was that guy anyway?” “Dunno,” the man shrugged, then turned his attention to his fourth oldest son. “Tommy-boy, do you know?” Tommy shook his brunette head. “No…” “What’d he say to you, son?” The boy shrugged. “Not much. Just said he was lookin’ for you, Dad.” The man went silent for a minute before nodding, coming to a resolution in his head. “Remember what I said about th’ door?” “Yes, sir,” Derrick’s sudden change to his authoritative tone had the brothers standing up straight, or at least trying in Rory’s case. “I’ll let this one slide for now,” he continued, his eyes scanning over each of them, “but remember, only Joey an’ Jason are allowed t’ open th’ door for anything. Capiche?” “Capiche,” they agreed. Rory sprung up from his chair, wanting nothing more than to go back upstairs and seal himself inside his room. Unfortunately for him, Derrick, foreseeing this, pointed at him. “Now, hold up! Sit back down! I never said I was finished.” The glare he gave Rory had him holding in a whiny groan as he sat back down. “Anyway,” Derrick proceeded, “th’ holidays are nearin’, so, that means Grannie, Pappy, and Malcomb are comin’ over after school lets out. Whatever you’re thinkin’ of getting’ ‘em, we’ll get ‘em next week. As long as it’s not too expensive.” He gave Tommy a look at that one, making the boy grin mischievously. That make-up kit Tommy got for Peyton was by no means cheap. “Is that it?” Rory asked impatiently. Derrick kept his eyes on him. “Yeah, but I need to have a talk with you, Rory. Th’ rest of you get ready. We’re goin’ out for breakfast.” The third son could not appear any more exasperated, but he begrudgingly obeyed, nonetheless. Half an hour passed when the Michaels’ finally settled in Christo’s, a family restaurant just on the edge of town. Because of his farm work nearby, Derrick was a frequent customer, well-known and friends with the owner. Some time into their meal, Derrick’s phone went off, buzzing on the wooden surface of their table. The man shoveled another piece of hash brown into his mouth as he answered the call. Dan smiled, suppressing a giggle. His dad wasn’t shy about speaking with his mouth full. “’Lo?” There was a pause as he listened to the voice on the other end. His eyebrows then arched in surprise. “Sahara? What is it this time?” At that, both Rory and Dan stopped eating and perked up, promptly alert once they heard the name. The three other boys, uninterested, no longer bothered listening in, continuing their own discussion. “Can’t it wait? He’s eatin’ right now,” his eyes were on his youngest son as he talked, seemingly annoyed. “You have other kids, Sahara. What’s so important?” Another pause, then he sighed. “Fine. Jus’ give ‘im a minute,” he stood up from his seat and addressed Dan. “Finish that bite an’ follow me, bud.” A pool of butterflies formed in the kid’s stomach as he nodded. Rory frantically glanced between his Dad and youngest sibling, his expression one of uncharacteristic panic and hurt, but he said nothing. Dan hurriedly swallowed his scrambled eggs and followed Derrick to the restroom door, not bothering to go inside. He looked up at his dad and asked, “Is that Mama?” even though he already knew the answer. “Yup,” the man exhaled, sounding as if he wanted anything but this to occur. “She won’t tell me what she wants, though. You wanna talk to her?” Dan nodded immediately and took the phone from his dad’s hand. It’s been a while since he spoke to his mother. It has been two years since his parents divorced, and Derrick had been given full custody of their children. With school, football tryouts, and weekly work on the farm, the five hadn’t been able to visit their mother a whole lot lately. Dan wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. “Okay,” Derrick‘s mouth twitched upward at his son’s eagerness and patted his head. “You can tell me when you’re done. I’ll be right over here,” he pointed to the front of the diner where there was a group of men chatting amongst each other. They were most likely his father’s friends from work or something. Dan nodded once and placed the phone to his ear. “Mama? Is that you?” “Daniel?” came a high-pitched, silvery voice. “Oh, Daniel! It’s so good to hear from you, baby! How’s my baby boy doin’?” He couldn’t help but beam, ecstatic from hearing his mother after a long time. “I’m good, Mama. What are-” “Is your Dad treatin’ you right?” she questioned, concern leaking through her sweet tone. “He’s not hurtin’ you or anything?” She did this every time, and it always caught Dan off-guard. She and Derrick did not leave each other on good terms, and the relationship was soured even more from the custody battle. Now, she checked up on Dan, always trying to catch her former husband for something so she could have her children back. “No! No! He’s not!” he glanced at his father, who had just greeted his buddies. “Everything’s okay, Mama! I swear!” “Okay, good. Good. Just let me know if anythin’ happens, baby. If you need some space or your brothers are bein’ mean, you can spend th’ night with George an’ I.” George Ruth, also known as Sahara’s new husband. Dan’s never met the man, his mom having picked the man up six months or so ago. “O-Okay. You got it.” He didn’t really want to, thinking it’ll upset Derrick, but he agreed just to be nice. They spoke for five more minutes, speaking about the last few months of no contact until Dan had to get back to his food before it got cold. Derrick didn’t bother querying his youngest son too much about what was spoken. They both just headed back to their seats, where Rory appeared to be even more agitated than before. “Was…” he swallowed as he began to ask, “Was that Mom?” Derrick nonchalantly nodded. “Yeah, wanted to say a few quick things to Dan.” “What about us?” The father extended his arm and rubbed Rory’s shoulder comfortingly. “Don’t worry ‘bout it. I bet she’ll call later tonight. Don’t let your food get cold.” And that was that. Dan stared at his third oldest brother as a wave of negative emotions passed through his face, contorting his expression into something dark. It finally settled onto one of red fury, and that was directed straight at Dan. The younger boy froze, completely unnerved and frightened, but then, the older sibling’s face morphed once more. Rory snapped his sights to his untouched pancakes as tears welled up and fell from his eyes. And Dan just watched him in astonishment. Even when an unpleasant sense of guilt bubbled in his stomach, he couldn’t tear his eyes away from his weeping brother. It wasn’t until later that night when it all blew up. Dan, like always, was in his room, drawing until curfew hit. He heard from a wise man once that in order to better your artistic skills, you should put it to the test each day. And that’s exactly what he was doing. It was one of the best choices he ever made, his abilities improving little by little. However, that was interrupted when his bedroom door violently swung open. Startled, he turned to find a red-faced and livid Rory bounding forward. “Wha-” “Dad’s forcin’ me to stay here just in case th’ boogeyman comes back to kill you,” Rory muttered as he set a pillow and blanket on the floor. “Not that I would mind.” With that, he stomped over to his youngest brother, who immediately froze in trepidation. The heat sent from the elder boy’s eyes made his back sweat. “What did Mom say t’ you,” Rory asked straightforwardly. Dan leaned back as he stuttered out an answer. “I-I don’t know. Stuff?” That turned out to be the wrong thing to say. In one motion, the older Michaels swept Dan’s drawing, along with a few more papers, pencils, and pens, off his desk, letting them scatter all over the ground. “No!” the owner exclaimed, scrambling to catch most of it. Unfortunately, he was seized when Rory shot out a hand and harshly latched his fingers on the smaller male’s left ear. He pulled. Squeezed, and twisted, showing no restraint even when it elicited a cry of pain from his little brother. “What th’ fuck did she say to you, you stupid, lil’ shit stain!?” the third son growled in his littlest sibling’s face. Dan couldn’t relay any information, the agony in his ear too much. “S-Stop! Rory, that hurts!” He tried to pry his older brother’s arm away, but to no avail. The eighth grader was a lot stronger than him. Rory cruelly wrenched it harder. “What th’ hell’s so interestin’ ‘bout you!? All you fuckin’ do is sit in your room an’ what!? Draw!?” he scoffed callously. “Nobody cares about your fuckin’ drawings!” “S-Stop! P-Please!” It was vicious, but Rory finally obliged, hurling the kid down. Dan’s back collided with the floor, nearly hitting his head on his chair. “Go t’ fuckin’ bed,” the older boy spat. “I don’t wanna hear you move around all night.” Rory angrily trudged to the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him and leaving a distraught little brother in his wake. Dan was silent for a few seconds, his mind trying to process what just occurred. A few moments later, he was up off the floor and onto his bed, drawing utensils forsaken, tears rolling down his cheeks. And he cried. He wailed into his pillow, miserable and in pain. He never heard Rory step out from the bathroom even when he sobbed into sleep.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. 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.”
  12. 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?”
  13. 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.
  14. ‘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.
  15. 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.”
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